Thanks to National Lottery players the restoration of Tooting Common’s famous fossil tree and its surroundings will begin this week as part of a wide-ranging Wandsworth Council-led project to enhance and improve this much loved and popular green open space.
The fossil tree trunk is a landmark feature of the common and dates back some 145 million years to the Jurassic period.
It was once part of the famous Purbeck Fossil Forest near Lulworth Cove in Dorset before being presented to The Balham & District Antiquarian and Natural History Society by local Victorian developer Mr Alfred Heaver and placed on the common in 1898 by the London County Council.
Fossilised tree trunks of this type were commonly encountered during the quarrying of building stones, notably Portland Stone. They have been collected and placed in parks and gardens since the early nineteenth century and are a character-defining feature of Victorian-era urban green spaces.
The restoration is part of the Tooting Common Heritage Project aimed at rejuvenating the area and enhancing the overall heritage of this important south west London open space.
Around the fossil tree a viewing platform will be constructed so that people can get close to this historic artefact while display panels will explain its history and relevance to the area.
A new iron fence will surround the tree to mark it as a focal point, while an unlocked metal gate will allow people access to the viewing platform.
Environment spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “This is a wonderful conservation project that will preserve and enhance one of Tooting’s most historic artefacts.
“It is one element of a much-wider heritage and conservation project on Tooting Common that will help make sure its historical features and important biodiversity are preserved for future generations.”
Tooting Common covers 220 acres and is the largest open space in Wandsworth. It has been designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation – and is ranked in the top tier of these protected spaces – a site of Metropolitan Importance. It is also home to more than 3,000 trees.
As part of a £1.9m conservation project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the common’s lake is being refurbished to improve water quality and offer new and better wildlife habitats. The project will also provide new acid grasslands, restore the Woodfield Pavilion to offer toilets and a meeting space for local community groups and pay for extensive refurbishment work at the popular Tooting Bec Lido.
It has also funded the complete restoration of the1930s drinking fountain which has been cleaned, repaired and brought back into public, along with the planting of new trees on the common.
As well as restoring ancient habitats and boosting biodiversity, the scheme is also offering new volunteering opportunities for local people that not only improve the common but give those who take part useful new job and life skills.
It will also see the compilation of ‘The Common Story’ - a project that will work with volunteers to unravel some of Tooting Common’s historical mysteries and provide research and archive training to those taking part.
The project is a closely linked partnership between the council and local groups like the Tooting History Group, The Woodfield Project and the South London Swimming Club who all have a shared interest in preserving and protecting this important green oasis and are taking forward their own individual schemes.
The council has been awarded just under £1.4m by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to restore, conserve and enhance Tooting Common’s cultural and natural heritage. Another £500,000 is being match funded by various partners including Transport for London, The Woodfield Project, Wandsworth Council and Enable Leisure and Culture.
The Tooting Common Heritage Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and delivered by Enable Leisure and Culture on behalf of Wandsworth Council in partnership with South London Swimming Club, Quadron Services Ltd and The Woodfield Project.
For more information about the project email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tootingcommon.co.uk