Inventory Site Record

Hillcrest Estate Woodland

Hillcrest Estate Woodland (Lewisham)

Brief Description

Remnants of ancient woodland of the once extensive Great North Wood were incorporated into the landscaping of the Hillcrest Estate, which was built on part of the former route of the Nunhead to Crystal Palace High Level railway line. After the railway closed in 1954, the LCC bought the land and passed much of it to local councils for housing and open space. Woodland survives as strips of trees on steep banks and between houses and blocks of flats. A network of footpaths runs through woodland that has mature trees including sweet chestnut and oak, beech and pear trees, as well as Wellingtonia, Scots pine and cedar of Lebanon. Two old tunnel entrances remain from the railway, now blocked up. Crescent Wood Tunnel is below Upper Sydenham Station's former booking office and stationmaster's house on Wells Park Road, now private house. The station opened in 1884 and the site of the platforms are now a level area of grass near the tunnel mouth.

Practical Information
Site location:
Wells Park Road/Sydenham Hill/High Level Drive
Type of site:
Housing/Estate Landscaping
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
playground for estate children
Public transport:
Rail: Sydenham Hill. London Overground: Sydenham

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/03/2003
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Once known as Westwood, the forest had stretched from Deptford to Croydon, and became known as the Great North Wood in the late C18th, describing its position relative to Croydon. By 1860 few isolated areas of woodland remained. The Hillcrest Estate was built in 1967 on land that was once the route of the Nunhead to Crystal Palace High Level railway line, built in the 1860s to capitalise on the huge numbers of visitors to Crystal Palace after it moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham Hill in 1854. However by the C20th visitor numbers to Crystal Palace had declined, its lack of commercial success partly put down to the fact that it could not open on Sundays, and although it was bought for the nation in 1913 it never regained its earlier success and in 1936 it burnt down. As a result the railway line lost passengers and finally closed in 1954.

Sources consulted:

John Archer, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Lewisham', Ecology Handbook 30, London Ecology Unit, 2000 and Lewisham Walk 3 leaflet; Darrell Spurgeon, 'Discover Sydenham and Catford', (Greenwich Guide-books, 1999)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ340716 (534050,171650)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Lewisham (most of woodland)
Site management:
Housing Department
ancient woodlands; 1967
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character
Other LA designation:

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