Sponsored Walk - 2016

THE BEVERLEY BROOK WALK - 2016


It has become a tradition at All Saints’ to organise a sponsored walk on the August Bank Holiday with the aim of raising funds for something specific that the church needs.  This year we decided to raise money towards new seating, as our present chairs are beginning to show their age as they reach the end of their serviceable lives.

    Thus it was that a dozen of the most elite walkers in our congregation set out from a remote bus stop in SW20 to walk the route of the Beverley Brook as far as its final discharge point into the Thames at Putney. The name, Beverley Brook, derives from the presence in the river of the European Beaver - extinct since the 16th Century.  The Middle-English name for beaver was bever, and for meadow ley.  Brook meant a stream, and thus we have Beverley Brook – ‘Beaver-Meadow Stream.’  The Brook rises at Cuddington Recreation Ground in Worcester Park and then flows through Motspur Park, New Malden, Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and Barnes on its way to the Thames.

      

For the first part of our walk we followed the Brooas it snaked its way along the bottom of Wimbledon Common towards Richmond Park. In earlier times the Brook had been polluted by poorly-treated sewage emanating from sewage works in Green Lane, Worcester Park, but today we saw a gently-flowing, sun-dappled water course in which small shoals of Roach and Chubb darted amongst the shallows, and the occasional Heron stood stock-still patiently waiting for a free meal.

Experiencing the hurly-burley of the August Bank Holiday but for a moment as we crossed the A3, we made our way into Richmond Park and again joined the Brook on its onward course. 

 

Richmond Park contains 14% of the Beverley Brook and it is here that the ‘Beverley Brook Restoration Project’ is seeking to restore and re-naturalise the river, improving a significant proportion of the total length. Sir David Attenborough - patron of the Beverley Brook project, said: "Projects like this, that restore natural habitats, are vital to ensure our riverside flora and fauna thrive in the future."  Funding from The Royal Parks, the Friends of Richmond Park, the Environment Agency and the South East Rivers Trust should ensure that the Brook reaches its ‘Good Ecological Potential’ target this year.

Joining other picnickers taking advantage of the last days of summer, we stopped for lunch near Roehampton Gate. 

 

Overhead a procession of planes made their majestic and languid progress towards Heathrow as we refreshed ourselves ready for the onward journey which took us out of the gate and onto Palewell Common. 

     Originally known as ‘a place near the Pale,’ this land was part of the interests of the Lord of Manorship which fell to the Spencer family, until these interests were transferred to other local landowners living to the west of the Common.  In 1921 it was taken over by the Local Authority who have managed it ever since.

Leaving the Common, the Brook disappears for a while and, not until we had crossed the Upper Richmond Road and turned into Priest’s Road, did we see it again.  Priest’s Road follows the original course of the main road and, halfway along its length, the Brook flows under Priest’s Bridge on its way to Barnes. 


The bridge was named ‘Prestbrig’ in 1479 - meaning 'the bridge used by the priest' - and probably refers to the route taken by priests travelling to and from Wimbledon, where the parish church was until the mid-14thC, or to visit the monks of Sheen Priory. The Beverley Brook here separates Mortlake from Putney.

Our last foray onto the main road took us to Vine Road where a double level crossing carries trains between London, Hounslow and Weybridge. 

    Having been briefly halted by the passage of a train, it was interesting to note that this crossing has been named as one of the most misused crossings in London, having been the site of eight separate incidents in the last year.  Of course there were no such transgressions from All Saints’ and, as the barriers rose, we continued on our way down a short Private Road and a path through the trees leading us onto Barnes Common.


Owned by the Dean and Chapter of S. Paul’s Cathedral, this is one of the largest areas of common land in London, and is unusual in an urban setting in that it provides a varied landscape of meadows, woodland and rough grassland with heath.

  It is also designated both as a Local Nature Reserve and as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest. By this time of the year however, much of it had browned in the summer sun and, as the temperature rose in the afternoon, we were glad of the shade provided by the trees as we made our way onwards across Rocks Lane and along the pathway adjacent to Old Barnes Cemetery. 

Formed in 1855 and closed in 1950, the chapel and boundary railings have now been demolished, and it has become one of London’s truly ‘forgotten cemeteries.’     There are several ghostly tales associated with this place including a hovering nun, who floats above a grave, plus "Spring Heal Jack," a devilish imp with pointed ears and piercing eyes who is said to have carried out a number of attacks on people as they crossed the common at night during Victorian times.  Fortunately our ‘saintly group’ passed without incident and we were soon crossing a bridge that brought us alongside the Beverley Brook for the final time as it neared its outpouring into the Thames.

  The last part of the walk took us along a well-trodden path that finally opened up onto a glorious panoramic view of the Thames from Putney to Hammersmith.

 

  Here the ‘Beverley’ rather ignominiously ends its journey – largely ignored by all who pass by. But for four hours we had enjoyed six miles of its company - its trickling waters, its tree-lined banks and its wildlife. And who knows, some of us may return.



All Saints' Sponsored Walk 2016






   

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