5♥ Coulsdon & Purley/Caterham & Warlingham Not every district proposed to become part of Greater London in 1965 made the cut. Coulsdon and Purley made it in, and probably would've rather not, whereas Caterham and Warlingham were left outside, and remain resolutely part of Surrey. Today a seemingly arbitrary dividing line wends its way across the suburban landscape, with one side genuinely part of the Home Counties and the other merely looking the part. In trying to work out where to visit for today's post I realised I'd been to Coulsdon, Purley and Caterham but never Warlingham, so headed there, then threw in a bonus trip to Woldingham for good measure.
OK, how to get to Warlingham? From here I think the Overground to Croydon and then the 403 bus. Weather forecast looks OK. I'll pack the suncream just in case. Who let that school party onto the train? Must be an end of term trip. We didn't have to wear hi-vis in my day. I see they're all wearing special stickers too. What an excitable racket. I can hardly concentrate enough to read my book. Actually it's not a very good book is it? The cover makes it look a lot more interesting than it is. Never mind, I can take it back to the library on Monday.
West Croydon bus station's odd. And new-ish. Not bad looking, a bit like a chalet. But how on earth am I meant to cross the tram tracks to reach it? Would it have been so hard to add a direct pedestrian crossing? Everyone just walks across the tracks anyway. Oh god, the speakers are playing muzak. I quite like the electronic display showing when all the next buses arrive. Shame the lettering's so small you can't read it from any of the bus stops. Why are there never Countdown displays at bus stops in bus stations? And why are there three police officers on patrol here? All they're doing is standing around watching proceedings. Easiest job ever. They should be somewhere else being useful.
Bus to Warlingham. Top deck front seat obviously. How far round the houses are we going? Although the houses are quite nice round here. I wonder if my auntie's in. Hang on, it's raining. It wasn't supposed to do that. Aha, I recognise Hamsey Green, this is where the London Loop goes through. Didn't that wasteland used to be a pub? I see it's going to be a Lidl. Rain's coming down a lot harder now. I can hardly see out. Warlingham looks quite splotchy. I'll stay on until Sainsbury's. Let's hide in the shelter for a bit. I see everyone's had the same idea. Well this is a bit grim.
OK, if those old ladies can brave the weather, so can I. It's only rain, I'll be fine. Where's High Lane? I can see why there's a sign warning cars with satnavs to stay away. Gosh, there's almost a good view down there. Oh, the entire valley is filled with a golf course. Rain's easing. Is that a wolf coming the other way? Ah no, it's got a man with it. It looks hungry. Good, it's on a lead. Ah, the path goes straight past the clubhouse terrace. I don't think these golfing gentlemen appreciate having a man with a rucksack interrupting their al fresco drinks. I shan't stop. Which way does the path go?
I guess this is quite pretty on a decent day. Today is not that day. I could always hide out in that garden centre for a while. But it's only drizzling now, and quite frankly I'd rather get wet. Woldingham has how few buses a day? Sheesh, this is what happens when you live a couple of miles outside London. There again, the station has a brilliant service. It's down here isn't it? Typical that the only shop outside the station is an interior designer. Ticket office has just shut for the day. Village of two thousand people has a ticket office open for six hours every morning, and yet all the ticket offices on the tube have been closed.
Let's try following a bit of the Woldingham Country Walk. Useful that there's a map immediately opposite the car park. I'm not sure whether the track through that farmyard is a public footpath or not. Ah bugger, here comes a dog not on a lead. It looks like it owns the place. Such an over-confident swagger. Damn, the owner is on horseback, so can't directly control it. Hang on, I'll just retreat up this side path for a bit. And wait. And wait. And back on track. The footpath must be across the edge of this field, somewhere. Nice old brick bridge over the railway, weight limit three tonnes.
The footpath heads off into deep woodland across the mouth of the tunnel. It's a bit overgrown. It'll be fine if I duck. Ouch that was a nettle. Path goes on a bit, doesn't it? Ah, I appear to have most of last night's thunderstorm soaking into the bottom of my jeans. Hopefully it'll dry off before I bump into anyone else. But I don't think I'll be meeting anyone else on this path, not in the middle of a weekday. If I had an accident here and fell unconscious, I wonder how long it'd be before anyone walked past and noticed? I am not going to have an accident here and fall unconscious. This is fabulously isolated. I adore remote-footpathing midweek.
Ah, here's the tiny church. I shall take a free history leaflet from the plastic dispenser on the gatepost. Only somewhere as rich as this would the leaflet be printed on glossy paper with a single colour photo. Ooh, the door opens. What a wonderfully trusting country we still live in. OK, it's nice, but it's not as quaint inside as I was expecting. More chapel than church. On the lectern by the font are a prayer book, a copy of the electoral roll, a history of the church in a plastic folder, the guidebook for a Maltese chapel and a copy of the parish's Policy for Safeguarding Children 2017. I'll only read one of them.
Some of these houses are enormous. Not unattractive, but enormous. Reassuringly unfortress-like too. I wonder which one Davina McCall lived in. And Jordan. Oh look, someone's dropped a half-full packet of Morrisons Iced Slices on the pavement. Reduced to 30p too. How very un-Woldingham. The telephone box looks a bit forlorn now it's had its phone removed. I wonder what the flag up the pole on the green is. So many private roads everywhere. I missed the Zumba class at the village hall this morning. All the essential shops for a highfalutin commuter village are here. A mini-supermarket, an estate agent, a catering company, a beauty parlour and a saddlery. That saddlery'll outlive them all.
I'll try a different footpath back to Warlingham. Sadly there are no butterflies up Butterfly Walk. I blame the weather. It's quite a climb. Ah, the next field contains cattle. Beef cattle with horns. Does that mean they're bulls? Please let them be at the bottom of the field, not up here where the path is. Phew, they're at the bottom of the field. I shall risk it. I wonder how quickly bulls can run up a hill if they want to. They don't seem to be moving. I shall speed up anyway. Lovely meadow, and a lovely view, if only I had time to enjoy it. The next gate seems a very long way away all of a sudden. And... through. That's better. Nice coal post.
Time to take a shortcut through the nature reserve. It's surrounded by houses, but there's absolutely nobody else here except me. My jeans still have specks of seeds stuck to them. They're not quite dry yet, but then none of me is. I think the suncream was a mistake. Let's see what's going on in the latest parish council minutes. The road outside the retirement flats has been badly resurfaced. Several entries for the flag/logo competition have been shortlisted. Timetable changes mean the morning rush hour buses are now too close together. The chairman is very concerned about flyposting for the Sausage and Cider Festival.
Time for one last look around the village green. It's mostly shops and a war memorial. The flowerbeds are immaculate. The bank has just closed for good, and so has the petrol station. A concrete mixer is parked outside the fish and chip shop. If I ever own a wine bar I will never call it Chez Vous. Ludovic charges £9 more than Mickaël for a cut and blow dry. Only in well-off commuter villages are there boutiques selling 'shoes, clocks, jewellery and collectables'. Alas it seems half-day closing is still a 'thing' round here. Is the bus home due yet? Damn, it appears to be school-chucking-out time.