Well, it is great to have completed the walk at last, after all the weeks of planning!
The day started cool and clear, with blue skies and bright sunshine warming us through, despite the efforts of the lingering northerly wind. A crew of 15, sporting our project21forlife T shirts, assembled at Hampton Court Station, with half of our party arriving by train from London Waterloo. We were accompanied by 5 dogs, 3 of whom have their own justgiving page. After numerous trips to both the coffee shop, and the loos, we set off at 10.30.
We had planned our route with military precision to avoid built up areas; it comprised of 5 sections, each leg covering beautiful parkland.
Stage one was through Bushy Park, with dogs on lead, (much to Norman’s annoyance), as it is Deer Birthing Season. A pleasant and relatively undemanding morning amble, delivering us to our exit at Kingston Bridge, was followed by a short walk skirting the City centre. Weaving through pretty streets with beautifully refurbished properties, we arrived at the entrance to Richmond Park, used by England’s hunting mad royalty as far back as the 1600s. Richmond Park, leg two of our route, is famous for its deer. We followed the park roads to the Isabella Plantation coffee shop for our first break. Drinking coffee at wooden tables in the warm sunshine, whilst salivating at the wonderful aromas of lovingly handmade bacon sarnies, galvanised us into action. After yet another loo stop, we exited the park at Robin Hood gate crossing the road at a light controlled Pegasus crossing, so called as it is also used by horses (from Pegasus, the winged horse).
Wimbledon Common was the 3rd leg of our route. We had passed through a glorious gateway over the A3, one of the busiest roads into our city, and into an oasis that was apparently a favourite spot of the Wombles in Elizabeth Beresford’s book. Time to unleash the dogs and watch them excitedly throw themselves into the muddy stream.We crossed the London Scottish golf fairway, avoiding the red shirted golfers and passed the unusual 19th century windmill and onto yet another loo break. A short walk, passing some flashy glass apartments took us into leg 4, Wimbledon Park where children were enthusiastically enjoying Saturday morning tennis lessons, hoping to be the next Andy Murray. At the coffee shop we shared fruit, nuts and water, saving ourselves for the planned pub fayre later. Leaving the park, we passed the tube station and looked longingly at delightful loaves of sour dough bread in the bakery in Arthur Road before yomping single file along a very busy road. On a previous recce, Richard had identified a cunning short cut through an industrial park that took us straight down to the River Wandle, a fast flowing river that had supported London’s industrial areas in years gone by and now looked quite forlorn with derelict buildings and wooden huts, no doubt ripe for redevelpment. Now on our final leg, we followed the Wandle which provided a further swimming opportunity for our furry friends. Leaving the Wandle we quickened our pace through residential streets and finally over a foot bridge crossing the railway line, and there... rising like a phoenix from the ashes was .. St Georges hospital! We were greeted by Feenie and Hannah, complete with banner. To say it was an emotional moment was an understatement. After a photo opportunity, we cheekily cut through the hospital grounds passing the roof garden, a project we are supporting with our fundraising efforts and onto Tooting High Street arriving at our very welcome destination, The Castle, where we were escorted to our own covered hut. The party vibes certainly rolled and a good time was had by all. A massive thank you to my family and friends who supported me, the camaraderie, friendship and support made for an unforgettable day which will now become an annual event.