diamond geezer

 Wednesday, May 29, 2024

North Ealing

...by which I mean the northernmost point in the borough of Ealing. Which is here in the corner of Roxeth Recreation Ground. North Ealing station is 4 miles away.

You're never going to come here by mistake. Roxeth Rec may be large but it's tucked into a dead end wedge between two railway lines, hidden behind a rack of terraced houses round the back of South Harrow station. It's also in the London borough of Harrow, not in Ealing, because the boundary runs along the railway embankment and you can only approach from it from the north. To find the spot you have to pass the cricket pitch, the bowling green and the outdoor gym, which is about as far as most residents get. Dogwalkers doing a circuit probably reach the ditch that drains the area, quite visibly at present, but you also need to cross that and enter the unmown buttercuppy meadow beyond. Between the farthest pair of benches a minor footpath heads off into the undergrowth, as it turns out not very far at all, stopping dead in the corner where the Piccadilly line crosses the Chiltern mainline. North Ealing is the junction of two fences, useless for trainspotting thanks to greenery and contours, more likely somewhere a few youngfolk might come for a beer, a smoke or a fumble. I put my arm through the railings to say I'd been, and never will again. To actually stand in the borough requires crossing the railway and walking the streets of Wood End, a backwater of quintessentially low-key suburbia whose avenues are all pebbledash and porches and patched-up tarmac, but you can't get closer to the tip than the far corner of a Harrow park. That's North Ealing.

West Ealing

...by which I mean the westernmost point in the borough of Ealing. Which is here on a meander in Yeading Brook Fields. West Ealing station is 5 miles away.

A faintly ridiculous tongue of Ealing pokes out to the west of Northolt, most of it covered by fields and a Shooting School. The farthest dividing line is a short section of meandering river, the Yeading Brook, which threads through woodland between Charville Lane and Kingshill Avenue. On the Hillingdon side is an open space called Michael Frost Park, described on its information board as "a mosaic of damp meadows", so what I very quickly discovered is that the best time to visit is not at the end of an exceptionally wet spring during a heavy downpour. Its footpaths were muddy throughout, not helped by clay soil and occasional hoof churn, occasionally lapping up against the edge of an overflowing pond. I only just made it across the single intermediate footbridge without slipping over, and gave the stream-hugging path a miss because I didn't fancy wading through damp nettles at knee height. The occidental meadow on the Ealing side instead dripped with marshy plants and long grass, and I thought how pleasant all this must be if you come at the right time, which this wasn't.

This meander is very nearly the westernmost point in Ealing. It falls just two metres short but is much easier to see because you can stand on a solid path beside a humpback concrete bridge. This is called the Golden Bridge, despite being austere and grey, and has been the westernmost structure in Ealing since being opened by Lord Bernard Miles in 1986. I note that Ealing council are far worse at replacing their signage than Hillingdon, the panels for their nature reserve being either faded beyond legibility or entirely missing and never replaced. My apologies to the gas engineer whose lunchtime sandwich I interrupted while he was parked up in a back-of-beyond car park surrounded by muddy meadows, dripping woodland and scrappy fields. That's West Ealing.

South Ealing

...by which I mean the southernmost point in the borough of Ealing. Which is here on a bend in the road in Norwood Green. South Ealing station is 3 miles away.

Norwood Green is a minor suburb south of Southall, wedged inbetween the Grand Union Canal and the M4. That it's not well-known is partly down to not being near a railway line but mainly because the local motorway service station was gifted to Heston instead. Norwood Green has a triangular village green and an old flint church, and appears to be the kind of place you move to from Southall once you've made some money and need somewhere to park three cars. The edge of Ealing lies just beyond the nicest bit, just before the bus stop just before the motorway viaduct. The final building before Hounslow begins is a postwar bungalow bolted onto a 1930s detached house with an awkwardly shaped garden and a telltale blue bin out front. A fading poster on the southernmost lamppost offers a £50 reward if you find Tiger, a tabby cat who answers to his name, although he went missing on the evening of Fireworks Night so I fear the worst. If you're ever here and ever wondering, the doctors' surgery is in Ealing but the garish phonebox and the Costcutter on Crosslands Parade aren't quite. That's South Ealing.

East Ealing

...by which I mean the easternmost point in the borough of Ealing. It's very nearly in the spaghetti tangle of railways beside Willesden Junction station but the actual winner is a few metres east, some way to the south, here at a crossroads on the Uxbridge Road. There is no East Ealing station so I can't give you a distance, and the nearest station is actually East Acton.

Welcome to Acton Vale, a wellish-to-do suburb to the west of Shepherd's Bush. This is a busy crossroads crisscrossed by multiple bus routes and also boasts a tall green stinkpipe, this because the Stamford Brook once passed this way. The presence of a lost river at a borough boundary is not a coincidence. But only one of the quadrants is actually in Ealing, not the one with the pipe or the pub but the northwest wedge with the somewhat lacklustre parade of shops. The shop on the corner has been closed for so long that the final word on the Poster Stickers Will Be poster has completely faded away. Ealing's easternmost shop is instead PK News, a bazaar which these days sells far more soft drinks than newsprint, then comes a Balkan foodstore, then an ex-off licence which advertises a Video Club on its awning. My favourite shop is the bright orange launderette which still dispenses soap suds from a machine, and your favourite might well be West London Bikes & Scooters which sells everything from vibrant sports bikes to vintage rides with sidecars. As for Ealing's easternmost streetsign this still says Borough of Acton because nobody's replaced it since the 1960s, and hurrah for that. That's East Ealing.

And while none of these four compass points is in itself intrinsically interesting, as a quartet they showcase the sheer diversity of this outer London borough. From throbbing bustle to lowkey suburbs to silent squelchy riverbanks you probably shouldn't risk in trainers, that's the full extent of Ealing.

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