In July 2019 London made headlines around the world when it was declared the world’s first National Park City. This new status celebrates green space across the city and Forster Memorial Park is one more important link in the chain of parks, woods and scrubland across South East London.
The park has a rich natural history. The woodland is of ancient origin, meaning it dates from before 16th century. The park contains many mature trees including oak, ash, Scots pine and poplar, with a scrub layer beneath composed of hawthorn and field maple, with elder, holly and single pear, wych elm and wild service tree. The latter is almost exclusively found in ancient woods or old hedgerows, and is only found elsewhere in Lewisham in Beckenham Place Park and Woodland Walk.
In the spring and summer months, wild flowers, such as cow parsley and garlic mustard, are common across the park. The park hosts a diversity of animal life. Rotting wood and fallen leaves provide food and shelter for insects such as beetles and hoverflies, while the park is also home to a variety of butterflies, foxes and grey squirrels.
The park is also alive with birds. In addition to robins, goldcrests, tits, blackbirds, gulls, crows and wood pigeons, the park provides valuable habitat for birds such as sparrows, which are seeing a decline in numbers. The park is also home to more unusual birds, such as nuthatches, ring-necked parakeets, sparrowhawks and great spotted woodpeckers.
Among the games of football, the joggers, the parents walking and playing with their children in Forster Memorial Park are mature trees, rare flowers, wild animals, birds and insects. This important public space is completely in harmony with the idea of London as a green city – a place where both people and nature can coexist and thrive.
Malcolm Cossons 2019
The woods in Forster Memorial Park have been there a long time. We don’t know how long, however there are good reasons to think that they are the remains of ancient woodland, that is woodland that has ‘always been there’.
What are the reasons for saying that? First, we can be confident that this woodland has not changed much in 150 years.
Other reasons to suggest that this is ancient woodland is that the trees are of various ages and appear to be random in their arrangement. The largest oak has a ‘girth’ (circumference) of about 5 metres. This would suggest that it is well over 200 years old.
It has been said that there are wild service trees in the park. These are rare trees, usually found in ancient woodland.