I was asked about walks in a little corner of suburban Surrey which I do not know very well. Carshalton is a pretty village in itself, but very much now of the surrounding conurbation and though it has a park, it is otherwise bereft of the wide green spaces that much of the county enjoys. Then again, a look at the map shows something special: the River Wandle. Along the river is a footpath, and a cycleway, part of a route called the ‘Wandle Trail’. Using that, I put together a ‘Wandle Wander’, from Carshalton Village north along the Wandle to its mouth, at Wandsworth, then along the Thames Path a short way and down to Clapham Junction, for the train back to the start.
It is a walk of just 10 miles with no climbs, so one for all the family.
See what you think.
We start in Carshalton Village, on the High Street and turn into the park, through which the river flows. The path north is then well marked, first in the park, then by streets, alternatively by houses, business parks, allotments and playgrounds parkland, and the variety of landscapes along this narrow corridor.
Most of the route follows the Wandle Trail, which is laid down as a cycling route so watch out for cyclists.
The river is a steam of nature in a harshly manmade place. It may have improved since Betjeman’s description of an old factory site:
Burnt and brown and tumbled down
And done with years ago
Where the waters of the Wandle do
It s not quite restored though to Alexander Pope’s picture of the tributaries of the Thames:
The blue, transparent Vandalis appears;
If such a highway is provided though, beside living waters away from the concrete streets, that is a treasure to be enjoyed. True, in its lower stages the river is forced against its will into concrete channels as if an embarrassing inconvenience, but in the parks it flourishes, and there are many parks and playing fields along the course of our Wandle Wander, which you would not get to enjoy from the streetside or stuck in a bus or train.
The river reaches Morden Hall Park, which was once a much larger lordly park, and a good breathing space (shown in the picture on this page). The path runs through the park and skips over the river, before incongruously entering the business end of Merton, and canalised sections. There is still green space here though, when it reaches Colliers Wood, where there are angling spots.
Below Colliers Wood is Earlsfield, and then a stretch through King George’s Park.
In time, eventually, you come to Wandsworth – the river may be named after Wandsworth rather than the other way round – and the Wandle enters the Thames.
At the Thames, we turn east, downstream, for a while along the Thames Path towards Battersea (is there any truth to the rumour that when parts of Battersea were being gentrified, the new inhabitants started pronouncing it ‘Battersia’?), but before we get there, it is a short nip through the streets to Clapham Junction Station, from where you can get a train to anywhere, and certainly back to the start.
- Ordnance Survey Explorer 161: London South; or
- Ordnance Survey Landranger 176: West London
- Also there is route guide to the whole 14-mile Wandle Trail is available