After a full day in Wimbledon, the following day I headed slightly further south-west with my fellow London Loop walker. We were blessed with blue skies again. Our plan was to do section 8 first (from Kingston to Ewell) then section 7 (Ewell to Banstead Downs) since we were going anti-clockwise for this section.
The Transport for London guide highlighted the Coronation Stone as the first point of interest. This stone is a block of sarsen, the same stone used to build Stonehenge. The stone is part of the remains of a collapsed church and was apparently used by seven Saxon kings for their coronations.
After this we mostly followed Hogsmill River to Old Malden, where the guide suggested a detour to see the scene of a famous painting I’d never heard of. We followed the instructions for the location but couldn’t find it. There was a local tradesman finishing a job and he didn’t know about the painting or the location either. He said the woman opposite the road had lived in the area all her life. We spoke to her, but her blank face told us everything even before we four speculated about its whereabouts. We re-traced our steps and found a fellow (local) walker. He pointed us in the right direction. We realised that the instructions we were following assumed you were following this section of the loop clockwise, which we weren’t!
We quickly found the part of the river where Ophelia drowned in the painting. The painting, a scene from Hamlet, by Sir John Everett, is now in the Tate Modern, where I was recently. Apparently, the artist camped by the river for five months to depict the scene. Ophelia, the plaque told us, was added later when 19-year-old Elizabeth Siddall modelled her “lying fully clothed in a full bathtub”.
When we arrived at the plaque describing the painting, there was a young man reading it. Despite having been born and bred in the area, this was the first time he’d been to the spot. We had a lengthy conversation with him. He was knowledgeable about the area and a keen walker of paths along rivers.
As we continued our walk, a man with a trolley holding a suitcase and guitar stopped us and asked me, without ceremony, what job I would do if I could do any job I wanted to! He described himself as an “unqualified musician, unqualified psychologist and unqualified lawyer”. When he found out that I had been a computer programmer, he asked me what could be wrong with his phone — a home phone not a mobile! I’ve got used to people thinking because I’ve done one sort of technical job that I know about all sorts of technical things.
At one point, as a couple walked past us, our wanderer asked them to “hurry up”, which bemused them. The conversation was in danger of eating into the remaining daylight required for section 7, so we said our goodbyes and walked on.
We reached Ewell with about 90 minutes of daylight and calculated that would be enough to walk section 7, which was about 6.5 km (4 miles).
It may have been the sunset light, but this section had beautiful views across several plains. We walked pass the landscaped gardens, the lake of Bourne Hall Park and onto the contradictory Nonsuch Park, Henry VIII’s hunting ground.
We got to Banstead Station just as the light was fading. Google Maps said the next train was 30 mins away, but one pulled into the station just as we got on the platform! We swiped our cards and boarded the train. The disappointment of knowing that this, like all the evening trains, took an hour to get to London Victoria was more than made up by the fact we were on our way home instead of having to wait on a cold platform for half an hour.