Thursday 11 February: London Loop walk, Selsdon Park to South Coulsdon Station

Four of us met at East Croydon Station to take bus 64 through leafy roads back to Selsdon Park Road where we had finished before; there is a lot of suburban Croydon. The path sneaked through a snicket behind houses and into a long decline through woods and scrubland, sun bravely gleaming through branches, broad views to the North Downs. We were sharing this stretch with the Vanguard Way for the two miles up to the alarmingly smart Farleigh XIX conference centre. Next over muddy farm fields to the large village of Hamsey Green. The Good Companions pub being now a building site, we bashed on across more woods and fields, very muddy in places, to traverse the coombe of Riddlesdown Ridge. Saxon remains somewhere near, and a church with scary murals, but we skipped these. After a busy A road we yomped up a steep avenue, with playground screams of cheerful eight year-olds assaulting our eardrums, then up 100 steps and across woodland onto the secluded Kenley Common. While eating a snack on a narrow bench we saw strange birds swoop from just over the horizon: Kenley Aerodrome of Battle of Britain fame is now a gliding centre. Navigating by trial and error through the mature woodland of the common, we skirted the N side of the aerodrome to reach the HQ of Croydon Astronomical Society, a delightfully domed tardis. More fields, with more mud, and onto a back road by a pub, bravely ignored, we pushed on over Coulsdon Common to The Fox. This is a pub for the gentry, done out in grey and beige with wooden floors, so we took off boots. The menu included simple salads, peasant bread and large bowls of oil. Veronica can explain everything. Fortified, we trekked on into Happy Valley, well-known as an exquisitely sheltered arcadia. You get the feeling of isolation here even though within the suburb of South Coulsdon. We spoiled the illusion at the end by tramping along a one-mile avenue instead of the path on the wooded uplands above, to get a train by four. Our nine miles through muddy brambled scrub not badly done between 11.00 and 16.00. We had enjoyed glorious views under bright blue skies and (heading S) eye-glaring sunshine. Perhaps this stage is the very best of the southern Loop … next time we bash on past Banstead to Ewell on 25 February …..

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