Capital Ring 7: Harrow-on-the-Hill to west Hendon
It’s been a long time… um, since I actually did this walk. Well, about three months – after which I spent six weeks mostly travelling, and then over a month, er, forgetting to post this. But I’m digging my walking shoes out this week to have a pop at completing the Capital Ring, so it’s time to refresh my memory and show off what came before. In this case – off the Metropolitan Line at Harrow-on-the-Hill, a walk up a steep hill, through some woods, a graveyard, and back up to an amazing view across London.
From St Mary’s Church, Harrow-on-the-Hill, it’s down through the famous old school‘s playing fields, plotting an uncertain path through beautifully-kept sports grounds. From here, it’s out the across the only stile on the Capital Ring and around the back of Northwick Park Hospital, taking us into the borough of Brent, and the place where all London’s sparrows seem to be living nowadays.
And then it’s proper 1930s suburbia once again – through Northwick Park itself and underneath South Kenton station, shiny new London Underground signs not very well disgusing the fact that this used to be a manky Silverlink station. Before Preston Park station is the green space it’s named after, a pleasant and, once again, perfectly-kept little spot. The same can’t be said for the streets by the station, but then nestled between some semis is the entrance to somewhere quite extraordinary.
Fryent Country Park is the kind of rugged place you don’t expect to find sitting behind suburban homes. I’d never really thought of north-west London as being a particularly green area, but with open fields, ponds and woods, it’s an interesting place to explore. It’s easy to imagine getting lost here, although the rattle of the nearby Jubilee line shatters the illusion a little. From here, Wembley Stadium provides an optical illusion, with planes coming into Heathrow looking as if they’re flying under the arch.
The back streets of Kingsbury beckon next – we’re still in the shadow of Wembley Stadium here, before St Andrew’s Church beckons. Moved from Wells Street, Fitzrovia, in the 1930s, it replaced an older church, which remains in a sorry state next door. The smashed-up graveyard was a heartbreaking sight.
Another North London gem then appeared – the Welsh Harp reservoir, looking blue and idyllic in the sunset.
The Welsh Harp marked the point where the Ring enters the borough of Barnet – fiefdom of controversial Conservative London Assembly member Brian Coleman, currently its mayor. So here was where the signage started to dry up again, and a closed-down Barnet Council youth centre came into view. Once, this was probably alive with the sounds of young people learning to sail – I’d seen this earlier on the route in Wimbledon Park, a teacher good-naturedly pitting her wits against some lively kids. Instead, it was boarded up, presumably awaiting arsonists or vandals. Not the kind of thing you expect to see in a “regeneration area“.
Finally, the day’s destination – the thrills of West Hendon Broadway. From here, I could have continued to Hendon station and got the train, but with Oyster pay-as-you-go still not accepted, it was easier to jump on a bus to Kilburn and pick up the Tube. Today, I’m returning there, picking up the Ring again.