Paths of the Hurst

If there's one thing for which the Hurst is good -- and there are many -- it's for walking about on.  The many paths that cross Croham Hurst each have a different character and each contributes a different tone to a Sunday walk or night time excursion.

It's remarkable, given the Hurst's small size (only half a mile long) how many different kinds of atmosphere, and indeed how many different eco-systems, one can encounter.  Biologically, there's the contrast between moorland (at the top), oak woods (top, south, and most of the Hurst in general) and beechwoods (the gentle northern slopes).  But psychologically, how even more profound the variety is!  For example, I have generally thought of the summit, west and north of the Hurst as the 'main' part of the Hurst, and rarely venture towards Selsdon Road or the network of paths east of the Stone Tree; but only last month I met someone on the path who always walks the south side of the Hurst and considers my area quite exotic!

For the below map showing the Hurst's most important paths I am indebted to Samantha Focuss (10) of Selsdon.

Path 1

The very spine or backbone of the Hurst, this is the great path that runs almost the length of the whole hill. A walk down this path will take you past the Barrow, the Stone Tree, both the Hurst's bits of moorland, and many of the best climbing trees. This path forms the axis of the Hurst and the cornerstone of any favorite stroll you might devise there.

Path 2

One of my favorite parts of the Hurst is the steep (but not too steep) climb up from the South Croydon side. Dense with oak trees, it's an exciting and bracing start to a walk.

Path 3

This long, gently sloping, straight and light path takes you down through the beech plantation on the Hurst's northern side. The ground is beech mast rather than gravel and there is a great sense of light and space.

This path continues out of the Hurst to the north and along a pleasant (but muddy in winter) strip of treed land all the way to Croham Road.

Path 4

A shorter, steeper route through the beech trees. Until recently there was an ersatz memorial on this path to one of the many people to have violently died on the Hurst in recent years, but lately it seems to have disappeared. Widely spaced beech trees are ideal for children to hide behind.

Path 5

Parallel to the bridleway, this long path along the northern edge of the Hurst is ill-defined; the ground is so soft and dry and the undergrowth so thin that you can just make your own way between the trees. A good alternative to path 6 if you want to stay deeper in the trees.

Path 6

This path is a bridleway and hence the only place on the hurst where bikes can be ridden. It is wide, firm, and light because on one side it's very close to the golf club. Good for walking dogs (and as a result, now fitted with dog bins).

This path continues East from the Hurst for a long way, crossing the golf course and serving as a good way to get between South Croydon and Selsdon, especially for cyclists.

Path 7

This path is stairs -- such is the steepness of Breakneck Hill. Prepare to feel short of breath. The climb through the reddening bracken in autumn is lovely.

Path 8

The Selsdon Road side, like the north side, has a long straight path, but in this case you are never free of the traffic noise. The scenery is lovely, with Breakneck Hill rising on one side and thicker, older trees than the north slope offers. Unfortunately there have been some arson attempts here in recent years and because this side is accessible from the main road you'll find the occasional beer can.

Path 9

The path along Selsdon road is subject to traffic noise which is a pity.

Path 10

The south eastern end of the Hurst has a large network of narrow paths, many of them quite steep and rough. Undergrowth is thinnish here but the splendid views of light filtering through leaves are not to be found. This area does not, however, suffer from the infestation of holly that has claimed much of the western Hurst. Surprisingly, these paths are quite busy with people living across Selsdon Road.