One place I love in London is Old York Road in Wandsworth, Southwest London. Old York Road starts at Wandsworth Town Station and ends by the South Circular. It’s also a 10-minute walk from the bustling heart of Wandsworth, where you can find Southside Shopping Centre, Ram’s Brewery redevelopment, main council buildings and the River Wandle. I love the way this street has evolved through the Covid pandemic, supporting the survival of many small-scale independent shops. Living in the area for nearly 20 years, some of the changes to the urban landscape just make sense..!
When I was younger, I would frequently take the 44 bus through Old York Road to my secondary school/sixth form in Tooting. Every time the bus went down the road, I recall drivers carefully manoeuvring around vehicles coming in the opposite direction. I remember seeing so many near collisions on this narrow road, particularly during morning and afternoon rush hours.
The recent Covid 19 pandemic, however, has changed my perspective of Old York Road. Back in the Summer of 2020, I remember walking towards Southside and I noticed a few changes on the street. I saw new signs saying that the street was closed to all buses and vehicles, yet open to pedestrians, cyclists and e-scooters. I saw planters neatly placed down the whole stretch of road, allowing businesses like the Bramble & Willow florist to playfully experiment with their new space. Chairs and tables suddenly spilled out of pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries onto the roadside. The atmosphere truly felt different – it seemed as if the pace of every slowed down; fewer distractions with cars temporarily banished and buses re-directed through the nearby Ferrier Street Industrial Estate.
Reflecting on these experiences, I have started to walk down Old York Road more often. In March 2022, after extensive consultation, Wandsworth Council decided to make pedestrianisation permanent. For me, Old York Road offers a quiet, tranquil route to Southside, escaping the noise of heavy traffic and rapid housing construction on Swandon Way/ Wandsworth Roundabout. On the street, there’s an abundance of Georgian architecture features…which I never really noticed before. Every time I walk down Old York Road, I get excited about new potentialities – festivals, busking, street artworks and games further diversifying public uses.
Chloe McFarlane has an extensive background in community engagement, working with various urban regeneration companies/charities over the past 5 years including Fluid & Soundings, Roman Road Trust, Clear Village and Groundwork London. In addition to this, Chloe recently completed her masters in Inter-disciplinary Urban Design from the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL.