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Happy Valley Park
Located in Old Coulsdon.
One of the most beautiful valleys in the whole neighbourhood was the description of an area of land that was purchased in 1937 under the Green Belt Scheme as a link between Farthing Downs and Coulsdon Common. The area, which included Happy Valley, Devilsden Wood, Glebelands (20 1/2 acres of which was land given by Caterham and Warlingham Urban District Council) and, at a later date the Parsons Pightle Estate, was called until 1970 the Coulsdon Greenbelt Lands when the name Happy Valley Park was adopted for the whole area.
A total of 860 acres of Green Belt Land was purchased by the old Urban District Council of Coulsdon and Purley and the cost equally shared by the London County Council, Surrey County Council and the U.D.C. The areas included Foxley Wood, Kingswood, Coulsdon Court among others and the idea was to keep an unspoilt countryside within the easy reach of Londoners.
Happy Valley Park consists of just over 250 acres of downland grass and wooded slopes, dominated by Happy Valley at the centre. At one time the natural regeneration of woodland and shrubs on both Farthing Downs and Happy Valley was held back by sheep and rabbits grazing the herbage, but since 1937 systematic grazing was discontinued and scrub encroached upon the open downland. Between 1956 and 1966 much of the park was leased to a local farmer for hay crops which were not taken and during these years scrub invaded many of the fields that had previously been open land.
The encroaching scrub on the downlands and fields was also due to the drop in numbers of natures lawn mower the rabbit which was greatly reduced by the disease Myximetosis. Surrey Naturalists Trust who have shown much interest in the area gave advise on the clearance of some of the scrub when the lease on the land was terminated. In 1968 and 1969 large areas of the south facing slopes of Happy Valley were cleared creating a wealth of new downland flora and fauna in the following years. Some dense areas of scrub were left for nesting birds and cover for foxes and badgers which have found a home in the park.
The Park is an important reserve for all kinds of animal and plant life and this variety can only be maintained by careful maintenance and management of the area. The scrub has to be limited and most of the slopes in Happy Valley are cut by tractor flail in late October after the flowers have set their seed and the cuttings are left to decay. Other areas are cut every 2-5 years and several of the large fields are still cut for hay. Some of the woodland is coppiced and other areas are felled and replanted in rotation.
The Valley is a haven for those interested in nature. Wild Rose and Dogwood flower among the scrub, while Wood Sorrel, Red Campion and Wood Millet may be found near the trees. On the northern side of the Valley are several rare plants and the chalky slopes are a home for Travellers Joy, Wild Thyme and Field Scabious, as well as Common Spotted Orchid, the Fragrant Orchid and the rarer Pyramidal Orchid which appears in July. A wide variety of Moths and Butterflies can be found among the range of vegetation.
Bird life in the area includes Kestrels, Pheasants, Tawny Owl, Linnets, Green Finches and Yellow Hammers. Stoats, Weasels and many varieties of mice frequent the various habitats. In the deeper soils at the bottom of the Valley there are a number of Moles.
Along the western boundary there are a number of large Yews which were obviously planted many years ago to define the boundary. There is a variety of other trees in the woodland including Horse Chestnut, Oak, Beech, Ash and Hazel.
Farthing Downs and much of Happy Valley Park has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by the Nature Conservancy Council. These sites are chosen by the N. C C. to complete the range of scientific feature which they hope to conserve as far as possible and to meet local conservation requirements.
Two nature trails have been devised to guide visitors around the area and booklets are available for the different times of the year to explain what can be seen on a walk around Happy Valley, Farthing Downs and Coulsdon Common. During 1968 horse-rides were opened across the park to connect with horse-rides on Farthing Downs and Coulsdon Common (which belong to the City of London) as well as the bridle roads Drive Road and Magazine Road creating a total of five miles of horse rides.
From an historical point of view, little of importance is known about the Valley but there are interesting sites close by. The nearest is the Saxon settlement on Farthing Downs which borders the Park in the west, while on the eastern side lies Coulsdon Common.
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Sunday, 19 May, 2013