Until the early 20th century Coldfall Wood covered more than twice its current extent, reaching south to the properties bordering Fortis Green. The southern section was felled and partially excavated for gravel, before being used for residential development and the sites of Tollington and William Grimshaw schools (later Fortismere School). Tollington first rented and felled part of the wood for a sports field in the 1920s and subsequently moved to a new building on the site. William Grimshaw was built later to the north. Hornsey Council purchased Coldfall Wood in 1930 and the remaining section is now owned and managed by the London Borough of Haringey with help from “The friends of Coldfall Wood”.
The western boundary of the wood is the boundary line between the London Boroughs of Barnet and Haringey. This western boundary and its northern boundaries are demarcated by the remains of an ancient woodbank with a ditch on the outer side. This would have prevented grazing animals from the surrounding Finchley Common and Horseshoe Farm (as they then were) from entering the wood and destroying the young coppice. Coldfall Wood has been examined in some detail by Silvertown (1978), who used historical sources to show that the woodlands are likely to be of primary origin (i.e. continuously present since prehistoric times).