Green Spaces in Monks Orchard – Long Lane Wood

Long Lane Wood is located beside Long Lane between Bywood Avenue and Mardell Road. It covers 15 acres, 6.07 hectares. The site lies on Blackheath Beds and a tributary of the Chaffinch Brook ran along the eastern boundary, but today this stream runs underground. The canopy of evenly distributed oak trees stand in a ground cover of grasses and brambles. The woods are predominantly oak with some ash, silver-birch, hawthorn and sycamore.

The eastern section is fenced off from the main wood and here a dense growth of hazel, elder, hawthorn with ivy and holly make a bird sanctuary beneath the canopy. The grass under the trees is cut regularly and in the spring bluebells, wood anemones and celandines appear.

This is a small but rich section of the original woodland and is an important wild life area in the north of the borough. The woods were purchased in 1924 by the Croydon Corporation as a public open space. A post card from 1938 shows Long Lane Wood with the clear paths.

Postcard from 1938

The origin of the wood can be seen on early maps. From the forested hills of the Croydon Hundred land in the 1604 map of Surrey, farms developed and in the 1793 Lindly and Crossley map Ham Wood and Ham Farm are marked to the north of Shirley Common and West Shirley Farm. By 1762 in Roques map Long Lane, running towards Beckenham, has on its south side Eighteen Acre Wood, a part of the Ham Wood on the Ham House Farm.

On the Ordanance Survey Map of 1868 Ham farm has a reduced amount of woodland and more fields and to the south the horse racing circuit is marked. The name ‘Long Lane Wood ‘ is used in the 1894 Ordinance Survey map for the first time for woodland along Long Lane and this wood adjoins the ‘Alders Wood’ to the north of the Ham Farm buildings.

1912 Map of Long Lane Wood

By the time of the 1912 map Long Lane Wood still has fields around it, development has reached Woodside. Ham Farm and its environment remained very rural. After World War One there were a lot of changes. There were several large estates in this part of Croydon. Ham House had an extensive farm and woodland. The other estates were Shirley House, Monks Orchard House and Spring Park House. Old maps show that relatively few owners had divided up their land on agricultural needs, and as farming became squeezed out, a network of estates remained used by gentlemen as an amenity.

In the 1880’s the Head Gardeners of these Croydon Private Estates had their photograph taken. There were over 40 Gardeners who maintained these estates with the lakes, grounds and woods and the walled vegetable gardens that provided produce for the ‘Big House’.

The breaking up of these estates occurred in the 1920’s and the 1930’s .The land was sold for housing. At this time there was little application of town planning principles. The Ham farm estate is an example of a poor lay out. Existing farm tracks that ran between the fields were adopted as the new roads. In parts of the area large plots remained behind some of the houses. This has led to the developments in this area that are in between the original properties. There is a small copse of original woodland, as old as Long Lane Wood, now called” Glade Wood’ , that is surrounded by houses.

On the map of 1933 the development of The Glade and Woodmere Avenue with Gladeside and Bywood Avenue isolated Long Lane Wood with this urbanisation. Long Lane Wood is situated near the Arena Tram Stop and on the Bus Route 289. The trees have good autumn colour.

Opposite the woods on the other side of Long Lane there is a line of Corsican pines, Pinus Maritima, these may have been planted as a shelter belt. There are over 40 trees , the majority are mature trees.

The wood was a part of the Great North Wood and is now managed by the London Wildlife Trust as a part of the Great North Wood Project. Since late 2017 the Trust’s Great North Wood project team has been working on the site with volunteers from both the local community and further afield. Work has focused on removing bramble that has been swamping the array of English bluebell and removing the large quantities of rubbish and fly-tipping waste that have blighted the wood in recent years. Staff and volunteers recently worked on compiling a plant species list for the site and have also run seasonal wildlife walks for the general public.

Long Lane Wood is a very pleasant green space in the Monks Orchard Residents’ Association area and well worth a visit.

Information has come from: ‘Nature Conservation in Croydon, London Ecology Unit. ‘Croydon’s Parks, An Illustrated History’. Mrs. M.A.WintermanA Field Guide to the Trees of Britain’, A.Mitchell. Croydon Library Local Studies Pack, Shirley.

Story written by our former Trees and Open Space Officer, Rosemary Rabin

Story contribution taken from the Winter 2010 Edition of the MORA Magazine
< Green Spaces in Monks Orchard –
Ashburton Playing Fields
Green Spaces in Monks Orchard >