While he’s often in the past been accused of rambling, STEVEN GAUGE found good reason to do so to the south of Croydon over the weekend
In an ancient tradition that has gone on for three or possibly four years, the parishioners of Caterham on the Hill spent the first day of the Bank Holiday “Beating the Bounds”. This involves walking around the boundaries of the area looked after by Caterham on the Hill Parish Council, with a small group of recently retired ramblers, tapping with sticks the various municipal marker points to make sure that they are still there.
Caterham is lucky enough to have two parish councils bearing its name, one for the bit on the hill and another for the folk in the valley. Both are superseded in the municipal hierarchy by the amorphous and misnamed Tandridge District Council, which is in turn subservient to the mighty Surrey County Council. In reality however, the residents of Caterham probably have more in common and more connection with their neighbours to the north in the London Borough of Croydon.
Caterham is, to be honest, in the cheap end of Surrey. It is often the place where Croydon residents move to when they need a little more space for teenagers to expand in to. It is blessed with a decent little theatre called the Miller Centre, a slow but steady train line into London and a decent range of supermarkets from Morrison’s through Tesco and up to Waitrose.
It also has some very agreeable countryside on its borders and what better way to discover them than on the annual parish council-led stroll around the border.
The walk started at the twin churches of St Mary’s and St Lawrence’s and tracks through some of those little used footpaths that squeeze between the suburban houses. It takes in a couple of golf courses, one thankfully no longer in use, and ambles gently into the optimistically named Happy Valley. We took a cheeky detour over the boundary on to Chaldon Parish Council’s turf to check out the lovingly restored graveyard where, in a tiny plot, more than 3,000 former residents of the now closed St Lawrence’s mental asylum are laid to rest.
Another cross-border incursion, this time into the southernmost reaches of Croydon and a half of bitter in the Fox Public House. Suitably restored we then dodged the gliders as we skirted round Kenley Airfield and then marched back up Whytleafe Hill taking in a Second World War gun tower, which for some unfathomable reason has gained the status of a listed building. A few more secret pathways and we were back at the church car park in time for tea.
There is something vaguely re-assuring about living in a place where there is a democratically elected, representative body generally looking out for the area in walking distance around your home. Even more re-assuring to know that the elected Parish Councillors, who tend to be only very slightly party political, take the occasional walk around its boundaries to make sure everything is all in order.
An ancient tradition worth starting I’d say.
- Steven Gauge is, among other things, the author of My Life As a Hooker, a nearly award-winning book (about rugby, before you get too excited)
- You may order copies of his book here. It is about more than rugby
- For other walks in and around the Croydon area, click here
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