Park Langley slots into the suburbs between Beckenham and West Wickham, and obviously I've been before. But I'd never been to the off-piste southern half, the avenues beyond the Chinese Garage, because the relevant grid square is skirted by all the nearby main roads and narrowly missed by the railway to Hayes. It's a grid square in three very distinct parts - one residential, one recreational and one very very private. I may not have managed to explore all of them.
Park Langley is a prime garden suburb, begun just before WW1 and laid out with sweeping leafy avenues. Residents know it's special because they've put up signs on the entry roads describing Park Langley as an Area of Special Residential Character, which risks coming over as a bit smug. I spotted no flats, only delectable detached homes and a few affable semis on spacious individual plots. Most homes have parking for at least three cars out front, often full, and still space for a bit of lawn and a splash of shrubbery. It's rare that a house looks like its neighbours, indeed if you were ever trying to score a full house in the I-Spy Book of Gables Park Langley would be a good place to start. The streets are inordinately busy with learner drivers - six drove slowly past me on Elwill Way - and the pavements inordinately quiet. If I had to pick one word to describe it all I'd pick 'comfortable', because 'special' is marginally overdoing things.
Parklangley Golf Club opened in 1910 because the developers thought it'd encourage the right kind of people to move in. They still come for a midweek round, crossing Wickham Way in their harlequin shorts and baseball caps while pushing their bulging trolleys in front of them. Non-members are barred from the course by a multiplicity of signs warning No Public Access and No Walkers Permitted, which is a shame because the course is the only significant chunk of open space hereabouts. Also sealed off are the two sports grounds down St Dunstan's Lane, one of which boasts a lacklustre hospitality chalet called the Lawnmower Shed and the other of which is for Old Boys of a college in Catford. Their rugby club's motto is "where ambition meets fun and tradition", and I think I went off them right there. The other land you can't get onto forms the Langley Park Campus, home to three large modern schools, and I ended up wondering where on earth people walk their dogs round here because the one thing Park Langley doesn't have is a park.
In 1919 the mansion at Langley Court was bought by Henry Wellcome to become the site of his chief pharmaceutical research laboratories. Great works took place until 1995 when Wellcome was taken over by Glaxo who chose to close the campus down. Forty acres were sold off for luxury housing, entire sprawling streets of the stuff, with the first residents arriving just in time for the millennium. The developers called it Langley Park, a nominal switcheroo, and even when I saw the sign saying 'Private Road' I assumed I'd be able to take a look. Not so. I tried both entrances and found both fully gated, not just the inbound and outbound roads but the pavements too. They weren't even gates you push, they slide at the behest of the porter in his all-powerful lodge and he had no intention of sliding for a random pedestrian. The vehicle gates of course continued to flap regularly, both for residents and for deliveries, because it is a very big estate.
I may have visited TQ3867 but there will always be a large chunk of Park Langley that remains unvisited.