The London Loop in Croydon

The London Loop is a route that runs around the edge of the capital. In the course of its 145-mile journey it runs through and alongside suburban streets, farms, woods, river meadows, recreation grounds, canal towpaths and forgotten bits of heath. The Loop (London Outer Orbital Path) was conceived in 1990 and has only recently come into being. It has been planned to run between public transport nodes and divides up naturally into fifteen comfortable day walks, beginning on the south bank of the Thames at Erith and running clockwise around the capital to end at Coldharbour Point, opposite Erith on the Essex bank.

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Threehalfpenny Wood

Threehalfpenny Wood

The Croydon section of the London Outer Orbital Path begins in Threehalfpenny Wood, at the former county boundary between Kent and Surrey. A broad track through the wood continues beyond the boundary stone for some 500 meters before turning to the right to come out into the open area of Shirley Heath.

Shirley Heath

Emerging from Threehalfpenny Wood into Shirley Heath

Shirley Heath is a large tract of unimproved rough grass, dotted with  trees, growing on a sandy soil. The greater part of the heath is occupied by a golf course and this part is effectively a detachment. Keep initially to the left-hand side of the heath, pass across a line of trrees not shown on the map, then curve around to the right to merge with a prominent track.

As the track approaches the backs of the nearby houses of Spring Park take a lesser track to the left. This track runs close to the northern edge of the heath before coming out into Shirley Road.

Shirley Road

Turn right and walk along the road. This is rather a desirable part of London, with the heath to the left and the occasional glimpse of large, secluded houses to the right. After about 500 meters you reach a more densley built up area centred on a busy crossroads. Take the road going slightly to your left.


This is Shirley, a suburb of Croydon itself. As you walk along the road the open space of Sirley Church recreation ground appears to your right, and there's a view across the valley to Sydenham Hill and the TV mast at Crystal Palace. Just over 200 meters beyond the crossroads turn sharp right onto a footpath.


This is Pinewoods, and here you have a patch of woodland to your left and a school playing field to your right. You can choose the surfaced track by the school fence or a parallel path just to the left within the wood. The path follows the boundary of the wood to the right around the southern edge of the school playing field and comes out into a residential road.


Follow this road to the Upper Shirley crossroads and go straight across into Oaks Road, another pleasant residnential road.

Addington Hill

Once again you have woodland to your left. About 250 meters beyond the crossroads go to the left into the wood. The path runs close to the road initially but then curves to the left and heads uphill over uneven ground.

Woods, Addington Hill

Follow the path up to the substantial viewing platform at the top of Addington Hill, from where you can gaze out across Croydon town centre and, further afield, to central London far to the north.

Addington Hill and the view northeastwards towards Sydenham Hill

Views from Addington Hill; central London, and Croydon town centre

A linear topograph along the edge of the viewing platform indicates the highlights of the view, which range from the heights around Wimbledon and Richmond far to the west, through central London (the Telecom Tower and the taller buildings in the City are well seen) to Sydenham Hill and its TV masts to the northeast.

Leaving Addington Hill to the south

Leave the viewing platform along the grand avenue to the south. As you approach a set of buildings curve to the left, to walk past the buildings and into an area of woodland. After about 200 meters look out for a lesser track to the left that gives access to Coombe Lane tramlink station, a useful place to halt the day's walk if you started out from Keston Ponds in Bromley.

Coombe Lane tramlink station

The Tramlink line is a recent construction, partly following former railway lines, that runs westwards into Croydon town centre and onwards to Wimbledon. To the east it runs to the housing development of New Addington. Cross the tracks and follow the path to the east, alongside the road. At a junction just by the track crossing, cross the road and backtrack a little, then turn left into Heathfield Park.

Path alongside tram tracks

Heathfield Park

Heathfield Park entrance

Immediately inside the park gates go half left onto a gravel track among thick shrubbery. Follow this until it descends a flight of steps to reach a round pond. This is a lovely area and it invites you to linger. There is a group of cottages on the far side of the pond, while Heathfield House itself lays just to the left.

Heathfield Park

Go clockwise round the pond and leave it to your right, following a path up a flight of steps. Pass the car park and turn left into a residential lane.

Leaving Heathfield Park.

Bramley Bank

Lane to Bramley Bank

At the far end of this short lane the path disappears into an area of woodland known as Bramley Bank, a local nature reserve. A short distance into the wood brings you to an open area to your left, with views across farm country to New Addington.

Bramley Bank nature reserve

Stay on the path through the wood until you come to the end of a residential road, go slightly left along this road, then turn right again into Littleheath.

Bramley Bank

Littleheath Wood


Your new path runs slightly downhill for a few paces and then comes out onto a stretch of grassland. Walk nearly all the way across it, and then turn left into the trees by a bench seat. You're now on a path through a little ribbon of woodland poking into the locality of Selsdon. You'll notice houses to either side through the trees.


Littleheath Wood

Eventually you come out onto a little green. There is potential for confusion here - the correct route of the LOOP goes to the right immediately before the green, along a path just within the trees, though it is poorly maintained and rank with vegetation. After about a hundred meters you come out onto the busy Selsdon Park Road.


The Green

Cross the road into Ashen Vale, a residential road. After a short distance the road turns right, but the LOOP continues straight on, along an old bridleway that has been preserved among the new housing developments on either side. Proceed along this path, running between hedges and fences. The bridleway continues across two roads and eventually disgorges you into Selsdon Wood.

The Selsdon bridleway

The bridleway and Selsdon Wood

The path runs right through Selsdon Wood to the south east, a distance of around 800 meters. It emerges adjacent to housing and open fields, at which point you turn right to follow the track. Trees soon enclose the track on both sides once again. This track marks the boundary between Croydon and Surrey, one of the few points where the LOOP actually runs along the Greater London boundary. Here, it's coincident with the Tandridge Border Path (Tandridge being the district council area to your left), and also the Vanguard Way.

Selsdon Wood


The approach to Elm Farm

The LOOP, Tandridge Boundary Walk and Vanguard Way emerge from the woods and follow a short track to a road. Strictly speaking we're outside Croydon and within Tandridge district now, but it seems silly to create another page just for the short incursion into Surrey. Cross the road and follow a track southwards to the locality of Moorcroft.

Moorcroft and the track by Elm Farm

Walk over the small green and find the track immediately beside Elm Farm. This is a delightful stretch, running between hedges, fields and pastures. It drops down to a dry valley then rises quite steeply through a patch of woodland, then runs past more fields to cross a stile into Kings Wood.

The route from Elm Farm to Kings Wood

Once across the stile you're back in London again. Turn left and follow the track, past Kingswood Lodge and around the edge of Kings Wood. Once again this is an especially pleasant stretch. After about 400 meters the track becomes a residential road. Follow this to the centre of Hamsey Green.

The LOOP near Kingswood Lodge

Hamsey Green

Entering Hamsey Green

Hamsey Green

Hamsey Green turns out to be a busy little place. An outpost of Selsdon, it has a good number of shops (including two cafes) and a bus service into Croydon should you wish to break the walk here. At the crossroads there's a pleasant little green ahead of you beside which is the Good Companions pub, and on the east side is Hamsey Green pond, with a small surround of grass and shrubs. Unfortunately neither the green nor the pond environs have any seating.

The Croydon - Surrey boundary runs straight through the middle of Hamsey Green and you follow it again now as you cross the road beside the pub into Tithe Pit Shaw Lane. The right side of the road is in Croydon and the left side, complete with its school, is in Surrey. At the end of the road a sizeable area of rough pasture is spread before you.

Dipsley's Shaw

The pasture is known as Dipsley's Shaw. Follow the track running onwards from the end of the road, along the north side of a hedge initially. Once again you're back in Surrey, the boundary having run along the back of the houses behind you to your right. It subsequently follows the next field boundary westwards and you converge with it once again, crossing back into Croydon as the track turns half right to run northwest.


The Whyteleaf valley now appears down to your left, at the foot of a slope of grass and scrub known as Skylark Meadow. The LOOP is going to run around three sides of this meadow but first it passes an Ordnance Survey trig pillar, the only one on the LOOP, marking a surveyed height of 160 meters above sea level.

The LOOP above Kenley, and the trig pillar

Look out for a prominent hedge to the left, at which you turn to run downhill along the edge of the pasture towards Kenley. The path drops quite steeply, but after only 200 meters or so you turn left again, to run down the slope at a much shallower gradient. The lower slopes of Skylark Meadow have fenced-off areas in which sheep graze. There are a number of paths and ultimately it doesn't matter which route you choose for it will eventually converge with a substantial track knows as Riddlesdown Road.

Skylark Meadow and Riddlesdown Road

Riddlesdown Road was a majot thoroughfare from London to Lewes and Brighton back in the days of horse travel, but now it has reverted to a bridleway and can be enjoyed in peace. It heads east of south, dropping gradually to cros a railway line and come alongside the back gardens of Kenley.

Riddlesdown Road reaches the main road at Kenley

The track merges with the main road soon after. You don't see much of Kenley - cross the main road to take a lane that crosses a second railway line by a footbridge, continue past a school and then cross another main road into New Barn Lane. At the end of this short residential road an alarmingly steep flight of steps takes you back out of the valley up to the downs.

New Barn Lane and Kenley Common

After the brief suburban bustle of Kenley all is sudden peace and quiet up here on the downs. Our route runs steadily onwards through semi-open woodland. About 500 meters beyond the last houses of New Barn Lane it's necessary to form left onto what appears to be a lesser track. After a short section of woodland you emerge at one corner of a fenced-off open field. Using the gates, cross this field on the diagonal to enter another short section of tree cover. Beyond the trees you merge with another track and turn half right to follow it. It becomes Golf Road, a pleasant drive with a scattering of properties either side.

Kenley Common and Golf Road

Old Coulsdon

Golf Road ends at a busy road just south of another part of Kenley. Go to the right to follow the road north fpr about 200 meters, but before the first houses find a footpath off to the left. This is the locality of Betts Mead. The path opens out onto a grassy meadow with houses just visible to the left. Keep near the left-hand edge of the field and pass through a gap into another field. Stay near the left hand edge once more. At the far side of the field there's a little flight of steps down into a lane, not far from the Wattenden Arms pub.

The LOOP at Betts Mead

This is a confusing spot. You reach the lane at a bend, a track goes off to the south west and a field-side footpath leaves to the south. It's easy to take the track by mistake but in fact the footpath (which goes off half left as you reach the lane) is the correct route. Follow the path close to the edge of the field, making more or less for a white dome a couple of hundred metres ahead. This is a bit of an unkempt and untidy area, once part of Kenley Airfield's outbuildings. You converge with a drive (third image below).

Scenes just west of Kenley airfield

The drive enters a copse of trees and here the official line of the path goes half right for a narrow, winding route through the undergrowth that is difficult to find. More likely you will follow the drive to a junction of lanes, at which point go to the right. Both this track and the official route through the undergrowth converge, and LOOP waymarks point you downhill along Waterhouse Lane. At the far end of the lane cross the road (first image below) and walk uphill along Rydons Lane.

Rydons Lane

Rydons Lane is a good deal more rural than the map would suggest. It's narrow, windy, and for the most part consists of open ground to the right and a number of secluded and occasionally opulent houses to the left. I was impressed by some of the gardens and water features. At the top of Rydons Lane you cross a road into Coulsdon Common and follow a wide track through the trees.

Coulsdon Common

After about 300 metres you reach a main road. There's a bus route to Croydon should you wish to break the journey here. Cross into Fox Lane, pass the Fox pub on your left, and follow the lane through a slight right-left dogleg adjacent to a car park. Now you find yourself walking along a straight track alongside a ribbon of trees with a huge open pasture to your left.

Fox Lane

The Fox Lane car park and the track alongside the pasture

This track runs for half a kilometre and is pleasant enough in itself, but it turns out to be just the precursor to some of the finest downland scenery on the LOOP. It approaches and converges with Happy Valley, a beautiful interlude of sloping grassy meadows, crisscrossed by hedgerows, dotted with trees and fringed by woodlands.

Happy Valley

There's a great many footpaths over the downs of Happy Valley, and to be honest you could choose to walk anywhere you like as it is open country. The approved route, however, is obvious from the map and slants downhill to  a junction of hedges then uphill again on a prominent chalky track, to run adjacent to the edge of the wood for a few hundred metres.

The downland scenery of Happy Valley

The path enters  Devilsden Wood eventually, and there follows a pleasant walk through woodland scenery on a broad track heading gradually uphill. Eventually the track breaks out from the tree cover to disgorge you onto the grassy ridge of Farthing Downs.

Devilsden Wood

Farthing Downs

You emerge onto Farthing Downs at a car park. There's a toilet block here, and there's usually a van selling teas and light snacks, a welcome facility as it's the first refreshment outlet on the route since Hamsley Green. Farthing Downs is a long, narrow hill ridge sandwiched between the built-up bits of Coulsdon on either side. Views are extensive and semi-rural. A motor road runs along the ridge but no doubt you'll wish to a void it and take a line off to one side; the west is preferred for the superior views.

Farthing Downs

You come to a group of beech trees at a path crossroads, a spot known as the Folly. One of the trees is the sole survivor of an original group of seven planted in 1783. A fingerpost gives you the destibnation of each track, and there is a pretty good view over Greater London from here. Continue northwards and downhill along the narrowing wedge of downland to reach the first residential road in Coulsdon.

The Folly

Arrival at Coulsdon

Once you reach the first residential road follow it out to the main road, and walk along this a short distance until you see Reddown Road on the left. A littlw way along here is a footpath giving you access to Coulsdon South railway station.

Coulsdon South station

Coulsdon South has trains to Croydon and central London, and is a good point at which to end a walking section. To continue the walk cross the footbridge to the London-bound platform and walk out to the forecourt. An adjacent taxi firm has a hot drink vending machine in their foyer that the public can apparently use, otherwise the town itself (about five to ten minutes walk to the northeast) has shops and a couple of cafes.

The LOOP in Coulsdon

There's a fairly big road junction immediately beyond the station, and in 2005 when I walked this section some major civil engineering works were in progress in connection with a second railway line bypassing the station. Get yourself past all this to the edge of the town proper and go left at the fork (first image above) into Lion Green Road.  At the top end of this road there is a complex junction. Negotiate the lights and the traffic to take the road going half left uphill, Woodman Road (second image above). A short distance along, find a footpath to the right (third image above) that takes you over yet another railway line to deposit you on Woodmansterne Road.

Railway crossing and Woodmansterne Road

Turn left onto the road for about 100 metres and then go half right. This is still Woodmansterne Road and it climbs steadily uphill. In about 500 metres it reaches the borough boundary and here you pass out of Croydon and into Sutton.

Woodmansterne Road

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This page last updated 29th October 2005