20 March, 2006

Crystal Palace to Streatham - Croydon’s metroland.

Walk no 4 in the capital ring cycle (or rather walk) which took me over the hills around south London on a gloriously sunny (if cold) Sunday. This is a hilly walk with some fairly steep climbs but some stunning views over towards the city when walking along a ridge of South London hill. Beginning at the Crystal palace, Norwood (not Sydenham) with its somewhat noisy museum with interesting displays this walk leads to the station at Streatham Common, although I cheated and finished at Streatham Peace Memorial. I have covered Norwood in a previous post and I’m sure I will cover Streatham later.

After a somewhat uninteresting start this walk went up Belvedere Road where there was a house with two lions on it.

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The road then went through Westow Park which is plain but had a building in it that I could not see its purpose- perhaps a youth club? Then via Upper Norwood Recreation Ground, just a field really, to Beulah Hill, which, with Bentleys in mock tudor mansion drives, is reminiscent of Sir John Betjeman’s Metroland. From this section were glorious views downhill towards St Pauls and Canary Wharf. The other side has views towards Croydon. These views do not come out on camera so no pictures unfortunately. Then down Biggin Hill and through the ancient Biggin wood. There were four tennis courts here and three were in use so it looks like the tennis season has already started in Croydon.

After Biggin Wood the walk led me through a 1930s housing estate of fairly substantial houses. One with a 1950s Wolesley outside (this walk is all cars) See the photo here which I have GIMPed to black and white to give a period look. It could have been taken in the 1950s…

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Norwood Grove was where my film ended. As it was such a nice day, and the purple flowers in Norwood Grove gardens were so pretty that I decided to load up with a colour film to take the pictures. This was a good choice as it stayed good all day. Norwood Grove Mansion is used for a bowling club and some other purpose which Croydon Council does not even hint at. I thought as it was the home of the Nettlefolds (the N in GKN, G is Guest and K is Keen) that it might be something to do with music as the Nettlefold Hall is part of the Music Library in West Norwood but I cannot be sure. It may just be mothballed. Anyway the gardens were very neat and tidy and the little lodge near a dried up tributary of the River Graveney and a row of 400year old oak trees mark the boundary between the Croydon part of Norwood and Streatham which is in Lambeth.

Streatham common is not particularly interesting but the Rookery Gardens (not on the walking route) are quite something and well worth the detour. On the side of a hill they descend in terraces to an olde Englishe Garden with ponds, crazy paving and a wishing well which is part of the original Streatham Spa with its medicinal wells. An informal garden with a water cascade and stepping stones leads back up the hill to a nearby café furnished with Ercol chairs but with somewhat surly service one expects in park cafés of low quality (although not low prices). I completed (well nearly) the walk by walking to the newly cleaned peace memorial which stands in a little park near a council estate called Albert Carr Gardens. I do not know where I have read about this but the name is familiar. As is Pullman court which I saw on the ‘bus home. Pullman court is an iconic modernist block of flats recently the subject of a Twentieth Century Society building of the month.

All in all this walk is recommended.

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