Tuesday, 1 December 2015

London's best high street - official

I've written about the joys of Pitshanger Lane before, but yesterday it was voted London's best high street, one of seven categories in this year's Great British High Street competition. The nearest shopping thoroughfare to my father's house (less than a mile away), it has always appealed to me since first visiting it on a foggy evening in the mid-1960s.

It helps being a 'Lane' rather than a 'Street' or a 'Road' - the word 'lane' suggests a quiet rural byway, an unhurried stroll, a chance meeting and a friendly chat. I love having the time to myself to walk down through Cleveland Park and into Pitshanger Lane to buy a paper, some fresh fruit and veg, browse the charity shops, pop into the fish and chip shop for cod and chips (with cod roe) and drop off some dry cleaning. All of which can be accomplished on foot.

Below: a row of Victorian terraced houses between North Ealing School and Curzon Road (yes, Lord Curzon of Curzon Line/linia Curzona fame). The shops begin a little way up the Lane.

Below: the mix of shops on Pitshanger Lane could be more diverse; off-licences, smart cafes, estate agents and dry-cleaners are much in evidence. Gone is the bank, gone is the little second-hand bookshop specialising in naval books. But then in today's world of e-commerce, shops have to have a strong physical personality to compete. For me a deli or two, a tip-top greengrocer's, a classy butcher's and an outstanding fresh fish shop is what makes the Lane a great local shopping destination. And today I bought birthday cards (for my son and my father's grandson) from a gift shop with an immense array of greeting cards.

Below: St Barnabas Church towards the eastern end of Pitshanger Lane, as it becomes residential. An imposing structure, though to me it seems to be missing a tower or spire. The C of E church was built in 1916, and damaged by a V1 flying bomb in 1944, which landed nearby.

Below: looking up Woodfield Avenue from the eastern end of Pitshanger Lane, rows of respectable late-Victorian or early-Edwardian terraced houses.

Finally, pair of semi-detached houses on Ruskin Gardens (below), part of the Brentham Garden Estate that I blogged about recently. This estate sits to the north-east of Pitshanger Lane.

I feel a degree of local pride in Pitshanger Lane's victory - the high street is an integral part of the social fabric of the UK. Initiatives like Great British High Street are worth exporting around the globe - but then does Poland have any worthy high streets? Most Polish towns and cities were built around market places. Great Polish Market Places, anyone?

I couldn't write about towns without another cobble about cars. Too many people get into their cars without even thinking whether there's an alternative - bus, bike, walk. For those who really need to drive, due to infirmity or the need to carry heavy loads, this area is a nightmare for parking. So - if you are able-bodied and can do the shopping trip to Pitshanger Lane without your car - please do so.

This time two years ago:
I predict trouble in Ukraine.

This time five years ago:
Jeziorki, dawn, winter

This time eight years ago:
Tuwim's Lokomotywa in English

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