Walk 25 NEW BECKENHAM to HAYES 3 hours
Routing note: This walk connects in New Beckenham with walk 24. It also connects at Elmers End with Tramlink walk 3.
Although Hayes is a suburban terminal, I have chosen to offer a connecting walk along the London Transport bus line from Hayes to Chartwell. This walk bears number 26.
The train line between New Beckenham and Elmers End was opened in 1864 as a branch railway connecting in New Beckenham with the pre-existing railway from London Bridge to Beckenham Junction. Until 1997, trains continued beyond Elmers End towards Addiscombe, but they have been replaced on this section in 2000 by a Croydon Tramlink service.
The train line between Elmers End and Hayes was a branch line opened in 1882. It had originally been planned to cross the North Downs towards Westerham but the local company who built the railway decided to sell it on completion to a larger operator and the expensive tunnel unter the North Downs was never built.
When the main train line opened in 1857, there was no station here and trains ran over a steep curve towards Beckenham Junction station. In 1864, a branch was added towards Clock House and Hayes and an additional station was opened in a temporary location a few hundred yards south of the present location. The present station opened in 1866.
Although the original line to Beckenham Junction is still functional, it is only used in special circumstances like track works. Trains normally run on towards Clock House.
The station building was rebuilt in 1906 but most of this second building must have disappeared as the present solution looks a bit like an afterthought integrated into higher walls.
Exit the station on the W side and take Lennard Road away from the tracks
You cannot help but notice how posh the area feels. Luxurious villas in mock Tudor style have ample driveways for fashionable cars. A large part of Beckenham was developped in this manner by a successful timber merchant from Southwark, Mr Cator, who bought a mansion in Blackheath and one in Beckenham. Developping both estates turned him from well-to-do into filthily rich, but you must admit that his style of development is way above standard Georgian construction.
Cross the river, then
L into Cator Park
I like the name of the park as it reminds me of alligators but the origin is of course Mr Cator. Due to the location along the river, there were here originally floodable meadows, but this became later on a so-called pleasure garden. These were private parks open to the public for a fee and offering genteel amusements like a tea house or dancing. As middle class citizens lived in crowded, dirty city centres and there were no public parks, they needed the private pleasure gardens within two hours of carriage ride. The same gardens were also popular with the upper class as a way of getting closer to some folksy pleasures without being frown upon by their equals. With cities opening free public parks, private gardens declined and Cator Park was bought by the borough in the 1930s.
The park has no flower beds but it has very impressive pine trees, among the tallest in London. These trees are unusual for a London park as pine trees are not well suited to the heavy, waterlogged ground in the valley bottoms typical for many parks.
Ahead across the park to the south exit (not to the west exit on Aldersmead Road)
Cross the leafy road
Ahead underneath a railway embankment
Ahead on path between allotments
The first railway embankment you crossed carries the main line from London Victoria to Beckenham Junction and Kent.
L between the allotments to an other subway under a railway embankment
This second embankment carries a minor line from Crystal Palace to Beckenham Junction and a Tramlink branch.
Ahead Thayers Farm Road to
The station was opened in 1890 on the train line existing since 1864. The name comes from a nearby mansion where Mr Cator, the developper of the area, lived. The station was notorious until recently for being prone to flooding due to a nearby brook.
The station building is the original one, except that the upper level was demolished at some point in time. The overall appearance is elegant enough.
R Beckenham Road
L Sidney Road
Note an interesting estate in this road with a curving wooden façade. I expect that main fabric of the building is still thin concrete bricks as usual in London, but the wooden appearance make it stand out. Wood has the advantage that it weathers evenly over time, making refurbushing of façades less frequent. In addition, wood is a better temperature isolator than concrete alone. And finally, wood is an ecological product demanding less energy for production and treatment than most other materials. There are not enough forests in Britain to provide much quality wood for buildings, but Scandinavia is happy to provide many shiploads of wood and is still close enough.
L Kendall Road
Ahead into a recreation ground (Church Fields), cross the green space to the only exit which is ahead and R
L Churchfields Road
Ahead Beck Lane
This is a very old country lane already mentioned in a document from 1490. It linked Beckenham with Croydon.
L Elmers End Road for a few yards
R through a gate into South Norwood Country Park (clearly marked as cycle path)
This is one of the larger parks in the southern suburbs with about 50 hectares. You only skirt it on the present walk as the park is more logically part of walks along Croydon Tramlink spurs.
The park contains a large variety of ecological zones from plain grass meadows to full grown wood over several types of brushy areas. This variety results from mixed uses in the past: fields, pastures, quarries and brick kilns. From the 1860s on, the Borough of Croydon decided to buy increasing parts of the location in order to spread sewage.
At the time, it was considered efficient to flood meadows with the effluents as the resulting brine could trickle into the soil and hopefully be filtered enough that nearby rivers were not too polluted. Of course, anyone who could afford it would flee the vicinity of such smelly activities. I remember living as a child 5 miles from a sewage area and this was indeed obnoxious when wind came from the wrong direction. About as bad as living near a sugar beet drying factory.
Sewage contains many dangerous bacteria and chemicals nowadays and has to be treated much more scientifically. In addition, the present country park was inappropriate for the purpose as the ground is heavy clay that prevented water from trickling into the soil and being filtered. The council closed the sewage works in 1967 and nature reclaimed most of the area.
The lake corresponds to the flooded quarry and is very attractive to birds. For this reason, it has not been landscaped and you can only reach the waterside on a number of viewing platforms.
The path turns R then L again and continues some 300 yards to a crossing
L Path on S side of the lake, continues ahead to the fence of the country park along a tram line
The station opened in 1864 on the new train line between New Beckenham and Addiscombe. It became a junction when a branch line was opened between Elmers End and Hayes in 1882. The original train line to Addiscombe was closed in 1997 and replaced by a spur of the Croydon Tramlink in 2000, so that Elmers End is now a train-Tramlink junction instead of a pure train junction.
Although I have no documents on this, I am pretty sure that the boxy glass-and-steel station building was built in 2000 and replaced the old building. The upper level of the building is airy enough but the main level is made of plain metal sheets and looks hardly better than a container shed.
The walk becomes a bit tedious for about 1/2 mile but I found no better alternative in the area. There are numerous sports grounds on the maps but they are all closed off with no public footpaths crossing them.
Cross the railway tracks on the road bridge
Ahead (along the church) Goddard Road
L Upper Elmers End Road
R Balmoral Avenue
R Eden Park Avenue
Where the road turns L and changes names, take R again to continue in Eden Park Avenue
Ahead into Harvington Playing Field
This is a large green space typical of London parkland with much grass and a few trees. Harvington is the name of a village where the owners of the nearby mansion had got engaged. They operated a dairy farm after the owner had got back from a commercial career in Burma where he lost an eye due to being shot at by a friend during a tiger hunt. The property was bought by the Council in 1946.
Aim for the pavilion
Keep R along the fence of the playing field until you reach the road
L Eden Park Avenue crossing underneath the railway tracks
L Upper Elmers End Road
The station opened with the train line in 1882.
The name comes from a mansion located nearby. It was built around 1810 for Mr Eden, 2nd Lord Auckland, who had a very distinguished career as a top-level civil servant. The name stuck although he moved away in 1818.
The station building has a rather pleasing villagey atmosphere. It is the original building although part of it had to be rebuilt in 1922 after sufragettes had tried to burn it down in 1913.
L Upper Elmers End Road crossing the railway tracks again
Ahead Hawksbrook Lane
Ahead between Sports grounds and a golf course
You are crossing an area called Langley Park. Despite the name, it is not a public park, but you can cross it along quiet roads. When the Langley estate was developped from 1903 on, part was kept aside for school sports grounds and the rest of the green spaces were sold to a private golf course.
R Red Lodge Road
R Hays Road
The station was opened 1882 together with the train line.
The station building is an uninteresting brick shed with a disquietingly rusty awning.
The walk to Hayes station is not very interesting but uses quiet public footpaths.
Cross the train tracks using the station footbridge
L Station Approach
Ahead Hawes Lane
L Footpath towards the footbridge over the tracks
R before the footbridge itself
Footpath along the tracks, ends at a playing field
Ahead Footpath (slightly away from the tracks)
L Bourne Way
The station opened in 1882 as the terminal for the branch railway from Elmers End. Original plans to extend the line towards Westerham proved overambitious as the area was still little developped. The station is often named Hayes (Kent) in order to avoid confusion with Hayes & Harlington (near Heathrow Airport). Hayes is not in Kent any more but the name stuck on some documents. Public authorities proposed closing the train line in 2004 but it is very useful for several large schools and residents managed to avoid the closure.
The original station building was rather rural, possibly similar to that at Eden Park. When suburban development reached Hayes in the 1920s (helped by the electrification of the railway, which made the area cleaner and more attractive), the train company decided to integrate the platforms in a commercial parade. As a result, there is no station building to speak of.
Integrating the station entrance in a shopping mall rarely proved attractive in other locations because stations had often been built at some distance from the church and town centres in order to avoid disturbances by noise, coal steam and dangerous sparks from the locomotives. There are nonetheless some other occurrences in London like West Croydon.
Now that railways are electrified, some train stations are indeed buried under shopping malls or more frequently under office buildings (like Watford and several London terminals), but the cost is high and is not justified in residential suburbs. There are also security issues as both fee dodgers and shopping mall pickpockets could take advantage of places difficult to oversee.