The Wandle offered wonderful trout fishing up to the latter part of the last century. The Wandle Trail was established by the Wandle Group in association with the Wandle Industrial Museum in September 1988, launched with a walk with over 200 participants, led by Colin Saunders. 'The Wandle Trail Map and Guide' was put together in 1996 by the Wandle Industrial Museum with the support and help of London Borough of Merton, and sponsorship from Brown and Root.
It is now at the core of the efforts of the Wandle Group and we are integral to the Wandle Trail Working Party, which includes all the 4 Wandle Boroughs, Wandsworth, Merton, Sutton and Croydon.
This original guide aimed to encourage and assist those who wish to explore the River Wandle and its heritage. Whether taken as a short stroll or a long walk it provided a brief outline of the main points of interest and the principle features of the route.
The full length of the Wandle Trail is a 11.5 mile long route that follows the River Wandle from Sutton, through Merton to where it enters the Thames in Wandsworth. Two thirds of the riverside is accessible to the public.
One of the main changes since 1996 has been the opening of Croydon Tramlink, whose stations at Phipps Bridge, Belgrave Walk, Mitcham, Ampere Way and Waddon Marsh all service the Trail. The line is broadly the same as the railway shown in the Guide, but more stations have been added.
The book 'The Wandle Trail' published by the Museum (?1.50p) or the 'Wandle Guide' book published by Sutton Leisure Services for the Wandle Group (?4.95p), as well as the smaller booklets referred to in these notes, all available in the Shop or by mail order.
Today the area around the River Wandle combines gracious parkland and industrial wasteland, urban street and garden suburb, far removed from the rural landscape of earlier centuries when the river margins harboured bleaching fields, osier plantations and watercress beds.
Successive generations have left their mark on the landscape. Many of the parks through which the Wandle flows are formed by the remnants of manors, estates and pleasure grounds laid out by the gentry and the prosperous to express their wealth and status.
However nothing was to have such a profound impact on the river as the demands of water-powered industries. This continuously redefined the Wandle during the centuries in which mills proliferated, manufacturing copper and iron, oil, leather, paper, snuff and printed textiles.
The Surrey Iron Railway, the first public railway in Britain, operated from 1803-46 using horse-drawn waggons to transport goods as far as the Thames at Wandsworth.
From the late 19th century onwards a tide of house building engulfed the valley, transforming Surrey villages into London suburbs. The Wandle diminished in significance and decreased in flow. Fortunately at the same time individuals began to work together to protect the environment and its heritage; a task which is continued through a variety of organisations to the present day.
I am the website administrator of the Wandle industrial museum (http://www.wandle.org). Established in 1983 by local people to ensure that the history of the valley was no longer neglected but enhanced awareness its heritage for the use and benefits of the community.