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Sunday, 29 July 2012
Wandsworth Common


As seen from the air on Friday morning.

Wandsworth Common

dates back to the 11th century. On the common people had rights which included the cutting of wood and shrubs, the grazing of animals and the digging of gravel. As London expanded, pressure to develop the common increased and large areas passed into private hands and others were dissected by road and rail links.

Although it was purchased by a private conservation body in 1871, it was only after being passed to the ownership of the local council in 1971 (the local council says) that its future as an important conservation site was secured.

Wandsworth Common today includes many trees, two lakes, woodlands and grasslands along with sports and play facilities. The common is home to a wide variety of urban wildlife including foxes, squirrels and numerous bird and invertebrate species.
Part of the common known as the scope is managed specifically for wildlife. Its name is derived from an enormous telescope (once the largest in the world) which was constructed in 1852 by the Rev. John Craig. The expansion of London resulted in poorer air quality making the telescope useless - it was removed in the 1870s. The scope contains young oak and silver birch woodland, different types of grassland and scrub habitats.

Facilities on the Wandsworth Common include an educational centre in an area dedicated to wildlife known as The Scope (named after the Craig telescope), as well as tennis courts, a bowling green, a cafe bar, and a fitness trail. The Common is popular with local runners, dog walkers and cyclists.

The radial-shaped building complex opposite the common (top of photograph) is HM Prison Wandsworth.  This is a Category B men’s prison, which means that it is intended for men who do not require maximum security, but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult. The great train robber Ronald Biggs famously escaped from this prison in 1965, and fled to Brazil. The prison was originally known as the Surrey House of Correction, and 135 prisoners were legally executed here between 1878 and 1961, including the World War Two traitor Lord Haw Haw, William Joyce.

The prison has been reported many times over the last twelve years to be a poor quality prison. The most recent reports of this included staff attempts to hide their mismanagement and abuse of prisoners, in 2011.

Posted by bigblue on 29/07/2012 at 08:16 AM
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