On 22 January 2013 the London Borough of Lambeth designated an area of 13.80 ha or thereabouts, taking in much of the higher parts of Streatham Common and a corner of the Rookery, a Local Nature Reserve.
Click here for the Streatham Common Local Nature Reserve Map
What is a Local Nature Reserve?
A Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is a protected area of land designated by a local authority because of its local natural interest and, where possible, educational and community value. It can contain features or habitats of wildlife interest and value, and is managed so that people can visit and use it to experience and enjoy nature close to where they live, work and learn. LNRs are typically closeto urban centres and easily reached by foot, bicycle or bus.
LNRs can be ancient woodland or ex-industrial sites, or can be part of an urban park, rivers, streams, lakes or marshes; even disused quarries, railway cuttings and road verges can be LNRs. These give individuals and communities a range of ways to get involved in the natural environment, and are good for people and good for wildlife, and they are usually of high value for environmental education and/or research, including by local schools, colleges and adult learners.
People are more likely to be aware of and value the natural environment when they experience it at first hand in places like LNRs. They also help safeguard not just rare but also more common, locally valued species, habitats and even geological diversity. They also play an important part in the delivery of Local Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) and Local Geodiversity Action Plans (LGAPs).
Natural England, which is the statutory nature conservation agency for England, recommends that everyone should have an accessible greenspace of at least 2 hectares (ha) within 300 metres of their home; at least one accessible 20 ha site within 5 km of home; at least one accessible 100 ha site within 5 km of home; and at least one 500 ha site within 10 km of home. LNRs can contribute significantly to these targets and the recommended national standard of a minimum of 1 ha of LNR land per 1000 head of the population.
Why a Local Nature Reserve at Streatham Common?
Streatham Common is the third largest public open space in Lambeth and one of its most popular because of its location, ease of access and variety of facilities and attractions. Streatham Common is also one of the borough’s most important wildlife sites; together with the Rookery it has been a ‘Borough Site of Importance for Nature Conservation’ or ‘Borough SINC’ for Lambeth in recognition of the abundance of wildlife habitat, and the diversity of trees, plants and animals for a number of years.
Although the whole of Streatham Common and the Rookery are within the SINC designation, certain parts contain substantially more wildlife interest than others. The woodlands and rough grassland areas on the upper eastern half of the Common contain a higher diversity of habitats and species than the lower western sections close to Streatham High Road, because of differences in geology, topography and historical management.
Based on rigorous pre-assessment, the eastern section of Streatham Common, along with certain sections of the Rookery, meets the criteria for being designated as a LNR for the following reasons:
- It contains both an abundance and a high diversity of wildlife habitats, trees, plants and animals that has been proven through previous surveys;
- It is managed so that people are able to visit and use it throughout the year to experience and enjoy nature close to where they live;
- It can be managed within existing and future resources to retain its present wildlife status and an LNR designation;
- It is close to a large number of urban centres so providing residents of Lambeth, Croydon and Wandsworth with free access to nature;
- It contains or is close to a wide range of facilities that complement the LNR status as well as being attractive to visitors of all ages, such as a cafe, playground, toilets, sports and the attractive Rookery;
- It is easily reached by foot, bicycle, bus or car: it is on the route of the ‘Capital Ring’ which provides walkers with a route around London, and means the LNR is readily accessible to the rest of London as a pleasant and rewarding experience when passing through this section of the Ring.
Designating Streatham Common and Rookery as a LNR confers protection from misuse, inappropriate development or management, so reinforcing protection due to its Metropolitan Common, Conservation Area, Metropolitan Land and Public Open Space status.
Declaring a LNR for Streatham Common and the Rookery recognises the positive and cooperative engagement of the local residents and communities, who have worked with the council, to develop the proposal and bring it to fruition.
About the Local Nature Reserve
In 2007 sites across Lambeth were surveyed by London Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Greater London Authority as part of the Mayor of London’s ‘Borough Habitats Survey Programme’. The survey included Streatham Common and The Rookery, given its existing high biodiversity status, and over 180 different species of plant and animal were recorded as being on site at the time.
Streatham Common is widely used by, or being promoted to, local schools and colleges, as well as students on under- and post-graduate degree courses, for various studies relating to the natural environment or its history and evolution as a public open space.
Streatham Common and the neighbouring Rookery are two of Lambeth’s most popular open spaces as places to visit and use for informal enjoyment. Not surprisingly site users often cite the fact they have close access to nature or can walk, talk, meet and play in a ‘green’ and ‘natural’ setting as one of the main reasons why they use Streatham Common above other local sites.
The declaration and management of the Local Nature Reserve enables the council and community to not only protect current levels of use for informal enjoyment of nature, but also to stimulate and widen interest in using the site for these purposes.
One of Lambeth’s most important sites for nature conservation, Streatham Common includes the largest area of native woodland in the Borough and a small but interesting area of acid grassland. There are magnificent views from the higher parts of the Common.
The woodland is almost certainly secondary, dating from approximately the end of the 19th century. The main block of woodland consists of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) with some sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), beech (Fagus sylvatica), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and English elm (Ulmus procera). In the southern, less disturbed, margin of the woodland are found pendulous and remote sedges (Carex spp.) – both rare in inner London – male-fern (Dryopteris felix-mas) and common figwort (Scrophularia nodosa).
The woodland over the more acidic eastern edge of the common contains bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), wood sage (Teucrium scorodonia) and gorse (Ulex europaeus). The wood to the north of the bridleway has a denser shrub layer and, in a localised damp area, contains the inner London rarities creeping yellow-cress (Rorippa sylvestris) and plicate sweet-grass (Glycera notata).
The acid grassland on the higher slopes includes notable plants such as early hair grass (Aira praecox), welted thistle (Carduus crispus) and hairy sedge (Carex hirta). Damper areas contain soft rush (Juncus effusus) and yellow meadow ant (Lasius flavus) can be found.
At the highest point of the Common is a ditch that follows the eastern edge of the Common and is quite possibly ancient in origin. Red campion (Silene dioica), wavy bitter-cress (Cardamine flexuosa), pendulous sedge (Carex pendulosa), wood meadow-grass (Poa nemoralis) and soft shield-fern (Polystichum setiferum), a London rarity, are found in close association with the ditch.
The Rookery is an area of formal gardens ideal for walking and general relaxation, previously part of the grounds of a large estate house that gives the site its name. There are terraced lawns, a large formal walled garden where the last of the Streatham Spa wells is located, and dense shrubberies with cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.), barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and other berry-bearing species. Close to the pools and streams that run alongside undulating paths are wavy bitter-cress, flowering-rush (Butomus umbellatus) and the naturalised monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus). A small belt of dense woodland includes butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), probably introduced.