An Eye On London

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Tag Archives: Wimbledon

Wimbledon Common on the Capital Ring

The Windmill on Wimbledon Common

I love this description of Wimbledon Common by Walter Johnson in 1912 and as it can’t be bettered I’ll include it in it’s entirety:

“He does not know Wimbledon Common who is not familiar with its labyrinths of leafy glades, its tangled thickets of wild red rose, bramble, and honeysuckle; who has not often traversed its turfy plateau and had the perfumes of odoriferous herbs borne in upon his senses; who has not pondered over its rusty pebble, and wondered whence they came; tried to acquaint himself with what may be gleaned of local history; First of all, to the Conservators of the Common, to whom we really owe very much, one may appeal for the preservation of the heath in its wild state… one prays earnestly that the Common be not vulgarised… by making this lovely spot ordinary – a kind of level, well-ordered suburban park, for this windswept Common is not ordinary; it stands alone, and is therefore priceless”.

The Common is anything but ordinary nor what I would consider suburban. It attracts visitors who come to exercise, stretch a leg, yarn, ramble or just pass time under its shaded boughs. Types of person drawn to this beautiful managed woodland range from earnest dog walkers of all ages (and some considerably older than you might imagine!), walkers brandishing maps (and those without) , horse riders, coach trippers and denizens of the local elderly care homes for whom the Common provides a fantastic opportunity for exercise, pleasure and an alternative to sitting indoors and slipping from view of the world.

The car park is a good starting point as it is there that the cafe, toilet and entrance to the windmill museum all cluster. The tea and flapjack I can recommend and do so! Once you set off then head in the direction of the Queen’s Mere which takes you rambling through the woods, down and up the hill, following the path and across the golf course. There are many paths to choose from once you’re in and most seemed peaceful, smothered in leaves and very quiet on the day I visited: less dogs unleashed here, also. On a very hot day twisted bracken and leaves lay strewn around and after taking in the lay of the land I decided there and then that I can’t wait until winter to re-visit here, to see it stripped of its summer clothing and bare. You see, a fresh perspective in a new season is not just the obligation of a photographer but of anyone who has a love of the landscape and this Common has a handsome prospect apparent from the moment you dig your heels into its rich, loam soil. There are plenty of benches within the woods to sit and gather your thoughts or to simply watch the geese or just people-watch: whiling away some time on the tree tinged shore of the Queen’s Mere is probably the best use of a walker’s time.

A very English setting for a pathway

When you’re up for moving you may set off down the slight incline which ultimately leads you to the A3 and the Robin Hood gate and entrance to Richmond Park. As you descend the slope there is a rather large war memorial on your right shielded from view by the tall thicket of bushes and towering trees which make this path such a pleasure. This is also close to Putney Vale Cemetery, slightly further up the incline and close to a different path.

I have mixed memories of the cemetery as this was the site of a memorial service and burial I attended with some forty to fifty others of a good friend of mine. His name was Sam and he was in his late thirties. He died from mental health complications that none of us seemed to understand nor know about and with neither parents alive nor his family in attendance it was us, his loyal but ill-informed friends, that had to see him off to the next world. The vicar assured us that it had been the best turn-out he had seen for some time considering he was to be buried in a rather un-assuming plot. If nothing else we ensured through our collection, the last big whip-round, that he would have a grave stone and be remembered with some dignity despite the condition in which he died.This walk was the first time I’d been close to the cemetery since his burial some years ago.

Ahead lies the A3 and Richmond Park and I’ll end the South-Western Parks at this juncture as I’ve written a fairly long piece on Richmond earlier in the blog.Once I tired of Richmond town and its various and numerous watering holes it was across the Thames and onto the paths of the Regent Canal to the west of London and the path to Harrow-on-the-Hill.

 

 

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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