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Into the woods..

The London Loop Part 11: West Wickham to Coulsdon South

The loop so far has been rather gentle, but this section had some more challenging changes in elevation, Snowdonia it is not but the North Downs which todays walking crossed in a number of places still requires you to stop and catch your breath occasionally!

Starting back in West Wickham the path soon enters Spring Park Woods the another of the many areas of woodlands owned by the City of London Corporation in South London.

Threehalfpenny Wood

The next area of woodland Threehalfpenny Wood marks the boundary of the London Borough of Croydon and the beginning of the climb through Shirley up onto Addington Hill with it’s great view of central Croydon and the City of London and Dockands beyond.

The view from Addington Hill

The route now heads south for a considerable distance through Littleheath and Selsdon Woods until finally turning west once again just north of the village of Farleigh.

Walking into Hamsley Green is was lovely to cross paths with a group doing their Duke of Edinburgh Expedition walk, such a brilliant activity !

Selsdon Wood

Beyond Hamsey Green the only Trig Pillar on the loop is found at Dispey Field, the route then drops rapidly into the valley carrying the A22 and East Grinstead Railway line before climbing back up again this time using steps onto Kenley Common.

Going up! steps to Kenley Common

At this point I’m afraid the Avgeek in me took over as I spend a very happy hour or two wondering around Kenley Aerodrome, one of the best preserved Battle of Britain airfields complete with dispersal pens and the old officers mess – and oh I might have had a pint at the Wattenden Arms to toast “The Few!”

From Kenley the route descends one again into the rather charmingly named “Happy Valley”, before once again climbing through some more woodland up onto the chalk grassland of Farthing Downs.

Farthing Downs

And from Farthing downs its all downhill into Coulsdon and the end of this section at Cousldon South Station.

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To the sound of a Spitfire

The London Loop Part 10: Bexley to West Wickham

Well is was such a pleasant day, I walked for most of it covering 16 miles or more than 25km, a bit longer than usual and two sections of the loop from the official guide.

The first section continues along the banks for the River Cray, upstream now the water is remarkable clear and the highlight of this section is the Five Arch Bridge above a weir in the Foots Cray nature Reserve.

Five Arch Bridge

A little further on is a useful signpost informing me I have only 44 1/4 miles to go on the London Loop, so I have completed 2/3 all ready!

Passing through Foots Cray a commuter village I expect the estate agents might call it, the route crosses Sidcup Place Park and then crosses the busy A20 before entering the first of many woods to be experienced today, Scadbury Park’s Little Wood.

Little Wood

From Little Wood the route then enters Park Wood and eventually Petts Wood, the woodland which in this case has given it’s name to the local suburb. The bridleways here are quite difficult to cross the lack of rain for the last month or so having hardened them into a tough craggy surface and I needed my walking boots !

Walking into the town of Petts Wood the path rapidly crosses three railway lines via three footbridges, before this section of the route finishes at the edge of the Jubilee Country Park.

I continued South walking through the residential streets of the “other” Farnborough towards High Elms Country Park.

The Other Farnborough, Kent

High Elms Country Park was a nice spot to take a break and grab an ice cream, walking the loop during the final stages of lockdown (hopefully) you really miss the ability to pop into a pub for lunch ! The Park was the site of a large Manor House owned by the Lubbock family which was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1967, the foundations of the building are still visible as is the Eton Fives court.. every house should have one!

Eton Five Court

As the route of the Loop starts to finally head West I was becoming more and more aware of the sound of aircraft operating out of Biggin Hill just a few kilometres south of the route, and was pleased to spot one of the Heritage Hangars two seat Spitfires in the circuit… (must do that one day…)

The route climbs onto the North Downs and passes the Wilberforce Oak, the site of a conversation between William Wilberforce and Prime Minister William Pitt the younger that began the process to abolish slavery in 1788.

The Wilberforce Oak

The final section of the walk skirts the southern edge of Hayes common, finishing rather unceremoniously in Coney Hall, just a kilometre away from Hayes BR Station.

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South of the River !

The London Loop Part 9: Erith to Bexley

And I’m back, after a COVID-19 lockdown break, back walking the London Loop, and now South of the River !

Quite a contrast to my last visit to Purleet on the other side of the River on a cold and wet November, instead a beautiful sunny April Saturday..

The QE2 Bridge on a Sunny day!

This is officially the first section of the walk, starting in Erith (pronounced Earith) it is not the most picturesque section of the walk but captures the fact that this is a city walk and cities are a place of work !

The first section from Erith railway section to the mouth of the River Darent, is quite industrial passing through Erith itself and then a series of breakers yards until you reach a windmill and the banks of the Thames across Crayford Marshes

The Industrial city

The first notable feature of the walk for me was the Darent Flood Barrier part of the extensive flood defences of the Thames and I guess a little brother to the more famous Thames Barrier at Greenwich.

The walk now heads south and then west along the River Cray across more marshland, heading South and West is going to be the general direction for a while !

Crayford was like much of England waking up to it’s first Saturday following the end of the latest lockdown and looked like any other busy commuter village on the outskirts of London, this is a good thing !

Crayford awakes

The route continues west along the banks of the River Cray, passing below the busy A2 London to Dover Road and then on to Bexley.

The Busy A2

An easy restart then covering just over 8 Miles.