The Covid Walks or 'Birds of Berrylands'
Initially, this circular walk should be undertaken anti-clockwise to avoid getting lost. The basic Kingston - Berrylands - New Malden - Kingston, takes an hour unless taking side-options.
Begin at VILLIERS ROAD, at the junction with the Fairfield, and walk to LOWER MARSH LANE; en route walk down the riverside along HOGSMILL LANE and see new hedge planting undertaken after a group shifted a ton of rubbish. You can see bats here all through the winter as warmed (treated) sewage effluent, generates a lot of food.
There are several birds to look out for, as you reach the quiet dead end at the palisade fence (marking the cemetery): grey wagtails, mallard, coot and moorhen, even cormorants perch in the poplar trees alongside the dump.The 'lucky' may see a kingfisher; they can even be seen outside the Guildhall depending on the time of day. A mouth full of midges assures you are in the right place.
From LOWER MARSH LANE, there is an option of walking around Surbiton Cemetery, where there are beautiful oak, cherry, cedar and pine trees. To the east, there is a dead tree, with constant bird traffic: starlings, blackbirds, greenfinches and sparrows, all take turns on the song post.
The Hogsmill Nature Reserve is closed under lockdown restrictions; flypasts of some interesting resident birds are possible, including kestrel and heron, that have sometimes bred in adjacent trees along the railway. Tawny owls can be heard and with a range of wildfowl recorded on the nature reserve, including shelduck and shoveler. The reserve also features a sand martin bank and two bird hides. Chiffchaff and whitethroat and house martins are summer visitors. Rarer residents include cetti's warbler, stone chat and bullfinch.
As you walk towards Berrylands station there is a tremendous smell of Balsam poplar, ironically hygenic. It doesn't smell for long- only at this time of year- so don't worry if you can't detect it. The banks are full of suckering elm, important for white-letter hairstreak butterfly, recorded on occasion. This is a good site for bats as the freshwater (and not so freshwater) lagoons, generate a multitude of midges. Bats seem to cope with the light pollution somehow, as we had two pregnant Daubenton's bats in our survey, 2018.
Another path closure could greet you at CAMELIA LANE, so walk up CHILTERN DRIVE and turn left down SURBITON HILL PARK. There are many opportunities to divert to the Hogsmill River where you may see the blue flash. There are a lot of things to know about this place but you can do your own research.
Crossing the Hogsmill bridge - where I used to see water voles - bear left into GREEN LANE RECREATION GROUND and admire the newly planted orchard, with mulberry, medlar, pomegranate, apple, pear, fig- and if its hot- please give the trees a drink.
Walk diagonally across the REC and out of the gate-don't worry it isn't locked-its kept shut for safety.
Turn left and walk towards the railway where you are going through TOM THUMB's tunnel. This may be a congested - as its a pinchpoint - so take care but look left and you might see PICKLE the pig. This is the Thames Water ring main and used for grazing animals - listen out for ponies - although they are rarely seen.
Continue around the hidden alleyway - this is the reason that the walk should initially be undertaken anti-clockwise as the route is quite cryptic. Look for the repaired wall and cross the road. Walk down WILLOW ROAD (if you look right you can see ALDI in the distance (don't walk towards it). Listen to the house sparrows and turn LEFT down CALIFORNIA ROAD until you get to the wonderful stink pipe at the informal entrance to Kingston Recreation Ground on the RIGHT.
|patched wall to Willow Road|
|stink pipe at entrance to Kingston rec.|
The Recreation ground has been transformed by the Friends and birds are prospecting the nest boxes and the longer grass and wildflowers have already led to an increase in butterflies. New tree planting has softened the site and softened the contrast between the allotments on the left and what was formerly an area of 'green concrete'.
|Jackdaws along the capped chimney pots of Kingston Road|
Walk to the end of the Rec., turn right out of the gate, then left onto KINGSTON ROAD and you are in jackdaw land. Walk past the shops, turn left onto HAMPDEN and right down BONNER HILL ROAD. This will take you past Kingston Cemetery -shut under lockdown - but you will have an enhanced experience along BHR and there is actually a singing male chiffchaff calling from opposite PIPER ROAD who I have seen in the front gardens. Keep left at HAWKS ROAD and you are safely returned to VILLIERS ROAD junction.
It may lighten your urban footsteps to know more about the area you are walking in and there are two TRAILS in the Orchards of Kingston in a FREE leaflet normally available from the Libraries and Heritage Rooms. I can make that available if you send an SAE.
Alternatively, this 'Little Book of Paths' can be purchased from eBay, just search on the title.