The pedants who plan these Ockie Road rambling outings are wary of change. So it was with apprehension that we moved the first excursion of 2012 from the time-honoured “second Saturday of the year” to the first..on the reasonable ground that Saturday 14th January is slightly too far into the New Year to satisfy our traditional desire to walk off some of the excesses of the festive season (the first Saturday of the year often being far too close to the festivities to accommodate would be walkers who have retreated from London for the duration).

But the disruptive ploy worked : 16 walkers gathered at Richmond station (joined for a time by an unknown American who was looking for “Justin’s party” also meeting at Richmond station at 10.30am, of which there was no sign; perhaps—on reflection–he was Canadian).

The weather was ideal for winter rambling, maybe too balmy for the season. Alan had devised a walk that took us along the plush delights of Richmond Green, then along the Thames under the Bridge, past Eel Pie Island and lots of river people also working off Christmas excess, and then inland to Ham House, built 1620 and a remarkable survival. Globally warmed, we took coffee out of doors, in the garden which the National Trust is now striving to restore to its 17th century glory.

This coffee break was designed to allow us to saunter across parkland to arrive bang on time at the Hand and Flower at a long table thoughtfully booked by Alan.

The strong publicity claims outside were confirmed by the excellent lunch (including good puddings and lovely beer called Rosy Dozy or something, I forget now). Dean Martin’s boozy observation chimed with at least some of us.

The meal afforded us the sole chance of a blurry group photo. This traditional snap will be improved on subsequent 2012 walks when Annie returns from Australia, since she is the master of the group pic.

After lunch the parkish walk continued with a traditional moment of uncertainly about directions until we entered Richmond Common, a gentle climb through very open woodland to the deer-infested savannah at the top. Then back along a ridge past Pembroke Lodge, with its charming grave for the dog Boy, and its beneficence to the ever-increasing host of parakeets now taking residence in London’s commonses.

The final urban stretches took us past the vista of the Thames seen from Richmond Hill (the only view in England protected by Act of Parliament, and quite right too), looking a bit Turneresque in the winter sunset.

Back to the station past the extravagant shops of Richmond, curiously clustered in a narrow traditional town centre, and then oh bliss! a train leaving almost at once on the now flourishing North London Line back home to rather less posh Islington as darkness fell.

Another terrific start to the year with magnificently accommodating weather, a fascinating route, and Lovely People, as always. Even more L.P. are welcome on the spring walk, tralaa!, which will be on the last Saturday of April. Wonderful weather almost guaranteed. As pedants ought to know already.

Words and pictures by Peter

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