Capital Ring Walk: Wimbledon Park to Richmond Bridge

I step into the shower and wait for the cumulation of moisture in my hair from the drizzle falling ever so rythymically from the British underground through this overwhelmed shower head onto my cold body as I debate just how clean the outside demand I be. I get out and choose next to air dry because the towel appears to have been used to clean up after a hair massacre of sorts.

There’s an entitled girl on the train who makes me think of another braggart I got to overhear in Hawaii. They seem more proud of their daddy’s jobs and where it gets them than grateful for the places they get to go and the people they might be lucky to meet. This one makes sure I know that she has walked through Europe and that she’s impatient to get to London because only the giant landmarks will do.

Or perhaps she’s just quoting the works of a traveling poet and failing to get her mom’s attention. I’m ok sitting here and imagining a moment in my childhood when I get to meet her seemingly cool grandpa, with a less firm hand on discipline than my mother’s dad had for his grandchildren. It’s not the train that’s boring, it’s the people who are bored, and both provide entertainment to me.

The South Western Railway stops at Wimbledon, not Wimbledon Park, which the District Line could’ve connected me to but I decided to walk the two kilometers to the start of Section Six. This now famous park got its landscaped beginnings in 1765 to improve the view from the Earl’s mansion. The railway cut across the valley in 1889 and Wimbledon Corp. bought the space between the lake and the train in 1915 to preserve the land.

It wasn’t until 1926 that they would have the funds to build putting and bowling greens, and tennis courts. There’s now a heritage trail with 12 stops around the perimeter of the park highlighting the historic changes of the beautiful views, St Mary’s Church, the Artesian Well, and Lawn Tennis Museum. I’ll stay to the right of the lake and watch ages toddlers to teenagers learn to wield a racket.

I heard part of a conversation: grandma, “Stop walking like that.” The boy was dragging his feet. His response, “What you’re saying is, stop walking like yourself!” I’d have told him he can walk however he wants when he buys his own shoes. The Wimbledon Windmill, built in 1817, is the last hollow post mill in the country. Its body, filled with machinery, is mounted on a single post that’s able to be rotated.

Passing the Wimbledon Common, an area that dates back to the Stone Age, and now I’m told to look left for Golf in Play. England, as are other parts of the world, are still learning how to allow humans to live with nature, not dominate and destroy it. The Beverley Brook was too straight to provide fish a refuge, too wide causing build up of sediment, too dark to support plant growth, and didn’t have enough wood to provide habitat for invertebrates.

Richmond Park is London’s largest royal park, at 2,500 acres, and Europe’s largest urban park. It is a national nature reserve, but for 12 weeks out of the year, starting in November and February, the park is closed overnight so that firearms may be used to cull the deer population. I’m in luck that the only things falling and flying through the air as I walk is raindrops and a flock of birds. I’m glad I’m not alone in the mist, and though the locals may be past the point of touristic appreciation for the weather, they don’t let it slow them in any way.

I got to watch a buck herd his doe and I reassured a couple that was his only intent when they thought he was going to run them down. It’s been a while since I could watch so many deer going on about their lives and this was the first time that I was joined with such a crowd of people doing the same thing. I leave that field in search of Henry’s Mound, named for the VIII as he waited for the execution of one wife to marry another.

Regardless of the legend, there’s a protected view, via telescope, of St Paul’s Cathedral that is 12 miles away and restricts any tall buildings from being built in-between that would obscure it. There’s a cafe nearby and I see people eating scones, so of course I got in line, only to have this old guy holding his tray into my back and pushing me closer to the father and daughter in front of me. Then he had the gumption to stand next to me at the til and stress out the cashier who, “wants to live and see his family.”

The old guy is asked to kindly step back and give me space to, safely, make my purchase and walk outside to find a place to eat it. This treat is a combination of the love of food I get from my parents, one loving anything with carbs and the other having sweet teeth. I’m grateful in this moment, as I am for most when I’m turning out better than my childhood intended, while watching the jackdaws make a mess of the stacked dishes left behind.

I’m distracted while on the phone with Caleb, nothing new there, and though I seem to have taken a detour I’m able to arrive at the correct intersection to continue to Petersham Meadows. A special character of cows, based on their ability to deal with crowds, has been selected to do conservation grazing from April to October and must have left early this year.

I got to walk under the road to reach Terrace Gardens. In the 1600s there were businesses and workers, the 1700s brought residential estates and gardens. The 1800s saw demolition and incorporation but the Richmond Vestry bought the land for public use in May 1887. In the 1900s another house was turned into a factory and the gardens extended. Between 2007-09, one million pound Sterling ($1.3M USD) was invested in paths, furniture, and replanting for conservation and biodiversity.

I’ll finish Section 6 and walk around Richmond Waterfront before meandering and finding myself at the Richmond Green. The sky is still bright grey, until it’s not. I’ll take the bus back as the sun is setting and save the energy from those four miles for tomorrow. I’ll stop for some hummus chips to go with my lentil soup. I return to my dingy room.

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