London Spiral – NEW START POINT – Ewell WEST to Coulsdon
Sunday 14 October, 1 pm
- 11 Feb 2018: Enfield to Hadley Wood
- 11 March: Hadley Wood to Borehamwood
- 8th April: Elstree to Carpenders Park
- 13 May: Hatch End to Northolt
- 10 June: Hillingdon to Hayes
- 8 July: Hayes to Heathrow
- 12 Aug: Feltham to Hampton Ferry
- 9 Sept: Sandown to Epsom Downs – done
- 14 Oct: Ewell West to Coulsdon ** up next **
- 11 Nov: Coulsdon South to Biggin Hill
- 9 Dec 2018: Biggin Hill Airport to Knockholt
- 13 Jan 2019: Knockholt to Eynesford
Meet at: Ewell West station (train from Waterloo)
When: Sunday 14 October 2018, 1pm
Distance: walk 8 miles to Coulsdon (fast train back to Victoria)
Walk takes in: Ewell pond, Priest Hill re-wilded land, Banstead Downs, London Loop past HM Prisons High Down and Downview, Oak Park where the Earl of Derby planned his horse race (coffee break), Mayfield lavender fields, Woodmansterne, Cane Hill redevelopment where once there was a mental hospital, Coulsdon.
On this walk from Ewell West station we pass across Priest Hill, until recently a grubby suburban playing field of no great loveliness, which was bought by Surrey Wildlife Trust, who tore down the buildings, ripped up the paving, shipped the waste off to some unspecified place, then just left the site to re-wild.
It’s all scrub right now, and seems empty of animals, except an occasional dog and walker, but some early adopter trees are making the most of it. In a few years it will be woodland, managed meadow, heath. It’s not like a park, it’s not roamable; the sky stretches wide across it, and birds swoop into bushes and tall grass clumps.
We’ve seen a few reclamations like this on the spiral walk; there was the semi-suburban house knocked down and turned into a tiny park in stage 13 Palace Road Nature Garden, south London, a little oasis; there’s the greening going on in east London along the Lee Valley and Mile End Park; a whole array of housing in Barking alongside the Abbey was bought back by the council to recreate the Abbey gardens, re-establishing an appropriate space around the ancient building; and often where developers start to put up blocks of flats, they are creating show-garden green corridors in the urban space, publicly accessible and sometimes inspirational, like in Battersea by the Thames.
Perhaps a charitable organisation could be set up whose job was to accept property bequeathed by people passing on, along with a fund to pay the cost of demolishing, and legal fees, and planting costs, until slowly but surely green gaps would appear in the housing belt and some of those would join up to make gardens, and community spaces, and parks. Some property couldn’t be turned into land, like an apartment, but it could be sold to raise funds for the other spaces.
And the value of these spaces would be huge, because you could immediately envisage a property in the space on the market for thousands of pounds.
But will these greening efforts last a hundred years? Trees live into deep time. When it comes to nature man moves too fast, too acquisitive, too rapacious, too uncaring. Best of luck Priest Hill.
The London Spiral, a walk around London from the inside out, has reached its home straight along the south of the city, and over the next few stages will be crossing those parts of Surrey and Kent that melt into the edge of the metropolis, en route to Gravesend. We’ve reached Woodmansterne, and will soon be home.