Friends environmental group to receive Queen’s award

The Friends of Croham Hurst Woods will be celebrating a prize-winning year at their annual meeting next month, when they will be presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

The logo which the Friends of Croham Woods now proudly display on their website and literature

The logo which the Croham group now proudly displays on website and literature

The doughty band of residents who each month spend at least one day undertaking environmental work in the ancient woodlands to maintain and improve the condition of this SSSI – Site of Special Scientific Interest – have been recognised with the equivalent for groups of an individual being given an MBE.

“I was delighted when we were nominated and then shortlisted for the award,” Maria Gatland, the local councillor and chair of the Friends, said.

“I was truly surprised and honoured to be informed by the Cabinet Office that FCHW had won this fantastic award. A few of us were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace and that was a great day. The presentation of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service will take place at our AGM on November 12 by a representative of Her Majesty.

“The award is the result of so much work and support by so many people over 11 years. Part of the reason we won the award is the number and scope of our regeneration projects
from removing two hectares of invasive holly in partnership with the council to the removal of more than 30 years’ of scrub from the bank on Upper Selsdon Road, to my favourite project, the recreation of the meadow shown on old maps.”

croham hurst map


Croham Hurst (the word “hurst”, sometimes “hyrst”, is derived from the ancient Anglo-Saxon, meaning “woods”; so “Croham Hurst Woods” might be considered a tad tautological) has been owned by Croydon Council, and its predecessors, for more than a century. Evidence on the site has been found of human settlement going back to 3000 BC, and the New Stone Age. Bronze Age remains in a burial barrow from around 2000 BC have also been excavated there. The area covers 35 hectares, and rises to nearly 450ft above sea level.

The voluntary efforts were also recognised with an invite for some of the Friends to a Buckingham Palace garden party… Given Gatland’s “colourful” history, the security clearance for that will have been interesting.

Maria Gatland, second right, and Friends of Croham Hurst Woods were invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party after winning the Queen's Award

Maria Gatland, second right, and Friends of Croham Hurst Woods were invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party after winning the Queen’s Award

The efforts of the Friends continues, with monthly work days – usually the last Saturday of the month, the next one being on November 29 – on some aspect of maintaining this piece of ancient woodland.

Another holly removal project, funded by a Forestry Commission grant, is underway, helping to open up some of the more overgrown areas, encouraging wildlife to thrive. If they were really enterprising, with the Christmas season coming up, they might do a roaring trade in Yuletide wreaths to defray the costs of the work.

There’s always plenty more which could be done.

“It is no secret that I feel strongly that we should seek to restore the view from the top of the Hurst, now almost obscured by the growth on the slopes,” Gatland said. “If you look at old photos in the archives you can see what has been lost.

“The climb to the top of the Hurst to admire the views was often a family outing at the weekend. Many residents have spoken to me about the loss of the view.

Croham Hurst Woods is such a special place in every way, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and of national importance. As a local community we are very lucky to have this wonderful ancient woodland on our doorstep. Let’s do all we can to care for it.”

New members of the Friends – subscription at least £10 per year – are always welcome, and they are welcome to attend the annual meeting from 7.30pm on November 12 at Emmanuel Church Hall, Rockhampton Road, when the guest speaker will be Mathew Frith of London Wildlife Trust.

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