London has only one suburb named Noel, that's Noel Park near Wood Green, which I wrote about in my Christmas Eve post 2011. Running into the estate is Noel Park Road, one of the half dozen streets in London to bear the Noel name. So for 2013 I've been to the other five, to see what's there, and to tell you all about them. I was going to splurge all five before Christmas, but instead I'll spread them more thinly over the festive hiatus. Let's begin out east.
Noel Road (North Beckton)
This runty road runs for barely a hundred yards and boasts only three houses. Nevertheless there's a good chance you've been, especially if you're the outdoors hiker type. Let me set the scene for you.
Noel Road runs right up to the A13, which thunders past via a six-lane dual carriageway. Thankfully a tall wooden fence cuts down the decibels, slightly, but the exhaust fumes hereabouts can't be fun. This arterial chasm is a beast to cross, so a footbridge has been built to allow pedestrians across. It's one of those tediously functional footbridges with separate access for the able-bodied and those with wheels, the latter climbing via a lengthy series of shallow ramps. Stand up here and you can watch Thurrock-bound lorries passing underneath, plus there's a Cycle Superhighway too, one of the better ones, that's CS3. In the near distance are the heights of Beckton Alps, the defunct ski slope which gives its name to the mega-roundabout where the Greenway meets the A13. A thin slice of land lies trapped between the two, and it's in this landlocked sliver that Noel Road resides. For drivers there's only one way in, from the roundabout up Roman Road. This is a very typical suburban residential street, with 200 be-porched terraced houses along its length, of the type where homeowners stick a "My Labrador lives here" sign in the window. But there are two ways out, the second a one-way sliproad to the A13 via Noel Road to Newham Way. What should be a sleepy backwater street therefore ends up with an intermittent stream of escaping local traffic.
This is the only one of London's 'Noel' roads where I can bring you an elevated aerial shot. That's almost the entire length of the street you can see there, omitting only the giant words "Turn Left" painted on the tarmac as the road narrows at the foot of the picture. All the action takes place on the right hand side, where Noel Road's three lone houses sit tight. Once identical, a string of owners have made their mark on the façades, two now with porches in front of the door, the third with a dash of stonecladding. The three front walls won't win any prizes for architecture, but it's reassuring to see that only one front garden has been ploughed up for off-road parking. Also relatively reassuring are the house prices out this way. Number 4, the only property not yet subdivided, sold for just over £200,000 a couple of years ago, while a two bedroom flat at number 6 is currentlyon the market for £110,000. Not all of London yet has sky-high prices, but then we are here in the rail desert of central southern Newham, which may help explain. Ideally located too for the local secondary school, which lurks just across the road beyond a scrappy patch of litter-strewn grass.
And the reason you might just have been to Noel Road is that two of London's long distance paths pass down it. Section 14 of the Capital Ring is one of them, utilising the footbridge as a means of crossing the A13 between the Greenway and Beckton Park. The Jubilee Greenway is the other, marked by a special flagstone in the pavement below the ramp. You won't have given the street a second thought if you hiked through, it's an eminently forgettable thoroughfare. But it's far more representative of the real London than most of the villas and new developments you read about in the media these days.