Living beside the flowing stream

THE RIVER BRENT is a major tributary of London’s River Thames. It has two main sources: one, which feeds into Dollis Brook, is west of Barnet; the other, which feeds into Mutton Brook, is near East Finchley. As a child, Mutton Brook figured amongst the places where I used to play with my friends. It flows through Hampstead Garden Suburb (‘HGS’) where I lived during the first three decades of my life. In those far-off days, I had no idea that the then rather malodorous, winding Mutton Brook flowed into the Thames. Mutton and Dollis Brooks merge to become the Brent near Golders Green. The Brent flows through northwest and then west London to reach its junction with the Thames at Brenford, an interesting place, rich in history, described in my book “Beyond Marylebone and Mayfair: Exploring West London”.

The cafe in Pitshanger Park

On its way to the Thames, the Brent skirts another garden suburb, Brentham Garden Suburb (‘BGS’), which, like HGS, was an attempt to create a leafy residential Utopia. They were built at roughly the same time. The northern edge of BGS borders Pitshanger Park, through which the Brent winds its way towards the Thames. The name of the park derives from the Putelshanger or Pitshanger family, who occupied the area in the 13th century. The manor occupied the area between Hanger Hill and the Brent. Until 1908, when it was demolished, the manor house (and its antecedents), known as ‘Pitshanger farmhouse’, occupied a plot on the present Meadvale Road, which runs along the northern edge of BGS. This building was completely different to Pizhanger Manor near Ealing Broadway, which was built by John Soane (and is described in my book).

Pitshanger Park is laid out on what used to be part of the grounds of Pitshanger farmhouse. BGS was built on another part of that same estate. The park is adjacent to Ealing Golf Course. Both were already in existence by 1912. The Brent also runs through the golf course. While we were visiting the park, we watched two men leaning over the bank of the river, rather ineffectually attempting to recover a ball from the weeds growing beside the water.

The park consists mainly of spacious grassy meadows that are bordered to the north by dense bushes and trees lining the bank of the Brent. Amenities offered in the park include, tennis courts, outdoor exercising equipment, and an attractive children’s play area. Housed in a small building with fake half-timbering, there is a small café with a terrace on which there are tables and chairs. The ‘caf’ offers hot and cold drinks and a few snacks. Its staff are pleasant, and the washrooms were clean.

While Pitshanger Park cannot be classed as one of London’s more exceptional open spaces, it is a wonderful amenity for residents in the area, just as was (and still is), the public gardens in HGS through which Mutton Brook flows.

A young explorer

Green signal_500

 

When I was a child, our local Underground station was Golders Green on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line. It was the first station on the stretch of the line, which remains open air, above ground, between Golders Green and Edgware. As a small child, I yearned to know what lay beyond Golders Green, where we always disembarked, but my parents did not share my yearning.

Long ago in the 1960s,  the trains bound for Edgware stopped at Golders Green on a stretch of line that ran between two platforms. The doors would open on both sides of the train. The platform on the left side of the train gave easy access to the centre of Golders Green and its large bus terminus. The right side, which we always used, led to an entrance that was on the way to Hampstead Garden Suburb, where our family home was located. 

One day, my father and I arrived at Golders Green after having spent some time in central London. As usual, we waited alongside a door on the right side of the train when we stopped in the station. Unusually, the doors on the right side of the train did not open, but those on the left did. By the time we realised that the right side doors were not going to open, the doors on the left side had closed, and we were beginning to travel beyond Golders Green above ground to Brent, the next station. My father was not happy, but I was delighted to be travelling along a stretch of the line that I had always wanted to see.

Since that time, I have always been excited at the prospect of travelling to the ends of the London Underground lines. Yesterday, I travelled to Watford, the terminus of one branch of the Metropolitan Line, and enjoyed it as much as I would have done when aged about ten!