Conduit lane – What’s in a name?

name lane

Conduit lane (reverse angle)

Conduit lane is located at the junction of Coombe Road and Coombe Lane and is equidistant between Lloyd Park and Coombe Lane tram stops.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog the Coombe Estate covered around two hundred and fifty acres  and the water supply came from Coombe Wood. It was fed by three channels or conduits that ran in the nearby lane, and so it was called Conduit lane. Simple right?

name rest

Coombe House (now the Chateau restaurant)

There were also two large water tanks in the garden of Coombe House that powered a Lewis Church organ . Imagine if you wanted to carry out your ablutions. “Sorry darling you can’t have a bath right now I am playing the organ!”

name nursery

Garden nurseries (disused)

Many years later at the end of Conduit Lane the council garden nurseries opened in 1964 . It provided plants for all council parks and gardens for many decades until the service was privatised a few years ago. I made a trip to the end of the lane to photograph the old nurseries.

name sign

a sign of the (old) times

name security

The black and yellow “space hopper” is a force field. Any trespassers that walk past this line break a beam that sends a signal to the remote security team

The section of Coombe Wood Garden that runs next to Conduit Lane and parallel to the old nursery site is very steep. The path was recently cleared and opened to the public.  Please take care around the steep slopes and only proceed if you are sure of foot. I tried to negotiate the inner bend as every athletic fan knows the inside lane is the quickest. However, in my case the gradient on the outer edge is more suitable for passage around this area. It is a bit like floating a stick on the inside bend of a river, it might appear shorter but it often gets stuck with sediment so that water on the outer bend flows quicker.

name steep

Steep section of Coombe Wood Gardens adjacent to the old nurseries and land belonging to Royal Russell School

Running alongside Coombe Woods is the Royal Russell School. It was originally located in Russell Hill Road, Purley about two miles away. The school and the road were named  after their original President the former Prime Minister Lord John Russell  in 1855. The foundation stone was laid by the then Prince of Wales in July 1863, although the school did not add the title of Royal until 1953 its centenary year. The old Purley site became the location of the Thomas Moore School.

Back to the schools current location the whole area was known as The Ballards Plantation after the landowner and this included Heathfield. Ballards Way is the road that runs next to Heathfield and the road into Heathfield House is Riesco Drive named after the last owner of the house.

name horsesAt the end of Riesco Drive is  a private road leading to Heathfield farm. The horses are wearing blankets for the same reasons that we used to in bed, because they may be feeling under the weather. Who could blame them with the extensive rain we have been having. By the way, if you ever thought of getting a horse drunk and why would you, then please do not bother? They are used to eating a large amount of oats so could manage copious amounts of alcohol. Remember that if you are thinking of spending a “night on the hooves!”



Coombe Wood Gardens in the snow

snow frontI thought I would revisit my most viewed blog of last year. Little did I expect that it would have snowed recently, transforming the scenery into a winter wonderland for the last time, we hope, this year.

snow pond

snow path conifer


Coombe Gardens is divided into areas the rockery, the woodland, the pond, the ornamental , summer and winter gardens, plus the snow garden. Ok I made up the last one but the original design was meant to be a garden for all seasons.

snow house

summer-house in need of warmth

snow ornament

sundial in the ornamental garden

The Coombe Estate  stretched from Coombe Road to Park Hill and included Coombe House, Wood,  Farm and Coombe Lodge. As two restaurants now exist on part of the site I was confused over their original locations.  The lodge now a Beefeater would have been separate from the main house in the same way that up the road the lodge is separate to Royal Russel (School) House as the Heathfield lodge is to Heathfield house and the lodge at …well you get the idea.

snow chateau

The Chateau (rear view)

The main Coombe House was built-in 1898 and is now the Chateau restaurant, known locally for years as the Chateau Napoleon. It originally had twenty rooms and an adjoining stable block that was built out of sight in a gravel pit. Croydonians of a certain vintage will remember that after the council bought the property, horses were used by the park rangers to patrol the local area. The stables have long since been disused and they were converted into disabled toilets and storeroom with a cafe at the far end next to the house. Enclosed by high walls it provides a nice sun trap and also renders it difficult to obtain a mobile signal should you wish to frustrate the younger generation.

snow cafe

overhead view of the cafe

The woodland garden can be reached by following the footpath towards the back. As the sun started to melt the snow the effect was quite dramatic, but please no more snow this year!

snow wood

snow landscape

snow steps

About twelve steps going down






Sun Flowers and Banana plants


The Sunflowers are tall and majestic at Coombe Wood Gardens.


The sunflower head consists of many tiny flowers called florets. The central ones resemble normal flowers, whereas the outside florets look like yellow petals to produce a “false flower”. After pollination every little flower produces a seed and there are nearly two thousand seeds on one sunflower.


The seeds are arranged in spirals around 34 in one direction and 55 in the other. You might think that is pretty random but these numbers actually follow the Fibonacci sequence. Every number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding ones: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc.

Many other wildflowers can be found in the gardens.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou will also find Banana Plants at Coombe Woods. The plants do not produce any actual fruit as the weather is still too mild despite our recent heatwaves. But they look majestic and give a tropical feel to the gardens.

A recent article by Monty Don, the TV gardener, in a weekend magazine explained how he grew his banana plants in pots but took them indoors for the winter. Terence the gardener at Coombe Woods says he likes Monty Don and that he talks a  lot of sense. Mind you he added “they have many advisers to ensure their programmes are factually correct”

Back at Coombe Woods, in the autumn the stems are cut back to stumps and wrapped in a hessian sack. A tarpaulin then covers the top to prevent the plants from succumbing to winter frosts


These stems will be cut back to prepare the plant for the winter

The lavender bushes are also popular in the gardens and are a firm favourite with the bees.



Easter at Coombe Wood Gardens

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerence Meredith,  Gardener of the Year in 2013 and the team have excelled in their choice and variety of plants on display in the rockery this Easter. Primulas, Tulips, Pansies, Pink Buttons and even upside down tulips, Coombe Gardens has it all.





If you are intrigued by the tulips that seem to have been planted upside down  I have covered these plants in a previous blog.


upside-down tulips


Happy Easter!



A week is a long time in the park


a snowy coombe wood

What a difference a week makes regarding the weather, last Friday snow fell on Coombe Wood Garden. Today at waddon ponds the sun shone and the water was crystal clear.


The swans were very inquisitive as we stood on the viewing platform. While they may appear contented, the cold snap has caused a dearth of insects and natural algae that the swans feed on.


The adult swan was even prepared to leave the safety of the water and encroach onto the bank in case we had food to offer.

You should be careful about feeding bread to swans as mouldy bread can kill them and any processed bread is unhealthy. The council parks recommend whole wheat grain in its natural state, not processed, brown rice and  lentils.


Banana plant in Coombe Woods

Last february when,if you remember, the weather was wet and windy and the mornings were chilly with ground frost, Terence the gardener was nurturing some tiny banana plants in a protective hessian sack.

banana sack

banana sack

Then the sun came out and the first leaves protruded and the stem grew until it became a giant banana plant as you can now see.

banana plant

banana plant

Unfortunately no actual bananas on the tree but a fine specimen .

more banana

more banana

Of course, if you have lived overseas or been on vacation you may know of other examples with actual fruit attached! Please let me know.

i'm a celebrity get me out of here

i’m a celebrity get me out of here!



Tree down at Coombe Wood gardens

Storm Katie from last night brought down a fir-tree on the edge of Coombe Wood onto conduit lane near the car park. Fortunately nobody was passing by and no cars were damaged.


Fallen fir-tree in conduit lane

The destructive power of the storm wrenched the base of the tree from the ground, causing large splinters of wood.


Splintered tree trunk

The storm also brought down trees in Addington Hills and Heathfield as seen below.


tree down in Addington Hills


Fallen tree at heathfield

The wet weather can also make walking hazardous as  a woman walking in Heathfield slipped on a grass verge. Croydon Central Parks was nearby and offered tissues and sympathy. Fortunately  the lady was not hurt, only a muddy jacket and injured pride. The skid mark was evident on the ground, so please do take care while walking over wet grass.


slippery grass


Winter garden at Coombe Woods


Bedding plants including winter pansies at the entrance to the wood

The displays of flowers are always excellent at this wood at anytime of the year. The hardy perennials on display in the beds brought a vivid color to the garden.

I asked Terence Meredith, the resident gardener how the plants would cope with hard ground frosts that had been forecast in the coming week? He reassured me that their bedding plants would be fine and that although the daffodils looked delicate they often appeared early thanks to our milder winters.

cat among dafodils

cat among daffodils

One plant that does require protection from the frosts is the banana plant. Terence has built a wooden box about four-foot tall with a tarpaulin cover to ensure the plant grows steadily, so it can appear majestic when it takes its place in the summer garden.

Banana plant

Banana plant

Exploration of the wood showed that the camellias were in bloom, the bright pink leaves brightening up the wooded path.

camellias in bloom

camellias in bloom and potential for more

Upside Down Tulip

Upside Down Tulip

Upside Down Tulip

I recently spotted this unusual tulip in Coombe Wood Garden . How did the council contract gardeners  get the tulip to grow upside down? Did they have to plant the bulb upside down or turn it around once it had started growing. It looks like it has been ” slam dunked” on the basketball court. I wonder if you have any ideas?

I will have to check with Terence , gardener of the year in 2013 for the official explanation. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the picture. Just in case you might be thinking that I manipulated the image I have included another one with their more regular cousins.

Tulips two upside down

Tulips two upside down

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