News archive

April 2021

Friday, 30 April 2021

Final Appeal for Swift Survey Volunteers

Final Appeal for Swift Survey Volunteers

We will be running the Bromley Swift Survey again this year to record where swifts may be nesting in the borough. The response to the initial appeal for volunteers has been very good, but we are still currently short of the level of coverage that we achieved for the earlier surveys in 2018 and 2019. We still need volunteers to survey for swifts in all parts of the Borough of Bromley, but especially in the following areas:

Cray Valley East
Cray Valley West
Farnborough and Crofton
West Wickham
Hayes and Coney Hall
Darwin ward

If you are interested in participating, please email Peter Smart on and include your postcode so that he can advise your closest available survey square.

The survey will be fully compliant with Covid restrictions and will require just one hour per month between May and July. It involves walking around an allocated survey square and recording any sightings of low-flying and nesting swifts.

You won't need binoculars or previous experience, and a survey pack will be provided. There will also be an optional Zoom call in early May to provide assistance on swift id and answer any questions, plus an opportunity to join an evening walk around a swift hotspot. We hope you can join us!

Monday, 19 April 2021

Support a Greener London

Support a Greener London

With the power to influence policy and spending, our Mayors have a key role to play in ensuring our towns and cities are nature-rich and have quality, accessible greenspace that everyone can enjoy. But they need to know that this is important to voters.

Spending time in nature and green space is vital for health, wellbeing and happiness and so we want our leaders to commit to a greener future. Declaring climate emergencies isn't enough, we want them to acknowledge that nature is in crisis as well, and take immediate action. From 19 April - 5 May, we'll be empowering our supporters to contact their candidates for Mayor with a strong ask - if elected, will you double the amount of nature in my region?

Follow the link after this post - the RSPB have created a draft template through which you can petition your candidates. It only takes a couple of minutes, and its impact could be crucial!

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Coal tit perched on bramble bush

Local Walk, Sydenham Hill Wood

It was with much anticipation after a year of restrictions due to COVID-19 that RSPB Bromley Group members assembled opposite the Wood House pub on a bright sunny spring morning, although with a nip in the air. We were greeted by the call of the blackcap enticing us to enter Sydenham Hill Wood, although we had to go some distance in before we were rewarded with a blackcap sighting.

Not far in we heard the distinctive sound of a woodpecker tapping, and were then rewarded with some great views of the great spotted woodpecker. Great spotted woodpeckers and green woodpeckers are regularly seen here, but unfortunately the lesser spotted has not been seen for many years.

Sydenham Hill Wood is home to about 70 species of bird. Most of us managed to spot around 20 different species, particularly those that thrive in the area - woodpeckers, chiffchaffs, nuthatches, blackcaps and ring-necked parakeets. For me, the excellent views of the nuthatch were a highlight as it entered and left a nest hole and demonstrated its ability to climb head first down a tree trunk, holding on with its powerful toes with long claws. We had numerous sightings of the robin, and a wren hopped around in the undergrowth.

Sydenham Hill Wood is on the northern slopes of the Norwood Ridge formed of London clay and is one of the largest remaining remnants of the Great North Wood. This ancient wood once stretched from Deptford to Selhurst and had its origins in the wildwood that colonized after the Ice Age 10,000 years ago. Sydenham Hill is the 15th-highest peak in London at 367 feet (112m).

In the sixteenth century the woods on Sydenham Hill were reserved by Elizabeth 1 to provide timber for shipbuilding. They were very much working woods - evidence for this can still be seen in the abundance of English oak, sessile oak and hornbeam. Sessile oak is a tall tree that is mainly found in semi-natural woodlands, and is so named because its acorns are not held on stalks like the English oak (Quercus robur) but are attached directly to the outer twigs. The greyish bark of sessile oak was used in the leather tanning industry, and the timber for barrel and cask making, giving wine and spirits a distinct flavour.

By the Victorian era Sydenham had become a desirable place to live, both for the local medicinal waters and its close proximity to London. Six palatial villas were built along Crescent Wood Road, encroaching into the woods. We saw evidence of this when we spotted what initially appeared to be a ruin but on closer inspection was clearly a folly. The "ruin" was in what was the elaborate gardens of Fairwood House. The owner of Fairwood House, Alderman David Henry Stone, (later Lord Mayor of London) commissioned James Pulham and Sons to construct the folly. Pulham was the inventor of the artificial Pulhamite rock, and the folly is one of only a few surviving examples of Pulhamite rock. Other evidence of these Victorian gardens can be seen in the exotic plants that are dotted around.

It is difficult to believe now, but a railway cut through the site transporting day trippers to the Crystal Palace. A famous painting by Camille Pissarro shows the view down the tracks to Lordship Lane from the wood and brick bridge on Cox's Walk. The railway declined after the Crystal Palace burned down and the line closed in 1954.

The villas in Crescent Wood Road fell into decline during WW2 and they were demolished by the early 1980's. The wood was saved from development threats in the 1980 by the determination of local people becoming the London Wildlife Trust's first nature reserve that provides a home to more than 200 species of trees and plants as well as rare fungi, insects, birds, and woodland mammals.

The railway tunnel still exists, and attempts have been made to use it as a bat roost but it appears that the bats find it too draughty. Seven species of bat are known to use the wood including Leisler's, pipistrelle, brown long-eared and Daubenton's.

Kestrels are frequently seen on the church spire at the bottom of Cox's Walk but on this occasion, they failed to pose for us.

Bob Francis led the walk and his infinite knowledge of the area and wildlife made this a very informative and enjoyable walk. He pointed out that large amounts of dead wood makes this an excellent site for beetles especially stag beetles. He drew our attention to some plants that are indicators of ancient woodland - wood anemone, bluebell and wood sorrel.

Our final sighting was of the goldcrest which is one of the UK's smallest birds and left us with a feeling of a morning well spent.

During the second outing led by Peter Smart, the birds spotted were: blackcap, tawny owl, great spotted woodpecker, chaffinch, goldcrest, wren, robin, wood pigeon, stock dove, magpie, parakeet, blackbird, nuthatch, green woodpecker, jay, carrion crow, chiffchaff, blue tit, great tit, jackdaw, coal tit.