Memories of the Woods

Littleheath Woods have been an important part in the lives of people since Selsdon was built. A few people have shared their memories of the Woods below.

If you have a special memory of the woods that you would like to share then please contact the Chair of the Friends of Littleheath Woods.

MD of California - Back in the late 1940’s and 1950’s this was a favourite place for hundreds of children to explore, it was our playground. The place each fall/winter to find treasures for our nature table, when our mum sent us out to gather and name as many different leaves as we could find. The pond in ‘The Woods’ was our science lesson, the place to get frog spawn to watch turn into tadpoles and frogs.

In ‘The Woods’ we would gather armfuls of bluebells, proudly present them to our mum, who would quickly place them in any container of water available, always say, ”thank you, they are beautiful ...but .. they last so much longer left in their natural place.”

We would gather tasty hazelnuts. (The best frees were closest to the field.) We collected Conkers in the woods as these were the hardest conker in the area, ultimately the best winners in the game.

We would play house or clubhouse among the rhododendrons that grew in the woods. The bushes were in straight lines with sharp turns/corners, making our house walls.

By the opening to the field off Edgecoombe (towards the new Ballards Estate) was a huge log (maybe the ‘Fallen Oak’) It was hard to climb with little legs, but once upon it – it became your imaginary home, clubhouse, airplane, spaceship, lorry, or ship for the time you were there. You dreaded other children arriving as you would automatically give up your turn for them to play on the favoured ‘big log’.

The ‘Big Field’ was fun to roll down, it would be filled with spring wild flowers, we would chew on wild rhubarb and because no one owned a watch, we would blow the dandelion seeds to tell the time. I’d try to sketch the scene across the “big field’ before the new Ballard's Estate was built, it is planted in my memory still, there was a church steeple in the distance. I have since painted that distant view.

A dream fulfilled – to share this “Big Log’ (the center story of many childhood memories) with my children on a visit to England in the mid 1970’s, only to find The big log could now just be stepped upon. This due to weather erosion. I still remember my young son saying, ”oh yeah mum... some ’Big Log’ Ha! but they did seem generally impressed with ”The Woods’ and The ‘Big Field.’ I dream to show “The Woods’ to my grown grandchildren in the not too distant future!

MB of Canada - I was born in 1945 and lived at 108 Edgecoombe Rd. from about 1950 until 1957 when we moved to Trenton, Ontario, Canada.

My next youngest brother and I spent most of our free time playing in Littleheath Woods as it was directly across the road from our house. A path led from our house through long grass to a tree that stood at the east end of a field, from there the ground dropped away to the field. Sometimes we chose to play in the vines that grew just north of the tree. At the centre of these vines was a tunnel, formed by the vines that ran north for about 100 ft. But, most of the time we played in the field and the woods.

My most significant memory is of the "log", as we called it, at the south-east corner of the field that is situated at the north-west corner of the woods. A large tree (about 3 foot diameter) had been felled, and when we were playing there it was located on a small rise, and consisted of a stump, and beside it, the felled tree with the stumps of branches still intact. The bark had already worn off. That tree became everything from trains to submarines to planes. It was a fantastic place to play and exercise our imaginations. There was a dip just north-east of the "log" where ferns grew, and I can still remember the smell of the ferns as we turned them into forts.

The "conker tree" grew in a small copse about halfway along the path on the north side of the field. At that time the path bordered a fence that separated the field from a farm. The chestnut tree always yielded a fantastic crop of conkers in the fall. Ours never seemed to fair too well in the contests. Perhaps we should have soaked them in vinegar and baked them to toughen them up.

On a hill above the "log" was a fir tree, and a path ran past it to join with the trail that ran to Selsdon. Many of us would gather to build tracks along this sandy path so we could race our Dinkey toys from the fir tree to the log. I still have the racing car I used, but the tyres rotted off long ago.

Right at the edge of Edgecoombe Road, and under the power lines, was a steep gravel hill that we often scrambled up and down. In the winter we would sled down the slopes in the field. Unfortunately we were always dressed in shorts, raincoats and wellington boots, so we ended up with red knees and lots of snow in our boots.

Sometimes we ventured far into the woods. I remember rhododendron bushes on a bank and finding other small ponds. Half way along the south side of the field the ground rose to a small hill that bordered on the woods. Just in the woods, somewhere between the "log" and the hill was a pond where we sailed our homemade boats and lost our wellies (or at least got them soaked in muddy water).

I'm 68 now but these memories are still etched in my mind. I have been there twice since, but both times I had no opportunity to explore. Perhaps next time.

BM of Selsdon - I lived in Elmpark Gardens between 1947, when I got married, and 1954. We lived with my in-laws during this time and then moved to Sanderstead.

I found out later that my husband took me to Littleheath Woods one day with the intention of proposing there. However, there were no seats in the woods in those days and for that reason he put it off until the next day.

I remember the bluebells but, as the woods were rather dark and overgrown, there were few other flowers. I also collected holly at Christmas for decorations. There were two ponds and I remember my husband talking of fishing trips with a jam jar as a young boy.

I used to be a guide to blind people living in a nearby home and took them to the woods where I could describe the things I could see and they enjoyed the bird song and the quiet atmosphere of the woodland.

Park Rangers used to patrol the woods on horseback and were always friendly and ready to chat. Our family took picnics to eat in the woods but we were not very adventurous and didn’t join in the tobogganing in the snow.

FS of Horsham - Apart from memories of riding our bikes down the steep bank and playing in the woods my overriding memory of that area is in the early 50's. A group of us were walking across the field when a huge plane came over very low and the wings seemed to stretch the full width of the field. It was the Brabazon . I thought for some time that the memory was exaggerated by our size at the time until I looked up the dimensions of the Brabazon on the internet, it was gigantic. It's well worth looking it up on youtube.

I was born in Coldharbour Rd near Croydon Airport in 1944 and moved to the new Monk's Hill estate when I was four. We lived at 7 Heathfield Vale from 1948 to 1960. My brothers and I often played in Littleheath Woods although at that time we didn't even know it had a name. Cowboys and Indians, looking for fish or frog's spawn in the pools, hide & seek. The steep bank from Edgecombe we rode down on bikes or sleds in the winter (one brother still lives close by).  The autumn it was time to be collecting hazel nuts, chestnuts were from the wood at the top of Spout Hill. Our gran lived in a prefab in Shepherd's way, just handy for a drink if we were playing in the woods. At the time of seeing the Brabazon I was probably 7 or 8 and we were told that the flight had something to do with Lady Docker and that it had just taken off from Croydon Airport which was why it was so low. Looking at the specifications in later life I was amazed that the wingspan was 16 mtrs wider than a Jumbo jet and that it could take off in just 500 yards.

The memories are getting a bit vague now but they tend to come back when reading other peoples stories.

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KO New Zealand - I was born in 1946 and moved to the estate in about 1948, it would be the early 50s that my times were spent it the woods.

My brother and I, and friends and I, had so many happy hours playing in the woods. The aeroplane log gave us much entertainment as we played on it, being pilots and co-pilots etc. and imagining flying off to far away places that were just exotic names to us then. I remember the wonderful plethora of wild flowers such as wood anemone, blue bells, fox gloves, snow drops, etc. In spring we used to pick armfuls of blue bells for our mothers and I can still close my eyes and smell that wonderful scent. In summer we used to sit under a large tree, opposite some railings, on the other side of which was Ballads Farm. I used to like to watch the cows and my friends and I used to pick buttercups and daisies and make necklace chains from them. We also used to hold a buttercup under the chin of our friends to see whether they liked butter or not. This was done by whether it reflected on their skin. It was so quiet and peaceful there. The woods had something to offer for all seasons. In winter during those years, the snow was deep and we used to make snowmen and igloos. We would come home with numb hands and feet, and very rosy cheeks. I remember trying to warm my hands quickly by holding them on the pipes of the boiler at our house on the estate and the pain, as the circulation came back was excruciating, (I never seemed to learn from the experience) In the chestnut season my brother and I would gather them up and take them home and roast them in the fire, a real treat.  Looking at the map of the woods, I see that part of it was called Gee Wood, my mother used to work for a Miss Gee who lived at 24 Foxearth Road, I should imagine that the wood was named after that family.  The ponds were always a source of great interest to us. There was one, which I think from the map, would have been called the Keyhole pond, but as a little girl, I called it the Siamese ponds, because they were joined together. There was another one near the old aeroplane log too. We used to love to catch tadpoles and newts in those ponds. During autumn we would enjoy the crunching of the leaves beneath our feet and enjoy all the wonderful colours of that season.  When the water tower was built, this caused much speculation among the adults, who had just come out of the war, and rumours abounded about it being some sort of weapons depot, a spy system that was installed. I look back now and laugh. I remember that as we came through the little alley way into Edgecombe we used to have to get down a hill to get to the aeroplane log. That slope seemed so steep to a small child and I used to have to psych myself up, close my eyes, and just run down it, always thankful for a safe landing down the bottom. My mother and I used to go picking blackberries and she would make blackberry jam. I felt so very privileged to have been able to have access to a place where so many memories are stored. I heard it said recently “one never forgets the landscape of one’s childhood.” How very true that is.