Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Balham to Richmond

I took another long walk yesterday on the Capital Ring, from Balham to Richmond. I've now been all the way across South London, from the Thames to the Thames. Yesterday's walk was about ten miles.

I began the walk near Wandsworth Common, and passed the rather forbidding front entrance of Wandsworth prison. (Like all prisons here it is officially prefixed HMP -- "Her Majesty's Prison.") It was built in 1851 and has imprisoned the likes of Oscar Wilde and "Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs.

Leaving HMP Wandsworth, I wound through the Wandsworth Cemetery to the community of Earlsfield, where I took pictures on the High Street and popped into a Cafe Nero primarily to use the bathroom. (I bought an orange juice, too, because I felt like I had to buy something.)

Near Wimbledon Park, I passed a shopfront bearing these old decorative tiles. They're a little the worse for wear, but still beautiful.

I then crossed onto Wimbledon Common, where I passed Wimbledon Windmill. (Say that three times fast!) It's the last remaining hollow-post flour mill in the country, according to my map. I have no idea what that means, really. There's a museum -- where I no doubt could have learned about hollow-post windmills -- but I didn't go.

There's a beautiful memorial to the fallen of World War I near Kingston University, on the western edge of Wimbledon Common. It wasn't even mentioned on my map, which was surprising.

Then, because I was next to Putney Vale Cemetery, I took a little side trip to visit...

...the grave of Sandy Denny, one of my favorite singer-songwriters. I blogged about visiting this same spot back in 2011, a few months after we moved to London. (My first time using British buses!) That seems like a long time ago.

Denny's grave was decorated with little objects left by fans -- a card, some coins, a few trinkets and what appeared to be a VIP pass from a Richard Thompson concert. Thompson was Denny's bandmate in Fairport Convention.

Back on the trail, I passed into Richmond Park, London's largest Royal Park at 2,500 acres. Some of the park's oaks are reputedly 700 years old -- that would make them acorns at the time of Robin Hood! This example (above) is so old and hollow that it's surrounded by a fence for protection.

Richmond Park is also home to a famous herd of deer ("FENTON!") and I saw several of them lolling around. This buck must have thought his antlers blended nicely with that dead tree.

I climbed a hillock known as King Henry's Mound. Henry VIII is said to have waited there in 1536 for a flare from central London telling him that Anne Boleyn had been executed. I have no idea whether that little story is true -- I somehow doubt it -- but you can clearly see the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, neatly framed by trees, using a handy provided telescope. It's a protected view -- nothing can be built that blocks that sight line.

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture. There were several people waiting behind me, and to complicate things even more, I injured my hand unlatching the gate leading to the mound. So I was too busy trying not to bleed on the telescope!

I did get a nice shot of the tower of the former All Saint's Church peeking up through the trees.

I stopped for a yummy vegetarian lunch at the Hollyhock Cafe in Richmond before making my way to the Thames riverfront, where I encountered this nosey giraffe peering in someone's window. The nerve! I caught the overground train home from there, somewhat tired and sore but (thankfully) no longer bleeding.


  1. What a wonderful walk! And great pictures! Sorry about your hand though! Loved the picture of the giraffe peeping in the window! What on earth is the back story behind that? Why? Who? Just curious.

  2. I enjoy all your posts, but the walks are my favourite. Today's walk is particularly interesting as I grew up in this area. I played on Wimbledon Common, walked across Richmond Park, had picnics there and have attended many funerals at Putney Vale cemetery! Hope the hand is healing well.

  3. The first albums I bought with my own money were both by Fairport Convention. I found Sandy Denny's singing spellbinding. I didn't know she was buried at Putney Vale and if I am ever near there I shall follow your example and visit her grave like a pilgrim.

  4. I would imagine you were sore and tired. Ten miles! Out of curiosity, how long does that take you?
    I do love those oak trees. You could have guessed that I would.
    And the giraffe. Such whimsy!

  5. The fence protecting that hollow tree is probably more for humans who might be standing under it should it decide to fall. It looks like a storybook tree. Sorry about your hand!

  6. Ten miles walking along and taking in all the sights would take a long time. However more people should get out on long walks.

  7. what gorgeous old tree. and I wonder, is the flour mill still in use or just still standing. I do like the giraffe.

  8. I love this walk! That tree is so beautiful (an acorn in the time of Robin Hood!). So good that you stopped by Sandy Denny's grave. We loved her music. We still listen to "Who Knows Where The Time Goes." That giraffe is so cool.

  9. New reader here. Thank you so much for sharing all these wonderful pictures. I doubt I'll ever get to London, or anywhere overseas for that matter, so the pictures and descriptions you so thoughtfully provide are greatly appreciated.

  10. Thank you! That was a fabulous post, So jealous of your ability to walk ten miles , climbing hills and unlatching gates and not bleeding to death. Great photos as usual, A real joy!
    Mental illness (Sandy) takes more folks out in gnarly ways than just about any other disease, so misunderstood- not knowing what to do or how to be helpful because...mental, friends are at a loss, and meds tend to mask -needs more science for sure!

  11. What a great post! This section of the ring gave you lots of photographic opportunities. I LOVE the photo of the church tower surrounded by all that green. That giraffe is fun to see.

  12. I just love all of that post, thanks Steve. Sandy Denny's voice is often heard in this house.

    Many moons ago, I briefly lived near Richmond Park and so this was very special.

  13. My, my, Steve, the lengths you go just to give us some nice pictures and stories. And a war wound too! I followed your link and read all about Ronnie Biggs. Fascinating.

  14. Lovely city loop 10 miles good on you , so many lovely shots. Glad you did not have to chase Olga, the poor man on the video chasing after his dog and all those deer crossing the road I wish I knew how it ended.