Head for the Hills: Join the Farthing Down trail near Coulsdon

PUBLISHED: 12:03 02 October 2020

Surrey Hills Society members learning about Farthing Downs environmental management from Ranger, Dominic North Image: Chris Howard

Surrey Hills Society members learning about Farthing Downs environmental management from Ranger, Dominic North Image: Chris Howard

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Visit Surrey chairman and Surrey Hills Society vice president Chris Howard uncovers a rare habitat on the Surrey borders

In my post recently, to my surprise, was a beautiful little book called “Exploring Happy Valley and Farthing Downs”, sent to me by my friend, Graham Lomas, who is the chairman of the Friends of Farthing Downs.

The “Friends” are a voluntary group that assists in the protection of the area, in partnership with Croydon Council and the City of London Corporation. The area is close to Coulsdon, situated just on the edge of London, and what a gem of a place it is.

It is one of the highest points in the built up capital, is bursting with surprisingly rare wildlife, and makes a perfect day out for the whole family to experience the unique countryside of southern England. Its chalk grassland is one of the rarest habitats in the world, making it worthy of international conservation importance. It is also one of the richest habitats in western Europe, supporting a host of fascinating plants, butterflies, birds and rare animals such as the dormouse.

There are 29 information posts on this 3.5 hour self-guided trail of the area (shorter options are available). The information can also be downloaded via QR codes along the trail as you go, onto your smartphone. The group have collated lots of really interesting pictures and articles about what you are seeing along the way, including rare chalkland plants, the animals and insects of the area, as well as the manmade features like the medieval Chaldon Church, a Saxon Burial ground and chalk quarrying at Coulsdon. Farthing Down is a scheduled ancient monument because of the impressive later prehistoric settlements sited here.

READ MORE: Take a stroll around Walliswood and Oakwood Hill

The Friends of Farthing Downs, along with local government and Corporation of London colleagues have been busy in recent years getting the area designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR). It runs from Farthing Downs on the west to beyond Riddlesdown in the east. The new NNR is part of the North Downs stretch of chalk upland running from beyond Guildford in the west to the white cliffs of Dover.

Lots of other leaflets and information can also be downloaded via cityoflondon.gov.uk/citycommons and hard copies are available for collection from Merlewood Estate Office at Caterham.

You can also get in contact via Facebook: “Friends of Farthing Downs and Happy Valley”. In addition, Surrey Life has made it the feature walk for this month - find the route from page 45.

I am really in awe of the collaborative work that has gone into creating this interesting booklet that summarises so beautifully some of Surrey’s rarest countryside. I had a wonderful afternoon exploring this fascinating site and thoroughly recommend it as a great day out for all the family.

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