diamond geezer

 Wednesday, September 29, 2010

THE LOST RIVERS OF LONDON
Stamford Brook
tributary 2
- The Warple


If the Bollo Brook was obscure, then the Warple is surely more so. It's the local name for the middle one of the Stamford Brook's three main tributaries, and it used to drain much of Acton. Most surprisingly, a tiny stretch of the Warple apparently still exists. The local Ordnance Survey map shows approximately 100m of streamlet running through the back gardens of houses on Rosemont Road, which must make for a nice water feature, although nothing's visible from the street nor indeed from above. This is one of the Warple's sources, and there's another in nearby Springfield Gardens. Spring, field... all the clues are there! Council-erected signs spell out the park's rivery backstory as confirmation for those who care to read it.

There are some fairly steep slopes round and about, including Acton Hill. This was once home to the very first branch of Waitrose, but now leads down towards a rather less aspirational Morrisons in the High Street [photo]. The Warple flowed in the dip between these two retail outlets, crossing what's now a major traffic junction before continuing down through the redbrick end of the South Acton Estate. There are nicer places to go tracking lost rivers than traipsing round the back of garages beneath slabby tower blocks, it has to be said. The contours flatten out a little towards Acton Lane, where the only watery landmark today is the Victorian glass-roofed Acton Swimming Baths. [photo]

Next up it's the Southfields Recreation Ground, through which the river ran when this was Acton's South Field. And then, beyond the Scout hut, a peculiar curved lane fenced off at both ends. This is the location of the Acton Storm Tanks - a 1905 pumping station built for the important purpose of preventing the local area from flooding now that the river had been removed. The Warple is still sorely missed. Thames Water are currently consulting on plans to build a 21st century sewer - the multi-million pound Acton Storm Relief - to connect to their Tideway Tunnel running beneath the Thames. Locals fear several years of lorries disrupting life down Warple Way (there had to be one, didn't there?).

It's not far to the area where tributaries 1 and 2 joined. The Bollo Brook came in from the west, the Warple from the north, and the resulting conglomeration was the Stamford Brook. The stream's gone now, but it's not been forgotten. There's a Stamford Brook Road, which leads to the Brook gastropub (a chicken kiev and tempura prawn kind of place). There's a triangle of grass, called Stamford Brook Common, ideal for exercising less energetic dogs. The river once ran along the southern side, I believe. And of course there's Stamford Brook tube station, the most widely-known reminder of all. This was the very first station on the underground network to have automatic ticket barriers, way back in 1964. The staff have had less to do ever since, which must be why the bloke on the gate took more than a passing interest in the fact I was taking photographs of the exterior of his station [photo]. "Those for a magazine?" he asked, as I Oystered through. "Yeah, like any magazine would be interested in shots of Stamford Brook station, you suspicious jobsworth," I wanted to reply, but thought better of it. I wonder how many dyslexic Chelsea fans he has to deal with on Saturday afternoons.


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