Dawsons Hill Trust - primrose logo    


Dawson's Hill Trust
is a non-profit organisation; striving to manage, protect, promote, and enhance Dawson's Hill Nature Reserve, East Dulwich, London SE22, for wildlife, landscape, heritage & as a community open space.

Originally established as Friends of Dawson's Hill in 1989 by Melian Robertson with help from several local residents (named below), in order to stave-off development by Southwark Council.

With threats like that, people of all ages realise how important greenspaces are for all of us. They provide not only a 'green lung', an oasis away from a polluted, noisy, and artificial city; but also a natural, living, dynamic, openspace for kids to play and grow-up in.

With help from London Wildlife Trust the Friends transformed the hill back into meadowland, and planted trees and shrubs, but primarily wanted to encourage natural regeneration, which you can now see taking place.

The Friends/Trust have organised an annual May Day Fayre on several occasions, which is soon to be revived.

Management work on the site has been carried out by volunteer workdays and council support. Kids' watch clubs, nature trails, stargazing, and family events have been held. Rubbish-collecting (& recycling). In 1990 the Friends won a conservaiton awared.

Current Officers: Director: Störm Poorun, Chair: Peter Meredith, Wardens: Jason Evers, David Gillespie.



Latest News

Under construction!
This website is under construction and will shortly have many more features. Thank you for your patience!

News about Dawson's Hill Trust meetings, events, & membership will shortly be available.

Störm Poorun 16.11.2004

Late summer grasses, Dawsons  Hill Nature Reserve, London SE22
Black poplar trees and Dawsons Heights Estate - Dawsons Hill Nature Reserve London SE22
Shrubs and cow parsley, Dawsons Hill Nature Reserve, London SE22
Dawsons Hill Nature Trail

Click the map above to view our nature trail!
[Warning, this is a large image and may take some time to load].



Reserve entrance:
Dawson's Hill Nature Reserve is situated along Dunstan's Road, off Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, South London SE22. It's open to the public at all times.

Getting there:
Bus: 176, 185, 312 to Lordship Lane.
Rail: East Dulwich / Forest Hill

For a MAP click here!

Dawsons Hill, London SE22 - aerial photograph

Get involved!

Everyone is welcome to be involved in the Trust's work, and to add their voice to what happens at Dawson's Hill.

To make a suggestion,
or to join our email list, or become a member of the Trust (£3/year) email us, or phone us (contact details above).

The Trust has been supported by the
following - click to view their websites:

London Wildlife Trust

Southwark Council:
Dawson's Hill webpage

Southwark Green Party

Olan Trust







Nature Trail

"An oasis in the heart of our city."

Dawson's Hill is a 6 acre north-facing hillside slope (with a peak of 255 ") with areas of grassland, scrub, and woodland.

Here you will find bats (on summer evenings), meadow cranesbill flowers, ferns, wild garlic, bluebells, woodmice, woodpeckers, and crickets to name but a few plants and animals.

The site is protected, recognised, and designated as:
Metropolitan Open Land [MoL] (open land of importance to London);
Borough Open Land [BOL] (of importance to Southwark); and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation [SINC] (for Southwark).

Gorse in bloom - Ulex europea

Through the seasons

In winter it is a favourite place for toboganning, in spring you can find wild daffodils, wild garlic, Queen Anne's lace, and bluebells in flower; on Summer evenings you can hear crickets sing and watch bats fly over; and by Autumn you can pick ripe blackberries, damsons, pears, and apples.

From the hilltop, you can see northwards across most of London, and on a clear day, you can also watch southwards over the Downs, towards parts of Surrey, Kent, and Sussex.

The hill is still regularly used for jogging, dog-walking, by artists, as a playspace, to sit and relax, and to watch the sunrise and set.

Thanks & respect:

Since starting-out, the Trust wishes to thank many people, including the following (and many more):

Georgina Fisher, Constance Lamb, Irene Kimm, Jim Nightingale, Goodrich Primary School, Dawson's Heights Tenants' and Residents' Association, Dawn Eckhart, Mathew Frith, Helen Firminger, Anna Dalton, Maureen Rankin, Nova Hogan, Anna Dalton, Maureen Rankin, Brendan Connolly, Swadesh Poorun, Jason Evers, Southwark Green Party, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, Andy Chatterton of Southwark Council, Peter Meredith, Lizzie Meredith, Nicky Fisher, Angie Fallon, Tom and Ben Donaldson, Harriet Einsidel, Professor Martin Heath, David Geary, Steph Lodge, Jim Lodge, Celia Cronin, David Kennedy, Cheiko Allen, Nina Giebel, Liz Astall, Sarah Brady, and Bonnie Royal for their help and support.

Störm Poorun, Jenny Jones, Darren Johnson, Ruth Jenkins on Dawson's Hill, Spring 2002
Wild Primroses - Primula vulgaris


Dawson's Hill was the site of
an Iron-Age burial mound and a Roman Fort.

It has previously been known as Primrose Hill, Dulwich Hill, and Ladlands.

In-between the First and Second World Wars, the hill was the site of market gardens and orchards.

There is a path known as 'Donkey Alley' which leads from onto the hill, and until the early 1990s horses and donkeys were kept in a paddock on the hill. Local riding schools and policehorses still exercise upon it.

The subsoil is heavy clay, and there was a brickworks at the foot of the hill.

Dawson's Heights Estate (including Ladlands and Bredinghurst) was completed in (c.)1972, by a renowned architect - it was meant to be inspired by a great ship, or alternatively an inca temple!

When the estate was built, for the first time in thousands of years, the grassland was reseeded; however, since the Trust's restoration in 1989 onwards, many of the original wildflower seeds that lay dorman in the soil for all those years have regenerated.

For a more indepth history, scroll down the page...

Primrose Primula vulgaris

Wild Primrose Primula vulgaris
Our logo - after 'Primrose Hill'


From here to now..
... a brief 20,000 year history

Ice age
12-20,000 years gone by, during the last Ice-age, glacial deposits were left by ice-flows forming valleys and hills, such as the London clay basin, and the hills that surround it (including Dawsons Hill).

Losing height
Dawsons Hill currently reaches 255 feet (not including the estate, of course!) it has lost height over time due to weathering, levelling, and slippage.

Great North Wood

Dawson's Hill hosted a part of the Great North Wood - which covered the hills and valleys to the south (including Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods nearby - ancient remnants of the wildwood which once covered much of south London).

Streams would have run down the Hill, flowing into rivers, swamps, and marshland northbound towards Bermondsey/Rotherhithe, and the Thames.

Slashed Trees & Bodies
Most of those woods were cleared by settling tribes -evidence on the Hill led to the discovery of a Bronze-age burial mound (built around 4,000 years ago, and visible until the 1950s).

As farming of crops and animals began, the woodlands receded. The Hill was arable and pasture-land, farmed often by hand-cutting, and grazed by herds (no pesticides or tractors!).

Roman Ghosts on the road
Wood Vale (a nearby road) marks an important Roman Road and the large Roman fortress that once stood on Dawson's Hill would have provided a good view of tribal attacks from the forests. There are tales of ghostly Roman legionnaires still on guard today!

Isis and the Temple
For local celtic tribal peoples, the Hill lay along a 'ley line' (a line with certain starts and spiritual axes) - a revered place. In fact, artefacts (jewellery and religious) were discovered during the building of Dawson's Heights estate in 1970s) which related to a temple of Isis (the Egyptian Goddess of creation).

Boudicca (also known as Boadicea), the Celtic warrior Queen of the Iceni tribe (of East Anglia), was apparently encamped on or near Dawson's Hill after she led a revolt on Londinium, against the Romans. She was supposedly surrounded by Suetonius Paulinus and his troops at Greenwhich, and then reputedly defeated at One Tree Hill - which is the next hill along from Dawson's Hill, in CE61. O Boadicea and her daughters were said to have committed suicide at Peckham Rye (which lies in the valley below Dawson's Hill) rather than be captured and humiliated.

Historic notes
Diary notes were found of Queen Elizabeth I visiting the area and sitting below a cherry tree, and watching May Day celebrations one year on a nearby hill, from 'Oak of Arnon' (now called One Tree Hill). It is likely the celebtrations she watched were taking place on Primrose Hill (now Dawsons Hill).

Highwayman & Feared Gipsy Folk
Also frequenting the locality were Queen Victoria, and the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin. Dawsons Hill was 'abound with (feared) Gipsy Folk' according to one article.

Apples, pears, and bricks
During the First World War, until the 1940s, part of the hill served as a Market Garden; also retaining a much older orchard - fragments of which are still growing. Soon after, farmland had vanished, to be replaced by Dawson's Brickwork Company' at the north foot of the Hill - brickfield remains are evident when digging on the Hill!

There is a path known as 'Donkey Alley' which leads from onto the hill, and until the early 1990s horses and donkeys were kept in a paddock on the hill. Local riding schools and policehorses still exercise upon it.

Posh house in the country
The local land-estates, such as Friern Manor, put their attention into the movement of housing from the city into the suburbs. Yet amidst all this, the very top slopes of the Hill remained meadowland, with only a few houses along the street-side of Dunstan's Road and Overhill Road. These houses eventually had to come down due to subsidence of the thick and heavy clay subsoil below. Subsidence is still a major issue today and the clay is constantly moving.

Sliding doors
One fateful morning in the early 1950s, the Times front page reported with a photograph that overnight the houses along Dunstans Road had been seperated from the street by a massive crack in the ground. The photograph showed a postie on one side of the street, with a wide gorge inbetween him and the householder in her slippers at her gate! Watch this space to view it - available soon!

Steps from Overhill Road lead down to a formal garden by Mount Adon Park. The final piece of unimproved meadowland was turfed up in teh 1970s and replanted with invasive 'amenity' grass - including perennial rye-grass, when Dawson's Heights Estate was built. But there's hope still many of the wild plants, whose seeds remained viable over the decades since, have begun to return.

Inca housing estate
Dawson's Heights Estate (including Ladlands and Bredinghurst) was completed in (c.)1972, by a renowned architect - it was meant to be inspired by a great ship, or alternatively an inca temple!

Primula spreads
We are now reintroducing the primrose from other local populations. The Primrose (Primula vulgaris) is the Trust's logo, as it gave its name to Primrose Hill as Dawsons Hill was formerly know.