The Capital Ring – Beckenham Junction to Crystal Palace Part One

Battersea Power Station from the train

Dear Readers, this week we are heading back to Beckenham Junction to continue our walk around the Capital Ring. And what a splendid view you get of Battersea Power Station as you head south from Victoria Station! You might remember that I visited the site earlier this year, before the refurbished power station was opened, and I’m due for a revisit now you can actually get inside the building. For today, though, it was enough just to trundle past and admire it from a distance.

And what on earth is this strange object, photographed through a rather grimy Southern Railways window? It is a silver swan in the Pullman carriage next door. I got very excited in case there was a steam engine attached, but although this amazing vintage carriage is going to be part of a tour called ‘The Golden Age of Travel by Steam’, presumably the engine arrives later, as when I wandered down the platform all I could see was a boring old diesel engine. Each carriage is decorated differently, and this one appeared to be called ‘Vera’ – they all date to the 1920s. Apparently you can never be overdressed, which is very exciting, but as this trip was £540 per person, I expect that it would need to be a very special occasion indeed.

Anyway, we were soon arrived in the rather less plush surroundings of Beckenham Junction Station, and after a quick toilet stop at Waitrose (yes, we did a bit of planning this time) we were off through the leafy streets of South London. Not so long ago this was all farmland, and you can still see occasional signs of the old farms and estates, such as this set of gatehouses.

I thought this tree had a very ent-ish look (the Ents were the tree gods in Lord of the Rings). (Or possibly The Hobbit). No doubt someone will put me right 🙂

And look! Mistletoe.

We pass the church of St Paul’s Beckenham, which was established in 1863 by the Cator family – you might remember them from Beckenham Place Park and Mansion last week. Cator anticipated that his estate would include no less than 3,750 people, and so he wanted to build something suitably grand to cater for their spiritual needs. In the event, about 600 people would attend the Sunday services during the 19th Century, though only 40 would take communion because the rest of them had not been confirmed, and therefore weren’t allowed. The church was badly damaged during the Second World War by incendiary bombs and a land mine, but had a particularly diligent vicar who managed to get the restoration work completed before he retired in 1949. In the sixties the church was apparently ‘affected’ by the charismatic movement, and there were dance groups and a wind band (you can almost hear the author of the history section of the church’s website ruefully shaking his or her head) ‘though this is not our practice now’.

St Pauls, Beckenham

I was much entertained by a pair of magpies who were clearly up to something, but I’m not sure what. I suspect it involved picking little hibernating insects out of the stonework.

And then we’re off again. We have been so lucky with the weather on these walks, I don’t believe that a single drop of rain has dampened our heads.

Then we take a turn ‘between house numbers 173 and 175’ – I love how precise the Capital Ring guide is, if you’re paying attention it’s (almost) impossible to get lost. We enter into Cator Park (that name again!) and cross two little streams, first the Beck

and then Chaffinch Brook…

…which both end up in the Ravensbourne, the stream that we met last week. Cator Park is very fine, full of some energetic dogs and small children learning to steer their scooters and bicycles, some with more accuracy than others.

I was much taken by these dandelions. I think the low sun at this time of year really makes them glow.

Someone who designed the park clearly had a great love for conifers, because there are half a dozen stands of them, looking just a little incongruous in South London but none the less magnificent for all that.

And look at this magnificent Raywood Ash! It’s not quite in full splendour yet, but it’s getting there. I photographed some in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery last year, so have a look to see how they are at their best.

Raywood Ash

And looky here! A stink pipe, and in a rather better state of preservation than most of the North London ones that I’ve seen. In the end I spied two, both with a tulip design at the top. While my local stinkpipes mark the route of the Northern Outfall Sewer, these beauties presumably follow the Southern Outfall Sewer, which eventually ends up in Crossness. The idea was that the methane and other gases would be vented high above the heads of the public, and would waft away in the breeze, presumably adding to the burden of carbon in the atmosphere that we are all suffering under now.

This rather uninspiring corner marks the site of Kent House, so-called because it was the first building on the road out of London that was actually in Kent (no longer – these days it’s the London Borough of Bromley. For most of its life (and it appears to have been built in the 13th century) Kent House was a farmhouse, before a brief period as a nursing home in the early 20th century. It was demolished in 1957, which seems rather a shame.

Kent House in 1910

The site of Kent House today

There are some extremely fine houses on this road. In one of them, a gardener with a leaf blower (an invention of the devil if ever I heard one) stopped in his task to pick up a single tiny leaf from the driveway. I suspect that his clients might have been of the extremely picky kind.

Many of the houses had some lovely plaster work detailing.

On we go, getting a first proper look at the Crystal Palace radio mast…

And then walking through yet another park, where the sports pavilion has this lovely mural…

…and past this house with its twisted pillars.

We cross over the platforms at Penge East Station and pass the Roman Catholic Church of The Good Shepherd. The building dates from 1887 and was probably originally the Mission Hall for nearby Holy Trinity Church. I love the coloured glass in the windows,

And now we are getting hungry, and what better than a quick bite in The Pride of Venice café? Most of the other diners seemed to be hungover clubbers, but the sandwiches were of the doorstep variety and the tea was good and strong, so just what the doctor ordered. And now, we were on the last leg of the walk, and were hoping to see something prehistoric. Let’s see how we got on tomorrow….


4 thoughts on “The Capital Ring – Beckenham Junction to Crystal Palace Part One

  1. Claire

    I read this at breakfast, and almost got up to head for London immediately! When I do go to London( not today), I will definitely walk a few of the Capital Ring sections. In the meantime, I am going to walk locally, watch the autumn leaves, maybe picnic there(18°)…

      1. Claire

        Finally, by the time I left, the sky was grey, but it only rained at 6 o’clock Many trees have already lost their leaves ( because of the drought, too) but there were lots of beautiful red or yellow trees, huge carpets of acorns, lots of berries, and I saw 2 butterflies. A red admiral and a bright yellow one that was too far away for identification…a lovely afternoon!

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