Coldfall Wood is an ancient wood in Muswell Hill,
North London. It covers an area of approximately
14 hectares and is presently surrounded by the St.
Pancras and Islington Cemetery, the East Finchley
public allotments, Muswell Hill Sports Ground
(formerly Finchley Common) and the Coldfall Estate.
Until the early 20th century, Coldfall Wood covered
more than twice its current extent. The remaining
section is now owned and managed by the London
Borough of Haringey. Coldfall Woodlands are likely to be of primary origin i.e. have been continuously present since prehistoric times. It is at Coldfall Wood it was discovered that glaciation had once reached southern England. Coldfall Wood is predominantly made up of a canopy of English oaks, below which hornbeams, rowan, crab apple, holly, hazel and goat willow. An area of approximately one acre was cut [coppiced] in the north western corner in December 1990 with the assistance of the London Wildlife Trust. Since coppicing was reintroduced, more than 140 species of plants have been recorded increasing from the original six species. In 2006 Coldfall Wood became one of five London woodlands participating in the Capital Woodlands project, a 3-year London Biodiversity Partnership project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
After World War I building was possible in Hornsey only at the expense of the remaining open spaces. In 1924-6, shortly after purchasing Coldfall Wood, Hornsey Council erected a grid of five roads of 412 terraced houses to provide post war council housing, removing a significant section of the North East of Coldfall Wood. The houses on the estate are a mix of 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms in terraced blocks of 3 to 6 units, constructed from red brick and render. Effort has been made to individualize house design from a limited palette. Gardens are generous as well as the estate benefitting from the surrounding open green spaces. The estate is now 50% owner occupied following the Government’s right to buy scheme. Children from the estate attend the Coldfall Primary and Fortismere Secondary Schools. Part of the scheme design for the estate included a network of approximately 1m wide lanes allowing rear access to each garden from between each terraced block. In the latter half of the last century these lanes were considered a security threat and were gated by the Council. Though access remains technically possible the network is virtually unused and has become a dumping ground. The street access points between terraced blocks vary in width but are equally unused other than two pathways to the West accessing the Coldfall Wood and Muswell Hill Sports Ground. The space is forgotten. [ Information - coldfallwoods.co.uk, british-history.ac.uk, wikipedia.org, haringey.gov.uk, capitalwoodlands.org ]
A wildlife corridor or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities such as roads. They allow an exchange of individuals between populations encouraging genetic diversity via genetic drift and moderating some of the worst effects of habitat fragmentation. Wildlife corridors are vital as connection corridors for smaller animals and plants.
2010 was declared as the International Year of Biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem. Coldfall Wood has been actively and successfully encouraging biodiversity as part of the Capital Woodlands project since 2006. Coldfall Primary School was the only school in the borough to achieve ‘Green Flag’ status, Eco-schools highest award. To build on this work, and to give back to the wood from which land was taken to build the estate, the network of access lanes are to become wildlife corridors. The new corridors will help link Coldfall Wood to green spaces on the East of Coppetts Road such as Alexandra Park, Muswell Hill playing fields, Coppetts Wood and allotment land on Creighton Avenue, Alexandra Palace and Coppetts Road. Encouraging the spread and diversification of native species of plant and animal life. Planting of the corridors will be of native British species only. The central spine and the sections between gardens will be densely planted with mixed hedgerows such as birch, beech, oak, hazel, dogwoods, hawthorn, blackthorn, guilder rose, yew, native privet and field maple. The hedgerows will provide an excellent source of food for birds, insects and small mammals with blossoms and flowers during spring/summer and then berries during autumn/winter and will also give shelter from predators. Under the hedges, violets, wood anemones and celandine will be planted to attract nectar-loving insects. Coppiced wood will be stacked at the base of the hedges to encourage fungi and insect inhabitation such as Coldfall Wood’s progressing jewel and stag beetle populations. The existing dilapidated fences will be replaced with mesh which will eventually be consumed by the planting whilst still providing security between gardens.
The entrance points for the access lanes will be blocked with railings which will also become consumed with planting. The planting will continue to the external pavement edge creating areas of accessible planting that responds to the original rhythm of the estate design and breaking up the urban street frontage. At each entrance point the gable walls of the adjacent houses will have a wealth of animal boxes including recycled bat, bird and bee houses, made by the children of Coldfall Primary School.