Sue Godfrey Nature Park
Sue Godfrey and Roy Ramsey
The park was originally named Bronze Street Nature Park. It was renamed in 1994 in memory of Sue Godfrey, a local resident and environmental campaigner who was killed in a road accident, in recognition of the huge effort she had devoted to the park and the vital role she took in life on the adjacent Crossfield Estate.
Two years later, the ashes of Roy Ramsey, another environmental campaigner, were gently interred here. Both were much loved and it is to be hoped that, by keeping their memory alive, the nature park's survival for future generations of wildlife and people will be ensured.
The origins of this wild space becoming a nature park lie in Deptford's 'iron age' - corrugated iron age, that is.
In the 1970s, in common with most wasteland sites in the area, its perimeter was ringed twice against illegal encampments and fly-tippers. The inner was a rubble bank, the outer a two- metre high corrugated iron fence.
It became a nature park in 1984 after lengthy campaigning by local residents. The perimeter defences were removed, paths were laid out and belts of trees and shrubs were planted. The nature park increased in size by gradually taking over a former lorry park on its western end.
For many years it was designated as temporary open space. Residents and environmental groups had to fight off many proposals for housing. At one point there was a proposal to landscape it as a formal park, which would have been as damaging as housing from a wildlife point of view.
We own the site, and we recognised its permanent value for wildlife in the Unitary Development Plan of 1996.
Objects from the past
The park contains clues to and reminders of the uses it was put to in the past.
The kerb stones and street lamps in the large field are left over from the lorry park.
If you look under the lamp post on the Berthon Street side, you will find a rose bush, which has grown from a seed deposited by a bird sitting on the lamp.
In the middle of the site is a wall made of pottery fragments and mortar. This is all that remains above ground of the Gibbs and Canning pottery works, demolished in 1967. There had been a pottery on the site since 1682.
A mixture of rough grassland, scrub and ruderal vegetation occupy the site. More than 200 species of wild flowers, shrubs and trees have been recorded growing here over the last 15 years. Some, particularly trees and shrubs, were planted, but the vast majority have made their own way here, often inadvertently assisted by people.
There is a cosmopolitan range of plants here including:
the wonderfully-named Shaggy-soldier (a small and rather nondescript member of the daisy family) from South America
the more showy Michaelmas daisy from North America
the uncommon Sulphur cinquefoil from the Mediterranean region
Guernsey fleabane (also known as Sumatran fleabane), which is actually a native of South America.
Some of the plants, such as Spanish bluebell, garden privet and pink snowberry, are relics of former gardens of houses on Berthon Street, long since demolished. Others arrived in Britain accidentally, as seeds stowing away among cargo.
Plant communities such as this are a product of our interaction with the environment on a global scale, and reflect the history of London and Londoners. Part of Deptford’s industrial, imperial, trading and gardening past is woven into the fabric of this nature park.
Such a diversity of plants supports a wide variety of insects, including butterflies and grasshoppers.
At least six species of butterflies breed on the site, including:
Large, Small and Essex skippers
This is a good number for an inner London site, and is likely to increase in the near future: a Speckled wood was seen for the first time in 1996, and this woodland edge species is likely to colonise as the trees and shrubs mature.
Grasshoppers and crickets
One species of grasshopper and one bush-cricket occur in the park. The easiest way to distinguish them is by the length of their antennae.
short, stout antennae.
slender and longer than the body.
The Common field grasshopper is a common and widespread species, varying in colour from brown to green and even vivid pink. Its song is the familiar chirrup which can be heard on the site from June to November.
Roesel's bush-cricket is nationally less-widespread, centred on the Thames estuary, though it is currently expanding, perhaps as a consequence of global warming. It arrived at Sue Godfrey Nature Park sometime in the early 1990s, and is now abundant here. Its song is a continuous, high-pitched reeling, which can continue on the same note for several minutes.
While grasshoppers bury their eggs below the ground, bush-crickets lay theirs in grass stems, and the females have a long ovipositor on their rear end to accomplish this.
Management and use
Management is necessary to maintain the current high diversity of species and habitats. Much of this is carried out by the Creekside Discovery Centre with help local volunteers and with occasional assistance from our nature conservation section.
About 50% of the grass is cut every year. This prevents trees and shrubs from overrunning the site. The cuttings are removed to keep nutrient levels low; high nutrient levels allow a few vigorous species to dominate but at the expense of many others.
Many of the wild flowers here are weed species, which require bare ground to grow. Trees and shrubs are coppiced periodically. This allows light to reach wild flowers, and produces dense regrowth which is ideal for nesting birds.