The Capital Ring is a strategic walking route that completely encircles inner and central London. It is approximately 78 miles long and cuts through as many green spaces as is possible.
We hadn’t intended another stretch so soon, Dog and me, but the day was lovely, there were no pressing engagements before a dance class at 8.30 (we are trying to master the Viennese Waltz without any accompanying gyroscopic nausea – a Herculean task) and this stretch, traversing as it does affluent South West London, is full of rather good teashops and delis.
So, Oyster card to the fore we headed for the station – train to Clapham Junction, change to Earlsfield. 25 minutes tops.
The first stretch is, let’s be honest, dull. The development around Garret Lane is rather squeezed and tired. It used to house a lot of industrial London – the Wandle River that we crossed last time is one of the faster flowing tributaries into the Thames so industry and especially mills flourished. Mostly these have gone but some remain with the occasional treat – a mosque.
And Wimbledon Park Station is classic ‘early tube’ – not so much rococo, more mug-of-cocoa – and no worse for that
As the road climbs the houses grow, the gates are more fortified and the builders seem to be covered in glitter as much as dust.
And then the gate to Wimbledon Park itself and the beginning of a nearly seven mile stretch of greenery.
Wimbledon Park is sanitised – a children’s playground and tennis courts and manicured lawns; but the boating lake and swans and the wildfowl give it a sense of peace and serenity… well, except during late June and early July when the tennis is on. Then it’s utterly horrendous. I caught a glimpse of the roof of Centre Court, in the distance but didn’t bother to capture it. These seemed more worthy.
Leaving the Park we wandered along some more residential streets for half a mile before we crossed a busy road and entered the start of Putney heath. Real woods and a vigorous sniffing session for Dog.
Wimbledon Common comes next and with it its famous windmill.
The paths stretch in every direction, past a golf course – curiously the London Scottish
In the middle of the woods I came upon a small lake; all rather tranquil
Rather sadly I cannot ever really think of Wimbledon Common without thinking of an awful murder there some twenty years ago. It’s a beautiful spot forever rather soured in my memory. Today, however, if was pretty near perfect.
As you cross the main road south, the A3, you stand next to a box that riders can wait in. There are even traffic light controls at rider height.
Wimbledon Common now gives way to the massive Royal Hunting ground that is Richmond park. It is huge, home to two types of deer and many Londoners enjoying various forms of pasttime and leisure pursuit. In truth, but for the despotic indifference of our monarchs, these sorts of places wouldn’t be here today. Ironic huh?
To give you a sense of the wonderfully distinct nature of the park I made a spinning selfie. I seem to be a little worried by the technology. As you will note at the end of the clip, Dog is more interested in the man sitting behind me eating a cheese sandwich.
I’m pretty sure Richmond Park is one of Europe’s largest urban open spaces. In 1987 I took a walk with some friends after the October hurricane of that year struck and was startled at how the wind had been so destructive that mature oaks had had the tops twisted off like so much paper. Most of this devastation has gone now but back then it felt tragic.
After the dip for the ponds we climbed steadily until we turned left and headed for the Petersham gate. On the way we passed a major bonfire
Once at the crest of the escarpment, we looked west towards the affluent suburbs as well as on to Twickenham. At this point, I still had hopes for the Rugby World Cup that is being played there… fool
Behind some gates there is a mound, apparently, an ancient burial spot but also, so rumour has it, the place Henry VIII waited for a beacon that started at the Tower where Anne Boleyn had been beheaded, thus enabling him to marry Jane Seymour. Nice.
Exiting the Park things become a little more built up but the compensations are, first, the buildings are rather splendid examples of old architecture and second we are now in hailing distance of the River Thames. Readers of this blog will know I am not at all aquatic but even I can appreciate – from a safe distance – the glories of our most famous river.
Richmond was crowded. School was out as was the sun and many yummy mummies and their charges (not many, if any, male carers in this patrician enclave – or should that be parochial?) The pace naturally slows as we began to dodge blondes with buggies – another characteristic.
The best thing about the Capital Ring is the accessibility of each part. We caught the train to Clapham Junction and then back home (dogs still welcome on the train and tube – with buses it is in the discretion of the driver). We could have caught the train into central London or the tube.
Next time we will cross the Thames and head north along the Brent River and the Grand Union Canal and enjoy a wonderful nature reserve right beneath one of our busiest motorways, the M4 on the stretch out to Heathrow.