The southern half of the Loop is full of surprises, and one of the biggest is that there's an awful lot of pretty countryside just south of Croydon. This isn't meant to belittle Croydon, as even its biggest fans don't associate the place with sweeping vistas and the rural idyll, but within a stone's throw of the urban business centre of Croydon are some of the prettiest sections of the Loop. This section makes a lovely walk, and the only drawback is the challenge in getting home from the end point at Hamsey Green.
From Hayes station the Loop Link along the back alleys of Hayes is pretty easy going, and it doesn't take much effort to reach the Loop as it heads through suburbia to a recreation ground, where a small stone marks the spot where the Greenwich Meridian slices through London. Walking between the pitches takes you from the eastern hemisphere into the western hemisphere, and it's not until Chingford on day 13 that the Loop crosses back into the east, though there's no marker on that section.
Soon enough the path leads you to the pretty church of St John the Baptist, where the local school kids can sometimes be seen skulking around in the woods, smoking and generally avoiding their teachers. It's not a bad place for a stop, with its old yew trees and convenient seats, and the walk downhill to the A2022 is easy. If you're carrying the official guidebook for the Loop, then here's a good opportunity to play the Photo Game; try lining up the book's photo of the church with reality, and see if you can spot what's changed. It's a lot more fun than it sounds...
The next mile through Spring Park, Halfpenny Wood and Foxes Wood is pleasant and there is a reward at Addington Hill, where the view over Croydon towards Crystal Palace is great. This is a popular place for school trips; when I was there one poor girl got terrible vertigo on the viewing platform, even though it's only a few feet off the ground and is built to withstand the worst treatment.
Back on the Loop, there's a chance to see Croydon's trams in action – the Loop crosses a tram track, which is quite a novelty for those who don't live near the TramLink line – but soon the path leads to Heathfield, a stately home with pretty gardens that are worth exploring. There's another viewpoint a little further on, this time looking over Addington, and even though the Loop at this point passes through some fairly populated areas, it plunges into more woodland and out into an area of grassland where you can play the Photo Game once more. When I walked this section the pretty little heath in the guidebook was dotted with the wrecks of three rusting cars; no, I can't work out how they got there either, but it was quite an achievement, if an unwelcome one.
I then lost the path on the way to Selsdon Park Road and had to fish out the compass to guide me to the pylon mentioned in the book, but from there to Hamsey Green the Loop is easy to follow, passing through Selsdon Wood and through a bunch of farmers' fields. And there, at the end of this short day's walk, is the Good Companions pub on Hamsey Green, a welcome resting spot where you'd be well advised to take a break, in preparation for the inevitably long journey home to East Croydon and then home.