30 July, 2006

Banstead to Kingston Bridge: London Loop Stages 7 and 8

Blackberry Way – but it wasn’t pouring down with rain.

It took two hours to get to the start point of this walk, as I had to go via Sutton and then a bus to Banstead. I didn’t get lost like when I left this part of the loop though as the signage was good. Crossing the golf course at Banstead was hairy as there were a few games in progress and some of the undergrowth was very dense: although the path was easy to make out I had to duck in many places.

I soon left the golf course behind and came out into a quiet suburban millionaires row. The name of the street should have been Driving School Alley as I counted at least five driving school cars there. This part was certainly ‘By roads not adopted by woodlanded ways…’ and the streets were very pleasant here.

Road not adopted Posted by Picasa

Going down Northey Avenue I entered the County of Surrey and the borough of Epsom and Ewell.

Epsom and Ewell boundary marker Posted by Picasa

I passed the modern St Paul’s Church and Centre and walked down Nonsuch walk, which is separated from each side of the main road by a hedge of trees. I soon left the suburban streets behind and entered the Woodland Trust Nature Reserve at Warren Farm. Skylarks were apparently nesting there although I didn’t see any larks ascending. Crossing a ghost road,
The ghost road Posted by Picasa
where building was prevented by the second world war and the formation of London’s green belt I entered Nonsuch Park and had a look at the battlemented Nonesuch House built in the 19th Century by Sir Jeffry Wyatville. The Loop passes by Henry VIII’s Banqueing house which isn’t even a ruin but the site is marked by a low brick wall. Coming into Ewell proper, I passed the 15th Century church tower which is all that remains of Ewell Church as it was rebuilt by Lord Roseberry in the 19th Century.
I went into Ewell and had a look round including a very expensive bookshop that could not take cards. The official finish point for Walk 7 was Bourne Hall, a space age library, museum and community centre for Ewell. I visited the museum which I found average but the building was very good. The entrance arch had a dog on top of it which commemorates a dog that saved a child from drowning.
Walk seven ends here.

loop sign Bourne Hall Posted by Picasa
I continued along walk 8 which begins at the source of the Hogsmill river in Bourne Hall Park and continues until the Hogsmill reaches the Thames at Kingston. This really made the day’s walk too long but I managed it. Sir John Everett Millais used the Hogsmill for his painting of the drowning of Ophelia, but the jolly thing about this section of the Loop was the number of wild bramble bushes that were in fruit. I ate my fill of the blackberries of which some were sweeter than others, but all were ripe and ready for picking. There’s not much of interest along the Hogsmill but here is a picture of an ingenious solution to the problem where a river is culverted and pedestrians also need to use the route.

Hogsmill Culvert and walkway Posted by Picasa
There is also a go-cart track en route. I passed some pretty white cottages
The white cottages Malden Posted by Picasaand St John The Baptist church Malden which has building work done in the 19th and 20th centuries alongside the original. The new build looks to be thoroughly in keeping as is most development here. I saw a house with a garage built in the manner of a sixteenth century barn with large oak timbers. There’s no shortage of craftsmanship if you have the money to pay for it..

Deviating from the river, the walk passes Berrylands Station which looks decidedly makeshift. After some boring suburban streets of Kingston I came onto the Hogsmill again, passing the Kingston Guildhall and crossing the medieval Clattern Bridge. Kingston needs a bit more justice doing to it but I will be there again. The Clattern Bridge Kingston Posted by Picasa

I spent my evening at the Holland Park Opera, many thanks to Alistair. The performance was Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Queen of Spades’, which dramatises Puskin’s story about the man who wants to win at Farobank at all costs. Most enjoyable!

28 July, 2006

A visit to Birmingham University

I visited Birmingham University for a week to do a Coöpeartive College Summer School for my diploma in Coöperative Studies. This is quite important as if I don’t do this I’m off the committee. Birmingham is the original red brick university and grew out of Mason College. Joseph Chamberlain the Birmingham politician was its first chancellor: he had to be as he raised half a million pounds for its construction. The clocktower pictured here is his memorial.
Old Joe- the University Clock tower 325 ft high! Posted by Picasa
I did not neglect the finer things of life and visited Edgbaston Old Church, heavily restored in the Victorian Era but with no expense spared as it was and still is the posh end of Birmingham. The peace memorial is rather obviously added to, to accommodate the second world war, but has enamelled regimental badges. The freemasons seem to be prominent in its congregations with a few Masonic memorials. (Why did my computer just correct that word to a capital letter – is it a conspiracy?)

I also visited a friend there – hope you’re feeling better Phil.

The University has an art gallery with many good pictures which I and other coöp people enjoyed. The final picture shows this.

Barber Art Gallery Posted by Picasa

24 July, 2006

Brighton - Britain's San Francisco

A pleasant weekend in Brighton thanks to Mike and Ken for letting me stay at their flat.

Brighton is a regency town with houses covered in 'mathematical' tiles or painted in various jolly colours. These are a reminder of San Francisco.

Brighton- England's San Francisco Posted by Picasa
I went down on Friday night and had a walk to Preston Park to photograph the rock gardens. It didn't really happen as the coloured lights have been replaced with white ones.

Brighton was also where George Jacob Holyoake the coöperative missionary spent his last days until 1906 and a plaque erected by the Brighton Coöperative Society shows the house he lived in until his death.
Where G J Holyoake lived in Brighton Posted by Picasa

The main purpose of going was to visit coöperative stores in the West Sussex area including Bognor Regis and Arundel. Some fine stores there but you'll have to see the other blog for that!!

I went straight from Brighton to Birmingham but that's another post.

14 July, 2006

Hamsey Green to Banstead – walks 5 and 6 of the London loop.

An early start and beautiful weather persuaded me to do rather more than I could manage today, but the walk itself was interesting. Starting at Hamsey Green with a call at the Coöp for lunch supplies (meat pies, strawberries (reduced) and lemonade) I set off down a little street and immediately onto Riddlesdown, one of the Corporation of London commons. Riddlesdown was used until the 1930s for grazing cattle and after this ceased, scrubby woodland took over. However the Corporation have now cleared the woodland and the cows are back! In fact there were cows on most of the commons, many heavily pregnant, some with calves at the teat. The only place that you cannot wander on Riddlesdown is the old quarry. Coming down from Riddlesdown, you use the old coach road, Riddlesdown Road running through trees and woods and crossing the Croydon to Oxted railway line. At the end, one crosses the road. I walked through an estate of warehouses, across a railway bridge and started the steep climb to Kenley Common. Pausing for a rest ¾ of the way up with a fine view of Riddlesdown Quarry and the old iron railway bridge, I noticed two people with a London Loop guidebook! I gave them a cheery greeting and asked how far they had come – they were doing the same path! They went on and about two minutes later, a gentleman from Hampstead with a loop guidebook in his hand came up the hill. We exchanged pleasantries and I walked on up to the top where there were some beautiful Sussex Roan cattle – well I would like to say grazing but they were just lazing about really! I crossed the field they were in and came to Kenley Aerodrome. Now a glider training airfield for the RAF this was where the spitfires used in the Battle of Britain were stationed. The next point of interest was a thatched cottage just off the route. I made a slight diversion to photograph it. The next bit of the walk went past an untidy smallholding and the Croydon Astronomical Society’s Kenley Observatory. This must be a good place to watch the stars. Around this area there are boundary stones marking out the airfield usually with a broad arrow but sometimes with a crown. On leaving this area through woodland, I met with the other people on the walk who were debating which way to go as the guidebook was unclear at this point. I wished I had my trusty leaflets with user friendly map. Debate was divided with man and boy favouring the path through the woods and me and Mr Hampstead favouring the road. Mr Hampstead and I were wrong unfortunately but it was a small diversion. Then up through some very suburban streets onto Coulsdon Common, passing the site of the windmills that used to be there. Also past the very popular Fox public house in the Dutch style and into a glorious spot called Happy Valley. Breathtaking views but looks indifferent on a picture so left the pictures to others. I stopped and had my lunch with Mr Hampstead at a (very) rustic picnic table, just half logs really. A most enjoyable conversation looking at the glorious views. Mr Hampstead had done the Capital Ring two years ago. I then went off down the valley and up through Devilsden woods to Farthing Downs. A glorious ridge with a road running at the peak of the ridge. However there are views to the right and left over Coulsdon and Cane Hill Mental Hospital. There is also a folly on the hill top at the meeting of four ancient trackways. A finger post and seven beech trees were planted in 1785 as an eye catching folly. Six of the trees subsequently died but the Corporation has replaced them. There is also a cairn made for the millennium with directions to various views and points of interest together with the distances (http://www.oldcoulsdon.co.uk/farthing_downs__millennium_cairn.htm).
Then it was down to pass through Coulsdon South Railway Station, which was posh and seemed to have been built to serve Cane Hill hospital, with a wooded path through the hospital grounds – may be worth a visit some day.

I had a break in Coulsdon which does not have much to offer. But I did get camera batteries there, so the photography resumes. As does the walking. I left Coulsdon up some suburban streets and guided by someone repairing their car to cross a railway bridge. Then there were almost endless stretches of suburban streets leaving Croydon and entering Sutton borough. I soon left the streets behind and went into a little green lane. There was no sign of the iron boundary marker for Carshalton UDC so this must be overgrown or ‘souvenir hunted’. If it is souvenir hunted – shame on the person who took it. I came into the Woodcote Estate which was divided up into smallholdings by Surrey County Council to allow soldiers returning from the First World War to become smallholding farmers. Apparently it never caught on but the dark weatherboarded cottages all in the same style are a reminder of the dignified British response to World war. I went across some fields and on the dangerous Carshalton Road to another field where I sat down, had my other pie, and finished the strawberries with a distant view of Canary Wharf and the ‘gherkin’. Next came a triple stile
which led to a field of grape hyacinths with beehives and a person lying on the ground reading her book. [pics] Crossing this field and a road with a special crossing for horses I went into the Oaks Park which was very beautiful with specimen trees and formal gardens. The Loop takes one through the informal woodland garden here and this was most enjoyable. The Oaks Park was once home to the Derby family who having a horserace named after the park (The Oaks) tossed a coin with Lord Bunbury to see who should name another horse race. If Lord Bunbury had called correctly, crowds might flock to Epsom to see the Bunbury, instead of the Derby.

After this part, I walked up a little lane past HM Prison Highdown, which was once Banstead Mental Hospital. On the road was a multi-coloured sports car, which looked like oil on water with a spectrum of colours. Keeping on the track I walked to Banstead Downs, run by the Banstead Common Conservators. This led to a golf course, which I crossed, and to a busy A247 (should that be A 24/7?) known locally as the mad mile! I went back into the golf course and followed the link to Banstead Station (single track) and also went up into the posh village of Banstead. Very pleasant although too long a walk for one day.

07 July, 2006

Walk 4 of the London Loop – West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green

This is the first walk done using the guide book to the loop. Unfortunately this guidebook is very hot on HOW you do the walk (turn right at the gate, left at the hollow oak tree etc.) but very poor on WHY you do the walk (beautiful old church here, mansion home to the earl of oxford in Elizabethan times there etc.). I suppose it makes me refer to my books. There is also a website (http://www.longdistancewalks.com/london_loop/index.html) which gives a description of the walk as a pub crawl and walking conditions. The author is also rather sniffy that the loop is a recreational path. What does it matter? I do not do these things for the sake of the walk and the beer (although a shandy is welcome on hot summer days) but for the views and the interesting things one sees in the country. The fact that exercise is involved is a bonus!

A late start led to a late finish and I didn’t get to start walk five which I had intended as I was just too tired. This was only so that I would not be at the mercy of the bus service and could get a train home. As it was that didn’t matter.

I started at Hayes station and walked by the unofficial link to the start point at West Wickham common via the Welcome store at Coney Hall, one of South London’s outposts of empire, where I bought a reduced Cornish pastie, some reduced raspberries and a bottle of orange juice. I stated the walk proper by following a suburban alleyway with a notice by the Beckenham Borough Council stating that various modes of transport were prohibited unless authorised and that, if authorised, they had to be ridden in such a manner that they caused no danger to the public. I understood the last part but wasn’t sure about ‘prohibited unless authorised’ which doesn’t seem to make sense. However, I entered the Coney Hall Recreation Ground and saw the stone (or is it a concrete bollard?) that marks the Greenwich meridian.

meridian stone Posted by Picasa

It is not very impressive as you can see and is painted a funny shade of green that looks a lot better in black and white. Passing by Wickham Court which was built in the 15th Century as a late example of a castle plan it is now a school for young gentlefolk but it was difficult to photograph as surrounded by walls and trees. St John The Baptist Church West Wickham has been on the site since Saxon times.

St John the Baptist Church West Wickham Posted by Picasa
Since I was using church paths at this point of the walk it must be that I was using paths from Saxon times too. How many others have put their feet where I have I wonder? The church looked as though it had been altered in the 14th Century with a rather domestic looking addition, but was locked (as usual) so I could not see the 15th century glass, old tiles and old brass that Arthur Mee says is there. Leaving the church down a Saxon path I went into Sparrow’ Den Playing fields where I ate my raspberries. Suitably fortified I ‘sought the higher path’ in the words of the guidebook (no I didn’t die) and walked through the Corporation of London Spring Park and three halfpenny wood. I came across the stone that marked the boundary between the boroughs of Bromley and Croydon which was also inscribed with the words ‘London Outer Orbital Path 1996’ which commemorates the opening of the path. After walking through the woods I came to Shirley Road (very posh). I have just been reading about the Bermondsey Children’s Home which was built at Shirley in 1903 as a model institution for pauper children. Just before Shirley church (which looked interesting) I turned off to walk past the school and down another suburban street with pretty cottages in the Tudor style (not mock Tudor - much better than that) and then carried on after a good climb to the slightly vandalised viewpoint on the Addington Hills built to celebrate Croydon’s Milleniary year in the 1960s. There would probably have been a good view on a clear day but today was not clear so I could see Croydon and that was about it. Never mind. The restaurant looked nice but was as closed as the public toilets set into its side wall. Next I walked towards the Croydon Tramway and crossed this. The tramcars are coloured blood and custard (red and yellow) and I saw one coming round the bend on the track as I walked by it. Tramcars are yesterday’s technology imposed by a load of train spotters. Much better to have trolley busses which are much more flexible and less capital intensive with no rails to lay. The next high point on the walk was Heathfield House Gardens.

Heathfield House gardens Posted by Picasa
Heathfield House is a Croydon Council Training Centre and the farm is integral to the scheme of decoration. There is a pond and beautiful flower gardens and this would be worth a visit on a nice day. I spent some time walking around here and admiring the flowers. Onward to Bramley Bank Nature reserve and through this to Little Heath Wood, again open and quiet country within the London Boundary. Then through some of the dullest housing estates you could imagine into Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve, with a notice giving a stern injunction not to pick the flowers – as if! A peaceful walk coming out onto the boundary of London and Surrey – a little green lane called Baker Boy Lane.

The boundary between London and Surrey: London to the right Surrey to the left Posted by Picasa
I felt cheated by this – surely the boundary of London should be more spectacular than this! Where are the bronzes? Maybe a motorway? But no – a little green lane. I walked through it past fields of wheat and fields of cows crossing a road and passing an attractive brick farmhouse and its fields of sheep on another green lane. Passing within sight of a country house (unnamed in the guide book or the leaflet) and walking through a ploughed field and coming out at another big house the walk became suburban right at the end. Hamsey Green appears to be a pleasant village half in Croydon and half in Surrey and has a Coöperative Market Town store and an Alldays shop. If the weather had been better this would have been a really enjoyable walk!

Loop sign Hamsey Green Posted by Picasa

02 July, 2006

London Loop walk 3 – a day in the country!

This whole walk takes place within Bromley – The London Borough. I began this walk at Pett’s Wood in the Jubilee country park. This was simply old fields and a former golf course preserved from development as a local nature reserve but it set the tone for a truly rural walk today, including village shops and pubs. I came upon this ancient monolith (old fence post) in the Jubilee Park by chance and thought it makes a good picture.

Ancient monolith Posted by Picasa

I then went down a long suburban street with some dignified council houses and some less dignified council tenants who stared and entered Crofton Woods. Crofton Woods are ancient woodland, and, unlike the walk by the Thames contained teasels although they were not mature. Arthur Mee does not mention Crofton Wood, so I can’t give you much background but they were very pleasant with very few people around. Crofton Village was supposed to have a sign but I must have missed it as I missed the church. Crofton seems to be omitted from Arthur Mee’s Kent guide so no background here either, but the path continued through Darrick Wood via a playing field and a meadow with a good view of the North Downs.

Crossing Farnborough Way I came to the village of Farnborough (Kent not Surrey). Farnborough has some lovely old buildings including its 17th century church (locked as usual) and a peace memorial in stone. Lord Avebury, who gave the people bank holidays as well as protection of open spaces and birds so we can enjoy them better, is buried in the churchyard although his tomb had to be removed after abuse by bank holiday picnickers.

Leaving the churchyard one enters open countryside and woods then I entered High Elms Country Park. This is where Lord Avebury lived. Although the house burnt down in the year I was born, the formal and informal gardens are now a country park for Bromley Council. I speculated on whether I should like to live in Bromley or not (but not if I could afford it) and it would be nice… I was soon away from the park and the golf course and walking through what claimed to be a restored orchard. I wasn’t aware of any fruit trees but it looked as though it had decayed again and needed another restoration. I passed this curious house with a clock on it.
The clock building Posted by Picasa

This is not mentioned in any of the guide books so I am at a loss as to its function. The next point of interest was Bogey Lane, a charming green lane between two fields. I felt quite like an ancient Briton and had to stop myself throwing off my clothes and painting myself with woad! The loop for some reason went into a wheat field so I faithfully followed it to the letter and photographed a field of poppies in the distance (if this comes out I’ll post it). Bogey Lane came out onto a charming country road called Farthing Lane.
Farthing Lane Bromley - The London Borough Posted by Picasa
No one would expect a road like this to be in a London borough, so take my word for it that it is and how truly rural London can be. I passed by Holwood House at Keston, taking a picture. Arthur Mee states that one can wander through the grounds at will but the property owner appears to have changed this policy. In fact, the commemorative stone seat where Wilberforce debated abolition of slavery with Pitt has been locked and barred. Here is the seat's inscription.

Stone anti slavery seat Posted by Picasa
I saw a goldfinch in the grounds. Passing through Keston Common I saw Caesar’s well where Caesar's men had taken refreshment at a little spring.

Ceasar's Well Keston Common Posted by Picasa

As a raven guided them to it, the river for which it is the source is called the Ravensbourne. There are three ponds on Keston Common, which was busy with fishers and people enjoying the sun.

Source of the Ravensbourne, Keston Common Posted by Picasa

Keston village had a village store (thriving – while I was there one man bought £20 worth) and a pub called the Fox where I had a ginger ale shandy. I do not think the young barman had heard of shandy as he added ginger ale to a glass and topped it up with lemonade. I asked him if there was to be beer in it when he got the idea and made a proper one. Keston also has a drinking fountain (dry) on the common but I resumed my walk on the path to West Wickham Common and the end of this stage. The Corporation of London saved the common from development in 1892 but has some very odd byelaws. For example in order to take amateur photography I must have a licence from the Corporation. Not having such a licence I did not take any but I must remember to get one. The path led by an alleged Elizabethan (I not II) earthwork and some pollarded oak trees both alive and dead. This stage ended at the end of the common so I went home via Hayes.