diamond geezer

 Sunday, April 21, 2024

A Nice Walk: Twickenham Riverside (1½ miles)

Sometimes you just want to go for a nice walk, nothing too taxing, a bit of a stroll, lots to see, pretty views, leafy waterside, historic houses, plenty of seating, optional foot ferry, multiple refreshment opportunities, entirely step-free, won't take long. So here's a classic mile and a half along the Thames in Twickenham, nowhere near enough to make a day of it but a nice walk all the same.

This is the third time my Nice Walk recommendation has kicked off at Richmond Bridge, but this time we're walking the west bank of the Thames all the way to Twickenham. It's not far. The good thing about the west bank is that it offers the best view of Richmond Hill, foliage permitting, plus being the inside of a bend you get further upstream for less effort. To reach the waterside take the narrow staircase down to the tidal slipway (warning, parked vehicles may be partially submerged) or else walk to the end of the bridge for a shallower pushchair-friendly descent. Perhaps mind the ducks. Also expect to be sharing the footpath with multiple folk out for a brief constitutional, many in the local uniform of padded gilets and sunglasses, and with many a pampered dog leading the way.

The far side of the river has all the main action with boathouses, landing stages and pricey restaurants. This side has only Cambridge Gardens, a stripe of plush lawn with a playground and a cafe, before heading onwards into quieter territory. Look out for the elegant twisted pillar which acts as a memorial to 6000 Belgian migrants who worked here during WW1 to staff a vast munitions factory. After the war one of its buildings was replaced by the world's largest ice rink, where Torvill and Dean once practised, until that too was demolished in 1992. You can read about both of these unusual buildings on fact-dense information boards to either side of the pergola with the wisteria, and are unlikely to be surprised that the site is now covered by luxury flats.

One characteristic of this stretch of the Thames Path is a preponderance of memorial benches, each with the commemorated name and dedication carved into the slats rather than hidden away on a squinty plaque. Auntie Mollie's bench is one of your first chances for a sit down. How the river appears depends very much on time of day but I passed by close to high tide as the water lapped over drooping willow branches and the wash from the New Southern Belle brushed against occasional sets of stone steps. Best enjoy the shady view of the river and Petersham Meadows because you won't see much on the inland side, only a lengthy wall which shields the massive gardens of surprisingly few very big houses. Occasionally a locked gate intervenes, adjacent to a small dinghy that's used to nip out to a moored cruiser, but mostly it's all trees.

Just beyond the private meadow with the burst of bluebells is Marble Hill Park. This is East Twickenham's finest recreational space and heritage site, and the former domain of Georgian courtier Henrietta Howard. If you're planning a diversion don't dive in at the first gap in the railings, wait for the tarmac path by the black walnut and you'll find a white Palladian house behind the sunken grotto and flower garden. Before English Heritage did the place up you had to pay to go in and got an hour-long tour, but it's now free to enter, open five days a week and considerably better fitted out. The wallpaper is a delight, the furniture sparkles and if you ask the volunteers nicely they'll tell you all about the seven year-old boy in the portrait who jumped out of a pie and ended up imprisoned by Barbary pirates. Be warned that the Breakfast Room's currently off limits with a damp problem and the second floor gallery doesn't open if they're understaffed, but what I'm saying is you really ought to make a diversion and visit one day, even if you have no intention of walking the Nice Walk.

Back beside the river the long jetty crowded with motorboats is home to one of the quirkiest ways to cross the Thames, namely Hammertons Ferry. This family business launched in 1908 and their latest craft is an aluminium hulled boat called Peace of Mind which can transfer a dozen passengers in an enjoyably zippy way. The fare has doubled since I blogged about the crossing ten years ago but it's still only £2 which makes it considerably better value than the cablecar (and also potentially busier). The chief attraction on the far side is Ham House, a National Trust treasure on a magnificent scale, but if you do choose to head over you'll need to get the ferry back because it's the last river crossing for the next two miles.

Stay on the north bank and another Palladian villa with public access very soon pops up. This is Orleans House, or what's left of it because the majority fell derelict a century ago. The baroque Octagon Room was preserved and properly dazzles, although on yesterday's visit I arrived shortly before the wedding of Thomas Robert to Rebecca Kate so could only squint at the gilt ceiling above the heads of the chamber quartet. Art is regularly rotated in the adjacent gallery space, although the current interactive play exhibition is targeted at toddlers so I made do with the colourful dangling saris in the Stables. The cafe looked busiest of all, indeed you won't be short of refreshment on this walk and the booziest is yet to come.

Thus far the riverside has been an entirely public space but now access retreats behind a brick wall and funnels into a street called Riverside. Its residences are a mix of clustered cottages and early 18th century terraces dripping with wisteria, and are now occupied by bohemians with camper vans, messers-about-with boats and the exceptionally fortunate. The waterside here is called Swan Hard, mecca of the Twickenham Riviera, where the Thames still creeps up the muddy beach and across the street at the highest tides. Even when it's not warm punters at the White Swan pub like to spill out onto the Hard with pints in hand or sit under the gazebo on the jetty and wait for a waitress to deliver their steak and chips. Should you want to poke around inside Twickenham Yacht Club and try paddleboarding or propping up the bar, be aware the annual open day isn't until July.

As the street squeezes back between two brick walls look out for the narrow black gate on the left, an access point which allows you to enjoy the view from the top of the arched bridge ahead, not just walk under it. On one side of the divide is York House, the only London town hall to be based in a 400 year-old building, and on the other a fine set of ornamental gardens leading back to the riverside. The must-see sight here is the rockery cascade draped with the Oceanides, a set of eight naked females carved from white marble which were rescued from a country estate in Surrey and restored in 2007. They looked more impressive when they weren't screened behind protective metal railings but needs must. A few steps to the left and you'll be out onto the promenade near the play beach staring across at Eel Pie Island, and that's where my nice walk ends.

You could nip into Twickenham Museum except that's currently closed for renovation until the end of May. You could grab a pint in the Queen's Head, established 1637, except that renamed itself the Barmy Arms and caters for a full-on rugby crowd on match days so maybe best not. You can't cross the bridge to Eel Pie Island unless it's an open weekend, which isn't for a while, but you can go to the enjoyable museum of the same name on the high street for a musical education. You could just go the shops and find somewhere with a seat that does coffee. But if you've taken all the hints in my previous description you'll already have extended what could just have been a half hour stroll into a substantial sightseeing excursion and so much more than just a nice walk.

 Saturday, April 20, 2024

1964 Play School, Horizon, Match Of The Day, Not Only But Also; 1965 Call My Bluff, Man Alive; 1966 The Money Programme, Chronicle, Cathy Come Home; 1967 The Forsyte Saga, Look and Read, colour televison; 1968 Gardeners' World, The Morecambe & Wise Show; 1969 Q, Pot Black, Civilisation; 1970 The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Goodies; 1971 Open University, Elizabeth R, Face The Music, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Play Away; 1972 War and Peace; 1973 The Ascent Of Man, M*A*S*H; 1974 The Waltons; 1975 Arena, Fawlty Towers, Rutland Weekend Television; 1976 Ripping Yarns, I Claudius, One Man And His Dog; 1977 Abigail's Party, Top Gear; 1978 Ski Sunday, The Great Egg Race, Butterflies; 1979 Life On Earth, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Not The Nine O'Clock News, Monkey; 1980 Great Railway Journeys of the World, Newsnight, Yes Minister, Training Dogs The Woodhouse Way; 1981 The HitchHiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Timewatch; 1982 Food and Drink, Boys From The Blackstuff, The Young Ones; 1983 Entertainment USA, Micro Live; 1984 Alas Smith and Jones, Threads; 1985 Live Aid, No Limits, Edge of Darkness, Acorn Antiques, Floyd On Fish; 1986 A Very Peculiar Practice, Naked Video, The Life And Loves Of A She Devil; 1987 French And Saunders; 1988 Red Dwarf, Def II; 1989 The Late Show, The O-Zone, A Bit Of Fry And Laurie; 1990 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Twin Peaks, Have I Got News For You; 1991 probably the best idents in the history of the world ever; 1992 Later... with Jools Holland, Absolutely Fabulous; 1993 Rugrats, Shooting Stars; 1994 Room 101, Ready Steady Cook, The Day Today; 1995 The Mrs Merton Show; 1996 Never Mind The Buzzcocks, This Life, Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Our Friends In The North; 1997 Teletubbies, Ground Force, I'm Alan Partridge, Robot Wars; 1998 Goodness Gracious Me, The Royle Family; 1999 The League Of Gentlemen, The Naked Chef; 2000 The Weakest Link; 2001 The Office; What Not To Wear, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, The Kumars at No 42; 2002 Look Around You, 24, Flog It, Balamory; 2003 Little Britain, Restoration; 2004 The Catherine Tate Show, Who Do You Think You Are? 2005 The Apprentice, Springwatch, Mock The Week, Dragons' Den, Coast; 2006 Something For The Weekend, The Choir; 2007 The Restaurant, In The Night Garden, The Tudors; 2008 Maestro, Mad Men; 2009 Pointless, Miranda; 2010 The Great British Bake Off, Great British Railway Journeys, The Trip; 2011 Stargazing Live, Episodes; 2012 Line of Duty; 2013 The Great British Sewing Bee; 2014 Inside No 9, W1A; 2015 Wolf Hall, Inside The Factory; 2016 The Real Marigold Hotel, Upstart Crow; 2017 The Repair Shop, Richard Osman's House of Games; 2018 Mortimer & Whitehouse Gone Fishing; 2019 Race Across the World, Interior Design Masters; 2020 Good Omens; 2021 Universe; 2022 The Witchfinder; 2023 The Gallows Pole; 2024 Mammoth

Yesterday's big reveal from would-be Mayor-to-be Sadiq was a major extension to the Superloop express bus network. Phase 1 has ten routes and the plan is to add another ten and call it Superloop 2. There's a map and everything.

The most important thing on the map is the box in the corner which says 'Draft route, subject to change'. These additional routes would need to be subject to public consultation and anything could get tweaked, so best not take every link and connection on the map as gospel. But like Phase 1 it's very much an Outer London project, like Phase 1 it links multiple town centres and like Phase 1 it shadows a number of existing bus routes.

Note that it's not creating a second circuit, with buses mostly outside the existing loop in north and northeast London and mostly inside elsewhere. Good news Havering, you're finally getting something. Bad news Hillingdon, Haringey, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley and Bexley, you got your full allocation first time round.

Superloop 2 has all the hallmarks of a project TfL were planning on doing anyway, or at least have been guided by Sadiq to plan in detail to implement after re-election. The map's too good to be a political backroom knockup, plus it's in the same official style as the original Superloop diagram.

As well as the map, Sadiq fired a press release to trusted media partners which included the following list:
Harrow to Barnet, via Edgware
Barnet to Stratford, via Enfield and Chingford
Leytonstone to South Havering, via Gants Hill and Romford
North Greenwich to Thamesmead, via Woolwich
‘Bakerloop line’: Elephant and Castle to Lewisham, via Old Kent Road and New Cross
Streatham to Eltham, via Tulse Hill and Lee
Richmond to Wimbledon, via Roehampton
Ealing Broadway to Kingston, via Great West Road and Richmond
Hounslow to Hammersmith, via Great West Road
Hendon to Ealing Broadway, via Brent Cross and Hanger Lane
No route numbers were included but the list runs clockwise from northwest London (which is the same rationale as before) so I strongly suspect the routes are in this order for a very good reason. I therefore intend to use the numbers SL11 to SL20 during the remainder of this post, and feel free to come back in a few months' time and see if I was right.

A geographical map would be useful so I've had a go at drawing lines on a Google map. Even as I was doing it I was thinking 'this is probably very wrong', so in many cases my routes may be wildly off the mark. But it's still interesting to look beyond the limitations of a stylised diagram, and it does show that west and northwest London seem to be getting the best deal while south and southeast London's network will be more disjoint.

SL11 Harrow to Barnet, via Edgware [10 miles]
There are many possible routes from Harrow to Edgware so the chosen path is hard to call but I suspect it'll follow the 186, and then the 384 from Edgware to Barnet.
SL12 Barnet to Stratford, via Enfield and Chingford [17 miles]
This'll be a monster of a route, first orbital, then radial. It'll probably shadow the 307 to Enfield, the 313 to Chingford and the 97 down to Stratford. I can see that last section being very popular.
SL13 Leytonstone to South Havering, via Gants Hill and Romford [14 miles]
This'll shadow the 66, a route which follows the often speedy A12 Eastern Avenue. 'South Havering' is a very vague final destination but I suspect it'll thread through Elm Park to Rainham-ish.
SL14 North Greenwich to Thamesmead, via Woolwich [6 miles]
This is a superfast 472, and was flagged in proposals relating to the proposed DLR extension to Thamesmead.
SL15 Elephant and Castle to Lewisham, via Old Kent Road and New Cross [5 miles]
This is the recently announced 'Bakerloop' service shadowing the long-hoped-for Bakerloo line extension. It might get called BL1, but it's fifth place in the list so my bet is SL15.
SL16 Streatham to Eltham, via Tulse Hill and Lee [9 miles]
This has all the hallmarks of a route following the South Circular Road, something not currently possible without a lot of changes. But whereas the North Circular is a speedy arterial, the South Circular is alas anything but.
SL17 Richmond to Wimbledon, via Roehampton [7 miles]
This'll head round the east side of Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, most likely shadowing the 493 and then the 93.
SL18 Ealing Broadway to Kingston, via Great West Road and Richmond [8 miles]
This is plainly an express 65, a busy frequent route on roads often clogged and slow, so it's not clear how the SL18 would be much faster.
SL19 Hounslow to Hammersmith, via Great West Road [8 miles]
The clue here is 'via Great West Road' which strongly suggests an express H91, potentially also using the A4 to skip the traffic in Chiswick.
SL20 Hendon to Ealing Broadway, via Brent Cross and Hanger Lane [7 miles]
This is mostly going to be an express 112 zipping along the North Circular, helping to create an inner Superloop arc across West London.

People who've looked carefully at Sadiq's draft map have noticed a couple of portentous peculiarities. The SL7 (formerly the X26) doesn't terminate at Croydon it terminates early at Sutton, suggesting that the SL5 and SL7 might be being tweaked to become routes of more equitable length. Meanwhile up north the map appears to show two yellow routes terminating at Chingford whereas the press release lists just one route all the way from Barnet to Stratford. Anything here could be an error or a future truth, it's impossible to tell.

Best wait and see how all this pans out, but it looks like Outer London will be getting a much improved speedy bus service and it'll be even more peculiarly numbered and even less like a loop than what we've already got.

 Friday, April 19, 2024

London has eight public footpath level crossings, and today I'm going to walk you across another of them.

Bourneview (CR8 5AD)

We're in Kenley in the London borough of Croydon, a couple of miles southeast of Purley. Two railway lines wend down this dry chalk valley but we want the line to Caterham, the lower of the pair, shortly before trains cross the boundary into Surrey and pull up at Whyteleafe. The footpath crossing to the north of Kenley station has been converted to a diversionary footbridge in the form of two very long ramps. The footpath crossing nearer Whyteleafe has been converted to a loftier footbridge which you might well be familiar with from London Loop section 5, just after revelling in the joys of Riddlesdown. But the Bourneview footpath crossing is much quieter so has never been footbridged and here it is.

The cul-de-sac which dips down from Godstone Road is really called Bourne View, whatever the slapdash formatting in Network Rail's database might say. To one side is a small valley-bottom park and on the other side a few bungalows before the road stops dead at a telegraph pole. Here a sign confirms that Public Footpath 30 continues to Valley Road, and hurrah for that right of way because it's the only reason this crossing remains open. The springy gate no longer springs so it's dead easy to walk through onto railway land, and please take heed of the signs - Stop Look Listen, Keep dogs on a lead, Do not trespass on the railway, Do not touch the live rail, Oncoming trains can be hidden by other trains, Look both ways, Do not cross until all lines are clear.

You're unlikely to meet a train because this line's a terminating spur with a half-hourly service, but visibility is very good in both directions so you'd easily spot something coming. It's not a hi-tech crossing, just a stripe of boards across the tracks with angular timbers to either side to deter anyone straying from a straight line. A tiny grey shed has been provided for maintenance staff, either that or an austere portaloo, close to a decaying phone cabinet on a post. But this is essentially an entirely unstaffed crossing so your gambol across the tracks will be going generally unnoticed. According to the latest count only 27 people per day actually use Bourneview, so when a local jogger came up behind me and padded past I felt like I'd arrived at rush hour.

The gate on the far side closes more successfully, which ought to keep health and safety happier. It sits at the foot of a long sloping footpath, a rising stripe of tarmac carefully shielded from neighbouring back gardens. It's steep enough that a metal handrail has been provided but this runs straight up the middle, splitting the path divisively in two. The rail eventually gives out and after a breathy minute you reach Valley Road and a completely different residential neighbourhood. Brand new bus route 439 occasionally weaves past, at the same frequency as the trains, but if you didn't know the crossing was here you'd never think to alight in the right place. Bourneview all has the flavour of another age when pedestrians were trusted not to get in the way of trains, plus it's a damned useful connection for a few people locally, so long may it survive the risk assessment guillotine.

London's eight public footpath level crossings:
» Bourneview (Croydon) - almost in Surrey, between Kenley and Whyteleafe.
» Trumpers (Ealing) - also across a freight line, see Geoff's video here.
» Golf Links (Enfield) - along a minor footpath up Crews Hill way.
» Lincoln Road (Enfield) - south of Enfield Town, closed to road traffic in 2012.
» Angerstein (Greenwich) - alleyway across freight line near IKEA.
» Osbourne Road (Havering) - between Romford and Emerson Park.
» Brickfields (Havering) - between Upminster and West Horndon.
» Eve's (Havering) - north of Ockendon in a field alongside the M25.

I blogged the five in Havering in 2021 (two of which were closed the following year)
I blogged Lincoln Road in 2023 (in association with Knobtrench data services)
Angerstein was reprieved from closure in 2021 (hurrah)
Golf Links is now the only crossing I haven't walked across.
n.b. Riddlesdown Viaduct public footpath level crossing lies on the Greater London boundary but is officially in Surrey
n.b. Warren Farm, just north of Trumpers, is offically a private level crossing

Sadiq's manifesto has finally been published so let's take a look (mainly so there's a blogpost to check at the end of his term in 2028).

Title: A fairer, safer, greener London for everyone
Pages: 67

Top 10 pledges

1) Free school meals
...a current policy planned for extension but not actually a given, merely to "work to make universal free school meals permanent", and only for primary schools
2) Freeze TfL fares
...but only "until 2025" which isn't a pledge it's a fact because fares only rise once a year. There is however a promise to "continue to freeze fares for as long as economic conditions allow"
3) 40,000 new council homes
...but that's "by the end of the decade", so equates to just 7000 a year (or 20 a day)
4) More police officers
...specifically 1,300 neighbourhood police offcers, PCSOs and Special Constables, but requires Sadiq to "work with a Labour government" so again not a given
5) Investing in youth clubs
...the plan being to create "250,000 positive opportunities for young Londoners", which actually means "quality mentoring" and "investment in more youth workers"
6) Reduce violence against women and girls
...but specifically to "redouble efforts" to reduce that violence because engineering social change is never a given
7) End rough sleeping
...and end it for good, but this again requires Sadiq to work "in partnership with a Labour government"
8) 6000 'rent control' homes
....i.e. homes with rents capped and linked to the incomes of key workers, so a worthy start but a total drop in the ocean
9) World-leading climate action
...although the fine detail is a lot more about air quality than climate change, certainly in terms of worldleadingness
10) 150,000 new jobs
...but really just developing a new London Growth Plan setting out how jobs could be boosted and hoping it happens

All this is clearly explained in the manifesto, nobody's trying to pull the wool over your eyes, but it does show the danger of relying on a top level summary to judge a set of policies.

10 specific transport pledges

Build on the success of the Superloop bus network by introducing a second superloop (a draft map emerged at 7.35 this morning)
Explore the potential to run Superloop-style express bus services along the route of some as yet unbuilt rail projects (deffo the Bakerloo Line Extension, maybe the West London Orbital)
Launch a new plan to cut bus waiting times (perhaps a posh way of saying "increase bus frequencies")
Explore the potential benefts and means of bringing bus operations into public ownership (another aspiration "in conjunction with a Labour government")
Invest at least £3m a year from City Hall to provide more toilets on the TfL estate (hurrah, although I'm not sure how far £3m goes)
Allow concession holders to use their phones as their travel pass instead of having to carry an Oyster card (I'll pass, thanks)
More than 40,000 new bike parking spaces on high streets and in schools, stations and residential areas by 2030 (another pledge due to be delivered after the end of Sadiq's third term)
Expand the step-free access programme to cover half of the Underground network by 2030 (we're currently at one third, and I doubt an extra 44 step-free stations is doable in six years)
"I want Londoners to have certainty about the future, so I commit to keeping the London-wide ULEZ standards the same over the next four years. I also rule out a move to any form of pay-per-mile smart road user charging system." (there you are Susan, in black and white)
• more of the same (this is the majority of the manifesto, to be honest)

 Thursday, April 18, 2024

In precisely two weeks' time Londoners get their chance to vote for a new Mayor. They won't, they'll vote for the old Mayor because Sadiq Khan is so far ahead in the polls he's effectively unstoppable. But we do know the 12 people who won't replace him, most of whom are destined to lose their £10,000 deposit, and we also know many of their policies. Here's my clickable summary.

The mainstream three

Susan Hall (Conservative Party): Susan entered London politics in 2006 as a councillor for Hatch End and rose to become Leader of Harrow council, at least for a few months. Since 2019 she's been the leader of the Conservatives on the London Assembly so she's well used to holding Sadiq to account across the chamber and is very much not a fan. She's on the right of her party so not a natural fit for the capital, more a champion for the outer suburbs. Top of her five point plan is to 'get a grip on crime', indeed her strapline is Safer with Susan. That means hiring more police officers, opening more safe spaces for women and bringing back borough-based policing. Her other key policy is to scrap the ULEZ extension (which a minority of drivers in Outer London are incandescent about) but not to scrap the entire zone (so Inner London diesel owners would remain shafted). When she says she wants to "cut the cost of travelling around London" she only means motorists, not those on public transport, and she's insistent Sadiq intends to bring in road pricing even though he's insistent he won't. She wants much cleaner air via alternative means and also more family homes rather than highrise flats. According to her website "my full manifesto will launch in early 2024" but here we are with a fortnight to go and a five point plan is all we have.

Rob Blackie (Liberal Democrats): Rob's a digital marketeer from Herne Hill who recently turned 50 and is a long-term Liberal Democrat. His absolute number 1 priority is to tackle crime, specifically to 'Fix the Met' by improving conviction rates and bringing policing closer to the community. Rob was violently mugged in Vauxhall and says this is at the heart of his drive to focus on crime, although the attack actually took place in 2003 during Ken Livingstone's first term. On transport he wants a better plan for Outer London, greener river crossings out east, a tax on private planes, more Superloop routes and a reversal of the recent fares freeze. A lot of his pledges are more about lobbying and cajoling rather than action, perhaps recognising the limitations of the Mayoralty, but he does plan to increase the availability of allotments and introduce a London Wellbeing Strategy.

Zoë Garbett (Green Party): Zoë works (non-clinically) in the NHS and has been a Green councillor in Dalston since 2022. She's now stepping up for the mayoralty and if past performance is anything to go by has a good chance of coming 3rd. Her manifesto stretches to an astonishing 134 pages - ten times longer than Rob's - and I've already brought you an analysis of her 100-odd transport policies. Elsewhere climate change would be at the heart of her plans, including setting up a Citizens’ Climate Assembly and creating ten major new parks. On housing she'd like to buy up private homes to boost council house supply, and on policing she'd withdraw support for use of live facial recognition and focus on reducing hit and run crime. A Green Mayor would also replace the GLA’s annual firework displays with drones and lasers, so watch BBC1 on New Year's Day 2028 to see if that's been achieved.

The one-track idealist

Femy Amin (Animal Welfare Party): Femy wants "a fairer and compassionate world" not only for people but for animals and the environment too, including making a stand against the climate, biodiversity and health emergencies. Her policies include the creation of an Animal Welfare Committee within the London Assembly, the promotion of plant-based diets and of course "fostering a culture where speciesism is rejected". Vanessa Hudson said much the same thing three years ago and earned ½% of the vote.

The classic eccentric

Count Binface: Hurrah for intergalactic space warrior Count Binface.

The egotistical entrepreneurs

Natalie Campbell (Independent): Natalie threw her hat into the ring to be Conservative candidate for Mayor last year but wasn't successful so she's throwing her hat in as in independent instead. She's a former royal aide, the current Co-CEO of bottled water floggers Belu and wants to take "a zero B.S. approach to rebuilding London". She calls herself a social entrepreneur and wants an ambitious freelance buzz back on the streets of the capital, for example by repurposing 320 empty shops as community support centres.

Tarun Ghulati (Independent): Tarun's a 63 year-old investment banker and currently the president and CEO of financial services platform Squared Watermelon. He launched his campaign while on a visit to India and says London shouldn't be governed on party lines, it needs a better investment ecosystem. He doesn't have a manifesto he has a vision statement, he claims "Londoners do not feel safe anywhere, anytime, anymore" and like every single candidate on the remainder of my list he wants to scrap ULEZ.

Andreas Michli (Independent): Andreas is a health and fitness entrepreneur who runs a bodybuilding gym and is still peeved at being fined for holding a lockdown gathering at his home. Unsurprisingly his campaign slogan is Make London Strong and his top priorities are tackling knife crime and making police officers fitter. In other policies he wants platform doors at every tube station, a ban on the advertising of hyper-processed “plant-based” meat alternatives and, most bigheadedly, to "establish a Mayor of London radio channel through which I will speak directly to the people of London on a regular basis". I spotted his yellow van circling Piccadilly Circus the other day and thought blimey, there's an ego on the move.

The anti-woke warriors

Howard Cox (Reform UK): Howard's an ex-Conservative voter who's long campaigned on behalf of motorists, bikers, van drivers, cabbies and truckers. He wants to Get London Moving and can distil his campaign into a six word soundbite - Scrap ULEZ, Cut crime, Ditch Khan. He wants police to be a lot more visible and an end to cash-grabbing anti-driver policies, indeed he says he'll refund every fine imposed since ULEZ was extended. His long term priority is move to "a popular common-sense prosperity that benefits all not just a vocal selfish minority", whatever that means, although the finer detail in his policies is very thin.

Amy Gallagher (Social Democratic Party): Don't think Shirley Williams, think a psychiatric nurse concerned about identity politics and virtue signalling whose manifesto headline is Stand Up To Woke. Allow me to cut and paste a bit. "All Woke and DEI programmes will be stopped." "No more LGBTQ+ rainbow flags, BLM groups, ‘Maaate’ propaganda films." "End the war on cars resulting from authoritarian anti-travel ESG policies and Net Zero measures." "An outright ban on loudspeakers with full enforcement on public transport and in stations." "The SDP will de-politicise and enforce neutrality throughout TfL." "The Tube must run through the night, every night, to ensure women are able to work, commute and enjoy the city on a 24-hour basis without fearing for their safety." "The SDP know what a woman is." If the fourth plinth statues also make you angry, Amy wants your vote.

Brian Rose (London Real Party): Besuited businessman Brian got 1% of the vote last time but since then has seen "the city I love, the place I call home descend into an Orwellian nightmare". I probably can't dig a bigger hole for him than to reproduce his opening paragraph. "The Brian For Mayor 2024 campaign aims to create a mass scale transformation in humanity into a fully empowered, conscious and cooperative species by promoting great ideas, strong policies and long term outcomes, while defending our rights to free speech and making London the financial capital of the world once more by making our capital the centre of the crypto, web3 and blockchain industries."

Nick Scanlon (Britain First): Immigrants and Islamists are the important issue in Nick's patriotic bubble, on behalf of a party that considers Reform a bunch of wishy-washy liberals. I don't recognise the London he claims to be "a Third World cesspit where crime is rampant and radical Islamist extremists dominate the streets!" but thousands will cast their vote here anyway.

Don't take my word for all this, do your own research, perhaps by clicking through or by reading the booklet being sent to every voter. You can download a full copy of that booklet here in case yours hasn't arrived yet. Dave Hill is also doing sterling work analysing the candidates and their policies over at On London.

And one final observation. Thus far the candidate with the sketchiest policies isn't any of the above, it's the incumbent Sadiq Khan, whose campaign materials all focus on what he's done (free school meals, frozen fares, building council houses etc) rather than plans for the future. That's because he's delayed publication of his manifesto until this morning, a fortnight before the polls open, and given he's going to win that's the body of pledges we should really all be focusing on.

 Wednesday, April 17, 2024

I said I wasn't going to make a habit of this, and I'm not, but I've ticked off two more.

This is the northeast corner of London, from Hainault Country Park round to North Ockendon, annotated with all the places you can cross the boundary by car, train or public footpath. Discounting the M25, which forms a lot of the boundary hereabouts, only nine of the crossings are roads. That's how successful the Green Belt has been.

The black ticks are all the crossings I've crossed and the latest two are the pair just northeast of Noak Hill. I walked out of one and back in via the other. In the middle were unexpected llamas and a rollercoaster.

All the exits from London +1: Chequers Road, Noak Hill

Noak Hill is London's northeasternmost village and not really on the way to anywhere, not unless you're going to Navestock, South Weald or Coxtie Green. I'd nearly walked out of it before but never quite got past the Orange Tree kennels and pigeon lofts on Church Road. This time I headed out northeast along Chequers Road, past where the Post Office used to be, aiming for the big bridge over the M25. The pavement gives out after Woodside Cottages, after which a stodgy verge suffices, but at least it's enough to keep you out of the road because this corner of London still has a 40mph speed limit. The road surface isn't good and is lightly potholed in places, which is either because Havering council have no interest in traffic heading into Essex or because we've had a budget-strangling government for the last 14 years. If you see a sick or injured deer, a poster advises, be sure to call Harold Wood Deer Aid on this mobile number.

Just before the motorway bridge are two farm gates. One is fronted by a black cruciform memorial commemorating Valeriu Catană (1975-2019), his tiny shrine bedecked with bright artificial flowers. The other is named 'Oakwood' and leads down to a long track which winds off into some woods. After I got home my research suggested Valeriu was a Romanian carpenter and confirmed that Oakwood is a naturist Sun Club offering a heated pool, boules, a croquet lawn and "dense foliage". Even a remote nondescript country lane has its secrets. The M25 is eight lanes wide at this point and on a bit of a climb, just north of the gantry which advises Chelmsford-bound traffic to join the inside lane. The entire motorway is inside the Greater London boundary, for sensible administrative reasons, but once the bridge touches down on the far side you've exited to Essex. Only Havering have put up a welcome sign.

I can't overemphasise how away-from-it-all this is, a world of horsey farms and scattered hamlets, and it was even quieter before the M25 turned up and carved straight across the fields. And yet there is a major tourist attraction here, one that charges £17.50 for admission, and that's Old Macdonald's Farm. As Brentwood's parents will know it's a petting zoo that's diversified into funfair rides and it fills a lengthy strip above the motorway. The easiest things to see from the car park are the Giant Snake Slide and the Doggy Dog Roller Coaster, although somewhere beyond are a Spider Tower, a JCB zone and The Thrilling Crazy Barn Ride. Top of the animal hierarchy are probably the horses, reindeer and llamas, but you also get pigs, goats, owls and walk-through wallabies for your money. Not being a toddler, or having one with me, I gave it a miss.

All the exits from London +2: Wrightsbridge Road

On the other side of Old Macdonald's Farm, which for me was a 5 minute walk, the road crosses Wright's Bridge. This is a crossing of the Weald Brook, a minor stream which flows south and eventually becomes the Ingrebourne, and which was once the boundary between Havering and Brentwood. But when the M25 came along it made sense to make that the boundary instead so you can no longer exit London simply by crossing the bridge. Instead you have to turn off down what looks like OMF's access road, and is barriered as such, but also has a sign saying Bridleway so I gave it a go. The only house, a short way down, is a heavily fortified detached monster called Angel Cottage which I assumed was another modern Essex hideaway. But no, it turns out to be an early 15th century timber framed hall with proper brick chimneystacks, admittedly much extended since, and was formerly an inn called the Old Angel. Another remote nondescript country lane, more secrets.

To cross back into London you first get a few glimpses of the Angel's back garden and then dip down between three bollards into a concrete subway beneath the motorway. Graffiti artists have ventured even this far, it appears, but their spraywork isn't up to much. Climbing back up the far side means following a footpath but very swiftly a stripe of tarmac swings in from the left and this definitely has a kerb. That's good, I thought, my journey back's not going to be the mudbath I'd originally feared. Instead it felt very much like walking down a slightly overgrown country lane with hedges to either side, and it turned out that's exactly what this used to be. Prior to the M25 two parallel roads bore off from Noak Hill but they only had money for one bridge so Chequers Lane (exit 1) got that and Wrightsbridge Road (exit 2) was sacrificed to become a public footpath instead. Old Macdonalds Farm has been slotted in beside the link road added on the Essex side.

The best part of this path was how quiet it was, occasional birdsong excepted. Normally I'm on my guard in this part of Havering for locals out walking lively dogs but I had confidence here I'd not be bumping into anyone, a feeling confirmed by the sight of several fallow deer in the adjacent fields. My passage repeatedly interrupted their grazing, first causing them to look up and then to scarper quietly towards the safety of some overhanging canopy. Deer often find their way onto outlying housing estates in these parts but rarely have I seen groups of ten, thirty and in one case over fifty quietly biding their time in plain sight.

The track eventually reaches a former crossroads where a moss-topped fingerpost points off down multiple paths. You could head back to Noak Hill but I plumped for footpath 278 to Dagnam Park, which is very much the backway into one of Havering's finest recreational spaces. This was once the estate of Dagnams, the manor house whose land was compulsory purchased in the 1940s to create the massive Harold Hill council estate, but this outlying chunk was preserved as parkland and it's delightful. Here I discovered the remains of the old stable block, an avenue of yew trees leading to two white gateposts, the footprint of the former mansion picked out on a lawn, a large pond once brimming with perch, multiple information boards, a Humphrey Repton landscape, a swathe of ancient woodland and of course several more deer.

Quite frankly I should have written about Dagnam Park instead because that's the most interesting thing out here, but alas I've already written multiple less relevant paragraphs and there isn't time. This is why I will never engage in a series called Exiting Greater London In Every Possible Location because it would be a truly irrelevant disappointment, but that's two more ticked off and if you're very unlucky I'll come back one day and do Noak Hill's other five.

 Tuesday, April 16, 2024



London's Monopoly Streets


Colour group: pink
Purchase price: £140
Rent: £10
Length: 500m
Borough: Westminster
Postcode: SW1

Whitehall is one of the most famous and historic streets in London but has been tucked away on the cheap-to-middling side of the Monopoly board, perhaps because it's not a real estate hotspot. Instead it's an administrative hub for the highest echelons of government, the focus of our Remembrance commemorations and a conduit for protest, as well as the site of what was once the world's largest royal palace. As a street it's longer than it used to be but shorter than you probably think it is, terminating short of Parliament Square at the southern end. Let's start off instead at Trafalgar Square, the pink set's focal point, and explore the less bureaucratic end first.

Whitehall kicks off with a Pret A Manger and swiftly settles into catering mostly for tourists. The first gift shop is called Memento London, a souvenir-packed honeytrap where punters are lured inside by the sight of Paddington Bear sitting on the roof of a Mini. Nextdoor is a 'magical' emporium which sells Hufflepuff scarves and Triwizard cups, plus knock-off goods from other fantasy franchises, and if you pause to window-shop a bloke in a red beanie will walk over and ask if you fancy a ride on an open-top tour bus. For higher level contemporary culture try opposite at the Trafalgar Theatre (originally the Whitehall) which has reverted to offering a diet of celeb-fronted plays now that Jersey Boys has finally vacated.

Here too are several pubs that sightseeing families might plausibly drift into, some of which are converted banks so not as traditional as they appear. I checked their menus for fish and chips and can confirm it costs £16.50 at Walkers, £17.45 at the Silver Cross, £18.50 at The Horse & Guardsman and £19.50 at The Old Shades and The Clarence, so best shop around. In particular try not to be tempted inside Café De Royale because it's not a nice place for a cuppa and a sitdown, more a candy bazaar flogging Pop Tarts and Cheetos whose sole nod to hot drinks is a machine on the counter dispensing £3.99 lattes. I'm pleased to say its interior was doggedly empty.

The first sidestreet is called Great Scotland Yard, this the location of the Metropolitan Police's first HQ. The name has followed to each subsequent site, the first being New Scotland Yard on the Victoria Embankment (1890), then New Scotland Yard in Victoria (1967), then back to the Victoria Embankment again (2016). Whitehall remains a sensitive zone, so much so that on my visit multiple police vans were parked up in the middle of the road, sharpshooters were positioned in many a doorway and several groups of gloved officers were carefully checking every single lamppost and junction box against a prescribed list in a red folder. Given that I was wandering around taking multiple photos and scribbling down notes, I'm relieved to have got away unchallenged.

And then the government buildings start. First up is the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, last year's spin-off from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, most of which remains in the building behind as the Department for Business and Trade. If nothing else it's keeping the signwriters busy. Across the road are the Admiralty Buildings, another labyrinthine civil service warren, with 26 Whitehall being where Nelson's body rested on the night before his funeral. A lot of the buildings here present an ornate and overprotective frontage to the street, with very little clue as to which policies are being enacted behind the spikes and bomb-proof drapes.

Horseguards is the chief magnet for tourists hereabouts, specifically the two large sentry boxes to either side of the entrance to the parade ground. Onlookers take it in turns to pause with cameras in front of the mounted soldier with the funny hat, then ideally stand alongside, undeterred by signs warning that Horses May Kick Or Bite. The punters' big grins are in sharp contrast to the poor sod on his saddle, who can't have imagined on signing up that deadpan performance for a TikTok audience would be the central premise of his job. Were his helmet less obstructive he'd spend his entire duty staring at the two buildings opposite, either side of Horseguards Avenue, which appropriately for Monopoly purposes turn out to be a hotel and a house.

Hotel: The Old War Office
They didn't call the hotel the Old War Office because that would be commercial suicide, instead rechristening it The OWO. Once the domain of Kitchener and Churchill. it re-opened last autumn after an eight year refit with one half now containing 85 luxury residences for multimillionaires in need of a showy London pad. The remainder comprises 120 ultra-spacious hotel suites starting at £879 a night, plus a restaurant with a Michelin starred chef and a spa with a "gamechanging holistic wellness offering". This sumptuous internal rearrangement has been paid for by a group of Singaporean investors under the 'Raffles' brand, and I mention all this in case next time you're protesting down Whitehall you want to vent your righteous fury at the obscenely rich as well just as the government.

House: The Banqueting House
The Banqueting House is the sole surviving (visible) remnant of the Palace of Whitehall, designed in full-on classical style by Inigo Jones in 1622. It has a Rubens ceiling, a Flemish balustrade and an upper window through which Charles I walked just before being beheaded. It's also very closed at the moment pending renovation so hopefully you've already been inside. The original palace was Henry VIII's creation, a sprawling collection of royal buildings between here and the Thames, and you can probably guess what colour it started out given its name. Most of the palace burnt to the ground over two days in 1698 after a washerwoman left some wet linen too close to a charcoal burner, the Banqueting House being saved after adjacent buildings were frantically knocked down as a fire break. Whitehall once terminated here at an ornate archway called the Holbein Gate, beyond which it became a much narrower thoroughfare called The Street, before that too was demolished in 1759 to improve the flow of traffic.

Continuing south, back in the present day, the government buildings now come thick and fast. First the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office (the former significantly larger), then the Orwellian bulwark of the Ministry of Defence with its protective stripe of fenced-off lawn to either side. Three heroes of WW2 are commemorated with statues out front - that's Monty, Alan and Slim - and are highly unlikely to be joined by any heroes of WW3 because this spot is ground zero for instant vaporisation. The Cabinet Office has less oppressive premises across the road, although still with armed police on guard at unmarked doors and paparazzi waiting out front hoping to capture the guilty face of an emerging minister. I merely caught a glimpse of the scrawled notes under the arm of a senior civil servant.

The memorial in the middle of the street commemorates The Women of WW2 and takes the form of a bronze monolith bearing a coat-rack hung with evocative uniforms. It's been here since 2005, is hollow to save money and was part funded by Baroness Boothroyd's winnings on the gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The next sideroad is Downing Street, now incredibly well fortified, with a gazebo for the checking of passes on the far side of a screen of black railings. Look closely and you'll see a few remnants of the red paint someone hurled at a recent demonstration, making absolutely no impact whatsoever on government policy. We have just two buildings and a pylon of Portland Stone to go.

The Cenotaph was originally made from wood and plaster because it was intended to be temporary, but was so widely admired that Lutyens designed a permanent structure to replace it. Medals, uniforms and duffel coats have been worn here annually since 1920. The peculiarly palatial edifice opposite, set back from the road, is Richmond House which was built in 1987 to house the Department of Health. More recently it's been pencilled in as the site for a temporary Commons chamber while the Palace of Westminster undergoes urgent repairs, but a heads-in-the-sand approach has so far reprieved the building. And this is where Whitehall unexpectedly terminates, the last 100m down to Parliament Square being called Parliament Street instead. For confirmation see the street sign outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, partway down the balustrade...

...which thankfully saves me from writing two more paragraphs.

 Monday, April 15, 2024

Once their leaves come out, trees are green until the autumn. But they're never as brilliantly green as they are in early spring when the leaves are still young. The canopy is a beautiful burst of light greens, a mix of subtle tones of jade and emerald. Here's the view from Richmond Hill looking proper lush.

But it never lasts. As the weeks go by the greens get inexorably darker and well before summer they're all just identikit deep green, those fresh contrasts lost. The shift to autumn's also fabulous, don't get me wrong, but nothing beats the first flush of green we get to enjoy in April.

It's all to do with chlorophyll. In young leaves the chloroplasts are still developing so contain less green pigment and the leaves tend to be lighter. It's also compounded by maturity. As new leaves grow they begin making additional pigments that darken the foliage, and they also thicken as they develop waxy layers that can dim the green hue.

Spring's bright burst is brief and gone too soon. Enjoy the greens while you can.

Farrow and Ball paint colours: Arsenic, Ball Green, Bancha, Beverly, Breakfast Room Green, Calke Green, Card Room Green, Carriage Green, Chappell Green, Chine Green, Churlish Green, Cooking Apple, Danish Lawn, Duck Green, Folly Green, Eddy, Emerald Green, Green Ground, Green Smoke, Green Stone, Grove Green, Hog Plum, Lichen, Mere Green, Minster Green, Monkey Puzzle, Olive, Palm, Pea Green, Pond Green, Raw Tomatillo, Sap Green, Saxon Green, Studio Green, Suffield Green, Sutcliffe Green, Teresa's Green, Tunsgate Green, Verdigris Green, Vert de Terre, Vitty Green, Whirlybird, Yeabridge Green

MPs: Damian Green, Chris Green, Caroline Lucas, Lilian Greenwood, Kate Green, Margaret Greenwood, Sarah Green

Supermarkets: Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, Costcutter, Londis, Budgens

Tube stations: Bethnal Green, Bounds Green, Golders Green, Greenford, Green Park, Kensal Green, North Greenwich, Parsons Green, Stepney Green, Turnham Green, Willesden Green, Wood Green
Former names: Acton Green, Croxley Green, Walham Green
Other London stations: Drayton Green, Edmonton Green, Greenwich, Harringay Green Lanes, Hither Green, Palmers Green, Slade Green, South Greenford
Outside London: Acocks Green, Barnt Green, Borough Green and Wrotham, Broad Green, Dunton Green, Green Lane, Green Road, Greenbank, Greenfaulds, Greenfield, Greenhithe, Greenock Central, Greenock West, Gretna Green, Hall Green, Heald Green, Hough Green, Hurst Green, Langley Green, Lea Green, Marston Green, Seer Green and Jordans, Town Green, Welham Green, Wylde Green

Musicians: Al, Cee Lo, Day, Gartside, Jelly, Norman Baum, Professor
Music: Barwick, Door, Grass of Home, Onions, Tambourine

London walks: Jubilee Greenway, Green Chain, Green Link, Dollis Valley Greenwalk

Html codes: Aquamarine #7FFFD4, Eucalyptus #5F8575, Jade #00A36C, Lincoln Green #478778, Malachite #0BDA51, Olive Green #808000, Pear #C9CC3F, Pistachio #93C572, Sea Green #2E8B57, Spring Green #00FF7F, Teal #008080, Verdigris #40B5AD

London's Millennium Greens: Aberfeldy, Albion, Alexandra, Chadwell, Cricklewood, New Southgate, Waterloo, Robin Hood

Cities/towns with Green Belts: Bath/Bristol, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Burton upon Trent, Cambridge, Derby/Nottingham, Gloucester, Lancaster, Leeds/Sheffield, London, Liverpool/Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Stoke-on-Trent, York

National flags that are at least 40% green: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Togo, Turkmenistan, Zambia

Places in London according to the Ordnance Survey: Acton Green, Ardleigh Green, Bell Green, Berry's Green, Bethnal Green, Bounds Green, Broad Green, Brook Green, Chingford Green, Colham Green, Fortis Green, Golders Green, Green Street Green, Greenford, Greenhill, Greenwich, Hither Green, Horns Green, Kensal Green, Leaves Green, Newyears Green, North Greenwich, Norwood Green, Palmers Green, Parsons Green, Pinner Green, Rowley Green, Rush Green, Slade Green, Strand on the Green, Stroud Green, Walham Green, West Green, Westbourne Green, Wood Green, Woodcote Green, Woodford Green

Salt and vinegar: Walkers, Sainsburys, Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons
Cheese and Onion: Golden Wonder, Smith's, Hula Hoops, McCoys
Green Onion: Lay's
Chicken: Smiths (Australia)

Fictional: Green Gables, Green Ginger, Green Hornet, Jolly Green Giant, Dock Green, Lieutenant Green, Reverend Green, Camberwick Green

Green lines: District, Waterloo & City, Trams, Suffragette, 701, 724, 755, 757

Greens: cabbage, lettuce, rocket, kale, chard, cress, spinach, asparagus, pak choi, broccoli

Common land in London: Acton Green, Back Green, Barnes Green, Biggin Hill Green, Bradmore Green, Broadstreet Green, Brook Green, Castlebar Green, Cuckoo Green, Drayton Green, Ealing Green, East Acton Green, Friars Place Green, Frogmore Green, Garratt Green, Goose Green, Green Street Green, Haven Green, Ickenham Green, Kidbrooke Green, Lacey Green, Leaves Green, Malden Green, Mattock Green, Northolt Village Green, Nunhead Green, Parsons Green, Pickhurst Green, Plough Green, Pratt's Bottom Green, Rowley Green, Shoulder of Mutton Green, Totteridge Green, Turnham Green

Visible wavelengths: blue green 487–493 nm, bluish green 493–498 nm, green 498–530 nm, yellowish green 530–559 nm, yellow green 559–570 nm

Green things: traffic light (go), House of Commons (benches), belt (judo), eyed-monster (jealousy), fireworks (barium), Bay Packers (football), banknote (£1), putting (golf), Cross (code), Shield (stamps), Soylent (food), fingers (gardening), bottles (ten), Gawain (knight), Forest Rovers (football), lavender (dilly dilly)

n.b. Also enjoy the spring blues, pinks, whites and reds.

These colours may or may not follow later.

 Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Battle of Barnet, one of the key turning points of the Wars of the Roses, took place on 14th April 1471. A 553rd anniversary's not particularly major but unfortunately I missed the 550th, as did most of the population of Barnet due to lockdown issues. Also the battle took place on a foggy Sunday morning, so at least I've got the day of the week right, although it was also Easter Day so I've missed out there.

Much of the late 15th century was a bloody tussle between two warring dynasties, the Houses of Lancaster and York, and the Battle of Barnet was the key moment when the white rose finally triumphed over the red. Beforehand Henry VI was enjoying his second spell as king but afterwards Edward IV was back on the throne for his second go, this very much a peak ping pong moment in the history of the English monarchy. And it all took place at the top of the Northern line, a short walk past The Spires shopping centre, although precisely where it happened is a hotly debated topic and the question at the heart of today's post.

The best place to go for answers is probably Barnet Museum, a volunteer-run repository of wonders on Wood Street. There's no aspect of local history its members haven't diligently researched, displayed and brought to publication, with the 1471 battle meriting pride of place in the ground floor gallery. Here are helmets, shields and battlefield models, plus a large watercolour painting of all the main players, plus did you know that three kings of England were in Barnet that day (the future Richard III had rocked up to his first major military engagement). The curators are terribly chuffed to have the seal of the Earl of Warwick, aka the Kingmaker, on temporary display on loan from the British Museum. He'd long been the strategic mastermind behind the Wars of the Roses but had recently made the mistake of switching sides and at Barnet the victorious Yorkists slew him dead.

You can tell it's anniversary month in Barnet because Barnet Museum volunteers have hung almost 100 heraldic banners from the lampposts up Barnet Hill and the High Street, even inside The Spires. They created the set on waterproof cotton in readiness for the 550th, each representing a noble family that turned up to fight, and with typical attention to detail the Lancastrians hang on one side of the road and the Yorkists on the other. Heraldry proved unexpectedly crucial that day in 1471 as Lancastrian fighters mistook the Earl of Oxford's "star with rays" badge for Edward's IV's "sun in splendour" and started firing down arrows on their own side. If there's a lesson to be learned from the Battle of Barnet it's never to launch an offensive in thick fog.

The final banner has been hung at the top of the high street by Pizza Express, which is also where Hadley Green starts. This is Probable Battlesite Number 1, indeed it's where English Heritage decided the battle was fought was when they published a full report in 1995 [report] [map]. Contemporary chronicles refer to "a broad green right beside the St Alban's high road" and Hadley Green still fits that description, a substantial triangle of sometimes-squishy grass criss-crossed by minor drainage channels. A lot of large houses have since nibbled away at the perimeter but there's still plenty of room to imagine two armies facing off against each other, perhaps even Edward IV standing beside the bus stop or the duckpond.

Chroniclers specifically mentioned a 'hedge-syde' to the west of the main road behind which the Earl of Oxford's men massed before combat. An ancient hedgerow still exists in the appropriate location, now surrounded by the 18 holes of Old Fold Golf Club, and a lot of academic supposition has drawn the conclusion that this therefore nails down the site. A public footpath crosses the golf course supposedly providing access to the elusive hedge, although the blue posts are quite hard to follow and yesterday the fairways were weekend-busy with flying balls so I gave it a miss. The moated manor house that existed here in 1471 is long gone but the moat survives and provides a unique water hazard surrounding the 18th green.

The most prominent memorial to the Battle of Barnet is an obelisk called the Hadley Highstone. It was erected by Sir Jeremy Sambrook in 1740, this 299 years after the battle proving that commemorating peculiar anniversaries is nothing new. It sits on a freshly-mown triangle of grass at the northern end of the village in the fork where the roads from St Albans and Potters Bar converge. This is Probable Battlesite Number 2, at least according to the Battlefields Trust who place the Lancastrian frontline parallel to the A1000 passing directly through the obelisk [map]. This was later in the battle, because in the foggy conditions the two opposing flanks had rotated somewhat, adding to the general confusion regarding who was precisely where.

If the Lancastrians were up by the road then the Yorkists would have down in the valley, or at least on the slopes of a depression containing the Monken Mead Brook. Today the fledgling stream is alas confined to private farmland so off limits, but the dip can be seen by following a short broad track down the side of Greenacre Close. Stand by the metal gate, just past the Girl Guide hut, and you can look out over an open field towards a low line of trees and a bank of pasture on the far side. At present it's a dazzling shade of yellow, i.e. proper peak attractive, although somewhat tarnished by the presence of a bright pink portaloo under the nearest tree. Back in the day all of this would have been heathland on the edge of the Enfield Chase royal hunting ground, perhaps flecked by the bodies of the Duke of Exeter's men. They still call the foot of the valley Dead Man's Bottom.

Probable Battlesite Number 3 lies fully to the north of the Highstone in the vicinity of Kitt's End Road. This quiet lane was the main route between London and St Albans at the time of the battle, indeed right up to the 1820s when a new more direct road branched off from Barnet instead. I walked to the farm on the second bend, part of the longstanding medieval hamlet of Kitt's End, and stared out across a much broader arable landscape towards the mega roundabout at South Mimms. By leaving Hadley I was now firmly in Hertfordshire, indeed there's a distinct possibility that the only registered battlefield in London isn't actually in London at all, not quite.

Much of the land here is covered by Wrotham Park, the private estate of a huge 18th century country house built and still owned by the Byng family. This gets used a lot for corporate hospitality events, wedding receptions and as a filming location, while to the south is a landscaped business park you won't be getting access to either. Edward IV had a chapel built somewhere here to commemorate his victory, although archaeologists have yet to unearth convincing evidence of precisely where it was, or indeed of precisely anything [report]. All that's known is that red faced white in the fog somewhere north of Barnet, the two sides off balance and increasingly confused, and that the tide of English history turned here as one king vanquished another.

» City guide Paul Baker runs regular walks in Barnet, including an anniversary battlefield tour this morning at 11am.
» The Barnet Medieval Festival is due to return on the weekend of 8th-9th June 2024 at Byng Road playing fields.
» Barnet Museum is open five afternoons a week (not Monday or Friday) and also on Saturday mornings from 10.30am. Admission is free and the welcome is warm. Before you leave make sure you pick up a Barnet 1471 leaflet (How the Battle of Barnet fits into the modern landscape) and then you too can try and discover where it might have been fought.

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the diamond geezer index
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my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
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diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards