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Grace and Favour in Norwood

Pass the tombstone of a revered cricketer before visiting South Norwood Country Park.

Distance 2.2 miles (3.6km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 49ft (15m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Tarmac with some rough tracks that can get muddy

Landscape Mainly open meadows

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 161 London South

Start/finish TQ 354689; W G Grace pub by Birkbeck Tramlink

Dog friendliness No problems

Parking In pub car park or adjacent roads

Public toilets None on route


© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the W G Grace pub in Witham Road turn right. Continue past the Tramlink bridge and the entrance to Birkbeck Station before turning right into Beckenham Cemetery.

2 After the cemetery's office turn right along a path that later swings to the left. Take the left fork and then a right-hand branch to reach the grave of W G Grace. Look out for his large white marble tombstone 50yds (46m) on the left. Carry on towards the chapel ahead, turn right to join the main path and continue through the cemetery.

3 At the end of this tarmac drive go through the cemetery gates and cross the Tramlink line. Turn left along a footpath that crosses the Tramlink line again before entering South Norwood Country Park. Turn right after a footbridge then, at a T-junction, keep ahead and stay on this wide track past a visitors' centre.

4 Just before another Tramlink level crossing, turn left to join a public footpath. Follow this as it runs parallel to the tram line.

5 Turn left at a fork leading to the top of the earth mound. (From the top you can see Crystal Palace, Shooter's Hill and Croydon.) To continue, turn right, downhill to rejoin the path and walk down some steps.

6 Turn left before the next set of steps and carry on ahead, ignoring small side paths, until you reach a left-hand fork. Keep ahead, over the crossing of paths, and follow the long, straight path with drainage ditches on each side.

7 At the end, before the Tramlink line, go over a footbridge, then turn left and continue along the path beside a stream. Just after the path swings to the left is a five-path junction. Turn right and cross the bridge. Ignoring the first path on the left, continue as the path bends and take the left path leading to a jetty overlooking the lake.

8 Continue along the path and turn right along another path to leave the park. Turn left along Elmers End Road, past Birkbeck Tramlink, to reach the pub from where the walk began.

Even if you're not a fan of the sport, the South Norwood Country Park is well worth a visit for its delightful paths (some of which run alongside a stream and a lake) and for its prolific bird life. But most people come here because of W G Grace, the man who probably did more for the game of cricket in his lifetime than any other. As well as Grace's tomb, the Victorian cemetery contains some other angelic tombstones. It's also the resting place of Frederick Wolsey, who invented the sheep-shearing machine.

William Gilbert Grace, or 'W G' as he became known, was born in Bristol in 1848. He first began playing cricket at the age of 16 before training to become a doctor. He was a good, all-round sportsman; he also played golf and bowls but it was cricket that made him a national hero. He was such a keen player that, after visiting a house where two children were in bed with a fever, it is said that he told the mother to call him again if their combined temperatures reached two hundred and ten for two!

However, he was never a professional player, despite his incredible record for promoting the game of cricket. He played for Gloucestershire for many years before moving to south east London. His scores could be seen as even more remarkable considering the state of the pitches in the 19th century compared with the ones of today.

In an era when a batsman scoring 100 runs in a single innings was a comparatively rare event, Grace scored 2,739 first class runs in 1871 and he dominated the game for more than 20 years. As well as exceptional stamina, he had an ability to see the ball early and judge its length. He was the first player in modern cricket to score two centuries in the same match. At the Oval in 1878 he threw a cricket ball more than 116yds (106m) and on his test debut there in 1880 he made 152 runs. Even at the age of 46 he scored over 1,000 runs in a season. Grace was also a formidable figure: athletic in his earlier years, he had a very high front elbow and was an excellent fielder, making 887 catches, the second highest number taken by anyone in their career.

Although Grace stopped playing first-class cricket in 1908 - in his sixtieth year - he continued to play in less-important matches. During his very last match, in 1914, he managed to score 69 runs with the bat and was not out. He died from heart failure at his home in Eltham the following year. Marking the 75th anniversary of his death, journalist Christopher Martin-Jenkins said: 'W G paved the way for the golden age? the hallmark of which was the beauty and brilliance of the batting, and especially the amateur batting'.

Where to eat and drink

Only a tram line separates the grave of W G Grace from the pub bearing his name. The modern W G Grace pub contains memorabilia including bats and stumps and resembles a cricket pavilion from the outside. Inside is a long bar from which bar snacks are available. If only it had a lawn outside instead of a road, this would be a cricketer's paradise.

What to look for

South Norwood Country Park is quite flat and allows a good view of the bird life. Reed and sedge warblers breed here, and red kites and woodpeckers can also be found. Reed warblers arrive in mid-April to May and depart to sub-Saharan regions in August to October. Males arrive at the breeding area two weeks before the females. Unmated males trying to attract females sing at high intensity, so listen out for their long song phrases.

While you're there

Some of the walk follows the Country Park Trim Trail, a series of wooden structures where you can exercise different muscle groups. A sign next to each one describes the exercises and advises how many repetitions to do, depending on your level of fitness. These include parallel wooden bars for arm dips and another set for abdominal sit-ups.


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