13 GOC London and Surrey walkers set off from Wimbledon station at 11 am on a blustery Sunday morning. A cracking pace was set, aided by the fact that it became quite chilly to stand still for too long. Robin and Mark led us a 'secret' back way up to Wimbledon Common, avoiding the busy main road. On the way through the back streets we stopped briefly to speculate about the purpose of an ornate Victorian green metal pillar, which looked like a cross between a Parisan pissoir and a post-box. (This turned out to be after some internet research a very old electricity transformer). The views behind us gradually became more impressive as we ascended (if we remembered to look back).
Wimbledon Common is extensive and contains several different landscapes including heathland, woods and lakes. After passing the famous Windmill, we walked around the banks of the Queens Mere, which seemed hidden away and very quiet, despite its size and the popularity of the Common at weekends for recreation. We paused by an impressive First World War memorial for snacks and drinks from our flasks, before crossing the busy A3 into Richmond Park.
Avoiding the temptation to enter the interestingly-named 'Spankers Hill Wood' on our right (unfortunately I haven't had time to research this), we gradually ascended towards the middle of the park with increasingly good views. At this point we were caught in the open by a heavy but fortunately brief hail shower. We then crossed on a causeway between the twin Pen Ponds where there was an interesting contrast. The Pond on our left was exposed to the wind and was very choppy with many white horses, while the one on our right was a few feet lower and much calmer.
At the western edge of Richmond Park there is a steep escarpment falling away to the Thames Valley, and here we stopped at King Henry's Mound, associated with Henry VIII, but actually with a much longer history, originally being a Bronze Age burial chamber. From there we were impressed by the framed view of St Paul's Cathedral to the east, and over the Thames Valley as far as Windsor Castle to the west. We stopped to eat our packed lunches nearby at some benches in Pembroke Lodge Gardens. It was difficult to find shelter from the westerly wind, but it was not too bad in the sun. However some of us were driven indoors to the cafe to buy tea and cake when another shower passed overhead.
After lunch we left Richmond Park by Ham Gate and followed a narrow winding woodland path through Ham Common, then a straight tree-lined avenue towards Ham House which is an impressive historic 17th century building. We joined the Thames towpath for the last part of our walk into Richmond, saying goodbye to some of our walkers on the outskirts of the town. Finally we steeply ascended the flank of Richmond Hill to the formal end of the walk, worthwhile for our last extensive views to the west. Half a dozen of us then had a celebratory social pint at the Roebuck pub.
I would like to thank Robin and Mark for a splendid walk in just about every type of weather: rain, sun, cloud, hail and strong gusts of wind. It was an exhilarating and enjoyable day.