This morning I walked to Becky’s home, meeting Jackie who had driven there. The route took me via the Mitcham cricket green and across the common. Walking along Cricket Green on one side of the eponymous conservation area, with the flamboyant clubhouse alongside Mary Tate’s almshouses across the road, one is reminded of how beautiful Mitcham was in days gone by.
Along one stretch of Morden Hall Road half the pavement has been designated for cyclists. I have never seen a cyclist using it. London has many such stretches of pavement reducing the width of pedestrian footpaths. The only one I have ever seen used is actually the first one I experienced. That is on a stretch of road between Balderton and Newark in Nottinghamshire. Cyclists may have availed themselves of this, but the ratepayers were less than happy about the expense. Bicycles ridden on the undesignated pavement can, however, be a menace on the busier inner London roads. They often speed along, weaving in and out among pedestrians, and steaming around corners with frightening disregard for their or other people’s safety. I was once clipped on the arm by one on the pavement in The Strand. As this was in my running days I set off after him and caught him up at traffic lights. He was rather surprised. Perhaps not only because I didn’t hit him. I just had a quiet word.
The roads, of course are unsafe for cyclists, choked as they are with drivers of varying ability. I don’t really know what the answer is, but surely it can’t be Boris’s Bikes which add more riders to already densely occupied streets. Interestingly, the only pavement- encroaching cyclist I’ve ever seen challenged by a policeman was a man mounting the kerb to replace a Boris Bike in a rack alongside Westminster Cathedral.
Having rounded the cricket green and on approaching the A236 roundabout on the wide pavement I was overtaken by a cyclist who wobbled past me on the inside and teetered across my path into and across this major road weaving his way through the cars approaching the junction before continuing his journey along the opposite footpath. I swear I had my earlier thoughts before this happened.
Much of my continuing journey involved crossing Mitcham Common. Only ever having driven and, I admit it, albeit 45 years ago, cycled along the major roads through the common, I had not realised what a pleasant amenity this is. The path I took between Commonside West and Windmill Road has at some time in the not too distant past been planted with an avenue of oaks. A lake in the middle of the common was home to large number of Canada Geese including a mother shepherding her troop of goslings and hissing at me. These large birds which are now rife in our public parks and canalsides were introduced into this country as long ago as the end of the 17th. century. It was about the middle of the 19th. century that fortunes were made in Peruvian guano, that is sea-bird droppings, which was highly valued as a fertiliser. Maybe there is an opportunity for an entrepeneurial individual prepared to collect the masses of Canada Geese excretia, just as Mr. Figg, one of my childhood neighbours, collected horse droppings left by the rag-and-bone man’s steed to spread on his garden.
My path across the common was twice crossed by a skein of what I took to be tourists under the direction of a guide. They would occasionally stop for a lecture or explanation. As I watched them file after their leader I was reminded of the duck that had once taken over the pond in our garden at Lindum House. She came in off the road and trotted down the drive followed by a string of her babies; inspected all the walls and fences bordering the garden, the ducklings following in single file; and when satisfied finally settled her family on the small pond which I had dug myself. Perhaps the goslings also influenced this memory.
I met a postman when nearing Becky’s flat, and we had a laugh about the chaotic street layout and house numbering in the area, Westmorland Way being the most confusing.
After a day with Becky Jackie fed us all on an excellent chicken casserole after which she and I returned to Morden, both by car.