diamond geezer

 Monday, October 10, 2016

Greater London contains around 2000 National Grid squares, each 1km by 1km in size. Back in August I picked one of these at random and visited it to see what I might find, and over the weekend I did it again. Last time I got Barking and Dagenham, and this time I got Hounslow, specifically a square covering the northeast of Osterley. Ooh I've never been there before, I thought, which sounded promising. But TQ1577 proved something of a disappointment, because all the interesting stuff turned out to be in the squares nextdoor.

8 Things To Do In Grid Square TQ1577

1) Drive straight through

The most prominent feature hereabouts is the Great West Road, also known as the A4, which cuts Osterley in two. It wasn't always such a barrier, indeed it wasn't even here until 1925 when the Hounslow and Brentford bypass was built. But now there's a six lane carriageway scything through, with regularly spaced lights to slow down the traffic, where local residents queue patiently to feed into the melee. This section's quite dull, and lined by semi-detached houses in a classic example of ribbon development. But look to the east and you'll see the bold brick tower of the Gillette Factory, the first of several Art Deco marvels along what's known as Brentford's Golden Mile. This pre-war commercial zone is well worth a look if you're a fan of the futuristically architectural, and indeed I went and had an admiring look later, but unfortunately it's in grid square TQ1677 so I can't tell you about it.

2) Stop off at the Osterley Park Hotel

The only refreshment opportunity of any note in this 1km grid square is the Osterley Park Hotel. This roadside hostelry sits on the corner where Wood Lane crosses the A4, with a few hanging baskets outside, and the promise of Sky Sports Live within. It opened in 1928 as a free house called the Pillar to Post, indeed one part still is, but facilities have since extended to include a tandoori restaurant and a 3-star hotel (with banqueting hall) in a large annexe round the back. It's hardly the "Tudor style hotel" its website claims, especially now some philistine's whitewashed over the black timbers on the frontage, but it is convenient for the airport if that's the important thing. A more interesting looking pub is the Hare and Hounds on Windmill Lane, a Fullers classic with candle-filled fireplaces and a large garden, but unfortunately it's in grid square TQ1578 so I can't tell you about it.

3) Go for a walk in Osterley Park

Osterley House is one of the National Trust's greatest London treasures, a Tudor mansion upgraded to banker's palace in the 18th century. The house sits in 142 acres of parkland, one of the largest open spaces in west London, complete with ornamental lakes, formal gardens and landscaped woodland. What's more this expanse is free to visit, once the parking fee is paid, with cedar lawns to stroll across and footpaths winding off round the estate. One of these heads east from the main drive, past fenced off pasture where cattle graze and calmly eye-up passers-by, before zigzagging past the backs of gardens on Jersey Road, the main vista towards the house now shielded by trees. I deviated and thoroughly enjoyed my tour of the state rooms and scullery, but unfortunately the House is in grid square TQ1477 so I can't tell you about it, only a few hundred muddy metres on the estate perimeter.

4) Ride through on the Piccadilly line

If you've been to Heathrow by tube you'll have passed through TQ1577, midway between Boston Manor and Osterley stations. The Piccadilly line runs in cutting through this particular grid square, for about half a mile, after crossing the River Brent a short distance to the east. Peer down through the slats above one of the square's three road bridges and you can watch the trains rushing by, not that they actually stop. When the line was opened another station was close by, named Osterley Park and Spring Grove, built on Thornbury Road to service the entrance to the estate. But in 1934 a better located station was opened on the Great West Road, and since 1967 the old booking office has been occupied by one of London's quirkiest and most adorable second hand bookshops. Osterley Books is heaped high with paperbacks and ex library stock, plus greetings cards and bric-a-brac, lovingly curated by husband and wife team Tony and Pennie. I thoroughly enjoyed squeezing round their shelves for a browse, but unfortunately the bookshop's in grid square TQ1477 so I can't tell you about it.

5) Ride the H28 to Tesco

Two buses serve grid square TQ1577 - the H91 which darts along the main road, and the H28 which threads sinuously through the backstreets. So meandering is the H28's route hereabouts, crossing the Great West Road four times and negotiating a level crossing, that TfL have been consulting on sending it a different way. But local people are up in arms at the thought of losing services on Wood Lane, despite improved connections elsewhere, so plans are currently on hold until a solution can be found. In the meantime this single decker is unique in London in terminating at a Tesco at both ends. At this end that's Osterley's huge Tesco Extra, a retail behemoth which conceals a more interesting empire behind. Sky Television is based here in a series of futuristic sheds and offices up Grant Way, with HQs for Sky News and Sky Everything Else watched over by security guards and billboards, but unfortunately it's all just inside grid square TQ1677 so I can't tell you about it.

6) Buy a house in a conservation area

The Spring Grove conservation area extends north to the Great West Road, a web of Victorian streets laid out to attract City gentlemen, and which maintains an alluringly middle class cachet to this day. A few nicer homes exist near St Mary's church, whose spire dominates the skyline hereabouts. Close by is Borough College, an institutional Gothic structure in polychrome brick with projecting wings and a central turreted tower. Its educational role lasted 140 years but the interior has recently become residential, and its spacious grounds have been eaten away by less dazzling houses and flats. The avenues beyond the war memorial and the Crown Court are the most impressive, including the house which was the nucleus of the original estate, but unfortunately they're in grid square TQ1576 so I can't enthuse about them.

7) Play lots of sport

A surprising number of sports clubs have congregated in grid square TQ1577, particularly on former meadows along Syon Lane and Wood Lane. There's football at the Goals Soccer Centre, an athletics track at what was Borough College, cricket and tennis at Wycombe House, plus the squat 19th hole of the Wyke Green Golf Club (if not the main course itself). An enormous field off Syon Lane used to be the home ground of Harrow Hill Rovers FC, formerly of the Hellenic League Premier Division, but they folded in 2007 and their derelict clubhouse has recently been bulldozed. A notice on the chained gates reveals the Education Funding Agency is to blame, enraging the local populace by buying the land for a 1400-strong religious free school. As part of the deal Grasshoppers Rugby Football Club will be moving in nextdoor, their current pitches being on land BSkyB wants to expand onto, except that's fractionally into grid square TQ1677 so I can't tell you about that.

8) Enjoy a stroll in Jersey Gardens

There is I'm pleased to say one bona fide reason to maybe visit grid square TQ1577, and that's Jersey Gardens. When the Great West Road was being dug in the 1920s this was the site of a gravel pit, its contents used to build the banks at the new Osterley station. The depression was subsequently landscaped into a sunken Alpine garden, an extensive feature believed unique in London, while land to the east became a small park, tennis courts and playing field. The alpine rockery is certainly unusual, with narrow paths leading down into an evergreen woodland dell, and occasional clusters of piled stones scattered beneath a pine canopy. I had these holly hollows entirely to myself, disturbing scores of pigeons from their rest as I wound through to a raised terrace with mysterious octagonal foundations. Jersey's sylvan dip rates somewhere between Enchanting and Dogger's Paradise, I'm not sure which, but I bet it looks gorgeous when the bluebells are out.

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