diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 02, 2022

Yesterday I went to Hanworth, which is a London suburb.

a) It's in the borough of Hounslow.
b) It's southeast of Feltham and southwest of Twickenham.
c) It's only a mile away from Surrey.
d) It's not to be confused with Hampton (which is to the southeast) nor with Hanwell, Hatton or Heston (which are further away).
e) It doesn't have a station, which may be why you're struggling to place it.



Here are five things Hanworth had.

1) A moated manor house owned by Henry VIII, then Anne Boleyn, then Katherine Parr. Elizabeth I lived here for a while as a child.
2) A 13th century church called St George's, where Henry VIII and Elizabeth I are known to have worshipped.
3) A big house called Hanworth Park House.
4) An aerodrome on the site of the Hanworth Park estate, also known as London Air Park, with hangars for the building of aeroplanes.
5) A few country lanes meeting by the Brown Bear pub.



Here's what those things are now.

1) The manor house burnt down in 1797 but the stable block survives as flats called Tudor Court. The moat is partly filled in and hidden within a housing estate. I tried hunting for it but was batted back by hedges and signs saying private so don't bother coming. The streets on the estate are called Seymour Gardens, Elizabeth Way and Moat Side. I met the postie. There ought to be a footpath through to the local off licence but the original planners didn't want the hoi polloi getting in so there isn't.
2) St George's was completely rebuilt in 1812 so parishioners aren't really worshipping where Henry and Elizabeth did. The spire is a local landmark. Outside is a rather nice half shell hollow yew tree.
3) Hanworth Park House has been derelict since the old people's home it turned into closed in 1992. It's entirely surrounded by trees so can't really be seen. A charitable group of Friends are keen to restore the house to something usefully communal, but thus far it's all good intentions and no realistic outcome.
4) The aerodrome became Hanworth Park which is a huge open space with woody bits, a stream and a lot of flat grass. It's looking a bit parched at the moment. In one corner is a Model Aircraft flying zone which is a nice nod back. Feltham Rugby Club is based in the park as is Hanworth's leisure centre/library. One of the teachers at the local academy asked me to throw their rounders ball back over the fence.
5) The lane to Sunbury got turned into a massive dual carriageway feeding down to the start of the M3. It scythed through Hanworth in a stripe of concrete destruction and rises up on a mighty embankment at the Bear Road flyover. Houses on the Oriel estate have been built with no rear windows to block out the noise.

Hanworth's not what it was.

coming later: a radio infographic
coming when we reach halfway through the year: a quiz

 Friday, July 01, 2022

30 unblogged things I did in June

Wed 1: It's good to see the stuff I was doing at work seven years ago is still being used.
Thu 2: I was trying to work out which bus to take from Golders Green bus station, a key north London interchange, and it turns out there isn't a single helpful map anywhere and I ended up wandering across several dangerous bus lanes before eventually deducing that the stop I wanted was down the road. It's like they've given up.
Fri 3: To celebrate the Platinum Jubilee I rode the whole of route 70 from Chiswick to South Kensington. It proved to be a slow convoluted trek via all sorts of well-to-do backroads, not best seen from a single decker. But I didn't blog about it because I learned my lesson with route 60 which I described in full for the Diamond Jubilee and now face blogging again when it becomes my birthday bus in three years' time.



Sat 4: The Platinum Jubilee concert was proper mainstream but a lot of fun (Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber excepted). But someone really should have noted that Diana Ross's voice sadly isn't what it was and unbooked her for Glastonbury later in the month.
Sun 5: The irises on my balcony usually last a few weeks but this year they've only lasted one and then shrivelled, and I'm not sure if it's something I've done or something I haven't done or just the weather.
Mon 6: Imagine if the Vote of Confidence in the Prime Minister had gone the other way, we could have had an even worse leader with trenchant state-shrinking views and the drive to carry them through, and sometimes be careful what you wish for.
Tue 7: One of the many Crossrail lifts used to allow anyone to gain access to private passages on multiple floors nobody should have been able to enter, but they have now fixed it so that only two buttons work.
Wed 8: I received one of those unexpected phone calls you really don't want to get, but within 48 hours it became clear that the alternative outcome could have been much worse, so it very much pays to ask.
Thu 9: On the way home from Watford my Metropolitan line train was held up by a swan on the line. The driver was forced to divert at Croxley via the rarely-used North Curve and then reverse at Rickmansworth to get us to Moor Park. My 7 year-old self would have been utterly thrilled to have made that journey (and my 57 year-old self was pretty excited too). The swan was not harmed.



Fri 10: Things that appear on the New Eltham village sign: apples, pair of semi-detached houses, beehive, steam train, sports pavilion, football, tennis racket, golf club and golf ball. I think they've overdone the sport there.
Sat 11: After 18 months of thinking "ooh, my new phone's battery is holding up really well", there are now the first signs that it's slipping away a little faster and before long I might have to start charging it daily.
Sun 12: Today's walk I never blogged about: the Trobridge houses up Wakemens Hill, Roe Green Conservation Area, Eton Grove Open Space, the former De Havilland factory, Chandos Rec, Handel's church, Canons Park walled garden.
Mon 13: BestMate is still testing positive for Covid ten days after feeling rough on the train home from Scotland, and I remain impressed by how many people I know are continuing to follow rules that no longer apply for the benefit of society at large.
Tue 14: In the two years since I was last on Belmont Parade in Chislehurst, the corner shop (news and tobacco, newspaper deliveries, fax and photocopies, lottery, top-up. Oyster) has closed and been replaced by a dentist called Smile4U (your life-long partner for oral care), and I worry that nobody is documenting this inexorable incremental societal change.



Wed 15: They've been promising to redevelop Stroudley Walk E3 for at least eight years, probably much longer. This week works finally got underway, which has involved sealing off several decanted buildings and blocking off the entire southern half to create a construction compound, which has suddenly made getting to the remaining shops a lot more difficult (and probably for several more years, sigh).
Thu 16: It's so warm today on Upper Tooting Road that our bus driver stopped to let kindly souls from the Khalsa Centre Gurdwara nip aboard and hand out free bottles of chilled water to everyone on board.
Fri 17: A special hello to the neighbour who was so sure they were on the right floor of the building that they spent a full key-rattling minute trying to unlock my front door by mistake.
Sat 18: I went but I never enjoy it and I left early.
Sun 19: Today's walk I never blogged about: the Sunday market in Horniman Gardens (verdict: no), the Dawson's Heights estate (verdict: not currently), the unexpectedly good view from Dawson's Hill Park (verdict: ooh yes), the Alleyn's campus (verdict: overfenced), Green Dale Fields (verdict: common).
Mon 20: In Winchmore Hill I passed a pub which already has a sign outside inviting you to book for Christmas, and I seriously doubt that anyone will be scanning their QR code to see festive menus any time soon.



Tue 21: A friend sent a photo message from 38000 feet above the Mid-Atlantic, and it only showed the back of the seat in front and the in-flight entertainment looked pretty poor, but wow wi-fi is really good these days.
Wed 22: I'm reading the new Dave Eggers book, The Every, which is a sequel to his social media satire The Circle. It fizzes with ghastly authoritatian ideas the human race could plausibly sleepwalk into, but I'd hope never will. I also loved how it was precisely 577 pages long.
Thu 23: Managed to grab a copy of the very last Time Out outside Tottenham Court Road station, and it turns out TfL have paid for a 6-page cover wrap, and their zoned culture map is very clever but simultaneously so diagrammatically flawed that I felt they were just taking liberties.
Fri 24: Shocked by the US Supreme Court's verdict on Roe v Wade, which confirms that ghastly authoritarian ideas aren't just the province of fiction and that the human race is perfectly capable of sleepwalking into submission via the ballot box.
Sat 25: I find the new purple circle on the Pride flag really distracting, mainly because everything else is a coloured stripe but also because it suggests previous flags weren't inclusive enough... and one day even today's flag may look disrespectfully out-of-date.
Sun 26: Dammit, I nearly made it to six months of Wordle correctness but made a rookie error and blew RUSTY. I blame being distracted by the unexpected appearance of Bruce Springsteen.
Mon 27: If I ever publish a book entitled London's Finest Retro Shopfronts, the West Wickham Cobbler totally merits a mention.



Tue 28: The first set of data from the 2021 census confirms that my home borough of Tower Hamlets is the most densely-populated in England and also has the fastest growing population, up 22% since 2011. The new number you need to remember for the total UK population is 67 million.
Wed 29: Dammit, one of the plastic covers on one of my earbud headphones has fallen off somewhere, could be anywhere, could even have been in Surrey. Thankfully I knew where I'd stored the tiny spares that fell out of the packet last year, so order was restored and no new purchase was necessary.
Thu 30: I've travelled on the new section of Crossrail every single day since it opened (bar weekend closures for engineering works) and I wondered if anyone else can claim the same.

 Thursday, June 30, 2022

A Bus Ride Along The A2022

To celebrate the middle of 2022 I'm travelling by bus along a significantly-numbered road in the outer London suburbs. Yesterday I followed the A2022 from West Wickham to Purley and today I'm continuing west through Banstead to Epsom. Three bus journeys remain, on two different routes, plus a couple of miles of walking to fill in the gaps.



The centre of Purley is a swirling vortex of major roads, being where the A22 to Eastbourne breaks off from the A23 to Brighton. The A2022 is numerically outgunned as it passes the clocktower but reasserts itself beyond the library, where mercifully things get quieter. The westbound bus stop is busy, mostly with passengers heading north but that's gyratories for you. Behind the shelter is a demolition site where six houses are about to be reborn as 67 flats, and across the road the Baptist Church has worked out it'd be better off sharing its footprint with "a slender and elegant 17 storey landmark tower", because not even outer London's skyline is safe. Best catch the next bus.



127 - PurleyWoodcote (1 mile, 5 minutes)
First aboard the bus when it arrives is a short grizzled woman dressed in unflattering apricot leisurewear. She pushes her trolley past the driver, then taps her Oyster on the pad and it fails to flash green. She tries again and then again with the confidence of someone who's sure it ought to work, or alternatively is putting on a show for the benefit of those watching. "I had £5.50 on it this morning," she says, "this morning, definitely £5.50". The driver suggests trying a different card so she flaps her way through the pouches of her capacious but seemingly empty purse and the rest of us stand on the pavement impatiently watching the show. "Just let her on!" urges an elderly member of the audience, aware that nobody's getting past that trolley until she moves, and eventually the driver relents and beckons her through. I can't work out if I've just watched a generous act of charity or a sly well-practised con, or potentially both.

Foxley Lane is yet another road lined by Nice Outer Suburban Housing, indeed one notch nicer than the NOSH we've passed so far. Frontages are broader, hedges higher, front gates a little more secure and points of interest fewer and further between. There is one house with a phenomenal number of bins, but I'm only mentioning that to pad out the reportage. At the second stop a woman is so engrossed in her phone that she fails to spot the bus until it's too late, but the driver stops anyway because we've already established he's generous like that. Nobody else is waiting, anywhere, because Woodcote's residents tend to drive rather than stooping to catch the bus. And at Smitham Bottom Lane the 127 turns right so I'll have to continue along the next mile of the A2022 on foot.



As if by magic I enter what would be a quiet country lane were it not a key road connection. Little Woodcote Lane starts with a row of NOSH, the first of which are in Croydon and the last half dozen in Sutton. The pavement then gives way to a pleasant footpath weaving behind a row of trees, where for some reason a couple of concrete ex-lampposts are decaying in the undergrowth. Little Woodcote is a highly unfocused highly atypical village, built as smallholdings for soldiers returning after WW1, and now a warren of upgraded cottages and nurseries up deliberately unwelcoming private tracks. I braved the hinterland and blogged about it once, so this time am pleased to be sticking to the main road. I pass only a few properties up close, one with several polytunnels out back, and another with a big Union Jack by the gate, a sign urging Tree Surgeons not to visit, a corrugated iron shed and a bonfire on the go.

After twenty minutes of tainted rural idyll I reach a crossroads which enthuses copywriters at every London media portal annually. This is the entrance to Mayfield Lavender Farm, which at height of summer offers row upon row of shimmering purple as the backdrop for the ultimate selfie. It's currently at peak glow. The wise know that an unpoliced public footpath passes down the middle of the field, and the rest turn up at the main gate and pay £4.50 for the privilege of wandering willy-nilly guilt-free. A taxi drop-off is available for those who can't believe public transport extends this far, but thankfully it does and my next bus turns up every twenty minutes just behind the hedge.



166 - Mayfield Lavender FarmBanstead (1½ miles, 5 minutes)
At least a dozen lavender-seekers disgorge from the bus when it arrives, filtering straight through a gap in the hedge towards the ticket tent. The driver calls back to another Japanese couple assuming they intended to alight here too, as the balance of probability would suggest, but instead they look very confused and go and sit back down. As we head off the electronic voice that normally announces the next stop starts insisting "Please apply handbrake", which is both unnerving and unnecessary, not to mention annoying after the tenth repeat. It only takes a minute to exit London for Surrey. Oaks Farm looks like it might have been Stuart. The NOSH is widely spaced and includes a lot of bungalows. Only a few smashed greenhouses and poly-less polytunnels lower the tone.

The 166 continues to Banstead, or 'Banstead Village' as the sign would have it, but the A2022 bypasses the town centre so I have to get off and walk. The next kilometre is called Winkworth Road. It's very interwar suburban, indeed it's concentrated NOSH all the way and I have nothing more to add.

166 - Banstead CrossroadsEpsom (4 miles, 15 minutes)
I need to take the 166 again, and I've been lucky to get a short wait because only one in three buses continue all the way to Epsom. I'm surprised to see the Japanese couple on board again, but I assume they successfully deduced how to switch buses for the longer route. Beyond the dual carriageway is the unlikely-named suburb of Nork, which might be better known if its two local stations weren't called Banstead and Epsom Downs. It sprawls, it's cosy NOSH all the way and I wrote about it in detail five years ago, here, in case you'd forgotten. The 166 skirts the northern edge as far as Drift Bridge, then chooses to eschew the A2022 in favour of a two mile detour via more Nork NOSH and the edge of the Downs. I should have walked the gap, it'd only have taken ten minutes, but that would have meant waiting for another hourly bus and basically stuff that.



The 166 rejoins the A2022 on the Epsom outskirts, where it takes so long to pass all the component parts of Epsom College that it could only be an independent school with a considerable reputation and considerable fees. All the paraphernalia of an approaching town centre is on display, like houses merging into parades of shops and electronic signs confirming which of the car parks are full. The Japanese couple alight too early at the first sight of 'Upper High Street' on the electronic display, and everybody else pours out one stop later amid the proper shops. But that's officially on the A24 because the significantly-numbered road faded out between the Dreams bedding showroom and the iPhone shop so my 13 mile safari is at an end.

My journey along the Road of the Year has taken 2 hours 40 minutes, which equates to about an hour of bus travel, 40 minutes of walking and an hour of waiting around. I can't truly recommend you follow in my footsteps but it has been fascinating to explore a cross section of Nice Outer Suburban Housing across south London and Surrey. I won't be doing it next year because the A2023 is in Hove, indeed it'll be 2041 before an A Road once again traverses the capital, and who's to say there'll still be any buses in Thamesmead by then.

 Wednesday, June 29, 2022

As we approach the middle of the year it's time for...

A Bus Ride Along The A2022

That's a significantly-numbered road traversing the outer London suburbs with reportage from six bus journeys.

It even starts precisely on the Greenwich Meridian.

It might be the most diamondgeezeresque post ever.




The A2022 runs for 13 miles along the southern edge of London. It starts near West Wickham, ticks off three outer London boroughs and ends in the Surrey town of Epsom. Along the way it passes through Addington, Selsdon, Sanderstead, Purley, Little Woodcote, Banstead and Nork, and skirts that nice field with the lavender for good measure. Almost all of it is doable by London bus, which is unusual, and the remaining gaps I did on foot. All aboard for a two-part journey.



353 - Coney HallAddington Village Interchange (1½ miles, 5 minutes)
Welcome to the Coney Hall roundabout, the only roundabout in London to span two hemispheres. The A2022 launches off from the southwest arm with the first bus stop a few metres down at 0°0'2"W. I have two bus routes to choose from so obviously I pick the double decker 353 because the broader the view the better. I'm beaten to the front seat by a flirty couple who've been tweaking bra straps and swilling Coke beside the bus shelter for the last five minutes. The vehicle appears to be making an annoying electronic beeping noise every few seconds, which we all try to ignore, and off we sail past the first set of Nice Outer Suburban Homes. There will be a heck of a lot of NOSH during what follows so I'll try not to go on about them. Instead best focus on the upcoming countryside, a parched cornfield and a shaggy pony grazing on the hillside. On the right is Spring Park, a wooded ridge above a linear meadow and also home to the questionable delights of Enchanted Village Adventure Golf.

Nobody's going to be getting on or off out here, the sole attraction being an isolated pumping station, but someone once added a lonely bus stop else there'd be a whole mile without. We rattle along the foot of a very long field with the uglier edge of New Addington peeping over the hilltop, but we're aiming for the original (and much smaller) village of Addington instead. It has an 11th century church, a Harvester restaurant and a petrol station where a litre of diesel costs 197.9p. The roundabout by the tram interchange is sponsored by Shuttered Up, for 'beautiful plantation shutters', should wider louvres be your thing. And as we pull round into the bus station the flirty couple stop checking each other's phones and I have somehow got two paragraphs out of a five minute bus ride.

Addington Village Interchange is busier than usual because there are no trams. A red-faced resident with gelled hair and a neck tattoo is cursing the strikers just loud enough to make sure everyone else can hear him, then cursing some more. Today of all days a spider map would be really useful but there aren't any anywhere, only diagrams showing which bay the buses leave from and where they terminate, not where they go. The information kiosk is staffed but stocked with wildly out-of-date leaflets, and the shelter for my next bus appears to be the only one without a Countdown display. You can see why the trams caught on.



64 - Addington Village InterchangeSelsdon (1½ miles, 10 minutes)
The driver of the 64 has already done 1½ loops of the bus station and has one more to go before escaping. Look, there's an 11th century church, a Harvester restaurant and a petrol station where a litre of diesel costs 197.9p. We cross the tram tracks without interruption and aim for the next roundabout which has been kindly sponsored by the adjacent funeral directors. Local food options include the Number One Chinese restaurant, Capone's Pizza Parlour and a former pub that's now currytastic Planet Spice. In one of the seats behind me a girl is engaged in a phone conversation with the volume turned up so loud that I can also hear the girl on the other end. "I am literally so close to you it's like the next stop", she says, and it becomes unnervingly clear that an imminent rendezvous is planned. At Featherbed Lane yes, up she bounds, and their conversation continues unabated at an even more irritable level.

Here's John Ruskin College, home to a 'Construction Skills Centre' and other positively-branded vocational courses. Also the diesel here is only 195.9p so if you filled up earlier you probably should have waited. The 64 is traversing the boundary between interwar semis and slopes of postwar townhouses, and all the time slowly climbing, and I wish they'd shut up back there. The approach to Selsdon includes an Aldi, a Coughlans Bakery and 'The Village Club' where private members can play darts, pool and cashpot poker under the auspices of Sharron, the Stewardess, and her Deputy, Donna. Selsdon's retail offer is pretty good for a suburb and remains bedecked with jubilee bunting because it lingers longer out here. Best hop off by the Wetherspoons.

Beyond the crossroads is a massive modern Sainsbury's, coupled with a library, a community hall and a "please come downstairs for the cafe". Outside is a triangular traffic island large enough for trees and grass and a clock where SELSDON replaces the numbers from 9 to 3. My next bus treats this as a roundabout, deviating off course to spin round once and pick up any shopper, or other resident, waiting to depart. Two Jehovah's Witnesses have rocked up with a trolleyful of Watchtowers and are holding them at arm's length along a quieter stretch of path, to no effect, until the clock reaches L o'clock and they pack up to go.



412 - SelsdonPurley (3 miles, 15 minutes)
The A2022 continues on its steady climb up Addington Road. It's totally NOSH along here, bar one new development that's had to erect signs saying 'beautiful back gardens' because the front looks drab by comparison. At the eventual summit is Sanderstead Plantation, the highest point in the borough of Croydon, and a lovely old 13th century church proudly flying the flag of Ukraine. The contours drop away pretty sharpish in its Lower Churchyard. Meanwhile the rectory by the pond has been fenced off and its land awaits transformation into a 30-strong retirement home because good land is like hens' teeth round here.

Ahead lies a switchback through quintessential NOSH country - houses with names not numbers, copious shrubbery and surplus off-street parking. At one point we sweep down the side of a golden meadow, at another the towers of central Croydon and even the Shard can be spied over the rooftops. I also spy council operatives busy strimming the verge, a church that looks very much like a church hall and the unexpectedly steep alleyway down to Riddlesdown station. The prettiest moment, assuming scenic suburban despoilment is your thing, comes as we swing out onto Downs Court Road and see the white semis of Kenley slotted in multiple rows across multiple hillsides. But the view doesn't last long and at the foot of the slope we filter into traffic on the A22 which duly delivers us to Purley Tesco (where diesel is 199.9p, eek). Three bus journeys down, three to go.

 Tuesday, June 28, 2022

UNVISITED LONDON
TQ3867: Park Langley
(Bromley)

Park Langley slots into the suburbs between Beckenham and West Wickham, and obviously I've been before. But I'd never been to the off-piste southern half, the avenues beyond the Chinese Garage, because the relevant grid square is skirted by all the nearby main roads and narrowly missed by the railway to Hayes. It's a grid square in three very distinct parts - one residential, one recreational and one very very private. I may not have managed to explore all of them.



1) Residential
Park Langley is a prime garden suburb, begun just before WW1 and laid out with sweeping leafy avenues. Residents know it's special because they've put up signs on the entry roads describing Park Langley as an Area of Special Residential Character, which risks coming over as a bit smug. I spotted no flats, only delectable detached homes and a few affable semis on spacious individual plots. Most homes have parking for at least three cars out front, often full, and still space for a bit of lawn and a splash of shrubbery. It's rare that a house looks like its neighbours, indeed if you were ever trying to score a full house in the I-Spy Book of Gables Park Langley would be a good place to start. The streets are inordinately busy with learner drivers - six drove slowly past me on Elwill Way - and the pavements inordinately quiet. If I had to pick one word to describe it all I'd pick 'comfortable', because 'special' is marginally overdoing things.



2) Recreational
Parklangley Golf Club opened in 1910 because the developers thought it'd encourage the right kind of people to move in. They still come for a midweek round, crossing Wickham Way in their harlequin shorts and baseball caps while pushing their bulging trolleys in front of them. Non-members are barred from the course by a multiplicity of signs warning No Public Access and No Walkers Permitted, which is a shame because the course is the only significant chunk of open space hereabouts. Also sealed off are the two sports grounds down St Dunstan's Lane, one of which boasts a lacklustre hospitality chalet called the Lawnmower Shed and the other of which is for Old Boys of a college in Catford. Their rugby club's motto is "where ambition meets fun and tradition", and I think I went off them right there. The other land you can't get onto forms the Langley Park Campus, home to three large modern schools, and I ended up wondering where on earth people walk their dogs round here because the one thing Park Langley doesn't have is a park.



3) Private
In 1919 the mansion at Langley Court was bought by Henry Wellcome to become the site of his chief pharmaceutical research laboratories. Great works took place until 1995 when Wellcome was taken over by Glaxo who chose to close the campus down. Forty acres were sold off for luxury housing, entire sprawling streets of the stuff, with the first residents arriving just in time for the millennium. The developers called it Langley Park, a nominal switcheroo, and even when I saw the sign saying 'Private Road' I assumed I'd be able to take a look. Not so. I tried both entrances and found both fully gated, not just the inbound and outbound roads but the pavements too. They weren't even gates you push, they slide at the behest of the porter in his all-powerful lodge and he had no intention of sliding for a random pedestrian. The vehicle gates of course continued to flap regularly, both for residents and for deliveries, because it is a very big estate.

I may have visited TQ3867 but there will always be a large chunk of Park Langley that remains unvisited.

🟨=1396, 🟩=48, 🟦=6, 🟥=13

In a world beset by relentlessly bad news, it's always good to have something to cheer. So I'm delighted to report that Midtown is dead.



In 2010 a central London business district got ideas above its station and attempted to rebrand its local area as Midtown. Apparently historic names like Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles weren't good enough, what people needed was an "umbrella term" to pull them together to better appreciate the quality of the area, or so the big cheeses said. They hung Midtown banners from lampposts, they set up a Midtown tourist information centre and they even paid the Evening Standard to include a four page pullout extolling Midtown's central delights.

District bosses said things like "It’s innovative, classic and historic, but also contemporary and techdriven." They wrote things like "Why Midtown is a dream destination for the 'bleisure' seekers mixing work and play". They even claimed "Lots of people are using Midtown now who five years ago just would not have done." But the wider public ignored them, the dreadful name completely failed to catch on and hallelujah they have now given up.



The new name for the former Midtown business district is the Central District Alliance. This is an even worse name, if anything, the very epitome of blandly forgettable. But that's fine because nobody is attempting to forcibly rebrand the area this time, just getting on with their ambassadorial job in a less megalomaniac way. This change was actually made last June but it's taken me a whole year to notice, which just goes to show what an inoffensive name the Central District is.

One catalyst for the name change was the expansion of the business district to include Clerkenwell, which as a separate enclave didn't really fit the Midtown brand. The other was the departure of CEO Tass Mavrogordato, a one-woman tornado who for ten years had a rebranding bee in her bonnet and was never stuck for a quote when the Evening Standard needed one. She's since gone on to form her own business consultancy called Fantasstic Solutions, whose website makes some interesting claims...
"Consultancy services abound, and many sit in the middle ground relying on buzz words, rhetoric and theory to consistently up-sell time and services. In contrast, we are pioneering and progressive and create bespoke solutions that deliver."
Her bespoke solution that didn't deliver is not mentioned. But let's not worry ourselves over why it failed, let's just celebrate that all trace of Midtown is now gone. Sometimes the really awful ideas don't win out, so there's some positive news for us all to hang onto.

 Monday, June 27, 2022

Today sees your very last chance to ride the Emirates Air Line, London's unique cable car experience. To be one of the very last people aboard, get yourself down to one of the terminals by ten o'clock this evening and enjoy your specially slowed-down night flight. I expect there'll be queues.



It's not closing altogether, that would be ridiculous. As London's only cable car it's become a firm tourist favourite, providing the only way to glide high above City Hall and the Silvertown Tunnel construction site. But never again will it fly under the Emirates name because the marketing money's run out, and as yet nobody's stepped in with a better offer.

We've known this day was coming since October 2011.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today announced that global airline Emirates will sponsor London's exciting new cable car river crossing, to be known as the Emirates Air Line, in a ten-year deal worth £36m. The Emirates Air Line will connect north and south London, travelling between two new stations set to be named Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docks.
The cablecar finally opened on 28th June 2012, indeed I was one of many who rushed down for an initial dangle. That makes tomorrow the cablecar's 10th birthday, which is plainly an achievement well worth celebrating. But it also means the ten-year deal expires tomorrow and all the Emirates brand collateral is going to have to come down. There is a heck of a lot of it.



The terminals are smothered. There's a big red Emirates sign on top, another underneath and the welcoming sight of a wallful of Emirates air hostesses as you approach the ticket barrier. Also the terminals are called Emirates North Greenwich and Emirates Royal Docks because this was one of the perks when Emirates stumped up their £36m, but after today will have to be known as North Greenwich and Royal Docks respectively. They've already switched names on the tube map and I expect they'll send staff with ladders round overnight to remove the surplus letters above the ticket window.



The roundel out front will need to change because this will no longer be an 'Air Line'. Then there are numerous signs on lampposts, signs on platforms, signs in bus stations and those free-standing signs designed to nudge aimless tourists cablecarward. Royal Victoria DLR station is liberally plastered with adverts for Emirates so those are all going to have to go, as is the branding at the abandoned information desk at the top of the North Greenwich escalator.



Not to mention the adverts at umpteen stations elsewhere across the network, notably Tower Gateway DLR where everything from the escalators to the platforms is smothered with all things Emirates. And don't forget the cabins themselves which all have vinyl wraps promoting different Emirates destinations plus the name of the airline in enormous letters on the underside. All this is going to have be removed now the money's run out because it would set a ghastly precedent if Emirates gained a smidgeon of additional publicity beyond their allocated ten-year span. I expect staff are going to be incredibly busy tonight removing and replacing the lot.

From tomorrow the Emirates Air Line will have a new name which is the London Cable Car.



It's a remarkably dull name but that's fine, it's perfectly descriptive of what this river crossing actually is. The problem with the original name is that it was far too easily confused with the name of the airline itself which caused all sorts of social media issues and leveraged virtually no brand recognition whatsoever. It's why my alternative 'Dangleway' name so readily took off, because the proper title of Emirates Air Line was ill-advisedly non-specific and eminently forgettable.

Expect a press release from TfL tomorrow excitedly announcing the name change. It'll no doubt focus on the cablecar's 10th birthday rather than what's technically an unbranding exercise, indeed I expect it'll include excitable promotional guff like this.
Josh Crompton, TfL's Head of the Cable Car, said: "The London Cable Car is unique to London and provides spectacular views for those wanting to cross the Thames to get to the Royal Docks or Greenwich Peninsula. Since opening ten years ago the fully accessible, unique experience has established itself as one of London's favourite spectacular leisure attractions. By providing a new and spectacular way to cross the river, it has helped encourage new shops, experiences and homes to be built on either side of the Thames. Journeys start from just £5 for adults making it one of London's best value experiences for a unique and spectacular day out."
Also expect your preferred London media portal to cut and paste these words to create an uncritical news story because repurposing press releases is easier than thinking for yourself, and that's very much how TfL's press office likes it.

One casualty of the big changeover has been the demise of the Emirates Aviation Experience, the so-called museum alongside the southern terminal which was essentially a walk-through advert they hoped you'd pay extra for. This closed to the public three weeks ago and has since been boarded up, while the cafe nextdoor sits empty with all the chairs and tables stacked to one side and a trolleyful of cleaning products just inside the door.



Also spare a thought for the Emirates Air Line's collection of branded merchandise which becomes instantly obsolete at midnight. Those £8 Glitter Frames, £5 key rings and £5 fridge magnets aren't going to be much use in an unbranded future. But don't worry, management have come up with the cunning wheeze of a special anniversary offer over three midsummer weekends - they're giving away the memorabilia if you pay extra.
London Cable Car’s 10th anniversary (£25 per adult)
✓ Fast track entry into your own private 360 cabin.
✓ One glass of champagne or orange juice per ticket
✓ One item of limited edition Emirates Air Line memorabilia per ticket
✓ Special photo opportunities
A normal round trip costs £10 so for an extra £15 you're getting a glass of bubbly and what's essentially a lucky dip into the merchandising brantub. If you're really lucky you might walk away with an Emirates Air Line snow globe to treasure. And if you think that's poor value, don't come in two weeks time because that's 'Wimbledon Weekend' when the champagne is swapped for Pimms and lemonade, it still costs £25 and the memorabilia option is withdrawn. It won't surprise you to hear that these overpriced celebration experiences get pride of place in the updated signage at each terminal, and the fact you can swipe through the barrier with Pay As You Go for £5 is relegated to the smallprint at the bottom.



I know I rarely have a good word to say about the cablecar but it really has become a greedy upselling exercise focused on squeezing every last penny out of the friends and families who come to make a day of it. As the Emirates Air Line morphs into the London Cable Car one thing sadly hasn't changed, it still isn't a useful integrated part of London's transport network, it's just a dangleway to nowhere.

 Sunday, June 26, 2022

170 things I saw on a five mile walk north across the borough of Kensington & Chelsea

Murky creek, former power station still shrouded by sheeting, sign for Chelsea Wharf masquerading as water feature, falconcam, ten just-watered hanging baskets dripping outside a pub, a constant stream of taxis, 241-part steel sculpture by Will Nash, soft furnishings showroom targeted at bottomless pockets, auction house (because it's Lots Road, geddit), the K&C vehicle pound.10



Electric car making artificially-designated electric car noise, Boeing on final approach, lady feeding treats to her corgi, three dogs playing frisbee, mounted bronze soldier (with pike), ten foot high china vase, Worlds End Health Centre, rock crystal chandelier showroom, Aston Martin seeing what speed it can get away with on a residential street, traffic warden ticketing a Range Rover.20

A bespoke collection of 18 apartments with generous proportions and underground parking, woman returning from the Esso garage with a box of choc chip Weetabix, unshaven man waiting on a bench outside the barbers, a puddle of warm dog wee spreading across the pavement, Zipcar bay, stucco balustrades, cast iron balconywork, display of geraniums on windowsill, badly-parked superjeep, street after street of giant houses painted an identical white colour.30

Gates to basement flats, a stapled list of £1m+ estate agent particulars, housekeeper walking a tiny dog, Waitrose delivery, the Royal Thai Embassy, corner property boarded up awaiting transformation into something oligarch-friendly, iron railings replaced in 1981 after being removed to support the war effort, taxi with Union Jack wing mirrors, almond-shaped private/communal gardens.40



Palatial stuccoed Italianate mansions, Kentish ragstone church with Victorian spire, blue plaque for Jenny Lind, young couple on non-matching hire scooters, young couple sharing hire scooter, a whole street where the house numbers are painted onto pillars either side of the front porch, house undergoing urgent renovation by subsidence/crack-stitching specialists, eyesore casino, behemoth flats, Harrods delivery van.50

Two teenage shoppers heading home from the Reiss sale, the A4, blue plaque for Charles Booth, tropical basement gardens, young woman wearing a facemask just to take the rubbish out, two mounted police officers, flowery mews often used as film location, two grandchildren and their dog posing for photo at entrance to aforementioned mews, late-flowering wisteria, street where the pretty two-storey semis sell for £7m.60



Mini with Union Jack roof, Jag, gossiping locals outside an organic/artisan Danish coffee shop, Michelin restaurant, three girls pouting in a selfie with a red pillarbox, big houses which have never needed to be subdivided into flats, blue plaque for T S Eliot, gallery selling fine art, Dad in pink shirt, hidden wealth which should one day spark a revolution.70

Copious redbrick mansion blocks, five flags in one street allowing passers-by to play 'Guess the Embassy', young couple in tight-fitting sportswear hopping out of a Merc at the lights, entrance to Royal Park, multiple tourists touristing, hotel porter in top hat, phonebox advertising New Swedish Model In Town (house calls or hotel visits), middle-aged blondes enjoying afternoon tea aboard a Routemaster, security guard in cabin, entrance to what's officially London's most expensive street.80

Multiple 'No photography' signs, armed police officer scrutinising passers-by, three-storey Queen Anne piles, embassy displaying Star of David and two Pride banners, gaslit streetlights, Abramovich's pad, yellow taxi, ambassadorial cars with numberplates ROM 1 and IND 1 respectively, gateposts labelled In and Out, gateposts topped by eagles.90

(no photograph)

24 kmh speed limit signs, hallway ablaze with chandeliers, statue of Queen Maud, transition to Italianate mansions, diplomatic plates, burgeoning desire to take lots of photos, arrow pointing to consular office where you apply for a Nepalese visa, one empty boarded-up property (would suit billionaire or up-and-coming nation), security guard lifting barrier for van with Czech numberplates, security guard jotting down details of Czech van on blue clipboard.100

The cafe that worships Princess Diana, Oxford Tube, boy clutching wooden kit for making model F-15 bomber under his arm, Notting Hill Kebab, Big Issue seller selling Big Issue with cover photo of Prince William selling the Big Issue, much the same big houses as before but noticeably shabbier with peeling paint, garden for keyholders only, student accommodation, Hotpoint engineer on call, highly ill-advised leopardprint fedora.110



Friends roaming on hire bikes, BMW on charge, pathology lab, Victorian water fountain, late Elizabethan public conveniences, a dedicated space for all things interior design (opening soon), shoppers retreating from Portobello Market clutching pre-loved purchases, man wearing Superman baseball cap who plainly isn't Superman, woman whose Saturday treat is an individually boxed Crosstown doughnut, bright red seat on balcony in shape of balloon dog.120

Woman returning from deli with salad poking out of top of brown paper bag, cycleway C44, Roman Catholic church in Gothic revival style, last night's drinks piled on top of litterbin, stone cat, first sight of actual council housing, carpet shop claiming to 'put the floor in flawless', terrace with spectrum of pastel-coloured frontage, People's Sound record shop (Carnival sound system No. 27), luxury bathroom showroom offering wellness options and home spas.130

Conscience Kitchen, alfresco dining on little raised platforms in the street, pub menu kicking off with 'mince on toast', finally a park you don't need a key to enter, 1970s lowrise housing solutions, balcony bedecked with windmills and kitsch statues of buddhas and parrots, bright green Grenfell banner, stencilled/graffitied footbridge, the Hammersmith & City line, dozens of community minibuses parked under the Westway.140



Youth centre, concrete undercroft where hip parents send their kids for skateboarding, three blokes enjoying a backyard beer, 'Found cat' poster, locked door to council cleaner's storeroom, street of homes sporting individual satellite dishes, bin cupboards, locked bike with a front basketful of discarded bottles, Portuguese patisserie, Palestinian cafe.150

Skateboard shop holding closing down sale, railway bridge, billposted ads for Foals and Queercircle, Trellick Tower, beardy Trellick-seeker clutching serious camera, Kensal Library (closed for lunch), the Trellick Lounge cafe (Internet! Pool Tables!), vintage clothing outlet, a wall of council flats featuring three blue-rimmed portholes, a single brown towel flapping on a washing line.160



Sturdily reinforced front door, Emslie Horniman's Pleasance, delivery mopeds with L-plates, tracksuits, dreadlocks, gym promising application of motivational goals, new social housing under construction (as far away from the posh bit of the borough as possible), footbridge spiralling up and over the Grand Union towpath, a roofful of pigeons, shady ducklings.170

 Saturday, June 25, 2022

According to the Ordnance Survey, who ought to know, there are eight hamlets in Greater London.
These are they.



Eight places large enough to have a name but too small to be classified as villages.
Let's see what we know about them.

Newyears Green (Hillingdon)
Where is it? Strung out along a lane to the west of Ruislip.
How does Hidden London describe it? A scattered collection of small farms and civic amenities situated north of Ickenham and west of Ruislip, and surrounded on all sides by green-belt farmland.
What's here? A few cottages and caravans, a waste transfer station, a composting hub, an ex-farm behind security gates, a lane for flytipping.



Have I blogged about it? Yes, for a New Year post in 2017. I thought it was a miserable dump.
What did you write? This is horse country so the surrounding fields are mostly paddocky rather than intensively farmed. In one I spotted a lone Shetland pony munching what was left of the grass beside an abandoned pushchair. Elsewhere I found two car seats discarded on a woodchip verge, a scattering of drinks cartons and soggy cardboard boxes beside a large concrete block, and another footpath permanently blocked by some nailed-in corrugated steel. If you're familiar with The Archers, Newyears Green is a lot more Grundy than Aldridge.
Can you get here by bus? Not directly. The U9 stops at one end of the lane beside the dogs home.
Nearest station? West Ruislip/Ickenham (1½ mile walk). A Central line station at Harefield Road never materialised because of WW2/Green Belt legislation. HS2 is currently eating up much of the surrounding fields and woodland.
Verdict? Avoid.

Edgware Bury (Barnet)
Where is it? On a bend in a private road between Elstree and Edgware.
How does Hidden London describe it? Farming country straddling the M1 motorway and the Hertfordshire border north of Edgware.
Have I blogged about it? Yesterday. Pay attention.
Can you get here by bus? No. The nearest stop is ¾ miles away on route 288.
Nearest station? Edgware (1½ mile walk). A Northern line station at Brockley Hill never materialised because of WW2/Green Belt legislation.
Verdict? Private and equine.

Rowley Green (Barnet)
Where is it? East of Borehamwood, close to a junction on the A1. Used to be in Hertfordshire.
How does Hidden London describe it? The north-west corner of Arkley on the border with the Herts borough of Hertsmere. Most of Rowley Green’s properties date from the mid-20th century and are of little architectural merit. The most notable exception is Trinders Lodge, which was built around 1830 and is grade II listed.
What's here? Big houses behind high hedges, a boggy common, a golf course and an amazing concrete water tower.



Have I blogged about it? Tangentially while exploring London's borough summits, Barnet's being Arkley Hill at one end of the green.
What did you write? Blimey, what an architectural find, assuming you're the sort of person who likes concrete on stilts. Arkley Water Tower is an amazing snowflake-like structure constructed from six hexagonal chambers suspended above the ground on a series of tapering columns. It's like some alien craft landed here in the 1970s and is biding its time in obscurity before rising up and firing a death ray from the hilltop, or maybe that's just my imagination.
Can you get here by bus? Not directly. The 107 stops 500m away on Barnet Road.
Nearest station? Elstree & Borehamwood or High Barnet (both a 2 mile walk).
Verdict? Other than the tower, skippable.

That's it for north London.
All the other hamlets are in the London borough of Bromley.

Nash
Where is it? Just southwest of Keston in the nomansland east of New Addington.
How does Hidden London describe it? Nash is not in the gazetteer.
Can you get here by bus? No. The nearest stop is ¾ miles away in Keston.
Have I blogged about it? No, but it is on my 'Unvisited London' shortlist.
What's here? Let's wait and see...

Farthing Street
Where is it? A narrow country lane north of Downe.
How does Hidden London describe it? A hamlet since Norman times retaining several 19th-century properties including a pair of brick-and-flint houses.
What's here? Houses, fields, pylons.
Have I blogged about it? London Loop section 3 passes along a short uninhabited section of Farthing Street before turning off up Bogey Lane, and it's the only latter that got a mention in my write-up.
Can you get here by bus? Not directly, but the 146 stops hourly at one end of the lane.
Verdict? Dunno, I've not properly been.

Hockenden
Where is it? A lengthy country lane just beyond the Swanley bypass.
How does Hidden London describe it? A farming hamlet situated on the easternmost edge of Bromley, skirted by the A20.
What's here? Contains more houses than the aforementioned hamlets. Also oast house, training centre, nudist camp.



Have I blogged about it? A couple of months ago.
What did I write? The centre of the hamlet might be the triangular patch of grass where the postbox is or it might be a bit further round the corner past the cottages under renovation and the high hedges and the collapsed fence. This is where the big farm and the big house are, not the original manor but a listed weatherboarded 18th century farmhouse, again with twiddly gates and a warning about a dog. Part of the farm is now a Construction Academy where you can accredit digger-related skills and part still has the remains of an oast house and a row of hop-pickers' cabins. I think I met the owner because he asked if I was looking for something in that way you test out strangers, so I swiftly moved on.
Can you get here by bus? No. The 233 stops half a mile's walk away in Kent.
Nearest station? Swanley (1½ mile walk).
Verdict? Disparate and linear.

Kevington
Where is it? A mile south of Hockenden on the Orpington/Crockenhill road.
How does Hidden London describe it? A rural hamlet with farms, nurseries and old cottages which lacks any amenities for residents or visitors.
What's here? Village sign, scrap of pavement, Georgian house used as wedding venue, low secure hospital.



Have I blogged about it? In the same post as Hockenden.
What did I write? The 'village pub' used to be the Kevington Arms, although it's now a private residence called Blueberry Farm and very much not a farm either. What we have here is a staggered crossroads with a few houses on three of the arms, again nominally cottages but these have a stronger architectural claim. Residents seem less likely to keep horses than those in Hockenden, more likely to lovingly tend their gardens and collectively proud enough to have erected a millennial sundial.
Can you get here by bus? The 477 stops here hourly, but you can't use your Oyster card because it's not a TfL service.
Verdict? Nicest of the eight.

Bopeep
Where is it? An outpost of Maypole, which is an outpost of Chelsfield, which is southeast of Orpington.
How does Hidden London describe it? Bopeep does not merit a separate entry, only Maypole.
What's here? Three sets of cottages and the Bo-Peep restaurant/public house, built in 1548.



Have I blogged about it? Yes, as part of a May Day post in 2017.
What did I write? The pub by the road junction spent four centuries as The White Hart until the landlord changed the name to The Bo-Peep in 1971. According to the sign by the postbox the building dates back to 'Circa 1500', not that you'd guess from the squat dining annexe bolted onto the back. But head round to the front and the former farmhouse looks far more appealing, with a knapped flint wall beneath the chimneystack. Real ale is served inside but the main focus is food, this being the kind of inglenook eatery that'll serve up Haddock, Salmon & Spinach Bake to villagers, or more likely Steak & Stilton Suet Pudding to drivers seeking respite from the M25.
Can you get here by bus? Yes. The R7 stops half-hourly outside the pub, making this the only London hamlet with a direct TfL bus service... but only until July 22nd, after which the Maypole loop is being withdrawn and pub patrons face a ¾ mile walk along entirely unsuitable lanes. Basically hamlets don't get bus services and it's time for Bopeep to join the club.
Nearest station: Knockholt (a highly unpleasant ¾ mile walk).
Verdict: More a name than a place.

For completeness sake, these are the 25 London villages recognised by the Ordnance Survey.
Bexley: Coldblow, North Cray
Bromley: Berry's Green, Chelsfield, Cudham, Downe, Hazelwood, Horns Green, Keston, Leaves Green, Luxted, Maypole, Pratt's Bottom, Ruxley, Single Street, South Street, Upper Ruxley
Enfield: Botany Bay, Crews Hill
Havering: North Ockendon, Wennington
Hillingdon: Harefield, Hill End, South Harefield
Kingston: Malden Rushett
But there are only eight hamlets.

 Friday, June 24, 2022

Just north of the Broadfields estate lies the hamlet of Edgware Bury.
It's a tiny cluster of farms and bungalows set amid open fields.
It'd be quite normal for the Home Counties but it's utterly abnormal for North London.
And they'd rather you didn't visit.



This is Edgwarebury Lane, an ancient track that still connects Edgware to Elstree. It starts amid the shops on Hale Lane, just up from the station, and heads north across the Edgware bypass. The first mile is full-on suburbia, culminating with the Thirties semis and detached piles of the Broadfields estate (of which we spoke yesterday). Then abruptly the houses cease and the road becomes a narrower lane bounded on one side by hedges and on the other by a Jewish cemetery. At the junction with Clay Lane, a similarly ancient bridleway, are three isolated cottages with rambling non-idyllic gardens and a remarkably high number of occupied parking spaces. And at the point where the streetlighting finally ceases come the red signs... Edgwarebury Farm. Private Road. Private No Parking. Residents Only. No Turning. No Through Road. It must rile the locals that there's also a green sign confirming Public Bridleway to Elstree.



Stepping through into the environs of the farm transports you instantly to the countryside. A chain of telegraph poles leads down the lane to a collection of barns and other indistinct outbuildings. To the left is a low barbed wire fence and beyond that open fields, or rather open paddocks because these 400 acres support a successful sprawling livery stables. The luckier ponies have a lot of room to roam, plus lone trees to shelter under during the heat of the day. Others are tucked away in wooden stable blocks or segregated in their own private enclosures. The customary rural whiff is present.



The farmhouse is 17th century with a weatherboarded upper storey, a later wing with a pitched slate roof and a prominent dovecote. Originally it was called Earlsbury Farm before they dropped the first part to become plain Bury Farm (after which the hamlet of Edgware Bury is named). Dick Turpin once dropped by and robbed the place, back when he was working with the 'Essex Gang' before he broke out solo. I would have taken a photo of the farmhouse to show you here but an important-looking lady in wellies came out to feed a horse and it seemed unwise to try.

Among the outbuildings is a single single-storey prefab called The Bungalow, which looks very much not grade II listed and would be the ideal place to hide away for anyone preferring horses to mod cons. The only other residence in the hamlet is a posher pile which covers the footprint of a former farmhouse, again with a cluster of agri-outbuildings round the back. A sign on the fence reminds non-residents which way the public footpath goes lest anyone be tempted to stray. Another sign urging passers-by Please Do Not Feed The Horse's is on display in both apostrophe'd and non-apostrophe'd versions. Entrepreneurs intend to build a luxury 18 hole golf course across several of the outlying paddocks, alas, the only upside being that planning permission was granted five years ago but they haven't started yet.



Beyond the final bend the road out of Edgware Bury become increasingly less well maintained and starts to climb. The embankment isn't natural, it's spoil from a serious building project close by which so far has only been heard but not seen. The M1 motorway was driven through Bury Farm's fields in the 1960s, but civil engineers kindly veered slightly north in a deep cutting rather than taking what would have been a flatter route through the farmhouse instead. For those on foot it's quite a jolt to reach a bridge and suddenly find a seething six lane highway beneath you with streaming traffic and electronic signage. The elevated crossing allows you to look back across rough greenspace towards an extensive spiky skyline.



The far side of the bridge touches down in Hertfordshire, because the border with Middlesex shifted south after the motorway was built. Here a locked gate blocks the road to prevent the lane becoming a ratrun, although shortly afterwards I had to step to one side to make way for a van driven by someone who clearly had the key. The remainder of Edgwarebury Lane is a steep climb up what can only be described as a bolthole cul-de-sac for extremely wealthy people. The half-timbered Dower House has nine bedrooms and slightly fewer tennis courts. The Manor offers a country club hideaway suitable for dream weddings and appeared in at least three episodes of The Avengers. The Leys has security gates so elaborate they've had to put up eight signs confirming they are not the hotel. I see from the public footpath sign at the end of the lane that Hertfordshire County Council can't spell Edgware either.



Edgwarebury Lane is a walk of extraordinary contrasts... suburban/rural, flat/steep, avenue/lane/motorway, semis/farmhouse/mansion, tabby cats/ponies/guard dogs, public/private/exclusive. It's a medieval lane passing through a hamlet that somehow still exists inside 21st century London. But it would have been brutally wiped away had the proposed Northern line extension to Bushey Heath ever been built, indeed the nearest station was originally going to be called Edgwarebury until bosses plumped for Brockley Hill instead. All these neighbouring scrappy fields and paddocks were due to be suburbanised and the old farmhouse surrounded, but the Green Belt did its job and ended the dream. For a reminder of what much of Middlesex used to look like, come to Edgware Bury.

 Thursday, June 23, 2022

UNVISITED LONDON
TQ1993: Broadfields Estate
(Barnet)

I've been to visit another London 1km×1km grid square I'd somehow never visited before. This one's to the north of Edgware, almost in Hertfordshire. You'll have been within 100 metres of this particular square if you've ever stopped off at Scratchwood services on the M1, and within 50 metres if you've ever travelled up the Midland mainline past Mill Hill Broadway. But you won't have visited TQ1993 unless you've deliberately turned off the A41 Edgware bypass and entered the Broadfields Estate, which I'd never had reason to do before (and I suspect that goes for 99% of you).



100 years ago this grid square really was all fields, bar two country lanes with one cottage apiece. Everything changed after the Edgware bypass was built in the mid 1920s and much of the land to either side was sold off for suburbia. Builders John Laing made a start on the Edgware Estate in 1936 and built a substantial number of roads before WW2 and then the Green Belt halted northward progress. The first church opened in 1937, the first school in 1942, the only pub in 1957 and the whole place is now known as the Broadfields Estate. You can even get here by bus.



The estate has a swirly, sprawly Metroland feel, built across sufficient contours to give the place some character. The prewar houses are large, the postwar additions less so, and the street pattern includes a giant set of concentric semicircles as if the architect pressed a fingerprint onto the plans at the design stage. It's very quiet (apart from the street with all the vehicles queuing to get out at the traffic lights), indeed the kind of area that estate agents like to describe as desirable. I made a note of ten things that might help give you a flavour of the place: hanging baskets, porch lanterns, herringbone brick, trimmed shrubbery, halftimbered gables, leaded lights, succulents on doorsteps, burglar alarms, builders' vans, ample parking. A lot of outer London is notionally like this, but generally you can drive out on the other side.

A Broadfields tale: A lady stopped me on Kenilworth Road and asked if I knew where Tesco was, and obviously I didn't know because I'd never been before, but I did have a hunch where the shopping parade was so I suggested it might be down Glengall Road, and she trusted me and thankfully I was right and she was very pleased. I was less pleased when I discovered the Tesco is what the pub turned into.



Marlborough Parade has some decent shops, as well it might because Edgware's a bit of a schlep. I made a note of ten of the shops because they might help give you a flavour of the place: dry cleaners, beauty salon, nailbar, off license, barbers, greengrocer, chemist, another beauty salon, kosher bakery, kosher supermarket. A lot of Edgware is quite Jewish and this estate is no exception, as you can tell from the occasional sported kippah and Hebrew car sticker. And I invariably enjoy a Jewish bakery so I popped into Yossi's and picked out a Danish from the display. It was the size of a sideplate and soft, flaky and full of juicy sultanas. It wasn't cheap but it was lush, indeed Greggs, Pret and Wenzels simply cannot compete.



Two Broadfields vehicles
1) Uncle Doovy's Kosher Ice Cream Van:
This wasn't out on the streets feeding hot kids, it was parked in a front garden on Francklyn Gardens. The van sells familiar-shaped ice creams but with subtly different names, like the Milky Crunch, the Volcano, La Frutta and the Shuffle. The characters painted on the side aren't Disney characters, they're bears in aprons. And it exists because some days you want an ice cream you can eat after a meal without mixing dairy with meat.
2) Poppy the Caravan: It seems there's always someone who insists on keeping a poppy on their car all year round. At number 53 they've stuck two poppies in the Hyundai's radiator grille and two on the roofrack, then gone to town on their caravan which has had red flowers painted all over it and is called Poppy. But the petals are entirely the wrong shape to be poppies, because there's always someone.



The road which runs up the west side of the estate is Edgwarebury Lane, one of the originals, and beyond that lies Edgwarebury Park. It's a lovely park mixing formal and recreational with wildflower meadow and a minor stream. I made a note of ten elements that might help you get a flavour of the place: pergola, Golden Jubilee rose garden, tennis courts, granny on a shady bench, buttercups, butterflies, actual unlocked toilets, sensory garden, long-closed kiosk with Wall's branding, chewed tennis ball. I also noted a tall white pole up which a Green Flag would once have been hoisted, but the last Green Flag certificate on the Edgwarebury Park noticeboard is dated 2009/10 and the Events List hasn't been updated since 2009 either, as if the community's essentially given up.

A Broadfields school tale: I wanted to walk up the bridleway beside the school and was initially unnerved to see what looked like half a dozen secondary pupils hanging around the entrance beneath the trees... except it's only a primary school, and it turned out to be staff members (with matching lanyards) who'd sneaked out for a lunchtime smoke.



The bridleway is called Clay Lane and it's the other pre-estate original, indeed it's known to date back to the 16th century. It feels it too, zigzagging out along a thin woodland corridor towards fields and the highest point hereabouts. I made a note of ten things that might help you get a flavour of the place: ancient woodland, oak, field maple, ash, honeysuckle, horse manure, deep ruts, unexpected driveway, birdsong, dogmessbag. At a kilometre long, and an isolated kilometre at that, I bet it forms the basis of a favourite dogwalking loop. As I walked it felt like London was gradually fading away, although from the summit I could see all the way from Harrow's church to Wembley's arch to maybe Hampstead.



And at the end of Clay Lane I found Edgwarebury Cemetery. This is a four-part Jewish cemetery, now 50 years old, and part of a general sequential shift of Jewish burial sites towards the very edge of the capital. It's very much a going concern, well tended and with plenty of room to expand, indeed there was an enormous row locally when they proposed adding an extra field on the other side of Clay Lane. Almost immediately by the entrance I spotted the grave of Sir Simon Milton, former leader of Westminster Council, and over to the left another to Cynthia Levy (1921-2006). More significantly it remembers "her beloved granddaughter Amy Jade Winehouse" whose funeral was held here in 2011, and the gravestone incorporates the singer's bird tattoo as well as the Star of David. The cemetery asks visitors not to take photos so I didn't, but this unexpected find is a shining example of why it's good to visit parts of London you've never visited before.

🟨=1392, 🟩=51, 🟦=6, 🟥=14


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