Running tales from Ealing – Blondin Park

Ealing – Queen of the Suburbs – and that means a lot of green spaces and parks. I’ve visited a lot of parks in Ealing on my running travels but until yesterday evening I had not been to Blondin Park. It seemed timely to go there now for two reasons. First, Blondin has a connection with circuses (more later) and last weekend I went to the most wonderful circus ever. The magical Giffords Circus was such a fantastic, fun experience. I would recommend that if you can possibly go – GO! I absolutely loved it. It was funny (the clowns!), thrilling (the acrobats on horseback, the trapeze artists!), beautiful and amazing (Lil Rice on the cyr wheel!). The whole thing was just fab!

The programme cover for Giffords Circus

The second reason is that soon Blondin Park will be hosting the Brentford festival – on Sunday 1st September there will be fun for all the family. A dog show, live music, food and stalls. Sounds like fun, and I will try and get there if I can.

Views of the park

So after work I thought I would do a little exploratory run to check out Blondin Park, and then do a bit of research to find out the story behind the name. The park is bigger than I was expecting (21 acres or 8.5 hectares), and a mix of playing fields and wilder ground, including a nature reserve. There is also a little orchard, although it looked a bit sad, the trees didn’t look in great condition, and the apples were small and rotten. But my internet research discovered that there were orchards and market gardens in this area in the early nineteenth century, and some of the roads nearby are named after apple varieties like Bramley, Julien and Wellington. I have never heard of the last two types, so it’s fascinating to know that those roads are named after apples, linking the area to the past.

Some sort of eating apple. A bit sad looking 😦
Ornate gates at the Boston Manor entrance

Talking of the past – who was Blondin?! He was a Frenchman born in 1824 into a family of circus tight rope walkers and acrobats. (That’s the circus link 😉 )But the circus was too confined a space for his enormous talent for walking along a piece of rope at very great heights so he began a career that lasted until old age travelling the world and balancing precariously along the tightrope. Did you know that that the art of tightrope walking is called funambulism? From two Latin words – funis meaning ‘rope’, and ambulares meaning ‘to walk’. Blondin’s most famous walks were across Niagara Falls in north America. He didn’t just walk across this terrifying waterfall – he did it with his manager on his back, and even stopped to cook and eat an omelette half way. He once stood balanced on top of a chair which was balanced on one leg on the rope! He was a bit of a rebel in other ways too, marrying a second wife in the USA while still married to a woman back in France. He settled in London in the 1860’s, first in St John’s Wood, and then in Ealing where he lived in a house called Niagara House near the current Blondin Park. The house does not exist now, but his name and story lives on in the name of the park, and a couple of the roads leading to it. The park was re-named in 1957 after Blondin, being called Northfields Recreation Ground when it was formed in 1928 after its acquisition by Ealing Council. Blondin is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery and every year in February tightrope fans attend a ceremony to toast the memory of Charles Blondin, born Jean François Gravelet.

These roads both lead into the park. Nearby are the roads named after the apple varieties. A renowned apple grower had extensive orchards in the area.
Blondin crossing Niagara Falls with his manager Henry Colcord on his back
(Image from Wikipedia)

If I lived a bit nearer to Blondin Park I am sure it would feature regularly on my runs, but it is just that bit too far on pavement to get there and back, and I am not a fan of running on pavements, especially along fairly busy roads. Maybe I can incorporate it into another route that’s more park-based. I have enjoyed going there and finding out more about the history of the area and the famous Blondin himself. I hope you have enjoyed reading it!