During the 1970’s in Colliers Wood in South West London, the river Wandle was diverted to make way for a massive building project - a huge hypermarket – the Sainsbury’s Saver Centre. However the engineers left the original course of the river in which flows now a narrow channel of water known as the Pickle.
The hypermarket is built on the 12th century Merton Priory. The Pickle forms part of its medieval boundary.
Beside a pylon
a gutter of scruffy water -
a floating crust of dust and oil -
The Wandle’s original line
before they straightened it
and split it in two.
Here where two car parks meet
the tarmac ends.
Opens to a triple scored boundary
of medieval wall and footpath
and the deep black crack of water
ignored by locals
unadorned like a drainage ditch.
This fringe remains of the meadows
that long ago lay here
in the grounds of the Priory.
Of calico drenched in river water
laid out in a billowing haze of light
bleaching slowly in the sun
while the Priory bells call vespers
and a thin river mist gathers.
But now among the verges
lined with Honda and Renault
beside Kiss Me Hardy and Burger King
half floating –
a sunken barrel of beer, police cones,
and an upturned shopping trolley
littering the line of water,
© David Loffman
Merton Priory Trust