London Literary Locations: The Borribles
p7: "Knocker and Lightfinger... went through Battersea Church Road, by St Mary's down by the river, and then into the High Street. They saw no one and no one saw them, it being well into the early hours of the morning. They were making for an empty house standing opposite the end of Trott Street."
p22: "'Yes,' concluded Knocker as he turned into Rowena Crescent, Spiff had come up with a good idea, but then Spiff was as sharp as a cut-throat razor."
p36: "Knocker walked over to where the Eight were waiting, propped up on their elbows, their interest aroused by the discussion. 'Get yer hats on,' he said. 'I'm taking you to the lake in Battersea Park. We're going to steal a boat.'"
p44: "The great factories and towering flats loomed around the tiny octagonal steeple of St Mary's like idiots surprised by beauty."
p44: "Two sailing barges were moored against the river wall which skirted the graveyard."
p65: "In the flat wall of the Thames embankment, hidden behind a flotilla of barges, a gap had appeared. 'This must be Wandle Creek,' said Napoleon."
p65: "After ten minutes they heard Napoleon swear loudly and then call out urgently for them to stop. He struck the gunwale of the boat in anger. 'Dammit! I forgot the weirs.'"
p83: "After a ten-minute march the green fields of King George's Park came into view."
p84: "'Follow the river through the park until you come to the end of the fields. There the river goes under a bridge. Above you is a road, Mapleton Road.'"
p85: "When the Borribles came to Replingham Road they gathered and crossed in a bunch, avoiding the heavy traffic. On a corner they could see a large secondary school of five storeys, with groups of pupils waiting by the main gates for the whistle burst that would announce the start of lessons. Just to one side of the group stood two Wendles disguised in the uniform of the school."
p87: "As the two Wendle scouts had indicated, the journey up the rising slope of Replingham Road was long and tiring."
p88: "The Adventurers had stopped on the corner of a side road leading out of Replingham; it was called Engadine Street and the Borribles were never to forget that name... The two policemen appeared on the corner and stood together for a moment."
p91: "Finally it dropped into place and there was a clang like the top half of a sarcophagus shutting a corpse off from the living world, and a suffocating darkness enfolded Knocker and his nine companions in its close, clammy embrace, safe below the long stretches of Engadine Street, Southfields."
p108, Bathgate Road: "Sam trudged on, from Brookwood Road to Elsenham Street, and into Augustus where the slope began in earnest. Up Albert Drive and Albyn Road, through Thursley Gardens and along Seymour Road and Bathgate Road."
p108: "One last road to cross - Parkside... Bingo guided the horse and cart to a large clump of trees."
Wimbledon Common - Rumble HQ
Last year, the Borribles trilogy won our poll to find the
best London novel. If you never came across Michael de Larrabeiti's tales of pointy-eared urchin tribes as a child, you missed what is basically Lord of the Rings set in south-west London.
The first book sees a small band of Borrible Adventurers set out on a mission from Battersea to Wimbledon to defeat their deadly enemies, the Rumbles (to all intents and purposes Wombles, with just enough alterations to make it funny and avoid copyright litigation). From our point of view the author's genius lies in describing the exact route the Borribles take, so we set out one sunny day last month to follow it as best we could. And it was pretty easy; the only difference from the book and reality 35 years on is how much more gentrified Battersea and Wandsworth have become.
Photos author's own, page numbers refer to The Borrible Trilogy published by Pan in 2003.
Map of the Borribles' route, plus important points along the way.
Blue - route taken by river
Red - rough route taken underground
Green - route taken through the streets
Last Updated 09 May 2011