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08 February 2014: Oh Deer! Richmond walkies without Fenton

Event route planned and designed by John T in 2013.

Weather: mainly sunny with three heavy showers, accompanied by strong, cold, southerly winds ~20mph, 8°C, with wind-chill felt more like 3°C.

Attendance: 11 attendees, of whom 2 prospective members of GOC.

Time: start 1110, end 1530, lunch 31 minutes.  Walking average speed 2.2mph.

Terrain: pavement, footpath, waterlogged bridleways, some slippery mud.

This walk was a circular route of 8.14m from Richmond railway station, W to the Thames, S on Thames into Richmond Park at Petersham Gate, S to Dann's Pond, NE to Pen Pond's Café, NW to Cambrian Gate, then return to the station.

The route explored a pocket of loveliness within London, a classic example of a village that grew into a town and was eventually absorbed into the yoke of London.  An art deco railway station introduced a well-appointed high street (George Street in Richmond’s case).  The route led onto large Victorian & Georgian mansion houses, followed by Henry VIII's wardrobe.  The traffic noise of the high street disappeared immediately after we cleared an alleyway, Brewers Lane, to Richmond Green.  The journey along the Thames was somewhat challenging, with strong headwinds and rain.  After January's significant rainfall, the Thames looked bloated and was very fast-flowing downriver.

Originally a royal hunting ground, Richmond Park is now the home of hundreds of deer.  The route took us past a field where a few of those hundreds of deer were resting.  We saw both fallow deer and red deer.  We passed the Isabella Plantation, fenced in presumably to protect it from the said hundreds of deer.

On King Henry’s Mound, views down the hill bearing WNW to London Heathrow Airport showed how busy the airport is.  The sound of aircraft landing was much louder – invasively so –  in Richmond than it was on King Henry’s Mound.  We saw planes landing and taking off at the same time, using both of Heathrow’s runways.

The noise to replace the aircraft was that of ring-necked parakeets.  Originally escaped pets, parakeets have adapted very well to the London environment and have established themselves permanently.  The sound of a parakeet is unusual for the Herts GOC, we’ve heard them only once outside of London (in Hitchin).  Their bright green plumage stands out at any distance.

Lunch took place at Pen Pond's Café, where we enjoyed bacon butties.  Jackdaws were also primed to enjoy lunch, mainly the scraps left behind from us.  A train of jackdaws perched on trees above our heads, patiently waiting for crumbs.

Shortly after lunch, the weather turned.  By chance, we stood at the edge of the raincloud that passed us to the NE and soaked central London.  The result was a very clear double-rainbow, which looked as if it stood less than 200 metres from us.  We took a group photograph (see above).  We found no pot of gold.  We didn’t find Fenton the Dog, either.

After leaving Richmond Park via Campian Gate, we returned to Richmond Station through a housing estate for the slightly modernised Victorian middle-classes.  Mainly three storeys high, with basement, these modest cloned detached properties revealed the middle-classes then preference for employing the Maid of All Work (or was that Made of All Work?).  Today, nearly all of these properties are converted into flats with very scarce available parking.

The pub was the Princes Head, a Fullers pub in the middle of Richmond that retains a traditional, laid-back townie feel about it.

As with the group's Hampstead walk of 2013, this is another London route that could be repeated in a warmer time of year with significantly different results.

Pictures by Peter O'Connor, 2014.

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