Main Walk: 14¾ km (9.2 miles). Three hours 15 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 6½ hours.
Explorer 161. Mitcham Junction, map reference TQ282676, is in south London, 4 km SE of Wimbledon. Colliers Wood is 2 km E of Wimbledon.
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This south London walk is in the proposed Wandle Valley Regional Park, a newly-designated area along the course of this tributary of the Thames. Described as “London's hardest-working river”, the fast-flowing chalk stream once supported nearly 100 watermills along its short length. There are many traces of the river's industrial past and one surviving watermill which is still in full working order can be seen near the end of the walk, at Merton Abbey Mills.
Starting near the centre of the new Regional Park on Mitcham Common, the walk initially heads south along the western boundary of Beddington Farmlands, where a new nature reserve is being created on the site of a former sewage works and landfill site. At Beddington Park the route finally meets the river and the remainder of the walk essentially follows the waymarked Wandle Trail, a 22 km walking and cycling route from Croydon to Wandsworth. The first leg takes you to a lunch stop near one of the river's two sources at Carshalton Ponds, where you could also visit the Honeywell Museum of local history (open Wed–Sun to 5pm; free admission).
At Carshalton the walk turns round to head north as it follows the course of the river towards the Thames. Although never far from residential streets and business parks, much of the Wandle Trail is through riverside parks and peaceful local nature reserves, including the recently-opened Watermeads. The largest open space is Morden Hall Park, 125 acres of parkland owned by the National Trust and the suggested tea stop. In the final section the riverside path passes Deen City Farm (open Tue–Sun to 4.30pm; free admission) and you have the chance to explore the ethnic eateries, craft shops and market stalls at Merton Abbey Mills before heading to Colliers Wood underground station.
Several short link routes are described in the document. If you catch a later train than intended you could continue to the next station (Hackbridge) and pick up the walk route in Beddington Farmlands, saving about 1½ km. You could cut about 2 km from the end of the walk by heading to Morden tube station (or a nearby Tramlink stop) from Morden Hall Park. You could also use the station at Carshalton to split the walk into two short walks.
Two more substantial variations are possible, using the remainder of the Wandle Trail. As the published leaflet covers the full route in the same direction there are no detailed directions in this document.
Mitcham Junction (in TfL Zone 4) is served by Southern trains from Victoria (taking 20-25 minutes) and Thameslink trains through central London, taking slightly longer. The normal service is half-hourly on both routes, although on Sundays there are four Southern trains per hour. The station is also on Route 3 of the Tramlink network, midway between Croydon and Wimbledon. The two stations after Mitcham Junction (Hackbridge and Carshalton) are close to the walk route and have the same level of service.
At the end of the walk, Colliers Wood (Zone 3) is on the Northern line. At Morden Hall Park the walk route is not far from the Phipps Bridge Tramlink stop and the Northern line terminus at Morden (Zone 4).
Take the train nearest to 10:45 from Victoria to Mitcham Junction.
The most convenient place to stop for lunch is The Sun at 4 North Street (020-8773 4549) in Carshalton, after 6 km. This has a walled garden open in summer and serves freshly cooked food to 3pm Mon–Fri, all day weekends. A nearby alternative with an extensive choice of real ales is The Hope at 48 West Street (020-8240 1255), which serves home-cooked food to 3pm.
There are several places where you could break for refreshment towards the end of the walk. The National Trust's Potting Shed café (020-8545 6850) in Morden Hall Park is open to 6pm (5pm winter) and is likely to be busy on fine weekends; a coffee shop is open at peak times in the nearby Stables. A little further on there is a café at Deen City Farm.
Stronger fare is available at Merton Abbey Mills, ten minutes before the end of the walk. The William Morris (020-8540 0216) pub has a fine riverside location, while the small Merton Apprentice serves craft beers and ciders (limited opening hours: from noon Sat, Sun, BH; 4pm Tue–Fri; closed Mon). If you want some final refreshment before catching the tube the Charles Holden (020-8540 1918) pub opposite Colliers Wood station has a large beer garden backing on to Wandle Park.
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Out: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
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- Mitcham Junction Station to Carew Manor (3½ km)
- The shortest way to start the walk is to go up the tarmac ramp from the Wimbledon-bound Tramlink platform and turn left onto the main road at the top, but if arriving by train from London it is more straightforward to leave via the ramp on that side of the station, turn left onto the road and cross over the railway bridge.
- 50m beyond the Tramlink exit, veer left past a barrier onto Mitcham Common. Follow the main path for 500m, gradually curving to the right; at first the tramway is on your left, later the railway in a cutting.
This part of Mitcham Common is known as the Gunsite because anti-aircraft batteries were sited here during the Second World War.
- At the end of the path cross over the railway on a substantial footbridge. On the far side do not take the obvious tree-lined path heading E but turn right past metal barriers onto a permissive path along the western edge of Beddington Farmlands, parallel to the railway.
Behind the high grass banks on your left are a series of flooded gravel pits. Extraction ceased in 2010 and this major birdwatching site is now being developed into an urban nature reserve with a mixed habitat of lakes, meadows, heathland, etc, which will be open to the public on completion. However, the local council have also approved plans for an incinerator to be built on the site, causing much local controversy.
- In 600m the path veers left and right where a path joins from a footbridge over the railway. In a further 400m it does the same, with the second path across the railway coming from Hackbridge.
- If starting from Hackbridge station turn right onto the A237, go up to a mini-roundabout and turn right into Furlong Close. Where this private road bends left, keep ahead on a path going up a slope and over the railway. At the bottom of the slope on the far side turn right onto the perimeter path to join the walk.
- At this spot there are good views of the new reserve's Northern Lake and Southern Lake. The final 500m along the perimeter path is alongside Southern Lake, with Hackbridge station off to the right. Go out past metal barriers into a belt of trees on the boundary of Beddington Park.
This open space was once part of the deer park attached to Carew Manor. Its large estate originally extended as far north as Mitcham Common but was gradually sold off as the family's fortunes declined.
- Turn left along the edge of the park, either on the tarmac path or a woodland path through the belt of trees. If you take the latter you will need to join the tarmac path where it swings right after 250m.
- Follow the tarmac path past the park's Pavilion Café, a possible refreshment stop, soon coming to a low Terracotta Bridge over the River Wandle.
The Carew estate (though not the manor house) was bought by a wealthy clergyman, Canon Bridges, in 1859. He made many improvements and additions to the grounds, including this ornamental bridge.
- Instead of joining the Wandle Trail here, cross the bridge and continue along the path.
The large octagonal building off to the left is a Dovecote, which would have supplied eggs and meat to the Carew estate; it is an early 18thC replacement for an older building.
- Go past East Lodge onto Church Road, passing Carew Manor on the left.
Carew Manor was originally a medieval moated house and a fine hammerbeam roof in its great hall survives from that period. After the Carew family sold the house it was converted into an orphanage and is now a school.
- Carew Manor to Carshalton (2½ km)
- Continue along Church Road, passing St Mary's church on the left. At the end of the churchyard turn right onto a tarmac path.
The medieval St Mary's church was completed in the late 14thC. Canon Bridges funded a major refurbishment in Arts & Crafts style in the late 19thC.
- Ignore a fork to the left after 200m but in a further 60m turn left at a second path junction, onto a tree-lined avenue.
- At the end of the avenue the path curves right and comes to a long footbridge over the centre of a boating lake with islands. For a short cut you could turn left (joining the Wandle Trail here), but the suggested route is to cross the bridge.
The lake was originally a mill pond.
- On the other side turn left onto the lakeside path, passing a small ornamental garden.
The Grange was acquired by the borough in 1935 and its garden is now part of the public park; the building is an up-market restaurant and wedding venue.
- Follow the path around the far end of the lake, crossing two outflows. Go straight across a car park onto a paved path through a small garden area, finally joining the Wandle Trail.
- After skirting around a pond keep left and follow the path out to a road. Cross over and keep ahead along a short residential street (Lakeside), parallel to the A237 on the right. At the end bear right, cross the A237 at the traffic island and go along either side of a semi-circular pond towards the Rose & Crown.
- Do not follow a Wandle Trail signpost pointing along Butter Hill to the right of the pub (this is for a short cut bypassing Carshalton); instead go past the front of the pub and a convenience store, then turn right into Westcroft Road.
- At the end of this cul-de-sac turn right towards Westcroft Leisure Centre. In front of the building turn left across a wooden footbridge into Grove Park.
The Grove and its ornamental garden were acquired by the local council in 1924 and the park opened to the public a few years later.
- Keep ahead along a tarmac path, aiming for the far left-hand corner of the park. Pass to the left of a children's playground and follow a short driveway between houses down to Carshalton Ponds, with the imposing All Saints church on the A232 (Carshalton High Street) off to the left.
- Go a short way along the right-hand side of the Lower Pond. Unless you want to detour to the Honeywood Museum (on the far side of the Upper Pond, across the B277), turn right in front of the stone Leoni Bridge.
The Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni had been commissioned to design a mansion (which was never constructed) and it is a conjecture that he designed this bridge of white Portland stone. The outflow from the Lower Pond is the start of this branch of the River Wandle.
- Go alongside the water channel and follow the path round to the right in front of the Cascade.
This ornamental feature was originally designed to create a head of water for the nearby Grove Mill.
- Turn left and cross a wooden footbridge over the river. Follow the path round to the left in front of the mill's old waterwheel and out to a parking area in front of some council offices. Go through an opening ahead (or along the driveway if this is locked) onto the B277 (North Street).
- Turn right onto the road to come to one of the possible lunchtime pubs, The Sun, at the junction with West Street Lane and Mill Lane.
- The alternative lunch pub, The Hope, is 250m away. To get there, go along West Street Lane and turn right at the end onto the B278 (West Street) to find the pub on your right. To resume the walk, return the same way.
- To end the walk at Carshalton station, turn right out of either pub and turn into Station Approach shortly before a railway bridge; the station is midway between the two B roads.
- Carshalton to Middleton Road (2¾ km)
- Make your way to the junction of Mill Lane with the B277, outside The Sun.
- If starting the walk from Carshalton station, turn left down Station Approach and then turn right onto the B277 (North Street) to reach this junction.
- Keep ahead across Papermill Close. At the end of the riverside path bear left across a patch of grass to continue along Mill Lane. Shortly after passing under the railway bridge there is an entrance on the right to Wilderness Island.
This is a Local Nature Reserve managed by the London Wildlife Trust. There is an information panel describing its varied habitats and a map showing a figure-of-eight nature trail.
- For a short (5-10 minute) detour you could follow this trail through the woodland and wetlands on this small island, situated between the two branches of the river (which merge at its northern end). There is no other way off the island but you can do either a full or half circuit before returning to this point.
- To continue the walk, keep ahead into a residential street (River Gardens), with the island on your right. Shortly after this street turns left, turn right onto a signposted footpath to stay alongside the river. The riverside path eventually comes out onto the B277 (Nightingale Road) at Hack Bridge.
- Ignore a footpath on the other side of the road and turn right to cross over the river. Unless you want to finish the walk here, turn left onto the riverside path.
- To finish the walk at Hackbridge station (600m away) continue along the B277 (now Hackbridge Road) and turn right at the mini-roundabout where it meets the A237; the station is ahead on the left.
- The river soon splits into two branches. Ignore a footbridge and continue alongside the river, with a building site behind the high fence on your right.
The development is part of a major regeneration project for the Hackbridge area.
- Go straight across Culvers Avenue to continue with the river on your left. Later the tarmac path comes out onto a patch of grassland; fork left at path junctions and eventually follow the path across the river on a footbridge.
- Bear right onto a tarmac path running alongside a metal fence, with Wandle Valley Wetland behind it.
This small Local Nature Reserve is managed by a local conservation group. It is not usually open to the public.
- The path comes out onto a side road. Bear right and go up to the main road (Middleton Road).
- To finish the walk at Mitcham Junction station (900m away) turn right and go all the way along the main road (which becomes Goat Road) to its junction with the A237. Cross this busy main road with great care onto Mitcham Common. Turn left onto any path staying close to the main road, eventually bearing left onto a broad path (the outward route) to return to the A237. Go up the main road for 50m and turn right onto a tarmac path sloping down to the Tramlink platforms, which you can cross to reach the platform for trains to London.
- Middleton Road to Morden Hall Park (3¼ km)
- Cross over Middleton Road and continue alongside the river on Watermeads Lane, just off to the right. This cul-de-sac leads into a new surfaced riverside path, with the extensive playing fields of Poulter Park up the bank on your left.
- Ignore paths off to the left to stay alongside the river. In 600m keep right where the cycle route veers up to the left. After passing a sports pitch on the left you come to the entrance to Watermeads Nature Reserve.
This Local Nature Reserve was acquired by the National Trust in 1913 but has only recently been opened to the public. In the unlikely event that it is locked you can take the public footpath on the left, running between it and the sports ground to the A217.
- Go into the reserve, turn right and simply follow the main path as it makes its way around the perimeter, keeping the river on your right. After passing a large sluice gate the path drops down and crosses a couple of small footbridges.
Off to the left of the second bridge is a sandstone bench dedicated to Miranda Hill, who with her sister Octavia (a founder member of the National Trust) started the appeal to save the reserve.
- The path comes out onto the A217 (Bishopsford Road) next to the public footpath. Unless you want to finish the walk here, cross the road and turn right onto the footbridge across the river.
- To finish the walk at Mitcham Tramlink stop (400m away) turn right onto the A217. Just before the tram tracks turn right onto Tramway Path for the stop.
- After crossing the river into Ravensbury Park veer left onto the riverside path. The path goes past some houses and across a couple of water channels. After crossing a large metal footbridge with a square centre turn left to stay alongside the river, with a park behind the trees on your right.
- Go all the way along the riverside path, passing some fine ornamental trees (including two Ginkgo biloba near a footbridge across the river). At the end the path goes over another large metal footbridge (with a circular hole in the middle) and comes out onto the A239 (Morden Road).
At this end of the park some machinery and millstones on the left are a reminder of the river's industrial past.
- Turn right and go along the main road for 150m, crossing over at the pedestrian lights halfway along. Just before the Surrey Arms turn left into Morden Hall Park.
The estate was owned by Westminster Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, after which it was owned by the Garth family as Lords of the Manor for three centuries. In 1872 it was sold to the Hatfeild family who laid out the park in its present form. The house and estate were left to the National Trust when its last private owner died in 1941.
- An information panel at a three-way path junction shows that you could keep ahead on the main tree-lined avenue, but for the suggested route turn left. The path curves round to the right, soon with the river close by on your left. In 250m go through a metal gate into the Rose Garden.
The garden closes at 6pm (5pm winter), so if you are doing this walk late in the day you will have to skirt around it.
- Follow the path along the right-hand side of the garden. Unless you want to attempt a crossing of the stream flowing through the middle, follow the path out of the garden, turn left to cross the stream on a low bridge and immediately turn left again.
- Go back through the other side of the Rose Garden towards a cluster of buildings. After passing a small school you cross a branch of the river with a conserved waterwheel on the left, followed by the Snuff Mill.
The harvesting of tobacco in Virginia, grinding it at the mill and the history of snuff-taking are described in a small exhibition on the ground floor.
- At peak times there is a coffee shop in the Stables on your right, but for the main café continue past a few cottages on the left. Turn left through an archway towards the main car park; the Potting Shed Café is on the right, opposite the Garden Centre.
- To finish the walk at Morden underground station (500m away) go back past the cottages and turn sharp left onto a driveway to leave the park via a pedestrian exit. Cross the A297 (Morden Hall Road) at the traffic lights and continue along Aberconway Road, slightly to the right. At the end this bends right and comes out onto the A24; the station is directly opposite.
- To finish the walk at Phipps Bridge Tramlink stop (600m away) retrace your steps through the first part of the Rose Garden. After turning right to cross the stream keep ahead to come to the tram stop on the far side of the park.
- Morden Hall Park to Colliers Wood Station (2¾ km)
- From the Garden Centre area retrace your steps to the cluster of buildings around the Snuff Mill and fork left in front of the footbridge leading to the Rose Garden. Go alongside a water channel towards the White Bridge and bear left at a junction of paths there, with Morden Hall off to the left.
The manor house dates from the 1770s. The National Trust have leased it to Whitbread plc but the building is currently unused.
- After crossing more water channels you come to another path junction. There is a choice of routes as the suggested route can be waterlogged in wet conditions.
- The suggested route is to turn right onto the path signposted to the Wetlands, at first close to a water channel on the right and then curving left through this newly-developed area. On the far side turn right at a crosspaths.
- For a slightly longer alternative route, keep ahead on the main Wandle Trail, then fork right at path junctions onto a long straight path heading NE. After passing the wetland area on the right keep ahead at a crosspaths.
- Follow the path up to the edge of the park and cross the tram tracks in a series of zig-zags. Follow the main path across a small ditch on the right, then fork left to cut across a small grassy area. Continue on a long straight path, with the river just off to the right and Deen City Farm behind a belt of trees on your left.
- The path comes out onto a driveway. Ignore the bridge over the river on your right and keep ahead (slightly to the left) past an overflow parking area, still with the river on your right.
- Go straight across Windsor Avenue to continue alongside the river for a further 175m, then turn right to cross it on a footbridge into Merton Abbey Mills, where there is an information panel about the area's history.
This was once the site of a large medieval monastery, Merton Priory. After the Dissolution it became an important area for textile works, with the river providing both clean water and power. In 1881 the workshops were acquired by the designer William Morris, a leading exponent of the Arts & Crafts movement. Textile production was continued by Liberty's and other manufacturers until 1982.
- On the left the William Morris pub has a fine riverside location. For other refreshment places, or to continue the walk, follow the path past a few shops and round to the left, not straying too far from the river. There are some eateries and the Merton Apprentice pub by the small Colour House Theatre up ahead.
The children's theatre is in the oldest building on the site, originally used for dyeing fabrics.
- To complete the walk, go back across the river on another footbridge, where you can see a conserved waterwheel attached to the Wheelhouse on the left.
The old mill building is now a pottery workshop and gallery, and on summer weekends the water power is used to turn a potter's wheel. There are three other surviving watermills on the Wandle but this is the only one still in working order. A small Memorial Garden on the right here is dedicated to Paul Bowness, Chairman of the Wandle Heritage Trust, who died in 1998.
- Turn right to rejoin the riverside path and go out onto the A24 (Merantun Way). Cross this busy road at the pedestrian lights and go through an archway opposite. Turn right and then veer left to continue on the riverside path.
- In 300m the path comes out onto the A238 (Merton High Street). Colliers Wood station is 350m away on the right and you could reach it along the main road, but for a little relief from the traffic turn right across the river towards Sainsbury's, then immediately turn left onto the continuation of the riverside path.
- The path bends away from the river and comes to a car park for a group of stores. Veer left to go between Burger King and Currys PC World to the A24.
- Cross this road at the traffic lights off to the right and turn left into a side road (Christchurch Road). The underground station is at the end of this short street. If you want some refreshment, the Charles Holden pub is on the other side of the A24.
» Last updated: September 19, 2016