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Dacres Wood Nature Reserve Lewisham


Dacres Wood Nature Reserve is next to the railway line on the site of the former garden of a Victorian house called Irongates. It takes its name from Dacre House, which was once located in the area; in 1767 it was owned by Sir Samuel Fludyer, for whom the grounds were laid out with advice from 'Capability' Brown. Relics of a loop of the ill-advised Croydon Canal have been found in the Nature Reserve. After the canal closed in 1836 it was purchased by London & Croydon Railway Company and a number of the old loops were infilled and built over, one becoming part of Irongates' garden. The house was demolished by 1962 and flats built, the site of its garden later passing to the GLC then to Lewisham Council who originally intended further housing. It was taken over by Lewisham Parks Department in 1984 and became a nature reserve in 1989. When the former Croydon Canal was discovered in 1990, a pond was formed by digging out the canal bed, with a new pond was created in the north.

Basic Details

Site location:
Dacres Road/Catling Close

SE23 ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Public Open Land



Listed structures:


Site ownership:
LB Lewisham

Site management:
GreenScene, Nature Conservation Section; Friends of Dacres Wood

Open to public?

Opening times:
Nature Reserve and Field Centre restricted for use by schools

Special conditions:

Field Centre, pond-dipping platform


Public transport:
London Overground: Sydenham, Forest Hill

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

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 II

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:

Other LA designation:
Public Open Space

Fuller information

Croydon Canal opened to great acclaim in October 1809 but was only in operation until 1836. It had opened for trade in 1807 from a junction with the Grand Surrey Canal at New Cross and its route went through Brockley, Honor Oak, Forest Hill and Sydenham to South Norwood. Its main function was the transportation of agricultural produce to London, and of coal southwards from the Thames. It was part of a grander scheme to create an inland route between the Thames and Portsmouth. Passing through such a hilly area, the canal route tried to follow the contours but still required 26 locks in two flights between New Cross Gate and Honor Oak and this proved disastrously slow. The Company foundered despite attempts to raise income through osier and angling licences, and boat trips. After its demise the London & Croydon Railway Company purchased the canal and, the route of the railway being more direct, a number of the old loops of the canal were then abandoned, largely drained, infilled and built on. One of these discarded loops became part of the garden of a Victorian house called Irongates, which together with the garden of the adjacent house, Thriffwood, recalled in a nearby street name, was wooded by 1895, the two gardens separated by a belt of trees. Both houses were demolished by 1962, the site of Irongates now a block of flats, Homefield House. Its former garden was owned by the Greater London Council, then passing to Lewisham Council who originally intended further housing. However, it was taken over by Lewisham Parks Department in 1984 and became a nature reserve in 1989.

Some of the dense growth was cleared and the woodland included a few huge Turkey oaks as well as ornamental shrubs probably dating from the Victorian garden. The presence of marshy land to the east of the site and flooding of nearby houses led to the discovery of the former Croydon Canal and in 1990 a pond was formed by digging out the canal bed, and a new smaller pond was created in the north. A wooden footbridge has been built over the marshy area linking the ponds. A field centre was opened in 1993 and is available for use by schools and serves as a base for volunteer workdays. The nature reserve is overseen by Lewisham Nature Conservation Section. Friends of Dacres Wood assists with maintenance and management of the nature reserve.

Sources consulted:

John Archer, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Lewisham', (Ecology Handbook 30, London Ecology Unit, 2000).

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