Dave Sergeant

Falcon Brook has two main tributaries, I followed the southern branch from Streatham Hill down to the Thames near Clapham as detailed in David Fathers' London's Hidden Rivers. Like the other rivers there is some dispute about where it runs and where its sources are. Starting at Streatham Hill station and finishing at Clapham Junction made it a fairly easy trip on the train and a somewhat earlier start than normal.

So arriving at Streatham Hill around 10.30am I made my way through residential streets to the approximate start point of the brook. The river valley was clearly visible in this area with the appropriately named Valley Road sloping downhill to the start.

This manhole cover in the middle of Valley Road apparently is over the brook and it should have been heard. But it was hardly a sensible place to stand and listen with the noise of the traffic drowning out any possibility of hearing it anyway. Also near here is the site of Streatham Spa many years ago, replaced until the 1950s with a milk bottling plant. On the site now is a doctor's surgery.

More residential streets roughly following the route of the brook and passing the busy Streatham High Street Tooting Bec Common is arrived at. I was familiar with Tooting Bec as both the Capital Ring and Green London Way pass through it. But today's walk took a rather longer zigzag route and saw parts I had not seen before. First the Lido, the largest and oldest open air swimming pool in the UK. The green paths made a nice break from the urban bustle half way through my walk.

Although the brook passes through the Bec it has nothing to do with the large pond in the middle, peeked at on the Capital Ring but today I went right round it, very pleasant. Then Dr Johnson Avenue, named after the poet Samuel Johnson who was a frequent visitor to Streatham Spa.

Out of the Bec and back to suburban streets. Northcote Road runs along the brook valley with the side streets rising steeply between Clapham and Wandsworth commons. The section nearest Clapham Junction is now an affluent shopping and restaurant area. I stopped for lunch at the Falcon, one of the oldest pubs in the area and the current one was built in 1880. It seemed much smaller inside than it looked outside, maybe because it claims to have the longest bar in the UK which occupies most of the space. Whatever, nice lunch.

Across the road is Arding and Hobbs, one of the first department stores. Recently part of the Debenhams chain, but with the demise of them it is currently being redeveloped as a mixed shopping and office space. TK Maxx presently trades there. The road here becomes Falcon Road after the brook and my route continued under Clapham Junction station. Everything around here seems to be called Falcon something, Falcon Barbers pictured.

The route left Falcon Road to follow the brook as it went through York Gardens down to the Thames. In the gardens is Falconbrook Pumping Station built to reduce flooding from the brook in the area. Currently being worked on as part of the Thames Tideway Tunnel project. Finally out to the Thames where at low tide the outflow is visible, but not today. Then a walk along the busy York Road and then Falcon Road down to Clapham Junction and the train home.

Back to London Loop