There has been a bit of a gap since the first day of the new walk - I got very busy with an Online Ancient Greek Course and a trip to Stornoway - nothing to do with it being  a long, grim freezing Spring, of course.

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But I was determined to get back on the road and set off reasonably early, this time on a April Sunday morning. It was bright and sunny but a front was predicted coming in from the West and I wanted to get as much of this walk done before it arrived as I could.

So, for once, I got the tube from Archway, changed over at Euston to the Victoria Line and emerged in
Victoria Station. Scooted through the front bit of the station to emerge on Buckingham Palace Road.

I nip into the Coach station to use the facilities and for nostalgia's sake. It is probably two decades since I got a coach from here but in the 80s when I was shuttling between London and Norwich (and sometimes Glasgow) a lot and could not afford the train it was a regular haunt. It has all gone very high tech but the general atmosphere is unchanged.

Nostalgia satisfied I carry on. Here I have the advantage of having walked this way last year, visiting someone I knew at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

So I go down Pimlico Road

And then onto Royal Hospital Road, past the magnificent buildings of the Royal Hospital.  My mouth waters a bit as I pass the main building as, last time I was here, I got treated to lunch in the fabulous dining hall - truly excellent steak and kidney pudding in the company of a couple of Chelsea Pensioners.  Believe me, they do all right for food in there if you like it hearty and traditional.

Past the hospital and on past the guns that mark the Army Museum. Again I came this way last time but then

I pass the Chelsea Physic Garden which is new to me, somewhere I have long wanted to visit.

And a little bit further I come out onto the Chelsea Embankment,  rewarded for my efforts so far with a blaze of colour from the gardens.

On the other side of the road the view is dominated by the magnificently nelly Albert Bridge. Pink and
ethereal it seems bizarre that it is called Albert  - more of a Fifi or a Tinkerbell bridge really.

Whatever it is called it is far too fine to miss the chance to cross the Thames by it. There is very restricted
traffic but it is still quite busy as there are so many people running - this still being Sunday morning. Runners and cyclists abound.

And when I start walking down the Thames path on the south side of the river they keep coming, more
runners and more cyclists. Everyone seems very energetic in West London.

Doesn't seem to bother a heron, fishing on the shoreline though. There are a few birds about, a feral grelag being hustled off by a coot, some cormorants, herring gulls and black backed gulls.

I pass Ransomes Dock which has some fine big barges on it but smell atrocious, like an old sewer, so I do
not linger. It is a lovely morning though the wind is cold.

And then some barges with a sign saying that they are the Couper Collection,  art installations, it would seem though it is shut so there is no opportunity to find out more.

Looking back I can see the Shard through the supports of Tinkerbell Bridge.

At Battersea Bridge there are some lovely sculpted swans on one side, and a not so great sculpted family on
the other.

I can see an inlet on the other side of the river and wonder what it is. The map informs me that it is Chelsea Creek.'s_Creek  It all looks surprisingly industrial and ugly over there, considering that it is Chelsea. But there is plenty of building going on.

On the Southside I almost run into a glass fronted building. This side faces down river and the flats must have some great views. Not surprising that the Outside walls are entirely windows.

A little further and I see my first rowers. A boat with four men is heading towards a moored boat in the
middle of the Thames. Just as I pass I hear a clump and a guy comes out of the cabin of the moored boat.

I can't quite hear what he says but suppose he is giving them some gyp for bumping into him. The river is
flowing downstream quite fast and the rowing boat is soon taken away but as they go the man in the moored boat shouts. "There is a boat coming to help you!"

My interest is piqued so I turn back and follow the rowing boat downstream, as I walk I can see that they are in trouble, apparently unable to steer (though why they cannot
do this by rowing is less clear) But as they drift on it becomes clear that they are sinking.

A Port of London Authority boat comes into view from upriver as the men in the row-boat float. It makes its way to the stricken row boat and with a good deal of faff, secures the rowboat and hauls its crew onto the back of the rescue vessel.

I snap away, every now and then looking up the tow-path.  Most of the passers by are runners or cyclists still and they fly by oblivious to the drama taking place in the river a hundred meters or so away.

Eventually it is obvious that the rowers have been rescued and so I resume the walk. Shortly afterwards the rescue vessels chugs by up-stream, the rowing boat strapped to its

The path gets diverted next round an elegant church. St Mary's Battersea.  A sign boasts "Spiritually searching since 693 AD though the church looks Georgian. However, it turns out that the site is one of the earliest consecrated in the country.  William Blake was married here and Turner painted the river from it.

Back on the towpath I spot what can only be the gilded barge that led the flotilla down river through
miserable weather as part of the comically dismal jubilee celebrations last year.

Past a railway bridge and I get diverted round some
building briefly before rejoining the riverside path. Still plenty of runners and a positive torrent of cyclists go by.

Then I am walking through a massive, gleaming new development called Battersea Reach.  Whatever was
here before has been totally obliterated.

There are plenty of rowers on the river now, most of them seeming to be women. Sadly, there are no more sinkings and half drownings to amuse me. In fact nothing to laugh at all.

I get to the end of Battersea Reach and am steered away from the river for a short bit, going past Brady's fish and chip shop. There used to be one of these in Fulham when I worked there and it was fantastic. A sort of fish and chip restaurant. A little more pricey than the avarage chip shop but great and with a range of imaginative takes on fish and chips.  They had house wine and Budvar to drink - no choice but at least when it came to beer the perfect accompaniment to fish and chips.

It is shut though so I am not tempted.
Shortly after Bradys I am steered away from the river and this time I take my leave of it completely with
Putney Bridge in the distance. I come out on a busy road by a little retail park but the massive queue of traffic is not going there but to a recycling centre on the other side of the road.

Some ugly roads take me up to Wandsworth High Street. But there is one interesting juxtaposition  there is a Salvation Army place, I am actually alerted to it by the sound of tambourines! And on the other side of the road is the Youngs, Ram Brewery.

I am in need of facilities but see a TK Maxx. I am also in need of smart trousers. In fact the last time I got some new trousers was on the walk to Stornoway when I had an hour or two to wait for my train in Sheffield. I have been looking ever since, being congenitally unable to pay the full price for Craghopper trousers. Still no luck in Wandsworth. As usual they have them but none in black or navy blue and I really need smart trousers for work. But I come out not on the street but in a mall and malls have toilets so I follow the signs.

Coming out afterwards I notice the marble effect flooring which seems to have been chosen in case people don't make it to the toilet in time, to disguise the consequences.

Good thinking!

I have walked a fair way due south in the shopping centre and see a way out that does not mean going
tracking back.

This opens onto a park called King George's Park.  This is a long thin park running north-south. I have been debating which way to go but decide that the park offers a good option and set off south.

Birds are nesting in the lake with a freshly hatched coot chick catching a bit of sun.

I pass a lot of people playing tennis. For some reason it has not yet dawned on me but I am shortly to discover that I have strayed into Tennistan.

I leave the park and set off down Kimber Road which takes me to Merton Road. Not a lot to be said about either.

Merton Road takes me to Replingham Road which turns out unexpectedly hilly. It is getting posher too. There is a bunch of shops with a fancy bakers and a quality butchers, both open on a Sunday, as well as a delicatessen.

Replingham Road brings me out at Southfields Station. Not somewhere I ever remember being. Indeed, I am not sure that I could have told you that there was a bit of London called Southfields before today and I certainly could not have told you anything about it, despite my major league geography jones and many years here. London is so big it sometimes makes me dizzy.

However I set off down Wimbledon Park Road and Wimbledon, I have heard of. It is a fairly major road with big houses lining it until I come to Wimbledon Park. I consider a detour but, unfortunately, a golf course cuts off the side of the park I am on and it looks like I will have to walk round a big lake - I am feeling the effort a bit already and concerned about the weather, so I carry on on the road.

After the park I see the familiar dark green of the All England Tennis Club. A bunch of girls are coming up the road towards me who look like ball girls who have been practicing. I go a bit further down the road to take a photo of the green of the courts. But then I backtrack to take Bathgate Road.

A little way down Bathgate Road is evidence that tennis isn't the only game in Tennistan, a croquet court! Not only is this road posh enough for croquet it is too posh, apparently, to require pavements. I presume that every resident has a chauffer or some such. It is a steep hill which suprises me as I don't remember it being hilly at Wimbledon when I went (but that was a long time ago, I watched Yvonne Goolagong which gives you some idea).

I had hoped that Bathgate Road might give me glimpses into the tennis club - but no such luck, there is a wall
of substantial mock tudor houses all the way. Bathgate Road takes me to Somerset Road and this, in turn, takes me, downhill now, to Parkside, a busy road that cuts me off from Wimbledon Common.

I get across, eventually, and it is great to be off the roads at last. I take a path a short way but once I can see may way to the Windmill, which looks to be the right direction from my A to Z, I strike off across the common.

At first this is fine and I pass a patch of heather which surprises me a little. But then I notice it is getting soggy
underfoot and my old leaky boots start letting the water in.
Still it is too late to turn back so I slog across what must be a bog in wetter conditions, eventually getting to the road that leads to the Windmill.

 I am quite hungry now so I take a break on a convenient seat and watch the many, many people with dogs as I eat my sandwiches.  A man on a big
powerful horse comes by and a large and elderly dog gets up, runs at the horse and barks at it from a foot or so away. The horse shies but the man controls it.  The woman whose dog it is is putting something in a car and watches the way dog-idiots do so often, blankly.  It apparantly does not occur to her to apologise for her dog or to try to control it. Really it doesn't need controlling. It is an old dog and its barking was a bit pefunctory. But why she does not feel any need to apologise defeats me.

I suffer a moment of complete confusion when I set off again. I am just disorientated  Maybe I am getting tired but I cannot work out which way I need to go. Eventually I work it out and set off. Almost immediately the walk becomes really interesting, hilly and wooded, and quite like the more forested bits of Hampstead Heath.

 I am navigating largely by guesswork, wanting to avoid a cemetery that is marked on the map so that I can
get out onto the A3 and then into Richmond Park.

Eventually I come out at exactly the point I intended to. As a bonus there is an underpass under the A3. Feeling distinctly smug I emerge and set off south west down it. My smugness doesn't last long. I had assumed that having got to the A3 it would be easy to get into Richmond Park. This proves not to be the case, housed blocking the way into the park. The A3 is naturally heaving with traffic and the walk is far from pleasant.

Eventually I come to a little slip road for a giant ASDA and take it. There is a wall here to the park and I
consider scrambling over it but don't, assuming that the slip road will take me to a way in. It doesn't. It goes past an overflowing recycling skip and just turns into a tunnel. I go up the other side of the sliproad and am soon back to being cut off from the park by houses.

Tantalisingly I pass a stream and can see into the park but there is no access there either. But a little further
down the road I see cyclists emerging and conclude that there must be a way in.

There is and I am finally in the park. The most direct way to Kingston is to take the left hand path but this is actually a road with cars on it and also, I have never been to Richmond Park and even though I am flagging a bit now I want to see more of it than one edge. So I set off up another roadway that goes into the middle of the park. Almost immediately I see some of the famous park deer in some trees to the right.

As I stop to look a jackdaw lands on the back of one of them.

Behind the deer is a hill crowned by a wood.  This is Spankers Hill
Wood and something that I have wanted to see for many years, due to its altogether delightful name.

A little further down the road there is a larger group of deer, close to the road.  Some people on bikes struggle to get their dog on a lead before they get there.

Well, at least they do try. And there is a clump of people photographing the deer. The deer seem a bit agitated and some of the people are very close and I wonder if I am going to
witness drama to rival the sinking rowing boat.

However, nothing happens and so I trudge on. After a car park the roadway becomes a track and it is far less busy. I pass a big lake to the north and can see some flats that look familiar. Many years ago I went for a home cooked Korean meal at a friend of my then girlfriends and I think those are the flats. Seriously scary cuisine that. I remember the main course consisted of taking a clove of raw garlic, a piece of beef, putting some brutally hot chili sauce on it wrapping the whole in lettuce and then eating it. Your head exploded and then when it came back together you did it all again. The meal was also my first encounter with kimchee AKA stink cabbage.

I soon see cars again in the distance and then, after a while, come out at the road on the west side of the

park. I set off down a road that leads to the Ham gate, intending to swap park walking for suburban streets for the last leg rather than walk down the busy road within the park. However when I get to the bottom of the hill I see that there is a path along the western edge and it looks appealing.

As I turn a bunch of cyclists in strangely old fashioned dress are entereing.

I am really tired now, but the path I take is pleasant and I leave it after a short while for a parallel, even quieter little track. This one I have to myself almost the whole way to the Kingston Gate.

At the gate I turn right down Kings Road which is pleasant enough and then turn into Acre Road which
seems to go on forever.  It is not how I imagine Kingston really being fairly shabby and ordinary. I pass a mosque. This could be Neasden or Tottenham or, well large areas of London really.

At last Acre Road delivers me to the middle of Kingston which is, to put it kindly, bloody horrible. I have
been round it a few times in a car or bus. And suddenly I realise what it reminds me of. Not Neasden or Tottenham, this is just like Enfield - an island square of dull chain shops with a busy one way system full of traffic roaring round it.

I had thought of going to Richmond for its (slight) Jane Austen connections to finish this leg but that would have wasted too much walking. I almost wish I had now. But then I see a bus for Richmond and run for it as I can get a train back home from there.

I make the bus but soon wish I hadn't as it goes a very silly route. Still, I am sitting down and I do feel that I have got going.



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