London: the step-by-step guide

Click to follow
the tube advertising for the current Picasso exhibition in Croydon has done the borough's image no favours, inviting us to be amazed that anything so cultural should emerge from such a barren place. In the same way walkers often sneer at Croydon as a concrete jungle, although it embraces some of south London's finest hill and woodland tracks.

From the car park, go to the right of the changing rooms and head into Lloyd Park, skirting a soccer pitch to pass to the left of some trees in a dip, then making for a large old hollow oak standing alone in front of another line of trees ahead. Go into the trees and turn right on a path that goes uphill across grass.

Keep on through a thin copse to another meadow and fork right where the path divides. As soon as you see the concrete and wire fences of the golf club ahead, and the Crystal Palace TV mast away on the left, turn right on a path that eventually runs downhill, beside the fence, to a white- painted vehicle barrier.

Here turn left and take the path that passes a farmyard on the left and then dissects the golf course, with players both sides of you. This leads to Shirley Road, where you turn sharp right and follow the road slowly uphill.

As you cross Postmill Close you will see the old windmill on your right, now the decorative centrepiece of a modern housing estate. Keep ahead on Shirley Road to take the first turning on the right, Oaks Road. About 100 yards on, take the footpath on the left into the wood, just before a telegraph pole.

Keep ahead now, uphill into the trees, ignoring other paths until the climb starts to get steep. Here turn right on a stony path that drops into a dip before climbing quite steeply. Near the top, turn left on a wide grassy path that curves to the right through heather-covered slopes and silver birches.

Reaching a large clearing, turn right to where the Royal Garden Chinese restaurant nestles in the trees. In front of it, turn right on a surfaced path to a viewing platform, offering broad views over south London.

Now go back in the direction of the restaurant, soon diverting on to a narrow grassy track that forks to the right. Turn right at the main path and take the right-hand fork when you enter the woods.

Where the path runs out turn right, descending into a deep depression and up a clear path on the other side. Turn right where you meet a wider path that follows the top of the ridge. Soon you are walking between split chestnut fencing. Turn left down some rough stony steps, also fenced, and at the bottom of the dip keep ahead, through pine trees, up the steep bank on the other side.

Turn left at the top and after 100 yards turn right on a level path. Follow it through pines and silver birches downhill towards the road. Where paths cross keep ahead, staying roughly parallel with the road until you emerge at a car park. Cross the road into Conduit Lane.

On the left beyond the junction is the entrance to Coombe Wood Gardens, a public park where you can stop for refreshment.

If time presses you can turn right here, left at the crossroads and along Coombe Road to the car park. The rest of us turn left from the gate along Conduit Lane, passing the council nursery and keeping ahead on a bridle path where the road ends.

Stay on the main path, but where it splits into near-parallel paths take the left-hand option - it is higher and drier. On reaching a white house, pass to the right of it and go downhill to Croham Valley Road. Cross the road and walk up the golf club drive, then fork right on the signposted footpath to the right of the club house.

After you enter the woods, turn left on a wide path that passes a parish marker and follows the edge of the golf course. After about half a mile, just after passing a green seat, fork right, away from the course, then turn right uphill to the very top, where you turn right on a broad path offering wide views to your left.

At a clearing, a plaque marks the site of a Bronze Age round barrow. Keep ahead past it, through another clearing, and soon the path descends to a road junction. Crossing Bankside on your right, keep ahead down Croham Manor Road, with the Croydon skyscrapers ahead.

The road ends at Croham Road, where you can turn left for South Croydon Station. Otherwise keep straight ahead on a rough-surfaced lane that passes between garages and walled back gardens to reach Coombe Road, then turn right for the car park.

The route is based on one in `Discovering Country Walks in South London' (Shire Publications, 1982)

Distance: Five and a half miles

Time: Nearly three hours, plus visit to Coombe Wood Gardens.

Car Park: At Lloyd Park, Coombe Road (opposite Castlemaine Ave)

Public Transport: BR South Croydon (15 min. walk from start: turn left on Croham Rd, left up Campden Rd, and right on Coombe Rd.)