Farthing Downs is an open space in Coulsdon in the London Borough of Croydon. Together with New Hill to the south-east, it is owned and managed by the Corporation of London. It is also part of the Farthing Downs and Happy Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest, notified in 1975. Happy Valley Park is a green space to the south owned by Croydon Council. Farthing Downs is also a scheduled ancient monument.
Farthing Downs is a long strip of grassland with pockets of ancient woodland, which narrows to a point at the northern end. It is the most extensive area of semi-natural downland left in Greater London. Its chalk and natural grasslands have a large variety of rare herbs, including some which are nationally scarce, such as the wildflower greater yellow-rattle. This is specially protected by legislation and Farthing Downs and Happy Valley have the major part of the British population.
Archeological finds show human occupation back to the Neolithic. An Iron Age field system has been recorded at the northern end, and cultivation continued in the Roman period until the second century. Thereafter it was used as pasture for grazing. The banks of a late Iron Age/early Roman enclosure system survive with a central droveway, which still has the remains of cart ruts.
There are sixteen Anglo-Saxon barrows in two barrow cemeteries in the centre and the north of the site. These were excavated in 1871 by John Wickham Flower and again in the 1940s by Brian Hope-Taylor. In 2005 and 2006 further excavations were undertaken by Barry Taylor of English Heritage and Amy Gray Jones of the Museum of London Archaeology Service. Barry Taylor said:
- Farthing Downs is one of the most impressive later prehistoric settlement sites that I've worked on. The earth and chalk banks that once formed the tracks and boundaries of the Iron Age landscape are still visible on the ground today, over two thousand years after they were constructed. These remains have fascinated people for centuries and even inspired the local Anglo-Saxon communities to bury their leaders along the line of these ancient earthworks.
- London Gardens Online, Farthing Downs and New Hill
- The Megalithic Portal, Farthing Downs - Barrow Cemetery in England in Surrey
- Natural England, Farthing Downs and Happy Valley citation
- "Map of Farthing Downs and Happy Valley (SSSI)". Natural England.
- City of London, Farthing Downs and New Hill
- Old Coulsdon, Farthing Downs and New Hill map
- Friends of Farthing Downs
- Stephen Cook, Open to the elements, Helen Young, broadcast manager of the BBC Weather Centre, escapes fronts of high pressure by walking on Farthing Downs, Guardian, 8 April 2000