Whyteleafe Circular walk

A Battle of Britain airfield and a medieval wall painting in the newly-designated South London Downs National Nature Reserve.


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Sat, 30-Dec-23 Saturday Walk - Coulsdon South to Whyteleafe 11 wet start dry middle and damp finish
Sun, 20-Aug-23 b Sunday Walk – Coulsdon South to Whyteleafe via Kenley Airfield 9 warm sunny
Sat, 31-Dec-22 Saturday Walk - Whyteleafe Circular 10 mild and very wet
Sun, 06-Mar-22 Sunday Walk: Whyteleafe Circular 13 dry cold and overcast turned sunny later
Sat, 12-Sep-20 Saturday Walk – Whyteleafe Circular [New Walk] 10 largely sunny
Length: 14¾ km (9.2 miles). Toughness: 4/10
This is a variation on the Whytleafe circular and has a variety of options to shorten the walk. The stations are in zone 6.
Trains: Get the 1008 Reigate train from London Victoria (Clapham 1015, East Croydon 1026) arriving Coulsdon South 1035. There are also trains from London Bridge arriving 10 minutes before or 9 minutes after 1035. Return from Upper Warlingham to Victoria at xx:02 & xx:32, or Whyteleafe to London Bridge at xx:01 & xx:31; both via East Croydon.
Lunch: The Fox (01883-340737) on Coulsdon Common, reached after 6.5 km. This is the only place on the walk route, but shortly before reaching it you could detour to The Boundary on the Green (01883-818087) in the Caterham Barracks development, which had a positive report from a Sunday walk in August.
Tea: the small Pavilion Café open to around 4.30pm, in the Recreation Ground, a friendly place serving hot drinks and a selection of home-made cakes.

On the A22 between the two stations are the refurbished Whyteleafe Tavern and the Radius Arms micro-pub

  • 31-Dec-23

    11 A wet start dry middle and damp finish Muddy underfoot, slippy at times. Lunch for some at the Fox, which wasn’t crowded. At least not at first.

    Then on. Most continued on the Whyteleafe loop but the group started fragmenting. Some rounded off the walk in the park cafe. Two went to the Radius Arms where the beer was good.

Extra Walk 363b – Coulsdon South to Whyteleafe via Kenley Airfield

Length: 14¾ km (9.2 miles). Toughness: 4/10

Take the Thameslink train (destination Three Bridges; St Pancras 10:10…London Bridge 10:25, Norwood Jct 10:37, East Croydon 10:42 etc), arriving Coulsdon South at 10:51. All the stations on this walk are in TfL Zone 6.

Return from Upper Warlingham to Victoria at xx:08 & xx:38, or Whyteleafe to London Bridge at xx:10 & xx:40; both via East Croydon.

RAF Kenley To commemorate “The Hardest Day” in the Battle of Britain a Spitfire and a Hurricane are due to fly over Kenley Airfield at around 2.20pm on Sunday, as described in this Inside Croydon article. On this walk you should be able to time your arrival at the airfield for the best possible view of this memorial flypast.

† The timing is approximate and the flypast might even have to be cancelled in the event of bad weather.

This variation of the Whyteleafe Circular starts by reversing the familiar ending of the Book 2 walk, along Farthing Downs and Happy Valley to the famous doom mural in Chaldon church. The walk then loops back to Coulsdon Common for a pub lunch. The most conveniently placed is The Fox but they often claim to be fully booked, so I'd be tempted to make the short detour (described in the directions) to investigate The Boundary on the Green (01883-818087) in the Caterham Barracks development. After lunch it's about 30 minutes from the Boundary to Kenley Airfield (20 mins from the Fox), if you want to time your arrival for the flypast.

There are various drop-out points after that but the full walk loops out towards Kenley and returns via Riddlesdown to Whyteleafe. If it's a nice day the park café should still be open for tea'n'cake, otherwise there's a couple of pubs on the High Street.

You'll need to bring the directions from the L=swc.363.b page.

  • 21-Aug-23

    The rival attractions of a sporting event on the telly might have kept some people indoors on a warm sunny Sunday, but seven non-footballers assembled at Coulsdon South. In the morning we enjoyed the plentiful green spaces provided by the Corporation of London and dutifully admired the wall painting in Chaldon church.

    As suggested we diverted to The Boundary on the Green for lunch and found a well-organised pub with plenty of staff and good food promptly served; well worth recommending for future walks. A few peeped at their phones for the footie but the muted groans coming from the crowd clustered around the TV told us the news.

    As scheduled we arrived at Kenley Airfield soon after 2pm and found hundreds of other spectators lined up around the perimeter fence, plus two more walkers so now we were 9 . After 15 minutes anxiously scanning the sky one of the distant black dots did indeed turn out to be a Hurricane (though not accompanied by a Spitfire, alas). It treated us to three low-level passes before waggling its wings and heading back to the south-east (Eastbourne, somebody told us).

    We all completed the walk to Whyteleafe and most stopped for refreshments at the Recreation Ground's café. Five then squeezed into the Radius Arms where we bumped into a group of Capital Walkers who'd done a similar walk past the airfield. The pub was encouraging customers to polish off its stock of beer before its annual holiday and one or two trains were missed. The rest of the evening is a blur. An eventful day!

Length: 10.3 miles (16.5km) 5 out of 10
The walk has various options to shorten it.
"This walk covers a stretch of the Green Belt on the London/Surrey border which since July 2019 has been designated the South London Downs National Nature Reserve. It starts with a climb onto Kenley Common and a long stretch around the perimeter of Kenley Airfield, a well-preserved example of those pressed into service during World War Ⅱ.
The walk continues across Coulsdon Common where some features will be familiar from the Riddlesdown to Coulsdon walk (2–15). You soon pass the lunchtime pub but unless you want to cut the walk short (or take a very early break) there is an hour-long loop across Happy Valley in order to see the internationally renowned 12thC doom mural in Chaldon church. The route back to the pub goes past a historically interesting burial ground, a salutary reminder of the time – not so long ago – when large numbers of people with mental health problems were confined in asylums.
The afternoon section starts by weaving its way back across Coulsdon and Kenley Commons, this time going around the other side of the airfield. After a stretch along a newly-restored patch of downland it takes a northerly loop through woodland to Kenley before crossing the valley.
One last climb onto Riddlesdown is followed by a level stretch through the Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area, where you can look back across the valley to your earlier route. A flight of steps then takes you down to a park café in Whyteleafe Recreation Ground and a choice of return stations."
Trains: Get the 0952 East Grinstead train from London Bridge (East Croydon 1010) arriving Upper Warlingham 1022. This is a short walk from Whyteleafe station. Return trains from Whyteleafe to London Bridge at xx25, xx55 and from Upper Warlingham to London Bridge xx32, xx02.
Lunch: The Fox (01883-340737) on Coulsdon Common, reached after 8¼ km on the Main Walk. This is the only place on the walk route, but shortly before reaching it you could detour to The Boundary on the Green (01883-818087) in the Caterham Barracks development.
Tea: the small Pavilion Café open to around 4.30pm, in the Recreation Ground, a friendly place serving hot drinks and a selection of home-made cakes.

On the A22 between the two stations are the refurbished Whyteleafe Tavern and the Radius Arms micro-pub

  • 31-Dec-22

    10 people on this mild and very wet day. The Fox was fully booked and it wasn't good walking weather so we all cut it short. Thank you to the walkers who invited us to their home to dry off over hot drinks and cake.

Mr M Tiger
Mr M Tiger
Main Walk: 16.75 km (10.45 miles). Toughness: 5 out of 10.
Shorter Walk, omitting Chaldon loop: 12 km (7.5 miles).
Explore a part of the London/Surrey border now designated as a National Nature Reserve. Visit Kenley Airfield (where information panels recall its wartime role), cross Coulsdon Common and Happy Valley then head for Chaldon church (notable for its 12th C doom mural). After looping back to the Fox for lunch, the walk weaves back across Coulsdon and Kenley Commons. A last climb onto Riddlesdown eventually leads down to a café in Whyteleafe Recreation Ground and a choice of return stations. Some plaices will be familiar from our Riddlesdown - Coulsdon walk but this is a whole new kettle of fish..
The simplest train is the 9:51 East Grinstead train from Victoria (Clapham Jct 9:58, E Croydon 10:09) to Upper Warlingham station, arriving at 10:21 (it's near Whyteleafe station and is included in the directions).
There's no direct train to Whyteleafe station today but you could get the 9:39 Thameslink from London Bridge and change at East Croydon onto the Caterham train (arr. 9:52, dep 9:58), arriving Whyteleafe at 10:17.
The two posses can meet up at Whyteleafe’s station car-park (near the level crossing). Say 10:30?
Return direct to Victoria from Upper Warlingham at xx:08 and xx:38, or from Whyteleafe at xx:57 and xx:27 changing again at East Croydon.
All stations are in TfL Zone 6, so you can use Oyster PAYG or buy a Travelcard.
The Fox on Coulsdon Common.
The suggested tea place is the small Pavilion Café (01883-770666; open daily to around 4.30pm) in the Recreation Ground. There are also two pubs by the A22, neither of which do hot drinks, the Whyteleafe Tavern (0121-272 5499) and the Radius Arms micro-pub (07514-916172),
Directions here
A shorter 7 mile walk is possible by cutting out the loop to Chaldon.

  • 04-Mar-22

    I am interested in this walk and may come if weather is not too bad.


  • Aiming to start at Whyteleafe

  • 06-Mar-22

    6 assembled in the station car park. Another two joined up the hill. And off we went, up hill, down hill, up again, down again, all along lea. Birds singing, gliders gliding.. As we neared Chaldon, the walk’s author suggested a different route that would avoid so much mud. After a long time, sliding through mud anyway, I began to wonder why we hadn’t reached the church. It gradually dawned on me we weren’t going there. However, my mood brightened when I realised we were almost back at the Fox.

    We were joined there by two late starters. Apparently, there were another two doing the walk in reverse but I never saw them. There seemed to be a problem getting tables in the Fox but one of our number had stopped there and guarded one. People seemed to like what they got. I just filled up with cider.

    Then we were off again, up hill, down dale, up again, down again. On the way we were joined by one more. How many’s that? I’m going to stick my neck out and say 13 The weather, which had been dry cold and overcast turned sunny later Or maybe it just was my cheerful countenance brightening everyone’s day.

    Eventually we reached the recreation ground and had tea and cake outside the café. Most then went to Whyteleafe Station. Myself and ‘Explorer’ paid a quick visit to the Radius micropub. (Had to didn’t I? Just missed the Upper Warlingham train). Quite a place, tiny, crowded, whacky décor. a zillion types of ale, several ciders. Then home.

Extra Walk 363 – Whyteleafe Circular
Length: 16½ km (10.3 miles), or 12 km (7.5 miles) if skipping Chaldon. Toughness: 5 or 3/10 respectively.

10:17 Caterham & Tattenham Corner train from London Bridge (East Croydon 10:32), arriving Whyteleafe (TfL Zone 6) at 10:51. You need to be in the front (Caterham) section when the train divides at Purley. Use Oyster PAYG or contactless.

Alternatively, take the 10:20 East Grinstead train from Victoria (Clapham Jct 10:27, East Croydon 10:40), arriving Upper Warlingham (also Zone 6) at 10:52. The directions include an alternative start from this station. This bubble will only be a few minutes behind the other one and can try to catch up or maintain their distance, as they wish.

Each group must get together and exchange contact details at the start, preferably in the station forecourt/car park where it's less crowded.

For the return journey, the fastest trains are the xx:02 & xx:32 from Upper Warlingham to Victoria, with the xx:25 & xx:55 from Whyteleafe to London Bridge as a somewhat inferior alternative. The xx:05 & xx:35 from Whyteleafe are provided solely for aficionados of unhurried trains to the less visited parts of south London.

This is a new but not particularly novel walk on a stretch of the Green Belt now being plugged as the South London Downs National Nature Reserve. It was created in those trying times when we were only supposed to exercise in one-hour chunks, hence its eccentric design of interlocking loops. Some parts will be familiar from Book 2's Coulsdon walk, inluding The Fox on Coulsdon Common: you might be able to get fed and watered there if you can comply with its long list of Covid-19 requirements, but it would be wise to bring some provisions. There are plenty of open spaces on Coulsdon Common or Happy Valley for a picnic.

As noted above you could skip one of the loops (out to Chaldon church) to make a shorter walk. Please bring the walk directions with you in some form or other from the Whyteleafe Circular walk page, as others might choose to do a different option or drop out at one of the stations passed on the afternoon leg. T=swc.363
  • 12-Sep-20

    10 on a largely sunny day.3 from Upper Warlingham, the rest Whyteleafe. We split into 2 groups. Due to an administrative error, I was put into the slow group so was unable to race ahead. We dawdled across Kenley Common where new noticeboards reminded of its wartime history and numerous temporary placards commemorate those killed in action. (80th anniversary coming up). Then on we plodded, up hill and down dale, up, down up, down, eventually reaching the Fox. We couldn’t get served – “new Covid restrictions” they said “have to book”. So we had a picnic on the common, where I fell in a ditch despite being stone cold sober. More of a ha-ha actually but not all that funny.

    Next stop Chaldon Church with its ancient wall painting. Still there. The churchyard trees were decorated with ornaments and wishes. Then up, down, up, down, back to the slopes above Whyteleafe where some of the harder nuts carried on to Riddlesdown. The wiser elements called it a day and retired to the Whyteleafe Arms. There we did get served but only after an elaborate logging in ceremony.

    Nice walk through familiar territory, seen from a different angle. Thanks, Sean for devising and posting.

  • 12-Sep-20

    3 of us went to the cafe in Whyteleafe recreation ground, not realising the others had sidled off to the pub. We enjoyed a relaxing hour in the sun on the grass with refreshments and a view of the hill ahead. 2 of us then took a pleasant early evening stroll up and across to Riddlesdown to the station there.