Day One: sections 5 & 6

Today (16/1/22) we started the epic walk that is the London LOOP (London Outer Orbital Path). From now on I think I will just call it the Loop for simplicity! The Loop is a 242km walk around the perimeter of Greater London. The starting points are accessible by public transport, although sometimes that’s not very practical. For more information about the walk click on this link.

Who are we? We, Steve, Michelle and me, are friends who like walking. Steve and Michelle have walked many long distance paths – Thames Path, Hadrian’s Wall, South Downs Way to name just 3. Michelle and I have walked the Northumberland Coast path, and last year we walked around the Isle of Arran.

Misty at the start, but it soon cleared.

Why the Loop? I live in London, and it’s easy to think that if you live in an urban area then it’s very difficult to get out to the countryside. But it really isn’t. We are very lucky in the UK that there is a long tradition of public footpaths, many of which cross private land. There is a very good explanation of what public footpaths and rights of way are in the UK at this website.

So today we set off for the first walk of what I think will be many. We decided not to start at section 1 because we are based in west London, and the first section is miles away in the south east. Sections 5 and 6 combined to make a walk of approximately 10 miles. Taking two cars meant that we could leave one at the start and one at the end. The big advantage of this is not having to retrace steps and effectively double the walk. On Sundays trains and buses are not as frequent and small stations are sometimes closed, so today’s walk was definitely one when having a car (or 2) was a bonus.

Up the steps through the woods

The weather forecast was not too promising – cloud all day, and temperatures up to 8 deg C. No rain though – always positive. However – by late morning the cloud and fog lifted, the sun came out and it was a gorgeous sunny January afternoon.

Section 5: Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South station. This section took us though fields and woods, and up and down some steep hills, which were very slippery with all the mud. Kenley aerodrome was very important in WW2, and there are still remains from this time such as earth banks (blast bays) that protected Spitfires from enemy fire.

The sun appeared as we entered Happy Valley, which in the spring and summer is home to many rare flowers and butterflies. Even in January it was beautiful. Coming away from Happy Valley and Devilsden Wood (in the spring it is carpeted with bluebells and wood anemones) we walked along Farthing Downs with incredible views across Surrey towards the city. There were public toilets here, and we had a short stop for a drink and a snack, sitting in warm sunshine.

Happy Valley
Views from Farthing Downs across to the City
Coulsdon Station – end of our first walk section

Descending to Coulsdon station we realised we’d completed the first section! 6 miles (9.6 km) DONE!

Section 6: Coulsdon South station to Banstead Downs. The first part of this section goes through residential streets, but it’s only a short part, and anyway it’s quite fun looking at people’s houses and gardens!

Just past the station an old mile marker. It’s really not that far to Westminster.

Then we walked along next to ancient hedgerows and through rough fields to a road. Crossing the road we walked through lavender fields. In January there wasn’t much to see, but in the summer these fields are very popular with visitors coming to see the stunning lavender. The next place we came to was Oaks Park. Oaks Park has a long history as an 18th century country house/sporting estate owned by the 12th Earl of Derby. The Earl started the Derby and Oaks horse races at nearby Epsom race course.

Lavender fields in winter – not a lot to see!

There is a nice little cafe here, so we stopped for a cup of tea and slice of cake. Onward we went along some very muddy paths, and across Banstead Downs golf course, where a few people were out enjoying the afternoon sunshine, whacking the balls about (I don’t play golf at all as you can probably tell!). Then we had to cross a 3 lane dual carriageway, the A217 Brighton Road, via a gap in the central reservation. It was quite terrifying, especially as I am nervous road-crosser at the best of times 😂 and apparently this section of road is known as Mad Mile locally. We lived to tell the tale.

There was a lot of mud!

The final mile or so crossed more golf course, and then we were back at the car! 4.5 miles (7km) DONE!

I am already looking forward to walking the next section in a few weeks time. Subscribe to get all the updates!

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