I managed to attend the last guided walk in Highgate Wood for 2014. The calendar of events at Highgate Wood is so varied: from March to December you can learn about the history of the woods, wildlife, herbalism, mushrooms, insects and even go bat watching. The frequency of the guided walks can go from one a month up to 10 a month, depending on the season.
The walk I attended in December covered the history of Highgate Wood, conservation, and arborism. Our guide was Rebecca, who has been working as a tree surgeon in Highgate for 17 years and used to play in the woods as a child.
From explaining about de-compacting, ie., airing the ground with special machinery to allow tree roots to expand, to building conservation areas to allow owls and other birds to nest, our group of walkers learned so much in one and a half hours. We even spotted some parakeets.
Conservation areas at Highgate started in 1977 every 5 years: they are fenced-off for 10 years.
The grounds cover 28 hectares of woodland, which have been preserved since the 16th century. Highgate Wood won the Green Heritage Award for managing sites of historic importance. It is thought that the woods have been used since Roman times as fragments of pottery were found there. The woods were also used as hunting grounds.
Since 1886 Highgate Wood can be enjoyed by the general public for free in perpetuity. The City of London is responsible for the upkeep and you can see that the work never ends: tasks range from ensuring all the paths are clear and safe for the public to creating contained conservation areas to allow wild plants to grow and wildlife to thrive.
I recommend joining one of the guided walks, whether you live in London or you are just visiting. It makes you a more responsible walker, because if you are not aware of conservation areas you wouldn’t know that they were put in place so that people don’t disturb the wildlife.
For more information visit the City of London website.