Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods aren’t one of the big London woods but they are wonderful for a family day out in south London and make a great starting point for a range of Green Chain walks.
The woods are very pretty at all times of the year and are brilliant for woodland adventures for younger kids but have extra selling points.
Sydenham Hill Wood is right next door to one of London’s best museums so you can combine culture and outdoor fun whilst Dulwich Wood actually has it’s own woodland station so you can start walking straight off the train.
To help you enjoy a family day trip or walking in Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods I’ve brought together everything you need to know about visiting the woods including :
- Sydenham Hill Wood History
- Sydenham Hill Wildlife
- Family Walks In Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods
- Sydenham Hill Wood Folly & Ruins
- Sydenham Hill Wood & The Horniman Museum
- Green Chain Walks From Sydenham Hill Wood
- Sydenham & Dulwich Woods Entrances & Directions
- Parking For Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods
- Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods By Train
- Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods By Bus
I do hope you have a great day out in the woods. For more ideas for days out check out this big guide to the best woods in London.
1. Sydenham Hill Woods History
Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods are really one and the same wood. Sydenham Hill being the north end of the wood and Dulwich the south.
The woods are both ancient and modern.
They include remains of the Great North Wood a forest which stretched from the north Downs to within a mile of the Thames.
But much of today’s woodland was reclaimed by the forest in the last 75 years from the old Crystal Palace railway and the abandoned gardens of the great villas built on Sydenham Hill in the 19th Century and extensively damaged in both World War 1 Zeppelin and World War 2 V2 raids.
The woods are a wonderful example of how quickly nature can reclaim land and are now bursting with wildlife.
2. Sydenham Hill Woods Wildlife
Both Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods are richly in wildlife with over 200 species of trees which are home to owls, woodpeckers, nuthatches, firecrests and more.
The Ambrook stream rises in the woods before joining the lost River Effra to the Thames and provides some pretty ponds in the heart of the woods.
The woods are rich in roosting bats who use the live and abandoned railway lines to visit nearby park ponds for evening feeding.
3. Family Walks In Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods
Sydenham Hill Wood is a lovely wood for family walks with small children.
Starting from the Cox Walk Footbridge you can follow a simple route which in barely a mile long but takes in woodland, meadow, ponds and a fabulous old folly for climbing on. From the footbridge gate:
- Cross the wooded bank which is great for den building and picnics
- Turning left onto the old railway line
- Past a pretty wild flower clearing
- Until you reach the Ambrook ponds either side of the path
- Turn left past the left hand pond
- Follow the path around until you meet the folly – see below – which makes a great pit stop for climbing and more den building.
- Then retrace your steps to the ponds and
- Skirting this time round the other pond
- Head back north to the gate over the wooded bank.
The woods like all London woods get soggy in winter but if you enter Sydenham Wood via Cox Walk itself the paths are pretty buggy friendly.
If you’re coming from the Horniman Museum or Sydenham Hill train station, there are steps and much muddier paths and so I would recommend child carriers rather than a buggy with very small children.
4. Sydenham Hill Wood Folly
Sydenham Hill Wood ruins have all the appearance of a ruined medieval monastery or castle but were actually built as a folly in the grounds of one of the great Victorian mansions on Sydenham Hill.
Whatever its origins, it’s a great spot to walk to and climb over on a family day out in Sydenham Wood with kids especially when combined with a visit to the nearby Horniman Museum.
5. Sydenham Wood & The Horniman Museum
The Horniman Museum is south London’s brilliant combination of the Natural History Museum, the Victoria & Albert and British Museum but all on a much more intimate scale which is very child friendly.
There’s also a butterfly house, an aquarium and an animal walk plus some lovely greenhouses and gardens and great views of London.
And it is all just 5 minutes walk from Sydenham Hill Wood. Follow the Green Chain Walk signs from the museum over the A205 and through Lapse Wood Walk which will bring you to the Cox Walk footbridge – which Camille Pissarro famously painted from – into the wood.
Sydenham Hill Wood & Pissarro
Camille Pissarro lived near the woods as a refugee from the Franco-Prussian war. In 1871 he painted the view looking down the train line to Lordship Lane Station from what was then the Cox Walk railway bridge.
It is this deserted railway line that still runs through the heart of Sydenham Hill Woods and provides one of the best havens for wildlife on south London’s Green Chain Walk and Capital Ring walking route.
6. Capital Ring & Green Chain Walks From Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods
The Green Chain Walk provides a network of beautiful walking routes that connect up the green spaces of wildlife in south east London including Oxleas Wood and Petts Wood. The Capital Ring is a circular walk all the way around London.
Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods provide a great starting point for various Green Chain and Capital Ring walks as you can start the walks directly from the train at Sydenham Hill station.
Green Chain Walk : Sydenham Hill Wood To Nunhead Cemetry
- A 4 mile walk past the Horniman Museum to Nunhead Cemetery one of London’s magnificent seven cemeteries with views of St Pauls …
- Starting from Sydenham Hill station join section 11 of the Green Chain Walk as it comes through Dulwich Woods.
- The walk goes through the beautiful Horniman Museum gardens so it’s worth stopping en route for a visit to the Museum. It’s also a good pit stop for food and toilets.
- The walk then continues through Camberwell New Cemetery to enter the back of Nunhead Cemetery an amazingly atmospheric and strangely beautiful space in south east London.
Green Chain Walk : Sydenham Hill Wood To Crystal Palace
- Roughly two and half miles long with great views from Crystal Palace and even dinosaurs to convince kids they really do want a family walk …
- Start from Sydenham Hill station.
- The path into the woods starts steeply uphill right opposite the station.
- Turn left to enter Dulwich Woods proper.
- Keep to the lower paths round to Cox Walk bridge.
- Then follow part 1 of the Green Chain Walk Section 11 but in reverse coming out of the woods through Sydenham Wells Park and into Crystal Palace Park which includes the remains of the Crystal Palace, a maze, a lake and those dinosaurs …
- From Crystal Palace Station at the end of the park you can get trains to Victoria and London Bridge and round on the Overground to Highbury & Islington
Green Chain Walk : Sydenham Hill Wood To Beckenham Place
- For a really decent day long walk continue from Crystal Palace on Green Chain Walk Section 10 to Beckenham Place Park …
- The four mile extension walk is more urban but goes through some fascinating parts of south London and Beckenham Place Park is one of London’s most beautiful parks with a stunning Georgian mansion house and a great place to end a walk on a beautiful day.
- Beckhenham Hill and Ravensbourne stations are very close to the park.
Capital Ring Walk : Sydenham Hill Wood To Streatham Common
- An alternative 4 mile extension from Crystal Palace is section 4 of the Capital Ring Walk which continues to Streatham Common with its beautiful Victorian Rookery …
- The walk which has great views connects up more fragments of the Great North Wood and passes the attractive Norwood Grove House to enter Streatham Common which includes a woodland area and the lovely Streatham Rookery an area of Victorian gardens which are maintained now as a community garden.
- The Rookery Cafe is close to the gardens for refreshments at the end of the walk.
- Streatham Common and Streatham stations are 10 minutes walk from the bottom of the Common.
7. Sydenham & Dulwich Woods Entrances & Directions
You can enter Sydenham Hill Wood via :
- Cox Walk Bridge via either the Horniman Museum or Sydenham Hill
- Cox Walk itself from the South Circular
- Crescent Wood Road
These entrances except the Sydenham Hill entrance are signed with Green Chain Walk signs.
You can enter Dulwich Woods via :
- Sydenham Hill Station : the footpath goes up straight opposite the station entrance. You just need to cross College Road. Then turn left into the woods proper half way up the path.
- Grange Lane : turn onto Grange Lane from College Road. There is a gate and entrance to the woods opposite the Scout Centre near the end of the road.
8. Parking For Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods
There is no dedicated car park for Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods so it can be easier to come via public transport. There is a small car park at Sydenham Hill Station and on street parking on Crescent Wood Road.
9. Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods By Train
There are two trains an hour from Victoria to Sydenham Hill station. You can change onto the line at Herne Hill from Blackfriars and St Pancras.
Forest Hill overground station is less than 15 minutes walk away and there are trains at least every 10 minutes from Highbury & Islington.
There are regular bus services from a number of nearby stations including East Dulwich, Honor Oak, North Dulwich, Sydenham & Penge (see below).
10. Sydenham Hill & Dulwich Woods By Bus
You can reach Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods easily by a good number of buses with stops near the various entrances to the woods including :
- P4 Brixton to Lewisham via Honor Oak & North Dulwich stations
- P13 Streatham to New Cross via West Dulwich & East Dulwich stations
- 176 Tottenham Court Rd to Penge via East Dulwich & Sydenham stations.
- 185 Lewisham to Victoria via East Dulwich station
- 197 Peckham to Croydon via Sydenham station
- 356 To West Wickham via Penge
- P4 see above
- 356 see above
- 363 Crystal Palace to Elephant & Castle via Peckham Rye
And there you go, absolutely everything you need to know to plan a great family day out in Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods – with a side trip to the Horniman Museum – or to include the woods in a Green Chain or Capital Ring walk.
If you’re looking for more woodland walks in London check out this guide to London’s best woods and forests which covers over 18 different woods within the M25 or these guides to :
And for more inspiration explore all of these ideas for fun things to do in London. There’s everything from historic houses with gorgeous gardens to brilliant small museums and riverside nature reserves.