A dry weather forecast with cloudless, sun drenched blue skies, a rare event for the best of winters, let alone our current soggy one, got us out of our warm snuggly pits in droves! 60+ attended (57 from the start, with a few more stragglers), including quite a few new faces, plus 2 dogs, surfaced for this inner London common’s walk, under the guidance of Amyn Bhagat and Darren Thomas, plus Amyn's friend, Ian Irons (latter a star as he ended up leading a large section of the walk while Amyn shepherded people along!), all their first as event leads. And a sterling job they did as well!
At 10+miles for a midwinter walk, it was going to be a challenging day. 25 fuelled up at the excellent Fantasia café pre walk breakfast, allowing several of the new members to find out a bit more about the club, so breaking the ice for them and all resolutions for a low calorie January! Poor Darren’s heart jumped when he went off to do the “greet and meet” at Clapham Common Station to find a crowd of 30 odd souls raring to go!
Walking with big groups has its challenges, and this walk was no different. One of the many great things about GOC is the lively conversations that go on amongst the walkers, and with people engrossed in chat and rambling at different paces, can sometimes lead to the group getting quite spread out. This was fine on the open commons but the difficulties came as we hit the numerous more urban sections with some getting slightly lost when turns in the route were made. We quickly learnt to keep things more together and things ran much more smoothly. Lessons have been learnt!
Aside from the various commons, Clapham, Wandsworth, Tooting and Streatham, all being quite different with open parkland, ponds, wooded areas, a bandstand, sporting grounds, we found and were enlightened by Amyn’s vast knowledge and interest of sites like the Holy Trinity church on Clapham Common, Charles Barry's house on Clapham North side, Bolingbroke cemetery with its cute little Victorian chapel, the remnants of the old windmill, the wonderful, very grand and gothic, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building on Tooting Common(originally built as a girl’s orphanage and alleged that you can still hear the screams of some poor girl being punished, for what, who knows, but possibly just for being alive, most probably!) , Charles Voysey’s house on Tooting Bec road, Streatham pumping station, the Rookery, and more……
The sunshine was sadly short lived gradually replaced by a grey, damp, chilly haze, at its worst just as we were ascending Streatham Common, and so restricting the views of the vast space of South London towards Croydon and the North Downs (well, so we were told were there!). As the temperature and light dropped people took advantage of the close proximity of public transport along the way, leaving about 30 or so of us making the lofty heights of Crystal Palace, many of whom refuelled further at the Wetherspoon’s Pub, several staying on quite a few hours at that!
Thank you for an interesting and great day Amyn, Darren and Ian!