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Photograph: Daniel Greenwood
Photograph: Daniel Greenwood

Walk through a swathe of ancient woodland in the middle of Zone 3

The trees of Sydenham Hill Wood have stood tall through wars, crises and many pandemics

By
Alexandra Sims
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Welcome to our new series, One Good Thing to Do Today. It’s a guide to little things you can actually do in lockdown London that will provide bits of light in these dark times. Today, Alexandra Sims on a favourite London walk.

If, like me, you grew up in the countryside, you’ll know the familiar ache to be among the calm serenity of nature whenever London starts to feel like a rat race – easier said than done within the bounds of the M25. Luckily, I have a perfect escape route right on my doorstep. Sydenham Hill Wood in south-east London is one of the last swathes of the ancient Great North Wood that used to stretch all the way from Croydon to the Thames. There are only a few patches of it left and this one, nestled in between Dulwich, Forest Hill and Crystal Palace, feels like an isolated, rural escape right in the middle of Zone 3.

As soon as you step into the thick patch of trees, the road noise stops, the light is dim under the canopy of thick leaves overhead and any sense that you might be in one of the biggest cities in the world is lost among the gnarled tree limbs and thick undergrowth, much of which have been here for thousands of years.

On every visit you’ll find something new to take your mind off life’s anxieties, like clumps of weird, colourful fungi in autumn, bats swooping through the trees in summer and the remains of a Victorian folly covered in snow in winter. Whenever I need a change of scene, I know Sydenham Hill Wood is there to scoop me up and transport me to a wilder, calmer place totally removed from city life.

Walking among trees that have stood tall through wars, crises and many pandemics will make all your worries feel infinitely smaller.

Read more from our One Good Thing to Do Today series

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