Merton Abbey Mills Update May 2004

The new footbridge across the Wandle

The new footbridge across the Wandle [Full image 41.3kb]

Visitors to Merton Abbey Mills will have seen much building progress over the last couple of months. The three apartment blocks next to William Morris pub are substantially complete, and the framework for the proposed fast food restaurants has gone up near the entrance.

The main commercial (hotel and leisure centre block) has gone up yet another storey. The new Bennets Ditch landscaping is all but complete, although hidden behind fencing still.

The new bridge at Merton Abbey Mills

The new bridge at Merton Abbey Mills [Full image 39.7kb]

The development with most immediate impact has been the completion of the new footbridge across the Wandle just south of the William Morris.

Disappointingly, like all the development so far, precious little thought has gone into its design, environment or function, so that we have the worst of all worlds - an unnecessary bridge, in the wrong place, destroying a pleasant view and replacing it with a modern brutality of design that closes in the previous perspectives.

Why a footbridge whose sole function is to take the occasional pedestrian had to built big enough and strong enough to take vehicular traffic begs other questions. If there had to be a bridge at all, one having the design and delicacy of those seen in Morden Hall Park would probably have cost less, and would certainly have been less intrusive.

Now we have a bridge whose function is to cut out the walk through the market, yet a further blow to its popularity, and which will take casual pedestrians right up to the windows of the new apartment block with all the security risks that imposes, as well as providing a swift and easy get away into the industrial estate on the other side.

The only redeeming light, short term though it may be, is that the formal opening of the bridge on 13 June will provide a reason for the Mayors of the Wandle boroughs to get together as part of the Wandle Valley Festival.

The mill stone from Bennets Mill, awaiting final positioning

The mill stone from Bennets Mill, awaiting final positioning [Full image 28.1kb]

Also on a sombre note, it is clear that the site is having severe security problems. Two break-ins in the last month have resulted in losses of many thousands of pounds of expensive equipment at both the Colour House Theatre, and in first floor offices. The two raids were obviously targeted, and a recent incident where all power to the site was deliberately vandalised give rise to a concern that we haven't seen the end of this yet.

Two stories on a more positive note. Firstly the large millstone excavated from Bennets Mill is now ready for mounting as part of a permanent display. It can be seen in its temporary location outside the Liberty Show House.

Secondly, to follow up on her husband's terrapin rescue (see previous issues.) Claire Llewellyn plunged into the Wandle to rescue 4 ducklings whose mother had flown up over the weir, and expected them to be able to follow. To cheers of a large crowd, all four were rescued, transported by bucket above the weir and reunited with their mother outside the William Morris!

Ed. May 2004

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