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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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