Coppetts Wood and the Scrublands

This is accessible from

  • Colney Hatch Lane – the entrance is almost opposite Halton Close,
  • East of the footbridge over the North Circular Road, east of the Coppetts Close estate
  • East of the Compton Leisure Centre playing fields,

Coppetts Wood is bordered to the south and east by Scrublands that extend to the east at Colney Hatch Lane – and to the south bordering the Tesco store and Robert Deards that border the North circular Road.

Coppetts Wood is also the site of our popular Woodland Festival, held every May.

Wildlife habitats include:

  • Dry grassland with anthills and herbs
  • Scrubland (grass, herb, bushes, trees) immensely rich in plants that support a large number of insects (butterflies, grasshoppers, ants, etc) these plants and insects are eaten by frogs, slugs and snails. In turn these are eaten by small mammals, birds, foxes, owls, kestrels and Sparrow Hawks. There is also some damp scrubland tthat supports mosses, lichens, ferns and fungi
  • Coppetts Wood. This Ancient Woodland has tall trees, on which insects on the young leaves in the tree canopy are eaten by bats and birds a hundred feet up in the sky.
  • Wetland such as ponds and wet ground is home to marsh plants, water insects and crustaceans which are eaten by tadpoles and newts.
  • This wonderful diversity of habitats produces a huge range of wildlife, hardly equlled on any natural ground in Surrey or Sussex.

Take a walk here and you’ll enjoy some very different habitats:

Coppetts Wood

An ancient woodland on a hilltop, Coppetts Wood was reputedly an ancient Pagan site.

Geology: The hill is of boulder clay – brought by a great ice sheet half a million years ago during the last ice age.

You can easily find surface stones – pebbles smoothed by being ground by the moving, grinding ice sheet. These pebbles are embedded in yellow-brown clay.

In wet weather, clay becomes slippery, sticky and soggy. Then in a summer’s drought, the same clay becomes as hard as concrete!

This useless ground: The stones and the cold, wet nature make it unsuitable for agriculture and so this (and other similar glacial hilltops such as Coldfall Wood, Oakhill woods). Such land was never used for farmland and was ignored for thousands of years – that is the reason for its survival into the 21st Century.

What’s in the wood? An east-west road of granite chippings divides Coppetts Wood into a smaller north and larger south woods:

North Wood: In the north-west corner is an old dug pond – connected to a perched water table, so that its water level rises and falls with the seasons.

The wood is also the site of our popular annual Woodland Festival in May – the month most abundant for wildlfowers.

South wood contains strange concrete “drums”. These are relics from the Second World War – anti-tank traps for use in the event of a German invasion.

The plan was that these concrete drums would have been placed across Colney Hatch Lane and Finchley High road and filled with rubble to slow down German tank columns moving southwards into London. It is important that these drums are not damaged as they remind us of the real threats faced by Londoners in the darkest days of the War.

Trees in Coppetts Wood include standards of Oak with scattered Ash and Sycamore trees.

Down the western side of North Wood is a line of old Horse Chestnut trees with their beautiful white flowers in May and spiky “conker” fruit appear in autumn

Growing down the eastern side of north wood is an irregular line of Sweet Chestnut trees.

Throughout the wood is an understorey of old Hornbeam coppice and also Hazel, Holly, Cherry, Elm, Hawthorn and unusually – False Acacia. There is some uncommon naturalised Snowy Mespilus with its cascading white flowers in April.

Planted in about 1814 along the woodland boundaries are old Hawthorn hedges. Their creamy white flowers (called May blossom) are a beautiful feature and their red autumn berries are much loved by birds.

The Scrublands

This is the area where the Finchley sewage works used to operate from the 1880s until the early 1960s.

During the mid 1960s it was used as an infill site for domestic and other waste: concrete, brick, metal, glass, sand, clay and old sewage. The mound of rubbish reaches a height of about 25 feet (7 – 8 metres) and undulates.

The vegetation is exceptionally rich in diversity and is the main feeding area for birds.

The amazing biodiversity is probably due to the different types of ground; sandy in some places, clay, concrete or clinker in others. This produces large variations in the acidity, nutrient levels, water-retention and aeration.

Such a variety of ground creates a mosaic of ground conditions favoured by different types of plants.

So many plants grow only in certain places. For example, in the centre there are no trees or brambles – but this is the only place for many different grasses and certain herbs such as Yellow Toadflax, Dewberry, Michaelmas Daisy, Garden Golden-Rod.

The Scrublands offers wonderful views to the south, with Alexandra Palace on the horizon. At night, the southern sky can be observed through binoculars or a telescope to marvel at other worlds – planets and stars.