Living on Walthamstow‘s High Street last year, I thought it highly unlikely that in a month’s time we’d find ourselves in a nice flat, close to a tube station and in a quiet, leafy residential area. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I think our front door would be just a minute’s walk from an area of great natural beauty and space.
Somewhere that had a gently rippling canal, populated by ducks and barges; expansive green playing fields stretched up to the horizon; a wetland nature reserve abuzz with wildlife; an atmospheric forest, silent save for the occasional echoing bird call; and a hill culminating in a panoramic view, which goes for miles and miles. Well, we discovered today that what we thought impossible is now our home. This is Perivale.
Perivale? No-one, not even Londoners, is familiar with the name, despite it being a tube stop in Zone 4 of the Central Line‘s western end. We weren’t either, until a flat located there was advertised on Gumtree. By the time this listing appeared (we spotted it at midnight, literally the minute it was posted), we were so desperate that I think we would’ve taken anywhere as we had just a week left until we’d be thrown out of our Walthamstow flat. So I think it was by some miracle that the flat we ended up with just happened to be perfect.
Along the canal
We knew there was greenery around our new home, but didn’t know quite how much there was until we ventured out to explore. A few paces from our front door, past the library and playground, we crossed a field and, through a gap in the trees, (part of Perivale Wood — a bluebell wood when in bloom) found a canal overhung by tree branches. This is Grand Union Canal, the UK’s longest, which stretches right up to Birmingham. Walking along here we saw several ducks, coots, swans and canal boats, some of which held waving owners.
Across a large wooden bridge that arches over the canal, we passed from the canal path to an open area comprising swathes of grass, trees and bushes; a wetland to the left, holding several lagoons, marshes and more water birds; and large expanses of green playing fields to the right, circled by thicket and muddy pathways leading off into further, wilder fields.
Although mostly alone, we met several runners, cyclists and dog walkers on our ramble, as well as a few other explorers stopping to examine the maps as we were. There are three distinct colour-coded walks shown on these maps and we combined them all in order to see everything, yet it still wasn’t far to walk. Eventually we reached the top of Horsenden Lane North and stopped for cups of tea at The Ballot Box pub, currently owned by the Fayre & Square franchise. It was very sunny and cosy in here, with big comfy seat booths and a warm atmosphere.
Finally, we walked behind the pub into the shady silence of Horsenden Wood, thick with ancient speckled trunks and criss-crossing, leaf-stripped branches. Steadily ascending through the soft carpet of dead leaves and twigs, we eventually emerged onto the summit of Horsenden Hill, a wide grassy plateau providing a panorama across six counties — largely made up of rows of little red-roofed houses.
By now the sun was setting, although the sky wasn’t clear enough to see anything except the changing colours of the sky — from blue, to yellow, to orange, to violet. It was just a short walk back through the darkening forest and down the other side of the hill, until we reached Horsenden Lane again and the quaint entrance to Perivale.
Until next time
If you needed more proof of what a lovely area this is, I just found that the AA have more-or-less the same route we took as a listed walk on their website. The area even featured on Doctor Who in 1989. This walk was beautiful even in the barest and greyest of all seasons — so I can’t wait to see how glorious it is in spring, summer and autumn.
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2012. All rights reserved.