A stretch of hidden woodland in the middle of Crystal Palace is a peaceful oasis but many don’t even know it is there.

Stambourne Woods runs from Church Road, opposite Queens Hotel, down to Auckland Road.

The woods were first opened up to the public in 1984 and are managed by Croydon Council.

They include native species including trees that used to make up the Great North Wood alongside exotic trees planted as part of the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Three years ago Friends of Stambourne Woods (FoSW) was started up and since then the woodland has been flourishing.

While the council did manage the land previously, it was more focussed on making sure it met health and safety standards.

Now the FoSW group is supported by the council to improve the biodiversity of the woodland and make it more accessible. The group also runs regular events and conservation sessions.

This month it was named the best Community Woodland Project at the London Trees and Woodlands Awards.

Fun for all ages

Chairwoman Sarah Johnson said: “There are now a lot more people using the woods and they stop rather than just walking through them. It is rare for the woods to be empty.

“And more people with younger children are using them, there is more evidence of den building – people feel ownership of the space.”

And it is clear that it is a space that children love to explore.

One of the activities that is run at the woods is foraging, something that Max Maker enjoys.

The 10-year-old said: “It gives us oxygen. It is really fun, sometimes the lady who does food shows us what we you can eat, there is wild garlic and mulberries.”

And friends 11-year-olds Mary Wilson and Darcey Bradler love spending time climbing trees in the woods.

Darcey said: “I like coming here every second Sunday and doing activities, sometimes we make little figures out of wood and sometimes we go foraging for things to eat.”

Mary added: “I first came here when I was six, you can climb trees and stuff and you can run around, it is really fun.”

‘More people use the woodland now’

Tessa Koch thinks it is great for children to have a place they an run about without cars in the way.

The Kingsdale Foundation School teacher said: “It is nice for the London kids to have this green space. I am from Berlin. We were right in the woods.

“It is good to give them this love for sustainability and nature over consumerism of everything, all the plastic junk.

“When you give them a piece of wood they’re happy, they want to be in their pants yodelling.

“And it means they can mix with not just kids from their own school, there are boys and girls of different ages which is really healthy.”

Jane Chandler, FoSW treasurer, lives in a house which backs onto the land and has been involved in the group for more than two years.

She said: “Since then it has opened up a bit more and we’ve put several different paths in rather than walking straight down it then up again you can go off piste a bit more.”

What is next for the group?

The next phase fo the group is to do a proper audit of what is in the wood, from wildlife to trees.

A 350-year-old oak tree is believed to be the oldest in the wood and is a sight to behold.

Chairwoman Ms Johnson said: “Our next step is to map the wood and explain what is here to look forward to the next 350 years.

“To say what will happen in terms of climate change and what kind of environment there will be and what species.

“We are learning as a group none of us are experts on this but we are looking at trying to do it ourselves.

“We think it is a good thing to do as a community so we can skill ourselves. We will probably hire or buy some mapping equipment together.”

Friends of Stambourne lists upcoming events on its Facebook page.

The next conservation morning will be from 10am to 1pm on Sunday, September 8.