Such a late notice change had serious repercussions, the first being that we had to scramble around trying to recall or rediscover three “interesting” facts about Hounslow that neither of us had known before. So over a few drinks and Wikipedia we search, god help me with the pages I ended up on.
Anyway, we eventually stumbled upon these:
- Caesar once tried to cross the Thames at Brentford (this is almost certainly not true)
- Despite the name meaning “mound of a dog” or “mound of a man who owned a dog”, and that it was for 200 years the most dangerous place in Britain, Hounslow Heath is where Ordnance Survey mapping first began because it‘s so flat.
- An ancient and distant relative of Bernard Matthews started his chicken farming empire in Hounslow, back in the 1700s or something.
Sounds good, right?
So, Sunday morning. No parkrun, but an hour’s less sleep due to the aforementioned clock change meant that we didn’t get as early a start as might have been sensible. A worse delay, however, was caused by the second serious repercussion of the late venue change: Helen had to radically re-think her picnic plans. On Saturday afternoon she’d purchased the perfect ingredients for whatever magic spell she was going to cast for Enfield. I was banished upstairs while she attempted to repurpose those components into a suitably Hounslow-ish meal. All I knew was that “the big reveal” would take place in the kitchen, because it would be impossible to transport in its pristine form.
With literally no clue what I was about to get I was summoned downstairs, with “you have to imagine there’s some rocket involved” echoing in my ears. Eh?
Aha! It is, of course, a Stephenson’s Rocket themed set of sandwiches, with such detail as the smoke being formed of smoked cheese. Bravo for presentation! Now let’s eat the decorative bits and shove the actual sarnies in some foil and get out of here: turns out our once-every-75-minutes-or-so bus is due in 2 minutes.
At the stop, the local council’s “Green team” try and get us to help with all the gardening they’re doing but we’ve somewhere to be: on a 715 to Kingston. Citymapper lets us down again, happily telling us all the live departures from a stop that in actuality is on a closed and diverted road. Fucks sake. Around the corner to a reduced choice location, we await the 285 and I try to impress upon Helen how impressed I am that our first two buses for the day add up to 1,000. Um. Hmm.
So, when they all go to the fields, we go the other direction to the coops ‘n that. First impressions are good: there are micro-pigs which are, apparently, small/miniature pigs bred for medicine and as pets. They do not conform to either of our idea of the words “micro”, “small” nor “miniature”.
Then, HOLY SHIT THERE’S A MASSIVE FUCKING PIG. This lad is not micro. He’s a beast, oinking and snorting and making vague threats to escape, or at least bite if you get too close.
This guy puffs right up in response to nothing, best I can tell. Maybe he just wanted to pose.
Back outside and up to the fields, there’s more “micro” pigs, plus some sheep which means we can finally use some of the feed we bought. Slobbery bastards, ain’t they?
The feed comes out. Helen gets slobbered on a load by our new friend, and attempts to entice his two mates to eat too but neither of them are right bothered: one is busy eating grass and won’t raise his head above ground level, and the other one is just neck deep in the regular feed bowl hanging off the fence.
Then we’ll stare at an owl before going to talk to the Shetland ponies. They’re lovely, and one of them pulls a very happy face while Helen scratches the top of his head and he rubs his neck on the fence at the same time. As we leave we’re told “he’s a bit bitey”, so perhaps we got away with that one.
Time to leave, via the flaming galah and harvest mice who are SUPER MEGA AWESOME CUTE.
There’s a gift shop, in which it takes us around 20 minutes to buy a keyring and a bottle of water because someone is buying complicated entry tickets and the farmer attempting to serve us doesn’t understand the tills or pricing or anything. We spend the spare time talking to the ageing parakeet in a cage, who responds to “hello” with “hello” several times. He was brought in as a bald rescue, some 17 years ago, and is a bit old and knackered now bless him. We know the feeling.
Back outside, we can’t see an obvious way to cross the road back to a bus stop and anyway, the traffic is completely fucking mental. So I say, sod it, let’s walk up to Hatton Cross and figure out a tube route to our next stop.
Being to close to Heathrow we’d been treated to planes taking off overhead every 90 seconds or so. Now, I happen to quite like planes, and was pretty nerd-happy as we crossed the main road by the tube and I looked up and I’m pretty damn sure I saw the first ever Qantas non-stop flight to Australia climb above us. Fuck doing that in economy, mind.
Hatton Cross happens to be in Hillingdon and there was a welcome sign for that borough, but not a corresponding Hounslow one. Disappointed, we jumped on the tube and made our way back through today’s borough and out the other side, to South Ealing.
A 65 bus came along fairly sharpish and took us straight down, past the football ground, turn left and beyond the musical museum to our second stop: The London Museum of Water & Steam.
But yeah, the Thames is here: we’re right by Kew Bridge, and Hounslow continues its journey east through the insufferably white and well-to-do Chiswick. As boroughs go this one definitely does not feel uniform, but unlike, say, Tower Hamlets, the posh bits are really nice rather than sterile and soulless like Canary Wharf. In fact this happens to be Helen’s favourite stretch of the Thames, her “if I win the lottery” fantasy property purchase location.
Mind you, that was before she got wound up by people still having their Christmas decorations out in fucking MARCH. This is something she’d noticed as we went through the less salubrious parts of the borough trying not to pre-judge as we headed towards Ealing earlier in the month, but now it reared its head again and WHAT THE FUCK, PEOPLE.
Hounslow’s bye-law signs are of a particularly moralising bent.
It’s a lovely stretch of the river, I grant you, especially with everyone being shamed into picking up after their dogs. A couple of pubs, a Cafe Rouge, people hitting tennis balls into the water for their dog to fetch, and a whole bunch of paddle boarding and rowing. As we reach the City Barge there’s a table free out front, which feels quite lucky, so we grab it and I go buy a couple of drinks. We also need to think about some proper food now, but the menu is somewhat eye-watering and we decide to eat elsewhere. While finishing our drink I look up “Oliver’s Island”, the name given to the small island in front of us that has nothing but a few trees on it. Supposedly, the name stems from the outright myth that Oliver Cromwell once sought refuge there.
Back past the mysteriously poetic tunnel next to one of the lovely cottages on the river front, all with their floodgates ‘n that. Helen can only talk about how she almost used to live around here, and would very much love to.