Further progress walking around London just before Christmas, on a wintry but brighter day. We started at Streatham Common and ended up at Wimbledon Park - a short leg of only five and a half miles, but we added a little detour for nostalgic reasons. We started off at the station, and indeed stayed close to the railway (the Brighton line and suburban services) for a couple of hours. The first point of interest was the Streatham Pumping Station, built in a Moorish style, and still working. They knew how to build public buildings in those days!
From there we walked through typical late C19 century south London streets, some in good condition, others a bit more neglected, until we were almost at Tooting Bec common. Here, we left the route - I hope the Fat Controller who wrote the official guide book will forgive us, 'cos he's very prissy and paternalistic - and went to see Prentis Road where the two of us lived, with a variety of others at different times, some time in 1979-1981. It was a big middle class house, still there, and looking reasonably much the same - as far as my imperfect memory can recall; it had a dental surgery on the ground floor, grand stairs to a big flat on the first floor (the dentist's mother, I believe), and much meaner stairs to a three bedroom flat at the top in the attics. It wasn't heaven, but it was the first place in London that I ever called home, so it was quite fun to go and see it.
Then back to Tooting Bec common - named after a French abbey - with a huge outdoor lido, a hundred yards of freezing water where you can, if you should be so minded, see (and participate in) the 2008 World Winter Swimming Championships, in February! See you there. Brass monkey swimming aside, it's a large open common with lots of sport pitches and a reasonable amount of woodland and rougher areas for birds etc. And in the winter sunshine, one could only be grateful to those Victorian pioneers who prevented it being built all over.
Back into suburbia then, and past some striking brick decoration on some of the smarter houses, before arriving at Wandsworth Common, where we stopped for a very welcome cup of tea and cake. Wandsworth is also a fine area of common, but it's badly chopped into pieces by roads and railway lines. Leaving the common, we passed the less attractive brickwork of Wandsworth Prison, formerly the Surrey House of Correction, where Oscar Wilde was briefly an inmate (before he more famously was moved to Reading):
"I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by."
Then down to Wimbledon Park, through the long Earlsfield (or Wandsworth) cemetery, well kept and still in use. Curiously, there is a war cemetery here, exceedingly well maintained and very moving, about 22 very young men dying a long way from home - mainly Australians, but a handful of Canadians too. I was puzzled as to what this was doing here, but the web provided the answer - the majority of the WW1 casualties buried in the military plots at this cemetery died at the nearby No 3 London General Hospital. I was touched to find that there are still people, 90 years later, looking after the graves and asking, from Canada or Australia, for information and photographs.
"They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them."
Finally, across the fast flowing River Wandle, once a famous trout stream, then a sewer for the soap and chemical industries, now clean again and a bit of a nature reserve. That was pretty much the end of the day's walk - only one leg to go to see Richmond Bridge again!