Friends of Belair Park launch their Crystal Palace Nature Garden Campaign.


aerial view of Hill Top from LDA (1)

Aerial view of part of the Crystal Palace Park Hill Top, which has ecological value. The image is from the former London Development Agency.

The aerial view above shows part of the Crystal Palace Park Hill Top. This rectangle of land already has much ecological value, and the Friends of Belair Park have launched a campaign to have it managed neatly as a protected Nature Garden.

Over the years, this area of the park has been neglected, fostering a widespread impression that “there has to be something up there” and that it awaits development as the only means of restoration. The area next to the TV mast compound is a former caravan and camping site which has been abandoned for decades. It has been used for dumping sludge from lake management work.  There has also been fly-tipping. It has remained fenced off, but, after extensive discussion and consultation over a period of years, it was recognised in the recent Tilman Latz masterplan and by a subsequent planning inquiry as a de facto nature garden.

Friends of Belair Park have launched a campaign to safeguard and develop the nature garden as an important contribution to bio-diversity.  We hope to preserve it  even if most of the hilltop were taken for major commercial development (to which we remain resolutely opposed to). The Friends of Belair Park feel that the survival of the nature garden would be even more important were commercial development on the hill top to proceed.

We want to transform neglect to a prestige project.

Hill Top railingstyres in hill top

This is how the site appears to pedestrians, bus travellers and motorists as they pass along Crystal Palace Parade, now – May 2014. We are looking at an original wall (crumbling) and railings (broken) from the 1854 Crystal Palace. Unkempt vegetation lurks behind layers of fencing in various states of disrepair. There is unsightly rubbish and litter.

    The interior of the former caravan park, the avenue of limes along its southern margin and the wildlife on the slope below could be readily transformed into a managed and highly attractive ecology and biodiversity feature compatible with the national status of this Park. The project could be accomplished using corporate assistance, volunteer workers and by tapping into established funding streams. Materials such as wood chippings and logs for making paths would be available from routine tree work elsewhere. Expert advice would be freely available.

Safeguarding Nature on the Hill Top respects local history.

trees, dandelions, cow parsley (1)

These photos and those below are all of nature in the Hill Top area.

The Nature Garden project will commemorate the long sweep of history prior to the appearance of the celebrated Sydenham Crystal Palace whilst looking forwards to the needs of future generations. The area was once smothered by what the Domesday Book recorded as the “Great North Wood.” 19th Century writers praised the beauty of the hilly countryside around Norwood, which was acclaimed as superior to that of France, Spain or Italy. At the end of that Century, there remained a patchwork of heaths, orchards and pastures, with hanging woods on the hill sides.

green under tree, cow parsley, bee (1)

…and the Crystal Palace Hill Top Nature Garden would have great relevance to us in the 21st century a local school has indicated interest in the educational value of pupils undertaking aspects of management work…

A key habitat of the Garden would be broad hedgerow and narrow woodland. It would incorporate native trees and existing ornamental non-natives. A local school has indicated interest in the educational value of pupils undertaking aspects of management work.

The site lies almost opposite the highest section of Dulwich Upper Wood across Crystal Palace Parade and were tree cover along the Park’s northern margins to be encouraged to become ecologically diverse woodland, this would create a valuable wildlife corridor across the landscape.

Following the masterplan devised by Tilman Latz and Partner, discussions took place with Bromley officers about the possibility of advancing Nature Garden plans. Earlier objections that the site was filled with contaminated soil (restricting Latz’s options) were now dismissed as posing no obstacle. Bromley officers suggested exposing and making accessible remnants of the 1854 Palace which are now hidden underground, these features are of considerable historical interest and deserve to be preserved for the benefit of future generations.

Crystal Palace subway - above

The romantic ‘ruins’ of Crystal Palace subway as seen from above, are subject for possible restoration as agitated for by local resident’s group – Friends of Crystal Palace Subway.

walking through the  Crystal Palace subway itself - which runs from Crystal Palace Hill Top  under Crystal Palace Parade.

walking through the Crystal Palace subway itself – which runs from Crystal Palace Hill Top under Crystal Palace Parade.

The trees in the Crystal Palace Hill Top are so beautiful and special…

the trees in Crystal Palace Hilltop

Martin Heath took these pictures of the trees in Crystal Palace Hilltop – let’s save them, please… 

Wildlife came before the Crystal Palace building.

London Illustrated News, June 5, 1852

The site of the Palace as sketched for the London Illustrated News, June 5, 1852. 

The Crystal Palace Nature Garden will promote the future well-being of local people.

As every square inch of available land is exploited by infill developments for housing or commercial developments to boost the economy and local employment, access to havens of nature will become ever more necessary. By providing this essential counterpart to the intensifying pressures of urban life,  the Nature Garden will contribute to the economy by encouraging the physical and pyschological health of the community.

Friends of Belair Park, May 2014
 All nature photos are of nature in the hilltop area. ©MJH

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