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Wandering the Wandle

A friend invited me on a walk to the source of the Wandle yesterday. As the source disappears underground somewhere near a tram stop at the Waddon Ponds near East Croydon, and we started outside Earlsfield station, it's fair to say that the walk was at its most magical somewhere along the middle. We covered about 11 miles in all, including Colliers Wood and the old mills there, Morden Hall, Dean City Farm, Carshalton, the snuff mill, the ruins of Merton Priory, the site of William Morris' textile workshops, many parks and greens and a sewage works.

We lost our way a couple of times, the most surreal being in Ravensbury Park or thereabouts. Our path passed some flats where people had brought out chairs and tables for a little party near the river. There was the bbq, there were two bikes across the path including a pink one on its side, there was a little girl in a purply dress with long mousey hair in a plait... on we went, along the path over the road, into another park, out through a gate across a road. Our path passed some flats where people had brought out chairs and tables for a little party near the river. There was the bbq, there were two bikes across the path including a pink one on its side, there was a little girl in a purply dress with long mousey hair in a plait...our leader would not admit we had double-backed on ourselves. 'Trust me,' he said, with such calm conviction I honestly thought I was losing my mind. The people at the back of the flats watched us, while we stood there wondering how to ask the question 'Excuse me, did you see us pass this way about 10 minutes ago?' Eventually it transpired that we hadn't passed through a rift in the time-space continuum, we had just missed our overgrown route out and come around in a full circle. Our leader was mortified and could only be comforted with tea and a slice of cake in some pavilion cafe, surrounded by exercise gear disguised as a children's playground.

A lot of work has gone into bringing the Wandle back to life. There's still too much rubbish to be found everywhere, but there's no getting past the river's prettiness, with its weirs and mills and old bridges...





Eventually Croydon heaves up on the horizon, like a beige Barad-Dur.

At which point one comes home for wine and a bath.

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