A gentle amble across two hemispheres, and a giant mystery

Inside Croydon guided ramble Apr 6 2019

High in the woods above Sparrows Den we stumbled across this construction. What is it?. Photograph: Pete Beach

WANDLE WANDERER: After the first Inside Croydon guided walk, editor STEVEN DOWNES rambles on more than usual (if that were possible)

What is it?

A simple enough question, but one that none of our number could answer.

Perhaps 12-foot across, with carefully constructed walls of branches, twigs and some mud to hold it all together, and almost perfectly circular, with a shallow pool of water at its centre.

What is it? And what’s it for?

Striding on: Ken Towl leads the way on our five-mile ramble

It was the mystery of Inside Croydon’s first guided ramble which took place last Saturday, led by doughty ambler Ken Towl, and attracting a handful of loyal readers.

Towl’s carefully planned walk followed part of the London LOOP route, which he has previously described in a series of articles last year.

The LOOP is a circular walking route that goes all the way around the outside of Greater London. It runs about 140 miles from Erith near the Dartford crossings to Purfleet on the other side of the Thames. It is divided into 15 sections, each around 10 miles long. Bite-sized chunks can be about five miles, and that’s what we did on a grey, but thankfully mainly dry spring morning last week, from Hayes, in Kent, to Coombe Lane, high above Croydon.

The Prime Meridian, and a time-worn marker

The walk took in two counties, and, indeed, two hemispheres, as we found as we crossed some playing fields at Coney Hall early in our amble, with an unprepossessing and neglected marker showing the line of the Prime Meridian.

Carefully, we stepped over, from East to West, and made our way onwards to the tea rooms at Sparrows Den, for a revitalising halfway cuppa.

We needed it: the hard work was about to begin.

Wood anemones carpet the hillside above Sparrows Den

Past the crazy golf course we turned right and uphill, into Spring Wood, so called because springs appear there in the winter.

The ancient woodland was carpeted with delicate, small white wood anemones. Somewhere along here, we left Bromley borough and entered Croydon, departed Kent and arrived in Surrey. The hemisphere was not the only boundary we crossed on this day.

Google maps on walks such as these, with Towl marching onwards and upwards ahead of us, are rarely much help. It was uncertain where Spring Wood becomes Three Halfpenny Wood, though the nearby road of Corkscrew Hill gives clue to the climb we were undertaking here.

And there it was.

Sitting on the hill, just a few yards away from the well-trodden pathway, was this… thing. We ambled over to take a closer look. This vast construction, as if woodland flotsam and jetsam had been knitted together, looking like a giant bird’s nest, was just sitting there in the woods.

No signs, no explanation, and as far as our walking party was concerned, no clue as to what it might be.

Out of the woods and on towards Shirley, and on to the heathlands with the gorse in bloom, the route remains well sign-posted

I’m pinning my hopes on Inside Croydon’s loyal reader. They surely must have some suggestions. They usually do.

Towl pressed on. We were heading for Shirley Heath now, threading our way between golf courses and some of the biggest back gardens in Croydon, onwards, always upwards, towards the big reveal of this walk, the viewing point atop the Addington Hills.

Yes, we were back in Croydon

Two mallard drakes sat together on the Surrey heathland, halfway up the steepest part of the climb, and a long way from any water. Look, I said. Ducks.

Any excuse for a pause to catch the breath, before pressing on to the (sadly vandalised) viewing point which, on a clearer day than we were blessed with, can provide views across south London to the City and Canary Wharf, and Wembley Stadium to the west.

Now, with the cloud and misty rain of the day set in, we had to content ourselves with the best available sight of Croydon’s sites, as the towers and cranes rise up in the rapidly changing skyline of our town centre.

The brief last leg took us through towards Coombe Lane, the tram stop for a ride back into town, or a quick downhill section and a pint with mates in Coombe Lodge. Five-ish miles, two-ish hours, two counties, two boroughs, two hemispheres, and one unanswered question.

What is it?

  • We have two further guided walks planned for Inside Croydon readers, one in May, another in June. Further details will be published on this website in due course

About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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6 Responses to A gentle amble across two hemispheres, and a giant mystery

  1. peterleni says:

    When I played in what we called Spring Park Woods as a child, shortly after WW2, we believed that this was a bomb crater. The crater/pond is clearly being managed, and here is the management plan. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-commons/spring-park/Documents/spring-park-local-plan-v4.pdf. Sadly no photos of the crater/pond, although there is a pond marked on the map. The City of London manages the woods so we could ask them to tell us more about the crater/pond and what they are doing with it.

  2. greenpeteru says:

    It is one of the ponds we have been restoring as part of the Croydon Ponds Project. https://www.facebook.com/pg/TCVcroydon/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1979298508794328

    There are three ponds in these woods: this one is the old pond; there is the heart shaped pond at the end of Bridle Way (the bomb crater); and the one at the bottom of the woods just outside Croydon which is managed by City Commons.

  3. Takooba says:

    For the record, I had this reply from the City of London – but Peter Underwood got here first. I note that he refers to the bomb crater, which is what it was called by me and my playmates all those years ago? So, Peter, is this definitely a bomb crater? Were we right all those years ago?
    Dear Peter,

    Thank you very much for your email. I had a look on the Inside Croydon website and the article refers to a pond outside of Spring Park. The area is called Threehalfpenny Wood and managed by Croydon Council. Unfortunately I don’t know more about it, I would suggest you get in contact with Croydon Council – maybe you find this link helpful: https://secure.croydon.gov.uk/eforms/ufsmain;jsessionid=F7AE956525BD6C6F4C204B8ABF7B977A?formid=EXT_EC_PARKS&ebz=1_1555328572597&ebd=0&ebp=50&ebz=1_1555328572597

    I think Peter Underwood from the TCVs (Conservation Volunteers Croydon) has left a comment below the article and he and his volunteer group have worked on the pond last year in September – you might be able to open this link: https://www.facebook.com/pg/TCVcroydon/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1979298508794328

    Best wishes

  4. Lewis White says:

    Is this pond also the source of a stream that I have seen flowing in some wet years?

    I have only been to this neck of the Croydon woods a very few times, but I was amazed some years back to see a stream flowing copiously down the steep hill over pebbly or gravelly ground, for a hundred yards or so, then sinking into the ground at the top end of a grassy open field.

    I assume that the steep wooded ridge on the North side of the valley between Addington Village and the Sparrows Den playing fields is geologically capped with a clay layer, and that water from the ridge runs down towards the main Addington- West Wickham road, and hits permeable sand or chalk at the bottom of the slope. Magical, and also rather sad to see a dead-end stream dry up like that.

    Thanks for this and other rural ramble articles from Ken and Inside Croydon.
    I really must stop sitting indoors, looking at my computer for the latest Inside Croydon exposee, and instead, get out into the fresh Croydonian air (avoiding anywhere downwind of the Beddington Incinerator) to check out one of these walks.

    • There’s good reason it is called Spring Hill, Lewis.

      There are three ponds on that hill, as Peter Underwood outlined in his comment below. One of them is a source of a spring, but not this one.

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