diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 19, 2019

10 miles from central London

Finally, let's visit the locations that lie ten miles north, east, south and west from the statue of Charles I in Trafalgar Square. They form a perfectly representative quartet... in turn recreational, retail, residential and industrial.

[1 mile], [2 miles], [3 miles], [4 miles], [5 miles], [6 miles], [7 miles], [8 miles], [9 miles] [map]

TEN MILES NORTH: Trent Park Equestrian Centre N14
(along the back fence, alongside Trent Park Golf Club)

Precisely ten miles north from central London the houses stop and open country begins. The houses are in Oakwood, a well-to-do housing estate which followed the arrival of the Piccadilly line in the 1930s, its tube station a triumphant box. A lengthy parade of surprisingly good shops stretches off to one side, with barely a chain or fried chicken shop amongst them, rather restaurants, salons and the occasional florist. For those used to inner-city living, it's eye-openingly comfortable out here. But on the opposite side of the road the Green Belt prevented further development, so Eastpole Farm never metamorphosed into leafy avenues. Instead its fields became a golf course and its stables became an equestrian centre.

Trent Park Equestrian Centre is one of London's larger horsey hubs, with stables, livery facilities and exercise areas across several acres. It's well shielded from the road, allowing £62 lessons, children's parties and mucking out to proceed in private. Every so often a line of black helmets bobs above a hedge. Occasionally the clopping of hooves can be heard. Head up the muddy bridleway towards Trent Park proper and you might meet a group of proficient riders out for a hack. But what you won't be doing is walking in off the street to reach the precise Ten Miles North location at the rear of the site, because that's off limits.

The only other way to reach the right spot would be to play a round on Trent Park Golf Course. The fairway for the tenth hole brushes up against the back of the equestrian centre, should you ever be interested in coming (non-members welcome, weekdays £17). But there's no convenient public footpath across the course, and the screen of woodland around the outside is deliberately obstructive, so I never managed to point my camera at the designated location from any angle. Instead I glimpsed a few youthful golfers through the trees, smartly dressed and fashionably capped, and watched their buggy glide silently by. Ten Miles North is solely for private playtime, be that on two feet or on four.

TEN MILES EAST: Morrisons, Thamesmead SE28
(in the car park, front right)

I love the fact that travelling ten miles east from Trafalgar Square brings you to the beating heart of Thamesmead, specifically its shopping centre, specifically the car park outside Morrisons. This isn't the original shopping centre, the peculiar huddle round the clocktower with its waterside piazza and umpteen ducks, but the larger retail park that's evolved out back. The first supermarket to move in was Safeway, in the giant store now occupied by Morrisons, but Thamesmead's shoppers now also have the option of an Iceland and, once they've finished completely rebuilding it, an Aldi. At the weekend this is a place of pilgrimage for thousands, streaming in with their reusable bags, plus partners, children, flatsharers or mates in tow. You can even get your hair cut in a modified shipping container plonked outside.

The precise spot in the car park is a couple of lanes to the right of the main entrance, immediately before the trolley store. Here I watched one couple return semi-laden, already eating one of their snackier purchases, before climbing into their Lexus and driving away. A replacement family arrived shortly afterwards, looking very much like they'd be filling a cheaper trolley, and faffed a bit before heading shopwards. A lifesize cutout of a policeman welcomes shoppers venturing inside Morrisons' hallowed portal, and beyond that at this time of year is a Christmas tree with baubles saying Let It Snow. A rack of newspapers and flavoured Tic Tacs still has prominence, along with a wall of chocolate selection boxes on special offer. And when you're done, perhaps throw in a trip to Poundland, a browse in Peacocks and lunch from KFC to make a day of it.

TEN MILES SOUTH: The Chase, South Beddington SM6
(backing onto Godalming Avenue)

Here's the residential one. We're in Beddington, between Wallington in Sutton and Waddon in Croydon, and administratively in the former. A hundred years ago these were open fields outside the hamlet of Bandon Hill, facing an aerodrome that would shortly become London's first airport. The march of suburbia then claimed the available space between main road and railway, forming the High View Estate, hence I find myself amid very Thirties houses along very Thirties avenues built with the lower middle class very much in mind. The Chase is the spine road, and runty Central Avenue would have provided the retail focus but has now been reduced to three shops. One's a convenience store that still does newspaper delivery, one's the HQ for a slotcutting company and the third belongs to the 'Sausage Master'. Drop in and Daniel Parker will sell you Pork Stilton & Cranberry, Black Porkies or a full-on Venison, because that's what fourth generation butchers now do.

The local housing stock consists of what looks like several semis joined together. This makes rear access tricky, so the architects also squeezed long narrow alleyways round the back between the avenues. This is also where they stuck the garages, because motorists' needs were less important then, but driving today's vehicles in and out would be far more impractical so everyone now parks out front. Down The Chase each front garden is large enough to accommodate a family saloon, but on Godalming Avenue most bonnets poke out onto the pavement. Because I visited on Sunday morning cars were being washed, hoovered and generally worshipped. Unmodified porches still had their original stained glass house numbers. The lower branches of one conifer were heavy with bird feeders. One pink rose looked like it'll hang on into winter. A tabby cat padded past. Such is London life, ten miles from the centre.

TEN MILES WEST: Great Western Industrial Park, Southall UB2
(at the bend in Dean Way)

If you know the Uxbridge Road, or indeed the Great Western Railway, we're by the Iron Bridge. The quirky Three Bridges, where Isambard Kingdom Brunel slotted a road bridge above an aqueduct above a railway line, is close by. In 1927 this site was chosen by Associated Daimler Co Ltd for their new factory, and it's where A.D.C. (soon renamed A.E.C.) spent the next half century manufacturing commercial and passenger vehicles. They specialised in chassis for buses and lorries, plus the occasional artillery tractor, and are perhaps most famous for turning out classic Routemaster double deckers. In the 1960s A.E.C. was the largest employer in Southall, with a labour force exceeding 5000, but in 1979 British Leyland closed it down and the flattened site is now an industrial estate.

Great Western Industrial Park is a Screwfix, Topps Tiles and Carpet Town affair, plus a large Matalan to help draw the crowds. But drive fractionally further in and the large grey sheds are less public, mostly warehouses, freight depots and factories for the processing of food. Up Dean Way, where we're heading, two statuesque elephants guard the entrance to Noon Foods, the heart of a Southall entrepreneur's ready meal empire. If you pinged a chicken tikka masala in your microwave during the early years of convenience food it may well have come from here, and the Waitrose lorries parked out front suggest business is still hot. Across the road we find Delifrance, automated manufacturers of artisan bread, whose factory is flanked by tall metal silos and a row of red, white and blue flags. And at the end of the road trains to Cardiff can occasionally be seen rushing by, but that's One Hundred And Thirty Miles West and I am very much stopping at Ten.

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