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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

London Loop: Day 5: Hamsey Green to Banstead

The view towards Farthing Downs
Farthing Downs, in the distance, is the highlight of this lovely day's walk

The biggest challenge with this section of the Loop is getting there. Hamsey Green is in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and if you're coming from west, east or north London, you're in for a hell of a journey. The guidebook recommends going via East Croydon train station, but that's the easy part; then you've got to find the bus stop for the 403 bus (you'll probably have to ask where it is as it's a fair walk from the train station), and even then it's a good 30 to 40 minutes to Hamsey Green. Alternatively you can head for West Croydon, where the bus stop for the 403 is right next door, though it's still a long ride to the start of the Loop. I ended up taking the bus from East Croydon and getting a bus driver who didn't know the route, but a kind old woman on the bus told me where to get off; it's at the stop just after the Good Companions pub as you enter Hamsey Green.

Into the Chalk

The Corporation of London sign for Kenley Common
The Corporation of London sign for Kenley Common

From the Good Companions pub the Loop takes you past some unattractive suburban houses, but at least they're interesting. When I walked past, there were a number of drives being used as makeshift car garages, with locals hacking away under oil-blackened bonnets while other drives were stacked with cars in dire need of attention. The road ends pretty quickly, though, and the countryside kicks in with a vengeance, opening up in front of you in the way that will be familiar to anyone who's done more than a day or two of the Loop.

Along the Ridge

Croydon Astronomy Society's telescope
Croydon Astronomy Society's telescope

After the aerodrome the Loop zigzags through some fields and past an incredibly ugly block of rooms that looks like it's been transported from an urban hell-hole and dumped unceremoniously in the middle of a perfectly pleasant village and right opposite a thatched cottage (I doubt the owners were terribly happy with this addition to their village). Quickly escaping this eyesore, the path crosses a field and arrives at an observatory, home to the Croydon Astronomy Society. As I wandered past, I spotted a bloke taking pictures of the observatory with a digital camera, and it turned out that he was taking pictures for the observatory's website. He invited me in and showed me round the telescope, firing up his computer to show me the results; it was a lovely little break in the walk, and a great setting for stargazing.