Main Walk: 15½ km (9.6 miles). Three hours 25 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 6½ hours.
Alternative Walk, starting from Waddon: 14½ km (9.0 miles). Three hours 10 minutes walking time.
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.
Much of the walk follows the waymarked Wandle Trail, a 22 km walking and cycling route from Croydon to Wandsworth. However, the preferred starting point for this walk is from the station on Mitcham Common, near the centre of the new Regional Park. A short stretch across the common leads to a permissive footpath along the western boundary of Beddington Farmlands, a former sewage works and landfill site which is supposedly going to be transformed into a new urban nature reserve, restoring its status as an important birdwatching location.
This permissive path was closed in 2018 because of construction work, making it impossible to start the walk at Mitcham. The developers are under an obligation to re-open this path for public use but at the time of writing Sutton Council were making no attempt to enforce this condition. During this period of uncertainty it will be necessary to take the alternative starting point near one of the river's two sources in Waddon: see Walk Options below.
The Main and Alternative Walk routes meet at Beddington Park and the walk continues through this large open space and Grove Park to the river's other source in the picturesque setting of Carshalton Ponds, a conservation area surrounded by several interesting buildings. As well as stopping for lunch you could explore the grounds of the Sutton Ecology Centre (open daily; free entry) and perhaps visit the Honeywood Museum of local history (open Wed–Sun to 5pm; free admission) or the Water Tower (open summer Sundays 2.30–5pm; admission £2).
After 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 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). You could explore the craft shops and eateries at Merton Abbey Mills before heading to Colliers Wood underground station.
To avoid the path closure mentioned above an alternative start point has been provided, although there are no particularly appealing options in the Croydon area (perhaps the least objectionable would be the Wandle Park Tramlink stop). The Alternative Walk directions here are from Waddon station; you have to cross the traffic-choked A23 (Purley Way) right at the start but the route does go through an attractive small park, Waddon Ponds.
If you want to extend the walk past Colliers Wood you could continue along the Wandle Trail to Earlsfield (an extra 3 km) or Wandsworth Town (6 km). Directions for this extension can be found on the Colliers Wood to Putney Bridge walk page. There are ongoing improvement works on this rather urban stretch of the trail and a new riverside section has recently been opened at Earlsfield.
Conversely, there are many places where you could cut the walk short. The simplest option is to finish at Morden Hall Park by heading to Morden underground station or a nearby Tramlink stop, saving about 2¼ km. You could also use the station at Carshalton to split the walk into two short walks. Link routes to these and other nearby stations and tram stops are briefly described, and there are also many bus routes in the area.
Mitcham Junction (in TfL Zone 4) is served by Southern trains from Victoria taking 22 minutes, and Thameslink trains through central London taking slightly longer; the off-peak service is half-hourly on both routes. The next two stations on this line (Hackbridge and Carshalton) are close to the walk route and have a similar level of service.
Waddon (Zone 5) has a fast half-hourly service from London Bridge (Mon–Sat) taking 22 minutes, plus four trains per hour from Victoria taking around 36 minutes.
At the end of the walk the most convenient transport option is the Northern line, with underground stations at Morden (Zone 4) and Colliers Wood (Zone 3).
From the Croydon or Wimbledon areas you could access this walk via Tramlink. There are stops at Mitcham Junction and Wandle Park, and near the end of the walk the Phipps Bridge and Morden Road stops are just outside Morden Hall Park.
Take a train or tram which would let you to start the Main Walk at around 11am, or the Alternative Walk at 11:15am.
The most convenient place to stop for lunch is in Carshalton (6¼ km from Mitcham Junction, 5¼ km from Waddon). The walk route passes three pubs and if none of these appeal there are more eateries on the nearby High Street. The suggested place is The Hope at 48 West Street (020-8240 1255), a community pub which has an old-fashioned feel as you go in but a modern conservatory at the back; it serves good-value pub classics and ‘pot meals’ with an extensive choice of real ales and ciders. Just before that is another traditional pub, The Racehorse at 17 West Street (020-8773 1429; closed Mon lunchtime), and a little further on The Sun at 4 North Street (020-8773 4549) is an attractive pub with a walled garden and more elaborate food offerings.
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 ten minutes before the end of the walk at Merton Abbey Mills. The William Morris pub by the river has closed, but 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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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (15½ km)
If you are doing the Alternative Walk, start at §B.
- 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 the left is a series of flooded gravel pits which are due to be transformed into a new urban nature reserve.
- 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.
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.
In 1859 the Carew estate (though not the manor house) was bought by a wealthy clergyman, Canon Bridges. He made many improvements and additions to the grounds, including this ornamental bridge.
► Continue the directions at §C.
- Outside the station turn right onto Epsom Road and go up to its junction with the A23 (Purley Way).
- Turn right at the traffic lights and go over the railway to another set of traffic lights. You need to get onto the residential street diagonally across this major road junction, so go straight across the minor road ahead and then cross the A23 at the lights on the far side.
- Go down Waddon Court Road for 75m, crossing over Court Drive. Opposite Alton Road turn left into a small park, Waddon Ponds.
These ponds were once thought to be one of the sources of the River Wandle, but there is in fact an underground stream from Wandle Park.
- Take either of the two paths off to the right around a small pond (they rejoin on the far side) and continue along the right-hand side of the park, now with a larger pond on your left. At the far end leave the park and turn left onto Mill Lane, joining the waymarked Wandle Trail.
- If starting from the Wandle Park Tramlink stop head south on Vicarage Road and turn right into Waddon Road. Go straight across the A23 at the traffic lights to continue along Mill Lane, in 150m passing the gate where the route from the station leaves Waddon Ponds.
Beddington Mill was one of many mills on the river. The brick building was built in the 1890s as a flour mill; an earlier mill here was used for grinding tobacco into snuff.
The Carew estate originally extended as far north as Mitcham Common but was gradually sold off as the family's fortunes declined. In 1859 the estate (though not the manor house) was bought by a wealthy clergyman, Canon Bridges.
This supplied eggs and meat to the Carew estate; it is an early 18thC replacement for an older building.
- Head south along 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.
- After passing St Mary's church and its 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 (originally a mill pond). For a short cut you could turn left as indicated by a Wandle Trail signpost, but the suggested route is to cross the bridge and 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, now on 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 veer left 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. In this corner 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 along the right-hand side of the Lower Pond. Unless you want to take a short cut, continue across 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.
- If you do not want to stop at any of Carshalton's refreshment places you can turn right onto the path in front of the bridge, alongside the outflow from the Lower Pond. The main route rejoins from a footbridge on the left immediately after this path passes The Cascade. If you take this short cut, resume the directions at  in the next section.
The War Memorial was erected in 1921. The original metal panels containing the names of the soldiers were stolen in 2011, but a local scrap metal dealer funded replacement stone plaques. The Garden of Remembrance was laid out after WWⅡ.
The museum is in a 17thC house, restored to show living conditions in Victorian and Edwardian times. It has exhibitions about local history, a shop and a tearoom.
These are a Local Nature Reserve and visitors are encouraged to follow a nature trail through its various habitats: woodland, meadows, demonstration gardens and a large pond.
A plaque records that this is the largest known plane tree in Britain, 123 feet tall with a girth of more than 20 feet.
As well as supplying piped water to Carshalton House and its grounds this 18thC building contained an orangery, a saloon for entertaining guests and a sunken bath lined with blue and white Delft tiles.
- To end the walk at Carshalton station continue along West Street past The Hope. Just before the railway bridge turn right into Station Approach (while the station is being redeveloped you might need to take the parallel footpath and double back to the station from the other end).
- Turn left out of The Hope and then left again into West Street Lane. At the end of this narrow street another possible lunchtime pub is across North Street on the left, The Sun.
- If starting the walk from Carshalton station, turn left down Station Approach and turn right onto the B277 (North Street) to reach the crossroads by The Sun.
This ornamental feature was originally designed to create a head of water for the mill.
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 the 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.
This enterprising garden is the work of a local Brazilian artist and sculptor, Claudio Funari, with flower beds and sculptures created from scrap metal salvaged from the river.
- 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.
This is part of a major regeneration project for the Hackbridge area.
This small Local Nature Reserve is managed by a local conservation group. It is not usually open to the public.
- 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.
- 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 was only opened to the public in 2015. If the gate is locked take the public footpath on the left past the sports ground to the A217 and resume the directions at  below.
- For the main route 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. At the junction with the A239 turn right onto Tramway Path and go down a tarmac path for the stop.
At this end of the park some machinery and millstones on the left are a reminder of the river's industrial past.
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.
The National Trust close this section of the park at 6pm (5pm winter), so if you are doing this walk late in the day you will have to skirt around the right-hand side of the garden. On the far side turn left onto a path leading to the White Bridge and cross the water channel there; to continue to Colliers Wood turn right and resume the directions at .
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.
If you are not continuing to Colliers Wood, complete the walk with one of the two sets of directions below.
Finishing at Morden (+½ km)
- For Morden underground station leave the park via a pedestrian exit at the end of the driveway. Cross the A297 (Morden Hall Road) at the traffic lights to your right and continue along Aberconway Road opposite. The station is at the end of this road, on the other side of the A24.
- For Phipps Bridge Tramlink stop retrace your steps through the first part of the Rose Garden. After turning right to cross the stream follow the path straight ahead to the tram stop on the far side of the park.
- From the Garden Centre area retrace your steps past the cottages to the cluster of buildings around the Snuff Mill.
- 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. Turn right (briefly leaving the Wandle Trail) onto the path signposted to the Wetland Boardwalk, soon passing an information panel about this new area.
- The path initially goes alongside a water channel and then curves round to the left on a long boardwalk through the reed-filled wetlands, with some viewing points along the way. On the far side you come to a path T-junction.
- To finish the walk at Morden Road Tramlink stop (400m away) keep ahead on a broad grassy path, parallel to the tram tracks off to your right (behind a belt of trees). In the far corner of the park go out onto the A24, cross this busy main road carefully and turn right. On the bridge over the tram tracks turn left down a flight of steps for the stop.
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.
The children's theatre is in the oldest building on the site, originally used for dyeing fabrics.
This is the only watermill on the Wandle still in working order. It is now a pottery workshop and gallery, and on summer weekends you might see the water power turning a potter's wheel.
It now looks rather neglected but the small Memorial Garden on the right as you go out is dedicated to Paul Bowness, Chairman of the Wandle Heritage Trust, who died in 1998.
» Last updated: March 13, 2019