Christ, it's only been 3 weeks but it feels like forever since Helen and I last ticked off a London borough. I guess that's what comes with moving in, suffering a giant dollop of stress, and having a weekend out of the country to boot. Besides, we've decided against having such a relentless schedule than originally planned. The aim stays true: we'll have a day out in each of London's boroughs, ostensibly in search of culture – just maybe not by the year end. A bit of flexibility hurt no-one.
Good thing too, because today I should be writing about Bexley but here I am talking about Merton.
Merton. Not Bexley. Merton.
The calendar – which, as I've already implied, we are no longer slaves to – had us down for Bexley today. There's a big hitting centrepiece attraction over there, and it only opens once a month. But right now the centrepiece of the centrepiece is out of action so we just could not be bothered with a substandard visit. However with such glorious weather forecast, and me being in shitholes like Wigan and Sheffield for the next two weeks, we wanted to go somewhere. Merton, being about 12 minutes journey from our flat, seemed like an easy choice.
To be honest, our new lackadaisical approach does not lend itself to the kind of research we'd diligently performed on all our previous outings. Never mind, I thought, I probably know everything there is to know about Merton anyway what with living there for the first 25 years of my life. Au contraire! Here's three of the things what I found through a quick search while watching the London Marathon this morning:
- the only English Pope ever (so far?) was taught at Merton Priory
- the Romans built an important road from London to Chichester right through what became the borough
- ... shit, I think that was it.
Oh dear. Perhaps the old allegiance to well-laid plans is a better approach after all. Never mind.
The terribleness of my fact research was not mirrored by Helen's picnic making, thankfully. While I took my first bath in about 30 years thanks to the shower breaking immediately before I wanted to use it, her creativity with a fairly limited choice from mostly bare cupboards and fridge shone through.
Remarkable. And not just an excellent riff on one of Merton's premier attractions, but a bloody lovely stilton and chicken combination on much better bread than the local caff serves.
I barely had time to eat it though; it's only 7 minutes from Surbiton to Wimbledon, in Merton's heart and where we had to change onto our first tram ride of the project. Maybe even our only one? Helen was very excited, having never been on the Croydon Tramlink before (is it still called Croydon Tramlink?).
The turkeys seem glad that Christmas isn't for a while.
Edna the barn owl is double caged. They let her out a couple of times a day to fly, but due to avian influenza no-one's allowed to poke her any more.
There's a pen full of goats. We're fawning over some of them when this head pokes out, giving it the "what's all this about?"
These cows are awesome. Our whole time there, none of them stand up. They just sit there chewing, slowly. Briefly, the black and white one rolls slowly onto her side, almost her back, then rights herself and gets back to chewing.
For possibly the first time in my life I exclaim "those kids are so cute!", because in the field adjoining the cows there are baby goats, plus sheep and Kimby the alpaca.
After a distant horse and a larger sheep with giant bollocks, we stroll back into the main yard and spot ferrets doing what ferrets do best: sleeping, albeit not in hammocks.
There's an enormous pylon next to us on our side, but somehow there are tiny stretches which look almost nice.
There's actually much less arty-crafty stuff here than I expected, and it's all shops. I'm sure back in the early to mid 90s it was mostly open studios apart from the pub, but now there's about 3 shops, a handful of stalls, and everything else is a cafe, restaurant, pub, or similar. Except for the hairdressers that's where the Craft Beer Emporium once stood, buggering hell. Still, there's a seat outside in the shade by the pub facing the bandstand. Anyone for Pimm's?
After the drink we've run out of things to do around here. Colliers Wood has fuck all else except what used to be the Brown & Root building, and some absolutely enormous shops. There are plenty of signs to some other things, mind – either stuff that used to be here, or stuff that's elsewhere. Crossing Merantun Way I'm surprised to learn that a nondescript arch we have to pass through is all historic, like.
The Wandle manages to look quite nice, briefly, which is more than can be said for the bus stops just up from the grotty bus garage. Away we go, on a 200 through Wimbledon's back streets until the bus garage near Wetherspoons where we shall wait for a 93 up through the village and to the common. After the excellent tram ride, this is a step down in intra-borough transport experience. Both buses are boiling hot and busier than either of us expected. Bleurgh.
Turns out there's a real link to scouting; Baden-Powell wrote Scouting for Boys while he lived in the Mill House next door. I really want to buy Helen a copy of "How Girls can Help to build up the Empire" but she won't have it. Also the shop sells fuck all except windmills, maps, and Wombles. Apparently the only place you can buy a legit Womble. Who knew?
There's a third floor, where you can go stand inside the main mechanism or whatever the room is called. Access is only via a perilous ladder that's probably not too perilous but we're both too woussy to go up. Well, I think going up would be fine but I'd be a wreck at descending. Also, frankly, windmills aren't that interesting. We'd rather learn about this dressmaker who lived in one of the six rooms the building got converted into back in the mid-1800s.
Boom! The borough of my formative years doesn't just do welcomes, we do polite goodbyes 'n all! This is the first such thing we've seen in our adventures and I'm so stupidly pleased with it. Helen, however, wants to photoshop "sorry" into the blank space. Bah.
Triumphantly, I lead us to the reverse so we can get our now traditional selfie with the welcome side. It is, uh, somewhat grubby and disappointing. Like they ran out of cloth very quickly last time they went to clean it.
But here we are, eventually, at Earth To Table. There's only one other punter. We're given a warm welcome and can sit wherever we like. The menu is as extensive as we'd been warned with multiple cuisines but we both opt for their Sunday roast and a beer. It arrives promptly and looks very nice. There's even enough gravy for Helen.
The food is nice. Really. But it's not amazing. I'd been led to believe we'd be wowed, and had we had something off their regular menu we probably would have been. They're not experts in Sunday roasts though, probably only doing them because "that's what people want, innit?" or something - there's a Wetherspoons just up the road to compete with after all. Maybe we'll go back in future and have summat else.
Up the road and back to Raynes Park station, ready to get the train home. Having failed to buy anything sweet in the Co-Op en route I want to pay with my card at the platform vending machine which proudly informs me that I can. Insert your card! Pay with Apple Pay! But, er, there's just no mechanism for it at all. WTF? Bizarre. And so ends our time in Merton, on a largely deserted platform waiting for a train back to Surbiton. Best ascribe some numbers to the day, eh?