If you’ve been enduring this blog for a while, you’ll have noticed that I’m quite fond of significant numbers. But the 400th post was a bit of a washout, so I decided to mark a different number – the 406th – with a trip along the North Circular, aka the A406. We spend a lot of time on the North Circular, given it’s at the bottom of our road, so we didn’t feel the need to make a special trip from one end to the other. But for once, I wanted to stop somewhere on it. Not stop in the sense of just not moving anywhere – that’s what you’d call a traffic jam – but stopping in the sense of getting out of the car and exploring a bit.
As it happens, we did both:
I blame AC/DC. Their gig at Wembley caused massive tailbacks and ruled out my first choice of stop – the Welsh Harp reservoir – because “Event Day Parking” was in force. I could only hope the my second choice – Gladstone Park – had space in its car park for us.
The Welsh Harp is just one of many intriguing brown signs off the North Circular. Neasden Temple isn’t far away and of course, there’s the stadium itself. Next to Wembley is one of the two branches of IKEA that line the road, and this one has a sculpture in the shape of a football that changes perspective as you drive past. We haven’t been to that IKEA, but we have been to the one closer to home. There’s also a massive branch of Mothercare, with a soft play inside, although that caused controversy when it was remodelled and subsequently stopped being free to go to. Most excitingly, there’s a B&Q that Nathan took Eva to last autumn and she still talks about it. She calls it the “sweet shop” and says she sat in the trolley and they bought a “toyet seat”. Of all the fun things we’ve done, that’s the one that sticks apparently.
There’s also a few things to see along the road itself – the Ace Cafe, which is a famous hangout for petrolheads and which I recognised not from “Top Gear” but from “Don’t Tell the Bride”. Then there’s our favourite feature of the North Circular, which is the Protex “Pest of the Week” sign. Every week there’s something different – sometimes a bedbug, sometimes quite simply “flea”. Are you ready for this week’s? Go on then , it’s…
Garden Ant! I’m not sure what the Garden Ant gets for being “Pest of the Week” but I’d hope it was a certificate or something at least.
At this point yesterday, I was slightly distracted because Reuben had just been sick. We’d warned him not to read a comic as we were travelling, so he’d spent half an hour intensely staring at the pictures instead and was surprised when this produced the same effect. Poor boy, I do feel for him, as someone who was travel sick for the entirety of my childhood and quite a bit of my pregnancies. We resolved to stop as soon as possible but he weakly said he’d be OK to go as far as the park. Our end destination yesterday was Reading, with the park a fanciful stop on the way but, 17km away, it began to take on a new urgency.
So of course we hit more traffic. Then we were due to turn off so stopped behind a bus which was itself stopped behind a bus, only to realise that we weren’t turning at all and we could have happily been in the next lane over. Still, we did eventually reach the turn just past Brent Cross and were immediately confused by a roundabout that in no way resembled a roundabout. I mean, what is this??:
What are the triangles at the corners? Still, the vine-covered restaurant on the side looked nice. Somehow we managed to turn into the correct road -Dollis Hill Lane – but with no idea where the carpark for Gladstone Park was, or how to get into it, I panicked. We turned into a road optimistically named Park View Rd but somehow that ended us up on the wrong side of a railway line in a cul-de-sac. We could get into the park but the car couldn’t and we couldn’t park on the street due to the aforementioned Wembley event day parking restrictions. By now, I’d been holding a box of appley sick for a really long time, so I popped out and discreetly disposed of it in a patch of nettles before speeding off in the car back the way we came.
Another go around the roundabout and we were back to where we went wrong. This time we went straight across an actual roundabout onto Dollis Hill Lane and the car park was to our right, immediately after the roundabout. We’d been so close! Still, we were there now. Phew. And there was loads of space in the car park. Double phew.
Roo was still a bit wobbly when we got out of the car but soon perked up with the prospect of some fresh air and a run around. The park looked massive, and we set off down the path with no idea where it led:
I wasn’t confident about finding the play area but Roo assured me that he could make his own fun – “We could climb trees, play hide and seek, play superheroes…” but really, he wanted something to play on. Luckily we found a fallen tree almost straight away:
The stump at the end seemed to be a kind of makeshift bin:
Along the way, we paused at the Holocaust Memorial:
before climbing up the hill to try and spot the play area. It looked like a walled garden at the top, but we didn’t go in as we’d seen a signpost that might be helpful. Only it wasn’t helpful. It pointed out to Dollis Hill Lane (in two different directions) and Dollis Hill station (also in two different directions) but nothing along the lines of “toilets” or “play area”. The only potential was the ambiguous-sounding “Pleasure Grounds”.
The Pleasure Grounds seemed largely taken up with a funfair but what was that in the shadow of the Big Dipper? A playground? Hooray!
Nathan was clearly feeling in an arty mood yesterday, so the following pictures (and the one at the top) are courtesy of his recently discovered “Sin City” filter:
My photos are a little more pedestrian:
It always amazes me how sulky Eva can look while eating crisps on a bouncy thing. She’s a master of the sulk.
I was quite happy to see that we were in Brent. I know very little about this part of London, but don’t they have a cheerful logo?:
The playground was what you’d expect – three climbing frames, two lots of swings, some bouncy things – and it was a little faded. Just outside, there was a cool mound to climb, with guide ropes and an eagle on the top:
There was also a zipwire but it seemed to be out of action, so Nathan improvised a “Daddy Zipwire” for Roo instead:
Reuben didn’t like it much. To be fair to Nathan, he was only trying to make it authentic by stopping on the way back and tipping him off, but the net effect was a pouty Roo saying “Daddy kept dropping me”. It was almost time to get back to the car and onto our barbecue in Reading but first we needed toilets. I asked a friendly local where they were and got told to head over the other side of the hill for the cafe toilets. A much easier solution was presenting itself though. There was a local festival next to the funfair and they had loos. Surely we could pose as Brent residents to take advantage of the facilities? As long as I had nothing about my person that betrayed us:
Ah well, we got away with it.
The walk back to the car was full of photo opportunities, as we saw Wembley Stadium on the horizon:
And took a panorama or two:
Then there was just time for a spot of that tree-climbing Reuben had promised:
For Eva-nutrition-spotters she is now sulkily clutching a chorizo wrap.
Soon after we got back onto the North Circular, we turned off onto the A40, which is another interesting road and full of cool architecture like the Hoover Building. I’m particularly intrigued by the Northolt and Greenford Country Park, which is a new and man-made park built out of rubble from the Wembley Stadium development. But that’s all for another day except this bit of excitement on the same bit of road of the way home:
Argh, is that the Hoover Building ON FIRE? No, the fire was at a warehouse some way behind it, but that didn’t stop the hipster cyclists crowding onto the road bridge to take photos. Someone even stopped in the inside lane with their hazards on to get a better shot than I did. Apparently, it was a 100-firefighter kind of job. Don’t say there’s never any drama on LWAT.
So, that’s the North Circular. I’ll be exploring it more next time we have somewhere to get to but not in a hurry. Or next time Reuben’s sick. One or the other…