A Pipe Dream For South Norwood

Reading, in the March issue of the Norwood Review, John Medhurst’s delightful idea for keeping the memory of the Vicar’s Oak green, I was reminded of a scheme I thought up some years ago for doing the same kind of thing in our little neck of the Great North Wood.

You can go from Selhurst to South Norwood on a country path by walking through Heaver’s Meadow and then the Recreation Ground, When my grandchildren were small it was an ideal way to go on to the swings or the library, with pram, pushchair, tricycle, or bicycle and the only glimpse one had of a car was when crossing Tennison Road. The Meadow is bounded on one side by the railway line and on the other by allotments, with blackberries growing along the fence in the autumn. Through the middle is a trickle of water which it would be an exaggeration to call a rivulet, but it adds a certain charm, particularly after heavy rain. There are a few willow trees – it’s not exactly a beautiful spot (we call it “the waste land”) – but, for a London suburb, its a valuable piece of untouched ground, though it is mostly only used by people walking dogs.

Because the Croydon canal ran very close to the Meadow, my idea is to recreate a little length of canal along beside the railway line. The bridge under which the line passes at Tennison Road is quite wide and could accommodate the canal as well, then it could continue to the disused café and toilets at the end of the recreation ground. This is quite an acceptable little building it would be good to see it brought back into use. There could be a barge on the canal, pulled by a horse, and I’m sure this would be an attractive outing for families on weekends and half-terms and holidays. Because there is a railway station at each end, as well as buses, there would be no need for a car park – inclusive tickets could be offered from central Croydon or Victoria or London Bridge and “real” tourists from London and beyond could combine their boat ride with exploring the delights of the Whitgift Centre or a concert at the Fairfield Halls.

Of course digging out the canal and cementing it would have to be a professional job, but the landscaping and planting of shrubs, making of benches and picnic tables could surely be a community project which would appeal to families living nearby. In the scale of things it does not seem to me an enormously expensive or ambitious project.

The idea came to me when there was talk of Croydon becoming a tourist  resort. I felt that for that to happen there was a need for more than good shopping and transport facilities and wrote in, making this suggestion. The reply was the Meadow was needed for drainage in time of flood. It does not seem to me that this function would be impaired but in any case the drainage pipe must be blocked because when there is a heavy downpour the Selhurst Road quickly becomes ankle-deep in water and it is necessary to take off shoes and socks and wade!

No doubt this is destined to remain a pipe dream, but it’s fun to contemplate! A new Vicar’s Oak (see March Review) would be much easier to achieve, and let us hope that, at least, will be done.

Eloise Akpan

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