We get to South Croydon at 9.45, very undignified for a Saturday morning, and start off for Wandsworth, through the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton, and Wandsworth, along eleven miles of winding Wandle. Despite a flyover being built on Crodyon Old Town, there are still elements of Croydon's past, a church, a row of old houses, an ex-palace (now a school). Oh, and there are still traces of Croydon's retro-futurism.
Even though we have to cross Purley Way and London Road, the rest of the journey is through parkland, woodland, by the side of the ever flowing Wandle, sun-dappled, dream-green on this, the last good day of the year. We traverse Wandle Park, Beddington Park, where a vulture was spotted in 2007, Wilderness Island, Poulter Park (featuring Tooting & Mitcham FC), Watermeads, Ravensbury Park, where we stop for lunch, perched on a little jetty, feeding bits of bread to a friendly swan, Morden Hall Park, with its still flourishing rose garden, Merton Abbey Mills, where we stop for a drink in the William Morris pub, Wandle Meadows, Garatt Park, King George's Park, and finally the Thames. Whereas it seems obvious that parks, once private land, would have grown up around the river, the water was mostly used for industry; snuff mills, paper mills, gunpowder mills, dye mills, copper mills, leather mills, wool mills, felt mills, flour mills, and calico mills - so much calico. Now all luxury flats, obviously. We also pass a fox, various cats, yappy dogs, a woman who tell us about egrets nesting on two branchless trees, two OAPs who proudly show us their Freedom Pass Walks book, and a very pregnant Portuguese woman who's having her baby shower in the park and wants advice on how to do soft focus photos. Who says Londoners are unfriendly?
(all photos by David).