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Long-Distance Walks with Mark Moxon

Capital Ring: Day 6: Wimbledon Park to Richmond

Wimbledon Park Lake
Wimbledon Park Lake

After the bland walk from Streatham to Wimbledon Park, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Capital Ring is nothing more than a poor cousin of the London Loop. This stretch from Wimbledon Park to Richmond is, however, one of the greatest day walks in the whole of Greater London, and in its entire 6.9 miles it doesn't put a foot wrong. If you only do one day of the Ring, make it this one; it really is something special.

Entering Putney Heath
Entering Putney Heath

Wombling Free

The windmill on Wimbledon Common
The distinctive windmill on Wimbledon Common

Just east of Wimbledon Park is Putney Heath, and as the Ring plunges into the scrubby woodland, it says goodbye to suburbia for the longest stretch of the entire 75-mile walk. It's instantly beautiful, too; this is no choked urban park, but real countryside, bang in the middle of zone 3. If it wasn't for the dull thrumming of London in the distance and the regular white noise of distant air traffic overhead, you could genuinely fool yourself that this was a rural park well away from the urban sprawl.

A Right Royal Treat

Pen Ponds, Richmond Park
Pen Ponds, Richmond Park

There can't be many walkers living in London who haven't visited Richmond Park at one point or another. At 2500 acres, it's the biggest urban park in Europe, measuring 2.5 miles from top to bottom and side to side, and it's absolutely glorious. Home to a large collection of wild deer and enough space to accommodate even the busiest of bank holidays, Richmond Park is one of the undeniable positive sides to having a monarchy, because this tract of land was enclosed for the sole use of royal hunting parties in 1637, and has remained in the Royal property portfolio ever since. In these more enlightened times, the park is now open to the public, and the Ring strikes through the heart of the park, taking in some of the more evocative landscapes in the process.

A deer near Pen Ponds, Richmond Park
A deer near Pen Ponds, Richmond Park

Into Richmond

The view towards the Star and Garter Home from the Thames Path at Petersham Meadow
The view towards the Star and Garter Home from the Thames Path at Petersham Meadow

Meanwhile, back on the modern-day Ring, the path heads down into the Thames Valley towards the village of Petersham, where it passes a disappointingly mediocre pub on the A307 before jumping right back into yet more beautiful landscape. The Ring is now in the floodplains of the Thames, and on your right is Richmond Hill, topped by the impressive Star and Garter Home. The view of the Star and Garter from the Thames is one of the most beautiful in London, but the Ring only hints at the grandeur of the view you get from the Thames Path, and I highly recommend turning left when the Ring meets the river, and walking for a couple of minutes away from Richmond, to the corner of the field to your left. The view across the still-working farmland of Petersham Meadows is something else; there are almost always cattle grazing away, and from the corner you get a much more impressive vista of farmer's fields and stunning London architecture. It's no coincidence that this whole area feels like a Turner painting, as Turner used to live in nearby Twickenham and painted this very meadow.