TOOTING COMMONS consists of two adjacent areas of common land lying between Balham, Streatham and Tooting in south west London and totalling just under 90 hectares (220 acres). The two areas are Tooting Bec Common, covering 62 hectares (152 acres), and Tooting Graveney Common, covering 27 hectares (66 acres); rough map. The commons are entirely within the London Borough of Wandsworth but are spread across three postcode areas. (The area is mainly in SW16, but the section west of Chestnut Avenue and West Drive, including all of Tooting Graveney Common, is in SW17 and part of Tooting Bec Common north of Bedford Hill is in SW12.) The commons, recognised as a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Greater London, serve a part of south London that is particularly lacking in good wildlife sites.
Address: Tooting Bec Road, SW16 1RU (postcode for Tooting Bec Lido) (Map:; OS grid reference TQ292723).
History[edit | edit source]
Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common are all that remains of a once much larger area of common land that stretched as far south as Mitcham. Tooting Bec Common was within the historic parish of Streatham, and takes its name from the area's links to Bec Abbey in Normandy. Tooting Graveney Common was in Tooting parish.
During the 19th century, the commons were divided by the building of roads and railways, and today they continue to be divided into multiple parcels by these busy transport links.
The two commons were among the first to be preserved under the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1866. The manorial rights to Tooting Bec Common were acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1873 for £13,798 and two years later the MBW bought Tooting Graveney Common for £3,000.
In the 1990s the junction of Tooting Bec Road and Church Lane was widened, encroaching on the common. A few metres of grass behind the railings of the former Tooting Bec Mental Hospital (redeveloped as the Heritage Park residential development) are now part of the common in exchange for the lost land.
The London Borough of Wandsworth has administered the commons since 1971, even though a substantial part of Tooting Bec Common was then within the adjacent London Borough of Lambeth. A local authority boundary change in 1996 put the whole of the common into Wandsworth.
Habitat[edit | edit source]
The two commons are recognised as a Site of Metropolitan Importance for nature conservation because they include a number of rare wildlife habitats. The habitats include areas of unimproved acid grassland, extensive woodland areas, secondary woodland, scrub and ponds.
The three main areas of woodland are Streatham Wood (in the south-east corner of the site), Bedford Wood (a wedge-shaped wood in the angle between Bedford Hill and the railway line) and Graveney Wood (in the part of Tooting Graveney Common south of Tooting Bec Road). The woodland is dominated by oak, with a range of other trees including hornbeam. Horse chestnut trees were planted on the copmmon’s boundary’s in the late Victorian era, but there are also some much older trees, notably the fine veteran oaks parallel to Garrad’s Road, which are the successors to an avenue first recorded in the 17th century.
The acidic grasslands are dominated by common bent (Agrostis capillaris) and red fescue (Festuca rubra) with typical herbs of acid soils, and pockets of gorse (Ulex europaeus) and bramble scrub. One of the two ponds has a particularly good range of marginal vegetation.
Species[edit | edit source]
BIRDS An idea of the bird species to be seen on Tooting Commons can be obtained from the published reports of the regular bird walks led by Peter White.
OTHER VERTEBRATES Information needed, please
INVERTEBRATES Information needed, please. Butterflies found on Tooting Commons include Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Comma, Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Green-veined White, Small White, Large White, Holly Blue, Common Blue, Small Copper, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Purple Hairstreak, White-letter Hairstreak, and rarely Marbled White, Painted Lady, Silver-washed Fritillary and Clouded Yellow. (Based on regular surveys 2014-18 by Alan Wilkinson.)
Practicalities[edit | edit source]
DIRECTIONS The nearest underground stations, both on the Northern Line, are Tooting Bec (for Tooting Graveney Common) and Balham (for the northern end of Tooting Bec Common). National Rail stations near the north end of the site are Balham and Streatham Hill. Bus 315, which runs between Balham and Norwood, crosses Tooting Bec Common along Bedford Hill. Route 249, which crosses the site on Tooting Bec Road, also serves both Tooting Bec and Balham stations. Route 50, which serves Streatham Hill station, passes close to the north-east corner of the site.
ACCESS Information needed, please.
FACILITIES Information needed, please
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Assorted Observations[edit | edit source]
Does anyone know when Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was last observed at this site?
They bred in a dead tree near the cafe in a very public place back in 2008 the tree was cut down since - report from Peter White (Michael Mac).
I have not seen them personally for at least 8 years (James Hudson). John Bushell saw a male there in 2010. Thanks.
Do you know which area of the common? (Conrad Ellam).
I may have heard one drumming around Bedford Wood/Triangle Field area a week ago (it may have been a Great Spotted); I was told that at least one Lesser Spotted was heard & seen in that area (south end of Triangle Wood, bordering on the railway) on a few occasions in spring 2011. In 2009-2010, I'd seen Lesser Spotted about twice a year: in Bedford Wood, in trees on west side of the lake, & elsewhere. (N. Granger-Taylor)
There is currently at least one a male resident in Streatham Cemetery (near Tooting Broadway) (spotted February 2014). This is a good record. Who was the observer & what was the date of the observation? Also what are the access arrangements for visiting? Thank you (JH)
Thanks all. I'm not familiar with all those area names but will keep searching & report back. (JH)
Triangle Field is at the north end of the common, between two railway lines, with Triangle Playground at the west-end "apex" of the triangle, and Triangle Wood a narrow strip of trees at the east end: this wood is good for finches, Nuthatch, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker. Bedford Wood is to the south of Triangle Field, bordered by railway on north side and Bedford Hill (main road) on the south: all three woodpeckers seen here, and good for warblers, Nuthatch. These place-names have been established by Peter White in his Tooting Bec Common bird reports for Wandsworth. Link to Peter's reports & bird walks here (N. Granger-Taylor). I edited the habitat section to reflect the correct Wood names based on local maps and Peter White's reports (Alan Wilkinson).
Sparrowhawk nested in 2020 near Church Lane.
Listings[edit | edit source]
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