A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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10 - Past Fisher boys, along woody drives and into Roundshaw Park

I turn right into the busy Foxley Lane (the A2022) and left into Woodcote Drive, which has tarmac pavements close up to the base of several mature trees, including one old yew. According to Resale Weekly a telescopic handler (essentially a forklift truck with an extending arm) worth nearly £30,000 was stolen from a house in this road during 1993.

On my right, I pass a road called Peaks Hill, along which I can see the two-storey buildings of the John Fisher School, founded by Archbishop Amigo of Southwark, in 1929. It was a fee-paying boys grammar school until 1977. The Friends Reunited website lists around 40 schools in the UK named after John Fisher, but only this one declines to acknowledge his sainthood (i.e. by not using St.). Fisher, like Thomas More, refused to accept the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London, made a cardinal by the pope and executed, all in 1535. But, he was not not canonised until 1935. The John Fisher school counts the actor Bill Nighy and the TV personality Matthew Wright among its old pupils. Other ex-pupils have fond memories of farting teachers, flying teddy bears and something called 'the sod box'.

Somewhere along Woodcote Drive I cross into the London Borough of Sutton, and then I round the corner into Great Woodcote Park (is there no end to the number of roads named Woodcote - a word which means wood cottage). From here, I can see some of the John Fisher boys playing rugby on the sports field. It is a wet day, and yet all of them are in partial school uniform, white shirts and long grey trousers. Along Great Woodcote Park itself, another schoolboy is running; he's also dressed in uniform not sports gear. He reminds me of myself, in the sense that I too used to prefer cross-country running to rugby. As soon as he's round the corner and out of sight of the sports field, the boy slows down and decides to walk - again like me.

I press on along Ambrey Way with modernish houses and protruding garages - the doors are painted light green, sea green, royal blue, sky blue, white, grey, yellow, beige - and past a small unkempt green with lots of trees and a sign saying 'No golf'. I slip past Timberslip Drive, and into Foresters Drive. The residents of this road celebrated a notable victory in 2003 against the telecommunications giant O2. After a sustained campaign, local councillors - apparently against the advice of their planning officials - voted down O2's proposals to build two mobile phone masts along the road. Among various reasons cited for the popular decision were: the proximity of the masts to residential properties; their appearance and detrimental impact on the openness of public land; and perceived health concerns.

Woodland along the east side of Foresters Drive is protected by high railings and a London Borough of Sutton notice warning against tipping (£100 fine). Although the wood looks closed off to the public, further along I find an open gate in the railings. Since the 300 easting runs through this woodland, I take the opportunity to enter and follow a track among the oak trees. It leads me to the southern edge of Roundshaw Park, where there are several playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, and football pitches. Despite the inclement weather, several dogs are taking their owners for a walk. This park is the very opposite of the Green at Upper Woodcote Village.

And then I realise the whole area - the Roundshaw Estate - is at the very opposite end of the social spectrum from the Webb Estate which is barely a mile away: the Webb Estate is spacious and exclusive, Roundshaw is crammed and common; the Webb Estate is full of rich people owning expensive houses (many worth well over £1m), Roundshaw is full of poor people in council accommodation; pedestrians are rare in the Webb Estate, but Roundshaw is busy and alive; and while the Webb Estate seems totally unreal, the Roundshaw Estate seems all too real. Over on the east side of the park, where I walk next to Lindbergh Road (along the line of the 300 easting) there are a series of modern, but very small and very basic, terraced houses. Towards the north are several six-storey tenement buildings, a few shops, a building site, and a tall industrial chimney (part of the district heating and hot water plant that serves the estate).

The Roundshaw Estate, comprising 2,070 houses and flats, was built in the 1960s and 70s taking up approximately one third of the site of the old Croydon Airport. An industrial estate and Roundshaw Open Space each took up another third or so. Most of the airport buildings were a mile to the east along Purley Way, but the airport grounds extended west as far as Foresters Drive. Originally, Beddington Aerodrome, as it was then called, was built during World War One, along with several others around London, for protection against the raids by German aircraft and Zeppelins. In 1918, Waddon Aerodrome was also set up, on a plot adjacent to Beddington, to test fly craft made at the National Aircraft Factory No. 1. The two airfields were joined together at the end of the war (although a public road continued to bisect the area) and together became the Air Port of London, the official customs gateway for all international traffic.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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