In January 2021, at what we hope is the height of the UK’s Covid crisis I spoke to author Chris Schüler over Zoom about his upcoming book on London’s historic Great North Wood.
Chris has been a regular volunteer at Sydenham Hill Wood Local Nature Reserve in south-east London since 2011. His most recent book, Along the Amber Route: St Petersburg to Venice, published in February 2020, has been shortlisted for the Bookmark Book of the Year 2020 and the longlisted for the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2021.
He is also the author of Writers, Lovers, Soldiers, Spies: A History of the Authors’ Club of London, 1891–2016, and three illustrated histories of cartography. He has written on literature, travel and the arts for The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Tablet, The Financial Times and the New Statesman, served as Chairman of the Authors’ Club from 2008 to 2015, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 2011.
Chris’s upcoming book It’s a historical account of the Great North Wood, a cluster of ancient woodlands and green spaces that connect five boroughs in south London.
In this episode we talk about the following things:
- What inspired Chris to write the book and how he went about it
- How the Great North Wood (GNW) was managed
- How the GNW differs from other southern English wooded landscapes such as the Sussex Weald
- The violent history of the GNW
- How the plague impacted people living in the GNW
- The GNW’s celebrities
- Some of the now rare species recorded in the GNW centuries ago
- The concerns about invasive species are not as new as we think
- The attempts to eradicate hedgehogs and polecats
- How the GNW will be viewed in 100 years
Links to references:
- Mapping the Great North Wood - Chris Schüler’s historical film about the GNW
- Mapping the Great North Wood screening and Q&A
- London Wildlife Trust’s Great North Wood project
- London Wildlife Trust’s Sydenham Hill Wood & Cox’s Walk
- Chris Schüler’s website
- Along the Amber Route: St. Petersburg to Venice
- Follow Chris on Twitter
- Greenspace Information for Greater London
- Ornithological Notes from a South London Suburb
- A history of Croydon’s wildlife - Mathew Frith, London Wildlife Trust