Five of the best… places in Croydon for (very) late summer fun


By - Friday 5th August, 2016

Bernadette Fallon’s suggestions for seizing every moment of this late burst of summer


It’s the hottest September for fifty years – and whilst you might be feeling a bit hot under the collar in the office, these Indian summer days offer us a chance to catch up on missed opportunities earlier in the year. Here are my recommendations for top things to do outdoors in Croydon.

Take a green time-out

As I so regularly remind you, Croydon is full of green spaces despite its reputation for concrete grimness (127 parks in the borough), so there’s no shortage of grass to walk. But for a garden with a little bit of a difference, head for Heathfield House, Upper Shirley, at Ballards Way.

While the house is closed to the public except for special events and open days, there are beautiful woodland and rhododendron walks in the grounds as well as gorgeous ornamental gardens and ponds. The gardens were laid out in the 1920s by Raymond Riesco, who restored the estate after it had fallen into disrepair following the First World War, and also set up a model farm.

Open to the public since 1958, the 18-acre estate is now run by Croydon Council and the former orchard is now an ecology centre. The centre is usually open on the first and third Sundays of each month, but check the events calendar in advance of your visit. There are also work days on Tuesdays and Fridays and the centre is always happy to recruit new volunteers.

Ballards Way off Coombe Lane, Addington, CR0 5RH.

Drink beer in the sun

Croydon has no shortage of beer gardens; from elaborate areas with platforms where you can catch comedy or gigs (the Oval Tavern) to concrete yards you have to share with beer barrels. But one of the best – and unexpected – is the Dog and Bull on Surrey Street, right in the middle of the lively Croydon fruit and veg market. It’s a big a treat to step away from the bustle outside, through the 15th century interior (it’s claimed that the pub dates from 1431, though it did get a bit of a refurbishment in the 18th century). The market has been in existence since 1276 when it was created by Royal Charter – back then, the pub was called The Bell. The land at the back of the pub was the village pound, where stray animals were kept, and traders along the street would also have kept cattle in their back gardens. You would have found plenty of dogs and bulls back then…

Today, the only cows that you’ll find are between two slices of bread, the pub does a mean outdoor BBQ, the garden has its own booths – with TVs and heaters! – and booths are available to pre-book.

24 Surrey St, Croydon CR0 1RG. 

Watch the world go by

InFusion jazz, Fridays at Smoothbean

InFusion jazz.
Photo by Ian Marvin @inthelight_ian, used with permission.

Okay, so if not the world, at least watch part of East Croydon go by as you sip from a delicious wine list, savour craft beers, delight in a latte, eat cake or sample some of John’s fine gluten-free quiche. Smoothbean! coffee shop opposite the site of our future Boxpark and right around the corner from East Croydon station, has extended its space and its hours, stretching onto the footpath and into Thursday and Friday evenings until 8:30pm. Sit outside and soak up the strains of InFusion jazz through the open doorway every Friday evening. In fact you might have to sit outside: Fridays at Smoothbean are fast becoming the hottest ticket in town and the place is regularly packed out.

2-3 Dingwall Rd, Croydon CR0 2NA. 

Join a local club

Go outside with a purpose – get fit, meet new people have fun. Croydon is a great place to be if you own a bicycle: there are lots of bike clubs in and around the area – get a comprehensive list here.

If feet, rather than wheels, are your thing, check out Croydon Ramblers, one of the largest local groups in Surrey. They organise about thirty walks per month, with something happening most days and non-members invited to come along on a few walks before joining the group. Find out more here.

Check out Open House London – outdoors in Croydon.

Photo by Ally McKinlay, used with permission.

This coming weekend, from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on Sunday 18th September, Croydon’s wonderful Bee Haven and saffron farm (on the site of the former Taberner House council HQ building, just off Park Lane) will be open as part of Open House London. Assuming that the sun is still shining (and even if it isn’t) it’s a great chance to take in some community art, see all the work that’s been done by volunteers to help Croydon’s bee population flourish and learn about the growing and harvesting of Croydon’s namesake flower, crocus sativus.

 Next to Bernard Weatherill House, The Queens Gardens CR0 1EA.

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at Twitter.com/bernibee

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