According to the documentation released by Merton Council ‘Beverley’ breaks down into Beaver Lay, meaning ‘a place where beavers rest’. Does that apply to all women called Beverley then? Because that’s weird.

The Beverley Brook rises several miles south of where its eponymous walk begins, but sadly it’s culverted for the vast majority of that distance so there is really no point trekking from its source. The Beverley Brook Walk is the last remaining official route in South London. By ‘official’ I mean ‘marked on OS mapping’, on the cover at least. Not even the Wandle Trail is marked that way yet. It took me several months of exploring London before I discovered it even existed but it turns out to be a surprisingly varied and pretty walk.

Starting point: New Malden railway station, zone 4.

Finishing point: Putney Bridge, reachable by zone 2 District Line tube at Putney Bridge underground station, or Putney railway station, zone 2/3, with trains to Clapham Junction and Waterloo.

Length: 8 miles (12.9 kilometres).

For this walk I dragged my sedentary friend Dan out for the day. He admitted he ‘doesn’t do parks’ so I wondered how well he would deal with the day. Rather well it turns out!

We met at New Malden station and walked north, under the railway bridge. After a few hundred metres you turn right up Cambridge Avenue and past the ‘Malden Wanderers’ signs.

This is a pretty standard residential start to the walk. The road turns into a dirt track and cuts across a golf course – a ubiquitous sight on these walks around London. I bemoaned their presence to Dan. In my opinion there are far too many of them. They are a relative biodiversity desert and they use a lot of water to benefit very few people. I can’t say I hate golf, but I do think it is vastly over-catered for in London.

The A3 is crossed by underpass. On the north side you join the Beverley Brook for the first time and will probably be impressed by the clarity of the water and the amount of fish in there. We saw a very large shoal of fish several inches long, all mooching near the bridge before whizzing off downstream. For the second time in a month it hit home just how improved London’s rivers are. It’s extremely heartening.

Beverley Brook Walk blaze

At the end of this road we met and crossed the busy main road via a pedestrian crossing, and passed a row of shops before walking up Beverley Avenue. At the top you dart down a tight alley and sight the Beverley Brook blazes by a bridge. Weird fluff or hair along the Beverley Brook WalkYou follow the edge of the playing fields for several minutes and take care to nip between the various pieces of discarded clothing and condom wrappers. The brook rushes along behind a thin screen of undergrowth so there are plenty of opportunities to step off the path and look for fish or just observe the grass waving in the water.

After the fence ends you continue to follow the tree line. We founds two large areas of what appeared to be dog shavings scattered willy-nilly. It seems that someone brought their dog here to trim its coat, it escaped, and then was pinned down a few metres further on for some more styling. Anyone with a more logical explanation is free to comment below…

Fallen tree in Wimbledon Common, along the Beverley Brook Walk

The Beverley Brook in Wimbledon CommonThe Walk enters Wimbledon Common at the point. A few feet inside the woods you are met with the ruins of an old bridge across a small stream, and we both instantly paused, thinking we had to jump over, before spotting the solid sleeper bridge to the right. The path shadows the Brook for about a mile, I guess. There were plenty of recreational walkers, dog walkers, joggers and cyclists enjoying themselves in this lovely old SSSI but nobody ever got in the way. It’s a very casual walk.

The level of the Brook rose and fell in stages and we could observe the effect on the speed of the water flow, with it rushing over shallow pebbles and crawling through deeper, grassier, lengths.

The path coincides with Section 6 of the Capital Ring for a few hundred metres. Across the grotty A3 you go, leaving it behind at long last, and through Robin Hood gate into Richmond Park.

The Beverley Brook in Richmond Park

The Beverley Brook, still in Richmond ParkI had warned Dan to bring old trainers just in case recent rain had turned the path damp, because horses turn all damp paths into a real hardship. We encountered horses immediately but it turned out that the Beverley Brook Walk is horse free apart from this brief introduction. Turn right as you enter the park and you soon meet the Brook again. Follow it leftwards.

The next mile and a bit is truly lovely. Dan was amazed at how rural it feels and joked that the knowledge that Heathrow was just over the next hill was all that stopped him from freaking out. This is a nice accessible kind of nature. Nature without the difficulty, and indeed nature without the dirt.

The weather forecast had been for a sunny morning and a cloudy afternoon but in reality this was completely backwards because rays were starting to brighten our walk more every minute.

At Roehampton Gate the Walk breaches Richmond Park’s retaining wall but you follow the outside of it down a little alleyway to rejoin the Brook once again. A playing field and some allotments are passed in quick succession and you walk along Hertford Avenue to Upper Richmond Road. Cross over and turn right. It’s a nasty busy road compared to the lush relative serenity of Richmond Park.

Dead tree in Richmond Park

You take a very small detour off of this road up and then back down Priests Bridge in order to see the Brook pass by an old pub. Well you can barely see it as the wall is so high.

Vine Road is immediately more laid-back. We sat on a bench at the edge of a field and watched the jumbo jets skimming over us towards Heathrow. Dan’s feet were beginning to blister because of his tatty old trainers, and presumably his lack of good socks. But he soldiered on and proclaimed that he was enjoying the walk a lot more than he had expected. Exactly what I hoped to hear.

We skirted the edge of Barnes Green and Barnes Common carefully as sometimes the blazes were not exactly obvious and the map and instructions from the Council left a lot to be desired as well. It can’t have been that bad though as we remained on course. There are strange lumps and dips in the grass on Barnes Common just before Rocks Lane. It looks like someone has let a skate park slowly deteriorate and return to the earth. The smattering of wooden benches with brass plaques watching its decline.

Barnes Old Cemetery is pretty overgrown and atmospheric, I can fully imagine some of the Goth characters I knew from my late-teens spending far too much time swanning about with bottles of Hooch and cans of cider.

Gravestones in Barnes Old Cemetery

The path takes you along the southern edge of Barn Elms Sports Centre’s enormous playing field. By now the Brook is partially hidden behind brambles to your right but you are still only a few metres from it. As the path dinks to the left you suddenly spot Craven Cottage before you see the Thames.

The end of the Beverley Brook Walk

The Brook is funnelled into a strange little holding pen, presumably to stop Thames wildlife moving upstream into the Brook and wiping out the burgeoning wildlife renaissance it is quite obviously experiencing. I have to say that it is a proper trashy, mucky, dump of an ending for such a nice little urban river. Clearly there is a design behind this but you do wish it was more like Deptford Creek or the Lea where they empty into the Thames almost with a fanfare than a slop and a gurgle.

The godawful statue of Michael Jackson at Fulham FC, seen from the end of the Beverley Brook Walk

The Thames near PutneyWe walked up into Putney and enjoyed a brief drink in the Spotted Horse pub along the polluted and bustling High Street, a world away from the Beverley Brook Walk. I continue to find myself surprised by most of the walks I undertake in London. This one was no exception. Being so close to the Brook throughout is a rarity though, even the Ravensbourne disappears for far longer than the Beverley Brook does. This means that you experience a closer connection to it as it winds towards the Thames Valley floor. The great basin sucks the hills dry via conduits like the Beverley and as you follow them you get a marvellous sense of connection with the geography that lies beneath the urban sprawl. So often it is hidden and difficult to appreciate but this walk in particular does a pretty good job of pulling back the curtain and waggling that geography at you. The water in the brook is as clear as anything and witnessing the shoals of fish zipping to-and-fro gives me great hope that this city genuinely is embracing green spaces and ecology in a way it hasn’t for many centuries.