Catch up if you missed it – listen
Following on from the watery theme that we started exploring in last week’s show, this week we’re going to be following a segment of the Wandle trail with this 5.4 km walk that takes us from Dene City Farm in Merton to Earlsfield in Wandsworth.
Along the way we’ll see the farm, the waterwheel in Merton Abbey mills, Wandle park and a section of the Wandle Trail.
We met Alice Cheetham – Education & Outreach Coordinator at Deen City Farm, John Hawkes, a trustee of the Merton Priory Trust and Dan from Very Important Pets and one of the dogs in his care called Rhubarb. Not to mention quite a few of the animals at Deen City Farm who came over to inspect us out of curiosity.
I was accompanied on this Walk by walking companion Sheila who came into Wandsworth Radio Studios to help re-create the walk with lots of observations that she made along the way.
This walk is actually a continuation of the show we did on the 1st January 2018 that started at Morden Hall Park. That day the farm was closed for the Christmas break and I think Sheila and I made up our minds that we would come back for a future episode so here we are.
We start the Walk on Windsor Avenue which is just across the road from the shopping centre on Merantum Way. Wimbledon Studios is not far, actually Ninette Finch who is going to be doing a film locations walk with us in a few weeks will tell you that this used to be where The Bill was filmed.
We are also extremely close to the River Wandle, any closer and we’d need a pair of waders and a fishing rod. The wandle trail snakes its way up into Wandsworth and it starts in Mitchum. It’s too long for one of our walks so this is just Part 1 of the Wandle Trail. Part 2 will be with Nicola Davenport and then we’ll probably need a third show to complete the trail. It’s just too big to fit all into 1 hour.
So let’s get going. We’re passing by Phipps Bridge, heading towards Deer Park Road and you’ll see the entrance to Deen city farm here. We meet our first guest on the show Alice Cheetham Education & Outreach Coordinator at Deen City Farm.
So now we are going to leave Deen City Farm and double back on ourselves as we head back out through the carpark, under the pylon heading towards Phipps bridge. On the way back I varied the route slightly (I mean I took a slight wrong turn) and ended crossing Windsor Avenue further up nearer to Liberty Avenue. It doesn’t really matter. Either way is good.
We now take the wide walking trail that runs parallel to the Wandle and leads into Mertantum Way. It’s extremely water logged. Someone has placed three tree stumps over a big puddle to form stepping stones.
We walk a bit further starting to admire a hawthorn tree, and then we notice a man walking a dog, but the dog seems to be on roller skates of something like that. We go over and meet them.
Now we’re going to cross the River Wandle and head over to abbey mills. This is a very nice area. It’s really lovely. Sheila loves it because of Charlie’s rock shop and of course it’s got a band stand! So she’s as happy as Larry.
We’re going to head over to the watermill.
We meet a couple inside the Mill. One of them is Stephen Llewellyn the potter. I told him that I was making a show for Wandsworth Radio and said I should speak to John Hawkes. So I interviewed him for the show.
We took a look at Ron’s Pyrography after John and I finished talking. It’s beautiful as you can see from the photographs. They sell it at the William Morris gallery there at Merton Abbey Mills.
John Hawkes wanted me to see Merton Priory and sadly I had to decline for this Walk due to time constraints on the day, which is sad because I really want to see it. They are doing a lot of work there supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Living Wandle Partnership
At the moment it’s closed but it will reopen in the Summer. I hope we’ll have a chance to go back there soon. You can get lots of information about it from their website www.mertonpriory.org
We’ve now crossed over Merantum way, walking past the shopping centre and it would be very tempting at this stage to grab a bite to eat in there, but we have a walk to complete and we’re sticking to it!
So we’re going to stay with the Wandle on our right heading towards Merton High Street. You’ll see that the area is quite well signposted. This is a much busier section of the walk. But not for long. Cross the road safely and bare right.
There’s a sign for The Wimbledon Brewary. They do tours around it but when we checked the website they were all booked. So we’ll do that another time.
I can see a fisherman on the Wandle bank today, but we’re taking a slight side step from the path of the Wandle to walk through Wandle park.
Exiting the park I can hear water rushing underfoot through a flood drain. I’m leaving the park where it meets Bygrove Road and you can see a Thames Water treatment plant or flood relief base as it’s described on the map.
We’re now heading along this path and entering Chaucer Way. I’ve never been here before. It’s uncharted territory for me and Sheila.
Well one thing I’m seeing that is familiar to me is these Notices for Ballet, Tap, Jazz and Ballroom classes at the Colliers Wood Community centre. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony Townsley from there has been along here.
We’re now at the Wandle Meadow Nature Park. It’s very tranquil here. It’s calming. I think the people who live near to here are very lucky. It’s idyllic.
We go under a bridge here and then there is a power station. On this walk you are aware of the fact that one is never too far from a pylon. There’s one up ahead.
As you approach the tower it’s not what you expect. You imagine that there is going to be an electrical buzzing sound, but it’s really quiet.
I’ve found out that there are pylon spotters. Flash Bristow also known as @techiebabe on twitter is one such individual. According to an article on the BBC website, Flash runs the Pylon Appreciation Society.
She’s been a fan of pylons since she was a child and soon she started to notice the different designs that pylons have. She says
‘I’m the first to admit that pylons are pretty boring, but there are ones that go round corners, some that go over rivers and they’re structurally different.”
We’re now heading along Mead Path, the Graveny River is nearby. On last week’s show John Rattray was telling us about historical Waterways on Tooting Common. Do have a listen to that episode if you missed it.
John said that the York ditch, which is a tributory of the Falcon Brook was the historical boundary between the parish of Tooting Graveney and the parish of Streatham. I asked John if he knew anything about Graveny gin, because it featured in the Wandsworth Radio panto at Christmas.
Anyway John wasn’t able to tell me too much about that because it’s not really his area of expertise. So I did a bit of research. According to the Graveny Gin website the gin is produced in small batches of 30 litres from a copper still. Each batch has a slightly different taste. It is produced in Tooting by Victoria Christie and we talked to her on the phone live on the show.
Now we’re heading up Mead Path. Havelock Allotments are on the left. Able and Cole are on the right and we’re near Waterside Way. Up ahead is Plough Lane. We’re going to cross over the road following the signs pointing to Earlsfield.
It’s very industrialised here. Lots of processing facilities. It is not busy and you are allowed to ride a bike along the path, so it could be a good shortcut. You can see how the Wandle is flowing strongly here.
Weir road and the south western railway line is to the left, we’re heading in a north easterly direction. The river Wandle and Garrat lane diverge slightly before Earlsfied which is our final destination for the walk. I see from the Map that Garratt Park is close. Though I’d have to cross the river to get to it from where I am.
We’re near the end of the walk and we’re about to say bye to the River Wandle and hello to Earlsfield. I can see what looks like more allotments on the right hand side. The water is flowing very quickly at this point but we’re saddened to see more dumping here. A leather sofa, a garden table, some kind of rack and lots of other junk and rubbish all piled up forming a small bank at the side of the concrete river sidings.
Up ahead I can see a little dog. I’m expecting to see his owner following behind. But there doesn’t appear to be anyone. I’m following the dog. He has a collar but no identification. Maybe he’s micro-chipped?
I take out my camera for a photo. This scares the dog. It starts to run away. I follow behind. But then it turns around and barks at me. I wanted to take him home but I wasn’t sure if he belonged to someone.
We’ve got another walk coming up on the Wandle trail with Nicola Davenport in a fortnight so listen out for that.
Next week we’ll be walking along Wandsworth Road with lifelong wandsworth resident, writer and photographer MS Karamet.
Thanks so much Sheila for coming in.