Coffee this morning with a friend in SW1, followed by lunch with another in NW10. I began with a walk to Colliers Wood, mostly through Morden Hall (National Trust) Park and Merton’s Wandle Trail. The boundary between the two is a modern tramline. The Wandle is one of London’s lost rivers; the trail being a stretch of wooded land alongside the water.
Most of the people in the congested High Street running through South London past Colliers Wood and on through Clapham must be oblivious of this pleasant walk. I suffered such oblivion when, as a teenager in the 1950s I regularly walked from Raynes Park to Tooting to visit an art-house cinema. I had the 1/9d for admission, but not the extra few pence for bus fares. Kevin Lydon, a schoolmate, thought this was pretentious. When I think of how many unintelligible subtitled black and white films I sat through I’m sure he was probably right.
From Colliers Wood I travelled on the tube to Victoria and on to my friend’s flat in Rochester Row. After coffee it was off to Harlesden for lunch.
Turning right out of Neasden tube station the contrast between the High Street there and Victoria Street, SW1 was marked. The wind gusting up the hill on a less rain sodden day would have carried blinding and irritating dust from the commercial recycling depot at the bottom of the hill. The pavements were so uneven as to be bearing pools of water which it was difficult to avoid. The older, smaller, St. Mary’s Church with its graveyard seemed a world apart from Westminster Cathedral; and The Burren in Roundwood Road, a friendly Irish pub, humble in comparison with the grand Victorian pubs, such as the Windsor Castle in Francis Street, which are to be found in Victoria.
Victoria’s buildings are mostly enormous; commercial ones usually modern and with walls of glass, residential ones usually older stylish and elegant blocks of flats. It’s all rather grand and overbearing. The only large modern building in this part of NW10 is the Magistrate’s Court. There are blocks of less opulent looking flats, but most dwellings are terraces of small family homes, the older, larger ones often converted into two flats.
Victoria Street is well populated by modern shops, including a large department store, and City Hall itself. Church Road, the local shopping centre for my friend Norman, is full of small shops which have seen better days and which are constantly changing hands. Many of these latter shops are run by immigrants, the latest of whom are from Somalia. The Road has a strong sense of community and the shops are stacked with produce attractive to those who live there.
As a schoolboy I had to walk because I didn’t have the busfare. As a pensioner I only walk when I want to. Thanks to the Freedom Pass I am able to travel free and freely using any form of transport in the 6 London Transport zones. This includes overland railways. It is a marvellous facility which really lives up to its name.