And possibly the biggest?
While out for a Sunday walk to Oaks Park, something occurred to me, something revealed, previously concealed in plain sight. One of the routes I have used for many years as a cyclist and walker is Telegraph Track. It’s a very quiet route out of the suburban sprawl, away from traffic (although motor vehicles are permitted to use it. Fundamentally it is in an area we recognise as a low traffic neighbourhood, albeit a very large one!
It is a north-south concrete paved road intersected by the east-west Oaks Track, and connects with Oaks Park. Accessing Telegraph Track is easy for those on foot or cycle, the northern bollarded entrance is at the corner of Boundary Road and Briar Lane, while the south end is on Woodmansterne Lane. Oaks Track connects with the B278 Woodmansterne Road to the west, and Woodmansterne Lane (north of the Telegraph Track junction). A fire gate midway along the western arm (between the cross roads with Telegraph Track and the B278) stops motor vehicles using it as a through route. It isn’t totally cycle friendly, however it allows most cycles through without difficulty and blocks motor traffic looking for a shortcut. GSC made a request for the gate to be replaced with bollards in 2017, without success.
The cruciform road layout with only two of the four arms have restrictions on traffic, the narrow hedged lined concrete surface connects the small holdings dotted through the area. These two private roads are also designated as ‘PROWs’ (public right of ways). They are also known as a ‘BOAT’ – Byway Open to All Traffic.
So how have these two private roads become the biggest LTN in Sutton? The small holdings were created in 1920 as ‘Homes for Heroes’ after the first world war. Originally a farm, the land was bought by Surrey County Council and divided up into 3 acre plots and houses were built with black weatherboarding for providing both dwelling and employment for the returning servicemen. Think of it like a council estate for farmers. The roads were laid down as part of it, accommodating the bridleways now waymarked by wooden signposts. The galvanised steel fire gate on the western arm of the Oaks Track is clearly an addition in recent times to stop rat running. As for the history of access from Boundary Lane, I do not know if that has been purely a bridleway or vehicular, but bollards stand as permanent sentries against intrusion by powered four wheelers!
Thirty years ago this sizeable rural pocket of peace, fresh air, and views across London was new to me, however it has become popular with walkers and their dogs, cyclists, and runners as I saw on my sun baked walk. Yes there were cars too, I counted two, but drivers did not speed, did not harass, and showed patience. Many of the homes are now in private hands, and the plots are now used for pasture and grazing. A choir of chirruping crickets fill the air, hedges are punctuated by bursts of colourful flowers in bloom. The Sutton Community Farm has made its home here, growing produce for local consumption and minimising food miles.
I doubt this development was intended to be an LTN, but the layout lent itself to alterations (the bollards and the fire gate) to restrict through traffic much later on. So we have inherited an evolved design enjoyed by many. If we are going to leave a legacy which gives people such quiet and pleasant spaces to enjoy in one hundred years’ time, then we need to follow the example of Telegraph Track. If we want to build a better future, then Sutton’s secret LTN of the past should be a secret no more.