Hayes to Coulsdon
16.58 miles / 741m Ascent / 635m Descent
Monday morning in the capital: thousands of workers crammed into trains and buses, headphones on, no social interaction except by phone, everyone alone in a crowd, heading into work. We, on the other hand, are heading out of town in a half-full-at-best train carriage, returning to Hayes to rejoin the LOOP. That's the sort of commute I like!
By 8.00am, we were on the way again, backtracking from Hayes station to West Wickham Common to pick up the LOOP once again. After following a narrow path behind shops, we crossed the road and entered Coney Hall Recreation Ground, where we crossed the Prime Meridian (0˚ Longitude) on a line directly south of Greenwich, one side being the "east" and the other side "west". Imagine that: walking two hemispheres in the same walk!
|Crossing the Prime Meridian near
West Wickham Common
We spent the morning passing through a series of open spaces and woods: Sparrows Den Playing Field, Spring Park, Threehalfpenny Wood, Shirley Heath and Kennel Wood, crossing the Borough boundary from Bromley to Croydon along the way.
|Checking the way in Kennel Wood
After a half-mile stretch along Shirley Church Road (nice houses) we skirted a school, crossed into Oaks Road and turned left into Addingham Hills, London's largest surviving area of heathland, with great views across the capital from the viewing platform, including Canary Wharf and the 02 arena.
Coombe Lane, Heathfield House and Bramley Bank Nature Reserve came and went. We stopped for elevenses about an hour early, sitting on a bench by Broadcoombe.
As we crossed an open grassy area on the way to Littleheath Woods, we were halted by an elderly couple. "Are you doing the LOOP?" they asked. We got chatting: they had done it and really enjoyed it, had gone on to do the Capital Ring as well, and were in the process of walking the Thames Path. It seems that those who undertake these walks are often pleasantly surprised and inspired to do more!
|Sweet Chestnuts, Littleheath Wood
The path through Selsdon followed a gravel path between the houses before climbing into Selsdon Wood. We stopped briefly for something to eat. Since starting at 8.00am, we had been expecting to pass some shops where we could buy bread, but such is the desire of the path to avoid "civilisation" it was five hours before we passed one!
Through Puplet Wood, past Elm farm, across Mossyhill Shaw: we picked up Kingswood Lane, eventually coming out in Hamsey Green - the end of Section 4 of the LOOP. By now we had completed over 10 miles and were quite hungry, so we stopped at a nearby greasy spoon for lunch and topped up our food supply at the adjacent shop.
|Looking across Riddlesdown to Whyteleaf
Back on the path, we were soon back into the countryside - crossing Riddlesdown, descending to Kenley, the steep climb up again to Kenly Common, by Betts Mead Recreation Ground. Just after the pub on Fox Lane, we walked into a large open space and down into Happy Valley.
|A happy chap near Happy Valley
After passing through Devilsden Woods, we came out into the open on Farthing Downs. The end of our trip was in sight, but the all round views were a real treat at end the day.
|Descending towards Coulsdon
The descent into Coulsdon was easy enough, and a few turns later we were crossing the bridge to the station, just in time to catch the 4.30pm into London Victoria.
|Coulsdon South station
From Victoria, we caught the tube to Euston and walked to St Pancras. On the way, we called in at the British Library, and ate our snack in the plaza outside.
|Statue of Sir Isaac Newton outside the British Library
As Sir Isaac Newton, mathematician, physicist and scientific genius, sat concentrating on his geometry, so we sat and contemplated the 3-day arc of the London LOOP circle we had just described. Started as something of an experiment on our part, we had really enjoyed our long weekend. The transport links had worked well, the path was interesting throughout and greener and more rural than we expected, and the going underfoot ideal for a wintertime walking project.
There and then we decided: we'll be back for more. And it didn't take a genius to work out why!