Wandling along the Wandle trail

Are there times when you want to cycle along on your bicycle at a slower pace and enjoy your surroundings? –  At times, this can be quite difficult in the busy streets of London. Well, the other day I discovered a trail in south London that allowed me to pedal along like a slithering snail while nature generously provided numerous leafy parks to make me feel relaxed along the way.

Know as the ‘Wandle trail‘ the route  follows the River Wandle from its mouth with the River Thames in Wandsworth and takes you on a mostly traffic free path all the way to Croydon.

The Wandle trail sign guided us away from the width of the Thames towards the very slow-moving Wandle river.  We pedalled under traffic filled bridges, past a brick laden brewery and towards the vast open space of King George’s park.  The park gave you the sense that you had left the busy streets of London behind.  We weaved through the park passing teenagers kicking footballs, elderly folk strolling hand in hand among flower beds and panting dogs out for their morning run.

Sailing down the river Thames

We exited through the grandeur of the parks gates and continued to follow the Wandle trail signs as they lead us through the quiet suburban streets of Earlsfield and all its identical houses sitting side by side.  We came upon Garrett park and found the Wandle river again with its unhurried flow of water waiting to take us further along its route.

The path beside the river was made up of fine gravel and better designed for walkers. Nature had taken hold of the river banks and everything was tangled spaghetti, all wild and overgrown like it was protecting the river from harm – we felt like we were in the midst of the English countryside.  It was peaceful, isolated and fun having the long grass tickle your ankles as we pedalled towards the Wandle Meadow Nature Park.

The Watermill turns at Merton Abbey Mills markets

It was here that we had to search for the signs.  They appeared to be missing? We did a few loops of this park and after a few twists and turns we got back on track and soon found ourselves looking at an interesting array of arts and crafts on display at the outdoor markets of Merton Abbey Mills.  This place had a relaxed hum of locals catching up on gossip and grabbing a bite to eat in the local food stalls.  We joined them by eating at a small Chinese stall where the owner happily cooked our meal on his outdoor hot plate.

A bridge of beauty - Morden Hall Park

With our stomach’s full we pedalled onwards admiring the fully restored watermill with its huge wheel turning through the River Wandle.   We easily avoided the families making their way to and from the very popular Deen City Farm which is full of noisy farm animals.  The trail took us into the depths of the very leafy Morden Hall Park.  This park is very beautiful and along the river lies the site of two 18th century watermills where they once use to grind tobacco into a powder, after it had been dried in kilns.  A local volunteer was very informative and she chatted to us with great enthusiasm about the history of the mills.

Exploring the Snuff Mill - Morden Hall Park

An elegant iron bridge, very Victorian in style, took us over the Wandle river and under huge trees that were dropping their colourful leaves in time for Autumn.  Squirrels bounded about in front of us, scurrying on the ground looking for food to store for winter.

Three very young children wearing their cycle helmets were pedalling in front of us on their tiny bicycles.  They were very focused on staying balanced, pedalling as fast as they could.  We came up behind them and one of them shouted sounding like an intercom out to the other two “Keep to one side, keep to one side – bikes coming past! ”

The children let us cycle pass them...

It was such a great moment.  They loved the fact that I took a photo of them – the one in front was smiling from ear to ear!  The path carried on taking us through the very cosy Ravensbury park.  With its graceful swans, curious ducks and weeping willows the park made us believe that we had found our very own secret garden…

A graceful swan in Ravensbury Park

I suppose it wasn’t long after leaving that park that we somehow missed a sign and we ended up getting very lost, heading up a steep hill on a very busy road towards Brighton? We back tracked a bit and finally ended up in the lush open space of Beddington Park.

While stopping to admire the very impressive Carew Manor we decided that the end of the trail would have to wait another day.  We had wandled so slowly it was already getting beginning to get dark.  Cycling back on a more direct route on the busy roads got us home very quickly, but I have to say if I had to choose I preferred the Wandle!

I have more photos of this cycle ride on my Facebook page if you are interested in taking a peek.

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34 Responses to Wandling along the Wandle trail

  1. johnm55 says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I love the Wandle trail as well. I have had the occasional problem following the signs but after I got over that it was great. If you only stopped at Carew Manor, you didn’t actually miss to much by not carrying on into Croydon. Its not that their is anything wrong with the rest of the trail, its just that the best bit is between Merton abbey and Beddington.

  2. Kari Anne says:

    Thanks for sharing this and for the super photos. I have a daughter studying in London. Perhaps this could inspire her to go for a bike ride!

  3. snydeen says:

    The little guys on the bikes were super cute! I love your photographs.

  4. nickysqueak says:

    Nice to see someone making so much of their bike, your efforts put mine to shame! Lovely photos too, and love the story about the kids.

  5. jcreore says:

    What a lovely piece! I tend to avoid cities in my travels, but you have found a very inviting area of London. Loved the photos as well as the narrative. Thanks for sharing.

  6. 4pam says:

    I adore the photo with the kids following along! That was priceless.

    • Mike10613 says:

      I still haven’t bought a bike and everywhere I go on the web now there is a Halfords advert reminding me. I deleted cookies, I got so sick of the nagging! My friend likes the idea, I can’t keep up with him walking, but maybe with 7 gears to his 3, I’ll have a better chance? lol. I like the picture of the waterwheel the best, I have seen mill ponds but the water wheels are long gone…

      • lovethybike says:

        I hope you get the chance to get on a bike – such a lot of fun. The waterwheel was certainly impressive and the information they had on bringing it back to life was interesting.

    • lovethybike says:

      One of my favourites too!

  7. Bea Boston says:

    My first time here. Nice blog and super post. Well done.

  8. I have been trying to get more into cycling lately. Those pictures are so nice!

  9. You’ve inspired me to dust off my bike and take it out for a spin along the Neckar River in Heidelberg, Germany. Lovely images, too – we’ll have to explore London on wheels the next time!

    • lovethybike says:

      I bet that Neckar river ride would be beautiful! If you do visit London they have bikes you can hire on the streets – great for getting around and seeing stuff. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Ah! I feel like I’ve just biked the Wandle myself! You’re an excellent tour guide. Your warm and chatty style makes this a delightfully welcoming blog.

    My wife and I do a lot of biking in our part of New Hampshire, here in the New England region of the USA. We’re no strangers to back roads– or to getting lost either! But hey, that usually adds to the adventure… : )

    Thanks again, I shall look forward to my next visit.

  11. Sally says:

    What a lovely place to escape to 🙂 Great photos.

  12. tonyalatorre says:

    I checked out your blog today, and feel like I too could live on my bike. Just yesterday I hopped on one of my three bikes determined to do errands in my new town. I used to live in Wales, so seeing the English countryside from your handlebars is nostalgic for me. Have fun two wheeling! I wish I could bring my bike with me to Africa!
    Tonya LaTorre

  13. foodschology says:

    wow, wish I could explore these places too… 🙂

  14. anitakgreene says:

    Beautiful pictures! You tempt me to pump up the tires in my bicycle and actually take time to ride it.

  15. wanderlust82 says:

    The wandle is close by where I live. Earlier in the summer when we took a walk through our neighbourhood we discovered it. It’s nice to be away from the traffic and noise (mostly) when on it.

  16. Mike10613 says:

    Every time I read your blog I think about buying a bike! I just checked the prices about £200 for a fold up to go in the back of my car. I must have an alloy one with gears! I am thinking about riding down the Beacon Way, I have walked some of it and took photos but would like to do more. The photos are good, I’ll check out the ones on Facebook too.

    • lovethybike says:

      Thanks for your comments on my Facebook photos…Makes me smile to think I have inspired someone to buy a bike – wow that is a first for me! I look forward to to seeing your photos of the Brecon Beacons.

  17. Chasing Fifty says:

    Sounds like a great ride. Thanks for sharing it.

  18. Mary Topping says:

    I really liked some of your descriptions, especially “Nature had taken hold of the river banks and everything was tangled spaghetti, all wild and overgrown like it was protecting the river from harm…” Thanks for taking us along on your trip.

  19. Definitely on my list of ‘things to do next time I’m in London’ – thanks!

  20. Wow, what a great find. And terrific photos too, especially the swan shot. Thanks for sharing!

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