Capital Ring Walk: Crystal Palace to Wimbledon Park

I sleep in and still manage to wake up before my alarm, which had to have been reset while I was half asleep. I enjoy the short walk to the train station while listening to a man sing happy birthday to himself while on the phone. The weather is nice at the moment and I’m hoping it stays that way until the afternoon.

I’m going back to Arin Cafe for breakfast, since it’s close to my starting point, the owner is kind, and I have cash. The guy I overheard earlier walks in, so I pay for his birthday breakfast while he’s outside chatting with a friend.

I walk through a neighborhood and notice a building covered in rose-ringed parakeets, native to the Indian subcontinent but popular as a caged bird they’ve gone from pet to pest. The ones that escape form colonies in the city as they’ve adapted to living in the colder climate.

I pass by a playground that appears to have a mini-deforestation sample next to it, but the way the wood is stacked, notched, and spaced with springs, a bar, and handles lets me know that this is an imagination wonderland where moist wood reduces splinters.

Each section of the Capital Ring Walk comes with its own descriptive pdf and helpful pictures with map insets to help with navigation. I’m glad I downloaded them all as Section 4 requires reading to not get lost as the signs are usually within eyesight from the end of the path you’re on to the beginning of another direction.

In Biggin Wood, there is a swing (long rope tied to a two-inch thick stick) over a spot with more mud than leaves and some more parakeets. I went left at one point, turned around, and went left at the fork too. There’s not much here, which is nice, but I also wasn’t sure if I was going the right way until I was out of the park.

I keep moving past Norbury Park as a way to, “Use your park responsibly” and walk to Norwood Grove that was opened in 1926 by Edward VIII, Prince of Wales. I’ll stop by a bench to read a quote from Bob, aged 56. “It’s good to linger, stop for a chat; there should always be time for that.”

I’ll walk with a father and daughter as we enter Streatham Common and talk about how awesome it would be to live in the house on our left with a moat and to get a drawbridge installed. This space was recorded 934 years ago, in the Domesday Book, a manuscript record of the Great Survey of some 13,000 places, that was ordered by William the Conqueror.

During WWII, the lower common would be used for rental gardens and temporary housing. Today it helps to preserve acid grasslands — mossy vegetation that occurs on nutrient-poor and free-draining soils over sand and gravel. This habitat is especially important for the Thames Terrace Invertebrates.

The beewolf wasp preys on bees. The females dig tunnel nests and the males mark twigs in their territory with pheromones. The hornet robberfly looks like a cross between a mosquito and a grasshopper and will wait on poo to eat unsuspecting dung beetles. The Shrill carder bee is known for the loud and high-pitched buzz of the queen, one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees.

I’ll part ways with my conversation companions as they detour from my route on their way to the grocery store. I’ll visit Streatham Memorial Garden, the historic site of a manor turned house turned villa and eventually in 1922 turned into a war memorial with a bronze statue to commemorate the dead of two World Wars and an obelisk for those living or who did live in Streatham that have been affected by violence.

I’m walking down Conyers Rd and there are three guys “working.” The first guy says, “I thought you lived here the way you was looking.” I tell him I was just watching him work. The guy on scaffolding below him says, “I just have to stand here and look good for you.” The third guy, on the ground supervising, asks what I’m doing here since it rains every day and “appreciating the weather” was my response as it starts to sprinkle again.

I’ll watch a girl in her rainbow socks and tutu learning to ride a bike through Tooting Commons, stop at a market across from Du Cane Court and buy as much food as will fit in my pockets, and pass a girl with adjustable skates and remember having a pair myself.

I’m wandering through Wandsworth which happens to be the location of one of seven of Her Majesty’s Prisons in the capital and one of the largest in the UK. On a scale of A to D on how dangerous the criminals are inside, this one rates a B, with mostly drug and mental health issues residing in this overcrowded compound.

I never thought to read reviews for a prison and yet they exist. 1) Relaxing break all paid for. Staff could be friendlier though. 2) Foods not great, but the library has a good choice of books. 3) … that I had won a 6 month all inclusive deal at this wonderful facility. If it wasn’t for needing an appointment due to covid, I would’ve asked to see a random visitor at the window and tried my luck. Had I gotten in, they’d have taken my thumbprint and photo, given me a wristband and fluorescent mark, and rubbed me down after emptying my pockets.

I take a detour through the Wandsworth Cemetery to admire all the art and history in one place with so much I don’t know about anyone here. This is close enough to death for me. I see two boys on their way to the playground and told them they need to know the password. One pipes up, “Mum, we need to know the password” and she responds, “Did you try pretty please?” He says please, I say that’s it, and one of the moms says she didn’t know there was one. I told her I was messing with them.

Today’s walk will end at the tennis gallery, a little shop with lots of books, some postcards, and a tennis ball teapot. Raindrops keep falling on my rides, but that doesn’t mean I won’t soon arrive, with bread in hand, back to the house. The bathroom is warmed up, seemingly just for me, so I take advantage before enjoying some blogging in the room on my last night here, in this flat, not London.

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