|Branch Hill Woodland including Branch Hill Allotments||Camden|
Branch Hill Woodland was originally part of Hampstead Heath, from which it was cut off when Branch Hill House was built in its own grounds in the 1860s. Branch Hill Allotments are now on part of its former garden. The sloping site also has areas of woodland, open grass and wooded grounds of private houses. One area is particularly known for its bluebells. Housing development in the woodland includes Oak Hill Park built with landscaped grounds and below Branch Hill House is a low-rise tiered housing scheme built unobtrusively in the midst of the woods.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2011
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Branch Hill Woodland, August 2002. Photo: S Williams
Click photo to enlarge.
The sloping site of the woodland is situated south of West Heath and was originally part of Hampstead Heath (q.v.) from which it was cut off when Branch Hill House was built in its own grounds in the 1860s. The former lodge to the house, now called The Gardens, remains on Branch Hill, a Gothic building reputedly designed by S S Teulon and built in 1868. Branch Hill House was once owned by John Spedan Lewis, founder of the John Lewis Partnership. It was later purchased by Camden Council and converted to accommodation for the elderly in the 1970s.
Branch Hill Allotments are now situated on what was once part of the garden of Branch Hill House, probably including a kitchen garden for which part of a wall remains, where there were glasshouses. It may also have once been the site of a tennis court. In the 1980s the neglected gardens were taken on by enterprising gardeners who informally maintained them by growing vegetables here. Their endeavours had the support of local residents and The Heath Society, and resulted in Camden Council earmarking the land for community use as allotments. LB Camden now manages 32 plots here, although a number are divided in two, and some 40 allotment-holders belong to Branch Hill Allotments Association. The Association aims to allow wildness while developing cultivation in this area once frequented by poets such as John Keats and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and artists such as John Constable and George Romney.
The Branch Hill site includes a number of areas of woodland, areas of open grass, a wooded bank south of Firecrest Drive as well as the private wooded grounds of Coombe Edge, Oak Hill House and Heysham House. Largely secondary woodland, it includes native and exotic trees, and is important for wildlife. The area of Oak Hill Wood is particularly known for its bluebells. The Oak Hill Park development was built in 1961-65 by Michael Lyell Associates, with landscaped grounds.
Below Branch Hill House is an interesting low-rise tiered housing scheme unobtrusively built in the midst of the woods on a site purchased in 1965 by LB Camden. The estate was designed in 1974-78 by Gordon Benson and Alan Forsyth. The covenants that governed the site required the housing to be 2-storey and semi-detached. Narrow stepped paths run down the hillside between the tiered houses which amount to five storeys, but in effect due to the tiering are within the 2-storey stipulation. The houses have gardens that also form the roof of the house below, thus blending into the surrounding green space.
Michael Waite, Daniel Keech, Meg Game, 'Nature Conservation in Camden', Ecology Handbook 24 (London Ecology Unit), 1993; Andrew Saint (introduction), 'London Suburbs', Merrell Holberton Publishers 1999; Open Gardens Squares Weekend 2011 booklet