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.
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
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
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
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