diamond geezer

 Friday, December 22, 2017

That hike along the Heathrow flightpath was my final Herbert Dip.

If you remember, I challenged myself back in January to visit each of the London boroughs proposed by the Herbert Commission in 1960. They came up with a list of 52 boroughs, including some outside what we now know as London, eventually whittled down to the 33 boroughs we know today.



And I've now written a post about all 52 boroughs, at the rate of approximately one a week, ordered by the shuffling of a pack of cards. Here's the full, clickable list, confirming what a lengthy all-encompassing challenge this has been.

 CLUBS DIAMONDS HEARTS SPADES
ACity of LondonBattersea
Wandsworth (part)
Bexley
Crayford
Erith
Heston & Isleworth
2City of WestminsterHammersmith
Fulham
Chislehurst & Sidcup
Orpington
Acton
Brentford & Chiswick
3Finsbury
Holborn
Shoreditch
Kensington
Chelsea
Beckenham
Bromley
Penge
Ealing
4IslingtonPaddington
St Marylebone
CroydonHayes & Harlington
Southall
5Hackney
Stoke Newington
Hampstead
St Pancras
Caterham & Warlingham
Coulsdon & Purley
Ruislip-Northwood
Uxbridge
Yiewsley & West Drayton
6Bethnal Green
Poplar
Stepney
Chingford
Walthamstow
Banstead
Epsom & Ewell
Harrow
7WoolwichChigwell
Leyton
Wanstead & Woodford
Beddington & Wallington
Carshalton
Sutton & Cheam
Wembley
8Deptford
Greenwich
IlfordMerton & Morden
Mitcham
Wimbledon
Willesden
9LewishamRomfordBarnes
Richmond
Hendon
10CamberwellHornchurchKingston upon Thames
Malden & Coombe
Surbiton
Barnet
East Barnet
Finchley
Friern Barnet
JBermondsey
Southwark
Barking
Dagenham
Esher
Walton & Weybridge
Hornsey
Southgate
Wood Green
QLambethEast HamFeltham
Staines
Sunbury-on-Thames
Edmonton
Tottenham
KWandsworthWest HamTwickenhamCheshunt
Enfield

Turning over each card was the easy bit. I then had to locate the former borough, think up something to do there, go out for the day to explore, and then come home and write the whole thing up.

The best way to locate each former borough, I discovered, was via the Vision of Britain website. This stores all kinds of information about former administrative units, which could prove invaluable if you do historic or genealogical research. To generate an archive map, first search for a place, then choose Units and statistics from the sidebar, then select the appropriate Administrative Area from the table, then choose Boundary Map. For example, here's the map for the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, here's Penge Urban District and here's the Municipal Borough of Edmonton.

Rather more problematic was coming up with an idea for what to do when I got there. After 15 years of blogging I've been to most parts of London more than once, so it wasn't always easy to find a fresh focus. But I think I managed to find a plethora of original angles, and my explorations succeeded in taking me to several places I'd somehow never been to before (hello Feltham, hello Cudham, hello Hacton). As a quick clickable checklist, here are all the ideas I came up with on my playing card journey.

January: walk between airport terminals, H26 bus, Thamesside walk, aimless wandering, street market
February: blue plaques, sewer-top walk, old streetname signs
March: interesting things, former stadium, pioneering housing, borough circumnavigation, arterial road
April: place with a silly name, Green Flag parks, development zone, Bus Stop Ms
May: borough boundary, election posters, museum secrets, conservation area
June: National Stadium, unlost river, hilltops, canal towpaths
July: cycle superhighway, places I've never been, woods, Surrey commuterbelt, poem
August: tube extension, Civil War battles, new town boundary, National Archives, Admiral Nelson
September: footpaths, Countryside Walk, where the Mayor lives
October: Modernist housing, bus 499, lesser known settlements, pedways, benches
November: Thames Path, famous statues, rural villages, tourist attractions, an old road
December: public transport inaccessibility, high security museum, dérive, Heathrow flightpath

One thing I noticed is that writing up these 52 posts tended to take longer than normal. More words, more photos, more research, more links, more time. This didn't usually equate to more comments, but that's fine, because it's unlikely you ever lived or worked in the borough I was writing about. Another thing I noticed is how much I enjoyed doing it. What a brilliant excuse to force myself to visit a complete cross section of London and its suburbs, which it's all too easy never to do otherwise. I bet you haven't recently. Thank you playing cards, you were great.



Which leaves me a week and a bit to come up with a fresh idea for 2018. Something vast but manageable, and broad but precise. It needs to involve actually going somewhere - London preferred - but nothing too rigid, so not 'pubs alphabetically', or 'pillar boxes within 100 metres of Crossrail stations'. I think one of the reasons the playing card tour worked is that it wasn't overly specific, more a frame to hang ideas from. Something inspirational will crop up, I'm sure. And if it doesn't, no big deal.


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