Croydon, Wandsworth, Sutton and Merton are to benefit from another £2 million grant for environmental work to further “de-urbanise” the River Wandle, one of the first industrialised and culverted of London’s Thames tributaries.
For more than a century, the old, polluted Wandle ran for long stretches underground from its source by the old Swan and Sugarloaf pub in South Croydon, flowing north-west along the modern route of Southbridge Road to emerge briefly at Waddon Ponds, and then popping to the surface occasionally on a course through Beddington Park and Carshalton, up through Mitcham to Merton and, gathering in other tributaries such as the Graveney, Norbury Brook and The Wrythe from Carshalton Ponds, on into Wandsworth and then to the Thames.
But a series of recent projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund has already seen £3.5million spent on bringing the Waddon to the surface to form a green 10-mile trail from south London to the Thames, with renovation of the historic watermill and stableyard at Morden Hall Park, paying for the re-opening of Sutton’s Honeywood House alongside Carshalton Ponds, and with the bulk of that Lottery cash being spent on restoration of Wandle Park, where the river now flows in daylight.
This latest grant announced last week will enable the councils, together with the National Trust, the Wandle Trust, the London Wildlife Trust, Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust and Wandle Valley Festival, do further “greening” of the Wandle’s course towards the establishment of an urban park.
“The Wandle is a fascinating watercourse whose existence, let alone its history, is only glimpsed at a few points during its journey to the Thames,” said Sue Bowers, the head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, in announcing the latest funding.
“This exciting partnership project will open up both physical access and educational opportunities to the many communities that live or work close to it.”
According to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the new five-year Landscape Partnership “will energise hundreds of local volunteers to get involved with projects that involve physical improvements to riverbanks and access, removing invasive weed species, replacing concrete culverts with natural sloping banks and installing boardwalks.
“This will help to open up areas of both natural and historic interest and is supported by a learning programme so that communities can find out more about the various aspects of the watercourse, its wildlife interest and its past industrial uses.”
A training programme will help volunteers to gain a range of skills to perform the various tasks that need doing and to support the Wandle’s conservation.
Along its course the river runs through 12 sites of Nature Conservation Interest but there is also rich cultural, religious and industrial heritage including the sites of the 12th century Merton Priory, a number of former mills, and associations with William Morris and Liberty Printing Works.
“Croydon Council is excited at the news that this partnership bid has been successful,” said Phil Thomas, the Croydon cabinet member for highways and environmental services.
“Our vision for Waddon Ponds is for the grounds to become more of a wetland park as opposed to formal gardens. This will mean that local people have a natural environment to relax in what is a busy urban neighbourhood.”
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- The River Wandle – flowing through Merton and its history (mertonnews.wordpress.com)
- ‘They’re flogging our cultural gems’ (standard.co.uk)