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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
4 - Art therapy at the Netherne asylum - along Ditches Lane through the Devil's Den
Nearby the church is Ditches Lane, which runs along the Surrey/Croydon border and will lead me steadily back to the 300 easting. On my right is Figgs Wood, and on my left is The Gullet, an area of privately-owned fields. Beyond, very close to the 300 easting, I can see flashing yellow lights of construction vehicles, and the old water tower of Netherne Hospital, originally a lunatic asylum established in 1907. In 1946, a man named Edward Adamson, who had worked as a medical orderly during the war, was given the unusual job of art master at this hospital. Here, working with patients (including recovering soldiers) who might otherwise have been treated with drugs, electric shock or lobotomies, he developed his influential theories and practices which are now known as art therapy. He died in 1996. During his lifetime, he collected over 50,000 paintings produced by people suffering mental difficulties. These are now being cared for by the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.
The tower is completely covered in scaffolding and green netting, because, like the whole Netherne Hospital site, it is being turned into apartments and houses. The pretentiously-named Netherne-on-the-Hill is the southeast's newest village. It will provide more than 400 homes 'complete with village traditions like cricket green, community hall, leisure centre with swimming pool and gym, and a shop'. Gleeson Homes also says that some of the converted homes will have high ceilings with decorative cornice and ceiling roses, Paula Rosa kitchens, Juliette balconies, allocated 'car barns'. Two and three bed apartments cost £395,000 - £399,950. But, the Guinness Trust Group, which is working in partnership with Gleeson Homes, is also providing a proportion of affordable housing (about 25% of the total) so that there will be 'a mixture of tenures' to help establish 'a long lasting balanced community'.
After passing a private (and presumably illegal) dumping ground on the left of Ditches Lane, I find a footpath on the right that follows the line of the road, through The Devils Den (which is next to Sparklies Wood). I find a small ugly pond. There's a bench facing it, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to sit there. I walk under two neck-high barriers placed to hinder horse traffic, before returning to the road. Along here, between the road and Devils Den Wood, there are a few houses, including the double-fronted and pebble-dashed Meadowview, which sports a silver London taxi in its large forecourt.
The road leads to a car park near where I find a large information board
with four sides. One side describes Farthing Down, another is dedicated
to the Downlands Circular Walk, a third to the Happy Valley Park, and a
fourth to the London Loop. This latter is a 150 mile orbital walking route
around Greater London. According to the Rambler's Association, this is 'a
fascinating journey around the edge of greater London down hidden alleyways
through residential areas, along rivers and canals, across public parks,
nature reserves, woods, occasional enclaves of farmland and surprisingly
few roads, with many unexpected gems along the way'. The London Loop walk
heads off east through Happy Valley, an area originally bought by the old
district council for Coulsdon and Purley as part of the green belt scheme,
and now designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). I go exactly
north (into the London Borough of Croydon) and will be able to stick precisely
on the 300 easting for over a mile.
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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