Car-free adventures in theCroydon countrysideGreater London

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One minute you’re standing in the shadow of London's sky-scraping Shard, the UK's tallest building; half an hour later you’re striding over chalk downland with the wind in your hair. There are surprisingly beautiful landscapes around the South London town of Croydon, with direct trains from London Bridge or Victoria. It may not have a great reputation (comedian Sue Perkins grew up in 1970s Croydon and calls it “less of a place, more of a punchline”), but you can find beautiful walking country nearby. These itineraries all start from East Croydon railway station (the markets are not far away if you want to pick up a picnic), but, of course, you can also head to each one straight from Central London if you prefer...

  • County: Greater London
  • Great for: animals | bird watching | gardens | good cafés and pubs | history | mills | nature reserve | Picnics | scenic bus and train | tram ride | walking |
  • Refreshments: Croydon's Boxpark, Coulsdon's Fox Inn, Morden Hall's NT cafe and plenty more
  • Please note: Updated in November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Climb Addington Hills and sample more of the LOOP

    Riding the tram in the other direction, brings you to another incredible section of the long distance LOOP  (London Outer Orbital Path). The strenuous half mile walk over Addington Hills packs some of London’s best panoramic views into a short space. Sometimes, sections of the LOOP seem almost unbelievably rural, surrounded – as they often are – by urban jungle. Horses graze, blue butterflies land on wild flowers, and country churches beckon walkers onwards as they have for centuries.

    • Hop on a tram heading for New Addington and get off at Coombe Lane tram stop.
    • The climb up to the view starts almost straight away – steep, but worth it!
    • Walk over hills and following the loop down the other side, you can catch a bus back from Oaks Road – bus 466 runs every 10 minutes back to East Croydon.
  1. 4. A Reptilian Ride

    Take the bus or train to Crystal Palace and see the dinosaurs, more than 30 primeval statues created by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins in the mid 19th-century. The surrounding park opened in 1854; impressive steps, terraces and sphinx sculptures survive today, once the setting for a huge glasshouse (the original Crystal Palace) that housed the Great Exhibition. Lounging around a decorative lake (with daffs and blossoming trees in spring), the prehistoric creatures were neglected during the interwar years; now restored and protected with Grade 1 listed status, they are a popular attraction and even have their own dedicated group of friends.

    • Bus 197 leaves frequently from stop E4 on busy Cherry Orchard Road (round the corner from East Croydon Station) for a magical mystery tour of the South London suburbs, through leafy Woodside and bustling Penge. (You can get the train instead if you prefer – it goes less frequently and takes just 12 minutes rather than half an hour).
    • Get off the bus at Thicket Road, soon after a brick railway bridge. Walk back a few steps the way you just came and turn right into Thicket Road to find a park entrance on your right.
    • Besides the dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park also boasts a city farm, a maze, a display of geological strata and an area of ancient woodland. There’s a museum that tells you about the history of the place, open 11am-3pm at the weekends.
    • Beyond the dinosaur lake, near Crystal Palace’s 19th-century train station, there’s Brown and Green’s Brunch Kitchen serving everything from vegan champagne fry-ups to hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. There’s a smaller branch on platform 1.
    • Trains from here head back to Croydon every half an hour or into London Victoria every fifteen minutes.