Happy Valley and Farthing Downs

Happy ValleyThe wonderfully mild weather on Sunday was a great excuse for a walk into Happy Valley. Combined with Farthing Downs it is my favourite Greater London green space. Just over 30 minutes from London Bridge to Coulsdon South, a few minutes walk up a street and you are on an open hilltop followed by a valley with woods either side. You’d never know you are in Croydon. It is like deep countryside except you get full mobile phone reception.

Farthing Downs came from a Corporation of London initiative in the 1880s to purchase commons and to open them to the public to give Londoners a place of recreation. In the 1900s thousands of daytrippers would picnic there. Happy Valley was bought by Croydon Council in the 1930s as part of greenbelt scheme. Walking through them it is fun to imagine them packed with people back then.

It might be the name, but Happy Valley makes me feel happy. Walking around isn’t challenging (apart from scaling the hills on either side) and there’s plenty of benches to sit on and take in the view.

The only thing that lets it down is a pub for lunch. There’s two nearby: The Fox and The Ladybird. Both are modern food pubs with large menus and a commercial feel. It would appear if you aren’t in real countryside you cannot have a country pub.

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National Cycle Network app

National Cycle Network appThe charity Sustrans released this app a while back to give iPhone users the maps of the National Cycle Network. To be honest the app is a bit clunky and prone to errors. But it inadvertently allows you to do something very useful if you are going walking in the country — download OS maps.

While connected to wifi or 3G, zoom the map so the area you’ll want for your walk is visible. Then ask it to ‘store maps for offline’, select 1:2500 and it will download OS maps with all the public footpaths on. (It does go down to 1:10000 but these don’t have the footpaths.) Once you are out in the countryside switch on GPS and it will put a pointer on the map to tell you where you are.

You can pay for much better map apps (in particular you’ll pay to download different maps) but I don’t walk enough to justify the cost. Thanks to Sustrans you get all of the UK for free.

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RunKeeperI’d been wanting an app that kept track of my bike rides and walks but couldn’t find anything suitable for free. I was jealous of friends whose twitter feeds would occasionally report on their latest great run using RunKeeper. Then I noticed a tweet which referred to a bike ride. It only turns out RunKeeper does more than running.

I realise it is a popular app and there’ll be plenty of people who think me rather ignorant for not knowing this. But I am not a runner and I have no interest in running. So this is app is badly named for me. I suppose they were hit by the classic problem of creating a simple powerful brand name for their initial product and then couldn’t change it once the product expanded. I guess this is an argument for keeping names vague.

If you’ve not seen it and like a nice ride or walk then check out RunKeeper. It will tell you your pace, distance and compile a map. A lady with a slightly moody voice can update you every five minutes if you like. Handy if you want to remember your walks or need something to encourage you to improve your cycling pace.