Running tales from Ealing – Northala Fields

Northala Fields is actually in Northolt – but Northolt is in the borough of Ealing, hence the title of the post. The name Northala comes from the name of the Northall (now Northolt) manor as recorded in the Domesday book in 1086. On Sunday I ran a 10 mile route that took me round Northala Fields – it’s got an interesting story behind it, and here it is. The area was derelict scrubland at the turn of the century, little used and a bit of an eyesore. In 2004 work started on the creation of a new park using an unusual material for landscaping. At the time there was a lot of building work happening in west London – notably the building of a big shopping centre (Westfield, White City) and the re-building of Wembley Stadium. Both developments would create a lot of rubble and waste material which would usually be destined for landfill sites 100 miles away. But landscape architect Peter Fink designed a project that would incorporate the rubble (otherwise known as spoil or ‘muck away’). The material would only have to travel about 10 miles and would not be dumped in landfill but used to create four unusual hills that can be seen from the A40 (a main road west out of London). More than 60,000 lorry loads of rubble were delivered to the site!

January 2019
Google earth aerial view

The hills act as a buffer between the dual carriageway and rest of the park, effectively muffling traffic noise, and reducing pollution levels somewhat. In the park itself are several fishing lakes, with paths running between them lined with trees, mostly silver birch. There are also two children’s playgrounds, and some outdoor gym equipment. There is a cafe (perfectly ok but a bit uninspiring) and toilets. There is a Parkrun every Saturday and when I was there on Sunday I was pleased to see a junior Parkrun happening too!

Although there was some opposition and reluctance to the scheme when first proposed, once opened in 2008 it quickly became very popular. I’m usually there quite early before it gets too busy, but on a sunny weekend afternoon or in the school holidays the place can get packed. On a clear day from the top of the tallest hill the views eastward across London are fantastic. You can even see the new Wembley arch.

View from the top – Horsenden Hill and the arch at Wembley Stadium
Photo from The Londonist

As far as my running routes go Northala Fields is a useful point on a couple of routes because it’s very close to the Grand Union canal (Paddington branch). I can do long routes without having to run along too many roads. It is part of a larger Countryside Park which means that green spaces are linked together. I do feel very lucky that I can do a 10 mile/16km run and the majority is off road, even though I live in a London postcode! Mind you off road has its risks – on Sunday a mile from home I tripped over a tree root and went flying. All ok, apart from a grazed knee!

I took this photo in February 2018

It less than a week until my next official run – 10 miles in the hills of Surrey at Lingfield. I know it’s ‘only’ ten miles, but apparently it’s hilly, so that counts for extra points in my book. There will be a race report after!

This post was written with help from the following websites: http://www.londongardenstrust.org/features/northala.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7310211.stm

https://londonist.com/london/great-outdoors/how-to-climb-up-the-old-wembley-stadium

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northala_Fields

Thanks for reading!

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