|Distance:||10.3 miles (16.6 km)|
|Meets:||A205, A2218, A213, A2216, A234, A2199, A214, A215, A213, A222, A232, A236, A2022|
|Former Number(s):||B231, B271|
|Old route now:||A205|
|Route outline (key)|
Route: Catford - Addington
The A212 is an L-shaped A-road in south London.
The road starts from the busy A205 South Circular Road, heading southwards from the clogged section past Catford station, not far from the Catford Gyratory. Until recently this was a small triangular one way system, but now it's a strange triangular junction with two-way roads on each side. From here the road sets out as a typical South London suburban main road along Catford Hill and Perry Hill (neither being much of a hill), until it reaches the huge junction at Lower Sydenham.
On our left, where there's normally a queue of traffic, is the large supermarket and the A2218 Southend Lane, a road that was intended to form part of a new line for the South Circular, but which never got joined on to anything else. On the right, the B227 begins the climb to Forest Hill. We crawl up Sydenham Road past several sets of traffic lights - many of them temporary, with the roadworks and single-file working along this high street being a permanent fixture - and somewhere along the way we pass the innocuous A213 turn off.
A hump-backed bridge with a zebra crossing on the brow leads us over the London Bridge to Croydon railway (originally the Croydon Canal), and at the other side we pause again at the Cobbs Corner roundabout where the A2216 branches off to the right, headed for Forest Hill again.
Another climb lies ahead of us up Westwood Hill, through a peculiar merge with the A234 Crystal Palace Park Road and at the top the road opens out a little to two oxymoronically large mini-roundabouts. The Crystal Palace Transmitter, the highest man-made structure in London, is now looming above us.
We follow the A212 round to the left here on to the broad and straight Crystal Palace Parade, built to carry traffic majestically along the west side of the Crystal Palace. It's no longer there, of course, and since 1936 traffic has been travelling majestically past a petrol station and a bus turning circle. The A2199 joins us on the right at a signal controlled junction, having made the steep climb up the hill from Dulwich Wood Park.
Having only just entered Southwark at the mini-roundabouts, we leave it again for the London Borough of Bromley. An ornate subway that was built to allow passengers to reach Crystal Palace High Level station from the Crystal Palace passes below the A212, and then we arrive at what used to be a simple roundabout with the A214. This point was always utterly choked, and despite much grumbling from local tradespeople, a one-way system was installed shortly after the turn of the century which has fixed - to some extent - Crystal Palace's chronic traffic problems.
This rather odd one-way system is made up of the triangle formed by Church Road, Westow Street and Westow Hill and carries both the A212 and A214. Many maps that show the one-way system still insist that Westow Street is unclassified, despite traffic on both roads having to use it. Signs on the ground indicate that it's the A212, though, so it looks like some confused cartographers in this instance.
The former roundabout (now a crossroads) is unique because four local authorities meet here: the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, Bromley and Croydon. We will be relieved to leave the administrative confusion behind us, though, and spend the rest of our journey in the London Borough of Croydon.
From the one-way system, we peel off southwards on the continuation of Church Road. This is a fairly affluent area, with echoes of the Crystal Palace's former cultural importance still visible as it is lined with some grand Victorian hotels, many still in service and letting rooms. At the end, there is an awkward staggered junction, where we turn right to briefly follow the A215 northwards, and then left into Grange Road, the next section of A212. On this odd bit of concurrency, northbound A212 shares with southbound A215 and vice-versa.
During the 1990s, Grange Road was no longer signed as the A212 and traffic was encouraged to use a section of the A215 South Norwood Hill southwards from Church Lane and then divert along the B266 Whitehorse Lane to reach the A212 again at Thornton Heath. The A212 does still seem to exist here, but the section between Ross Road and Thornton Heath High Street is now one-way southbound only. Some maps now suggest that the northbound journey must cross over southbound twice to divert around to the east, using part of the B266 Whitehorse Lane and then up the previously unclassified Canham Road and Wharncliffe Road. Whether this route is now also part of the A212 or not isn't clear. As a result, it may no longer be possible to follow the A212 northbound!
In any case, at Thornton Heath, southbound traffic gives way to the B266 High Road and then we strike off southwards again at another mini-roundabout onto the next section of Whitehorse Road. Thornton Heath town centre is less than pleasant and we'd be well advised to continue through without a pause if we can avoid it.
The road is now straight and carries us through a fairly long slog of more suburban tedium, over the London Victoria to East/West Croydon railway and in towards Croydon. There is an oddly-angled crossroads with the A213 here, which we last saw at Sydenham and which has come to Croydon on a more easterly route through Selhurst and Penge.
Eventually we come to a curious figure-of-8 gyratory with the A222 St James's Road. We bear left then right into a short road called Newgate and then right and finally left into Wellesley Road.
The road rapidly widens out from here as we join the eastern flank of Croydon's abortive Ring Road. The dual carriageway section of Wellesley Road (complete with underpass, tram line in the central reserve and budget-price Hollywood skyline) is disappointingly clogged with traffic lights and side-turnings, and doesn't last long anyway. Oddly, when first built, this was part of the B266 and only became an A-road much later.
The A212 is now known as Park Lane, and after the elongated roundabout where we cross the A232, we continue southwards to a signalised crossroads. Ahead is the B274, and to both the left and right is the A212. To our right, a short same-number spur carries traffic across the southern edge of Croydon to the roundabout underneath the Croydon Flyover, but we will turn left instead onto Coombe Road. The remainder of the A212 was upgraded from the B271 some time in the 1970s, and feels quite different: more open, for a start, and usually a bit narrower too.
We begin heading eastwards now, rising steeply to cross the main London to Brighton railway. There are yet more mini-roundabouts here, one connecting with the B243, and shortly the view opens out, with Lloyd Park on our left. The Croydon Tramlink has a line running to our left here, which continues more or less parallel all the way to New Addington. From now on we climb steeply up Coombe Lane on to the Addington Hills, the largest area of heathland in South London, passing the pretty Coombe Wood gardens on our right.
The tram line, which has been cheekily hidden in the woods to our left for a while, crosses over now just before we reach a strangely triangular roundabout, and from there we descend Gravel Hill, which rapidly becomes a dual carriageway. On our left is Addington Palace, which was one of the homes of the Archbishops of Canterbury. The trams cross the A212 for the last time as we near the bottom, and the A212 ends at a large roundabout with the A2022 Kent Gate Way.
Originally the A212 ran from the A21 in Catford to the A214 at Crystal Palace, with the road into Croydon being the B231 and the remainder unclassified. The northernmost section of the A212 was soon taken over by the A205 South Circular and the A212 was extended south to Croydon after World War II.
Around the same time, the road east of Croydon was classified for the first time, as an extension of the B271. This extension was then taken over by the A212 in the 1970s, giving the road its current length and slightly unusual route.