This morning I went out for 10k run number three, so now I am more than half way through the challenge! The weather is getting hotter and hotter this week, and as I really don’t like running in the heat I went out early – just before 7am.
I went down to the canal, and across it to a place called Warren Farm. Quite amazingly this is a recent discovery, since lockdown in fact. I kind of knew it was there, but had never actually been across the canal and field to find it. It is quite famous locally because the council basically tried to give it away on a 200 year lease to Queens Park Rangers football team for a training ground. The area would have been ruined, and access denied to the thousands of people who enjoy the fields for leisure and sustainable commuting. Several years of vigorous campaigning by local groups has resulted in the abandonment of the scheme – announced last month.
One of the most vocal groups to campaign recently is Hanwell Nature. Their argument against development was focussed on the wildlife that is found in this area. The first thing I noticed when I went there a couple of months ago was the sound of skylarks. I couldn’t quite believe it. I associate larks with open countryside, not semi urban landscapes with major motorways within earshot. It is truly fantastic. I have also seen kites hovering above the fields, and I saw a kestrel sitting on a fence post one morning too.
This morning the sound of larks was strong even before I crossed the single track railway that serves the industrial zone near Brentford. Right round the field is approximately 2km, and it’s 2km to get there. So I did 3 laps – twice anti-clockwise and once clockwise (just for a slightly different view!). As well as the usual dog walkers and runners, there was a man sat on a little stool painting the view, and some people from the council collecting 40 bags of rubbish litter-picked by volunteers at the weekend.
I was glad I went out early as even by 8 o’clock it was getting very warm. I think I will have to be up even earlier tomorrow!
I don’t often run through Elthorne Park itself although I often skirt the edge of it as I run along the canal path. However it is an interesting park to run in. There are lots of things to look at. Today I took a detour from the canal to run a couple of times round the park. Although not a particularly nice day – a bit grey and gloomy – the autumn colours of the trees brightened the outlook.
Elthorne Park as it is today was opened in 1910. The name Elthorne goes back at least 1,000 years, mentioned in the Domesday Book as one of the six Hundreds of the shire of Middlesex. Hundreds were part of a system of local government in Saxon times. The name Elthorne comes from Ella’s Thorn Tree, which I think sounds very romantic – who was Ella I wonder?
The land was later owned by the Earl of Jersey based at Osterley House. In the 20th century some land was sold, including the farm land that now constitutes Elthorne Park itself, and the playing fields and land known as Elthorne Rough. Some of this area was used as a landfill site in the 19th century and as a result is quite high above the canal.
At the entrance to the park is a large sarsen stone. Sarsen stones are truly ancient stones – in this case more than 50 million years old! They are formed from sand cemented into rocks. Because they are so hard they resist erosion by the surrounding layers of sediment. The stones were washed into the area probably about 400,000 years ago at the end of an ice age, carried by meltwater. Where exactly the stone ended up is a matter of debate. After reading various websites (see end of post for bibliography) the most plausible explanation, geologically and socially, is that it was originally deposited on Hanger Hill which is about 3 miles (5km) away. It arrived (via human effort) in Hanwell sometime after – possibly in Saxon times – and was then excavated locally during building work.
The word sarsen comes from two Anglo Saxon words sar, meaning troublesome, and stan, meaning stone. Troublesome? Perhaps because they are so big and heavy to shift? Or perhaps because it was a mystery how they had got there, these enormous heavy stones with no apparent connection to local geology.
Another feature in the park is a major contrast in every way to the sarsen stone. The bandstand. I am a great fan of brass bands, and very sad that I never saw the famous Hanwell Silver Band play live in the bandstand. I do have 2 vinyl LPs of their music which provide cheer and happiness when I’m feeling a bit glum. The band have a great history dating from their formation in 1891. They were known by different names but my favourite is the Hanwell Silver Prize Band, because they won so many prizes.
They also played on Peter Skellern’s You’re a Lady in 1973. Follow the link and have a listen! In 1978 the band played on Terry Wogan’s hit The Floral Dance. I found a home video from 1999, which is just before they folded forever in 2001, playing a cheerful rumba in the bandstand. Why don’t we have bands playing in the park anymore? I think it would be great investment for local authorities who want to get more people outside using parks, and would encourage young people to take up playing brass instruments.
Today the park is used for many purposes. There are football pitches, 11 a side and 5 a side; tennis courts; outdoor gym equipment; children’s play areas. It is also the site for the Hanwell Carnival every June. As a little detour from the canal path it makes a nice change, especially as one of the paths from the canal takes you through the woods. Maybe spring is a prettier time to visit though!
Websites used to inform this post ( any misinterpretation/ misinformation/ misunderstanding is totally my doing):