WANDLE WANDERINGS: Even within the densely populated parts of post-industrial Croydon, close to the source of matchday roars from Crystal Palace’s football ground, it is possible to take a stroll through meadows and parks, accompanied by moor hens and cyclists, all the way from Selhurst to Addiscombe, and with barely a car in sight, as KEN TOWL found out
Take a bus from Croydon town centre, the 75 or the 157, and get off at Selhurst Station. Of course, you could arrive by train, too.
Look out for the unpromising entrance to Heavers Meadow, just opposite the station and along the road a little.
The council’s website describes succinctly what this tract of land has to offer as a “footpath through a flood meadow”. But it has so much more.
Just inside the park you come across a large stone.
According to the plaque on its side it is one of the 20 “Stones of Croydon”. Placed around the borough in 2015, they commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the London Borough of Croydon, with one stone in each of the 1965 wards.
Heavers Meadow is a rather two-dimensional affair, meadowlands on one side of the path, the gigantic Selhurst railway depot on the other, but it offers a useful route to the station for morning commuters and cyclists.
There’s a sign offering willow-weaving sessions, and there was evidence in the park of some previous weaving.
Where there’s willow, there’s usually water, and that’s the case here. with the Norbury Brook popping its head above ground, where the water way has spent so much of its existence since Victorian times.
A tributary of the River Wandle that flows off towards Norbury (as you might expect) and then onwards to Wandsworth and the Thames, Norbury Brook has recently been subject to regular community clean-ups around Thornton Heath Rec, where it is also above ground, and it is currently subject to a public consultation about re-wilding upstream.
Here, it runs north west along the bottom of the site before disappearing beneath Selhurst Road. It is fenced off because it can be very dangerous, after a rain storm the water level can rise several feet in a few minutes as the water rapidly drains from the roads and hard surfaces around and into the surface water drains.
Heavers Meadow is definitely a product of the railway age. In the 18th and 19th centuries the western side of the site was covered by a wood, but by 1867 this had been split in two by the railway.
By walking the length of Heavers Meadow, you emerge in South Norwood at Tennison Road. Take a right, over the railway bridge and after about 300 yards, look out for the Brickfields Meadow.
This, too, is a product of the area’s Victorian industrial heritage, because it used to be a brick field, with the local clay being dug out and fired into building materials.
If you have never been here before the pond is a bit of a surprise. It is quite big and has a healthy population of water fowl, including moor hens.
At the end of the park you come to Anthony Road.
Turn left and head down to Woodside Green, another of Croydon’s parks. Here you will see the Joiners Arms. It is not a bad local pub and you could do worse than to stop here for a beer.
From Woodside Green, it is a very short walk down Blackhorse Lane to the entrance to the third of the parks which this walk takes us through, Addiscombe Railway Park.
This is a linear park that follows what was formerly part of a short railway that ran between East India Way and Blackhorse Lane tram stop, and was a branch line off of the Woodside and South Croydon Joint Railway (WSCJR). The site of Addiscombe railway station has been redeveloped as housing, while most of the route of the former WSCJR is now part of Croydon’s tram network.
Like Brickfields Meadow, the Addiscombe Railway Park came into the council’s possession as part of a “planning gain”, but this has only been open to the public as open space for a decade.
Like Heavers Meadow, Addiscombe Railway Park now has an active friends group, with members of the community doing litter-picks and staging events in the open space, and it even has an orchard which, in the depths of winter, is subject of its own annual wassailing ceremony, possibly the only one of its type in the whole of London.
The entrance to the park is next to the Blackhorse Lane tram stop, opposite Sarah Jones MP’s constituency office.
You can walk the length of the park and continue into Croydon town centre, or you could leave at the mid-point and head down towards Lower Addiscombe Road via Addiscombe Avenue.
This route takes you conveniently to the Addiscombe tram stop and also to the prize-winning Claret and Ale, previously reviewed by Inside Croydon, where you might choose to rest a while before heading for home.
In all, without stops, my amble took about 90 minutes, and it is less than four miles long. Stopping off at the Claret and Ale would give you a chance to reflect on your gentle suburban ramble, which has taken in three parks, four wards, and a look back into Croydon’s industrial past.
- Check out Ken Towl’s previous wanderings along the Wandle and elsewhere around Croydon, and his visits to some of the area’s better pubs
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