Saturday, 18 February 2017

capital ring 5

     Best laid schemes... We had to cancel a couple of dates over the weekend as the weather was vile, but we managed to arrange one quickly for Tuesday when the weather seemed to be opening up. And in the event it turned out perfect for a walk for me, Ian and Gail across a switchback of south London ridges and hills.
     Picking up at Beckenham Place Park, we passed its once fine Palladian mansion, now rather neglected by Lewisham council.  A lot of the walk today turned out to be through prosperous districts - the classic 'leafy suburbs' - with fine detached houses, mature trees but little else.  No shops for miles.  Front gardens, no doubt once full of wisterias and camellias, are now almost entirely paved over for the obligatory flash motors.  But it was a pleasant enough walk along quiet streets, one or two nice churches on the way.  We were high up on a ridge, with distant views of the city and the north downs in opposite directions, almost lost in a sun drenched haze.
     A couple of parks, then down into Penge; and up again under many railway viaducts to Sydenham Hill, the site of Crystal Palace.  This vast building was moved lock stock and barrel in the 1850s from Kensington Gardens, and the hill laid out as pleasure gardens, which survive, although the palace burnt down spectacularly in 1936.
    An ornamental lake features a series of dinosaur statues, part of the Victorian ethos of worthy educational leisure pursuits.  Modern day activities here turn more to the sporting, with the running track and swimming pool in the shadow of the huge TV transmitter.
    On past the elegant station, with a great little independent cafe, to Upper Norwood, with its attractive mix of regency and late Victorian houses and commercial buildings, then we followed the route through Westow Park as it cascades sharply down, through a wide recreation ground, back along the ridge, and then into Biggin Wood, a little wild remnant surrounded by allotments.  A couple more treats, much better looked after by respectively Croydon and Lambeth councils: Norwood Grove, a country house built by the founder of P&O; and then The Rookery - the garden of a lost Victorian guest house and spa, with mature cedars and massed shrubbery, where Queen Victoria came to take the waters.  Streatham, a spa? There's another little independent cafe here, full this half term of rioting small children and ineffecive parenting.  But the final stretch descends through Streatham Common, a long barren grassed area leading down to the High Road, with a few forlorn looking trees: its only interest being that nine paintings stolen from Dulwich Picture Gallery were found here.  Funnily enough, today we also passed near where the stolen World Cup was found in 1966 by Pickles, the collie.
     Plans for this weekend look to be off too, as next day I came down with a vicious bout of gout.  Anyway, we have reached the half way point and will carry on soon.

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