London Loop Walk 9:
Hamsey Green to Coulsdon

28 May 2006

Today I did the ninth of my London Loop walks, this time with Henry for company. The intention had been to walk to Banstead, but on arriving at Banstead station to leave the car and get the train to West Croydon and then a bus to Hamsey Green, I was informed that there were "no trains on Sunday. Never have been." This was something of a surprise to me, and obviously to Transport for London's Journeyplanner, which had advised me to catch the 1138 Southern Railway service to West Croydon. I even had it printed out with me, so I hadn't made a mistake.

Faced with the prospect of three buses to Hamsey Green, I decided to curtail the walk, and drove on to Coulsdon from where it was only two buses to Hamsey Green. However, the first one refused to take Henry, so it was 1.20pm by the time we got to Hamsey Green. However, it was a delightful day, and I was glad I had postponed the walk from yesterday, when it had been overcast and then rainy.

After a short walk along Tithe Pit Shaw Lane out of Hamsey Green, we reach this large swathe of open country, meadow and downland, which was to be typical of the whole walk this afternoon, right on the edge of London.

Henry glad to be off the buses and free to run at last.

A trig point at 160 metres above sea level - in fact, the only trig point passed on the whole LOOP.

From the top of the ridge, a look across the valley of Whyteleafe which we are about to cross. It looks so peaceful, but there are two railway lines, a busy main road, housing and light industry down there.

Henry enjoying the wild flowers as we make our way down onto Riddlesdown Road

Riddlesdown Road, now a pleasant track, was once the main road from London to Brighton, which took the route of an old Roman road.

Riddlesdown Road crosses the Croydon, Oxted and East Grinstead Railway (better known as the Oxted Line).

After crossing the A22 (making more progress round the clockface road numbering) we cross the Caterham Railway and then make our way along New Barn Lane, where the owner of this car, parked outside No. 3, has clearly not heard about the Drought Order imposed by Sutton and East Surrey Water plc the day before, banning all non-essential water use.

From half way up the steps at the end of New Barn Lane, we look back along the road across the valley, with the Oxted Line traversing its impressive viaduct, behind it  the chalk of Riddlesdown exposed by the quarry, now disused but working for about 200 years until 1967.

At the top of the steps we emerge onto Kenley Common, yet another piece of open space for which we have to thank the vision and the money of the Corporation of London.

Gliders overhead show that we are approaching Kenley Airfield.

But first, time for lunch. And what a magnificent view during the meal - looking east back across the valley we have just crossed.

After lunch we went through a short woodland, and emerged onto this open grassland part of Kenley Common. Henry is clearly bemused by the gate: what looks like a white nylon rope is an electrified fence to keep the cattle inside the grassy area. Grazing by cattle is important in maintaining the delightful grasses.

We made a short diversion off the route of the LOOP onto Kenley Airfield. Here we look into the earth banks of a blast bay, once protecting Spitfires when this was RAF Kenley.

A delightful house as we emerge from Kenley Common onto Golf Road

There was then a confusing section which bore no resemblance to the map or descriptions in David Sharp's guidebook, but following instincts saw us safely to another lovely field full of flowers, and we now approach Croydon Astronomical Society's observatory.

Safely past the houses of Old Coulsdon, we cross onto Coulsdon Common

Henry takes a quick breather on this pleasant afternoon.

Grassland on Coulsdon Common

We then find ourselves in the gorgeous Happy Valley, where Henry finds lots of dogs to play with, including these two spaniels.

Happy Valley. We are now heading north-west - we have passed the southernmost point.

We walked through Devilsden Wood to emerge onto the ridge of  Farthing Downs

From Farthing Downs, Tower 42 and the Swiss Re Tower in the City.

In 1783 the summit was crowned with seven beech trees. Time has taken its toll, and new replacements haven't fully restored the grove to its former glory.

The crossing point of ancient tracks with its beech trees was named The Folly in 1785 by Thomas Bainbridge.

There are several round mounds - the remains of a 7th-century Saxon burial ground.

There now follows an urban section as we conclude our walk - at Coulsdon South station we cross the Brighton Main Line railway.

We then cross the A23 and walk through the major works surrounding the construction of the 33m Coulsdon relief road, and it is time to go home.

Possibly the best LOOP walk so far - mostly chalk common land, well managed, and a delight to walk through. The failure of the TFL Journeyplanner was annoying, but probably meant that we had the best of the walk, so wasn't too big a problem in the end. Having geared myself up psychologically to have passed the half-way point around the LOOP today, it was a little disappointing not to have done so, and with some busy weekends coming up doing other things, the plan to complete the LOOP this year will start to come under a little pressure. If I don't it will still be there next year, but there is still plenty of time left this year so I'm not giving up yet! Next time, the London Loop from Coulsdon to Banstead Downs

Section 5 Hamsey Green to Coulsdon: 11.6km, 3 hours 10 minutes (including 45 minutes stopped), 254 metres of ascent.

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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson