Farthing Downs and Happy Valley

A circular walk near Coulsdon in South London, which brings you to the beautiful, rolling chalk grassland of Farthing Downs and Happy Valley. Because this area is some of the last remaining chalk land habitat remaining in the Greater London area, both these sites are considered Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This walk is published through a collaboration with Surrey County Council.

Technical sheet
No. 9007414
A Croydon walk posted on 10/05/21 by Aurelie-21. Update : 10/05/21
Calculated time Calculated time: 1h45[?]
Distance Distance : 5.33km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 76m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 81m
Highest point Highest point : 177m
Lowest point Lowest point : 119m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Croydon
Starting point Starting point : N 51.29859° / W 0.13465°
Download : -


(D/A) Before setting off on the walk, you might want to take some time enjoying the views from the ridge-top paths alongside the car park. Farthing Downs is managed by the City of London and has stunning panoramic views across the surrounding countryside and all the way to London. Farthing Downs is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to it being part of the largest area of chalk grassland habitat remaining in the Greater London area. Listen for the beautiful song of the skylark which can last for five minutes without a pause. From the car park, cross over Ditches Lane and walk down the grass bank opposite, staying close to the Farthing Down cottages running on your right. Where the cottages on your right end, swing right to join the obvious level chalk path, leading you past a vehicle barrier. Keep ahead on this main path through the ancient woodland (ignoring any side paths), with the trees sloping up to your right and down to your left. This area is known as Happy Valley, a special place comprising areas of chalk grassland and ancient woodland. The site is managed by Croydon Council. Dormice and white admiral butterflies can be found in the ancient woodland which is carpeted with bluebells in the late spring. When you reach a major fork, keep left, still following the main track which descends steadily. You will emerge out into an area of open chalk grassland. Bear slightly right along the edge of this grassland, following the line of the woodland on your right, with the grass sloping down to your left.

(1) Many chalk-loving orchids grow here, along with the nationally rare greater yellow-rattle. Chalk grassland is one of our richest plant communities and more than 50 kinds of wild flower can be found in a square metre of land. About half way along the clearing, ignore the footpaths into the woodland on your right. Instead, continue following the right-hand edge of the clearing as it swings steadily left and downhill to reach a fingerpost.

Turn right at this point, passing through the wide gap in the woodland belt and then keep ahead, staying fairly close to the woodland edge running on your left. Continue just until you reach a hedgerow crossing your path. Do NOT pass through the hedge, instead turn right heading uphill with the hedgerow running on your left.

(2) At the top corner keep straight ahead to join a stone track leading you through a section of trees (signed as a public footpath to Chaldon Church). You will emerge to the edge of a large crop field. Take the obvious path heading diagonally left (at about 11 o'clock) across the field. As you draw level with a corner of woodland on your right, stay with the path which now bears further to your left, leading you diagonally across the next section of crop field. The path leads you over the brow of the rise and then heads steadily downhill towards a belt of trees. NOTE: Beyond this tree line the path emerges directly onto a road so keep children and dogs close as you approach. Pass through the trees and turn left along Ditches Lane, taking care of any traffic. At the fork in the lane, take the left-hand branch. The grass triangle on your right is known as Chaldon Green and is the smallest registered common in England. Chaldon Church, visible beyond the green, is famous for its Doom Painting on the west wall. Dating from 1200, the painting features 'the ladder of salvation of the human soul' and is one of the finest and oldest in England.

(3) About 30 metres beyond the green, turn left onto the footpath signed to Piles Wood. Pass through the hedgerow gap and follow the path with the crop field (which you just crossed) on your left and fenced paddocks on your right. In the top right-hand corner of the crop field, continue ahead on the grass track with the fence line on your right and Piles Wood running on your left.

At the end of the path you will emerge to a junction with a tarmac access track. Turn left, signed as a bridleway to Happy Valley, with Piles Wood still on your left. You will pass a number of properties on your right. When the tarmac track ends, simply keep ahead on the stone and dirt path, following a fence line running on your right.

The path begins to descend and, when the woodland on the left ends, you will come to a junction. Ignore the path to the left, simply keep ahead with a section of open grassland visible through the trees on your left. At the bottom of the slope you will come to a fingerpost marking a crossroads at the bottom of Happy Valley. Turn left here and join the path along the valley bottom.

(4) Follow the valley bottom path, with the grassland sloping up to your left and woodland on your right. Further along you will meet a hedgerow crossing your path (the one you encountered on the outward leg). Pass through the hedge and turn immediately right to join a smaller path leading you steeply up through the woodland via a flight of steps. As you emerge from the trees continue up the steps, passing a bench on the left. At the top you will come to a T-junction.

Turn left onto the footpath signed to Farthing Downs. Follow this obvious path leading you gently back down the hill, across the grassland and passing between a few benches. The path leads you through a belt of trees. Continue ahead, going downhill. Simply keep ahead to reach a junction of paths at the valley bottom.

At the first crossroads (recognisable by the stone path running uphill to the right) go straight ahead. A few paces later fork right and join the grass path along the valley bottom which leads you past a small group of blackthorn bushes and a bench on your right. At the far end of this grassland, go ahead on the wide track through the trees and you will emerge to a narrower area of grassland.

Keep straight ahead and you will soon merge with a stone path coming in from the right. Further along, follow the stone path as it bears right (passing a memorial bench to your left). At the next right-hand bend on the path (just before the grassland narrows to a single track), turn left into a wide gap within the woodland. Ten paces along you will reach a fork. Take the right-hand branch, the path heading diagonally uphill, giving you a gentler gradient.

As you enter a section of trees you will see a bench. Turn sharp left and follow the path continuing uphill through the trees. Towards the top, swing right to reach the corner of the Farthing Downs cottages (that you passed as you first entered Happy Valley). Dog-leg right and then left, walking up the grass slope with the cottages to your left. At the top of the slope you will reach the car park where the walk began.(D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 147m - Grassland
1 : km 0.64 - alt. 135m - Chalk-loving orchids
2 : km 1.31 - alt. 136m - Top corner
3 : km 2.16 - alt. 164m - The green
4 : km 3.32 - alt. 145m - The valley bottom path
D/A : km 5.33 - alt. 147m - Grassland

Useful Information

The walk has several climbs and descents throughout including a couple of quite steep sections. The route follows wide paths throughout, including one path across the centre of crop fields. There are beautiful wild flowers throughout this nature trail. There are no stiles or gates on the route; just one flight of steps (which runs alongside a steep path). The chalk path surfaces can get very muddy and slippery when wet so good boots are a must. Allow 1.5 hours.

There are toilets in the car park on Ditches Lane. Ordnance Survey Map: Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill and Reigate. This walk follows public footpaths and bridleways which cross private and public land. Information is included for your interest, but please respect people's privacy, keep dogs under control and remember the Countryside Code.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

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