For a while I thought Cheam railway station had disappeared into the suburban equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. I set off blithely anticipating heading straight there from Waterloo, but I'd forgotten it's not as simple as that. I had to be rescued at Wimbledon by a helpful Network Rail lady with a very foreign accent before getting on the right track(s) and finally re-acquainting myself with the TfL low emission zone sign I'd last laid hands on at the end of Leg 6 of my marathon charitable endeavour.
At this juncture I'd like to thank all who've stumped up sponsorship money so far. They include Mayorwatch Martin, Adam Bienkov and the Guardian's Steve Busfield, Tom Happold and John Domokos. Many others have made sincere promises to contribute but haven't yet got round to it. I'm sure all of them will put right that small oversight very soon. Cough.
And so, to Cheam High Street. It's very short and soon transforms into Cheam Road. Hell bent on passing the home of Sutton United - and approaching kick-off time too! - I took a left into Revell Road, a right into Quarry Park Road then a left into Gander Green Lane and soon there it was, looking a little tumbledown but no less romantic in the eyes of someone who spent too much of his boyhood buried in football stats and facts. Back then, I knew SUFC as a force in the non-league world but had only a vague idea of where, or indeed what, Sutton itself was. That knowledge gap has now been filled. I feel a more complete person as a result.
I passed through Collingwood Road Rec at a gentle pace and wove through a couple of short terraced streets seeking the wide avenue that would take me across the border into Merton - or, if you prefer, the northbound B2230. It's first called Angel Hill, then Rose Hill. You pass Sutton Common station and Rosehill Rec and then the road name changes again to St Helier Avenue and you cross the boundary line straight after that. Merton: a place I once knew of solely because of a Mod revival band and now associate with the knife-edge politics of its council and something else more personal and far more poignant.
We'll get to that soon. But first there was Morden Hill Park, a self-contained urban lung bordered by roaring roads with the River Wandle flowing gently through it. Morden used to be only a vaguely forbidding name to me, a dead-sounding destination at the end of the Northern Line to which I'd never been. It now means picturesque footbridges over gentle water. Travel can indeed broaden the mind.
Exiting the park I headed up Morden Road before turning east through an industrial estate and getting slightly lost in the subtle avenues of Collier's Wood. Eventually, though, I found the place I'd been heading for: the cemetery in Victoria Road. Nearly fifty years ago a married couple it later became my privilege to know laid one of their infant daughters to rest here. The child was but a few weeks old. The couple left the grave unmarked, though I'm told that somewhere in the family papers there may be a map to show its whereabouts. I rested for a while in the autumn air trying to roll back half a century of London history and picture those then young parents in their grief - a grief I know has never gone away.
And then it was back to the present in the grinding form of the London Road up to the edge of Tooting, where the shopfronts were grittier, a middle-aged Rasta hailed a friend in a passing car and I sensed suburbia giving way to what is for me the more familiar vibe of the inner city. I stopped at Tooting railway station and traveled home from there after an oddly solitary wait on the platform, entertained only by the heavy buzz of overhead strip lights. To have ventured further on foot would have taken me into Wandsworth, a treat I shall save for Leg 8.
This series describes a journey by foot which combines improving my knowledge of London with training for the 2011 London Marathon. I'll be running in aid of Shelter. You can sponsor me at my Virgin moneygiving page. All other installments of Running London are gathered here.