|Big Wood, Hampstead Garden Suburb||Barnet|
Big Wood has existed as woodland for over 1000 years, probably part of land given to the Bishop of London in c704AD. When Hampstead Garden Suburb was being planned in 1907, its instigator, Dame Henrietta Barnett, was committed to providing green spaces within the housing, planting trees and preserving those that existed. When additional land was acquired to extend the Suburb in 1911, Big Wood was leased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and preserved as woodland. In 1933 Finchley UDC took on the freehold. Now designated a Nature Reserve, there are a great variety of trees here including Wild Service Trees, associated with ancient woodland.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2009
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Big Wood, Path through the woods, October 2000. Photo S Williams
Click photo to enlarge.
With Little Wood (q.v.), Big Wood has existed as woodland for over a thousand years, once part of a much larger area of woodland extending to Mutton Brook. It was probably part of the land given by the Bishop of Hereford to the Bishop of London in c.704 and continued in the ownership of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners until 1933. In 1754 the two woods were practically joined but for at least 230 years they have been separate. The western boundary of Big Wood marked the edge of the Bishop's estate. In the C19th timber trees here were felled and until c.1939 it was managed as coppice-with-standards. When Hampstead Garden Suburb was being planned and laid out, both woods were preserved, at that time surrounded by fields. Dame Henrietta Barnett was committed to the provision of green spaces within the new housing, planting a considerable number of street trees and preserving existing ones. The original suburb to the south of the wood was built from 1907 and in 1911, when a further 112 acres were purchased for an extension, the 'New Suburb', also laid out by Unwin for the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, Big Wood was leased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In 1933 the freehold transferred to the Finchley Urban District Council, which in 1964 became part of the London Borough of Barnet.
Big Wood has a great variety of trees including a large number of Wild Service Trees, associated with ancient woodland as well as crab apples, two of which are thought to be over 140 years old. Other trees include pedunculate oak, ash, wild cherry, hornbeam, sessile oak, whitebeam, rowan, holly, elder, and field maple, and there are patches of wood anemone. Both woods were given Local Nature Reserve designation in 1999. A series of paths run through the wood. At the Temple Fortune Hill entrance there is a new gate, which was donated by residents to commemorate the 29 Suburb residents who died in WWII. It replaced an earlier gate and stands on an ancient C8th boundary.
Georgina Malcolm and the Trees and Open Spaces Committee 'Hampstead Garden Suburb Tree Trail No. 1' (1997); 'Big Wood and Little Wood Nature Trail' (LB Barnet, c.2000); Jan Hewlett, Ian Yarham, David Curson, 'Nature Conservation in Barnet' (London Ecology Unit, 1997).