"We enter Bal-ham through the verdant grasslands of Battersea Park. Or, to be more precise, the roads that surround the verdant grasslands of Battersea Park. Of course, at certain times of the day, a little local traffic makes the journey to our Mecca much less rushed than usual. And this gives us a chance to linger and soak up the atmosphere. At once we are aware that this is a land of contented people who go about their daily tasks in truly democratic spirit. This is the busy High Street, focal point of the town's activity. Note the quaint old stores whose frontage is covered with hand-painted inscriptions, every one a rare example of native Bal-ham art. They show the manifold activities of Balham's thriving community. Now let us see a little more of the town. We are now entering Old Bal-ham. Time has passed by this remote corner - so shall we. The town is spread before us in a fairyland of glittering lights - changing all the time: green, amber, red, red and amber, back to green. And so we say farewell to this historic borough, with many pleasant memories: Broad-bosomed bold becalmed benign, lies Balham, four-square on the Northern Line."
It's hard to believe that these words were written 60 years ago - they sound as though they were written yesterday. They were penned by Frank Muir and Denis Norden, but they are indelibly associated with Peter Sellers, who was brought up in the leafy North London hamlet of Muswell Hill. He must have had a shock of his life when he first went to Balham in South London.
Everyone knows that Balham is the Gateway to the South, but where exactly is this gateway and what do you see if you go through it? Where else can the intrepid traveller find the diversity of culture and history that's all wrapped up in this tiny place with a giant heart? A pilgrimage to a land we have only heard about in stories and seen only in films.
We will stop off for a refreshment break at the cafe in the verdant grasslands of Dulwich Park.
Ride leader: Nigel Bee (tel 07415 315 690, email [email protected]
For more details, and the route, see https://www.cyclinguk.org/event/ride/balham-gateway-south