London Loop Walk 8:
West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green
22 April 2006
Today Stephen did the eighth of his London Loop walks, this time with both George and Ellie for company. This was the
longest of our LOOP walks so far, the hilliest and the hottest.
Soon after setting off, we reach a recreation ground with this stone marking the
Greenwich Meridian line of longitude, "the prime meridian of the world" as the
Ellie in the western hemisphere, and George in the eastern.
We then soon reached the church of St John the Baptist. This path down from the
church across the field is the first section of the LOOP that I had done before
south of the Thames - albeit only a small section, I had walked along it when
visiting the church on a bellringing outing some years ago.
Looking across to the playing fields of Spring Park - when I was last here, they
were under water, presumably from the spring. As we continue through the worst
drought in 100 years, the ground underfoot today was extremely dry. Even the
bits which looked muddy (notably the bridleways) were dry, and in many places
Ellie and George in the woods of Spring Park
Ellie not knowing what is in store, this being her first longer walk.
A signpost in Spring Park tells us we still have 7¼ miles to go to Hamsey Green.
Flowers in the wood
As we pass into Threehalfpenny Wood, another of those stones, this time marking
the boundary between Bromley (where we have come from) and Croydon (where we are
going to), and the ancient boundary between Kent and Surrey.
Apparently one can see the remains of the earth bank which divided Kent and
Surrey, but we descended a long way and didn't see anything terribly definite -
this may be it, centre picture, but it may not.
An open space among the trees, and an hour into the walk time for our first stop
and a drink. Soon after this we passed west of the 371 gridline and thus are the
furthest west we've been on the LOOP so far.
After more trees we reach Shirley Road where we have a bit of roadside walking,
but as roadside walks go, this is pretty fair.
A tree comes into blossom looking out over these school playing fields
After passing through Upper Shirley we climb up onto the top of Addington Hill,
where a viewing platform shows us an extensive view to the north over the top of
the trees. It was hazy today, so the view wasn't at its best, but the
skyscrapers of Canary Wharf can be seen just right of centre, and on the right
hand side is the Millennium Dome.
A panoramic photo of the full view - click the photo to enlarge.
The footpath on the top of Addington Hill, and our lunch stop.
After lunch and drinks, we press on - still more than 4 miles to go, but we are
21½ from the Thames - nearly half way to Kingston Bridge where we regain the
Descending from Addington Hill, we find the Tramlink lines - not really a tram
at this point, more of a railway through the woods.
A tram in the trees.
We then have chance to explore Heathfield Gardens. It is a little early for the
azaleas to be at their best, but you can get some idea of their coming glory.
Descending to the pond near Heathfield house itself. The sign which can just be
seen at the bottom of the stairs rather misled us here, and a few minutes later
found ourselves back at the top of the hill with the entrance lodge. But the
diversion meant that we saw more of the gardens and it wasn't long before we
were back on the right route.
Which was swiftly followed by this slightly intimidating sign. It isn't a public
right of way, so isn't illegal, but it is on the London Loop route, so is
undesirable. However, after a few more metres we are into the Bramley Bank
From just inside the nature reserve, there is this impressive view over farmland
towards New Addington. We press on through the woods of the nature reserve,
hearing but not seeing the woodpeckers for which it is well known.
Emerging into an open space, Ellie waits on the attractive log bench.
George: "This really isn't big enough for me - how about you?"
Ellie: "I'm quite comfortable, thanks."
The third stool seems to be begging for Henry to join them!
All the while we were resting, having our drinks, and taking those photos, this
tractor and mower were buzzing around making a nuisance of itself, but just as we got up to go, it went too.
But time was marching on, and so were we.
We then went into Littleheath Woods where George races away up the line of the
Vanguard Way, which we have joined for a while. Vanguard Way runs from London to
the south coast between Newhaven and Seaford. It reaches the sea at Cuckmere
Haven, so Stephen, Lucy, George and Henry have walked the last 1.5km of the Way
from Exceat Bridge to Cuckmere
Haven in 2003, and Stephen walked a few more kilometres north from there to
Litlington years before that. But back to the LOOP...
Fungus growing on a tree in Littleheath Woods. It is an odd sort of wood,
gradually narrowing until it is only fifty metres wide, but continuing like that
for quite a distance between housing estates.
We cross Selsdon Park Road, and then should have taken the bridleway between
housing, but weren't paying attention to the guide book and must have missed a
sign, so we followed this road, Ashen Vale, to its end, then discovering our
error, but it was a short journey back to the bridleway which we then followed
until it took us into Selsdon Wood
Selsdon Wood is a 81-hectare fragment of the Selsdon Estate which was saved from
housing in the 1920s and now a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. It is now
owned by the National Trust and managed by Croydon Borough Council
At the other side of Selsdon Wood, we (just) leave Greater London, and there is
one of those brief moments where the LOOP just brushes suburbia, which are very
common. In one direction we can see houses, cars and garages, behind us is
...and from the same point we can also see open country, albeit now a golf
We continue along Vanguard Way, now taking the route of a bridleway just outside
Greater London, which takes us through Puplet Wood and back to the edge of the
When Vanguard Way heads east, the LOOP continues south until we reach Elm Farm,
here, where we turn south-west towards Hamsey Green.
Back inside Greater London, crossing a dry valley necessitates a descent and
re-ascent - small really, but the day is surprisingly hot and the three of us
are starting to wilt a little.
Kingswood Lodge is the first sign that we are approaching Hamsey Green.
And here it is, the information board for LOOP sections 4 and 5, on the green at
Hamsey Green in front of the Good Companions pub, where a wedding party was just
waving off a newly married couple with the traditional tin cans on the car.
A very good LOOP walk - lots of woodland, and very little housing - just short
bits to remind us we are still in London, but noticeably more up and down than
previous walks - we are definitely on the North Downs. As this was about
four times the length of the longest walk Ellie had previously done, she did
remarkably well - although she slowed down a little from her normal frenetic
energy, it was no more than George or Stephen, and she behaved perfectly (as did
George). Next time, the London Loop from
Hamsey Green to Coulsdon
Section 4 West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green: 14.1km, 4 hours 20 minutes
(including 65 minutes stopped), 412 metres of ascent.