Sunday 18 October 2015

London LOOP - Day 2

Sidcup to Hayes

15.01 miles / 484m Ascent / 385m Descent

Our second day on the LOOP began inauspiciously with the negotiation of a complex underpass beneath the Sidcup Bypass, and the entrance into Scadbury Nature Reserve offered little in the way of promise. 

Entering Scadbury Nature Reserve

As happens so often on this walk, though, appearances can be deceptive, and in but a few moments we were back amongst the trees with only the distant drone of traffic to remind us we were actually on the fringe of a city of eight-and-a-half million people.

Walking through the trees

A slight detour took us to the ruins of Scadbury Manor, a medieval moated manor house with a 600+ year history, currently undergoing excavation and resoration. It is most associated with the Walsingham family (from Walsingham, Norfolk) who purchased the house in 1424.

Scadbury Manor

The next few miles were given to wandering through an assortment of woods. Some of the land is owned by the National Trust, including Petts Wood.

Marker stone, Petts Wood

After crossing a series of railway lines, we reached Jubilee Country Park near Petts Wood station - the end of Section 2 of the LOOP - and took a break to eat. This was the only point we really went wrong over the entire three days: in looking for a seat, we missed the turn and the description fitted our "wrong" route as well as the right one, so we didn't spot that for a few minutes.

No damage done, we were back on track shortly afterwards. On that note, we found that although there were numerous paths in some places, the route notes and maps supplied by TfL, along with the on-path signage, were pretty good for navigating by cleanly - as long as you checked them regularly and kept your wits about you. There were also occasional information boards along the route to add extra information. 

Information board, Crofton Woods

Beyond Jubilee Country Park was a section of road walking - one of the few we encountered - along the quiet residential streets of Southborough. What was a revelation to us was just how little road walking there was on the LOOP - obviously, there was some, but wherever possible, the route kept to paths and tracks through woods, common land, meadows, heath, etc, and today we walked for 15 miles with maybe 10% of that on pavements.

Meadows beyond Darrick Wood

We stopped for a break at an open grassy area beyond Darrick Wood, with Farnborough in the near distance and the North Downs on the horizon. Autumn is a good time of year to tackle the LOOP: there is so much woodland walking en route that a colourful display of foliage is almost guaranteed - especially when the sun shines.

Autumn colours, Darrick Wood

Crossing Farnborough Way was a slow business - where was everyone going? - but eventually we were safely across, making our way through the village.

The flint-and-red-brick-built church of St Giles the Abbot

Shortly afterwards, we entered High Elms Country Park, and stopped for a cream tea at the BEECHE Centre - an environmentally-friendly building housing a cafe and education centre. Naughty, but nice: we had walked a fair way, though, and were in need of a tonic!

Past the High Elms Golf Club, we entered a rural section passing through fields and green lanes (surely Bogey Lane, the green lane running beside the Golf Club, must have been named after the course was established?). 

Holwood House

Next, we skirted the grounds of Holwood House. It's for sale (yours for £12 million) but we decided against it (too far from our friends and family). This particular incarnation of the house was built in the 1820s, but the previous house had belonged to William Pitt the Younger, and it was here that William Wilberforce is said to have told Pitt of his intention to abolish slavery.

Notes from Wilberforce's diary

The Wilberforce Oak marks the spot. The original tree is rather worse for wear, but a new tree has been planted in continuing commemoration of the event.

The original Wilberforce Oak

Descending to Westerham Road, we crossed to pass beside Keston Ponds - like many of the recreational spaces today, busy with familes and dog walkers - and on through Keston village. A mile or so later, we reached west Wickham Common - the end of Section 3 of the LOOP and our stopping point for the day.

We made the 10 minute walk to Hayes station - our accommodation was a couple of stops away - to find a rail replacement bus service was running. They were frequent enough, so gave us time for a delicious curry before heading to our hotel.

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