Shirley’s surprises hidden in the heath on Addington Hills

The views north to central London from the Addington Hills are an under-appreciated bonus for Croydon’s residents and Sunday morning strollers

WANDLE WANDERINGS: Under gin-blue skies, KEN TOWL headed for the hills and encountered views that could rival a New England Fall

Advertisements in the Sunday newspaper supplements for trips to Boston to see the glories of the New England “Fall”, as they like to call it, are all very well for those with surplus cash. But in these days of austerity, some of us have to tighten our belts and look for our pleasures nearer to home.

Fortunately, a round trip to the Addington Hills will only set you back £3, and now is the time to go when the autumn sun at your back lights up a vista from the hills that takes in the Wembley arch in the west to the hi-rises of Canary Wharf in the east.

The best views are from the viewing platform, built, as a plaque on its side suggests, to celebrate Croydon’s Millenary in 1960. Apparently, this is nothing to do with hat-making but rather a synonym for millennium.

A walk through the Addington Hills offers sights to rival a New England Fall

From the viewing platform, looking north-eastwards, in fact, you can make out the Millenary Dome.

The best way to arrive at Addington Hills is by tram.

You get off at Coombe Lane tram stop and immediately enter the woods. Here, you are on the south side and at the top of the hill. For your convenience, it is all downhill from here.

You can either make a round trip of it and work your way back to the tram stop, or meander vaguely north-east along the ridge at the top of the hill till you hit Shirley Hills Road, which skirts the heath to the east.

You can also follow the London Outer Orbital Path signs which take you down the hill to emerge in Oaks Road, just around the corner from Shirley Hills Road.

There’s plenty of signs to follow on this walk

It doesn’t really matter, just go where the fancy takes you.

The woods are quite beautiful and a delight to visit at any time of the year. They present an ever-changing palette of colours, the oak leaves now yellow against the green of the pines and the silver of the birch trees. There is heather, too. You are in the largest bit of heathland in Greater London.

Should you require sustenance, there is, curiously, a Chinese restaurant, The Royal Garden, on the heath – just follow the LOOP signs from the tram stop and you will find it.

The Sandrock, where bacon sandwiches are fondly remembered

Alternatively, if you head across to Shirley Hills Road and turn left or down to Oaks Road and turn right, you will come to the point where these roads meet and you will arrive at The Sandrock, a perfectly decent pub that makes perfectly decent food. In fact, I was lucky enough a few years ago to have eaten there the best bacon sandwich that I have ever had. Nowadays, they specialise in wood-fired pizzas.

Just a little further down the hill is The Surprise, a pub which boasts a seafood restaurant and jazz on Wednesdays. Something, perhaps, to investigate on another day. Like a Wednesday.

A little further still is another surprise.

The Shirley surprise, which still has open days for the public throughout the summer months

Even if you know it is there, tucked in among a set of relatively modern suburban houses, when you round the corner and catch a glimpse of it, the Shirley Windmill is an impressive sight and worth getting close to.

Getting close to this handsome building is all you can hope for at the moment. It opens on the first Sunday of the month for hourly tours, but only between the spring and October. I can recommend the tour.

You are on the route of the 466 bus, which can take you back into Croydon, or the 130 which goes to Norwood Junction and beyond to Thornton Heath. Such English autumn splendours all just a bus ride away, and no need for a transatlantic flight at all.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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