WANDLE WANDERER: There’s a Bank Holiday coming up and our loyal reader KEN TOWL has found a rambling route of just over two miles which includes a star-gazing observatory, a yellow brick road, the ghostly swishing of gliders, and two decent pubs to way-lay you for lunch or other refreshments
This walk is as a gentle introduction to the London Outer Orbital Path, starting from near Whyteleafe railway station.
Take the 407 bus from any of the many places it stops as it passes through Croydon on its way from Sutton to Caterham and get off at Old Barn Lane.
Taking the requisite level of care that has kept you alive so far, cross the A22 and follow Old Barn Lane, cross the railway by the footbridge and continue up the steep uphill incline of New Barn Lane.
At the end of it you will see a London Loop sign and some steps. Now the walk gets seriously steep. After a few yards take the flight of steps to the right.
You will emerge, eventually into Kenley Common, a piece of countryside preserved for you, denizen of the capital, by the foresight and munificence of the City of London Corporation.
Follow the right-hand side of the meadow to a woodland track formed of yellow bricks.
Follow the yellow brick road till it forks. Bear left and you will come to a large meadow.
As you cross it diagonally, passing from one redundant stile to another, look up.
You just may see a glider ascending in ghostly silence above you. Kenley Airfield abuts this meadow and now there is a gliding school where once there was a base for Battle of Britain Hurricanes and Spitfires.
Follow the signposted path diagonally through a bit of woodland and into Golf Drive.
Turn right into a rather pedestrian-unfriendly road for a hundred yards or so then take the footpath off to the left and follow the London Loop signs across a couple of fields heading towards the buildings you can see above the trees to your left.
This takes you to a stile that leads on to a country road. A little to your left is the Wattenden Arms.
They have a good range of beers and the food – I didn’t have any – certainly looked good. You can even eat alliteratively if you fancy a fish finger focaccia for £5.49.
Once refreshed, head back the way you came for a few yards past a couple of houses and then take the stile into the field on the left. Follow the path that more or less borders the field on the left hand side.
The strange-looking building, often surrounded by horses, is the Kenley Observatory. If the friendly astronomers happen to be in, they might be prepared to let you have a look inside.
It is certainly recommended to seek out the open evenings that they sometimes host there (sometimes arranged for school groups, the Scouts or Guides), where the light pollution of Croydon and central London does not interfere so much with the night sky, and it can be especially fascinating when the skies are clear.
Continue along the track past the observatory and follow the sign that points you toward a shady, somewhat overgrown track that descends to the right.
At the bottom, take Rydons Lane opposite and follow it to where it ends on the edge of Coulsdon Common.
Take the signposted woodland trail in front of you and you will come to another road. Cross it and go straight ahead past the curiously monochrome pub sign of The Fox and you will see the pub to your left.
Beyond the pub is Happy Valley and Farthing Down. But that is either for more ambitious walkers or another day.
The Fox has an impressive menu and a large beer garden. It was also a watering hole for cold war spies as its blue plaque attests.
Feel free to have a beer or two. Back on the main road there is a bus stop served by the 466 back into Croydon (though the service is less frequent on Sundays and Bank Holidays).
- Check out Ken Towl’s illustrated ramble from New Addington to Fickleshole here
- For more walks in and around Croydon, visit our archive here
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