Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

11 May 2011

Beddington Farm

IN MICHAEL MOORCOCK’s fine novel Mother London, one of the characters describes playing on Mitcham Common during his childhood:

In the summer there was the endless and verdant Mitcham Common, with her ponds on which oildrum rafts and army inflatables were sailed . . . a soft green golf course, copses, unthreatening marshes, stands of poplars, cedars and, of course, her elms. She had pedestrian bridges of wood and iron spanning a railway, sandy bunkers and depressions where all day long I sprawled and read and ate unseen. I do not remember ever learning the limits of Mitcham Common. Save for two small woods, which I discovered later, it was what remained of the countryside between London and Croydon.

Once Mitcham Common abutted Beddington Park to the south, making a large slab of land bounded by London Road and Beddington Lane. You can look up the Ordnance Survey First Series from around 1805 on the London Map’s Mitcham and Carshalton pages.

From around the 1860s Beddington Park began shrinking towards a corner in the south-west, making way for Beddington Farm: a sprawling array of sewage filter beds and what are decorously called ‘sludge beds’. It’s one of those places that looks intriguing on the map, an urban hinterland.

Last week I headed there with the vague hope of recording a dusk chorus. Beddington Farm is a popular spot for birdwatchers, after all. The sewage works themselves are off-limits to the public, but there’s a path running alongside from near Mitcham Junction station down to Hackbridge. Much of the way it’s banked in by high hedgerows, but here and there gaps appear, giving pylon-dominated views across to Beddington Lane and beyond.

Panoramic view of Beddington approaching dusk

Beyond the hedgerows lie chain-link fences to keep people out of the filter beds, backed up by some ominous signs warning of quicksand. There’s a pervasive sweetish smell, like the scent added to domestic North Sea gas so you can tell if there’s a leak. This recording was made around 8pm:

It’s not a particularly good recording, and that reflects how I don’t know this area at all. But it’ll be worth visiting again. There’s an interesting website run by the Beddington Farm Bird Group, who also organise tours of Beddington Farm – the next ones are on May the 15th and August the 21st.