Saturday, 1 April 2017

Capital Ring 3 - New Beckenham to West Norwood

The Capital Ring is a 78 mile orbital walk through London's suburbs. I started walking it last year, but then it fell to the sidelines and I'm embarrassed to admit that it's been ten long months since I last walked a section (and I never did blog it; I'll try to remedy that soon). 

The official guide for the walk has 15 sections, but I'm trying to do it in a few less. I did two walks last year and I had reached New Beckenham, roughly the middle of section three.

Just as spring started, I caught three trains back to New Beckenham and paused to get my bearings. The path passes directly under the railway here and I was wondering how best to rejoin it when I spotted a sign:

I set out along Lennard Road (remember that name) and immediate diverted left, and into Cator Park

for the first of today's finger signposts 

and a cheerful robin, who seemed willing to pose for me rather than fly away.

It was a pleasant enough place for a stroll in the sunshine, but the route was clearly an exercise in including as much green space as possible because I walked three sides of a square which put me back on Lennard Road. A little further and I was diverted again, along a fenced path across playing fields

and into another park, the Alexandra Recreation Ground.

It's named after the wife of Edward VII, but the park would appear to be older judging by this water fountain

erected by public subscription in 1877.

Having completed another three-sides-of-a-square, I came back to Lennard Road again, crossed the railway at Penge East, walked along the High Street and past Penge West station.

This brought me to Crystal Palace Park, by far the highlight of the walk. Despite growing up in a neighbouring borough, I'd never visited before and I wanted to make a thorough exploration of the park. The Capital Ring has two alternative routes here, one round the northern perimeter and one through the dinosaur park, but I combined bits of both.

Round the north of the park first, past the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Trophy, which commemorates the officers and men in the Great War,

past the fishing lake, 

and the Concert Bowl.

This brought me to The Terraces, Grade II listed and all that remains of the Crystal Palace, which burnt down in 1936.

The BBC's Crystal Palace transmitter had been in sight since East Penge, but this was the best place to see it in full,

close to the Central Steps, the grand staircase that once lead up to the Palace.

Climbing up them took me to another level of The Terraces, with four red Sphinxes, two each side of the central staircase.

Heading down again, I passed the bust of Joseph Paxton (creator of the Crystal Palace) looking away from the site of his creation

and walked along the Grand Central Walk, between the National Sports Centre and the Athletics Stadium

en route to the infamous Dinosaur Court, with its sculptures of prehistoric animals.

Megaloceros or Irish Elk





Teleosaurs (and another Plesiosaur)
From there I walked across the southern side of the park, past the opposite side of the Athletics Stadium

and out of the gate near the station.

I briefly pondered stopping here (the end of Section 3) but I needed to get a couple more miles under my belt in order to divide the walk into roughly equal parts so I pressed on. A plod through residential streets took me up Belvedere Road, one of the steepest roads I've walked up in a long time; I could see surprisingly far at the top.

There's a blue plaque on number 22, former home of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, the creator of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs.

Into Westow Park next, where I lost all the height I'd previously gained.

Another Capital Ring signpost showed my start point, 18.5 miles ago, and I realised that I'd done almost a quarter.

From Westow Park, I headed into Upper Norwood Recreation Ground, a small patch of trees and a lot of playing fields,

with another water fountain; this one was presented by S. Tufnell Southgate in 1891.

From there it was back to plodding the streets until my legs gave out and I caught the bus to West Norwood, then three trains home.

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