Monday 8 June 2020

Active Travel - for everyone, for ever, we hope!

On the 7th of June we wrote to the National Trust asking for their support with ensuring there's safe space for walking and cycling in response to Covid-19 but also in the (slightly) long-term for support with the widening of the new Bishopsford Bridge to accommodate cycling lanes by the Council. 

We've been heartened to hear back from Jim Foy, the National Trust's Assistant Director of Operations for the London & SE Region. He says in his e mail today:

'We would be prepared to consider the use of Watermeads to accommodate a wider bridge if the additional width was for cycle lanes'.

An abridged version of our initial letter follows... 

The impact of the Climate emergency and also Covid 19 is presumably associated with a London Region Policy. We note the National Trust’s commitment to net-zero carbon and the gradual opening up to the restraints of social distancing and expect that the National Trust’s visitor’s and staff will need to make increasing use of ‘active travel’.

In the London Borough of Merton a declared Climate Emergency coupled with the Covid 19 risks involved with public transport, have influenced a major public impetus towards the benefits of walking and in particular cycling.

In Morden Hall Park the National Trust has been imaginative in successfully popularising the Park with the local community. In terms of active travel the Park’s prime location on the Wandle Trail gives it the opportunity to include cycling as one of the benefits described in the National Trust Morden Hall Park brochure, along with its attraction to walkers.

In the move to encourage active travel we hope that the National Trust can play its part. There are two aspects to this regarding the River Wandle that we would like to raise.

First, the Wandle Trail.

In Morden Hall Park there is a pleasantly cohesive approach to paths and the surfacing, but it does not seem to take into account the extra wear associated with the Wandle Trail as a route. For Climate and Covid reasons the Trail needs to be encouraged and therefore accommodating. The surfacing needs to be of a robust specification not susceptible to easy degeneration and erosion through heavy use. In addition, with social distancing, the vegetation needs to be cut back. Further downstream on the Wandle Trail there has been discrete lighting installed with particular attention to minimising disturbance to wildlife, which means the route remains functional as the days shorten. Such discrete lighting would be particularly useful between the Morden entrance and the tram track before Deen City Farm. We hope the National Trust can look favourably on these matters for the benefits of promoting active travel.

Second, Bishopsford Road bridge over the Wandle.

The Borough of Merton is fortunate to have the River Wandle passing centrally through the Borough, but this coupled with the fact that the railways were here when the Borough was largely agricultural, means that elderly road and river bridges and ‘cattle’ arches can be extremely limiting if the need for adequate space for active travel alongside vehicular traffic is taken into account; Bishopsford Road bridge, upstream from Morden Hall Park was an example; before it recently gave up.

A new replacement bridge for Bishopsford Road across the Wandle would ideally be wider than the failed bridge in order to safely accommodate walking and cycling alongside vehicular traffic. The approach roads may have to wait for funding before modification but the bridge is a once in 200 years event. In order to widen a new bridge the design would partly affect a river bank in the National Trust’s Watermeads Nature Reserve and we respectfully ask for a favourable view towards this encroachment.

The slogan for active travel could well follow the National Trust’s optimistic slogan ‘For everyone for ever’ so we hope that you can find these proposals agreeable.