Dave Sergeant

The London Loop is a walking route of 150 miles length around the outer boundaries of London split into 24 sections. See tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/loop-walk for more details.

London Loop Section 5 Whyteleaf to Coulsdon South - July 14th 2022

I last walked this leg of the loop in April 2019 and decided it was worth a revisit. Some say that this is the best leg of the loop and with Happy Valley, Farthing Downs, Coulsdon Common, a couple of quarries and an observatory it certainly is something special. Apart from a few yards at the start and end it was 100% countryside all the way.

For convenience I started the walk from Whyteleafe station and omitted the first section from Hamsey Green. After a judicious choice of trains from Clapham Junction and East Croydon I arrived earlier than planned just after 10:30 and made my way along suburban streets to join the loop at New Barn Lane. I rested for a few minutes to enjoy the view of Riddlesdown Quarry on the seat kindly sponsored by Eleanor and Bob. The seat was still there but somewhat neglected and buried in vegetation. Then after a long flight of 84 steps came to Kenley Common and needed another rest in the warm weather.

Kenley Common leads to Kenley Aerodrome. The official loop route runs a bit north of the aerodrome but I followed the perimeter fence to pick up the loop at the far side. A Battle of Britain Fighter base in WW2, Kenley is now used as a glider training school. It was a quiet day with one glider on the ground and a second one winched up into the air while I passed which then gave me a display in the air.

Back on the loop a pleasant walk along the narrow Hayes Lane, through Betts Mead Recreation Ground to cross Old Lodge Lane and over a stile into another field.

The observatory of Croydon Astronomical Society is passed, open to the public on certain evenings. A very excited dog from the adjacent farm seemed to be protecting the property despite calls from its owner in the distance.

A short stretch of road through Old Couldson leads to Coulsdon Common divided by the busy Coulsdon Road. The Fox pub looked attractive for a lunch break but had a large sign outside suggesting the kitchen was closed so I pressed on.

Then the highlight of the walk, Happy Valley, a glorious expanse of grass downland on the northern fringes of the North Downs. The camera doesn't do it justice, it is a most pleasant area. A couple walking stopped and chatted, they had a tourist map of the valley with numerous sights highlighted and wanted to compare where they were with what my map suggested. There would seem to be a lot more than what is highlighted in the Loop guide.

At the far side of the valley a stretch through Devilsden Wood leads eventually into Farthing Downs, a huge open space with views of Coulsdon in the distance.

Half way along is The Folly where in 1783 a local landowner planted seven beech trees. Only one of these is original, the others are recent replacements. Nearby a stone plinth with a map on top pointing out the sights, with cuthraedsdune 675 on the inscription but I could find little about what it celebrates. Then towards the end the second quarry, Coulsdon Quarry. Out of the downs for the short walk to Coulsdon South station and the train back to Clapham Junction where I lunched at the adjacent Wetherspoons before heading home.