Our new favourite find at the moment is Shirley Heath – a wooded area you can enter on Bridle Road just where Shirley Church Road becomes Spout Hill. We’ve driven past the entrance sign for some years on the way to and from the big Addington roundabout, always meaning to stop, but always thinking it must just be a narrow wooded area with houses behind.
We’ve now explored the area a couple of times in recent weeks, and how wrong we were on the extent of the place, as there isn’t just Shirley Heath here but several linking woods, and you can walk from one to the next. To be honest I’m not sure where one greenspace ends and the next one begins but I don’t think that matters if you’re just looking for a pleasant woodland stroll, steeped in wildlife.
These areas of woodland are also part of the London Loop (aka the London Outer Orbital Path) – section 4 of 24 to be exact, and you can download the walking route here if you are interested in going on a longer walk.
On our first visit to Shirley Heath we headed down a wide pathway lined with trees which GoogleMaps (correctly or not) also marks as Bridle Road. We glimpsed areas of meadow to both sides of the path, but then opted for a smaller track through the trees to the west, which I think may have taken us into the adjoining Kennel Wood (so apparently named, because Colonel Maberley of Shirley Park kept and trained the Old Surrey Foxhounds here).
We then got rather enjoyably lost down the winding paths in the woods before finding ourselves back on the Bridle Road path. We then veered off this main path again but this time to the east to explore some large meadows which then bordered more woodland. At that point our three-year-old’s legs gave up on our walk, so we vowed to return another day, which we did…
On our second visit we purposefully headed straight for the large meadows where we’d ended our first walk (this time a striking sea of yellow buttercups) to enter the woodland beyond. Shirley Heath here joins Threehalfpenny Wood (please somebody tell me why it’s so named, as my research skills were no help!). This wood has lots of logs for climbing (if you’re there to entertain the kids) and do look out for the tree that even an adult can stand inside (just about!).
At some point (that I wasn’t aware of) we crossed the borough border from Croydon’s Threehalfpenny Wood to Bromley’s Spring Park which, like Kenley Common, Farthing Downs and Riddlesdown, is managed by the City of London. According to the London Loop map the change in borough is actually marked ‘not only by the boundary stone but also with an ancient bank and ditch boundary, and a line of rare small-leaved lime trees’. Something for us to look out for next time.
The woodland here was covered in a carpet of bluebells, and we ambled vaguely north and ended up coming out onto a quiet road of houses called Woodland Way, right next to an old water fountain, which was referenced on the Spring Park map on the City of London sign nearby.
We realise we have only just scratched the surface in this area, as Spring Park has a pond and streams we didn’t encounter, and breaks out into two fields to the south (Kent Field and Little Kent Field) which then border the Kent Gateway/Addington Road, where you can access a couple of car parks for the greenspace. I think we will start our third visit from the Little Kent Field Car Park and work our way up the hill to the viewpoint before finding the water. There is also Cheyne Wood in Bromley which is to the east of Spring Park.
Then there is Spring Park Wood (not to be confused with Bromley’s Spring Park), which is another smaller wood nearby within Croydon – this used to be a much bigger woods before the urban development of the 1930s. I want to find this place too on our next visit, if we don’t get hopelessly lost, that is…
Posted by Julia