Dave Sergeant

The Green London Way is a walking route of 110 miles length around London split into 18 sections. It follows much of the route of the 78 mile long Capital Ring but has some new sections. The Green London Way is largely the work of one man, Bob Gilbert, who is a supporter for the protection of urban open spaces and public access. His book, The Green London Way, outlines each section with detailed description of the historic and wildlife aspects of each section and is being used as I walk the route.

Green London Way Walk 5 - Forest Hill to Crystal Palace - 30th August 2021

This should have been a straightforward walk but it turned out not to be and so far holds the record for the number of times I went off track. I already knew of one necessary diversion and had made provision for, the rest were unexpected.

There are several ways of getting to Forest Hill for the start, and several ways of getting home from Crystal Palace. I decided to change at Clapham Junction and take the Southern train from there. Or into central London and the same train from London Bridge, about the same. Due to a late running train I just missed the 0958 from Clapham Junction so had to wait for the next one so it was 11am when I alighted at Forest Hill.

First out of the station and a stretch of the busy South Circular up to the Horniman museum, entering this time by the front entrance and past the original building and then a small zoo. I failed though to find the gate out from the directions and found myself walking along the perimeter of the museum park rather than along the path I could see the other side of the fence. But no matter, I still emerged at the correct place on the South Circular again.

I had established beforehand that the old bridge over the disused Crystal Palace and South Junction railway was closed and the Green London Way route down the east side of the railway cutting was not possible. So based on the advertised diversions I continued a little further along the South Circular to the next junction and picked up the Dulwich branch of the Green Chain walk there, which took me down to the bridge where I picked up the original route. These sections also form Cox Walk, the Grove which is a landmark on the Cox Walk is no longer a pretty sight. First sign of the closure ahead.

So after a pleasant walk through Sydenham Hill Wood I reached the bridge. This has long been neglected and is now clearly dangerous and it was planned to be repaired. But the council decided in order to carry out the work a couple of oak trees had to felled to allow access. Objections came and late last year protesters camped by the bridge to stop the workers felling them. This impasse continues to this day and all the time this necessary crossing remains closed.

Immediately after the bridge the Green London Way diverts off the signposted Green Chain walk and takes the path to the right shown here. Rather than following a well signposted path heading to and joining Crescent Wood Road further along our route follows a maze of totally unsigned woodland paths around the edges of the golf club and Gun Site Allotments. The guide book kept saying 'keep ahead' but I still got confused and even after asking directions ended up coming out of a different exit on Grange Road, a narrow toll road. I managed to find where I was on the map but had to ask the chap manning the toll booth to confirm. Then a half mile diversion through Dulwich College along College Road to reach Low Cross Wood Lane where I should have been in the first place.

Picking up the far end of Low Cross Wood Lane I walked down its full length, quite steep as this is Sydenham Hill, passed the gate from the woods I should have found, and reached Crescent Wood Road at the end. A short diversion took me to number 3 which is the house John Logie Baird lived in while he was developing his televisions in a lab at nearby Crystal Palace - that work and his tenure there coming to an abrupt end in 1936 when the Palace burnt down. He is commemorated with a blue plaque outside.

From here a short stretch along Wells Park Road to enter Sydenham Wells Park, the wells in this area many years ago being a source of mineral waters. A pleasant little park but again I went astray, due to a proliferation of Green Chain signs I took the wrong sharp right hand turn and ended up further up Longton Avenue. This was easily corrected and after a few more suburban roads reached Crystal Palace.

I had spent quite a long time exploring Crystal Palace while doing the Capital Ring, it certainly is a fascinating place. The Green London Way enters via the Fisherman's Gate to the north of the park and took me into a part I had not seen before, plenty of woodland and as expected pretty busy. The big TV mast was far less domineering over this side. Last time I was there the cafe was being restored and the paths in that area either closed or very muddy. Today the cafe was doing a roaring trade, but after looking at what was on offer on their menu decided to eat elsewhere.

Now into the dinosaur park, designed by Waterhouse Hawkins and with scientific advice from Professor Richard Owen it opened in 1854. The Irish elks are fairly realistic but the dinosaurs look nothing like we now know they looked like. Plenty of things to keep the kids amused. Directions through the park were also fairly vague but no problem, follow the crowds.

Section 5 ends at Crystal Palace station. I could have caught the train straight back to Clapham Junction but decided to use the Overground service to Canada Water and its easy connection to the Jubilee line back to Waterloo. There I had lunch again in the Wellington next to the station before catching the fairly quiet train back home. Apart from the mis-directions it was a pleasant Bank Holiday day out.