Capital Ring – Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park

I’m still significantly slower in blogging about the Capital Ring than in walking it.  Section 6 (our tenth section), which we walked late last month, is one of the longest sections and possibly the most attractive, so I’m devoting this post just to the one section.  For me it’s also nostalgic, as I grew up around Wimbledon and this does take me through some of the open spaces that I knew well during my childhood.
Wimbledon Windmill (2)

We walked the following section over the May bank holiday, so even with this post I’m still behind with the blogging.  Sorry.

Section 6 runs mostly across Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath, and Richmond Park.  It’s a real contrast with the earlier sections across south London, just in terms of the scale of the open spaces.  Way back, in Downham, there’s a significant length where you walk across a narrow strip of parkland.  So it isn’t road walking, but you are aware of people’s back gardens on either side.  By contrast, for much of the way across Putney Heath or on Richmond Park, everything that you can see is parkland or woodland: from the view, you could be in open country.  And the bits where this section does encounter roads still have their charms.  Between Wimbledon Park and Wimbledon Common you walk through a pleasant residential area on the fringes of Wimbledon’s tennis courts: there seems to have been a lot of new housebuilding in this area which results in some interesting contrasts between contemporary and early 20th century domestic architecture.  The one place where the walk encounters a busy road is almost exactly at the section’s half-way point, by the Robin Hood Gate to Richmond Park.  But you don’t need to walk along the road and there’s the rather charming curiosity of a Pegasus crossing, which can be used by pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders, complete with separate buttons and pictograms for all three!

The windmill is a delightful landmark on Wimbledon Common – open to the public I think just on Sunday afternoons.  Technically the area to the north and west of the windmill is Putney Heath (not Putney Common which is a separate patch of land much closer to the Thames) and the capital ring follows a series of paths across this area.

Richmond Park has its own distinctive feel, with deer (though not many in evidence on the day that we walked through it) wide open landscapes with patches of bracken, and areas of woodland.  The capital ring takes you past the Pen Ponds and on a walk right through the centre of the park towards Richmond itself.

Pen Ponds, Richmond Park

Near Richmond Gate is a viewpoint – technically just off the capital ring and inside the enclosure surrounding Pembroke Lodge.  It’s known as King Henry’s Mound and that is a sign that we have, once again, encountered the influence of Henry VIII.   It’s tempting to assume that, wherever there’s a tudor, there’s a grisly story, and this is no exception.  It’s reputed that Henry VIII stood here waiting to see a flare, which confirmed that Anne Boleyn had been executed and that he could become engaged to Jane Seymour.  In one direction you can see St Paul’s Cathedral, 10 miles away and a protected view through a gap in the trees.  In the other direction you look out over the Thames, a beautiful view over a curve in the river.

Deer, Richmond Park

Although I know the area well, the final stretch out of the park, to the riverside and into Richmond itself, is unfamiliar to me.  The path took us down the hill from King Henry’s Mound, past some rather well-camouflaged deer on the day that we were there, and into Petersham Meadows.  Sadly no cows were in evidence when we passed, but it’s still a great way to approach the riverside path into Richmond.


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