Things To Do in Barnes, Battersea, Cheam, Clapham, Epsom, Fulham, Kingston, Putney, Surbiton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Wimbledon

Local Walk: Putney Heath

A pleasant  heathland stroll, and a chance to ride your bike on recognised cycle tracks, followed by tea, a drink or meal at the Windmill Café, Green Man, or Telegraph

Distance 4¼ miles.
Time 2 hours.
Terrain Pavements and gravel paths; no steep gradients.
Food and drink Green Man pub, a tea stall nearby, café at Wimbledon Windmill, The Telegraph pub.
Toilets Windmill café, Putney Heath bus terminus.
Start and Finish Green Man, Putney Heath (top of Putney Hill) Buses 14, 37, 39, 85, 93, 170, 424, 493.

From the Green Man pub, walk to the junction with Putney Hill, which you cross and then turn right, uphill. Cross Putney Heath Lane and then keep left, still on Putney Hill, with several large blocks of flats on your left, and woods to the right. A few yards after a post box by Ross Court look out for an ancient boundary stone inscribed ‘Wandsworth Parish 1787 Thos Woodward Thos Rooke Churchwardens’. Shortly after this you arrive at West Hill. Turn right and follow the pavement as it curves to the right, then turn left under the roadway at Tibbet’s Corner roundabout.

In the 1700s this locality was a favourite haunt of robbers and highwaymen, notably the notorious Jerry Abershawe, whose reign of terror lasted until he was finally caught and hanged on Kennington Common and his body afterwards displayed on the gallows on Putney Heath. Tibbet incidentally was not of this ilk; he was gatekeeper on Earl Spencer’s Wimbledon Park estate, and lived in the lodge nearby.

Turn left again, and then follow the pavement straight ahead to ascend a wide tarmac slope, with the heath surrounding you. A gravel track known as Ladies’ Mile threads forward ahead of you. Keeping company with this track for ¾ mile, passing King’s Mere pond away to the right, will finally bring you to Wimbledon Windmill. Here you will find a café, toilets, Information centre, and Windmill Museum (open April¬-October Saturdays 2-5, Sundays and public holidays 11-5).

Built in 1817 as a hollow-post mill, with the driven shaft from the sails contained within the hollowed-out supporting pole, the windmill originally ground flour until in 1864 when the lord of the manor of Wimbledon, Earl Spencer, tried to enclose the common it was converted to six cottages. Now restored and open as a museum, the windmill and adjacent café are the focal point of Wimbledon Common and a reassuring sight if you are not quite sure of your bearings on the 1100 acres of heath and common.

From the windmill cross the car park entrance road to a Capital Ring sign, and follow the green pointing finger past another old boundary stone. Although it has no inscription, it is one of several marking the old boundary of Putney parish. Go slightly left across the grass to join a track, close to the one on which you arrived here, and then keep left on a wide track which you follow for ½ mile, keeping to the left at a Y-junction. On the way you will pass Jerry’s Hill, the spot where Jerry Abershawe’s corpse was said to have been hung as a warning to other footpads and highwaymen.

Eventually the path dives down through a subway under the A3 Kingston Road. Bear left at a junction and continue on this path as it converges on the road and then sweeps right, back into trees, to arrive at Scio pond. After passing the pond, fork left at a junction and follow this shared path and cycle track until just before meeting Ponsonby Road you must bear left on a narrow path that heads for Holy Trinity church.

George Fellowes-Prynne was the architect of this fine church of 1896-98. The Bath stone spire rises to over 200 feet, and the interior contains much of beauty, including an imposing stone screen separating nave and chancel. The church is Grade II* listed.

Do not pass the church; instead turn right along Ponsonby Road then left at Medfield Street, passing Elizabeth Place, a terrace of verdantly-swathed cottages. Before reaching the drinking fountain cross the road and at the bus stop follow a passageway, Blackford’s Path, to ascend a short flight of steps to Roehampton High Street (to avoid the steps simply carry on past the bus stop to swing right into the High Street).

Many fine mansions adorned the countryside around Roehampton Village in the 17th and 18th centuries, including Roehampton House, built by Thomas Archer in 1710-12. In later years many of these grand houses were converted for use as institutions of one sort or another, such as Roehampton University and Queen Mary’s Hospital, which incorporated Archer’s building. Rural seclusion disappeared forever when the London County Council embarked on the ‘cottages’ of the huge Dover House estate between the wars, and then in the 1950s the Alton estate’s slab blocks of housing appeared.

With The Angel pub opposite turn right to follow the High Street. Note the charming Tweedside Cottages on your left. Go past the line of shops and keep on ahead to make acquaintance once again with Putney Heath. Cross to the left-hand pavement and continue past Dover House Road. After passing a zebra crossing and bus stop turn right to follow Telegraph Road. Pass Crossroads Cottage, tucked away in a woodland clearing, and then a cricket pitch. Carry on ahead, crossing Heathview Gardens and Portsmouth Road to arrive facing The Telegraph pub.

In 1796 the Admiralty set up a shutter-operated telegraph signal station here, in a line of communication that stretched to Portsmouth and Plymouth, to warn of any possible French attack. A message from London could reach Portsmouth in 15 minutes on a clear day.

Another interesting structure that has now vanished was the Fireproof House, invented by David Hartley in 1772-73, and demonstrated to King George III and Queen Charlotte, who apparently were served breakfast in perfect safety while a fire burned in the room below. A monument to this innovation, complete with a fulsome inscription, still stands in the trees near the main road. The mansion that sprang up in its place, Wildcroft (owned by publisher Sir George Newnes) has itself been replaced by the flats of Wildcroft Manor, which still retain the mansion’s ornate iron gateway.
Turn left to follow Wildcroft Road, noting the old cattle pound, a place where stray animals would be ‘impounded’, in the trees to your right as you approach the 17th century Green Man and the end of this tour of Putney Heath.

South West London WalksExcerpted from South-West London Walks: 30 Enjoyable Walks for the Whole Family

Related Links

Scio pond - Putney HeathCattle pound at the Green ManRoute map