South Norwood Country Park is a site of about 50 hectares (125 acres) developed from a former sewage farm. It has a range of wildlife habitats, including a large area of wet grassland and a sizeable lake. It is owned by the London Borough of Croydon and has been designated as a local nature reserve. Address (main entrance): Albert Road, London SE25 4QL (Map:; OS grid reference TQ353683)
The land was originally used for agriculture but has also been used for the manufacture of pottery and bricks, which involved extensive quarrying with subsequent backfilling. For about 100 years the site served as a sewage farm for the Corporation of Croydon, which acquired it piecemeal from 1862 onwards, with the last acquisition as late as 1951. The sewage farm was never a success because the subsoil was London clay and the flooded fields would remain wet for months without draining. A series of concrete channels was constructed over the farm to direct the sewage out over the numerous fields. With changes in the methods of treating sewage the irrigation beds were abandoned and round filter beds were built in the centre of the site. The fields were then not used for many years, and a wide range of wetland vegetation grew virtually undisturbed. After the sewage works closed in 1967, the filterbeds were dismantled. The south-western end of the site was extensively tipped with rubbish and highways waste such as road scrapings, old kerbstones and concrete. The site was declared Metropolitan Open Land in 1982 and a decision was made to develop it into a country park. The aim was to preserve the wetlands and also develop new meadow lands on the areas that had been tipped once they had been made safe. An artificial mound (The Viewpoint) was created mainly from hardcore tipping from wartime demolition. Landscaped in 1988, it is the highest point on the site. A pond has been built to encourage dragonflies and damselflies,
The site’s range of habitats includes semi-improved neutral grassland, wet grassland, wet ditches, a lake fringed by a reed bed, a pond, running water, roughland, scattered trees and scrub. The running water is in two streams that cross the site from the Albert Road end to Elmers End Road: the southern one is an open brook that runs along a line where the London Clay meets the Blackheath Beds (sands and gravels); the other runs in a deep concrete channel along the north western boundary.
Birds More than 100 species of bird are recorded in the country park every year. The site list stands at 177 species, with 163 of them recorded since the park was created in 1989. The large wetlands in particular attract a wide variety of species. Several species of warbler breed here, including Reed Warbler (this is the the only known site in the borough where this species breeds. Sedge Warblers are effectively now only a passage migrant, but bred here until recently. Marsh Warbler has also been reported potentially holding a territory a few years ago. The lake supports the common waterfowl found in parks including a small wintering flock of Shoveler but occasionally something more exotic, such as Shelduck, Pintail and Goosander, drops in. There is also a reasonable chance of seeing Kingfisher, which has bred here 1998 and 1999 (the first known breeding record for Croydon). Common Snipe and (occasionally) Jack Snipe winter in the wet meadow and other waders may be recorded around the lake. At least one Water Rail spends the winter around the lake, in the wet meadow or in the stream near Harrington Road. All three British woodpeckers have been found (but Lesser Spotted is now infrequent), as can Reed Bunting and a variety of finches and tits. Among the scarcer species recorded in recent years are Red Kite and Buzzard (both of which are becoming more regular), Merlin, Hen Harrier, Dartford Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Bearded Tit, Twite and Firecrest.
Other vertebrates: Frogs, toads and newts can be found in and around the Dragonfly Pond.
Invertebrates: More than 20 species of butterfly have been recorded on the site. The Dragonfly Pond attracts various dragonflies and damselflies, including the Emperor Dragonfly.
- Car: The main entrance is off Albert Road, South Norwood, but the site extends as far as Elmers End Road in the north east. The site has car parks open to vehicles from 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends and bank holidays until just before dusk.
- Rail: The nearest rail stations are Elmers End, on the east edge of the site, and Birkbeck, at the northernmost corner of the site.
- Tram: A Tramlink route crosses the site, stopping at Harrington Road on the west edge of the park and Arena to the south. Trams also serve Elmers End.
- Bus: Bus routes 197 and 312 pass along Portland Road, 356 along Elmers End Road and 289 along Long Lane.
Access There is free pedestrian access to the site at all times with enrances at various points.
updated 27/4/12 - John Birkett