Humanities Information

The Wandle Trail - Announced Regeneration Project

The River Wandle is sourced from the North Downs above Croydon, surfacing now in Waddon, running west until it meets the secondary source in Carshalton, then via Hackbridge Mitcham, Ravensbury St Helier Morden Wimbledon Colliers Wood, Summerstown and Wandsworth to the Thames passing through the London Boroughs of Croydon Sutton, Merton, and Wandsworth.

The wandle Trail is a 13-mile long route follows the River Wandle from its two sourrces in Sutton and Crodoydon, through Merton to where it enters the Thames in Wandsworth. The route links many little parks and two National Trust properties.

Groundwork Merton have announced the commencement of the project to enhance the existing walking and cycling route along the Wandle to 'enhance the amenity value of the river and its hinterland'.

This project is in partnership with the London Boroughs of Wandsworth, Merton and Sutton, as well as Sustrans (the National Cycle Network's campaign name), and has a particular aim to fit it into the National Cycle Network as NCN route 22, but will provide landscaping, seats, information boards, and viewpoints.

A rolling 4 year program is envisaged, with the first 3 sections being Watermead Lane to Bishopsford Road, Plough Lane to Garratt Mills, and Garratt Mills to Rufus Business Centre.

The image on this page is from the new 'Wandle Guide', published by Sutton Leisure Services, and available through the Museum shop at 4.95.

The new Wandle Trail map generated by Groundwork Merton was launched last month, with a fanfare of publicity, associated with its various public art projects. It has been much praised, and rightly, for the work that has been done.

We were pleased to see that, as published, the new map complements our own, but now face the task of selling our own map, a crucial part of our cashflow, in apparent competition to the new one, which is either given away free, or sold for nominal amounts.

The current answer, in fact, as you will see if you visit our shop, is that we sell the two as a package; we provide the new one free to purchasers of our own map.

We had expressed concerns about the risks of mixed cycle and pedestrian use of the Trail, partly solved by Groundwork's clear marking of the alternate cycle routes where that is legally or practically necessary.

"30th October 1991

Dear Gillian

Further to our discussion at the Heritage Action concerning the Wandle Trail, we comment as follows:

(1) We understand that there are proposals for waymarking/sign posting the Wandle Trail using a water wheel logo. Whilst we agree this is naturally a suitable logo to adopt, we also propose an alternative logo of a horse and wagon to honour the Surrey Iron Railway which was built to serve the busy industries of the Wandle. The sign posting would present a perfect opportunity to promote this fascinating part of the famous Wandle story and the railway was horse drawn and also the first public railway in the country. This would certainly add a new dimension to the Wandle Trail.

(2) Also, the Wandle past of the Surrey Iron Railway could be significantly enhanced by erecting a "Surrey Iron Railway sculpture". Refer attached sketch of to-day's date. We understand this project would be of interest to the new Arts Officer and would complement the sign posting if a Surrey Iron Railway logo was adopted.

(3) Also, we feel there is a lot of value in retaining the present identity of the Wandle Trail, as it is now known. Its simplicity is its attraction. We recommend that when final agreement is reached by Merton, it should be co-ordinated and fully adopted by the other Wandle Boroughs.

I trust these comments are helpful.


Ray Leyden"

Equally, the express function of the Trail, from the community's point of view, is as a way of encouraging use and enjoyment of our environment. Sustrans support for the Trail is as an alternative to road use in travelling from A to B. The one use a leisurely stroll, the other more direct and forceful. We hope that the two uses can live in harmony, and safety.

Anything which encourages the use of the Trail is good, in principle, and we must now wait and see. In effect the problems will arise from success!

We have been due to update our well known map of the Wandle Trail.

This has been put on hold, since Groundwork Trust have been upgrading much of the Trail, and the situation keeps changing. There are also some errors - recently we have also had pointed out to us by an email correspondent, for the first time since the map was published over 10 years ago, that Morden Lodge was never a pub!

We have been increasingly concerned that the work Groundwork are doing has taken on a life of its own, which now threatens the Wandle Trail as we know it. The main point of issue is their proposed promotion of it as a cycling route, and as a means of getting from A to B, rather than as a stroll to enjoy it for what it is.

It is also disappointing that there has been little or no acknowledgement of our rights as original creators of the project. A visit to the new website shows a direction that is far removed from the heritage of the valley.

It speaks of the artworks to be constructed as if new concepts, despite our input on this 10 years ago (see reproduction of Rays letter to Gillian Hein of Merton below).

We are also very concerned about the legal issues. A well used cycle way along such narrow paths will be offputting, if not dangerous to pedestrians. Cycle access will encourage the motorised variety. 24 hour access has its own dangers, and the parks groups are already moving to locked gates at nights to restrict vandalisation.

Worse, we fear that areas of the trail now used may be shut off by landowners faced with new insurance and upkeep obligations.

Groundwork are currently considering our fears, and we will report in due course.

I am the website administrator of the Wandle industrial museum ( Established in 1983 by local people to ensure that the history of the valley was no longer neglected but enhanced awareness its heritage for the use and benefits of the community.


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