SANDILANDS to NEW ADDINGTON
The Croydon Tramlink is a tram built in the 1990s because the borough of Croydon complained about having no convenient access to the Underground network. The line to Addington was built because this suburb has been developed in the 1960s without any convenient access to a train line, forcing residents to use slow and congested commuting routes by car or by bus.
The tram started as a private company that kept the ticket proceeds, but changes in the overall London fare system made it ever more complicated to calculate the appropriate compensation payments and the public authorities (TfL) purchased the system in 2008.
All stations on this part of the Tramlink were created ex nihilo in 2000 and use standardised platform furniture. There is no office or building, just a glass awning and vending machines, and I therefore don’t need to comment on the individual stops.
Please note that the Croydon Tramlink normally uses ticket readers like on a bus, but that a special, highly confusing regulation applies in Wimbledon, potentially causing overcharging.
Routing note: This walk connects in Sandilands with Tramlink walk 3.
I add at the end a route suggestion for an extension of the walk as London buses run beyond Addington to Biggin Hill. This suggestion is not included in the 3 hours estimate.
Several sections of this walk are through parks and can get muddy. I recommend sturdy shoes.
The tram stop opened in 2000 together with the tram line. The line coming from Croydon divides after Sandilands stop, joining a former train line via a very sharp bend where an accident happened in 2016. The train line is only used until the next tram stop.
Take Addiscombe Road towards the East (away from Croydon)
Note a blue plaque on house number 96, called Heron’s Croft. The core of the building is dated back to 1493 and it is likely to be one of the oldest structures in the borough. The roofscape and the impressive chimney are definitely not a recent addition.
The roads you are walking along in this part of the route are clearly not your average council estate style. Palatial villas are set back in spacious grounds with double garages and well tended front gardens. A grassy verge keeps any road disturbance away from the house door.
R Harland Avenue
L Radcliffe Road
You are now in an area reserved for seriously affluent executives. Pedestrians are so unusual that there is not even a sidewalk – there is instead a wide green space to ride your thoroughbred to the park. A few uncouth denizens park their car in view of the road, which is certainly frowned upon in the more refined abodes, but you have to show some understanding for the cars of your cleaning staff or visiting children.
Most villas are kept in the mock Tudor style popular with brokers in the 1930s. I took a picture of a more interesting house with windows and brick walls unobtrusively inspired by Elizabethan mansions.
At the end R Ranmore Avenue
L Deepdene Avenue, turns very soon into a path along the edge of Lloyd Park, merges later into Lloyd Park Avenue
You will cross more of Lloyd Park after the next tram stop. The park is actual old parkland, given to the borough in the 1930s by the daughter of Mr Lloyd who had wished her to do so. This gentleman had inherited a very successful magazine publishing business (from his father who was a rather unsavoury character devoid of scruples) and became a noted philanthropist. The mansion, Coombe House, is now a Catholic school.
L along the tram tracks
This stop is located close to an old train station called Coombe Road but the tram does not use the old train line beyond Lloyd Park stop. Like all stops on this section of the Tramlink, it opened in 2000.
At the end of the platform L into the park
Cross the car park and turn R past the café and a playground
Keep the same direction across a hedge, then R along the hedge to a second hedge
Lloyd Park was given by Mr Lloyd primarily with a view to set up sports grounds. This was a very popular concept in the 1930s with many boroughs landscaping so-called “King George Fields” for the same purpose. The park is still used for sports a lot, but you will easily notice that it is sloping in many places. As a result, it keeps to some extent the appearance it had as the park for Mr Lloyd’s mansion. There are clumps of trees here and there as in 18th century parkland and the trees are mostly indigenous species rather than the showy exotic species Victorians were keen on.
Cross the second hedge and turn slightly L in order to leave enclosed farm grounds on your right.
You see the hedge on the picture. From this corner of Lloyd Park, you can of course see the farm that was a logical part of the estate. It is now used for commercial offices.
Further away up the hill, you can also glimpse an other large house, Coombe Lodge. The 18th century mansion is now a restaurant after having been used as a retirement home and later as the borough nursery. That you can see these different houses spread over large expanses of empty parkland is very unusual so close to London and is due to the fact that the estate was not developed by the owners in the 19th century as they were so rich that they did not see the point.
When the farm fence turns R, turn R as well still following the fence
Cross an access road and continue ahead on the paved footpath uphill
Cross a road and take the path ahead into the wood.
You are now in a nature area called Addington Hills. The original name in the middle ages was something like “pebble dene” because the ground is mostly gravel. This explains the unusual vegetation. Instead of oak trees, you will find a number of pine trees while the ground is covered in places by heather. My route climbs a steep valley using the straightest line to the next tram stop. If you like the landscape and the exceptional heathland, you can turn left when you are at the top of the hill towards a viewing platform and a restaurant. There are fine views from the platform towards Central London and it is only a minor detour. Once you have reached the restaurant, the path towards the tram stop is marked.
The path ends at
The tram stop opened in 2000 together with the tram line and is one of the least used as it is located between a very upmarket, leafy suburb and a wood.
L Footpath along the tram tracks towards traffic lights
You can rely here for a while on the very clear signposts for the London Loop, a long-distance path marked with green roundels bearing a kestrel.
Cross the highway and enter the grounds of Heathfield House. The entrance is at the corner of Coombe Lane with Ballards Way
The house was originally one of many farms belonging to the huge estate of Addington. The present buildings date back to a Mr Riesco who bought the property in 1927. He had a keen interest in gardens and the borough agreed with him that they would continue to manage a garden for public enjoyment after they purchased the property in installments between 1945 and 1958.
The house is not worth visiting as it is now the training centre for borough employees, but the gardens are a first-class attraction and are very well kept. This can be said for many parks in the borough as it is one of those with the best record in managing parks and gardens in London. What sets Heathfield aside is the very good collection of rhododendron. The nearest competition is in Wimbledon, showing how good it is.
There is also a lovely rookery along a cascading brook (also a rarity in London). You will find closer to the house the more typical adornments of early 20th century country residences such as yew topiary, a modest but pretty rose garden, a walled garden with typically Edwardian pergolas, a pond and some interesting borders themed with the colour blue (a popular concept in the 1930s as advocated by leading experts at the time). As usual, it is my pleasure to dazzle you with corresponding pictures.
One thing worth noticing while touring the formal gardens is how they open fully to the farm landscape beyond the property. In the English tradition, this would be done only if you owned this landscape and the farmland would be elegantly landscaped to look picturesque. Here, the idea is very different and more Japanese: the garden borrows the surrounding landscape as a background heightening the enjoyment of the planting. I venture the thought that Mr Riesco was well aware of this, being a well-known expert on East Asian ceramics (his outstanding collection forms the core of the borough museum in central Croydon).
Tour the grounds and exit through the car park into Riesco Drive
L down the drive. It soon turns into a gravel track
Ahead across Bramley Bank Nature Reserve
This looks like a little like ancient woodland, but it was actually farmland until Mr Riesco decided to dig a pond and to plant a number of woodland trees he was interested in such as Austrian pines. Part of the nature reserve is heathland, which needs special protection in London as it quickly colonised by oaks if not managed on purpose.
Exit the nature reserve at the corner of Chapel View with Valley Road
Cross Valley Road into an open space leading to Littleheath Wood. For this section, the London Loop signposts will be particularly useful.
The wood belonged to farms until the 1920s when residents of the newly developed suburb of Selsdon realised that the area might be developed soon as well. A fundraising action enabled the borough to purchase the area in 1932. The wood is not exceptional in terms of trees but is very pleasant and there are convenient benches in several places.
When you reach the wood, turn L along the edge of the wood. The water tower should stay on your left-hand side. The path skirts a playground and stays within a strip of wood all the way to the main road
L Addington Road / Selsdon Park Road
You are leaving now the London Loop.
Opposite a church L and L again into a spur of Selsdon Park Road uphill
R Heathfield Vale
L Farnborough Avenue
The road turns R and passes a sports centre. When it turns R again, leave the road for a footpath ahead along school grounds.
This is a particularly pleasant version of a paved path as it has grass verges on both sides and hedges or trees all along. It is much used by the children going to school and the very good shape of the path proves that making paths more attractive contributes to them being kept clean and pleasant by users.
The path ends at
The tram stop opened in 2000 together with the tram line.
Cross the main highway at the traffic lights
R along the tram tracks for a few yards
Soon L into Addington Park
The park is a somewhat unexciting piece of grassland. It was a small section of a much larger park landscaped in the 18th century by Lancelot Brown for Addington Palace. You actually get glimpses of the palace from the northern edge of the present park.
It was built for the Mayor of London in the 1770s and was sold to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1807 because he needed a summer palace close to London after his old palace at Croydon had become so outdated as to be very uncomfortable. The property was later taken over by the borough and is now owned by a private company specialising in seminars and receptions.
Cross the park ahead towards the village and follow the village road ahead to the parish church
St Mary’s Addington is a very interesting village church. I found it open but this might have been by chance as a service was being held. The back wall behind the altar with three rounded windows is a particularly venerable item of architecture dating back to the 11th century, one of the very oldest in London. The church website says it predates the Norman conquest, which is difficult to prove. The very colourful decoration inside pays little attention to Saxon or Romanic tradition as it was commissioned in 1898.
The main attraction inside the church is rather a beautiful 16th century memorial to a Lord of the Manor of Addington. He died in 1576, as explained by a short text without the usual flourishes. It even sounds a bit terse for a memorial written at the time of Elizabeth I.
At the church R to the roundabout, cross the highway for
The tram stop opened in 2000 together with the tram line. As several buses have their terminal here, the stop is also called by Transport for London “Addington Interchange”, which sounds a bit overdone to me.
For the rest of the walk, just follow the tram tracks along a golf course.
From the path, you have a good view over the valley where the old village of Addington nestled away from bad weather. With binoculars or a zooming camera, you also get a better view of Addington Palace than you could from the park before.
There is a path on the golf course side of the tracks passing
The tram stop opened in 2000 together with the tram line.
The golf course was the first purpose-built public golf course in England in 1912 and was also the first public golf course transferred into management by a private company (in 1932). It was sold outright later on but remains one of the more affordable courses available in London. There are actually two courses, the one you are walking along being the larger, newer one. The wide open space of the golf course actually provides you with some extended views.
Continue along the tracks all the way to
KING HENRY’S DRIVE
The tram stop opened in 2000 together with the tram line.
Continue ahead along Parkway to
The terminus opened in 2000 together with the whole tram line.
Walk extension to Biggin Hill
1 1/2 hours
Continue beyond the tram terminal on Central Parade
Cross the roundabout half L into Arnhem Drive
New Addington is a rather unusual suburb. It was first planned in the 1930s as a smaller garden city in order to improve living conditions compared to slums in the Croydon area, but little was built before World War II. Most of the suburb was built in the 1960s. There are no high rise estates, the concept is more akin to the residential roads in the eastern suburbs with lots of small brick houses.
The suburb had very bad connections with Croydon and London until the tram was built in 2000. As a result, property was cheap and it was generally considered an undesirable backwater. Lack of investment in schools and public facilities in the 1960s also caused resentment and occasional problems with youth gangs. This seems to have been alleviated since, but the suburb clearly still does not attract commercial investment and offers very few jobs. To be honest, the roads are rather drab.
My route passes the parish church, St Edward’s. It is a very plain brick building with little character. This is probably due to it being consecrated in 1957. This means it was built at a time when the government had very little money to spare, having to deal with the aftermath of World War II.
Just after St Edwards Close R into Milne Park
Walk along the whole length of the park to the children’s playground at the South exit
Milne Park is as plain as the rest of the suburb. It is nice to plan enough space for informal sports in a new suburb, but there is a conspicuous lack of any thought given to making the park an attractive place to spend leisure time. Very few trees, no flowers, no sculptures, no benches…
Ahead Comport Green
Ahead and L Fairchildes Avenue
R King Henry’s Drive. There is a path off the road soon turning away from it along a thin strip of wood
Soon R on the path along school grounds and a playing field
This is a rather nice path as you can see on the picture. At the end of the path, you skirt the very end of Greater London. The only area of Greater London located further south is the old parish of Cudham. It was added into London rather than left within Kent because there was a large RAF base also used for civilian airplanes.
At the end of the playing field, L into a public byway towards Jewels Wood. The byway is clearly marked with a green signpost.
There are several informal paths inside the wood, so that you must rely on your sense of orientation to some extent. Once you reach the wood, keep on the right-hand path (actually nearly ahead)
Turn a bit later R until you nearly leave the wood again
Then L downhill on an other footpath along the edge of the wood. This time, it is an official public footpath. This merges at the bottom of the wood into the road named Jewels Hill
As you can see on the picture, you are now fully within the rural landscape of the North Downs. Biggin Hill is at the background of the picture on the hill; it is one of the highest hamlets within London. The north slope of the North Downs is usually a moderate incline cut by steep valleys. The south slope is a more spectacular escarpment, but you would have to look at my WAAL walks in order to visit it.
Soon R Oaklands Lane
There is no footpath along this country road, but there is wide grass verge you can use
Ignore the first crossing with tracks. Soon afterwards, turn R onto a public footpath towards Norheads Farm. It is marked and there is also a notice “Slow” painted on the road
As you can see on the picture, this is typical North Downs landscape.
Pass the farm and follow R Norheads Lane. The paved road turns into a gravel track
Just before a pond with farm cottages, take the public footpath L towards a small wood
Cross the wood and turn L for a few yards on Beech Road
Very soon R Public footpath towards the village. The footpath merges temporarily into Rosehill Road, continues afterwards again as a footpath
At the bottom of the footpath, you have reached the centre of the hamlet with just a few neighbourhood stores. You are so far into the countryside that you will soon pass a local road called an “avenue” – an unpaved alley shaded by beautiful old trees.
At the end L Polesteeple Hill
The road turns half R and climbs towards estate buildings
Ahead between the buildings on a short footpath into Temple Road
Walk to the main road
The main building on main street is the parish church, built in the 1950s like the New Addington parish church. It is interesting to compare the architecture. The church in Biggin Hill has an impressive, freestanding tower with a somewhat strange crown of iron spikes at the top. The façade is a plain triangular shape, which was popular at the time as being symbolic and not too fussy, but the brick wall is very cleverly broken by a vertical shaft of glass over the whole height of the building. To be honest, one has to mention that the Biggin Hill church was a little cheaper to build because materials from a demolished church in Peckham could be re-used here.
R on Main Road past the parish church to find a bus stop towards New Addington or towards Bromley