Places to see birds

Farthing Downs, Happy Valley and Coulsdon Common

Farthing Downs, Happy Valley and Coulsdon Common
Brian Thomas

Farthing Downs, Happy Valley/Devilsden Wood and Coulsdon Common/Rydons Wood all merge together to form one large site. Parts are owned and managed by the City of London and others by Croydon Council. Farthing Downs, for example, was bought by the Corporation of the City of London around 1880 to save it from destruction as part of the encroachment of London's southern suburbs into what was once open downland. Happy Valley was purchased in 1937 under the Green Belt Scheme as a link between Farthing Downs and Coulsdon Common. Much of the area of Farthing Downs and Happy Valley is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Location - TQ3157
These sites form a large swathe running roughly from Downs Road (near the London-Brighton railway line) in the west to Hayes Lane in the east. Car parking at Farthing Downs (TQ300573), near The Fox PH (TQ318568) and along Hayes Lane (TQ327574). Access is also possible from many other roads in the area. Some of the pedestrian access to Farthing Downs is up very steep slopes.

Public transport -
Depending on the area to be visited.
Train: Coulsdon South
Bus: 404 and 466 along Coulsdon Road and 60 along Marlpit Lane

Mainly woods and chalk downland/grassland with small ponds in the woods at Coulsdon Common and Devilsden Wood.

One highlight was the passage of an estimated 10,000 hirundines (Swallows and House Martins with a few Sand Martins) in an hour on September 26th 1999 over Farthing Downs. Both Marsh Tit has been found at Coulsdon Common where there has been a record of Mandarin on the pond. In the not too distant past Hawfinch has also been found there.

Skylarks still breed on the downs, but numbers are potentially depressed by human activity. Various warblers, including Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, can be found in suitable habitat. This is also one of the few areas in Croydon where Yellowhammers and Linnets are present all year round. With increasing records in the region, Farthing Downs and Happy Valley should produce sightings of Buzzards. Wheatears turn up on passage most years and Whinchats have been seen here. Jackdaws are recent colonisers in the area and flocks can sometimes be seen on the downs or neighbouring fields. The woods hold common species such as woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.
The most recent highlight was the Hoopoe that spent a week here in autumn 2011.