The windmill, the fort and the manor house: Michael Leapman proves Wimbledon is not just about tennis - even during the next fortnight

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Wimbledon is not just about tennis, al-though for the next fortnight you could be forgiven for thinking it is. At the point where the inner city of Wandsworth opens out into the leafy suburbs of Merton, it embraces London's largest common - in public ownership since 1871 - and one of its few surviving windmills.

It is here, at the windmill, that the walk starts. Built in 1817, its unusual design is due in part to frequent alterations and its eventual conversion into cottages in 1893. Today it serves as a museum devoted to windmills and woodworking, open on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 2-5pm.

From the mill, go past the cafe and, where the main path turns left, go straight ahead down a narrower track into the woods. Where it forks, bear left towards the Queen's Mere, a large, man-made pond enjoyed equally by ducks and walkers. Take the path along the left bank, making for some bright green railings at the far end. Here, turn sharply left into the trees, until soon you see the monuments of Putney Vale cemetery ahead.

Turn left along Stag Ride, a broad bridle path. On the right, at the edge of the cemetery, you might be lucky enough to catch the last of this year's rhodo-dendrons in flower.

Keep on Stag Ride, ignoring cross paths, for a mile or so, as it curves round to the left. It all looks surprisingly rural: the only hint that you are close to a city is the constant hum of traffic on the Kingston bypass. Eventually you come to a golf course which incorporates a prominent mound, known as Caesar's Camp. The mound is in fact an Iron Age hill fort: the connection with Caesar is purely speculative.

When the track reaches Camp Road, at a white and red gate, turn left and walk down the narrow, paved road, which has houses on the right. Ahead of you is a little square, dominated by a row of tall red-brick Victorian houses, but just before you get to it, turn right down a broad path next to a no parking notice, passing the Cannizaro allotments on your left.

At the end of the lane keep straight ahead into Cannizaro Park. Where the path bears sharply left, go straight ahead down the grassy slope, admiring the mixed flower border. Turn sharp left at the end of it and enter the walled garden through iron gates. This was evidently a neat formal garden at one time, but it is today suffering from neglect. Walk through the middle of it, up a few steps, and past some picnic tables to leave through another pair of iron gates just in front of a duck pond.

Here, turn right, then left up stone steps towards the back of Cannizaro House, which was built in the 18th century and was the former home of the Dukes of Cannizaro.

For 40 years after the Second World War the local council used it, but it was converted into a hotel and restaurant seven years ago. The council retained the estate and kept it open as a park. Examine the sculptures by art students that dot the lawn as you approach the house.

Turn right in front of the house and then left by a green litter bin and drinking fountain, to emerge on Chester Road.

Turn left, then left again at the T-junction by the common, keeping to the footpath about ten yards in from the road. Just after passing the front entrance to the hotel, you come to a road junction.

Turn left into Camp Road if you want to visit the Fox and Grapes. Otherwise go ahead into West Place, a charming row of cottages behind colourful front gardens.

Where the road turns sharp left, keep ahead on the right-hand of the two cycle paths, then quickly bear right again. The path leads through open woodland and passes another golf course before the windmill comes back into view ahead.

Length: Under four miles. Time: Less than two hours. Grade: Easy. Parking: By the windmill, Windmill Road, Wimbledon SW15. Transport: 93 to Windmill Road from Wimbledon Station (Network South East and District Line).

(Photograph and map omitted)

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