Residents jubilant as they raise £100k to protect ancient woods in south London from developers

The Great North Wood  (Daniel Greenwood)
The Great North Wood (Daniel Greenwood)

Locals organised school cake sales, cub scout fundraisers and bike rides to raise £100,000 to purchase an ancient woodland in south London and protect it from development.

Surrounded by homes and gardens, Gorne Wood in Lewisham, a rare patch of old forest home to endangered wildlife, was under threat from housing developers.

Currently being used as a fly-tip, local charity the Fourth Reserve Foundation, who maintain the other half of the wood, sought to launch a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the land and open it up for the community.

The abandoned hut i being used as a dumping ground (Google Maps)
The abandoned hut i being used as a dumping ground (Google Maps)

They said the three-acre woodland is an extremely rare living remnant of the Great North Wood where 400-year-old trees protect endangered species, including hedgehogs, toads and ancient hedgerows.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England includes Gorne Wood in its top 10 green spaces in London that need rescuing.

The campaigners had until the end of this month to raise the cash needed to save it with Lewisham Council now agreeing to put forward the compulsory purchase order on behalf of the community.

Any money over the £100k raised will go towards restoring the meadow, new fence and gate, removal of an abandoned and collapsing scout hut and cover unexpected costs of the CPO.

They added it could take up to two years before the woodland can be restored and protected.

The Fourth Reserve Foundation, told the Standard donations came in from Canada, New Zealand and the USA.:

A spokesperson said: “The community effort was phenomenal. The story seemed to be one everybody wanted to be part of and wanted to contribute to. Children and older people, film makers and musicians, legal advisors to face painters.

“The woodland is a survivor and in a time of climate emergency its survival is even more important. This is just the start.

“The need to save green space and woodland is a message that the people get but we need local councils and the government to catch up and catch up quickly. Green space is important on many levels - it’s vital for nature recovery, it’s essential for our children and it is important for our mental health.

“The city is busy, bustling and polluted - we need space to rest against a tree now and again and slow down! We need our city to be a wild one.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are looking to improve the planning protections for this site by designating it as Metropolitan Open Land in our new draft Local Plan, which would prevent inappropriate development such as housing from taking place.

“Following the recent fundraising campaign, we will be working with the local community to explore next steps for this important piece of land.”