And finally on this quest to visit London's streets called Noel, we're off to the longest of the lot, in west London on the western side of Acton. By the time I got here it was almost dark, but that did mean I arrived in time for a rather lovelysunset.
Noel Road (Acton)
This Noel Road is almost a mile long, with a curved kink at one end, and runs from Twyford Avenue to Horn Lane. If that's not helping you locate it, the number 440 bus runs along its length, and if that doesn't help, West Acton station is located sort of up one end. The street is accessiblyaspirational, lined with detached and semi-detached homes most Londoners would be pleased to own. Several of the front gardens along Noel Road remain horticultural havens behind high hedges, while many more are paved over for parking, often for more than one car. I'd guess interwar for the age of the houses, and praise the architects who managed to provide variety of design along its length. Of all the Noels I've visited this was definitely the street most likely to have Christmas trees displayed in its front windows, sparkling (and occasionally flashing) as twilight turned to dusk.
The western end of Noel Road is at a railway bridge over the Great Western mainline, at approximately the point where the Central line veers off after Ealing Broadway station. They're doing some Crossrail-related work down below, nothing exciting, merely necessary, with access down the ramp by the allotments. It's not far down the road to West Acton station, around which clusters a minor parade of shops. One grocery store oversells itself with the name West Acton Superstores (more a fruit and binbags kind of outlet), then there's a launderette, a chemists, the usual. But look more closely and there's a definite cultural theme going on... the "London Tokyo" estate agents, a sushi andseafood shop, and some Far Eastern faces in the dry cleaners. This is very much a Japanese part of town - indeed there's a Japanese School two blocks south, and several mums walk their children home with a smile along Noel Road.
Heading eastwards the residential vibe kicks in more strongly, with hints of other activities beyond. A sports ground is tucked in between Noel Road and the Acton mainline, while beyond Saxon Drive lies the southernmost outpost of the Park Royal Industrial Estate, formerly Acton Airfield. The large open space about halfway down is North Acton Playing Fields, a fairly featureless rectangle ideal for tennis, cricket and bowling. And if you turn left here (up Westfields Road) you reach an unexpectedly iconic eaterie where Apprentice losers go to drown their sorrows. This is the BridgeCafe (the bridge in question being over the Central line), which is used by the BBC production team because Lord Sugar's boardroom is in fact a mock up in a large shed nearby at Park Royal. The greasy spoon is more interesting than Noel Road gets, sorry, the only remaining highlights being St Gabriel's church, an Indian takeaway and a place that does dental implants. They may not be the most exciting places, but London's half dozen "Noel" roads create a perfect snapshot of what the capital's truly like.