North Kentish Town Walkabout
What a great way of spending a sunny Sunday morning - walking around my own backyard in the company of people with a real passion for and commitment to the area.
The Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum - who are seizing on this government's "localism" initiative to develop a neighbourhood plan for much of NW5 - organised this gentle stroll. It took in planning and conservation issues, local history, and - real treats - a quick pop in (entirely impromptu) to a local Ethiopian bakery and (with advance warning) to our star local tailor.
College Lane, parallel to Highgate Road, is the longest row of houses I've come across in London fronting a walkway rather than a road.
The houses, though small, are now sought after. They were built for railway workers. And - a detail I'd never noticed before - along the row there's a tiny memorial, now barely legible, to railway men who lost their lives in the First World War.
The area opposite the houses, which are all on the west side of College Lane, used to be a rail workers' social club. It's due for development with a price tag, we were told, of £7 million for the land alone - but getting access to the site could well devastate about the last Georgian corner of Camden, the wonderful Little Green Street, with is bow-windowed former shops. If anything in this life is worth fighting for, it's the future of spots like Little Green Street.
And another NW5 detail that was new to me - at the eastern end of Little Green Street there used to be a gate leading to a farm. One of the sturdy wooden gateposts is still there. You can see it at the bottom left of the photo below.
Through the Ingestre estate, we walked up to the double bridge across the rail lines at the back of Acland Burghley School. I knew the Fleet river ran near here, but hadn't appreciated that it too is carried over the rail tracks in a hugh, rusting pipe. So much of the lay-out of the streets around here was shaped by the river - and it still runs, rising on Hampstead Heath, constrained by pipes and sewers, until it spills into the Thames near Blackfriars bridge.
On Fortess Road, we popped into the back room at the Ethiopian-run Engocha grocery - just next to the excellent Lalibela restaurant - to see them making injera, the flat, sour, rather spongy bread. If you're tempted, it's a very modest 70p for a piece the size of a large pizza.
Then it was back down towards Kentish Town station, lamenting the demolition of the old Methodist chruch, and in to Chris Ruocco's renowned tailoring shop.
The man himself was there, to tell us stories of all the stars he has dressed. Madness and Westlife are among his recent clients; he has spangled and sequinned Diana Ross; Ed Miliband and 'pleb' Andrew Mitchell both sport his made-to-measure suits.
The back room workshop displays dozens of framed photos of stars who he counts among his customers.
In the front shop, amid all the suits awaiting fitting or collection, there's a small electric keyboard, for anyone tempted to belt out a tune.
On the way home I drop in to Ruby Violet for a cone of homemade salted caramel ice cream - recommended by a fellow walkabouter. What a lot NW5 has to offer!
I discovered while on the walk that the 1959 movie 'Sapphire' was filmed in and around Burghley Road. Here's a summary gleaned from the web:
Brilliant masterpiece being written here, made me pretty delighted while reading throughout those
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Thanks to your blog, I'm gonna create one now too, thank you.
Seeing your pictures of college lane brings back childhood memories of myself and Phillip wheal on a Saturday afternoon in the train yards in Kentish town playing and riding on the locos, eating flapjack his mother had made, which was warm because he lived in college lane.(1962-63) sadly still trying to find Phillip?
Should you be interested, Cathy Chivers and I (trained Camden Tour Guides) are doing a walk round KT on 11thJanuary 2020 - an A, B, C and D of Kentish Town (Alenouses, Backstreets, Churches and a Dromedary!). Please email if interested in joining us!
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