In the foreword to ‘The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London,’ (2013) Boris Johnson says, “Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network…” In the Wandle Valley, we’re ahead of the game with a beautifully planned cycle path — The Wandle Trail — which passes through four boroughs, linking parks and green spaces and two National Trust properties.
It started life in 1988, established by the Wandle Group in association with the Wandle Industrial Museum. At first, the focus was on walking, with The Wandle Trail Map and Guide put together in 1996, but soon a revised map was produced by Groundwork Merton which included cycle access.
The trail runs for 14 miles — long enough for a good outing — however, there’s so much to see on the way, including the Wandle Art Trail, that it’s unlikely that anyone would just ride along by.
A few of the highlights are Morden Hall Park, owned by the National Trust, where you can see a restored waterwheel and snuff mill; Deen City Farm has all sorts of animals and gives an insight into how food gets to our table; see the 18th century dovecote at Carew Manor; and shop at the bustling art and craft market at Merton Abbey Mills.
There’s all this and so much more, with cafés, pubs and restaurants on the way — and there’s nature too.
The Wandle Art Trail
In June 2002, the sculptor, Andrew Sabin, was appointed to develop an artistic vision for the route. He chose to focus on the River Wandle, creating a series of eye-catching entrances, gateways and bridges, He collaborated with students from Chelsea College of Art to produce the works and create an engaging programme of events and art interventions along the trail.
A lot of the pleasure of cycling The Wandle Trail comes from all the green spaces it crosses, from nature reserves to city parks. Wilderness Island is a natural haven for dozens of bird species, including woodpeckers and tufted ducks. Bell Lane Creek has eels and sometimes pike; in King George’s Park there’s a beautiful avenue of lime trees; see frogs, toads and newts in Wandle Meadow Nature Park.
Above all, relish the fresh air and the chance to be in a little bit of countryside so close to central London.
It’s easy to get to the Wandle Trail using public transport. At one end, there’s East Croydon station and the other end is near Wandsworth Town station, with many other stations en route. (Remember, not all trains allow bikes on board.)
Other useful links: