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.

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