Monday, 12 January 2009

Wimbledon Park to Boston Manor – (Surrey) – 11/01/09 – 11.5 miles approx – IVC + Helen.

The frost strewn Winter Wonderland of the previous day, which both me and Helen had walked four miles in, had been reel pwetty (sic). It had also been bloody cold, so it was a relief that this walk was taking place in temperatures quite a few degrees warmer and with a fair amount of Sunlight. Thus given that I was actually leading this one (with only four attempts at the course over the previous nine months to get it right) the omens were looking good.

The plan was for me and Helen to get to Wimbledon Park early enough for a cup of coffee in one of the local cafes. Thus when we spotted a female opposite us on the tube in full walking apparel, we pretended not to notice, lest we be stuck with her for twenty minutes prior to the meeting time. Thus after ordering our coffee in the café, said female and one of the IVC’s more regular walkers also turned out to have the same idea, and in due course joined us in the cafe. This was fine only for the more regular member to think it was a good idea to start ordering toast and marmalade a mere five minutes before the off. Thus having left them to meet/greet everyone else at the tube station, a group of some 15+ to be nearly sort of exact, we then found ourselves all waiting for her to finish her late breakfast.

Anyway the start was the usual unexciting plod through Wimbledon Park and the back roads, before we made it to the real start at Wimbledon Common. The person who the previous week had warned me that the café by the Windmill, would be chocker with runners on a Sunday morning, turned out to be spot on, with them all queuing out the door. However some of our group did manage to find/use some public toilets at that location which I had missed on my previous toilet inventory for the walk. Meanwhile I was clutching tightly my Walk London print out for the route, lest I messed up anything, and which Helen had correctly referred to as my security blanket. Over the A3 and into Richmond Park found our second (official) or third (unofficial) toilet stop of the day at Robin Hood Gate. Thus always wanting to conform and be part of a group, I decided it was time I had a turn at this game as well; on the other hand it had been a very large mug of coffee at the café.

So with me and another regular setting the pace, we found ourselves way out in front and plonked ourselves on a handy bench at the top of the hill by Spankers Hill Wood. So having had a nice break myself, I for one expected everyone else to keep moving once they had caught up. However despite being a mere twenty minutes from lunch, everyone else decided this was a good time to plonk down, and in the event took a certain amount of shifting to get on the move again. However once we had gone past Pen Ponds and round the Isabella plantation, we reached our lunch stop at Pembroke Lodge. Given that the lunch location was the one aspect prior to the walk that had caused me the most grief, it turned out to be a reasonable choice, with plenty of seating available (outside !). Anyway I had leek and potato soup (+ bread and butter), and a bottle of strongbow (Helen for her part having a very strange looking baked potato). I then decided to head off back to the continuation spot of the walk, in order to get moving again. Thus having parted with one of our group before lunch at this spot, the second person who had planned to leave us here (after lunch) also made her goodbyes. Waiting for other certain members to finish their extended lunch break’s however was a tad wearisome, and was in the main the same people who did this on the other walk that I led (but who don’t appear to do this on anyone elses).

Anyway we soon reached the Thames towpath where we availed ourselves of the final toilet facility of the day (once the female members of the group worked out that their door was likely to be on the other side to where the men’s door was). By this time the light had noticeably darkened and started to give me my first little concern about how much light would still be around for the final leg of the walk (that said there still seemed to be plenty of time left). A more immediate concern though was that the water level of the Thames was higher than I had ever seen it at this location and was encroaching onto the footpath. Thus having reached a point where it was half way up the tire of a cyclist’s bike, there was no other option but to make a short diversion into Richmond town centre and outflank it. This turned out to be a good time to point those who were dropping out at this point in the direction of the station, before the rest of us rejoined the towpath. There followed a brief stop at the meridian line at The Old Deer Park, before we crossed Twickenham footbridge and headed off in the direction of Syon Park.

On my previous walk on this route back on the 22nd December, I decided a cut off time for reaching the underpass on the Gt West Road via the Grand Union canal should be circa 4.00pm, if we wanted enough light to continue along the canal to Boston Manor, rather than walking along the road. Thus having entered Syon Park at about 3.35pm I was convinced that we had time to spare. However from this point on everyone, save for Helen and our new member who we had first seen on the tube, was just getting slower and slower. So when I reached my artificial cut off point it was 3.59pm. However despite the fact that it was seriously gloomy, a fact proved by being dazzled twice by oncoming cyclist’s front lights, it was by no means impossible, and everyone made it to Boston Manor by about 4.30pm. Here we said our goodbyes before me and Helen walked another mile and a half home, only this time along the road.

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