Friday, 4 December 2015

I have trod the upward and the downward slope

Horsenden Hill, One Tree Hill and the Grand Union Canal

What an unusually mild day in London today; sunshine and a top temperature of 13C. And given that meteorological winter started four days ago (astronomical winter starts in under three weeks time), that's quite remarkable. So after some office work and a late breakfast I set off for a walk to catch some rays. And - as it happened, a bus. On the spur of the moment I decided to catch a 297 heading for Willesden Bus Garage, and got off on Horsenden Lane North, at the foot of Horsenden Hill. As I crossed the bridge over the Grand Union Canal's Paddington Arm, I caught this amazing sight (below):

Blasting out over the water for all to hear was Mott the Hoople's magnificent 1972 glam anthem, All The Young Dudes (which music trivia savants will know was penned by David Bowie). Can you see the guitarist on the stern? And the name of this amazing narrowboat - DILLIGAF (google it)!

Up towards the hill. I knew it well - I've luged down its snowy sides on a length of plastic safety barrier; I must have been one of the first people to ride a mountain bike up it and down it in the mid-'80s. That marvellous bit where you could get well airborne. And in the early '70s my Polish scout troop was up here sending semaphore signals across the Brent Valley to be received in Cleveland Park a mile and half away, using bedsheets on long sticks.

The paths toward the summit are slippery underfoot, it's been wet (though not as bad as north-west England these past few weeks). Some deciduous trees have still not shed all their leaves. The slope averages one-in-ten as the path climbs from the canal (33m above sea level) to the summit, (79m above sea level). Below: looking northwards at the triangulation point at the top and Harrow beyond.

Below: turn eastwards and you'll come across a golf course and a view towards Wembley Stadium, and Hampstead in the distance.

Below: On the links, the low winter sun filters through the trees. Although the golf course looks deserted, there were quite a few golfers playing a round this morning.

Downhill all the way and back into unremarkable suburbia; I pass Sudbury Town tube station on the Uxbridge Branch of the Piccadilly Line. My attention was drawn to the typeface on this beautiful enamel sign; this is a very rare petit-serif version of the corporate Johnston typeface used all over the London Transport network, and dates back to 1932, when the station was opened. The building itself is a fine piece of architecture, designed by Charles Holden.

Walking from Sudbury Town towards Alperton, I chance upon a park called One Tree Hill (below). This place is just one and half miles as the crow flies from my parents' house - and yet not only have I never been here - I was until this morning totally unaware of its existence! Wrong side of the tracks, canal, dual carriageway... Yet something about this serene sunlit hillside sparked an atavistic congruence, an anomalous familiarity moment.

I return towards Horsenden Hill from Alperton following the Paddington Arm. Near Alperton, the canal is alive with swans, coots and ducks. I counted at least 20 swans. Just after I'd thrown them my last handful of unsalted cashew nuts, I noticed a sign in English and in no fewer than six Asiatic alphabets saying 'do not feed the birds'. Below: a trio of cabin cruisers berthed along the canal.

Approaching Perivale, I notice that the mix of empty beer cans littering the towpath has changed from the Stella, Guinness and Fosters at Alperton to Lech, Perła and Tyskie. It would be interesting to do a map of London by empty beer can. Below: narrowboats on both banks of the canal. On the other side, the golf course show above.

Below: return from the Hill. It looks like rural Derbyshire, but these canalside cottages are located just outside Postal London, and well within Greater London. This is the top end of Horsenden Lane North, Perivale. From round the corner is a bus stop, seven stops from here is Cleveland Road. Unlike Warsaw, where bus stops give you precise times for each bus throughout the day, in London, you just get the vague information that at this time of day, buses call past the stop every '9-12 minutes'. I chance it, and walk on another two stops before an Ealing Broadway-bound 297 bus arrives.

Below: the view of Horsenden Hill with which I am most familiar, from the top end of Cleveland Park, just by the bus stop. Between here and there lie Scotch Common, the River Brent, the A40 Western Avenue, the Central Line and the Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm.

A good day's walking - 12,200 paces (9.8km), and discovery of new places so close to home.

This time two years ago:
Giving to charities - in the UK and in Poland

This time five years ago:
Birdlife in winter

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