The Boroughers, 11/03/18: Ealing Day out West

It’s March 2018, getting on for the middle of the month. Two weeks have passed since the Mayor of London announced the inaugural “Borough of Culture” winners, having bestowed the title on Waltham Forest for 2019 and Brent for 2020. But those boroughs will have to wait a while yet before my girlfriend and I cast our judgemental gaze. We’re visiting all 32 London boroughs throughout the year as a New Year’s Resolution we’ve called The Boroughers, and have just had a day out in our 7th: Ealing.


Out West, that’s where. Well, sort of. Ealing has always felt to me like the place where London ends, what with the central Line and all them W postcodes and that. North of the river, I was a little surprised to discover that it wasn’t actually on the river; if you’d asked me a month or so ago I’d have bundled Brentford into the borough. As with each of the year’s adventure I’m having my ignorance exposed. But that’s part of the point, innit? 44 years with so much on my doorstep that I’ve never seen.

In fact, there’s an excellent 1982 documentary from BBC2 about Ealing called from a series called “History on your doorstep”, hosted by cab-driving Mastermind winner Fred Housego. Despite watching it in the week prior we actually struggled to find many interesting facts about the Borough, until a flurry of them entered our consciousness with minutes to spare.


  • Hồ Chí Minh of revolutionary communism fame once worked washing dishes (or maybe as a chef) in a pub in West Ealing
  • In the early 20th Century, Ealing council employed a pianist at the municipal baths
  • London’s oldest allotments are in Northfields


Many of our days out are on Sundays, for one or both of two primary reasons, each of which are my fault. Saturdays are out of the question if I’m going to a football match, or if we would need to start early enough that I’d have to skip parkrun. While this means we can’t always have as good (i.e. boozy) a time as we might like, it does give Helen ample opportunity to prepare our breakfast picnic, hence my being greeted with this sign on the closed kitchen door upon my return from the game on Saturday evening.

Secrecy, damn it. The rest of Saturday evening was spent watching TV while Helen occasionally let out an impromptu laugh like an Amazon Echo, unable to stop giggling with pride at her creation.

Early to bed, early to rise. In fact, early enough that Buster was hysterically groggy when I first scanned the room for him.

Well you might be tired, you daft cat, but we’re pumped because it’s 2 weeks since we’ve been Boroughering and there’s a lot to see. But mostly Helen is hyper because it’s no longer Ealing Eve, but Ealing Day, and she can reveal the food to me. Behold:

A “Ham-well” (we’re going to Hanwell) by the Ealing Breadway company. It really is a Ham-well: a hollowed out cheese boule layered with ham and complete with an actual well bucket and surrounded by puns. Magnificent. Into the bag it goes and off we head to the train, in the opposite direction to our previous 6 journeys. Ealing is directly due north of where we live, and an annoyingly awkward place to get to.

At Hampton Court we pop into a newsagent I’m a regular customer of. “Not running today?” he asks—usually I’m there buying a drink after putting 5-10km through my legs, and I apparently look like someone he went to school with—and I explain no, instead today we’re out and about and on our way to Ealing. His eyes immediately widen and he asks if we’ve got our stab vests on. “No, I’m serious, it’s not a nice place!” But he relaxes a little when we say it’s the borough and we’re getting a couple of buses to Southall, ending the conversation by recommending somewhere to buy Indian kebabs “but stay safe”.

Across the river and round the corner, the bus stop tells us the 111 is due in 2 minutes, then 1 minute, then it’s due. The bus arrives a further 2 minutes after that, making me wonder how clever these countdown things really are. Onboard the seats up top and at the front are taken so we perch further back and I make a start on the food. It is not elegant.

It is however delicious, and vast. But what’s this, there’s also dessert? Oh my god there’s biscuits with meerkats on. BISCUITS WITH MEERKATS.

Helen is not a fan of the second course. I don’t mind them at all, but I’m royally stuffed. The 111 winds its slow way through every single place in London starting with H: Hampton Court, Hampton, Hanworth, Hounslow, Heston (it eventually goes to Heathrow), as well as under the Bear Road flyover where a message has been left by a loving family.

Much bus confusion at Hounslow. We try and get off by the bus garage but the next stop is 5 minutes up the road. We think the 120 will go the same route, but it doesn’t, so we wander up to where the routes converge only for a 120 to bloody overtake us anyway because it’s on fucking diversion. Grr.

Eventually we’re at a stop next to the Great West Road and here’s our bus to Southall. We’ve seen tons of Hounslow borough and tried not to judge it (it’s actually next on our list) but it’s impossible not to notice that as soon as we cross the border - just past a children’s educational place called Sri Hem Kunt - that the surroundings get quite a bit nicer than they had been. Beyond the first bits of housing we cross a canal, weave past a few industrial units, go over the railway bridge and up through Southall town centre.

The weather’s nice. It’s a bustling cosmopolitan place, with an astonishing range of food available. The Palace shopping centre looms, with a prominent advert for tickets on Turkmenistan Airlines.

But we’re not here for Southall. We’re here to stay on through and further north, getting off at the lovely Target Roundabout next to a terrifying looking pub called “The Bar”, and a specialist Star Wars fancy dress shop. Because reasons.

Unbelievably, even a specialist Star Wars fancy dress shop wasn’t our actual choice of destination. No, the reason we’ve spent 2 hours on buses on a Sunday morning is to walk through a disappointingly non-perilous underpass - it didn’t even stink of piss, what gives? - and enter Northala Fields.

And the reason for visiting Northala Fields is because I’m unreasonably - honestly, I admit it’s wholly unreasonable - excited to visit 4 mounds. Mounds! Ealing has mounds!

In this photo I am trying to convey the following:

Check out this fucking mound

Here, I am trying to convey:

Check out this second fucking mound!

And this one:

That third mound needs checking out!

And lastly:

There’s a fourth fucking mound! But it’s not as good as the third one.

That’s right. We’re here to see 4 mounds. They’re made of dirt and stuff excavated from the ground when the Westfield shopping centre was built at Shepherd’s Bush, and apparently has won an award. I’m sure I remember reading that, but haven’t yet researched what award it is. I’m guessing it’s “best park with 4 mounds in Ealing”. At ground level there are some arty things made of wood.

But who gives a fuck about ground level? I want to get mounding. The tallest of the mounds, the third one, has a spiral walkway leading up to the summit. I insist, in the face of great criticism, that we ascend the mound. Helen isn’t faux annoyed here, she’s really bloody unimpressed. She thinks the whole thing is shit, what’s the point of just building 4 mounds in a park next to the A40. I can’t quite elucidate my feelings, I just think these mounds are bloody marvellous. She indulges me, and up we go.

Behind us, water and a playground and a big chunk of Ealing.

It’s a bit of a shame the clouds have come in, the sun earlier was actually quite warm. But whatever. Across the way, people have ascended the fourth mound.

Turns out the bluest skies are to the west, but the best vistas are to the east. You can see the city’s skyline, and in fact as far as the Crystal Palace transmitter from our last instalment. It’s noisy because of the giant main road, but whatever. We up a mound!

There are a few people around; families, runners, and other couples. At the top there are guides saying what you can see if you look hard enough, but nowhere are there actually any signs saying why on earth someone built 4 mounds. But who cares? Apart from Helen. And even if it tried to justify it she’d probably be dismissive. I attempt to convince her it’s basically art writ large, but she’s having none of it.

On our way down, we have to make way for a solo cyclist heading up. They have an enormous grin on their face and are dressed head to toe in hi-vis, looking like they’re having the time of their life. Perhaps they think it’s a yellow jersey and they’re on a mountain stage of the Tour de Ealing? Whatever, it brings out Helen’s first smile in this park. See? Mounds are great.

I say I want to ascend mound number 4, but half way up I decide it’s too muddy and steep for my shoes and balance so give up. This gives us an opportunity to each take a photo of the other one taking a photo of ourselves on a mound.

OK, thank you sweetheart for letting me get so excited about these mounds. Let’s wander back past the fishing ponds and to the bus stop.


After a very noisy wait on a very busy road at a fairly busy bus stop, we get back on the 120 and I attempt to be contrite for dragging her around something she was so not enamoured with.

And then we go home because nothing can top those mounds. Goodnight!

I jest, of course. Unfortunately there’s loads of other substandard things to do. The bus gets very busy with a wide variety of friendly people of varying races, religions, genders, ages, etc. People watching is fascinating. We go back beyond Southall town centre again, and the station, and the industrial estate, and we jump off to go look at a temple. Southall is known for its Indian diaspora and around here is the largest Sikh temple outside of India: the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall. Unsurprisingly a building of such size is not hard to find, and we go walk past it.

Also unsurprisingly, there are loads of people about. Not that Sunday is sacred in Sikhism - in fact, as I understand it, there is no prescribed day or time to head down the Gudwara. Instead you make time to visit on your own timetable, and Sunday is a popular day in the UK simply because it’s a day when most people aren’t working.

We see families dolled up in their best, as well as folk popping in on their way back from picking up the milk, a full range of devotees. A building this large can presumably host multiple events at once at the same time as providing space for worship or contemplation. We walk slowly and admire the architecture, but don’t take any pics because it would be a fairly disrespectful thing to do, we feel. I searched Adobe stock for a photo to include here but didn’t find one, but Google (and Wikipedia) will tell you.

After a brief discussion predicated on Helen’s inability to figure out which way’s which, we go back past the gurdwara and beyond, taking in a fairly large amount of pretty deprived looking estates and blocks of flats until the incongruous Southall Village development, next to which we sidestep onto the path next to the Grand Junction canal.

Some ducks welcome us to their manor.

Up from here is a lock with a nice old short white bridge. The water looks pretty grotty but other than that it’s quite pretty, including the old lock keeper’s cottage. No sign of David Essex anywhere.

A little further along the towpath and there’s another lock to contemplate.

The opposite bank has more attracting looking housing than most we’ve seen today, as well as the occasional office block. A couple of swans appear, seemingly in the hope we’ve got some food for them.

We do not.

It’s a peaceful and pretty walk. There aren’t many others around - the odd walker, a couple of cyclists, some joggers. No-one seems to be stirring in the houseboats, and the council puts unnecessary quotes around a thank you. Signs point in all directions towards loads of stuff.

Soon, there’s a bona fide bit of proper history ‘n that. Behold, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s “Three Bridges”.

Brunel was an extraordinary man, but I think I’ve found a flaw in his talents and that flaw is an inability count properly. Here we have a road way which was built first; underneath, the canal; and on the bottom level, the railway. It’s an excellent convergence of multiple forms of transport, but there are only two fucking bridges.

Seriously. It’s called Three Bridges and there are only two bridges. There can only be two bridges, really. The railway isn’t on a bridge. It’s on the ground.

It’s quite a hairy place to loiter. The road is very busy and the pavement very very narrow. Helen is feeling a little jittery as it is, and finds traversing the bridge somewhat problematic. Thankfully for her sake there’s fuck all else to see at Three Bridges but the two bridges, so we don’t hang around.

Back down to the canal and we continue eastwards. There are locks. Lots more locks. This is, after all, the Hanwell lock flights. None of them are yer fancy modern things, they’re all the big chunky manual sorts that look like it would take a bloody age to navigate.

That’s probably why no-one is bothering to navigate them to be honest, except then someone is going up-canal. Good luck with that!

HEAVE. It looks like hard work. You can see how close together the locks are: the next one is just there on the right, about 10 yards away!

They keep coming and coming, but after about, I dunno, 8 or 10 locks we change course, doubling back and then heading north alongside the unnavigable Brent River.

At what we think is Hanwell there is a choice to be made: up the steps and over the road, or through the tunnel underneath. There’s a stern warning attached to the latter option.

It looks muddy, but not exactly flooded, so let’s persevere. Here, Helen, you go first OK?

Perhaps going over the road might have been a better idea. We keep our footing but it’s a grim, dank, muddy and wet affair.

Emerging, we discover we are now at the Brent meadows orchard. They’re planting trees in this park and the signage encourages people to pick the fruits and berries and share among the community. Nice touch.

Behind us, a man enters the park with a very cute dog that gambols like a lamb whenever the bloke waves a stick around. We stick to the path next to the water and towards our second Brunel thing of the day, a big fucking viaduct for the Great Western Railway. We’re seeing a lot of this bloke this year.

As well as being an impressive piece of work, there’s meant to be flocks of bats here. But it’s about 1.30pm when we arrive which is pretty much the worst time possible if you want to see bats.

The trees have brightly coloured parakeets in though, and the council have put up feed on a lot of them. Trains go across, somewhat less steamy than they would have in the 1800s. We stop under an arch when entering Brent Lodge Park because it seems like a good place to take a photo in the style of a flyer for a forthcoming moody spoken word gig or summat.

5 more minutes along the path and there’s loos and a cafe. We’re both a bit thirsty and in need of calories so have an ice cream, and then pay our £2.50 a head to enter the zoo. This does nothing to rid me of the earworm that I was given about 6 hours previously and is still tormenting me, and in turn Helen (because I won’t stop singing it).

Before we even see any animals, we’re struck by the paint job around the place. Apparently knowledge is power or something?

The first animals are a big bunch of colourful budgies. A board tells us that one budgie somewhere managed to have a recorded vocabulary of 1728 words, the most of any bird. Imagine having that as a pet? You just know the fucker would learn “Alexa” or “Hey Siri”.

As the paths open out there’s signs pointing to WAIT A GODDAMN SECOND THERE ARE ALPACAS! Just like that Helen is off and away from me, the tail end of the word “ALPACAAAAaaaaaaaaa” fading into the distance. We didn’t know if there were any in advance, and are obviously delighted to discover them.

Unfortunately, they are miles away. Right in the middle of a big double-fenced enclosure, two of them with a face full of feed. We stare at them for a bit and they only take their noses out for a second or so at a time, giving us a “what?” look and then going back in. As they are in the dead centre of the whole place, we end up walking past them a number of times. They are both still eating, every time, even if their legs seem to have given out, until finally on about our 5th attempt the neatly two-tone one is near the fence - because that’s where the water is.

He’s neck deep in a bucket most of the time, just occasionally coming up for air. Dopey thing. On this last visit we also see the educational info board, which is really off-putting because of all the random capital letters and rogue apostrophes and mis-spelling of ‘llama’. D’oh. Knowledge is power, but grammar can fuck off.

There are other animals, of course. It’s not a huge zoo so we do a few circuits - mostly to give the animals multiple chances to be as entertaining and/or cute as we demand, and to get some exclusive access because there’s loads of kids about.

There are meerkats. Meerkats are fucking AWESOME. The first couple of times they’re all indoors and being cute, all scrabbling around in the hay and stuff. But when the sun comes out, they head through the door outside and FUCK YEAH MEERKATS.

I’m not sure there’s much more else to say, is there? Here’s one drinking from a puddle.

They really are entertaining and cute. Apparently you can pay like £60 or something to spend half hour with them. I would be unable to resist comparing them, and I bet the handlers are sick to fucking death of hearing that “joke”.

Up at the end is another large outdoor enclosure, wherein the ring-tailed lemurs live. Hello, ring-tailed lemurs!

On one circuit we arrive at exactly the same time as the sun comes out, and the lemurs love sunshine so much they instantly go into zen-yoga-master sunbathing poses and we laugh our fucking heads off.

Also, we learnt stuff about lemurs. What they do, right, is they piss on their own tails and then flick it at one another in “stink fights”. That is hilarious and grim all at once.

I mean, that’s all the best animals done, frankly. There are some peacocks ‘n that, in the same cage as a couple of cranes who are obviously plotting something the whole time we watch them, having a conversation and walking next to each other as if they think they can sneak up.

Some other birds have really weird beaks.

Goats. There are goats. We’d heard them bleating as we walked up, and now they’re here talking to us. They are all small. Are they pygmies? Dunno. One of them looks very pregnant. And, as we’re enjoying our time staring at goats, there is one single drop of rain and they all scurry indoors, like “thank fuck we’re in a zoo and not the wild, we’ve got shelter!”

Soft. As. Fuck.

Another big enclosure has some white faced whistling ducks. We’re told these are the noisiest ducks on the planet. None of them whistle or make any other noise.

The same cannot be said of their pond-mates, a ton of pink flamingoes all standing on their brittle-as-fuck hollow legs and looking very daft.

In the little stream, a couple of them are banging their heads constantly against pebbles. No idea what’s going on.

Up the way are rodents: some Argentinian Mara which look like weird rabbit things and, supposedly, a capybara. We can’t see the latter until, gloriously, he wakes up inside the hut and starts to slowly chomp on some grass. Sadly he never comes outside and we can’t get any pics, but he just looks massive and so regal and docile and awesome. Really want a pet capybara now, maybe. Buster might object.

Almost by accident we spot that one of the badly labelled buildings is actually open to the public, being the butterfly and reptile house. Ooh, that’s a bloody long snake.

There are no butterflies, but there is a box with a ton of chrysalises in. Must be pretty amazing to be there when they all come out.

On our first lap one of the cages had said there were emperor tamarin, but there was no sign. On our second lap there’s three of them and they are awesome. They are so called due to their resemblance to an old emperor of Germany, based on facial hair.

One of them looks like he’s using his long tail for balance while he somewhat precariously attempts to grab hold of some bamboo. Then he lets go, and hangs over a branch with body on one side and tail on another - and in a fantastic show of gymnastic ability spins entirely around to stand up straight again... about 6 times in a row. Thanks for putting on a show!

On the way out we get the only photo of the capybara possible. Bah.

Outside and across the way there are some more enclosures. What’s that we can hear? Oh, it’s a shitload of chickens. Excellent! Few of them come near enough to get a decent photo, the one who ventures closest looking like a sterotypical cartoon. All of them are shouting their head off, cock-a-doodle-doo all the time. The one with the craziest hair seems to have a sore throat.

Enough animals. There’s more to be done around here. Directly next door to the zoo is a maze, a yew tree hedge affair looking more like what ‘maze’ makes you think than the one in Crystal Palace Park.

After an early mistake I take more charge of the direction giving.

We reach the centre fairly soon in all honesty. The fact the hedgerows are a little smaller than us helps, as does the big hole in a hedge that enables us to cheat like bastards. But even without that it’s a lot easier than in Bromley.

From the viewing platform in the centre, we take a few “try not to capture any accidental swastikas” snaps while kids shout their head of, being given direction from another viewing platform near the entrance.

Time to leave this park. There’s an unexpectedly steep hill and, as we leave, the first bit of info about the place that we’ve seen. Good timing, thanks.

Under a smaller viaduct than the other one, and labelled “Hanwell Small Viaduct”, there’s another side park for people who are old, blind, or just want some peace and quiet.

Turns out it also caters to those who want to sit and refill their e-cigarette with vape juice, and idiots whose brain never once suggests to them that the bizarre “moccoco? Moccicio?” word at the bottom of an stone inscription is actually some roman numerals.

Anyway, enough greenery. Time to get back on the streets, yo.

Ealing People’s Mail

A few blocks up the way and we’re at Hanwell Broadway, with this ... clock. You can pick an adjective of your choice.

We’re not wandering aimlessly here, far from it. We know that just up the road is the Dodo Micropub. Like this.

I feel a bit like a Viz “Real Ale Twat” when I ask for “a stout or porter I’ve never had, not that you’d know what I have had”. I end up with a bottle of orange mocha frapp stout nom nom nom.

The guy sitting opposite asks for the same one after me. I’ve just bought the last bottle. Oops. It’s a lovely quiet single room and we’re enjoying it. Helen opts for a berry sour, after I point out she’s had it before and loved it.

One of the house rules is “no F and C words (Foster’s and Carling)”. Cute.

As we debate the options of staying for another if they are doing pies, or heading off to find somewhere else to eat, the decision is basically made for us. It’s got really loud, as a big group of people have convened on the tables by the door. It’s the staff and their mates so I shouldn’t be too annoyed, but I am, because the loudest of them is a bona fide Viz “Real Ale Twat” character. You can tell this because he feels the need to describe the rrrrrrrrrrationale behind his choice of opening tipple. Good lord.

Outside, we see that Hanwell has decorated some of its pavements. Not sure why.

It’s time to get back on a bus. We’re only going 5 stops, as I explain patiently while the E8 turns up.

The bus takes us to Boston Manor tube station, which either has a lot of platforms or a depot.

But we’re not getting on the tube; we’re here because I had diligently discovered via Google Street View that there was a welcome sign around here, what with the tube line being the borough’s border. It’s a shit sign with a boring slogan.

Honestly, throughout the day we’d seen about 5 intra-borough welcome signs - welcome to Southall, a different welcome to Hanwell, a fucking ENORMOUS welcome to Havelock near the canal, but none of them were on the border so fuck ‘em.

By now it’s about, I dunno, 4.30pm or so. We want some proper food, having had no proper food since the Ham-well but with 16,000 steps in our legs or so. With 10 minutes until the bus back we scope out the local parade because there’s a chicken wings place there; en route, some people are desperately trying to hold their mate back from going into the off licence and creating some havoc. Don’t really know what was going on there.

The food looks ropey so we get a bus back, the wrong bus as it happens, depositing us just back by the Dodo. Walking back up to Hanwell broadway we decide to look for somewhere that a) is open at this time on a Sunday b) looks half decent c) is not a big chain or summat. It takes us absolutely ages to find somewhere, a long walk along the Uxbridge Road east towards West Ealing and the Broadway. At one point we have to skirt round a police car that’s been seeing to a disturbance; perhaps our Hampton Court warning was going to come true?

I keep thinking this road will turn out to be the one where I used to go to the gym and have sessions with a one-legged personal trainer, but it never appears. Eventually up opposite the park where the Saturday farmers market happens we find a few choices, deciding against pizza and Syrian food in lieu of Lebanese stuff at Ya Sham.

Kibbeh and «lebanese for Patatas Bravas»

We get 5 dishes of Lebanese tapas and holy shit it’s fantastic. Lamb with hummus, minced lamb kibbeh, soujok sausages, spicy potatoes and halloumi all with freshly made pitta bread. Delicious, and in fact it defeated us. Both of us! It’s a rare dish that I can’t finish.

Throughout our feed a series of sirens had wailed past in both directions, a couple so urgent that they’d been zooming down the wrong side of the road. And, as we leave and walk back to the bus stop we’re confronted with another police car and some fruit and veg carnage. Patently someone had caused a massive ruckus at this supermarket, spoiling a load of marrows and stuff in a fit of rage. Around the corner is a group of suspicious looking likely lads, and when our bus takes us past there’s now a van there and the blokes have skedaddled. Bloody hell, Ealing really does seem a bit troublesome.

The E3 takes us up to the Broadway, parking at the stands near that terrifying Irish pub opposite the train station. There’s a 65, which starts here, on the verge of setting off.

“It’s actually a pretty decent route, y’know” I’d been complaining and I’m right. Ealing Green and South Ealing are quite a bit nicer than lots of the residential bits of the rest of the borough that we’d seen on foot - by now we’re up to 25,000 steps for the day. The sun sets quickly and just past the cemetery we’re out of the borough, back into Hounslow and we start to score things every bit as quickly as the heavens open and apocalyptic rain batters the bus windows.

Dancing on the Ealing

You know the drill by now. Scores out of 7 across 3 categories. «sharp intake of breath» here we go!


  • Fun: 6. You can’t fail to have fun when your day starts with a set of mounds, can you?
  • Learning: 5. Ho Chi Minh came to London? The Rolling Stones kinda formed in Ealing? Blimey.
  • Nice: 5. The canal, parks, and mounds more than make up for the large noisy main roads and social deprivation. Can see why a stab vest might be necessary mind.


  • Fun: 6. Meerkats can’t fail to please. Point deducted for excessive mounds.
  • Learning: 5. Learnt quite a lot about various animals.
  • Nice: 3. Hmm - We saw TWO people picking fights with entire shops!

Total: 30 points from a maximum of 42, placing it (at the time of writing) in 4th place, dead centre of the 7 days out we’ve had. The league table is starting to look nicely fleshed out now, we’re into a groove and there’s only a week until our next sojourn.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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