This is still London, right?

On a bit of a mission at the moment to find bits of greater London to go for daywalks, in order to maintain some level of walking fitness, and a modicum of sanity, before we get out for a proper 3 days worth in a couple of weeks.  Our latest was a 9 miler (14km) from Coulsdon on the borders of London and Surrey, and took us up to Farthing Down, the Happy Valley and onto the North Downs way.  The walk is listed here.


Farthing Down in full autumn sunshine.  A bright and breezy hill 174m above the sea, with 360 views, and cattle grazing! - are you sure we're still in greater London?


A beautiful path on the east side of the down, through ancient yew trees, pale sunlight pouring through, the blackberries have gone over now.


Approaching the Happy Valley - Corporation of London owned land, bought for the health of an industrialised population to link with earlier purchases, from the 19th century on.  Am I the only one who thinks this sign is funny?




The chalk downland of the Valley itself - definitely will be back in snow, maybe with the tent - plenty of places to hide out for a night here!
 

Later, and in the middle of a vast golf course with our bridlepath cutting a direct line through, we happened upon the old cemetery of Caterham Hospital.  The principle asylum for Victorian South London is long gone, turned into flats and this monstrous idiot park for men with big sticks and little balls, but why would anyone want to carve an owl to watch over them, I wonder?

The owl in classic mythology is the symbol of Minerva, a romanisation of the Greek goddess Athena, the god of war, civilisation and wisdom.  No contradictions there then. You'll find the symbol of the owl and Athena everywhere, if you start to look.  The carving casts a beady, watchful eye on those restless spirits that died under lock and key.  A lovely lunch spot, ladybirds in full effect, but slightly disturbing all the same.


Later still, a long path walled off at the back of some gardens, no right to roam here.  This is a reminder of how life was when I was little, wandering over a local, derelict brickworks, my only, lonely bit of wilderness in the city, negotiating in-between spaces, the urban hinterlands, fenced off areas that have no purpose.  I loved the brickworks, it was a refuge, now its a housing estate.  Anthills, rubble, the smell of creosote and dog scent.  There are many Eng-er-lands, and this is one.


And this is another, more often spoken of:


The North Downs Way,
 

 an ancient walking ley,



a vein in the land.



Back past Chaldon Church (in the doomsday book, a famous painting inside) and home to make chutney.

This was a really fantastic long afternoon stroll, and I can't quite believe I lived so close to it for so long and never knew.  I even worked in Coulsdon for a while as a teenager, but this passed me by.  Not all that easy either, my legs are hurting today!  Grand altogether, and accessible from town too.