Five Hills of Croydon: 20 ramblers, 4 miles, countless memories

And off we go…: our merry band setting off through the grounds of Heathfield House and towards Bramley Bank, the woods of Selsdon and beyond…

PHOTOSTORY: Thanks to all the Inside Croydon readers who joined us on Sunday for our guided walk over five of the ‘seven’ hills of Croydon, following a route suggested in the book Hillwalking London: Ten High-Level Walks to the Heights of the Capital

Pictures here have been contributed by various walkers, including CHARLIE SPURLING, CHERYL FERGUS-FERRELL and KEN TOWL

Heathfield House, as seen from the walled garden. It’s a heritage building well-worth saving. KT

This marked a return to the “good old days”.

The days before covid when iC looked to bring together random groups of readers to follow the trails blazed for us by Towl.

More than 20 applied to take part in this little free-of-charge springtime adventure, setting off on Sunday morning from Coombe Lane tram stop, thus missing out the climb through Lloyd Park and the Croydon town centre car park that author Caroline Buckland had mischievously included in her Croydon ramble – from a recommended new book, which is still available on discount from the publishers for iC readers (details below).

Bypassing a the car park/hill proved no great loss, in any case.

The Croydon Ecology Centre at Heathfield House, with its orchards and sheep, is due to be open to the public on May 21. KT

The car park that thought it was a hill was demolished by Brick by Brick in one of their failed projects. So it really ought to be The Six Hills of Croydon, but that doesn’t sound quite right…

And we agreed that doing five of them would be quite enough.

More responsible owners would surely give Heathfield House a useful future. CFF

Ken had walked the entire route the day before, presumably to check it was still all there. It was. Including some thigh-crunching climbs, with the worst saved for last, he seemed pleased to tell me.

May is National Walking Month (whaddya mean, you didn’t know?) and there’s probably a national mental health day tucked in around this time of year, too. The former is good for the latter.

The rough-cut lawns, once immaculate, and empty flower beds cannot detract from the views from the Italianate terrace at Heathfield

Physical activity, including walking, is not just about burning calories and losing weight. It has important health benefits, including reducing the risk of developing certain cancers and other diseases.

Walking can improve our mood, sleep and energy levels, manage stress, and make us feel good.

So this, we figured, might be a Good Thing To Do.

The road out of Heathfield, Riesco Drive, leads down to Bramley Bank, and the first of the wooded nature reserves we would traverse. CS

The appointed time arrived, the skies were clear and blue, and we set off from the arranged meeting point at Coombe Lane tram stop which, Ken advised, was one of the highest points along the route. So, all downhill from here then…

Just across the road is Heathfield House, the council-owned listed property and gardens that have been badly neglected by cash-strapped Croydon.

Shady days of summer: most of the route was in dappled shade, which makes it a good choice for walks on the hotter days of the year. CS

Despite the run-down state of the place, there were still other members of the public enjoying the walled garden and the impressive view down Gravel Hill south towards New Addington. The empty flower beds and formerly immaculate lawns, having just undergone a rough cut, serve as an unhappy reminder of the consequences of the council’s mismanagement.

Overlooking the duck pond, Ken reminded us all that this coming Sunday, May 21, the Croydon Ecology Centre is staging an open day, when there will be teas and cakes, and the orchard will be open to the public.

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And possibly more news about whether the council is about to do the decent thing and hand the Grade II-listed Victorian building to a more careful, more responsible owner.

The carpet of bluebells at Frith Woods, which even only halfway through May, appear to have just passed their best for this year. KT

Past the orchards and walled garden, dominated by the pale blue blooms of the wisteria, at its peak this week, we climbed up to the car park and on to Riesco Drive, at the bottom of which is Bramley Bank, the first of a series of woodland nature reserves – this one under the aegis of the London Wildlife Trust.

Winnie-the-Pooh-style signs

One of the group seemed genuinely disappointed that these would not be Bramley apple woods. But you can’t have it all.

Given all the rain there has been through March, April and into May, the pathways were, generally, not too muddy, and it was a pleasure to be able to amble around in shirtsleeves on a rare (for this spring) dry day.

The Met Office claimed that this was the warmest day of the year so far, at 21 degrees, yet the dappled shade of the woods we were to pass through – Frith Wood, Selsdon Wood, with its Winnie-The-Pooh-style signs, Monks Hill, and then through the gold course and past the Scouts’ outward bound centre – meant that we never really risked overheating.

But as for having a chance to catch our breath on the climbs, that was a different issue, as Ken pressed on, relentlessly, at the head of the group.

In between the gold fairways, the path is surrounded by head-high cow parsley, while in the shadier parts of the woods, large patches of wild garlic were in flower. CS

There were other signs to spot along the way, including for the London Loop and the Vanguard Way. It’s a few years now since Ken checked out each Croydon-related section of the London Loop – a series of well-plotted routes that encircle the capital, like a ramblers’ M25.

They are all logged on this website – just search through our archive by clicking here.

Five of Croydon’s hills climbed, without the help of a Sherpa

We agreed that we ought to re-visit the Loop sections again soon, and we have more group rambles planned in the coming months, including possibly tackling a major section of the Vanguard Way, though not going as far as its finish, at the Channel coast at Eastbourne.

Not yet anyway.

So after saying dib-dib-dib to a pack of Scouts navigating their way back to camp, we crossed Featherbed Lane for the final, daunting section of our walk. Someone (well, it was the Editor) lamented that there wasn’t better, safe pedestrian routes along the country lane to the White Bear country pub, to provide a different end to this hike.

But our route called for us to head for the end-of-the-line tram stop at New Addington. And by my rough reckoning, that required a climb of about 100 feet in less than a mile.

We did it, all unscathed. The whole walk completed, a little more than four miles, done in two hours.

Walk route mapped. 4.01M, 14May2023

Our merry band boarded the tram with destination board set for West Croydon, and in ones and twos we said our farewells, thanked Ken, and made a note to check this website for news of the next rambling adventure.

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2 Responses to Five Hills of Croydon: 20 ramblers, 4 miles, countless memories

  1. Lewis White says:

    The excellent photos show how rural and beautiful is Croydon’s Green Belt, with woodland paths through the cow parsley (green thoughts in green shade) and the bluebells of the ancient woodlands, or that beautiful rural lane with hedges, rising fields and abundant woods near Heathfield.

    Inside Croydon readers interested in the Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land (what a mundane name that latter is, for some lovely spaces !) should keep an eye on the revision of the Croydon Local Plan, which should be out for consultation in early 2024.

    The danger is that the Heathfield farmlands alongside the Adddington Road are nice and open, and –in the mind of developers and a cash-strapped Council– might be a tempting area for development. A well-drained green field site. Easy to develop.

    It might be a very good idea to get on the Local Development Framework mailing list by signing up via

  2. Ian Marvin says:

    It’s a great route, That final ascent to New Addington seems even steeper from the top! The way Heathfield House has been treated over the years is a disgrace.

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