About The Common
Large Open Spaces
Clapham Common is one of the largest open spaces (89 hectares) in South London and performs an essential role as a green lung and a place of recreation.
What is The Common
The Common has existed for nearly 1,000 years, but the pressures on its character today are immense.
It has around 2,000 trees and two small areas of woodland. The trees perform a number of important functions such as absorbing carbon dioxide and traffic exhaust particulates, and dampening traffic noise. They also play a role in buffering extremes of temperature and provide important habitats for bids, bats and insects.
Many of the large trees on the Common were planted before 1895, mainly in avenues, and now exist as stately specimens of London Plane and Lime (Linden). Later plantings have sought to connect areas of woodland and promote small clumps.
Clapham Common is managed by the London Borough of Lambeth, although its ownership is split between Lambeth and Wandsworth. Its status is protected by an Act of Parliament and is recorded by the Council as a Conservation Area and a ‘Grade II Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC)’.
The Friends of Clapham Common are working actively with the community to enhance the beauty and character of the Common for the lasting benefit of all. Since 2008 we have planted over 150 trees.
Trees on the Common
There are about 30 species of trees, including:
London Plane, Black Alder, Crab apple, Hazel, Willow, Horse Chestnut, Large-leaved Lime (or Linden), Sweet Chestnut, Hornbeam, Ash, Elm, Oak, Acacia.
Recent additions to the fringe include Lebanese cedars and Lambeth’s only giant redwood (sequoia).
The most common is the London Plane: a hybrid of American and Spanish Plane, planted along the avenues in the late 19th century as they are tolerant of pollution and root compaction. It grows up to 35m tall.
In collaboration with Trees for Cities, FCC has created a ‘community orchard’ on the West side, containing fruit trees of local (Surrey) provenance: apples, pears, cherries, mulberries, quinces.
Woods on the Common
There are two woodland areas on the western side of the Common:
Battersea Woods, on the west side of the Common, is an open area of woodland comprising shrubs and medium sized trees and is dominated by a species of Blackthorn. Large Plane trees and False Acacia mark its western edge.
Nursery Woods is a small, triangular woodland originally used as a nursery for trees by London County Council. Today it is a glorious mix of very mature trees and shrubs which includes common elm, yew, holly and honeysuckle and is home to a healthy colony of native bluebells.
Ponds on the Common
There are currently four ponds and one wetland:
– Mount Pond was originally a large gravel pit, dug out as early as 1746. The raised island in the middle was created soon after by a wealthy banker called Henton Brown to build a summer house. Local residents stopped him and subsequently the pond was used as a boating lake and for swimming. It is now an area for wildlife and a coarse fishing venue, with reedbeds and fishing platforms around the pond’s banks.
Species that live here include common and crucian carp, tench, roach, rudd, perch, coots, moorhens, herons, geese and ducks – which nest in the reeds. Other wildlife includes dragonflies, moths, beetles and bats.
– Eagle Pond, probably once a gravely pit. It was originally used by youngsters for swimming, however is now edged by native plants like Yellow Flag iris and Common Willow. Birds such as coots, mallards and both greylag and Egyptian geese have made the pond their home.
– Eagle Pond wetland was created in the shallow depression beside Eagle Pond to capture its overflow when full as well as rainwater. It offers habitat and it is a nursery for small birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians. Wetlands are a nationally threatened habitat, having reduced due to draiage for agriculture and peat extraction for horticulture. They provide essential ecoystem services acting as natural sponges that trap and slowly release water, reducing damages from flooding and storms.
– Long Pond, which was probably an abandoned gravel pit for building local roads and new housing. Since the mid 19th century model yachts have been sailed on Long Pond. Clapham Model Yacht Club, which dates from the 1870s, is still holds regular events on Long Pond and is London’s oldest model boating club. The pond also contains fish and is used by waterfowl like coots, ducks, geese and swans
– Cock Pond, now a children’s paddling pool
The Bandstand, built in 1890, was regularly used for open air concerts.
In 2003 the FCC and Clapham Society worked in partnership with Lambeth Council on a major fundraising and restoration project.
Conservation & improvement of the Common
The core reference document for the conservation and improvement of the Common is the “2007 Clapham Common Landscape, Conservation and Management Masterplan”.
A copy of the Masterplan can be emailed upon request – it’s too large to add to this website. Objectives of the plan include:
• Enhancing biodiversity and habitat connectivity on the Common, and hence its ecological value
• Developing a core nature conservation area, to include rough, infrequently managed grassland, open gorse, hawthorn scrub and heather heath
The Management Plan as well as the Tree strategy action plan are available under Resources on About FCC page.