Beverley Brook Walk - 5th November 2016
Obviously the allure of a minor river spirit compared to Old Father Thames is somewhat less, although gender may have something to do with it. Nevertheless, seven of us - Bernie, Fozi, Fred, Jinan, Ken and Lynne - met at Waterloo Station on Saturday morning to explore the delights of Beverley Brook.
And delightful she was, on the 7 miles that we accompanied her from where she becomes visible to humanity near New Malden to where she meets her father (or mother) at Barn Elms, near Putney.
From New Malden Station it is a half-mile or so walk through pleasant-enough suburban streets and including crossing a golf course by way of a tree-lined track. There is the A3 to cross, too, by means of subway. Beverley Brook appears from beneath the road confined within a narrow, wall-lined gully, together with some nice mossy vegetation which included the rather-rare-in-London, warmth-and-moisture-loving and rather descriptively-named, Navelwort (a possible connection to the Goddess, here?). We paused just for a moment at the beginning of the water-side route to just mention that the brook had its source about three miles away at Cuddington Recreation Ground near Worcester Park, and flows for about 10 miles to the Thames. The name is derived from the beaver – which although believed extinct in Britain for some 400 years is now breeding again – and the word ley, or meadow. In other words, the beaver’s meadow brook.
The brook has been much abused in times past – as have so many of London’s rivers – and has been considerably channelised, so runs between boarded banks for much of its route. However for a few miles – apart from a few detours where it is not accessible due to housing or the like – we were walking along a nice-enough waterway, often with trees either side, and passing through a nature reserve or two - or past playing fields - on the way. The brook flows along the west edge of Wimbledon Common, where it once marked the boundary between London and Surrey, and the scenery becomes more open. We crossed the A3 again at the busy junction by the Robin Hood Gate and entered Richmond Park just as a stream of horses were leaving. In the park we walked for some way with the brook on our right and the open spaces of the park on our left, with distant views of the deer and closer views of the cyclists.
It was actually quite cold – we’d noticed that when we got off the train. Funny that here in the SW (of London, anyway) it seemed colder than in the traditionally cold east of the country (or London, anyway) where we come from. So we were pleased to reach the cafe facilities hereabouts. There were lots of cyclists here, too, plus lots of Jackdaws and people – all tending to eat and drink. Whilst there we had a call from John Hatto – an ex club-member – who we’d pre-arranged would join us. Which he did.
Leaving the park by way of the Roehampton Gate, we walked down an alleyway alongside the park walls, for a short while away from the brook, but which we soon rejoined. Whilst we’d been in Richmond Park we had read notices which told of work being done to improve the ecology of the brook and also help with flood prevention. All the channelisation and abuse over past generations as had adverse effect here as elsewhere, as people are now beginning to realise. Now the intention is wherever possible to remove constricting artificial edging, allowing gravel-banks and eddies to form, and perhaps even a little meandering.
Around East Sheen we were forced away from the water and along roads for a bit, but between some decent allotments with - in places - some rather exotic overhanging vegetation. When we reached the only pub on route – the Halfway House near Barnes Common – we didn’t go in but stood on the adjacent Priests Bridge over the once-troubled water and John told us something about local efforts for the stream's regeneration.
here) a few weeks ago.We crossed two railway level-crossings and then part of Barnes Common, with Chestnut and Sycamore trees in glorious autumn colour, then through a playing field to cross the brook again and walk alongside Barn Elms Playing Fields, once the site of the old Manor House of Barnes. The final stretch is again along a tree-lined track alongside the brook, and then suddenly there is a barrage across the stream – forming probably what is a balancing lagoon and muck-stopping arrangement, but filled with reeds – then another barrage to control water flow, and then out onto the Thames-side track where we had first sighted Beverley Brook on our Putney to Richmond walk (
Then there was just the walk along the Thames past all of the boating-facilities and across Putney Bridge to the station of the same name, and then home. Beverley Brook, I found, had a very pleasant character about her. Thanks to the other pleasant characters who accompanied me on this exploratory walk – and we didn’t get lost at all.
Paul Ferris, 6th November 2016
7.7 miles, 8 walkers