Hello dear readers and thanks for checking out the tenth day of my walk round the London LOOP orbital path. If you’ve been reading the previous posts then just skip down to the read more button as the next paragraph is merely a cut and paste of an earlier one for the benefit of readers who have just landed on this post.
The London LOOP is a little over 150 miles of designated and way-marked public right of way which is just concentric to the M25 motorway and as always I start with a quick word of advice. This post is one of a series and it will make more sense if you read from the beginning as it will explain what lunacy had compelled me to undertake such a large project.
Thanks for clicking and welcome to this instalment.
If you are reading this sequentially you’ll know that I had called a halt last time in the village of Shirley which is in Section 4 of the LOOP according to both my book and the website. Despite having got home late that night with rather a few pints on board I was up and at it the next morning. OK, it was nearly afternoon when I took off but you get the idea.
Actually, I was quite proud of myself. Now that I was back walking the LOOP after my nine month hiatus I was right up for it again. Although I was still probably only two thirds of the way round, I was definitely getting the idea that I could actually complete this fairly hefty project and do it in a time (in terms of days walked) that I would not feel ashamed of.
Back then to Norwood Junction on the Overground which is a straight run for me thankfully and the first thing I did was take an image of the Cherry Tree pub in daylight as I had only seen it in darkness the night before and then one of the rather splendid South Norwood town clock.
The clock was erected in 1907 to mark the Golden wedding anniversary of William and Eliza Stanley, much loved local residents and we’ll be meeting William in a moment because right opposite the clock is a Wetherspoons pub named for him in the Wetherspoon habit of often naming their pubs for local notables. So who was he and why was he so well regarded. Some research is in order I feel.
William Stanley was born in Islington in 1829 one of a family of nine siblings and, although he had limited formal education he was something of a child protege, teaching himself a host of different subjects. His Father forced him to leave school at 14 to help him in his ailing building business and when that went South he became a Pattern Maker’s Improver at an engineering works in Whitechapel near where I live where he promptly invented a new type of wheel spoke. He had learned to work with both wood and metal whilst working with his Father but the wheel spoke, which he never patented, was only the beginning as we shall see.
Stanley took a shop in Holborn (London) to manufacture mathematical and drawing interests. He soon moved onto inventing a new type of stereoscope but again did not patent his design which was promptly copied everywhere although by then he had amassed enough capital to really get going. He invented all manner of mathematical, drawing and surveying instruments and by that time he had he had learnt his lesson about patents and had no less than 78 registered in the UK and the USA.
Not content with all that, he designed his two houses and a factory, not to mention designing, founding and funding the first Trades School in the UK. He was always donating to good causes and in the last 15 years of his life gave about £80,000, a phenomenal sum in those days, to various charities. It doesn’t stop there. He was a member of several Royal Societies (astronomical, meteorological and Arts) amongst others, he was a playwright, children’s author and writer of political literature. He was a composer and photographer and he had some of his oil paintings exhibited.
Like Lord Avebury who we met in the last instalment, he was a true polymath and all round “good egg” although coming from a diametrically opposed background to His Lordship. I am constantly amazed at the work ethic of some of these Victorian entrepreneurs, it really must have been a time of huge opportunity if you were prepared to apply yourself.
I had no idea about this remarkable man at the time and sadly I cannot return to drink his health in the pub named for him as Wetherspoons unusually sold it on and it is now called the Shelverdine Goathouse, whatever that might refer to.
I have mentioned often before how strange things happen to me when I am researching and one such occurred whilst composing this piece. I had never previously heard of Stanley or his Trade School but on a totally unrelated matter I happened to be reading an online biography of Captain Sensible, singer / guitarist with punk band The Damned and damn me (yes, I meant to do that) but he attended Stanley’s Trade School which I had only found out about hours before. Strange.
I had skipped the Cherry Tree this morning as I had already visited it but that was a pint within a couple of hundred yards of my start point so I thought I’d get going as I wasn’t even at the LOOP yet. You can probably guess what happened. The Portmanor pub happened, that’s what happened.
It was OK although I believe it had a bit of a name as being a soccer hooligans pub frequented by the hardcore of Crystal Palace supporters. It is all completely irrelevant now as, you’re ahead of me again I suppose, it has been sold and is going to be made into yet more rabbit hutch flats (apartments).
A bit more of a walk brought me to the complete reverse of the Portmanor situation. When I walked past the Alma Tavern in April 2014 it was the sorry sight you see in the image but, bucking every trend known to the British licensing trade nowadays, it has apparently re-opened which pleases me no end. Maybe it is not all doom and gloom after all.
Eventually I got back to Shirley windmill which I had rolled past the previous evening and taken the rather dodgy image I posted in the last instalment so I thought I’d better take a decent one or two to rectify the situation. Built in 1854 it was one of the last windmills to be built in the UK as they were falling badly out of favour by then. It has been restored to fully working order and is one of only four windmills in greater London that is open to the public. I must visit some time it is open.
By now I was almost back at the path at last but there was one more hurdle to overcome, I had to walk past the excellent Surprise Inn which had been partially responsible for my “downfall” the previous evening. I couldn’t resist and after my excellent meal the day before I was equally powerless to resist a quick snack of home-made pickled herrings which is a foodstuff I am completely crazy about. These were a first class example of the art of pickling and I thoroughly enjoyed them. The grub here really is good. I still had some idea of getting a bit of walking done and so I reluctantly left after one pint.
I was soon in Addiscombe Hills where a bit of a climb took me to a viewing platform with excellent views North over London and West where you can apparently see Windsor Castle 26 miles away on a clear day. Good as my new little compact was, it doesn’t really do justice to the fine vista I was afforded but hopefully it gives some idea.
There were some more good views as I descended and crossed the local tramway track at Coombe Lane station before crossing a very busy road (use the pedestrian crossing a few yards off your direct route) and then it was country time again and into Bramley Bank Nature Reserve.It was here that I saw my first bluebells of the year which reminded me of the lovely displays I had seen when I had started the LOOP the previous year. Had it really been that long?
This was all once part of the grounds of Heathfield House,a 19th century mansion bought in the interwar period by Richard Riesco, a famous solicitor, philatelist and ceramics collector. The house still stands but is not open to the public.
Bramley Bank soon become Littleheath Woods, 61 acres of lovely woodland surrounded on all sides by residential areas, it truly is an oasis of calm. I found another lovely display of bluebells here and I don’t know why but bluebells always make me happy, I just think they are so pretty.
In Bramley Banks you cross another way-marked trail called the Vanguard Way which has a lovely little story attached to it. It is a 66 mile route from Croydon to Newhaven in East Sussex or “from the suburbs to the sea” as the website has it. The word vanguard conjures up images of something military from history but the truth is far from that.
In the mid 1960’s a group of young people used to meet up regularly to go rambling round what was then British Rail’s Southern Region. Coming home one Sunday from a ramble on a particularly crowded train the young ramblers could not find enough seats to sit together so they “invaded” the guard’s van. A bottle of Drambuie was produced (it is amazing what people have in their rucksacks) and the rest, as they say, is history with the Club still flourishing well into the 21st century. Vanguard Ramblers sounds so much better than Guardsvan Ramblers, don’t you think?
When you leave Littleheath Woods you are almost immediately into Puplet Wood, although I am damned if I can find out what the name means. If it refers to a family name it is an extremely uncommon one as the 1891 census show only two families of that name in the UK (one of them local to here admittedly) and, yes, I am sad / compulsive / thorough enough to have looked that up. I’ll let the reader decide which.
Perhaps someone way back in the mists of time saw the itsy bitsiest, cute little doggy imaginable although I think it is a bit fanciful. On reflection, someone else obviously thought along the same lines as me as they have very cleverly shaped a piece of felled timber into the sculpture you can see in one of the images which may well be a puppy although for some obscure reason I thought it looked rather like a dragon. I told you my mind works in strange ways and I have to wonder if it was the sculptor’s idea to put the tennis ball in the beast’s mouth or some artistically inclined dog walker.
What is not at all fanciful at all is my next statement that Puplet Woods on a bright Spring morning is an absolute delight as is so much of this section. We have taken one of our brief forays outside the administrative boundaries of Greater London and are now in the Tandridge Council area of Surrey, although still very close to Croydon which is in the metropolis.
After a short roadside walk I was soon back on a well-surfaced bridleway and yet another lovely bluebell wood before it was back to more busy roads and, regrettably, another site of sadness as I came upon a large hoarding saying that the site had been acquired by the Lidl supermarket chain for development into yet another of their outlets.
I just knew by looking that it had to have been a demolished pub and a quick look at the Lost Pub website, to which I contribute, shows that this was where the Good Companions once stood. Obviously the companionship was not good enough to stop it being destroyed by corporate greed. According to Google Maps it is still overgrown wasteland behind an unsightly hoarding as of June 2019, what a shame.
This is the area of Hamsey Green in the larger area of Warlingham and I knew that was the end of Section 4 of the walk so I decided to find a pub that was still standing and call it a day. It certainly hadn’t been the longest day I had had on the LOOP but it was never meant to be a route march and I just fancied it.
When I did find a pub, it was an absolute beauty as you can see. The White Lion in Warlingham Village. If you are looking for the “real deal” of old British pubs, this is for you. It is not some 19th century reproduction but the genuine article with the middle section dating to 1467 when it was a farm. It was converted to pub use in 1784 when George II was on the throne and the barely pubescent Pitt the Younger, who we met at Wilberforce’s Oak in the last instalment, was Prime Minister.
The pub is an absolute beauty and, although it has been brought into the 21st century with a sensitive refurbishment inside, it is still a complete rabbit warren of passages, snugs, nooks and crannies. A word of warning though. The British people of antiquity were a lot shorter and buildings of this age were not built for 6’5″ giants like me so mind your head. I didn’t, to my slight embarrassment and despite plenty of signs everywhere.
If I had been harbouring any notions of maybe pushing on a bit further that day the White Lion quickly disabused me of them and I spent a very pleasant evening in there before getting a bus back to Croydon and an easy Overground trip home.
As I said, it was not a huge day’s walking but very pleasant one way and another and I was right back in the groove for walking and getting this LOOP under my belt which I was to continue doing the next day. If you care to join me I’ll show you an old RAF airfield that is still in use, a trig. point (I’ll explain that if you don’t know what it is), an observatory, the most useless gate ever and naturally a few great pubs so stay tuned and spread the word.