WANDLE WANDERINGS: Dodging between the springtime showers for a weekend walk, KEN TOWL has gone all loopy
Outer London is peppered with country parks, downland, ancient trails and sites redolent with the history of an area occupied since pre-Roman times.
The LOOP, the London Outer Orbital Path, contrives to connect many of these along a circular route that makes it a sort of pedestrian M25. The LOOP is maintained by 22 local authorities and runs about 140 miles from Erith near the Dartford crossings and around to Purfleet on the other side of the Thames. It is divided into 15 sections, each around 10 miles long. In some places, you have to add a half mile or so from public transport to the route.
This is the case at Petts Wood, the first starting point of Inside Croydon’s exploration of the LOOP, or at least those parts of it that are on our doorstep.
The beginning of a stage on the LOOP is marked by a plaque at the appropriate station. Over the coming weeks, we will be exploring Sections 3 (Jubilee Park to West Wickham), 4 (to Hamsey Green) and 5 (to Banstead Downs). One of the best attributes of the LOOP is the flexibility that it offers. You can dip in and out of it wherever you like, or as public transport allows. Since it is a circular route that crosses hundreds of radial pathways all around London, there are lots of opportunities to join or leave it where you will.
There are also, of course, lots of opportunity for refreshment along the way…
Let’s investigate one of these even before we join the LOOP. Taking the steps from the platform up to the bridge, turn right and leave Petts Wood Station (reached by a combination of Croydon tram and train from Beckenham Junction), follow the row of shops round to the left.
Take the first left just round the corner into Petts Wood Road and a few yards down on your left you will find One In The Wood, a friendly micropub with a constantly revolving array of beers and ciders and a nice line in Scotch eggs. It follows the eccentric opening times that seem to be a characteristic of micropubs, so it’s probably best to check times on their website. The quality of the beer is what you would expect from a pub that has earned the prestigious CAMRA Greater London Pub of the Year award.
Suitably fortified, we take the footbridge over the railway and turn left along Crest View Drive and turn right on Tent Peg Lane.
This is where we enter Jubilee Country Park and join the LOOP itself.
Follow the signs through wood and meadow. At the end, follow the footpath to the right of the lane and cross Southborough Lane by the zebra. Go down Oxhawth Crescent straight in front of you and, where this curves away to the left, carry on along Faringdon Avenue till it abruptly ends, Take the footpath by the side of the last house on the left. This takes you into Crofton Wood.
You are supposed to take a path that meanders across the wood to the other side but, at this time of year, the path is a black muddy stream, almost impassable, and certainly no fun, to walk.
I took a parallel route just 10 feet to the left of the LOOP. Surely only the purest of purists would consider that I did not walk this part of the LOOP?
At the far end of the wood we meet a civilised tarmac path and we turn right on this, the burbling Kyd Brook running along to our left. We emerge at Crofton Road.
Here, a plaque at the feet of the Crofton Village sign informs us that Bishop Odo, who commissioned the Bayeaux Tapestry, was the owner of the Crofton estate at the time of the Domesday Book.
Cross the road and take the footpath by the Scout Hall and carry on straight ahead down Crofton Avenue till you see the LOOP sign indicating a footpath bearing to the right. This takes you into Derrick Wood.
At the end of the wood, follow the LOOP signs to a long avenue of trees. This ends at the top of a hill with a view to the downs over the village of Farnborough.
Take the path diagonally to your right down the hill to the A21 below. Cross this at the crossing place and take the footpath just opposite.
This takes you to Gladstone Road which in turn takes you to the modestly picturesque Farnborough High Street. Here we learn that the Saxons called the village Fearnbiorginga (village among the ferns on the hill, since you ask).
The LOOP continues up Church Road and into the High Elms Country Park.
But I don’t.
I’ve done four miles, and the Change of Horses beckons. I’ll leave the remaining five miles of this section for next time.
The Change of Horses is so named because this was an inn on the coaching route from London to Hastings back in the days before the A21 took the traffic away.
It is a friendly locals pub and the Harveys Ale is fine. Across the road is the Woodman, a “dog-friendly” Shepherd Neame pub that probably sells a decent pint of Spitfire.
From the High Street, the 358 takes you to Bromley, Elmers End Green and Beckenham Junction tram stop.
You can find your own way home from there.
- 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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