South Norwood Country Park
South Norwood Country Park is a park in South Norwood, close to Elmers End station, mainly in the London Borough of Croydon. It is a 47 hectare (116 acre) green space which opened in 1989. The park occupies a mix of countryside and parkland, and land formerly used for sewage farms serving the growing London population.
Croydon Sports Arena, the home of Croydon F.C., is located on the south-eastern edge of the park. There is also a car park and visitor centre which holds annual open days which include face painting, pole lathe demonstration, guided walks, refreshments and a skittle alley to raise awareness for the park. There is also a duck pond similar to the one at South Norwood Lake.
The site that is now known as South Norwood Country Park has undergone many changes in its long and chequered history, from the days of the Great North Wood to ancient moated house, sewage farm, farming, the war years, civil defence, allotments, wasteland, highways, refuse dump and now the Country Park.
A scientific dig was carried out in 1972 by Lillian Thornhill on behalf of the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society in an attempt to ascertain the age of the double-sided moat shown on the Thomas Morley estate map of 1736 under the name of La Motes. On an earlier estate map of Peter Burrell, the land is indicated as adjoining Sturts Land and is given the name Lame Oates which is obviously a phonetic corruption of La Motes.
Deeds of 1467 relate to a mortgage transaction at Leweland between Richard at Cherte and Stephan and John Fabian of London. Going further back in time, there is a gap in the available records until one reaches the end of the 13th century when further evidence indicates the existence of a 13th - 14th century house of some importance having existed on the site, with the principal owner being Lord Robert de Retford.
He was one of the King's itinerant judges, known to be active as such between the years 1295-1318. The low lying position of the land with streams flowing through it leads one to consider whether a natural phenomena, like the floods of 1315 to 1317 had anything to do with the failure of the house to survive.
The Sewage Farm
From about 1862 the land was acquired by Croydon Corporation for use as a sewage farm. This was largely unsuccessful because of the heavy London Clay subsoil that makes up the majority of the site. A series of concrete channels (some of which are still visible today) were constructed to direct the sewage over the numerous lagoons but these were a failure as the lagoons would remain flooded for months without draining away.
In the 1920s a new method for the treatment of sewage had to be found so the farm was largely abandoned and a new sewage treatment works was built on the area where the Pitch and Putt course now stands. This was shut down in 1962 and the area was left mostly undisturbed until the creation of the Country Park in 1988/99. It is still often referred to as 'the Sewage Farm' by the older local residents however, despite not having been used as such for several decades. The manager of the farm was Albert David Prior.
The War Years
The years leading up to World War 2 brought about even more dramatic changes, with the armed forces using the area for training. During the course of the war, the site became an A.R.P. (Air Raid Precaution) centre and the civil defence unit was also based here until the 1950s; there was even a ruined house that was specially constructed for the rescue services to practice in.
During the blitz when hundreds of buildings were destroyed in Croydon (a heavily targeted town) and surrounding areas, much of the spoils were dumped on the land. This rubble eventually mounted up to form what is now the large hill behind the sports arena today. It is the principal viewpoint in the park and from the top of it you can see, amongst other things, Docklands, Shirley Hills, Crystal Palace, Croydon, and as far east as Bromley.
The playground at South Norwood Country Park has been rebuilt since it was shut down due to health and safety issues in 2006.
During 2008 Croydon Council constructed a lottery funded playground in a large space which was formerly part of the pitch and putt course. The equipment is intended for children from aged 4 to 14. The playground is not suitable for those over 14 years of age.
Many wetlands and ponds in Britain have become polluted or have disappeared, leaving the plants and animals that like wet conditions with fewer places to live. The Dragonfly Pond was built to encourage dragonflies and damselflies, and many other plants and animals such as frogs, toads and newts can be found there too. In the summer months the blue and green Emperor Dragonfly, the largest dragonfly in Britain can be found there.
South Norwood Country Park has an excellent bird record with over 100 different species being sighted each year. The large wetlands in particular attract a wide variety of birds.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to South Norwood Country Park.|
- "South Norwood Country Park - Children's Play Area Design and Access Statement" (PDF). Croydon Council. 27 February 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
- "South Norwood Country Park". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- "Map of South Norwood Country Park". Natural England. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- www.croydon.gov.uk - facilities and contact details
- www.croydon.gov.uk/..../smcphistory - history of the site