Monday, 26 June 2017

Capital Ring 4 - West Norwood to Wimbledon Park

The Capital Ring is a 78 mile orbital walk through London's suburbs. The official guide divides it into 15 sections, but I'm trying to do it in a few less.

Last time out I'd reached West Norwood, halfway through section 4, and I returned there at the end of May.

I picked up the route at a road called Biggin Hill, nothing to do with the airport, and passed by the Biggin Wood allotments

pausing to admire the view over Croydon to the south.  

I left the road to enter Biggin Wood, seeing my first Capital Ring fingerpost of the day. Twenty miles done since I started at Woolwich; I'll pass over Tooting Bec Common later today and through Richmond Park next time out.

I followed a tarmac path through the wood, part of the ancient Great North Wood which used to cover a much larger area,

and all too soon I emerged back on to suburban streets, pounding the pavements as far as Norwood Grove, a park surrounding a manor house. 

The house was built in the 1840s by Arthur Anderson, joint founder of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company. 

Later on it was home to a Mr & Mrs Nettlefold, whose children erected one of the strangest blue plaques that I have ever seen.

Norwood Grove was bought by Croydon Council in 1926, and opened to the public by the then Prince of Wales. There are two options for passing through on the Capital Ring; being without a dog I was able to walk through the formal gardens near the house, 

then past the orangery (which appeared to be being used as part of a children's nursery), down the main drive and out past the lodge or gatehouse at the end.

I crossed the invisible boundary into the London Borough of Lambeth and onto Streatham Common. This includes The Rookery, a hidden garden on the site of the guesthouse where Queen Victoria used to stay while taking the waters at Streatham Spa. 

On a sunny day in half-term, the upper terrace was busy with families and their picnics, but I had most of the gardens to myself as I wandered round.

From there, it was out onto the common proper, a large expanse of grass with a scattering of trees, and rather dull to be honest.

From the common, I walked along Streatham High Road (which claims to be the longest high street in the UK) and paused for lunch by the war memorials - one for the military and one for civilians.

I crossed over the High Road and headed down Lewin Road to a junction by a railway bridge where Section 4 of the Capital Ring ends and Section 5 begins. It seems like an odd place and I don't see why the powers-that-be didn't choose the High Road (with its buses and train station) instead.

However, my walk didn't end here as I was intending to get to the end of Section 5 today. It looked to be a tedious section on paper with the opening paragraph of the guide containing a couple of ominous phrases - "much of this section is beside roads" and "the walk is entirely level on tarmac paths or pavements" - but it had to be done.

I followed the railway line for a while, and then crossed under it and followed it back again, wondering why the route didn't just use the footbridge. Then came one of the few sights on this section of the walk - the Victorian Streatham Pumping Station, emblazoned with the name of the Southwark & Vauxhall Water Company.

More street-plodding beside another branch of the railway brought me to Tooting Bec Common, though the Ring doesn't go near the famous lido. It doesn't go near the lake either, but I diverted to take a look.

Crossing Bedford Hill, I moved on into the northern part of the common, reminiscent of the Streatham earlier on,

then returned to walking the streets, passing round Du Cane Court on Balham High Road. This building is an Art Deco apartment block, the largest privately-owned block in Europe with 676 apartments and was used as a filming location for Poirot.

A few more roads, and then more green at Wandsworth Common, though not particularly exciting green.

The path hugs the railway, to the extent of passing through the ticket office of Wandsworth Common station, even though there is what looks to be a perfectly good parallel path tens of metres away. Across a couple of roads next, and then into the next part of the Common, still following the railway despite another parallel path, but this time with good reason as I passed by the wildlife ponds (which I'd have missed by following the other path).

Leaving the Common behind me, I returned to the streets with Wandsworth Prison ahead of me. 

Into the final stretch now, and I headed into Wandsworth Cemetery (on the alternative route for those without pushchairs or wheelchairs) with a fascinating mix of old graves and new ones.

I was also touched by a group of Australian war graves from the First World War in one section of the cemetery. Trying to find out a little more about them, it seems that these were soldiers who died at the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth.

Time for another wiggle through the streets, crossing over the River Wandle encased in a concrete channel at this point.

A brief saunter through Durnsford Road Recreational Ground wasn't even worth a photo before I emerged again close to Wimbledon Mosque, which was founded in 1976.

A couple more turns and I reached my destination - Wimbledon Park station - and took just two trains home (rather better than the three trains and a bus that started my day).

I'm happy to say that the next section looks a lot more interesting. It's a seven mile stretch from Wimbledon to Richmond that takes in Wimbledon Common (including its windmill), Richmond Park and a stretch of the River Thames. I'm looking forward to it.

1 comment:

  1. What a totally cool thing to do!!!! I live in Australia and so am unlikely to to get the chance to do that but what an awesome way to see the area and get some exercise. I have heard the is a similar path around Paris too. Good on you and thanks for posting about it. I :)
    Cheers, Marie