A lovely welcome to you and it’s my pleasure to be able to take you on my next walking adventure of our wonderful capital. Today’s journey will take me across South London as I begin in Norbury Park. From there I’ll stroll to the sublime Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery Gardens, before ending my walk in Tooting Commons.
I begin my walk in the quaint Norbury Park, which is located between Croydon and Streatham. In 1935, the site was purchased by Croydon Corporation from a local builder, with the land formerly used as the North Surrey Golf Course, which dated back to 1920.
The site used to be purely fields, as documented on the Thomas Bainbridge map of 1800. It also indicated that the fields were owned by Pembroke College – however on 25 December 1934 the college’s lease to the golf course expired. In 1955, a school was developed right next to the park, which would become Norbury Manor Girls – opening in 1958. The site today is occupied by Norbury Park Business & Enterprise College of Girls.
The Ordnance Survey in 1955 indicated that on the east end of the park there were 11.5 acres allocated to allotments. There are still allotments there today, which really add a touch of distinction to the park’s surroundings. There’s something really interesting about an allotment, perfect for your own little bit of garden oasis if you don’t have the space for it at home. It’s also quite a personal thing I find, as you spend plenty of time, care and effort trying to grow your vegetables or look after plants. Beside the park you’ll find the Norbury Brook, which is a tributary of the River Wandle, and it’s ever so peaceful hearing its trickles of water. You’re never too far away from a river when you’re in a London park!
It wasn’t until 1956 that the park was officially named Norbury Park when the pavilion was constructed, with a play area being added to the park in 1969. The park nicely provides a mix of the natural wonders and recreational use. A quirky and unique feature is its BMX track, which definitely makes it one of the coolest parks in London!
I’m now going to make my way out of Norbury Park and stroll to my next destination, Streatham Common. An ancient common, it used to be the land of the Manor of South Streatham on which the manorial tenants had the right to graze their cattle and gather fuel. In 1362, Edward of Woodstock, known in history as the Black Prince, granted the Manor of South Streatham the Common.
In 1884, the Metropolitan Board of Works paid £5 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the Lords of the Manor of South Streatham, for the 66 acres (26.7 hectares) of common land in order to preserve it as a public open space. The eastern part of the Common was allowed to grow into a wonderful woodland area. The Board also planted trees to maintain the rural aspects of the Common, so there were huge benefits of them owning the area. The ownership of the Common would be relinquished by The Board with control being taken over by the London County Council in 1896 – with control passing to the Greater London Council in 1965 and finally the London Borough of Lambeth in 1971.
Right at the top of the common there is a formal garden known as The Rookery, which was formerly part of the grounds of the large manor that housed visitors to one of Streatham’s historic mineral wells. In the 18th Century crowds would visit Streatham to take the waters, as they were believed to have healing powers. The Rookery’s name derives from the large house that stood close to the wells. The house was demolished after the surrounding grounds were purchased by the London County Council, which resulted in it being landscaped with the gardens created – eventually being opened to the public in 1913. The area is now managed by the Streatham Common Community Garden which encourages community food growing as one of its many initiatives.
Whilst walking through the area it’s so tranquil, and reminds me so much of Holland Park, which has a similar garden in it. You can also immediately tell that a grand estate was on this site and that there were a large area of grounds. One thing I’ve noticed on all my walks, is that even though London has parks, woods, rivers, green spaces and natural beauty, there aren’t too many gardens like this, which does surprise me, given the history of the capital having many estates and Royal status. One thing I need to try and do is track down more of these secret gardens as they’re so pretty!
Taking a walk outside The Rookery, you enter a lovely open green space, and whilst you head towards the top of the hill you get to a real marvellous sight as you come across the Common’s breath-taking and enchanting woodland. With all of its trees, plants and cute pathways that lead you to hidden wonders, it reminds me of many of the woods I’ve explored before, such as Highgate Wood, Russia Dock Woodland and Dulwich Wood. You feel like you’re in the countryside and when the sun is shining (which it was on the day I explored it!), it really lightens and brightens up the scenic areas, bringing out all the golden colours. There aren’t too many places that perfectly combine a Common of open space, recreational areas, a glorious garden and a woodland like Streatham Common. Whatever your nature needs, Streatham Common has them sorted for you!
My final destination on my walking adventure today as a leave Streatham Common is Tooting Commons, which consist of two adjacent areas of common land lying between Balham, Streatham and Tooting – these are known as Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common. Tooting Bec Common is in the parish of Streatham, whereas Tooting Graveney Common is in the parish of Tooting. Did you know Tooting Bec Common was also known as Tooting Heath?! The boundary between the two commons followed a watercourse called the York Ditch, which was a tributary of the Falcon Brook.
Up until the late 19th Century the neighbouring areas were predominately rural land, with the Commons mainly agricultural rather than recreational. The areas had animals grazing out on them from the local farms as well as wild fruit being grown there. As the years progressed and London’s metropolis began to get more populated, the agricultural grounds gave way to recreational facilities, such as a tennis court, bowling green, football pitch, a sailing boat pond and a tearoom.
Tooting Bec Common comprises of nearly 152 acres (62 hectares) and was one of the first commons owned by The Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW), which they purchased in 1875. Likewise Tooting Graveney Common was acquired by The MBW in 1875 – and is smaller than Tooting Bec, with a size of 66 acres (27 hectares). The Commons were transferred to the London County Council (later the Greater London Council) and then from the GLC to Wandsworth Borough Council in 1971.
The Commons are another fine example of the glorious open green space that we enjoy in London, and it’s quite a distinctive feature of South London these Commons, as we also enjoy others including Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common too.
Well that’s all from me folks on this walk discovering South London’s finest, including Norbury Park, Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery, and finishing at the tremendous Tooting Commons. It’s a walk which has seen me be lucky enough to stroll through parks, commons, woodland and gardens!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
A very good day to you all and thanks for joining me on my next walk across the capital! Today’s expedition sees me begin at the picturesque Putney Bridge before walking through Bishop’s Park and then to the home of Fulham Football Club, Craven Cottage. I’ll then take a stroll along the Thames past Hammersmith Bridge, through Chiswick, over Barnes Bridge and to Barnes Common with my journey ending at Barnes Green! Time to grab those walking boots and start the adventures!
My walk starts in West London at Putney Bridge which is the second bridge on the site. The first was opened in 1729 which at time was known as Fulham Bridge. The bridges development came as a result of both demand from the public and then Prime Minister Robert Walpole for a bridge to cross over the Thames.
Previously, the only way to go from one side of the bank to the other was by a ferry crossing. The deciding factor for Walpole was when he had to attend a debate at the House of Commons but found that the ferry was unattended on the opposite side of the river, with the ferryman in the nearby pub drinking! Despite trying to get the ferryman’s attention, Walpole was unsuccessful and had to get to Parliament the longer way round. This prompted the decision to build the first bridge in Putney.
The bridge was made out of wood with 26 arches to connect Putney and Fulham, and it was the first bridge to be built over the Thames since London Bridge. The original bridge was also once a toll bridge which in its first few years netted £1,500 per year in tolls, which in today’s money would be £130,000. In 1877 when all the bridges in London were taken into public ownership, the toll was removed. This was also prompted after it was purchased by The Metropolitan Board of Works in 1879.
The second bridge and the stone one we see today was designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and completed in 1886. The bridge is 700 ft long and 43 ft wide, with it being opened by King Edward VII and the Princess of Wales on the 29th May 1886.
Putney Bridge has the distinction of being the only bridge in Britain with churches on either side of it. On the north bank is All Saints’ Church with St Mary’s Church on the south bank.
The bridge has been quoted many times as the starting point for The Boat Race between Oxford University and Cambridge University since 1845 when the course was revised. However, the actual starting point is a little further upstream!
I have to say Putney Bridge is one of my favourite bridges in London as the design of it is so elegant and grand, perhaps because of the stone it’s made out of makes it look more picturesque than the other bridges over the Thames. I also really enjoy the view you get from either side with the tubes going over the river on one side, something not normally accustomed to London as you always relate the London Underground with being… underground! Whilst on the other side the trees along the embankment and beautiful clear, crisp water that flows into the distance.
I’ll now leave Putney Bridge and make my way to the neighbouring Bishop’s Park which sits right next to the bridge. Opened in 1893 by the chairman of the London County Council Sir John Hutton, the Grade II listed park was formerly owned by the Ecclesiastical and Church Estates Commissioners for England as Lords of the Manor of Fulham. This had been given to the Fulham District Board of Works on condition that it be laid out and maintained for public recreation.
The meadows had been protected from flooding as a result of the creation of an embankment by the river which was built between 1889 and 1893 by Joseph Mears, who was the father of Joseph Mears and Gus Mears, the founders of Chelsea Football Club.
I do really love the walk along the Thames near the embankment, it’s so pretty with so much character with the river, path, trees and open fields all on display when you walk through it. Also as I mentioned in my last walk of Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge, I do enjoy branches hanging over the wall with the water in sight!
The Ecclesiastical and Church Estates Commissioners for England sold off the house and gardens in 1894, with the house being demolished in 1897. The gardens were preserved and opened as an extension to Bishop’s Park in 1900 as a result of the extension of the river walk.
The park today has a vast area of playground facilities and a beautiful pond with perhaps the cutest and colourful small footbridge you’ll see! (You’ll notice the difference in the leaves for the pond photo, as on the day I did the walk this area was closed off, the photo here was one I took back in April!)
Just outside Bishop’s Park you find my next stop on my walk, Craven Cottage football ground! The stadium has been the home of Fulham Football Club since 1896 with a capacity of 25,700. Before it was the residence of Fulham FC, there was a cottage built on the site in 1780 by William Craven, the sixth Baron Craven. Before this the surrounding areas were woods which made up part of Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds.
The writer of The Last Days of Pompeii, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, lived in the cottage until it was destroyed by a fire in May 1888. Some other rumoured former tenants at the cottage included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jeremy Bentham, Florence Nightingale and even Queen Victoria, although there is not much evidence of this!
The area was abandoned following a fire before it became the home of Fulham FC who had had eight previous grounds. The old cottage is still present in the stadium today at the corner of the pitch.
After a walk down a small alley by the stadium, I rejoin the sublime riverside walk along the Thames which will lead me to Hammersmith Bridge! This is one of the most satisfying and relaxing walks by the Thames given that it’s so quiet with natural beauty of the trees on the other side of the bank.
Just before you reach Hammersmith Bridge you pass by the Harrods Furniture Depository which was built on an old soap factory in 1894 as a storage centre for larger items which couldn’t be stored in the world-famous Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The current building that I walked past dates back to 1914 and was built by architect W.G.Hunt.
The building which has Grade II listed status is no longer owned by Harrods but has retained many of its original features. In 2000 it was converted into a residential estate with 250 townhouses and penthouses known as Harrods Village. Looking out on the Thames and Hammersmith Bridge isn’t a bad view!
Right next to the Harrods Furniture Depository, I come across another one of the capital’s stunning bridges, Hammersmith Bridge! Like with many of London bridges, the structure we see today isn’t the original one. Designed by William Tierney Clark the first Hammersmith Bridge opened in 1827 and was the first suspension bridge over the Thames. By the 1870s the bridge was no longer strong enough to support the weight of the heavy traffic and in 1884 a temporary bridge was put up to allow more limited cross-river traffic while a replacement was constructed.
The current Hammersmith Bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette with it being opened by the Prince of Wales in 1887. At 700 feet long and 43 feet wide, it cost £82,117 to build with it being built by Dixon, Appleby & Thorne. The bridge has not been without its structural problems and has been closed on numerous occasions as a result of the weight and volume of traffic across it, something that wasn’t anticipated when it was built given that it’s not within central London.
This has led to serve weight restrictions on the bridge with only one bus in each direction permitted on the bridge at any one time. Consequently, as a result of this problem, there have been substantial improvements to it in 1998, 2000, 2016 and 2017.
One of the unique aspects of Hammersmith Bridge is that it is the lowest bridge in London with a water clearance of just 12 feet at high tide, which makes it prone to flooding. The bridge was originally painted green before changing its colours to pale pink, however, in 2000 it reverted back to its original green colour, something I think makes it so distinct!
On the ends of the bridge, there are seven coats of arms including the Royal Arms of the UK in the centre, the coat of arms of the City of London; Kent; Guildford; the original coat of arms of the City of Westminster, the coat of arms of Colchester, and Middlesex.
There aren’t too many suspension bridges in London over the Thames as many of them are built with stone, so this makes Hammersmith Bridge much more special than the others, as it has a real grandness and presence about it. It’s not just the colour I love, but how historical and powerful the pillars are on it. It also looks much longer than all the other bridges in London which again adds to its uniqueness and awe-inspiring nature. The view across the water and onto the banks adds to the wonderful splendour of the bridge as you see the river meander its way around.
A short walk from Hammersmith Bridge takes me to Furnival Gardens which had an active fishing trade until 200 years ago with the creek eventually being filled in in 1936. The parks name derives from scholar Dr Frederick James Furnivall, who founded what is now the Furnivall Sculling Club in 1896.
Just by the gardens my walk takes me past many small alleyways through Chiswick with the Thames on my left and houses on my right, and a pathway in between. It really is a journey that keeps on giving and provides me with so many reasons why I love London so much and also why every area is so different.
One of the amazing aspects of London are its hidden gems which includes its cute little houses, and there are many of these to see on my walk as I go through Chiswick. Each and everyone I’d love to live in, as they all look like they’re from a fairytale!
There aren’t just the small cute cottages on my journey, but the real grand estates which have perhaps the quirkiest and coolest front gardens ever which overlook the Thames, with the road in between them and the house.
Opposite some of the rows of houses you can walk out on the river when the tides out and get a better view across the water giving you a different perspective of it, and it’s eerily quiet with only the sound of trickling water due to the quiet residential area.
At the end of the houses a walk along the Thames will take me onto my next destination, Dukes Meadows.
Chiswick River Walk
Chiswick River Walk
Located in Chiswick, the delightful Dukes Meadows was purchased from the Duke of Devonshire in 1923. A seaside-type promenade and the bandstands were opened by Prince Albert, Duke of York in 1926. In 1998 a group of local people formed the Dukes Meadows Trust which has the aim to protect the park. When you enter the park there are two ceramic markers which were installed in 2002.
I absolutely love this walk through the park past the open spaces, trees, bandstands and besides the Thames as it’s a woodland of natural mysteries and like many of my walks you don’t realise you’re still within London. When we think of the Thames Path and walking along it, we might normally think of Embankment or the Southbank but there are so many more marvellous walks and sights to enjoy when you continue to take a stroll out of Central London to explore its outskirts.
At the end of this part of Dukes Meadows my walking route takes me to Barnes and the eye-catching Barnes Bridge. Followed by Hammersmith Bridge and preceded by Chiswick Bridge, Barnes Bridge is a Grade II listed structure which opened in 1895.
The original bridge on this location was constructed in 1849 with a design created by civil engineer Joseph Locke, whose bridge had two pairs of cast iron arch spins, considerably similar to Richmond Bridge which was also designed by Locke. In the same year the bridge was opened to the railways. However, during the latter stages of the 19th Century concerns were raised over the suitability of cast iron bridges following the collapse of one, and this prompted the construction of the new Barnes Bridge. The new bridge was designed by Edward Andrews and constructed by Head Wrightson on behalf of the London & South Western Railway, opening in 1895.
An aspect that makes Barnes Bridge unique is that it’s only one of three bridges in London which combines pedestrian and rail use, with the others being Hungerford Bridge & Golden Jubilee Bridges and Fulham Railway Bridge. It’s actually quite a surreal experience walking alongside the railway as normally in London we’re used to walking next to the cars so it has an odd feel about it. Once you get to the end of the pathway on the bridge you’ll find Barnes Bridge Station which has connections to Hounslow and London Waterloo.
Like with all the views from London’s bridges, this one doesn’t disappoint and with the houses next to the river it really does have the feel of a seaside town, and you’d expect to see some coloured changing huts or deck chairs! I have mixed feelings on the design of Barnes Bridge as it’s not the most pretty of London’s bridges, but it does have a lot of character and I love the fact it is one of a few that has a railway you can walk next to!
My walk today will leave Barnes Bridge Railway station and take me to Barnes Common, and whilst I take a stroll there I passed more sweet little cottages, with the most vibrant colours.
I also passed this old building which I would’ve thought used to be a pub, which is now a residential house!
Before I get to Barnes Common I walk through this little secret path which has water flowing underneath it.
Walking along it I come to a really picturesque community park called Vine Road Recreation Ground which highlights all the colours of the season and somewhere to take a moment to relax whilst you watch the world go by.
Just out of Vine Road Recreation Ground and on the edge of Barnes Common you come across something I’ve not seen much, a double level crossing with two sets of barriers! It might not be the most exciting of sights, but I thought it was quite cool and unique, once again something new on my walks of London!
At 49.55 hectares (122.4 acres), Barnes Common is one of the largest protected common lands in London and is made up of nationally scarce lowland acid grassland, meadows, secondary woodland, reed-beds, and rough grassland with heath. The area is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Nature Conservation Interest, and managed by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames with assistance from the Friends of Barnes Common.
The entire area is so magical and enchanting as you weave your way between the trees and along the small pathways onto the open green spaces. We really are truly lucky to have such a beautiful area within our capital and it’s quite the contrast to the touristy areas that people associate London with. It’s commons and woods like these which are one of the main reasons I love exploring and discovering new parts of London as there are many people who would’ve never been to areas like this when they’ve been to the capital. That’s why it gives me wonderful satisfaction in taking these photos and showing you all stunning sights like these!
My final stop on my walk is Barnes Green which is right next to Barnes Common, and to get there you go over this lovely little bridge over a river, which is a personal favourite of mine when I explore a park.
I fell in love with Barnes Green the moment I stepped into it as it really has that village feel about it with the lovely pond at the heart of it. You sometimes forget that even though somewhere is in London, it can still have that picturesque and homely feel about it that you normally find in a countryside town. At the centre of any of village is its green and pond, and Barnes certainly has that!
Well that’s all for today’s walk which has seen me explore three of London’s bridges, Fulham & Hammersmith, Chiswick and Barnes! Thanks for joining me and I hope you enjoyed reading about my walk as much as I did doing it and taking photos of its sights!
In the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are links to them all below for you!