diamond geezer

 Thursday, May 25, 2023

Peripheral Postcodes: SM7

SM is the postcode for Sutton, specifically Sutton and Morden. I don't know why they didn't go with the more obvious SU but I do know ST, SO and SN were already taken. Six of its seven postcode districts are entirely (or almost entirely) in London but the seventh is virtually all in Surrey. My task was to visit the non-Surrey bits as part of my quest to visit every postcode district in Greater London this year. There are two distinct chunks so I did both for good measure, aided and abetted this time by London Loop section 6. I've blogged about these outlying spots several times before, sorry, so my task today is to try and say something different. [map]

Woodmansterne is a commuter village sprawled across chalk downland on the northern edge of Surrey. It has some seriously hilly avenues, a church that would have been medieval if only the Victorians hadn't rebuilt it, a couple of shops and a village sign carved into a fallen tree trunk. But if you walk up Carshalton Road past the village hall, the scout hut and the primary school, then just a tad past the sports ground, Woodmansterne's last two cottages are accidentally in London. They have pointy gabled roofs, carriage lamps and trees bursting with pink blossom, plus the locally-unusual opportunity to vote in next year's Mayoral election. Just opposite is a stile into a hayfield alive with wildflowers where a couple of horses have an unexpectedly good view of the Shard above the treeline. And crossing two more stiles in quick succession brings you to somewhere that might just be familiar...

This is Mayfield Lavender Farm, the purple people pleaser, which is about to be lauded across excitable media as the best selfie-backdrop in the capital. Right now we're still slightly too early in the season for any colour to be apparent, peak season being July and August, indeed the farm doesn't open to the public until Saturday 10th June. But it's still possible to get up close and see row upon row of low spiky bushes thanks to a longstanding public footpath which cuts across the middle of the site. Mayfield Lavender must hate that it exists, given they charge for entry at the main gate, hence the sign by the stile which they urge ramblers to read. They could have been passive aggressive but in fact they've been more than polite - don't stray off the path, no picnics, no drones, no commercial photography and absolutely no picking the purple stuff.

My stroll was alas visually premature with only a few stalks poking up from the resolutely green rows of bushes. But I still got to savour the unmistakeable smell of lavender throughout, a low sweet note like opening up your nan's wardrobe and taking a sniff. A man on mini-tractor zigzagged up and down the field keeping the edges of the rows in check, slowing down briefly as he passed through the pergola. Over in the newer-planted sections two staff stooped over the smaller bushes doing proper horticulture by hand. In the lower field the lone red telephone box awaited its purple cloak and the hordes with their cameras that'll surely follow. Down by the gate the temporary tents that'll house the shop and cafe have yet to be erected. And if you want to explore further that'll be £5, up from £4.50 last summer and £2 five years ago because the cost of living crisis also affects blooming lovely fields. [SM7 3JA]

Across the road is one of Sutton's nicest parks, which is a shame because hardly anyone in Sutton lives anywhere near it. Oaks Park is on the site of The Oaks, a large 18th century country house once owned by the 12th Earl of Derby. It was while he was living here that the two most famous races at nearby Epsom got their name, 'The Oaks' in honour of his villa and 'The Derby' allegedly on the toss of a coin. Carshalton Council bought the estate in 1933 and fully intended to turn most of it into a golf course and housing but WW2 intervened, after which the Green Belt won out and the once grand house was in such a poor state it had to be demolished. Standing in Oaks Park today you can still see that its trees are a bit too good for a municipal project (and if you pick up a copy of the Oaks Park Tree Trail in the cafe you can discover what many of them are).

The formal garden is recognisably lordly too, focused on a grotto that was once the centrepiece of an ornamental glasshouse. At present the wisteria is wonderful, but even after that fades the palm trees still exude an air of exclusivity. Much of the lower end of the park is chalk grassland and is almost entirely frequented by dog walkers, as far as I could tell, delighted to have somewhere this large to exercise their rumbustious charges. The free car parks are extremely important in this respect because otherwise I suspect the place'd be nigh empty. The other key attraction is the aforementioned cafe, which must be doing well because a single storey extension and a veranda are currently being added. Amongst its customers this week were a lot of retired couples, several very patient hounds and a group of four police officers on a break enjoying an al fresco beverage. [SM7 3BA]

The other slice of SM7 within Sutton is a good 45 minute walk away... 'good' in that you can walk to it by following London Loop section 6. This perhaps-familiar route takes you into the Earl of Derby's woods, round the back of some livery stables, up an ancient rutted lane, along the side of a closed category women's prison, across the chalky delights of Banstead Common, over a single track railway line and through the middle of a golf course. Crossing the subsequent dual carriageway is the low point and is followed closely by Banstead station, a gloomy bunker unhelpfully located on the outskirts of town. But it's brilliantly located if you live in Cuddington, an isolated anomaly of 300 homes adrift within a golf course and connected to the rest of Greater London only via a private road.

I wrote about Cuddington in 2020 so I won't rake over the details again. But it's got the right postcode so here we are, plus I think one of its three roads meets the criterion we explored last November - it could be London's longest unbroken street. Let's check it out.

This is Higher Drive, a sweeping crescent of prime detached houses that's three quarters of a mile in length. It bears off by the clubhouse, curves along the Surrey border and joins back onto Banstead Road by the five-bar gates. Normally you'd expect a connecting road in the middle, or even a footpath, but here that's impossible because three of the holes at Cuddington Golf Course get in the way. This means that if you want to walk round the block - and I saw a resident dogwalker doing exactly that - you face a circuit that's a minimum of a mile and a half. Recognising this the Post Office have kindly installed a pillar box halfway down, but otherwise London suburbia doesn't get any more cut-off than SM7 1PW.

Every house is different because the estate's architects recognised the appeal of individuality. Every house is detached because next-door neighbours are for losers. Every plot is broad, indeed there are only just over 100 houses along the entire street. And yet it's not snobby, despite the million-pound price-tags, thanks to the cosy interwar design and the openness of the front gardens. Nobody down Higher Drive has installed security gates and an entryphone, for example, whereas plenty of cheaper streets elsewhere include a paranoid empire builder or two. But plenty of homeowners here have the builders in at present, judging by the amount of vans and scaffolding in evidence, collectively occupied in extending upwards and outwards as planning permission permits.

All that stops Higher Drive (1200m) definitely being the longest unbroken street in London is a short cul-de-sac at the western end. It doesn't have a separate name because the half dozen houses round the loop are still part of Higher Drive, but a perfectionist might deem this T-junction to be unacceptable. If that's the case then the unbroken crown perhaps still rests with Wickham Chase in West Wickham (1100m) or, if intermediate footpaths also disqualify, with Elgin Road in Seven Kings (710m). Whatever, if you lived in the middle of Higher Drive you'd certainly know it was a long way out, indeed anywhere in London feels a long way away from this disjoint patch of SM7.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24  Jun24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Jun24  May24
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards