Thursday, June 28, 2007

Capital Ring: Wimbledon Park to Richmond

It's 5 months since Bondi and I last walked a segment of London's Capital Ring path. I had wanted to complete the circuit in strict clockwise fashion, but today it was more convenient to do the "final" section, between Wimbledon Park and Richmond.

I drove down to Twickenham early this morning to drop off the car with a private mechanic for servicing. With at least 7 hours to wait until completion I decided to have breakfast just across the Thames in Richmond, catch the train to Wimbledon Park, and then walk back.

While the two ends of the walk are only 8 miles apart, we had a long tube journey since they're on different branches of the District line, intersecting at Earl's Court. As we neared Wimbledon Park, many people were getting off at Southfields station , which is the closest to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where the Wimbledon tennis tournament is being staged. We've noticed that many event organisers across Europe have been canny enough to capitalise on Bondi's travels, and schedule to take advantage of the crowds coming to see him e.g. G8 conferences, Eurovision, Prince William's graduation, Bachfest ... and today, Wimbledon. As the train had to stop at that station for a long time while the platform cleared, the crowds precessing past our carriage door began waving at Bondi perched inside.

At Wimbledon Park, Bondi headed for the florist at the station entrance, draining most of a bucket of water missing a bouquet. Thus, at 11.30am we began the walk proper.

After rounding some local parks and tennis courts, and an artificial lake created by Capability Brown, we hit the melee surrounding the actual Wimbledon tournament. Various diversions and signage obscured the desired path, so we got swept up in the foot traffic to the AELT&CC gates before realising that we'd gone down the wrong road and had to circle back to the correct road.

As we crossed into the borough of Wandsworth we passed Queensmere House, which was used as a POW camp for officers during WWII. Obviously someone in the War Office figured that these chaps who were doing things that just weren't cricket were best housed at the back of the tennis courts.

From here, crossing towards Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common, we started one of the longest stretches of green space on the entire Capital Ring. We stopped for refreshments near Britain's last remaining hollow post windmill - all of the machinery turning on a single post threaded with a drive shaft. There were lots of other dog owners taking a break there, but after a pleasant intermission, decided to press on in the face of approaching rain-clouds, undoubtedly drawn towards centre court at Wimbledon.

We veered past the Queen's Mere, a favourite spot for Wimbledon Common's most famous literary (and televisual) residents, The Wombles. They and their habitat are parodied by Michael de Larrabeiti's far darker children's series about The Borribles, with its "Rumbles of Rumbledom".

Bondi has an orinoco flow; Great Uncle Bulgaria spotted in the bushes at Queen's Mere

Putney Heath; clouds gathering over the Common

Continuing west we reached Richmond Park, which we had last visited 18 months ago, brought here by Chris on a very wintry day. Enclosed in 1637 by Charles I so that the royals could go deer-hunting, it is the largest urban park in all of Europe. There are still hundreds of deer roaming in herds, but we kept them at a distance since they are very protective of their newly born at this time of year.

Petersham Meadows

Several miles later, we popped out near Pembroke Lodge, childhood home of Bertrand Russell, and descended through Petersham Park to the meadows by the river Thames. Famously painted by Turner, and photographed by Williams, the Petersham Meadows linked us with the Thames Path we had walked from Teddington Lock early last year.

From there it was a short stroll back into Richmond, and a late lunch while waiting for news of the car's readiness. While we were lucky enough to miss the rain, the car will need more work, particularly to replace the motor for an electric door window.

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