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Capital Ring: Streatham Common to Richmond

31 Jul

After a couple of weeks break I was back up to London with my friend Chris to continue walking the Capital Ring around London.

The weather was quite a mix today, the morning began with drizzle (we had some much needed rain overnight) but this had stopped by the time we stepped off the train at Streatham Common. Although for most of the morning it was cloudy it was not cold, and after the cloud thinned out a bit in the afternoon it became very warm again.

The first part of the route was not particularly interesting, mainly residential to start with, but a few bits of parkland. Probably the most interesting thing was walking alongside the railway line, not because of being near the railway, but because we were walking through areas that we had previously only seen from the train. One example was the fine looking building below in Streatham which was actually a water pumping station.

Streatham Pumping Station

From Streatham the route took us through Balham to Wandsworth (past the prison), then onto Earlsfield and Wimbledon Park. From Wimbledon Park the path continued on to Wimbledon Common, this marked a change in the route, from mostly residential to more open country.

Wimbledon Common is perhaps best known as the home of the Wombles. As a fan of the Wombles since childhood I was somewhat disappointed not to actually spot any today. There is however a nice windmill on the common which is quite easy to spot, as was the welcome tea shop next door.

Windmill on Wimbledon Common

Wimbledon Common was quite easy walking and much softer underfoot, up until then most of the paths (even those across the parks) had been tarmac or concrete. Crossing a busy road on leaving Wimbledon Common took us into Richmond Park, again a much nicer place to walk.

According to the Royal Parks website, Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London and is home to "around 650 free roaming deer". We didn’t spot any of them but then the park is almost 2500 acres, so they had plenty of space to hide.

For me there were only two things that spoilt Richmond Park. Firstly was the succession of aeroplanes that passed over head, on their approach to Heathrow Airport. The second was the state of the grass, it should have been a nice lush green, but the lack of rainfall in the last few months has really taken it’s toll on the grass. Of course the grass will recover, but I doubt the skies will ever be clear of planes again until we have another volcanic eruption that grounds them all.

Pen Ponds, Richmond Park

Apart from the planes it is the first time I have really felt like I was out in the countryside whilst walking this route, although we have been through some large parks the scale of Richmond Park was quite breathtaking. It is such a lovely place that I will have to put it on my list of places to visit again in the future.

We left Richmond Park by Petersham Gate, but before leaving we treated to some wonderful views out to the west across the Thames Valley, a view dominated by the rugby stadium at Twickenham. From Petersham we took a bus to Richmond where we caught the train back to Clapham Junction. Changing onto another train to head south to Sussex we passed through the area where we started our walk this morning, but seeing it from a slightly different perspective this time.

Capital Ring: Grove Park to Streatham Common

10 Jul

Today my friend Chris and I completed the next two sections of the Capital Ring walk around London. Despite the temperatures pushing 30°c (which is pretty hot for England) we completed about 13 miles, mostly on the pavements of south-east London.

3.  Grove Park to Crystal Palace (8.5 miles)

4.  Crystal Palace to Streatham Common (4.0 miles)

I wasn’t that impressed with the first part of the walk, not much to see, no real views to speak of and much of the route along concrete and tarmac. There were a few parks and a couple of strips of woodland, but on the whole this were quite unremarkable.

The only really remarkable thing was the state of the grass, it has been several weeks since we had any decent rain and everywhere is starting to look so dry and brown, it is really sad to see. I know it will start growing again when we get some rain, but it doesn’t really make for an enjoyable walk.

The highlight of the first section was reaching the end at Crystal Palace Park, not least because there was at last something interesting to see. There is quite a large park there with many facilities including a very welcome cafe. There are some wonderful historical features here that really warrant further investigation one day.

Sphinx at Crystal Palace Park

The most prominent feature is the massive mast of the radio and television transmitting station, there is even a little cable car, presumably for maintenance purposes, that we saw rising slowly almost to the top of the mast.

Transmitter mast and stone terrace

After spending a bit longer than we had planned at Crystal Palace we continued onto the next section. Fortunately is was a shorter section because not only were thing starting to get very warm, but it seemed almost as uninteresting to me as the first section, with only a few redeeming features.

Loads of lavender

The photo above is of the lavender at Norwood Grove, which had quite a nice little garden perched on top of a hill. The views from here were pretty good, looking south to the North Downs. I wonder if we will ever finish walking along the North Downs Way this year?

The final part of the walk was from Streatham Common itself down to the railway station that bears it’s name. Every time I head to London I pass through Streatham Common station on the train, one of the many places for which I know the name, but have no idea what is there. Now I know, quite a nice piece of rough grassland at the top, leading down to more traditional park and playing fields.

At least this walk is putting pictures to what were previously just names on a map. It is a shame more of them aren’t more interesting, but I suppose you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Capital Ring: Woolwich to Grove Park

26 Jun

Today’s walk was a complete change from our usual walking territory, instead of heading out to Kent to continue walking the North Downs Way, my friend Chris and I headed for London to start walking the Capital Ring.

The intention had been to complete the North Downs Way before starting the Capital Ring, but the next stage of the North Downs Way was a problem to get to because of engineering work on the railway. So we decided that we would make a start on the Capital Ring.

As the name suggests the Capital Ring is a circular path that winds it’s way around the city of London. The total distance is 78 miles, so not that long, and being mostly in the outskirts of London the transport connections are very good. I can’t claim any real genealogical connections with the walk, most of my London ancestors were from the very centre of London and the walk is some way out of the centre.

Today we completed the first two sections of the walk:

  1. Woolwich to Falconwood (7.1 miles)
  2. Falconwood to Grove Park (4.1 miles)

Most of the route is unfamiliar to both Chris and I, although many of the place names are familiar we have never had any reason to visit them before now. The walk begins on the banks of the River Thames, by the southern entrance of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel and heads west along the side of the river, before heading southwards.

Smile, it's Tate and Lyle

Confession time here: I was too carried away walking along the side of the river, enjoying the view and the sunshine to notice the signpost telling us we had to turn left away from the river, so we had to back track a couple of hundred metres when I noticed the mistake (when the path stopped abruptly).

Generally though the signposts were very good, there was really only one occasion when I had to consult the map, when the signposts conflicted each other (someone had obviously been interfering with one of them).

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on this walk, being London I expected a large amount of built up areas, and there was a fair amount, but there was also a considerable amount of countryside and parkland, although we were never that far away from roads and people.

The route did take us past (or near) several landmarks such as the Thames Barrier, Charlton House, Severndroog Castle (pictured below) and Eltham Palace.

Severndroog Castle

The views from Severndroog Castle would have been quite spectacular if it weren’t for the haze, likewise on the path just after Eltham Palace, there was quite a panorama. It was a real delight to see so many famous landmarks of London (like the Gherkin, London Eye and Canary Wharf Tower) from such a distance and in the same skyline together.

Rose garden at the foot of Severndroog Castle

I have already said that the signposts were pretty good, and generally the route was very easy walking, there were really only two steep climbs, one with several flights of steps. There was a lot more pavement than I am used to, and most of the sections were quite short, meaning that we were often changing direction, rather than walking for several miles in the same direction along the ridge of the hills.

Hopefully next time we head out for a walk it will be back to the North Downs Way, but I shall look forward to walking the rest of the Capital Ring, although it is not particularly challenging it is a good excuse to see parts of London we wouldn’t otherwise, and hopefully will increase my knowledge of the geography of London, which will hopefully benefit my genealogy at some stage in the future.

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