diamond geezer

 Friday, March 25, 2011

  Walk London
  CAPITAL RING
[section 4]
  Crystal Palace to Streatham Common (4 miles)


Half as long as the last section, but at least twice as good. And much more hilly. Follow the ups and downs below.

The Capital Ring exits Crystal Palace Park down the road outside the station,
then heads straight back up the other side. Follow the official sign and you'd walk straight into a newsagents, whereas instead you should be taking the next street on the left. The hillside's covered with houses, one of which (nicknamed 'Fossil Villa') has a blue plaque commemorating the man who designed the nearby Park's famous dinosaurs. Thank you Benjamin - they may be anatomically incompetent but Crystal Palace wouldn't be Crystal Palace without them. The only greenery on this first stretch is a small playground with a dogmess bin. It gets better.

Westow Park is a tumbling grassy slope, kicking off with a bench and a sort-of view round the back of the local Sainsburys. The park marks the source of the River Effra (which I've investigated in some detail before, so I won't here). There's no sign of its former path until you descend as far as the Upper Norwood Recreation Ground [photo], where one patch of marshy grass never quite seems to dry out. The granite drinking fountain overlooking the football pitch is unconnected to the subterranean stream, although my feet got wet on the footpath by the pavilion thanks to an unseen leaky pipe. Bursting spring flowers, canoodling dogs on heat and acres of rolling turf - it was all unexpectedly pleasant.

The Ring escapes the Effra Valley up suburban Hermitage Road. At the top, on Beulah Hill, I came a cropper waiting in vain at a zebra crossing. Some four-way temporary traffic lights had been installed, and not one single stream of traffic was willing to pause during their allotted seconds to let me cross. Houses up here on the ridgetop are larger than usual, presumably because elevation commands a residential premium. One such home once belonged to Joan and Alan Warwick, founders of the Norwood Society, whose grateful members have since erected a plaque in their memory.

The next descent is via Biggin Hill - not the famous south London airfield but its barely-known SE19 namesake. Halfway down there's a fine view over the allotments towards the plains of Croydon, with the twin chimneys of IKEA Ampere Way an instantly recognisable sight. Deep breath along the next alleyway if you like inhaling pot-smoke, or deep breath beforehand if you don't. The treat at the end, past the tennis courts, is Biggin Hill Wood. The Ring merely skims through along a tarmac contour, but I enjoyed the chirping solitude of the first decent bit of woodland since ten miles back.

Back to roadwalking through the outskirts of Norbury, before another climb to the highlight of the walk, which is Norwood Grove [photo]. This early Victorian mansion occupies high ground over Norbury, and was once owned by shipping magnate Arthur Anderson. He made his fortune with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, now P&O, but chose to live landlocked in South London. The house and its estate passed to the Nettlefold family, still remembered on a commemorative plaque, and was then snapped up by the council just in time to prevent the entire hilltop being covered by suburbia. Instead the surrounding slopes are a delightful oasis of formal gardens and tumbling parkland, and an ideal spot to sit and stare across miles and miles of rooftops [photo]. Dog-walkers aren't allowed inside the fenced-off enclave around the house, so at this time of year can approach no nearer than the mudbath around the perimeter. We humans can enjoy an ornamental fountain, the orangery and the promise of summer glories. [photo]

At the end of the drive, past the old lodge, are the headwaters of the River Graveney. Unless its been raining you'll not spot these at all, although recent precipitation creates a zigzag trickle across the path.
↑ Having crossed the boundary into Lambeth, it's upward onto Streatham Common. That's very pleasant, but what's really special is The Rookery alongside, behind the hedge. This hidden garden used to be part of Streatham Spa, and now boasts a selection of formal beds, herbaceous borders and general loveliness. Later in the season the White Garden is well named, and a magnet for bridal shoots, but it was the rockeries and their trickling water features which drew the photographers on my visit. Several elderly couples sat smiling on benches on the upper terrace, gazing down at the giant cedar tree and beyond, while a much younger pair flirted around the lower sundial. Must return. [photo]

Where the main path turns, close to the daff-filled cattle trough [photo], is the Rookery Cafe. I decided to pop in for a takeaway roll, but my bacon bap took so long to prepare that I ended staying for half an hour. No complaints. This is a proper park eaterie, officially the San Remo Cafe, with one counter for independent ice cream and another for cooked breakfasts and other snacks. Two dear ladies did their best to cope with the late lunch rush, not helped by the panini machine being on the blink and a long queue of families with bubbly children. The room's got a retro-crèche feel to it, with Barney the Dinosaur and the Rugrats painted on the wall, and everyone sat at green formica tables on wooden chairs just like I had at primary school. I sat quietly in the corner with a mug of tea and raised a toast for the cafe's longevity.

Streatham Common goes on a bit, with a fast-track path known as the Horse Ride down one side. Don't rush, the view doesn't get any better. The High Road crosses at the bottom of the hill, which seems perverse, except the descent continues more gently beyond the church. Turn left just before the ice rink, assuming it's still not been closed and Tesco-fied, for the final section down Lewin Road. Ring 4 terminates beside a railway footbridge and some traffic humps, which is a bit of a let down to be honest after earlier heights. I fear Ring 5 may be mostly similar.

» Capital Ring section 4: official map and directions
» Who else has walked it? Mark, Stephen, Darryl, Paul, Tim, Richard
» On to section 5 (or back to section 3)


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream