This could be called “The problem with Monks Hill”, or “A Tale of Two Villages”, or “Bishops v Monks”, or “Who Cares?” KEN TOWL takes a walk on the less-than-wild-side, as a “paper” candidate in the local elections
Yesterday, I went for a walk, a walk with a difference, a walk of about a mile, from Coombe Lane tram stop to Gravel Hill tram stop, but I went via Croydon’s millionaires’ row, Bishops Walk. At this point I should make a declaration of interest. Bishops Walk is in the ward of Selsdon and Addington Village and I am standing as one of the Labour Party candidates for the ward.
Now, I had always been fascinated by this street, and curious to see it.
But the signage at the entrance does its polite best to dissuade anyone from entering. This time, I thought, armed with the veneer of respectability conferred by a bag full of Croydon Labour manifestos, I can enter the gated community that is Bishops Walk unchallenged. If challenged, I can cite my Golden Ticket – the promotion of the democratic process.
Bishops Walk is disconcerting, almost surreal. A primly manicured and eerily silent place. It’s on a hill (with stunning views south to the North Downs, of course) so a little of the noise from road or rail traffic down below does filter up, but the stillness is amplified by the almost total lack of people.
No one uses this street to go anywhere. For traffic (authorised vehicles only, of course), this is a dead end, as the sign at the entrance usefully points out.
There are no cars on the street, since every house has double or triple garages and usually driveways big enough to accommodate a small fleet of vehicles. You are in something closer to Disneyland than Croydon.
Properties along here do not sell very often, but when they do, the four- or five-bedroomed palatial homes can fetch nearly £2million. If you wanted to rent one, you’d be looking at paying £1,000 per week.
The quiet is sometimes breached by the barking of unseen dogs. On every occasion, the barks I heard were of the high-pitched yelp variety that denote a very small dog. One of the dear little things managed to get out and run at me. As I turned to face it, it made a sound like a smokers cough a few times and then retreated to its mansion on the hill. It was wearing blue; perhaps its costume reflected the politics of its owners.
I delivered my leaflets to the 30 or so desirable residences that line Bishops Walk as it snakes its way over the hill and down towards the grounds of Addington Palace and its golf club. You emerge at the bottom of Gravel Hill opposite the tram stop.
I don’t go home yet, though.
I have an appointment in Monks Hill so I take a series of footpaths to Broadcombe, the street that skirts the Monks Hill estate and talk to a couple of the residents there, one of whom has set up a community centre and is trying to build a real working community for the benefit of everyone who lives there.
They and I understand what the problem with Monks Hill is – it is surrounded by much more prosperous areas that have so far ensured that the ward is regarded by the Conservatives and Labour as a safe Tory seat. Oh yes, Labour volunteers were driving people to the polling station in St Francis Church all evening last year when Theresa May’s snap election meant that Sarah Jones had a chance of taking the Croydon Central parliamentary seat, but now Monks Hill is a mere “pocket of deprivation” hidden by the manicured lawns and double garages that surround it on three side.
Monks Hill is the sort of area that will be loyal to Labour if Labour is loyal to Monks Hill.
If we can get the vote up in Monks Hill, then the residents’ voices will be a louder one, whoever wins. Turnout is generally very low in local elections, so getting an improved turn-out should not be impossible.
Historically bishops have lived better than monks, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
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