I have lived in Ealing for 39 years, and in our present home in South Ealing for 34 years, but I never knew until very recently that Margot Fonteyn lived near here, or that Agatha Christie’s parents are buried in our local cemetery. I didn’t know that Spencer Walpole, who was Home Secretary under three different Tory governments in the mid-19th century, is also buried there; nor that a local church, less than a mile from our house, is dedicated to his father-in-law, Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.
And the reason I now know about these things? They have been my silver linings in the cloud, the big black cloud, that is COVID-19. This year’s lockdowns in the UK have curtailed our travel plans and at times (in the spring and again more recently) restricted us to our local neighbourhoods. But throughout the tightest of these restrictions we have been permitted to take some exercise in the form of one local walk, run or cycle ride per day. I don’t cycle or run (my usual exercise is swimming, not possible under lockdown) so I have been walking, usually with my husband Chris.
As Leya writes in setting this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge, Found in the Neighbourhood: ‘We are all trapped in our Covid19 bubbles – and at least here in Europe we are facing tough restrictions again. This gives us a chance to rediscover our surroundings – indoors and outdoors.’
Ealing is a west London suburb, sometimes called the Queen of the Suburbs; borough surveyor Charles Jones coined the phrase in 1902 to encourage people to move into the many houses built here during that period. It is one of the leafiest suburbs and we are fortunate to have two lovely parks nearby. But the parks can get busier at weekends and holiday periods; and it can be boring following the same route every day.
South Ealing Cemetery
So we started to explore parts of our locality that we’ve never visited before, including the nearby cemetery. We must have driven past this hundreds of times, and walked past too, but never once ventured inside. And what a beautiful, tranquil spot we discovered, especially in spring when the ground in places was carpeted with bluebells!
Boston Manor Park
Another new discovery has been Boston Manor Park. This is a little further to walk than our nearest parks but nevertheless can be considered ‘in our neighbourhood’. It has a small but beautiful lake, which attracts lots of waterfowl including herons; some lovely ancient yew trees; and woodland walks leading down to a stretch of the Grand Union Canal and River Brent. And all this in the shadow of the M4 flyover which we have driven so many times!
I am grateful to Leya for prompting this reflection on some of the pleasures to be found in my neighbourhood!