South Norwood Lake

From Londonbirders

South Norwood Lake and Grounds (map:) is a public park within the London Borough of Croydon. The lake is the only large expanse of open water in the area and is used by sailors, anglers and duck-feeders. The surrounding parkland is used for dog-walking, jogging and various sporting activities. The site covers 11.5 hectares (28.5 acres) and is owned by the London Borough of Croydon.



South Norwood Lake was built as a reservoir to supply water to the Croydon Canal, which opened in 1806 and ran for nine miles (dropping down through 28 locks) from West Croydon to a junction with the Grand Surrey Canal at New Cross Gate. It was a financial failure and in 1836 it was sold for use as the course of a railway, which still follows much of its route.

After the closure of the canal, the lake lay derelict for many years until 1881, when a sports club was formed to use the lake for fishing, swimming and skating. Some of the site was bought in 1931 by Croydon Council, which allowed public access to the lake and surrounds. The council purchased the rest of the site in 1936, but it was not until 1969 that the whole of the grounds were opened to the public, since when the site has been managed as a public park.


The lake has concrete banks with yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) that are heavily grazed by a large waterfowl population. The lake has no shallow areas and the depth in the middle is 5.5m (18ft). There is a small wooded island.

The surrounding parkland provides a variety of habitats, including grassland, mixed oak woodland, scrub (hawthorn, birch and oak), streams and wetland (willow carr, alder and marginal vegetation). The grassland is mostly species-poor amenity turf, but does include some species that indicate acid grassland, such as bent grasses and lesser stitchwort. Improvements have been carried out by Croydon Council (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund) to enhance and restore the wetland habitats.


With its range of habitats the site supports a wide variety of birds. Around 114 species have been recorded since 1997 and 40 breeding species are regularly recorded. The lake is the Croydon area’s main site for Great Crested Grebe; other breeding waterfowl include Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Canada Goose and Tufted Duck. Ring-necked Parakeet nest on the island in the lake. A more diverse range of waterfowl occurs in winter, sometimes including uncommon species such as Scaup and Red-breasted Merganser. Birds regularly seen on passage include Fieldfare, Redwing, Siskin and a range of warblers and finches. An American Pied-billed Grebe — the first ever recorded in London — spent the winter of 1997–98 here. Other highlights in recent years have included Honey Buzzard, Peregrine and Firecrest.

Regularly seen species: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mandarin, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveller, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Hobby, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Tern, feral Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll, Bullfinch. A more detailed list can be found here.



The site’s main entrance is in Woodvale Avenue, South Norwood, London SE25, with other entrances in Auckland Road (at the Cypress Road junction) and Sylvan Road (at the Maberley Road junction). Bus 410 passes the site along Auckland Road, Sylvan Road and Maberley Road. Other buses passing nearby are routes 75, 157 and 312 (South Norwood High Street), 196 (South Norwood Hill) and 468 (Whitehorse Lane/South Norwood Hill). The nearest railway station is Norwood Junction, about 20 minutes’ walk from the lake and also a terminus for bus 196.


There is free public access. The best time to visit, particularly at weekends, is the early morning before the park gets busy.


The site has little in the way of amenities other than sports facilities (bowling green, tennis and basketball courts, football pitches, cricket pitch, playground and trim trail). The Croydon Council website also lists “refreshment kiosk (currently closed)” and “toilets (including disabled toilets) and changing facilities for babies” — although according to Wikipedia the public toilets were in a park rangers’ office that burned down in 2006 and has not been rebuilt. [PERHAPS SOMEONE WHO VISITS THE SITE CAN RESOLVE THIS CONFLICT OF INFORMATION.]

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