diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Somewhere historic: Grand Union Canal
[A three mile walk from Harlesden to One Tree Hill, Alperton]

Whenever I explore a random borough, I always attempt to go for a long walk. Ideally a long walk that the local council has flagged on its website. Good old Brent Council provided a choice of four, each supplied by the London Ecology Unit. Excellent, I thought, I'll have one of them. So I printed out the map and instructions and prepared myself for a delightful three mile stroll along a 200 year old canal. "London Ecology Unit", eh? I should have spotted the clues before I set out.

McVities, AlpertonI haven't been to Harlesden for almost 25 years, back when I was doing a summer job on the Park Royal trading estate. If you bought any Marks and Spencer clothing during the latter half of 1983, I probably helped to produce the little hole-punched swing ticket that hung from the label. So I subconsciously recognised the first part of the walk from my teenage commute. Right out of the station, round the McVities factory (mmm, Harlesden smells nice) and down onto the towpath. Then past the tied up barge and westward, towards Alperton. My printed pdf advised me to look out for a purple bellflower, some blue tufted vetch and a patch of red campion. Not a sign. All I could see was a grassy green verge with no flowering vegetation at all. I should have guessed that a guided walk produced by the London Ecology Unit would be rather heavier on flowers than on history. And that perhaps such a walk was better suited to July than January. Never mind, ever onward.

Next I was advised to enjoy the "pleasant smells" nearby, probably emanating "from the Heinz factory" on the opposite bank. Erm, there was no Heinz factory on the opposite bank, just a long row of shiny white warehouses containing various non ketchup manufacturing businesses. I was sure I remembered an oppressive grimy factory last time I was here, with big pipes and sheer grey walls. And yes, as it turns out, I was right. But the Heinz Factory closed down in 2000 and the site has since been comprehensively redeveloped. My printed walk was seriously out of date... and with good reason. The London Ecology Unit also breathed its last in 2000, absorbed into the new Greater London Authority. So, I was following a walk that was at least eight years old, and already historically obsolete. Never mind, ever onward.

Grand Union Canal, AlpertonTwo pages of A4 description later and I'd seen almost nothing of what was being described. Just a lot of Park Royal industrial units and a few ducks. There was, however, a bit of a treat ahead as the canal passed over the North Circular Road on an aqueduct. Because aqueducts are cool. But unfortunately the view from this aqueduct was of a stream of rushing traffic and a very modern Travelodge. Even the aqueduct itself photos, with a magnificent Middlesex Coat of Arms lodged inbetween the twin channels, turned out to be nothing more than a 1993 replacement. There were a few highlights ahead. A couple of quietly puttering narrowboats photosphotos. A modernised footbridge being well frequented by locals. An extraordinary tumbledown old shed-like building beneath a Piccadilly line rail bridge photos. A swan photos. But on the whole this was a canalside walk where the canal was the only thing worth seeing, and not the stuff to either side. Never mind, ever onward.

The walk ended away from the canal, just before the scenery got good. My printed guide apologised for the detour, but the pretty stretch beneath Horsenden Hill was in Ealing, not Brent, and therefore off limits. Instead I was diverted along a busy road and up a lesser hill on the outskirts of Alperton, with semi-screened views over west London and the City. One Tree Hill, as it was called, boasted more trees than strictly permitted under the Trade Descriptions Act photos. Wembley Stadium was perfectly visible from the single bench at the summit photos, as were the stone pinnacles of an astonishing Hindu temple under construction at the foot of the hill photos. This was certainly the high point of the journey, in every way, but not a true peak. It had been more an anachronistic stroll than a historic walk. Never mind.
by tube: Harlesden → Alperton  by bus: 224


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream