Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods

.... including Gumping Common, Crofton Heath and Eynsford Recreation Ground


Have you spotted a new fence going up towards the south of the woods adjacent to the Farnborough Park Estate alongside the old access track to the former Smallpox Hospital? 

The Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods received website and telephone contact over the past week expressing concern about changes to the woodland in the area behind the Farnborough Park Estate - circled in red on the map below. 

The area is private land, and last week was fenced off with an impressive green metal fence. This week there has been a large wood bonfire. The activity has caused people concern that there may be plans to develop the land, and that since it is part of the area of Special Scientific interest (the blue area on the map) it is required to be protected for wildlife, so felling all the trees would not be acceptable. 

On 9 July some member of this Group, along with Luke Blanchard from idverde and a member of Bromley Council’s Tree Team, went along to see what was going on for ourselves. We were very fortunate in our timing, and one of the two chaps fuelling the bonfire was the landowner and helpfully filled us in on the background and reassured about his intentions to protect and improve the woodland. 

The owner lives in a nearby house and already owns a small strip of woodland which has been fenced off. He bought the bought the piece of land in question privately from the Norman Estates people a few years ago. This was to ensure that it would not be built upon - rumours have circulated for years about the vulnerability of the area to building development. He has become concerned about dog waste bags and the woodland becoming increasingly dark due to lack of management. He has therefore installed a fence to restrict access to his family, and is managing the woodland to remove dead wood. He was receptive to the suggestion that Cherry Laurel should also be removed. He allowed idverde and the Council to walk around his site and heard their advice about the need for Natural England permission for most work within the SSSI, and on bonfire locations, tree management etc. 

So, if you get asked about the work over the summer, you can be reassuring that the landowner has no plans to destroy the woodland or develop the site for housing. Positive news to start the summer – all we need now is the rain to stop!


White Admiral buitterflies are now in Crofton Woods

Butterfly Recorder Peter Smart reported the first sighting of the White Admiral butterfly in Crofton Woods on Tuesday 25 June - so keep your eyes peeled when walking in the woods on a sunny day. Peter's photo is below:


June 2024 newsletter is out!

Subscribe to the Group to read our interesting newsletter packed with information about Crofton and Sparrow Woods. Hard copy available on request if you are local. 


Come and join a free guided walk around Crofton walk on 6 JUly


All welcome for an interesting talk about the birds of Crofton and Sparrow Woods by local RSPB expert Peter Smart – join us for a hot drink and cake. 

(Followed by short FoC&SW AGM)

Tuesday 7 May 2024 at 7pm at Garden Estates Association Hall, Woodhurst Ave, Petts Wood, Orpington, BR5 1AR


Every year we have reports in Spring of sightings of a pair of Mandatrion Ducks. This year is no exception - with Group member Kirsty making our first sighting report.  They are wood ducks and so nest in trees. Although there have yet to be any reports of successful breeding, perhaps 2024 will be the first year.

2024 is also proving a good year for frogspawn - member Sue spotted that one bomb hole is packed and shared this video. Let us hope that the hole does not dry out too soon this year. 


The alternate Tuesday morning Work Group has restarted for 2024. More joiners very welcome - work is as hard or easy as suits you, and you are making a valuable contribution to our beautiful local area.

Colin found this spring buried in the leaf litter on our first session - litter picking is a constant task - litter pickers are available to borrow to collect it if you are happy to help.

The Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods is dedicated to maintaining and improving this beautiful, well used, and environmentally important site.

Much of the woodland is an area of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is a rare wet woodland habitat in London which supports a wide range of plants, wild animals and birds, as well as butterflies and moths.

The area includes a well used walking commuter route for the surrounding urban population to get to school, work, shops and Petts Wood station. There is a popular children's playground, playing fields, and easy walks into the extensive woodland (although very muddy in winter).

The Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods provides volunteering opportunities for the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme Bronze Award.

The Group is actively looking for new members including people who would like to to do one or more of the following:

  • Learn more about the areas's history and local environment through receiving our newsletter.
  • Join our fortnightly Tuesday morning woodland Work Groups.
  • Help with litter picking.
  • Join in butterfly, moth, plant, and bird identification (no experience necessary).
  • Help running the Group - from manning stalls at local events, writing articles, applying for grants, running the website, joining the Committee, to bringing new ideas.
  • Make a donation towards our objectives (e.g. rewilding part of the recreation ground, better signage, a replacement bridge to Gumping Common, a firm path all around the recreation ground to improve disabled access, playground improvements etc)
Join and help make a difference to our local community.

(All photographs are subject to copyright - contact if you wish to reproduce them elsewhere)

About Us imageAbout Us image
  • Eynsford Close, Petts Wood, Orpington BR5 1DP, UK

The Friends of Crofton Woods is a group of like minded people interested in knowing more about the wildlife and history of the area, and supporting the area's use for recreation and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. We need you to join us to help keep the area beautiful. If you just wish to donate for yourself or in memory of a loved one, we will ensure that all your money is dedicated to improving the woodland and recreation ground. Do get in touch. If you'd like our membership form - you can find it under the 'Forms' heading.

Fortnightly Tuesday morning Work Group needs you!

Fortnightly Tuesday morning Work Group needs you!

Join our friendly alternate Tuesday morning Work Group. No need to commit to every session - occasional joiners very welcome. Work is suitable for all ages and abilities, and equipment is provided if you do not have your own.

Work Programme for alternate Tuesday Work Group - February to July 2024

Work Programme for alternate Tuesday Work Group - February to July 2024

Come and join the Work Group! Here are the dates and plans from February to July 2024. Come and make a difference for nature.

Saturday Work Group

Saturday Work Group

We run a Saturday Work Group on an occasional basis. Our next meeting is 10am on 24 February - come and join in!

History image
The area has a long history - from when Odo, William the Conqueror's half brother, was given the land. It been woodland and fields for hundreds of years, and has never had a grand house on it. The land was broken into smaller field-sized pieces, with the result of a large number of owners of one or more piece, and they often then rented to tenants.  

Some of the area has been woodland for at least 400 years. Some was arable land until the end of the 20th Century.

Over the 19th Century there were many disputes between area occupants, with animals straying to others' areas, and boundary disputes.

About a third of the currently wooded area was arable land, but by the 20th century bush and small trees started taking over.

80% of the area was in agricultural use in 1937.

Regular coppicing ceased around 1930.

In 1963 the old Orpington Urban District Council agreed to compulsorily purchase much of the area of open space with a small nature reserve in one section.

In 1966 when Orpington became part of the Greater London Borough of Bromley, the Bromley authority commenced a plan to ensure that the area remained Green Belt and Public Open Space .

1970 - a planning application was made to build houses on the site of the isolation hospital, but this was withdrawn.

Early in 1973 a full dossier of the natural history of the area was completed (which the Friends Group would love to see). This listed 342 plants, over 60 species of birds, 30 butterflies and innumerable moths recorded from 1934 - 72. At that time the area was put on a list of Sites of Special Scientific interest at Nature Conservancy.

In March 1973 the principle owners- Rookery Estates and M E W Norman submitted a planning application to develop 139 acres for 1000 houses.

By 1974 Sparrow Common was becoming scrub - and it is now woodland.

2-3 April 1974 a planning application (after appeal) by Rookery Estates and Mr G H Norman to develop 139 acres of Sparrow Wood, Roundabout Wood and Crofton Heath was refused.

April 1989 - The Nature Conservancy Council declared the area as a Site of Special Scientific interest.

Early 1990s - Bromley Council acquired 40 acres (16 hectares) of Sparrow Wood, part of it isolated. Also 15 acres (6 hectares) called St Thomas Open Space near St Thomas Drive- former Education land, Gumping Common and part of Crofton Heath.

St Thomas Open Space was agricultural land until the 1930s. When the Council acquired it, it was being maintained as open grassland with a scattering of trees. By 2021 only a small amount of grassland survived.

1998- Thames Water were going to install a relief sewer on the west side of the long metalled path that runs along the east side of the area, making boreholes and promising a public meeting, but the work was postponed.

The Friends Group has researched the history behind the Fever Hospital that was built in in the woods, the reasons some areas were owned by the Isleworth Bluecoat School, and the 20th century plans to build sewers, bypasses and housing.

If you are interested in knowing more about the history, or have knowledge that you are happy to share with the Friends Group, please contact

We are particularly interested in any photographs that you may have.

Jane Andrews


Kirsty Blackman

Committee member

Karen King

Treasurer and Committee member

Claire Osborn

Membership Secretary and Committee Member

John Bray

Secretary and Committee Member

Derek Middlemass

Facebook manager

Membership and Donation Form

This includes a link to the PDF of the Membership and Donation Form for the Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods. .

Privacy Policy

This is the privacy policy that has been agreed by the Committee of the Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods.


This is the Constitution for the Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods

 Committee meeting minutes

Minutes of the Committee meetings of the Friends of Crofton and Sparrow Woods