Stage 3: Streatham to Osterley Lock
Friday, June 01, 2012
I began the third stage of the Capital Ring at the Streatham Memorial Garden (picture 10) just after 9am on another overcast morning. This was to be my last full day in England on this trip, so I was keen to make the most of it.
From the gardens, the Capital Ring crosses over the Streatham High Road to the junction with Lewin Road, following the latter (a densely packed residential street) for its entire length to reach Estreham Road in front of a complicated junction of railway lines, one of which is the mainline from London to Gatwick Airport and Brighton. The route of the Capital Ring goes to the right along Estreham Road for 200 metres to turn left into a pedestrian tunnel under one of the railway lines and ahead into Potters Lane. The first street on the right is Conyer's Road, which soon passes by the Streatham Waterworks, a rather grand 1888 building housing a pumping station (picture 2).
At the end of Conyer's Road, the Capital Ring crosses the A216 Mitcham Lane and continues ahead along Riggindale Road to its junction with the A214 Tooting Bec Road, turning left along the latter to cross over the London to Brighton railway line and enter the borough of Wandsworth. Crossing the road at lights, the route continues along the opposite pavement to a main signpost just beyond the access road of the Tooting Bec Lido, one of the largest swimming pools in Europe, at 100 yards (91 metres) long.
The signpost points along a tarmac footpath that strikes out across Tooting Bec Common, a large green space, partly open and partly wooded (picture 3). Shortly after passing by a lake, the path reaches the B242 Bedford Hill, crossing over and joining a shared footpath and cycle track along the edge of another section of the common. Like many of London's larger green spaces, Tooting Bec Common is divided into several sections by roads and railway lines.
After passing by an open grassy area, the path approaches the railway line crossed earlier, bending left to run parallel to it for a short distance before a signpost points left along a fenced footpath and off the common. At the end of this path, the Capital Ring continues ahead along the residential Fontenoy Road and back to Bedford Hill. Fifty metres to the right along Bedford Hill, the Capital Ring crosses over at a refuge and turns left into Ritherdon Road, following it as far as Cloudesdale Road, the third street on the right. At the end of this, the route turns left on Elmfield Road, soon reaching the A24 Balham High Road opposite a rather large apartment block.
The route turns right along the main road and crosses at lights. Just to the right is the Parish Church of St Mary and St John the Divine (picture 4), with an unusual dome at the front of the building. The Capital Ring turns left instead of passing the church, then almost immediately turns right along Balham Park Road, a residential street that is followed for about 400 metres until the road bends left. At the bend, the Capital Ring bears right on a footpath that runs between brick walls and onto Wandsworth Common.
The path heads along the edge of the Common, close to the Brighton Line once again, passing through the ticket hall of Wandsworth Common Station before crossing over Bellevue Road and continuing ahead (picture 5) on the rightmost of several tarmac paths that fan out across the Common. A short distance ahead I was able to get close enough to a bird foraging beside the path to get a good picture (picture 6) -- a rarity for someone as un-stealthy as myself. Unfortunately, my skills at identifying birds are next to non-existent, so any help would be appreciated.
The path soon passes between the railway line and a lake (picture 7), which has a boardwalk going around its far end (picture 8), though the Capital Ring eschews this and continues along the tarmac path a little further to a junction of paths at the end of a footbridge over the railway line.
Ignoring the footbridge, the route continues ahead a few more metres to a fork in the path, taking the left branch under an avenue of trees that separates two grassy fields with the large white building that houses the park café some distance off to the right. Reaching another junction of paths, the Capital Ring bears left between a wooden railing fence and a metal fence, soon finding itself on a pleasant path that runs parallel to Dorlcote Road with three large cricket fields off to the right and terrace houses across the road to the left (picture 9).
At the end of the path the Capital Ring reaches Trinity Road, crossing over and continuing ahead to the right of the County Arms pub (picture 10) and down the short Alma Terrace to its junction with Heathfield Road, where one is confronted by the high, forbidding walls of Wandsworth Prison (picture 11).
Turning left along Heathfield Road, the route passes the end of Wilde Place, a reminder of Oscar Wilde's imprisonment in Wandsworth in 1895, then takes the next right turn into Magdalen Road. This long, straight thoroughfare is followed along the right-hand pavement for around a kilometre through the quiet suburb of Earlsfield, passing by the Magdalen Park Tennis Club and then the large Earlsfield Cemetery.
At the end of Magalen Road, the route crosses over the A217 Garratt Lane and turns right to follow it for a short distance, passing under a railway bridge by Earlsfield Station then taking the second street on the left, Penwith Road. This road soon crosses over the River Wandle, a tributary of the Thames, which is divided into two here (picture 12) as it flows through some kind of mill a short distance downstream.
After crossing the Wandle, the Capital Ring turns left into Ravensbury Terrace, which soon bends right, becoming Haslemere Avenue as it crosses the boundary between the boroughs of Wandsworth and Merton. Continuing ahead, Haslemere Avenue becomes Mount Road before the Capital Ring turns left into Lucien Road, shortly going through a gate at the far end and into the Durnsford Road Recreation Ground. A tarmac path soon leads around to the right between school buildings and a playground (picture 13) before leaving the recreation ground and turning left on Wellington Road. At the end, a footpath on the right leads to the A218 Durnsford Road, opposite the Wimbledon Mosque (picture 14).
Crossing over and turning left in front of the white-tiled building, the Capital Ring turns right into Arthur Road after about 100 metres, passing Wimbledon Park Tube Station before turning right into Home Park Road a few metres further on. After passing half a dozen houses, a gate on the right leads into Wimbledon Park, where a terrace overlooks a playground and twenty tennis courts (picture 15).
The Capital Ring descends steps from the terrace to the playground, following a tarmac path along its left edge before reaching the shore of the large lake that occupies the centre of the park (picture 16).
The path skirts the edge of the lake, which is rich with bird life, to reach a main signpost next to a small sailing club. The Capital Ring leaves the lakeside path here and heads around behind the sailing club and soon alongside a very tall hedge that hides the Wimbledon Park Athletics Stadium. At the far end of the stadium, the Capital Ring bears slightly left across a playing field to the park gates on Wimbledon Park Road, now back in the borough of Wandsworth.
Following the road to the left after leaving the park, the Capital Ring comes to a junction of four roads after 300 metres. Ahead on the right is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the Wimbledon tennis tournament is held, but the Capital Ring goes no closer, instead crossing over the road at the second pedestrian refuge to join Bathgate Road. From here the route closely follows the boundary of Wandsworth and Merton for the next three kilometres.
After 150 metres, the route turns right into Queensmere Road, which climbs through a residential area for about 600 metres to reach the A219 Wimbledon Park Side. A short distance to the right, the Capital Ring crosses over the road at traffic lights and continues ahead on a marked path into the woodland of Putney Heath (picture 17). The heath, combined with the adjoining Wimbledon Common to its south form one of the largest open spaces in London.
After a few minutes the path emerges from the woods with a cluster of buildings ahead across a grassy area. One of these is the Wimbledon Windmill, which dates from 1817.
Continuing on a gravel path, the trail passes by the buildings, bearing left along the far side, where one of the buildings is the clubhouse of the London Scottish Golf Club. Just before the first tee, the Capital Ring turns right, heading downhill through the woods again to reach Queen's Mere (picture 19), a man-made lake that is the home of the fictional Wombles. Immediately on arriving at the lake, the Capital Ring turns left, heading back into the woods (picture 20).
The path runs through the quiet woods for a little over a kilometre, crossing a couple of fairways belonging to the golf course. On reaching a small triangular clearing, the Capital Ring bears right to join a track beside Beverley Brook (picture 21), a minor tributary of the Thames. The path is followed beside the brook for about 300 metres until a brick footbridge provides a way across for a brief visit to the borough of Kingston-upon-Thames.
A gravel path ahead leads to the side of the very busy A3, where traffic lights allow walkers (and horses) to cross safely and continue ahead past stables and through the Robin Hood Gate into Richmond Park and the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. An ancient royal hunting ground, Richmond Park is the largest urban park in Europe, with a perimeter wall measuring around 14 kilometres, and is home to more than 600 deer.
Crossing a small carpark, the Capital Ring follows the direction indicated by a waymarker disc on a short post, passing through a stand of trees (picture 22) and then up the gradual slope of a grassy hillside, heading for the left-hand end of Spankers Hill Wood (picture 23). Having rounded the end of the wood, the path passes the right-hand end of another carpark before following a broad path gently downhill towards the Pen Ponds in the centre of the park (picture 24).
The path crosses a broad causeway between the ponds (picture 25) and then begins to climb. Around 200 metres later a waymarker disc on another short post to the right of the path points along a side-track on the left. I initially missed this turn and went about twice as far up the hill as I needed to before realizing my error. There was at least the compensation of some good views back across the park as I backtracked (picture 26).
Rejoining the correct route I followed a path along the edge of Sidmouth Wood (picture 27). On the far side of the wood, the path joins a tarmac driveway, and this is followed out to Queen's Road, which separates Richmond Park from Petersham Park. The Capital Ring crosses over and heads on into Petersham Park on a gravel track (picture 28)
A short distance off to the right of the path, surrounded by trees and gardens, stands Pembroke Lodge, a late 18th century mansion. I made a brief diversion around to the carpark in front of the house, where a small kiosk gave me the opportunity to buy a snack. A sign nearby indicated that the main house was being used for a wedding on this particular afternoon.
Rejoining the Capital Ring, I followed the gravel path which passes the end of the Lodge's gardens and then swings to the right to continue across the hillside behind the Lodge (picture 29), with good views off to the left as the ground falls away towards the Richmond Golf Course and beyond to the Thames Valley (picture 30).
About 200 metres beyond the Lodge, the Capital Ring bears left downhill towards Petersham Road, but before following that path I took another diversion, through a gate on the right where a path climbs through gardens to King Henry's Mound (picture 31). The mound is actually an ancient burial chamber, but gained it's name from King Henry VIII who is said to have waited here on May 19, 1536 to see a signal flare from the Tower of London to confirm the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. From atop the mound, a gap in the trees gives a view of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, around 16 kilometres away, with the rest of the city's tall buildings hidden from view. A nearby information board states that this view is one of only eight in London that are legally protected, with all development that would obscure the dome from this viewpoint or alter the background beyond it being strictly forbidden by planning regulations.
Unfortunately on the day of my visit the gloomy weather meant that I could only barely make out the silhouette of the dome and couldn't get a decent photo. In the opposite direction, however, there were good views across the western outskirts of London and beyond into the counties of Surrey and Berkshire (picture 32).
Back on the Capital Ring, I followed the path downhill to exit the park via the Petersham Gate, crossing over the A307 Petersham Road and following a fenced footpath past the Dysart Arms pub (picture 33) and around two sides of the churchyard of the Parish Church of St Peter (picture 34) to reach a driveway. Turning right and heading away from the church, the Capital Ring continues beyond the end of the driveway on a tarmac path across Petersham Meadow (picture 35), obliquely approaching the River Thames, which soon comes into view on the left.
At the far edge of the meadow the path goes through a metal gate into Buccleuch Gardens, where the route of the Capital Ring joins that of the Thames Path National Trail, which I had completed during the previous summer. At the far end of the gardens, the path reaches the riverside, following it closely past Richmond's waterfront buildings for another 500 metres up to Richmond Bridge (picture 36).
The Capital Ring goes under Richmond Bridge and continues along the riverside path, here called Cholmondeley Walk, with the site of the former Richmond Palace behind the wall to the right (picutre 37). Soon the path passes under the iron Richmond Railway Bridge (picture 38) and the much less interesting concrete Twickenham Bridge in quick succession and continues a little further downstream to Richmond Lock and Weir, with the Old Deer Park off to the right. Just before the lock the path passes by a marker showing the position of the Kew Meridian (picture 39), which was used before the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian were moved from here to Greenwich.
On reaching the lock the Capital Ring parts company with the main route of the Thames Path, climbing steps up to an iron footbridge that crosses over the river above the weir. There is however an alternate route of the Thames Path that runs along the left bank of the river through most of London and which accompanies the Capital Ring for another couple of kilometres.
The Richmond Lock is actually a half-tide lock. On the low half of the tide, the lock operates like any other, guaranteeing a minimum navigable depth of water upstream, while on the higher half of the tide boats can pass over the weir. On descending the steps from the footbridge to the opposite bank, I discovered that the weir also incorporates a facility for small rowing boats to make their way over the weir without using the lock (visible in the lower right corner of picture 40).
The Capital Ring follows a riverside path downstream for about 400 metres, passing Gordon House, which has it's own clock tower (picture 41), before reaching the end of Railshead Road. The next section of the riverbank is inaccessible, so the Capital Ring has to take a slightly longer route around it, following Railshead Road up to the A3004 Richmond Road, turning right along the latter to reach a junction with a mini-roundabout then right again to follow the short Lion Wharf Road back to the Thames.
A few metres downstream stands the Town Wharf pub (picture 42), while the river itself is divided into two channels by the densely wooded Isleworth Ait (an "ait" is simply an island).
Rather unusually for a public right of way, the route of the Capital Ring climbs the steps to the first floor verandah of the pub and weaves it's way amongst tables and patrons before crossing a wooden footbridge to gain the next section of the riverside path. After passing by a large crane in front of an apartment building, the path is again forced to make a diversion away from the river, following the Duke of Northumberland's River a short distance up to Church Street, then turning right to regain the riverbank in front Isleworth's Parish Church of All Saints (picture 43).
Almost immediately, the road curves away from the river and the Capital Ring soon crosses over the road and heads through metal gates into Syon Park, following a footpath beside the park road (picture 44).
Over the park, a series of low-flying aircraft, including one belonging to Korean Airlines (picture 45), provided a reminder of the close proximity of Heathrow Airport.
About 500 metres into the park, the path reaches a pair of lodges at the ends of a ha-ha (a low wall with raised ground behind it) beyond which one can see the 18th century Syon House (picture 46). Just beyond the house, the Capital Ring follows the road past a garden centre before the road narrows to a long walled path which eventually leaves the park via the Brent Lea Gate, arriving beside the A315 London Road in Brentford.
The Capital Ring crosses over the road, finally diverging from the Thames Path. Taking the far pavement to the right for 100 metres, the route crosses Commercial Road and descends steps to a path beside the Grand Union Canal, with the twin Brentford Locks ahead (picture 47). The Capital Ring shares the path beside the canal with the Grand Union Canal Walk, which follows the canal all the way up to Birmingham, a distance of 139 miles (223 kilometres) according to a main signpost nearby.
The path passes by the locks and crosses a swing-bridge before heading along the edge of the Brentford Canal Basin, where many narrowboats were moored by modern apartment buildings (picture 48).
Beyond the basin, the path passes under the canopy of an old covered wharf then under a railway line and the A4 Great West Road. The canal, which is one with the River Brent here, gradually becomes greener from here on (picture 49) as it twists one way and then the other before passing by Clitheroe Lock (picture 50).
Around the next left-hand bend in the river, which comes up beside the M4 motorway before curving away again, the Capital Ring switches banks by crossing over the steeply humped Gallows Bridge (picture 51), which bears the text "Grand Junction Canal Co. 1820". Bending back the other way, the river passes under the Piccadilly Line and then the M4, crossing into the London Borough of Ealing and coming up to the lonely Osterley Lock (picture 52) and the end of this stage of the walk 150 metres later.
My GPS made it 27.6 kilometres covered since leaving the Streatham Memorial Garden and 61 kilometres since starting the Capital Ring at Woolwich. The remaining 65km would have to wait for another time, as I was returning home to Brisbane the following evening.
From Osterley Lock, I backtracked most of the way to the M4 bridge to join a path through woodland that provides a link with Boston Manor Station on the Piccadilly Line. Within 15 minutes I was aboard a train back to central London for a well-earned pint.