THE LOST RIVERS OF LONDON The River Westbourne 2) West Hampstead
One of the easiest ways to spot a lost river is to look out for an unexpected dip in the road. In this case Finchley Road (the busy A41) at the junction with Heath Drive, where there's a gentle but undeniable down-and-up gradient [photo]. A shallow hollow that could only have been created by a small stream over thousands of years, carving an indentation into the slope across which this six-lane highway now passes. The traffic barely notices, but any passing geomorphologist will surely nod sagely and drive on.
Locals named this Cannon's Stream because it trickled down Cannon's Hill (which still exists, but only as a slightly posh street name). At the foot of the hill the brook flowed behind the Cock and Hoop tavern and fed a small pond on West End Green. Both pub and pond are long since gone, replaced by mansion-style flats and a grey granite drinking fountain, but the runty green survives (these days as a little more than a pigeon magnet). [photo]
This is Hampstead's West End, originally a small hamlet to the south of Child's Hill, far distant from its internationally renowned namesake. Rural isolation ended abruptly in the mid 19th century with the arrival of three parallel London-bound railway lines. Rail bosses couldn't sustain naming their station "West End" for fear of confusion, and so the area slowly metamorphosed into modern "West Hampstead" instead. The path of the main Westbourne rivulet crosses all three lines to the west of allthreestations, buried forever beneath iron rails and suburban terraces. Two further tributaries ran further east, below the far end of West End Lane, springing forth around the site of the old Frognal estate. Not until reaching Kilburn, a mile downstream, do all three braids come together. Following the Westbourne: Cannon Hill, West End Green, West Cotts, Pandora Road, Sumatra Road, Maygrove Road, Loveridge Road, Iverson Road.