The arrival of trams on the tube map is great news for south London, parts of which now exist for the first time. We all knew about Wimbledon and Croydon, but it turns out there are other places inbetween which we can all now get to. Even better, some of them might actually be worth visiting. Here are a dozen tramtastic arrivals on London's social scene, easily accessed even by northerners. Who knew?
There isn't actually a bridge at Phipps Bridge, although there would have been once, but not nearby. Instead there's the Phipps Bridge estate on Phipps Bridge Road, named after a crossing on the River Wandle, once a hub of the fledgling textile industry. If that doesn't float your boat, head across the tracks to enter Morden Hall Park, a gorgeous National Trust enclave on the banks of the aforementioned river. In the order given on the sign above the entrance, there's a shop, a cafe, an exhibition centre, craft sales and a natural play area. There's also a waterwheel and some really nice parkland, but they're not mentioned, presumably because the National Trust thought nobody would be interested in the real reason they bought up the land in the first place.
Yes, Mitcham is a suburb of south London, indeed it's a historic locale with a penchant for lavender growing and a 17th century cricket ground. Unfortunately the tramstop isn't near the town centre, it's quite a yomp down London Road, so the capital's foodies and shopaholics won't be flooding in any time yet. If you do come, look out for the Georgian physiotherapy clinic with the sash windows, one of the oldest station buildings in the country, once part of the pioneering Surrey Iron Railway.
In bad news, Mitcham Junction isn't very close to the centre of Mitcham either, more a bus ride away. It's not a junction either, not properly, although it was before Tramlink took over the old single track railway line between Wimbledon and Croydon. What you really want to come here for is golf, or pre-used tyres, which are two good reasons in anybody's book.
If you alight here, don't go south - it's all industrial estate and sewage works. Instead head north and step into one corner of Mitcham Common, an enormous area of ancient grazing land on Thames gravels, and really rather lovely. This particular corner is The Meads conservation area, a lush woody hideaway with footpaths that weave between branches and blossom, and the occasional dogwalker dangling a grappled plastic bag from their wrist.
For out of town shopping heaven, come no further. The environs of Purley Way are a byword for retail therapy down Croydon way, and many's the weekend that folk will jump in their cars to join the queues trying to get into B&Q, Matalan or Asda. Best of all there's IKEA, easily spotted thanks to the twin chimneys of the former Croydon Power Station now trimmed with blue and yellow rings up top. The tramstop was even once called IKEA Ampere Way, so important is the flatpack and meatballs merchant hereabouts, but all such unpaid sponsorship has now been excised. Now Tramlink's on the tube map IKEA-hunting Londonders at last have an alternative to catching the Jubilee line to Neasden, but be warned you'll likely be sharing your ride home with punters clutching several large brown boxes.
I presume everyone comes to Waddon Marsh to stare at the gasholder. I know I did.
The park with the same name is a twelve second walk from the end of the platform, and it's a beaut. A bandstand and a skate park compete for your attention, plus there's a car park because Croydoners wouldn't come otherwise. The river Wandle wiggles through the middle, edged with irises and damselflies, although it's not the proper river, more an artificial channel artfully landscaped to form a drainage basin. Be warned that this is not the Wandle Park in Colliers Wood, because that's been on the tube map for decades, and is only half the size.
If you're seeking to get away from it all, in a way the tube map doesn't usually provide, come to Coombe Lane. A few big houses and an independent school intrude, but the remainder of Coombe Woods is a thickly undulating wilderness threaded with footpaths. Avoid the dodgy-looking blokes conspiring in the undergrowth, and head for the unexpected central viewpoint where the land drops away affording panoramic views towards Upper Norwood and half of the Shirley windmill. Perhaps best of all is what looks like an isolated bungalow by the car park, in truth a Chinese restaurant, for all your plush-seated dim sum needs.
Of all the places we'd never heard of before the trams came, New Addington is the most outlying. You can even walk to Surrey in fifteen minutes, but only if you think to walk down the unmarked footpath down the side of the recycling centre, which we guess most people never do. New Addington is a local authority estate on a former farmland slope, now home to tens of thousands of people, a swimming pool and Meat Express High Quality Butchers. If you enjoy artisan coffee and cocktail hangouts, best stay away, but if you've ever fancied staring at a London estate agent's window and thinking "blimey, that house looks almost affordable", this could be your kind of place.
In excellent news, there is an actual arena at Arena. It's the Croydon Sports Arena, a purple and pink confection which during the winter months is home to soccer legends Croydon FC, but from May to August hosts fixtures for the Croydon Harriers Athletics Club. Nextdoor expect to find an academy with the word Arena shoehorned into its name, who this September plan to begin lessons in the brand new building they hoped to open last September. Non-sporty and non-academic types should instead make their way to South Norwood Country Park, a vast wetland'n'meadows nature reserve that was formerly a sewage farm, which looks its best in early summer and may not at other times.
Unless you live in Penge there are absolutely no reasons to come to Avenue Road, save one, which we think compelling. The author and poet Walter de la Mare moved into 195 Mackenzie Road after he got married, and wrote his early classic Songs From Childhood in an upper room overlooking open fields. The view today would be tramline and more houses, not quite enough to inspire poetry, which may be why Walter moved out and wrote The Listeners a few streets away. But what a thrill to loiter by the hardstanding and gaze up at his blue plaque on the gable, above the speckled net curtains, and reflect on a great life lived herein.
And here's the most amazing discovery on the June tube map, the existence of Beckenham. It had been lurking out here in what used to be Kent for years, but only for those in the know, whereas we can all now reach it by going to Croydon on the Overground and then taking the tram. Unusually the shopping streets are quite nice, almost upmarket in places, from Pierluigi's Italian to Hak's Barbers in the Old Fire Station. Be sure to stop off in Kelsey Park where the ducks always need feeding, and watch out for the milepost outside Nat West which reveals it's only X Miles 2 Furlongs to London Bridge. Congratulations to Beckenham for hitting the bigtime, and how fantastic that a town so clearly named after the inventor of the tube map has finally found its way onto his greatest creation.