Grange Hill to Elmer’s End (or more prosaically, Upper Norwood to Lower Norwood)
Bank Holiday Monday, what we would have called Whitsun once upon a time. The wettest day of the year so far. Just the day to go for an evening stroll through leafy Norwood. I left home about 6.30 (Abi left not much later to go to see Cabaret at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue. I’m told its wonderful) got a bus to Brockley Rise…
…then 122 down to Crystal Palace, then I got on the first bus that came along and round the houses down past Gypsy Hill and Beulah Hill (less Biblio-romantically called “Bewley’s Farm” on old maps) to Spa Hill by the David Livingstone Primary School. Yes, Norwood is hilly and proud of it.
I don’t know it well, but I think I like Upper Norwood. For reasons I don’t understand it is nice. There are places you come across (if you wander round London) that are for some reason or other more pleasant than you expected. That make you smile to find them. Not the coolest or the richest or the most trendy or the most fun places. Maybe its partly low expectations. No-one demands much from a visit to Osidge, or to Cricklewood and Willesden Green, or to the denser parts of Penge, so when you find them to be slightly less boring than you feared, your easily-pleasedness is stroked.
Norwood is one of those nice places, or at least the streets between Upper Norwood and Thornton Heath are. Maybe its the combination of high density and greenness and a feeling of openness. Maybe its the way Croydon council have preserved and labeled loads of pathways and twittens between streets, so everything is penetrable. Maybe its the way social and ethnic diversity has been added to what was mostly a lower-middle-class/respectable-working-class Victorian suburb without quite overwhelming it. Maybe its the hills providing views over or out of London. Maybe it just reminds me of home. Maybe there are waves of evangelical niceness pulsing down over the landscape from Spurgeon’s College. Or else its the unpretentious radio waves from the transmitter at the top of the hill – the original ITV TV mast, but now used for Channel 5 TV and local commercial radio stations on MW and DAB, with the UHF being just the hot backup for the 70m taller and much flashier Crystal Palace transmitter. There must be some beneficial effect from living in the shadow of Kiss FM.
If this was America perhaps the Baptists would make a bid to take over the transmitter and broadcast Christian TV. There can’t be many many unused TV transmitters with thirteen and a half million people in the footprint. But as it is, Norwood is a nice place.
My PC seems to have lost my photos of Spurgeon’s College (amongst other things). Try again tomorrow.
I decided that if it was past 8.20pm when I got to the Goat House bridge (where there is no Goat House Tavern any more) I’d look for a pub for a quick drink then get the bus back, but if not I’d extend the walk a little. It was 8.18. So off over the railway and past some flats…
…and into South Norwood Country Park, Which was beautiful quite unexpected, and very wet. Flatter than I expected, with a lot of drainage ditches lined with thorn and elder running between small open areas of grass, nettles, and brambles with tall herbs like cow parsley and hogweed and and some larger trees. Quite a bit of ash and some oak. Almost heathland, but chalk underfoot. I have no idea how it came to be there. By the amount of concrete and brick rubble lying around I guess it might have been built on once. Its hard to be sure in the near-dark but I don’t think I saw many mature trees.
Remarkably empty for a park probably not as much as a quarter of a square mile in extent. Just me in the middle and a couple of dogwalkers working round the edge. Maybe Croydonians don’t like walking in woods in the pouring rain in the evening. Birdsong everywhere. I wish I could identify birds by their song but I usually can’t and I only got a good look at one largish bird perching on a lookout branch in the gloaming and much as I tried to make it a short-eared own it was a crow. It looks like a place for warblers. I could fantasise that there were nightjars there, but I expect that the place is much too small.
Even if there were any it was a little wet for them to be about. This years weather can’t have helped insect-eating birds. An unusually hot and dry early spring, followed by a sodden May. At the end of March and beginning of April London was not only hotter than New York (not unusual at that date) but hotter than LA and Houston – and Melbourne. Almost as hot as Sydney and Cairo. By the end of April the temperature was hotter than our summer average. This last week of May has been cooler than the last week of March was. And its been raining for days. That’s great for plants which got an early start with spring sunshine and no frosts, and are being watered during the long days of cool light, which is more important to them than intense sunshine (most native plants can’t make much use of direct bright sunshine anyway, much of the benefit is lost by photorespiration and increased metabolic rate). But many insects like it the other way round. Damp winters and springs to get the grubs going, then hot dry smelly weather for them to fly around and bother people. And what insects like swifts and nightjars like. I fear they are having a bad year.
And I lost my way and turned too far south on Footpath 666 and ended up at Arena tram stop and had to yomp up the dual carriageway to the uninterpretable junction at Elmer’s End for two pints of Spitfire in the William IV and a bus home.
No photos of the Park yet, as it was getting dark and however lovely the light seems when you are in it, trees don’t photograph well after sunset in the rain. Maybe later.
I’ll be back.