When I set out to visit every postcode district in Greater London this year, I didn't realise it would get this extreme. This quartet are tiny, none of them more than 20 acres in size, created where mostly-Surrey KT postcodes marginally overlap the boroughs of Kingston and Sutton. One's three-quarters of a couple of streets, one's sixteen houses and a cul-de-sac, one's three farmhouses and one's a pub and a row of cottages. Come with me on a sunny safari to the southwesternmost tip of London. [map]
KT17 covers the northeastern chunk of Epsom & Ewell, mostly the Ewell bit. It pretty much halts as London begins but a couple of streets, by a quirk of the pen, manage to straddle both. One is Sparrow Farm Road, a residential buffer running down from the railway line to the main road. If you know the area it's just south of Cuddington Recreation Ground where the Beverley Brook rises, but that's all KT4. This is quintessential interwar suburbia, all gabled semis and bay windows and occasionally pebbledashed. Half the addresses in Richlands Avenue lie inside my target zone but only those on the south-facing flank, the remainder being resolutely Surrey. Live on one side of the road and your council tax goes to Sutton, die on the other side and you contribute to the South East region's mortality rate rather than London's.
It's not just the bins that change, the traffic regulations do too. Sutton demands 20mph and no vehicles over five tons whereas Epsom & Ewell allows 30mph but no parking on the verges. Down by the primary school I had to wait awhile while contractors on a gantry grounded in London sawed through surplus branches on a tree in Surrey. A short run of larger semis on London Road also somehow manages to fall within KT17, one of whose residents I managed to seriously perturb. I'd stopped to take a photograph up her frontage at the precise moment she drove back from the shops, obstructing her access, and after she parked was swift to wind down her windows and shoot me daggers. She continued to glare for a couple of minutes after I walked off sheepishly, and I will not be returning to KT17/Sutton any time soon.
The Bonesgate Stream (great name) generally divides Chessington from Ewell and KT9 from KT19. But at the William Bourne pub the boundary shoots out by about 300m and within that bulge a teensy strip of addresses manages to have the 'wrong' postcode. Numbers 543 to 573 Chessington Road are the outliers, the only houses on this lengthy road to dribble into Greater London. They're never going to get estate agents excited but they're chunky enough, and the bungalows on the corner look to be rather cosier. What's more exciting to the peripheral postcode hunter is that a single cul-de-sac also slips into the outlying district, and this is the only place you'll see KT19 on a Kingston streetsign.
Headley Close is a modern dead end with twin spurs and a long run of separate garages. The houses are of two types, either front-gabled or side-gabled, and the front gardens actually feature a bit of grass and not just hardstanding for parking. At the first house the grape hyacinths in the front lawn are already in bloom and one resident nips between front and back gardens through a cat-shaped hole cut into the gate. At the last house a lofty tree has extraordinary 'bubbles' of greenery amid branches that still haven't burst into leaf. And you have no need to know any of this, nor that the local bus stop is named after this very close, unless you too have a particular fascination with visiting obscure postcode anomalies.
It's time to head to Malden Rushett, the last village before Leatherhead, which is essentially a crossroads with a pub and a garden centre. But not to the village itself because that would be too easy, instead I required a ten minute hike into the rural wilds down one of the aforementioned crossroads' arms. This is the only peripheral postcode I've never passed through before, mainly because no bus route goes this way, although I did get very close when I followed the highly-intriguing ChessingtonCountryside Walk. Rather than taking the appealing footpath across a burgeoning field I instead had to stick to the narrow pavement along Rushett Lane as cars rushed by, so at least it was well named. Before long I crossed the Bonesgate Stream, which is back in the reportage again but this time very close to its source. And eventually a farm entrance opened up, it being one of just three Greater London properties in KT18.
Oakfield Farm is mostly stables and mobile homes and has a wayward vibe, a feeling enhanced by the two dogs who yap overexcitedly behind their five-bar gate should a rare pedestrian go by. Keep going and you eventually reach Glenmire Farm, another architecturally undistinguished amalgam of shedlike buildings, but this time with substantial front gates and warning notices about CCTV. They've even written their postcode on the fence to confirm yes, this really is KT18 7TR. Finally comes Old Glanmire Farm, a timbered-brick pile so hideous it looks like it belongs in one of the tackier bits of Essex, and then the border slices through and suddenly you're in Surrey. Park here for Epsom Common which is sprawlingly marvellous, indeed that proved to be a much nicer walk.
The southwestern corner of Greater London hangs down like an unwieldy epiglottis. And at the dangliest end, a full mile south of the Malden Rushett crossroads, lies The Star public house. It's doggy-friendly and carvery-enabled, and quite the midweek bolthole for pension-spenders enjoying fizz and a grilled chef's special. Even better this is a pub that bothers to explain its history on its website, and so we learn that the long room was once used as a school and that until a boundary change the rates were paid 80% to Kingston and 20% to Mole Valley. But it's also properly isolated, being surrounded on its non-London sides by thick forest and a golf course, so The Star has to rely very much on passing trade and a dozen adjacent cottages.
Not the two houses across the road, they're in Surrey, but the row of motley homes beyond the hedge are serviced by the Kingston dustcart every Tuesday. It feels almost villagey here with a dandelioned verge out front and unkempt gravelly drives, but officially all this comes under the wider umbrella of Chessington parish. The final building before Rushett Common belongs to a Clay Pigeon and Shot Gun Cartridge Supplier, such is the rural economy in these parts, indeed The Star pub also runs its own Shoot every 2nd and 4th Sunday. Best of all you can get here by half-hourly London bus, this enclave of KT22 being approximately halfway along the 465's epic trek from Kingston to Dorking, and that's how I dropped in yesterday. Four extraordinarily tiny KT overlaps duly ticked off.