Grade: Borough Grade I |
Area: 75.47 ha
Free public access (all/most of site)
Managed since 1971 by Wandsworth Council, this large common is dissected by numerous roads and railways cutting. Despite this, it is a very popular open space and has a number of important wildlife habitats, including two lakes, woodland and grassland.Part of the common, known as the Scope, is managed specifically to encourage wildlife. Its name is derived from an enormous telescope (at one time the largest in the world), constructed in 1852 by the Reverend John Craig. Quite how a man of the cloth managed to devote his time to the design of cutting-edge astronomical equipment is anyone's guess, however. As London's industrial expansion steadily lowered air quality, the telescope became increasingly useless and it was removed in the 1870s. The Scope is home to the former Wandsworth Nature Study Centre, now run by London Wildcare under the new name of the Environment Centre.
The common's wildlife habitats include a mosaic of relatively young oak and birch woodland which has developed since the area was cleared in the late 1800s. There is also some acid and neutral grassland, and scattered gorse scrub. The acid grassland contains characteristic species, such as tormentil and purple moor-grass. The neutral grassland is managed under varied mowing regimes, providing a range of habitats for a wide range of insects. The two lakes were originally gravel pits, and today support common waterfowl as well as aquatic insects, including dragonflies and damselflies. These lakes were painstakingly restored over the past decade, and the addition of various aquatic plants at the water's edge give them a much more natural appearance.
Information (Environment Centre); cafe; playground; fishing (in season – membership required); trim trail and children's playground.
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