Flora and Fauna
The course, set within 47 acres, is home to many plant and animal species. When the course was established there were only a scattering of trees, but today there are mature trees throughout the course, for example the oak trees to the right of the 3rd & 4th fairways. These ancient trees, both living and in their dead state, are important for such things as beetles, spiders and other invertebrates that inhabit dead wood. Small mammals, bats and birds often use the holes and slits in trunks and boughs for nesting and roosting. These trees are also important for climbing plants, such as ivy, honeysuckle and fungi, which themselves may host a number of associated invertebrates including beetles and flies.
As part of the management of the course many trees have been thinned and a considerable amount of new planting has been undertaken and the benefits are yet to come. The trees are good for wildlife as well as being attractive to us. The plantings of wild flowers on the 6th & 15th have brought some summer colour to the course.
Look out for the ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) native to Britain, the purple flowers develop into fruits, which hang in bunches and are known as 'ash keys'. These long winged fruits are initially green, but eventually become brown and remain after the leaves have fallen in autumn.
Many insects live in the fissured trunk and bats enter splits in the bark to roost.
Other trees include several Silver Birch on the course, Beech trees and White and Black Poplar trees between the 5th & 6th fairways. The field maple (Acer campestre) is a small, native tree which rarely grows more than 15m tall. The young leaves are reddish-purple, turning dark green when mature, with clusters of tiny yellow-green flowers in spring. Its winged seeds, eaten by wildlife, are similar to most sycamores.
On the course adjacent to the park are some mature sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) trees. It is thought that it was introduced to Britain by the Romans who made flour from the nuts. The tree has fissured bark, and the leaves are remarkably long and toothed. It produces long, lacy, delicate yellow catkins in early summer, which have a distinctive musk smell attractive to insects. The brown nuts form inside green husks that look a little like spiny hedgehogs.
Many of the old and dead trees are home to fungus, such as Velvet shank fungus (Flammulina velutipes), many zoned bracket (Coriolus versicolor), hairy stereum (Stereum hirsutum) with its different colours and the common perennial bracket fungus (Ganoderma applanatum).
Around the course are a few areas of Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) sometimes called furze, and Broom (Cytisus scoparius), which are both deciduous native shrubs.
Gorse has dense, dark green shoots and vicious spines and from March to May and often late summer are the fragrant pea-like vibrant yellow flowers. The gorse is ideal for nesting birds and attracts insects, especially bees. Broom is a deciduous shrub with masses of golden yellow flowers from April to June. The fruits are flattened, oblong and hairy pods that ripen from green to black before exploding on sunny days to release the seeds. It is an excellent pollen provider for bees.
As well as the more common sightings, such as fox and grey squirrels, you may also see: Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) is the largest of the three native woodpeckers. It is green-grey on its upperparts with a bright green rump and red on the top of its head. They have an undulating flight and a loud, characteristic 'laughing' call. Unlike the other Woodpecker (the Greater Spotted Woodpecker - Dendrocopus major), the Green Woodpecker is often seen on the ground, feeding on insects.
A more unusual sighting is the occasional Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk.
A common sight (and sound) is that of the Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), which add a tropical splash of colour on the course. It is the UK's only naturalised parrot - it is large, long-tailed and green with a red beak and a pink and black ring around its face and neck. Often found in flocks, numbering hundreds at a roost site, which can be very noisy.
If playing later in the day you may be lucky enough to spot a Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus), Britain’s largest ground-living beetle, between 5 - 8cm in length.
They are a threatened species, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), and listed as a priority species for the UK and London Biodiversity Action Plans. They have been recorded in most London boroughs, including Eltham.
A large male can be up to 70mm in length and has large jaws, which resemble the antlers of a stag deer. Their size makes them easily recognisable and people unnecessarily wary; Stag Beetles are harmless. You are most likely to see males in flight on warm summer evenings between May and August, while they look for a mate.
The ponds on the 3rd & 5th and the surrounding area are home to Moorhens and the occasional Heron which might nestle amongst the reeds. The nesting boxes on the ponds have proved a great success, and are being used by Moorhens.
If you are unlucky enough to put your ball in the water by the 3rd or 5th you may have the chance to see some of the species that live below the surface. Look out for the Koi carp, as well as Grass carp, Tench, Roach or Rudd.