Greenwich Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks, situated in the London Borough of Greenwich. As well being a World Heritage Site, the park is a Grade 1 listed landscape and a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.
Address: (Map:; OS grid reference TQ390772)
History[edit | edit source]
Greenwich Park was originally an estate owned by the Abbey of St Peter at Ghent, but it reverted to the Crown in 1427 and was enclosed as a deer park in 1433. Henry VI gave it to his uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who built a small castle, called Greenwich Castle, at the top of a north-facing hill near the centre of the site. At the time, the park was mostly heathland and probably used for hawking. Early in the 17th century, James I enclosed the park with a brick wall, 3.5m (12ft) high and 3km (2 miles) long, much of which remains and defines the modern boundary. In the 17th century, the park was landscaped, and in 1675 Charles II chose the dilapidated Greenwich Castle as the site for the Royal Observatory, which still stands. The public were first allowed into the park during the 18th century.
Habitat[edit | edit source]
The park is on two levels, with a steep slope between them. The lower level includes some open water in the form of a small boating lake (currently drained) in the north-east corner. On the upper level is an extensive flower garden (with large duck pond), a rose garden, many 17th century chestnut trees with gnarled trunks, an ancient chestnut tree (the “Queen’s Oak”, associated with Queen Elizabeth I) and an enclosure (“The Wilderness”) housing some wild(ish) deer. There is also a cricket pitch, tennis courts, a bandstand and some Roman remains.
Immediately to the south of Greenwich Park is the similar sized open space of Blackheath, which mainly features tree-less grassland and sports fields crisscrossed by roads.
Species[edit | edit source]
More than 30 bird species are known to breed in Greenwich Park. This sometimes includes Tawny Owl. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seems to be locally extinct now (they used to breed in the area) but the common two Woodpeckers breed. Nuthatches, Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Coal Tits, Ring-necked Parakeets, Song and Mistle Thrushes and Stock Doves breed as does a selection of the common woodland species, while one or two Firecrests have wintered and a variable number of Redwings usually overwinter.
During migration, the park sees a much wider range of species, sometimes including less common species.
Disturbance through high visitor numbers, dogs and sports/entertainment activities inevitably places serious restrictions on the number of breeding species and migrants on the ground, although some works are currently taking place to help improve habitat in some areas.
The Birds of Greenwich Park 1996-2011, an annotated checklist of the species recorded during that time, is available free from the Park office by the Blackheath Gate entrance. This is currently being updated to cover historical records and records to the end of 2018.
A few Red Deer and Fallow Deer are kept in the grassland enclosure (“The Wilderness”). A survey in 2003 found that the park was an important feeding site for Common Pipistrelle bats.
Twenty-four species of butterfly have been found in Greenwich Park since 2010, several of which can be seen regularly. Meadow Brown, Essex Skipper, Gatekeeper, Brown Argus, Ringlet, Marbled White, Common Blue and Small Copper can be seen in the non-amenity grasslands, with Speckled Wood, Purple Hairstreak (around oaks) and Holly Blue among shrubberies and trees. You may also see Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and the usual whites, Brimstone occurs regularly but more sparsely and Orange Tip is sometimes seen in spring. A spider survey in 2003 recorded 92 species in the park (plus a further 11 in Vanbrugh Hollows- aka the Dips- just outside the park boundary). The survey found four nationally notable species, including a new record for London - Nigma puella (a small green spider with a distinctive red mark on its abdomen. Yellow-legged Clearwing moths apparently breed but more noticeable are Yellow- barred Longhorn moths "dancing". Jersey Tiger moths are now regularly seen. Stag Beetles may be seen around midsummer, and in surrounding areas. 12 species of Odonata occur with another two species just outside the Park on Blackheath's ponds.
Practicalities[edit | edit source]
Trains from Cannon Street, Waterloo, London Bridge and Charing Cross serve to Greenwich, Maze Hill and Blackheath stations. The nearest station to the park is Maze Hill, near its north-east corner. The nearest London Underground station is North Greenwich (Jubilee Line), from which the 188 bus takes you to Greenwich Park gate. The park can also be reached easily from two Docklands Light Railways station -- Cutty Sark and Greenwich.
If travelling by car, it is possible to park (pay and display) in areas along the main roads entering from Blackheath. Cars and motor-cycles can use the park road linking Blackheath and Greenwich at peak periods on weekdays. Cycle routes criss-cross the park, but tend to be clogged by joggers, roller-bladers, dog-walkers, etc.
Greenwich Park is open daily from 6am for pedestrians (7am for traffic). Closing times vary with the season.
Next to the Observatory is the Park Café. There is another, smaller café by the north-west gate. There are many places to eat and drink in Greenwich.