In spite of the short notice of the event, 12 of us met on a pleasant early winter's day at Crystal Palace station, to resume our clockwise circuit of London's Capital Ring. A few people arrived early and were able to sample the coffee and pastries at the Brown and Green cafe in the station building. The station itself is rather monumental, out of scale with today's commuter traffic, explained by the fact that it was designed to huge numbers of visitors to the Crystal Palace in the 19th century.
Like other sections of the Capital Ring, todays' walk linked various parks, gardens and commons in South London, with some road walking, but nearly all of it surprisingly quiet and pleasant.
As usual we set off at 10.30 am led by Robin Reed. Initially we walked through the side streets lined with some impressive residential villas, although this section of the walk was hilly and tested our stamina and calves! We passed along Belvedere Road, named for the extensive views. The whole area is named after the Great Exhibition's Crystal Palace, which in 1854 was re-located to the top of Sydenham Hill, one of South London's highest points.
We crossed Church Road and the attractive Westow Park, and shortly afterwards arrived at Norwood Grove. Here we stopped to give people an opportunity for a quick hot drink and snack. We continued through the secluded and shady Rookery, over Streatham Common, and and then over and around a complex of railway lines at Streatham to reach Tooting Bec Common. We passed the famous enormous Lido, but there were no takers for a swim today! Our designated lunch stop was by the cafe and some of the group availed themsleves with its offerings while the rest of us ate our packed lunches on the adjacent benches.
After lunch we went through the Balham area to reach Wandworth Common, which has woods as well as open common, and provides a much used 'green lung' and recreational area in South West London. We walked next to one of its several ponds hosting numerous ducks and geese. After leaving the common we saw the walls of Wandsworth Prison, which housed some (in)famous inmates, including Oscar Wilde, Ronnie Biggs and derek Bentley, who was unjustly executed in the prison.
The last mile of the walk was along the long and straight Magdalen Road into Earslfield. Despite the road walk, open vistas were maintained to the north as the road is bounded by the extensive Wandsworth Cemetery.
We arrived at Earlsfield shortly after 2.30, so there was plenty of time for two competing pub parties to have a social pint a their chosen respective hostelries. I chose the pub nearest the station, but the other group appeared to be marching all the way to Wandsworth to get to a pub recommended in Steve's Good Beer Guide!
Despite the threat of strikes on the South Western Railway, a reasonable train service was operating, so most of us were able to get home without needing to resort to local buses.
All in all, it was a throughly pleasant day - but really that now goes almost without saying as we have such a nice bunch in GOC London. Thanks to all!