We ended up crossing the road on Plough Lane and walking on the Wandle Path. The running stream seemed full of life and yet was surrounded by high-rise buildings, electricity grids and warehouses. To our surprise, we turned around to see a fenced off square of land on the other side of the path with three ponies on it. It seemed a stark contrast to the very industrial feel across the river. 100 meters ahead was another fenced off bit of land but this time with a huge black and white horse, standing and watching the passers-by. It seemed even more strange that these farm animals resided in what was effectively the back garden of Plough Lane’s block of flats. People stopped to take pictures and so I knew I couldn’t be the only one seeing them. 

Funnily enough, Wandsworth’s history has largely centered around these equine creatures. Wandsworth grew up as a crossing point on the River Wandle, the large number of horse-drawn carriages plying between Central London and West England put it on the map. In 1890 there were half a million horses on the streets though this existence was clearly costly as they has a life expectancy of 3 years. The horses I saw that Sunday seemed under much less stress with a stack of hay and what looked like a comfy stable. 

As time went on the locals in Wandsworth grew very fond of their horses and were exhibited frequently at horse shows. One horse called Steve got newspaper attention for reaching his 21st birthday even when working twice as long as an average cart horse. This famous birthday was nearly exactly 55 years ago on the 1st of Januray 1966. He was given a "box of 21 carrots", the celebration being held in Wandsworth's Youngs Brewery.  

Historical archives of the borough also told me of the vintage "Rawle and Son” saddlery shop, which is evidence that horses must have played some major role in the life of Wandsworth’s past and evidently present too.  The shop was established in 1866 and said to have been one of the biggest harness manufacturers in London.

The juxtaposition of the industrial backdrop and surprising appearance of farm animals is testament to diversity of Wandsworth as a borough. It's rich and even eccentric history is one that never fails to intrigue. Perhaps wander along the Wandle as part of your daily exercise these coming weeks; it’s a given that you will find something you didn't quite expect when you left the house.