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.
Alternative Walk, starting from Waddon: 13¾ km (8.5 miles). Three hours 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 path 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.
This permissive path might be closed while construction work is in progress. The company is under an obligation to re-open it for public use but during this period of uncertainty an alternative starting point near one of the river's two sources in Waddon is recommended. See Walk Options below.
The Main and Alternative Walk routes meet at Beddington Park and the first leg concludes with a lunch stop near the river's other source at Carshalton Ponds, where you could also visit the Honeywood 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.
The National Trust close part of Morden Hall Park after dusk but it is possible to skirt around this area.
In the final section the riverside path passes Deen City Farm (open Tue–Sun to 4.30pm; free admission). Towards the end you have the chance to 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). This part of the trail is more urban than its central section, with a long stretch away from the river at Earlsfield and a maze of congested main roads to negotiate in the centre of Wandsworth. The published leaflet covers the full route so there are no directions in this document.
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 Routes 3 & 4 of the Tramlink network. 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 The Sun at 4 North Street (020-8773 4549) in Carshalton (6 km from Mitcham Junction, 5 km from Waddon). This pub 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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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 (14¾ 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 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, despite much local opposition a huge waste incinerator is also being built on the site.
- 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.
- Leave the station through its small car park. Turn right onto the 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 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, (re)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.
- 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.
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.
The enterprising garden is the work of a local Brazilian artist, 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 has only recently been opened to the public. If it 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 lock 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 Hall Park (+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 driveway in front of the millstream.
- To finish the walk at Morden underground station (450m away) turn left onto the driveway and leave the park via a pedestrian exit. Cross the A297 (Morden Hall Road) at the traffic lights and continue along Aberconway Road, just off to the right. The station is at the end of this road, on the other side of the A24.
- To finish the walk at Phipps Bridge Tramlink stop (500m away) 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.
The manor house dates from the 1770s. The National Trust have leased it to Whitbread plc but the building is currently unused.
- 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 the water power turns a potter's wheel.
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: September 17, 2018