diamond geezer

 Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A Nice Walk: Suburban circuit (¾ mile)

Sometimes you just want to go for a nice walk, nothing too taxing, a bit of a stroll, easily reached, pretty flowers, running water, hidden secrets, occasional benches, refreshment opportunity, entirely step-free, won't take long. So here's an anonymous three-quarter-mile circuit in the London suburbs, nowhere near enough to make a day of it but a nice walk all the same.

I'm starting from a station used by many people who live in the local neighbourhood. It won't be winning any prizes for architecture, nor is it a regular on the tourist trail, nor is it clear when the ticket office sold its last ticket. A mop and brushes are tucked away in the corner near a yellow plastic cone. Outside I dodge the blue car that's just pulled up, delivering a late commuter to the main entrance who then rushes for the stairs. The cafe outside is remarkably quiet, the proprietor looking out in the seemingly vain hope that someone might want a mocha and an almond croissant. It's very easy to see what the establishment's signature colour is. I check six properties in the estate agent's window but they offer nothing I could afford, then turn to ponder what might be going on with the peculiar shop opposite. Thankfully the rain has now stopped.

While I steel myself for the off, a small terrier stops for a sniff in the foliage at the foot of a young tree. The pillarbox by the crossroads has a last posting time of 9am so it may already be too late to get a first class letter somewhere by tomorrow. The fingerpost on the corner is simultaneously over-pedantic and somewhat out of date. A Sainsbury delivery van heads off in the opposite direction to the way I'm going. I'm surprised I haven't blogged about this street before because it has several memorable features you'd think I'd have mentioned previously, but I see I've pencilled it in for later. A parakeet squawks overhead, heard but not seen. One house has a chequered tiled front path, another a brolly drying in the porch and another drips with the last faded gasps of wisteria. I think those are the first foxgloves I've seen this year.

After the final junction I enter uncharted territory, by which I mean I've never walked this way before. Number 22 has a trace of bunting draped across the fence left over from what appears to have been a lively party in the back garden, judging by the number of gazebos. An estate agent would have no trouble selling the two houses at the far end, their glasswork and woodwork being very distinctive, but perhaps not the bungalow opposite which is opportunistic postwar infill. The footpath ahead fades in gently, heralded by some impeccable herbaceous beds. The brickwork to either side make me wonder if perhaps... and when I check later on an old map yes that was absolutely the case.

The street furniture in the area is very distinctive, each item labelled with the name of the manufacturer, and definitely from a previous catalogue rather than the sustainable timber-focused solutions they offer today. At the allotments one sign warns users what not to add to their compost and another gives the date of the upcoming BBQ. The usual motley assortment of cloches, boards and plastic sheeting are being used to keep seedlings protected from any late frost. One plotholder has covered their canes with upturned empty 7-Up bottles while another, inexplicably, has a birdtable topped with assorted gnomes. Personally I wouldn't have put that blue sign on my shed but it is very evocative of a previous motoring era.

Ahead is probably the least attractive section of the walk but the upcoming obstacle has to be negotiated. At least the whiff of stale urine is only brief. I don't think the paint daubed on the wall is meant to be art but it's possible it was meant to be a long time ago. The fence ahead appears to comprise timber panels from at least six separate installations, judging by the colours of the staining. Crossing the next street has been made easy by an abundance of overfussy pedestrian crossings dating, I suspect, from the Tufty Club era. The houses here are half a dozen years older than the cafe. Along the next footpath the clematis is in bloom and a few early pink roses are poking above the fence, so that's nice. And then we hit the park.

This is very much the highlight of the walk, although I see I wasn't particularly impressed the last time I was here. Also the same people who made the bollards made the litter bin, or rather 'litter & dog waste' bin because it's definitely brimming over with more of the latter. The grass sparkles with dandelion clocks and buttercups, a couple of irises are flourishing by the cycle path, a handful of bluebells are holding on and I think I spotted some alliums starting to shine. All in all I'd say the finest feature is the long-standing clump of conifers. Most of the benches are unattributed but Ian and Rocky have a new one. Anyone reading the noticeboard might assume the only events which take place locally are dog-related, and the evidence I saw bouncing across the nearby grass suggested the demand is well justified.

A river trickles quietly through, apart from the stripes where it's less quiet, and is best viewed from the inconspicuous footbridge. At this time of year what's being carried on the surface is mostly blossom but I imagine the channel gets quite leafy later. Thus far only Tracey and Philip have attached an engraved padlock to the metalwork and I very much hope their trailblazing schmaltz doesn't catch on. I also found a minuscule blue artwork stuck to an upright, like a dimpled organic shell, plus a sign suggesting Helen was to thank for the prickly mammal by the park entrance. I think I was supposed to hunt for several more of these but I only found a small marbled stomach on a noticeboard.

On leaving the park the house opposite is very obviously half of a pair of semi-detached houses, now with a separate cul-de-sac nextdoor where I guess the bomb hit. An ambulance turns up here as I pass, but not in a loud flashy way so I assume the visit is routine. The cars parked between the gate and the main road - which might give some idea of the local demographics - are a Ford, Toyota, Audi, Kia, Fiat, Suzuki, two VWs, two Skodas and two Hyundais. The 'Beware of the dog' sign on the back gate at number 39 has split clean in two straight down the middle. If you want to see the crust of bread abandoned on a tree stump by the cycle crossing, best hurry before the magpies snaffle it.

The circuit is almost at an end but there's still time to admire the local plasterwork and the window on the house on the corner which resembles an Art Deco sunset. If you're in the area on Saturday, be aware that one of the houses is holding a plant and cake sale in aid of cancer research and they're offering a free bookmark with every purchase. The presence of a school in the vicinity perhaps explains the scrap of burst balloon on the pavement, not far from the empty packet of strawberry flavour pencils. The loop is closed by negotiating some cycle-unfriendly metalwork, a tiled wall and a stack of unread Metros, as you would expect in such a location. I'm pleased to see the cafe now appears to have some customers but I choose not to join them, after what has certainly been a memorable walk.

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