South of Purley the landscape splits into several steep dry valleys. Some channel main roads, some carry railways, and these are the paths more generally travelled. Other valleys merely form thin tongues of isolated suburbia that eventually fade away into woody countryside, and Old Lodge Lane is one of these. You can follow it aboard the 455 bus, not that you ever would unless you lived here, which is why I never had.
Grid square TQ3159 has quite the cross section, with two high ridges to either side and a deep groove down the centre. I'm going to split it into five parallel stripes and make five separate north-south journeys, each emblematic of a different landscape. High woodland, low bus route, high housing, higher woodland, higher housing. It's properly atypical London.
1) In Wood
Seriously, the wood is called In Wood. Some of it is properly ancient and some is younger infill, with the oldest trees to be found slightly to the south in the delightfully-named Dollypers Hill Nature Reserve. I entered via the footpath at the turning circle, or what looked like a footpath weaving over pebbled earth, dry pebbles, moss and scattered logs. It still looked plausible as the litter lessened and the gradient steepened, until I found myself one short scramble from what I hoped was the summit track. I'm glad nobody saw me struggling to stand upright on the loose chalk, grabbing at branches and quietly yelping when one of my timber handholds dislodged. With backside brushed, I continued along the upper path through glorious woodland, plenty thick enough to block out the golf course to the left and suburbia below me to the right. Note to self: next time follow Canon's Hill, or maybe enter via Old Coulsdon instead.
2) Old Lodge Lane
The 455 bears off from Brighton Road near Reedham station, its purpose to serve the estates up Old Lodge Lane. The Old Lodge in question appears just after the railway bridges and used to mark the entrance to the Asylum for Fatherless Children, later Reedham Orphanage, later Reedham School. My fellow passengers included a gym-going teenager, a Tesco shopper and an old man in a yellow Arsenal shirt with POPS 70 written on the back (which I reckoned was at least a decade out of date). TQ3159 kicks in just before the foot of Lodge Hill, a residential climb with a 14% gradient and a tennis club, because finding somewhere round here flat enough to play football would be difficult. The 455 follows the foot of the valley past smart semis and mid-century detacheds, eventually pulling up by a postwar parade whose sole businesses are Shades salon and a Costcutter/Post Office combo. The remainder of Old Lodge Lane is uninhabited woodland (no footway for 1 mile), and not ever TfL are charitable enough to send a bus down there. Bus consultation update: Route 455 is to be withdrawn, maybe in March 2024, and route 312 extended to cover Old Lodge Lane instead.
3) Reedham Park
The bus takes the low road but the place to live is along the high roads... Haydn Avenue, Wontford Road, Roffey Close. Their homes hug the hillside, below street level on one side and above street level on the other, therefore ideal so long as you don't mind a lot of steps up or down to your door. Some have even placed what's normally patio furniture in their front gardens - a table and chairs for enjoying the view across the valley to In Wood. I spotted several roofs with ridiculously tall TV aerials, because line of sight doesn't get you very far round here. Rest assured it's not as posh at I might have made it sound, more 'comfortable', if you assume the old man I saw walking the streets with a faraway glazed look while clutching a hammer wasn't typical.
4) Unnamed woodland strip
At regular intervals along the highest roads a public footpath climbs between two houses to enter a thin half-mile-long strip of woodland. I've checked old maps and it doesn't seem to have ever had a name, it merely divided fields in Purley from fields in Kenley, and was left alone when the housing developers came. Again you can't see far from within, only trees and the back of an occasional fence, but it must make half of an appealing dogwalking circuit for residents on both sides plus a useful place to swipe holly berries at Christmas. I particularly liked the knobbly tree by the fingerpost at the top of Firs Lane, it felt proper sylvan, although the wood is at its narrowest here so that's mostly an illusion.
5) Hayes Lane
TQ3159's final stripe of housing is the broadest, and flattest, and geographically more Kenley than Purley or Coulsdon. It spreads to either side of Hayes Lane, originally Hays Lane back when it was a weaving rural track past a few cottages and a smithy. The latter survives as a house called The Old Forge, now markedly out of place amid stockbroker boltholes and commuter avenues. Hayes Primary School is a newbuild with an extraordinary silvery frontage formed from metal panels resembling the holes of a cheesegrater. Were you to continue south you'd eventually reach the end of Old Lodge Lane, at that unexpectedly rural pond you meet halfway round London Loop section5 (between the airfield and the observatory), but obviously I've been there already. Bus consultation update: Hayes Lane has never had a bus service, but the already-wiggly 434 is due to be wiggled this way when the Sutton/Croydon bus changes are finally implemented.
And that's my most southerly formerly-unvisited square duly wrapped up.