An Eye On London

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Tag Archives: Richmond

The Capital Ring in Fourteen days

IMG_1790GrandUnionCanalHighgateRichmond Bridge looking eastIMG_2574E London Uni

Mural at Ford's Lock

Top to Bottom: The City from Woolwich; The Grand Union canal below the A40;Mural on a pub wall near Highgate; Kingston Bridge looking east; Pumping outlet station on the Greenway at Bow; Campus, on right, at East London University;Mural at Ford’s Lock, River Lee.

Finally, it’s over. I’ve completed The Capital Ring, the 78 miles or 126KM walk around the fringes of suburban London.My challenge to myself is over and I’m now looking  at something which will take longer and is further but which can be completed in stages and is not such a drain on my travelling time. For most of these stage walks begin with a tube or train journey out to the suburbs of London from my central location close to Waterloo. They are also covered by the zonal range of the Oyster card and aren’t such a drain on your wallet or purse. So, it’s either the London LOOP for me next or something further afield like the South Downs walk or the Thames Pathway walk, both equally challenging yet achievable over the course of a few days or more .

I’ve finished walking through ‘important nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest’ and across heathland and common; through pristine parks and neglected scrub, bridging brooks and marsh and untangling myself from briar’s. I’ve sunk, ankle deep, into mud below Bitterns Field on a recently drenched riverbank that had survived the floods of 2012 and scrambled across the bog the river bank had become . I’ve trampled concrete path and pavement, broken slab and gouged macadam and played hop-scotch with dog turds on a path from Eltham Palace that was close to a main road but far from regal.I’ve ascended bridges that spanned the M1, the A40, the A2, the A13 and the North Circular  before descending into the silence of the subterranean foot tunnel which burrows beneath the Thames crossing at Woolwich . I have walked in less pretty parts of London yet never failed to come across some form of natural beauty and , at times, where it was least expected. It’s fair to say that on this walk I’ve seen it all and experienced London and its urban beauty as I had never imagined it would be.

Spread over a calendar year  it took fourteen days in total to complete the fifteen stages though I originally planned to it finish inside a month. The mangling of my schedule was down to the organisers of the London Olympic games (which closed the tow path on the Lea Valley Walk and made an alternative route through Hackney Wick too much to bear) and the disintegration of my right knee ligament (see post below) which made walking too painful. Otherwise it wasn’t a particularly difficult walk but a walk which revealed a verdant beauty to London that will surprise you.

The Greenest Leg of the Capital Ring is Wimbledon Park to Richmond

Image

Leg 6 – 6.9 miles or 11.2 km

The day I walked this leg of the Capital Ring (May 25th) was the hottest day of walking so far this year.

Dry and very warm the temperature climbed as my walk progressed. I walked the distance in just over three hours but that included time to drink a cup of tea, stop and take photographs, chat to people and admire the wonderful views along the route.

Once clear of Wimbledon Park Underground station on the District Line and the signage is good (see photo in the header of the blog) and a short cut through brings you onto the fringe of Wimbledon Park itself.I interrupted a school PE lesson that was taking place in one of the corners and worked my way out of the park to the main road and down hill into the posh housing. You switch a gear here and begin to weave your way uphill through the tightly packed houses and the tennis courts of the All-England Club at Wimbledon.

My first visit to Wimbledon Park begins with a walk through a light wood on Putney Heath. The path is clear and straight and as I leave the wood behind I can now see the Windmills which are the dominant feature of Wimbledon Common. On such a warm day the cafe which sits close to the windmills attracts a lot of visitors and the tea was nice but the flapjack nicer! Sitting in the garden you see how the cafe attracts a lot of dog-walkers and older people coaxed from their cars. The occasional horse trots by kicked into action by an overheating owner or rider.

The wooded walk across and over Wimbledon Park which winds towards the A3 and the entry to Richmond Park is covered by a green canopy and so keeps the walker cool and sheltered from the blistering sun. When walking across that park there is no cover at all and the walker will surely pine for the woods of Wimbledon Park as you surely must if the heavens opened.So far, so green.The path narrows and the sound of a rugby team training to my right and the traffic roaring ahead down the A3 ends the tranquility of the woods and the constant birdsong. You cross the main road at the traffic lights at this very busy road junction.

The visual beauty of this walk is apparent as you enter Richmond Park through the Robin Hood Gate. You pass a stables on your right and before you stretches the rolling hills of the park. The park deer squat under a spreading Oak tree and carefully examine visitors using the path heading north in the direction of Spankers Hill Wood. Once clear of the first slight incline you cross a road and keep walking towards the emerging Pen Ponds seen above in my photo.

At this stage I’d walked slightly over four miles and my feet were a bit sore so I sat on a bench on the hill above the ponds and ate and drank whilst cooling my feet. The cyclists struggle up the hill to your left but the view does not disappoint and there’s a breeze that cools you as you rest. Over the cusp of the hill to the Oak Lodge before the path winds downhill heading across Pembroke Lodge Gardens towards the village of Petersham.There is a wonderful view of distant Richmond as you head downhill.

Once you have left the park you wind along a narrow path heading for Petersham Meadows before reaching the Thames. The meadows are a wild delight and very cool underfoot as you glimpse the Thames, for the first time since leaving Woolwich, sparkling through the trees and bushes. There’s a further mile to walk along the river path before reaching the centre of Richmond which gets very busy on a warm day. Have no fear as the walk is now over and there is a wide choice of pubs that will gladly help you quench your thirst before catching the train back to London.

Once you’ve completed this wonderful walk you’ve earned that drink.Cheers and enjoy!

John Furse

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