diamond geezer

 Thursday, June 23, 2022

TQ1993: Broadfields Estate

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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