Today I just didn’t really gel with the walk.

Starting point: Hayes (Kent) railway station.

Finishing point: Hamsey Green, bus stop by the Good Companions pub.

Length: Approximately 10.4 miles (16.8 kilometres).

Ordnance Survey Maps app route link here

Download the GPX file for this route here Hayes (Kent) to Hamsey Green

I set out early on another gleamingly beautiful winter’s morning for Hayes Station, where I’d finished Section 3 of the LOOP back in January.  I felt good about the prospect of seeing the wonderful view from Addington Hills but slightly dodgy signage, poor concentration on my part, and misuse of my new trekking poles dampened my enjoyment and made this my least favourite section of the London LOOP so far.

The boundary stone between Bromley and Croydon in Three Halfpenny Woods on section 4 of the London LOOPI retraced my steps from Hayes Station to the start of the section proper.  I started the route at one hell of a pace and was soon striding up into the hills above Addington Road, after my first mistake of the day regarding keeping my eyes open for blazes.  The woods were pretty nondescript.  Perfectly nice, as woods go, but nothing special.

I noted the boundary stone marking my entry into the London Borough of Croydon and followed the path until I was stopped in my tracks by a huge view north to The Shard and the skyscrapers just east at Docklands.  I hadn’t expected any views of note so soon so this boosted my already good mood despite almost every dog on the route inexplicably barking at me as though I was going to brutally murder their owners.  I didn’t even have my trekking poles out yet…

The windmill in Shirley, near Croydon, from section 4 of the London LOOP

After admiring the view and avoiding more dogs I soon started the climb up to Addington Hills.  I had only been there once before, in the dead of night.  I really cannot remember why.  What I do remember is that the view was good, even at midnight.  Once I hit the summit the view was superb.  You’re supposed to be able to see Windsor on a clear day and whilst I couldn’t see quite that far it must have been literally just beyond the view.  The pictures speak for themselves and recommend the route.

Upper Norwood, looking north from Addington Hills, on section 4 of the London LOOP. One of the Crystal Palace television masts sits on top of the hill.

The main Crystal Palace television mast, The Shard, Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, and other central London towers seen from Addington Heights on the LOOP

The towers of central Croydon seen from Addington Heights on Section 4 of the LOOP

After this my mood changed greatly.  I had resolved to use my new Mountain King Trail Blaze trekking poles for the first time on this route, but first I needed to reach the point I had set as the start of that experiment.  Unfortunately I managed to take a wrong turn and walked a long way down a hill before realising and having to re-climb it.  By the time I got back on route I was pissed off with myself and my fumbling with the poles made that worse.  Eventually I worked out how to get along with them but couldn’t get the core thread that holds all the sections together to lock (I did once I got home – oops).

This 'tree' is actually a disguised radio mast in woods along the London LOOPThe following three miles of woodland and patchy suburbia were again pretty dull, apart from the mobile phone mast masquerading as a tree.  Better than a normal mast but more funny than subtle.

Some idiot had stolen several blazes in this section of woodland but I kinda knew where I should have been heading so I made my mind up and was soon rewarded by confirmation, for the first time today, that my instinct was correct.

My mood didn’t improve much after this but the final leg was pretty enough to mellow me out so that I could appreciate the beauty of the Farleigh Parish.  There was the obligatory golf course with all its strangely stark vistas and the LOOP passed along its edge through a tunnel of trees.  I’ve noticed that most of the paths on these city routes run along the edges of sports fields.  They supply some reasonable views I suppose, but having a tall steel fence or kilometres of barbed wire does ruin the vibe somewhat.

Selsdon Park Hotel seen from over a mile away in Farleigh just south of Croydon, along Section 4 of the LOOPThe last stretch was full of more valleys and climbs with some very pretty views as the clouds whizzed overhead.  The temperature had dropped quite a bit by now and the sun was patchy but I knew I was calling it a day shortly, I had considered adding another 6 miles to today’s stroll by doing Section 5 as well but that would not have been as enjoyable as it should have been given my mood.

3.5 hours and 10.7 miles after I started I stepped into Hamsey Green soon after being quizzed by some children whether I was going skiing, based on my poles.  That made me laugh and I reflected on the whole Section with a clearer mind.  It is a nice walk but mainly for the Addington Hills glory.  There’s too much woodland here that doesn’t come up to scratch with some of the other parts I’ve walked.  I’m glad I did it though, my first outing with the poles will be invaluable for when I attempt some longer walks in the very near future…