Oxleas Woods is a large and ancient area of woodland in South East London great for weekend walks. It spans over 72 hectares and areas of it are estimated to be at least 8000 years old. The name comes from the old Saxon word “oxleas” which means “A pasture for oxen”, and that was most probably one of the many uses for this land in its long history.
Another interesting nearby feature is the Severndroog Castle. This castle is a folly, meaning it is a structure built simply for decorative purposes. The castle was built in 1784 as a memorial to William James of the East India Company by his widow. It commemorates his daring capture of the pirate fortress of Severndroog on the Malabar Coast of India in 1755.
Oxleas woods takes up a large part of the south side of Shooters Hill. Other nearby wooded areas are Shepherdsleas Wood, Jack Wood and Castle Wood. As you walk through these woodland areas, remember that trees from these woods were used in shipbuilding and other types of construction throughout London history.
There are a great variety of trees in the forest, everything from the majestic oak to the Wild Service or Chequer Tree. Hornbeam, Coppice Hazel, and Silver Birch are also commonly found in the woods.
Wood ranger service offers guided tours of the woods every Thursday and the second Sunday of each month at 10:00 AM; those wishing to go on the tour should meet at the cafe on the meadow off Shooters Hill at the appointed time.
Oxleas Woods Walking Route
For an easy family walking route through ancient woodland, check our suggested 5 km circular hike taking you through the landscape:
Saving Oxleas Woods
In the 1980s, the wood was jeopardised by a road construction project that would have gone right through the woodland area. Public outcry turned into an organised preservation movement that led to the woods being declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1984, thus ensuring its safety from development.
Oxleas woods are a wonderful example of conservation in action; retaining a historically important green space for the use and enjoyment of future generations.