Tag Archives: london gold

Hotter than July

30 June & 13 July 2010

All I see turns to brown
As the sun burns the ground’

Well it ain’t that often you’ll see Led Zeppelin lyrics quoted here (Kashmir in case you’re asking) but summer is definitely here and definitely hot. Before I get on talking about the 2 evening strolls this blog is about I s’pose I ought to say sorry that we’re still in London but like people say a lot these days, ‘We are where we are’, and I do live here.


The first stroll is more like stroll+ because it’s a 12k Richmond circular – down to the river, up to the park via Ham Common and then back for a few beers at the White Cross. All very standard stuff but no less enjoyable for all that and 28 other people obviously thought so too. Metropolitan Walkers are trying out new ideas to make their already incredibly successful evening strolls programme appeal to yet more London walkers.

The Thames is always a delight to walk beside but as we pass by Twickenham on the far bank I’m reminded that Alexander Pope made his home there from 1719, where he created his famous grotto and gardens. (They must be famous because there’s a pub, The Alexander Pope, commemorating them.) Pope’s entire life was affected by the penal law in force at the time upholding the status of the established Church of England, which banned Catholics from teaching, attending a university, voting, holding public office or living closer than 10 miles from the centre of London on pain of perpetual imprisonment. (Those were indeed harsh times.) Pope decorated the grotto with alabaster, marbles, and ores such as mundic and crystals. He also used Cornish diamonds, stalactites, spars, snakestones and spongestone. Here and there in the grotto he placed mirrors that were very expensive embellishments for those times. A camera obscura was installed to delight his visitors, of whom there were many. The serendipitous discovery of a spring during its excavations enabled the subterranean retreat to be filled with the relaxing sound of trickling water, which would quietly echo around the chambers. Although the house and gardens have long since been demolished, much of this grotto still survives and now lies beneath St James Independent School for boys, open to the public once a year.

We return leaving Richmond Park and take time to admire the view from Richmond Hill down to the Thames. In spite of the words introducing this blog the scene is still remarkably verdant. The front markers had set a cracking pace and we polished off the 12k in two and a half hours leaving me plenty of time to enjoy some welcome Staropramen in the pub.

A coupla weeks later, with the ceaseless sun giving way to some light drizzle, (not enough for my garden I fear) I’m waiting outside Norbiton station just before 7 pm.  Clare’s leading this stroll as well and this time the invitation has been extended to the other London Rambler groups so we’ve got some representatives from South Bank, Hammersmith and Hampstead there as well. And very welcome they were too.

As we enter Richmond Park using the Kingston Gate we are welcomed by the gleeful cacophony of a flock of ring necked parakeets. These colourful birds thrive round here lighting up the skies with flashes of luminous green while dominating the dawn and dusk choruses with their airborne shrieks. There are estimated to be at least 6,000 Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psitticula kraneri) – often referred to as the Twickenham or Kingston Parakeets – flying wild in the South London suburbs. Their specific origins are unknown, but most likely they originated from a single pair of breeding parakeets which escaped or were released in the mid-1990s. Other origins, however, have been attributed to them: the most popular theory is that they escaped from Ealing Studios, during the filming of The African Queen (which was actually made in the Isleworth Studios) in 1951; they may have escaped from an aviary during the 1987 hurricane; and it has even been suggested that the pair released by Jimi Hendrix in Carnaby Street in the 1960s is to blame. (I really want the Hendrix urban legend to be true and vow to propagate it at every available opportunity!)

We exit the park at Ladderstile Gate and cross the road to the Coombe estate. Coombe is one of the more affluent private estates in south west London and is home to television personality Jimmy Tarbuck, tennis player Annabel Croft, while Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood also lives in an estate on Kingston Hill, located opposite to the entrance of Coombe Park. One of Saddam Hussein‘s daughters had a house in Golf Club Drive for a number of years, and Elisabeth Murdoch also lived here for several years. Dwight D. Eisenhower, when Supreme Allied Commander during WWII, lived at “Telegraph Cottage” in Coombe, which was adjacent to the golf course which he used at weekends. We finish the walk back at the station and then a good few of us repair to The Albert for some well earned London Gold.

View the routes:

Richmond Circular


Norbiton Circular


More information:

For a similar route to the Richmond Circular (and 40 others) see here:

Listen to:


 Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

Led Zeppelin – Kashmir

The Faces – Richmond

The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze

Seals and Crofts – Summer Breeze

Jimi Hendrix Experience – Little Wing

Camera Obscura – Tougher Than The Rest




Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sweet Thames Flow Softly

Thursday 24 June 2010

A picturesque scene it made, too, with Wandsworth dairy farms visible on the far bank; cows roaming the yellowed fields between the cottages, and a church spire rising in the distance.’

This 1849 description of the Thames comes from Matthew Kneale’s novel Sweet Thames . It’s quite surprising to think of Wandsworth being so pastoral just 160 years ago. Surely Victorian London was all teeming slums, smelly sewers and the poor dying in their hundreds of cholera. I’m in Wandsworth to join some friends who are walking the Thames Path. This is the same lot who knocked off the London Loop last year. They’re either obsessive completists  or David Sharp fans (maybe both). I head down to the river from Wandsworth Town station through the pedestrian underpass where several scenes for A Clockwork Orange were filmed. It’s 7.30 in the evening, bright and sticky because the sun has still got plenty of needle in it and the landscape isn’t anywhere near as threatening as that portrayed in the film. The dairy farms, roaming cows and cottages are long gone, replaced by block upon block of luxury riverside apartments.

It’s a fairly short stroll tonight – about 6 km down to Vauxhall. And after starting off the path mostly hugs the river. We pass the London Heliport and are soon approaching St Mary’s Battersea. A striking Grade 1 Georgian building in a spectacular location on the banks of the river. William Blake was married here, Joseph Turner painted here and Benedict Arnold is buried here in the crypt. Then it’s through Battersea Park past the Peace Pagoda. The Duke of Wellington fought his famous duel with the Earl of Winchilsea over Catholic Emancipation in the park (or Battersea Fields as it was then) in 1829. It was reported at the time: ‘The Duke of Wellington and Lord Winchilsea met at the appointed place. The parties having taken their ground, Lord Winchilsea received the Duke of Wellington’s fire [apparently not aimed at him] and fired in the air. After some discussion the accompanying memorandum was accepted as a satisfactory reparation to the Duke of Wellington.’

Once we leave the park we reach a stretch of the path I must have travelled down over a thousand times. When I used to work at the Ramblers I used to jog most lunch times down to Battersea Park and back.  That’s almost 10 years of the Battersea Dogs Home, Battersea Power Station, Tideway Walk and crossing Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges. The major change in the last year is work on the new American Embassy. It is to be built on Nine Elms Lane on the site of the old (now demolished) HMSO offices. Returning to the riverside we see a cormorant perched on a buoy spreading its wings to catch the dying rays of the sun. They’ve been back on the Thames for the last 10 years or so – a daily sight swooping low over the water and catching eels. In fact these days the river is a twitcher’s paradise. It reminds me of the RSPB’s excellent Letter to the Future campaign currently running – please give it a look and then sign the letter.

We finish most appropriately at the Riverside pub in Vauxhall. We started by going through a St Georges Homes riverside development and we end in a pub in a St Georges Homes riverside development. The 3 pints of Youngs London Gold was very welcome and provided a link to our start point. From 1832 to 2006 Youngs had been brewing their famous London beers at the Ram Brewery just down the river in Wandsworth. All our walking was done on the south bank this evening – I’m sure my friends will only feel they have completed the Thames Path when they walk both sides of the river. Visitors to Tower Bridge will have the chance to travel the full 215 miles of the River Thames in just 200 feet when they visit the new photographic exhibition River Thames: Source to Sea this summer. 

More information:

The Thames Path by David Sharp

The London Loop by David Sharp

Walkers London & the South East in a Box





Listen to:


Cherish The Ladies – Sweet Thames Flow Softly

Peter Dawson – Old Father Thames Keeps Rolling Along

Big Audio Dynamite – Stone Thames – 12 inch Remix

Starsailor – The Thames (Acoustic)

Nigel Hess – Thames Journey

Beans On Toast – The Peaches Of Wandsworth



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized