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