This is the tree that tops Horsenden Hill – a wonderfully rolling and hilly park that separates Greenford and Sudbury in West London. Apart from the hill, Horsendens East and West boast one and a half golf courses, lots of open space (on which cattle graze in the summer), a community farm – and the Grand Union canal.
According to Hidden London, the hill may have been farmed as long ago 7,000 years ago although the first record of it does not appear until 1203. Further mention in 1342 suggests that it may have been the site of one of Perivale’s two manor houses. Roll forward a few centuries and in 1801 Grand Union Canal, on its way from London to Birmingham, was found to have snaked round the bottom of Horsenden Hill. Horseden Farmhouse, now the home of the community garden was built around 1860.
Most of the farmland on the east side of the Hill was bought in 1920 by the newly formed Sudbury golf club. The rest was was acquired by Ealing council in 1938 as part of its green-belt scheme. During the Second World War the western fields were used for growing wheat and vegetables and remained in cultivation until about 1950.
So why was I so far from home territory? Well, I had gone for a walk with my good friend Jane Milton who lives in Sudbury – on the most glorious brisk and sunny autumn morning. The ostensible purpose was to exercise her dogs – a mum and daughter Bichon Frise combo called Jammy and Smartie – but also to exercise ourselves.
The woods, the hill and the farm had already done an excellent job of that so the canal came as a delightful surprise. We met it just below the farmhouse where the local canoeing club keep their boats and where a number of barges were moored. Those on the far side, short stayers who are required to move on every two weeks, those on this side, permanent residents.
Interestingly, one of the permanent residents on this side is a non-religious ‘chaplain’ whose job is to look after the owners of the travelling barges whose mental health can be impacted by their constant need to move on.
For the use of all the barge dwellers – and indeed any other visitors – a very splendid playground borders the canal, with lots of fun climbing ‘things’ including this very fine pirate ship.
..until we reached Greenford Quay, a surprisingly pleasant development of what will eventually 5,000 rental flats, all of which, unusually, will take dogs. Each block will also include a gym, roof terrace, private cinema on the canal side and lots of nice landscaping.
What a delightful way to spend a Sunday morning.