Monday : A Walk in the Park, Northolt Wetherspoons and Wembley at Night

This was never going to be a particularly onerous day, mostly my laptop and I in various places in London catching up on things after the LDWA AGM weekend. I left the Wembley High Road Travelodge after a peaceful night and noted that the set-up here is unusual, I was in the room underneath the one with the banner, which is a private residential flat. An interesting mix here of shops, residential and hotel all in one slightly ugly building which will likely look very ugly in about ten years.

I also couldn’t work out how to get reception, partly because there was a work team taking up the carpets rather than because my navigational skills have suddenly collapsed. One of the work team sounded quite grumpy at the breakfast he had got himself, and his colleague laughed and said he should have gone to Wetherspoons with the others. This true story is handy here as it seques perfectly into my next chunk of prose…..

Back to my usual routine, the breakfast at the nearby JJ Moons pub in Wembley, where the customer service was much better this week, so I can now suggest that they enter their staff for any national awards if Wetherspoons do such things. The left-hand side coffee machine was still broken, but it was broken in a rather fun and entertaining way, which is that it seemed to produce random elements of drinks. So you might get just hot water instead of coffee, or no chocolate in the hot chocolate. Bored of such decadent excitement so early in the morning I soon switched to the right-hand side machine, I’m not always up for adventure. The breakfast met all of my requirements and the power points in the pub worked, so all was well with my morning so far.

I then thought I’d better go on a little walk and I saw this on a sign and thought that perhaps we could redefine all of the walks in the LDWA like this. It’d certainly mean that we got around them quicker, but I assume it would annoy the purists. And it wouldn’t be practical for challenges events if we had five checkpoints which were just 100 metres apart on average. Although, actually, we could try that I suppose.

Barham Park looked quite beautiful and the clouds looked quite menacing, but I’m glad it wasn’t the other way round.

These are the formal gardens from the Victorian era, their grand layout still visible, although some areas are better tended than others. Some of this is a legacy from the former Barham Old Court Mansion and there’s a quiet and respectful ambience to the whole arrangement. The pillars date from the eighteenth century and are from when this was a country house which was constructed in the mid 1850s and demolished in the 1960s.

Here’s the park from around 120 years ago (clicking on the image makes it easier to see) and the most noticeable thing is that there is nearly no housing in the area, but today this park is one of the free green spaces left. The railway can also be seen having at that time only recently ploughed its way through the parkland so that the field boundaries hadn’t been adjusted. These are the best maps to compare the present day scene with, where urban growth has completely taken over an area, because then it’s possible to see traces of the past that are still left. I don’t know why I like to see evidence of history, perhaps it’s just comforting that it survives when all else around it has crumbled away.

This annoyed me, there’s a pedestrian island in the middle of this junction but they’ve entirely fenced it off. Some of it has been vandalised so that people can get through, but I noticed one person when I was there get trapped by this stupid metal fencing as they had already crossed the road and then had to walk down the edge of the road to get back onto the pavement. Far be it for me to complain (but yet here we are), but this is shoddy road planning which endangers pedestrians and just encourages drivers to go at faster speeds. The traffic lights are too far down the road and pedestrians are shoved into this urban landscape without much other thought. That completes my complaint for the day and I only really got so annoyed when seeing a pedestrian struggling to escape.

I had trekked to the Greenwood Hotel in Northolt as it’s one of the few JD Wetherspoon outlets in London that I hadn’t been to and I read that the interiors were quite impressive. There were also no other Good Beer Guide pubs in the area to go to, so this just had to suffice.

This building housed a hotel and bar for many decades since its opening in the 1920s, with this grand function room having its own stage. I have to say that JD Wetherspoon do a very good job at restoring old buildings and bringing them back to life. Without them there would be a lot of venues that would have been split up into a series of residential properties or demolished.

The interior of the function room, suitably decadent even for my friend Gordon.

One of the side rooms, with its own private bar. I thought this was a perfectly good outlet of JD Wetherspoons, indeed, one of the better ones that I’ve been to in terms of the cleanliness, friendliness of the team members and the design of the building. The reviews on-line are also generally positive, but I noted this:

“The staff don’t care about anyone and wiped a dirty table onto my cousins nice dress. Never coming Back!”

I can almost picture the scene….. As for this review, you can imagine the shouting that went on when they were writing the review…..

“HAVING VISITED THIS PUB , I WAS SHOCKED TO SEE THAT THE LAST ORDERS FOR DRINKS WAS 10-30 PM, THE FIRST BELL WAS RUNG AT 10-15PM, , I WITNESSED SOME 12 OTHER PEOPLE COME TO THE BAR LOOKING FOR A DRINK ,THE STAFF TOLD THE FIRST PEOPLE THE BELL HAD GONE , THE CUSTOMERS WERE 2 MINUTES LATE ,WHEN THE STAFF RUNG THE 10-30 BELL BY THE TIME THE CUSTOMERS CAME FROM THE HALL SIDE THE WERE THE 2 MINUTES LATE, ALL THE OTHER CUSTOMER WERE TOLD THE BELL HAD GONE AT 10-30 PM, YET OVER THE FRONT DOOR OF THIS PUB IN A SIGN 3INCHES WIDE BY 2 FOOT LONG IT CLEARLY SAYS THE PUB HOURS ARE UNTIL 11PM . THERE IS SOME 10 STAFF BEHIND THE BAR THE ARE IN NO WAY FRIENDLY TO THE CUSTOMERS, THE COULD NOT WAIT TO RING THE BELL. THE PUB HAS ABSOLUTELY NO ATMOSPHERE WHAT SO EVER, I CERTAINLY WILL NOT BE VISITING THIS PUB AGAIN , AND I WILL TELL MY FRIENDS NOT TO VISIT IT ALSO , MOST PEOPLE COME TO PUBS QPERSONALTY UITE LATE IN THE EVENING TO HAVE A DRINK BUT BELL RINGING OUT AT 10-30 ITS A SHAMBLES, THE SIGN ABOVE THE DOOR IS COMPLETELY MISS LEADING, AND SO SMALL TO SEE, I DID ASK A COUPLE OF PEOPLE IF THE PRICE OF FOOD IS REASONABLE TO MY HORROR AND SURPRISE THE FOOD IS A HELL OF A LOT PRICIER THAN THE OTHER WETHERSPOON PUBS , THIS IS ALSO A FARCE. PEOPLE WILL NOT BE VISITING THIS PUB FOR TOO LONG, STAFF NEED SOME TRAINING IN MANNERS TOO. AVOID AVOID AVOID.”

TL;DR – the pub called last orders a bit early.

“Congratulations Greenwood Hotel. For the second year running your staff have won the World Hide and Seek Championship. Service rubbish.”

Maybe a slightly trite review perhaps, but at least it’s a little bit creative.

“No Guinness glasses”

A 1/5 star review during the lockdown period as obviously this is a traumatising thing to happen to any customer. But they can spell Guinness and that’s very positive.

I like bits of signage such as this, noting that some of the original gas lights in the pub survive. After a perfectly pleasant time at the venue, which I was pleased to note had excellent customer service, was clean and had power points, I thought that I’d better stroll back to Wembley as it was a walk of just under three miles.

I stopped off en route at the St John the Evangelist church in Wembley, a really rather lovely building which was designed by the formidable architect Sir George Gilbert Scott and WB Moffat in 1846, with three later extensions shoved onto the main core of the structure. I pondered, in my usual confused manner, about how this was a relatively quiet residential area when the church was first constructed and now it’s serving a very different type of urban demographic than the designers would have expected. There was a feel of vibrancy about the building though, I think the atmosphere of how a church is run can really impact on the general feel of the surroundings. I feel that I’m drifting into the realms of fantasy again now though.

This is a very noticeable memorial from the road, although it does dominate things somewhat. Sometimes large memorials remind me of the Only Fools and Horses episode when Del is tending the grave of his mother.

Not exploring properly, I didn’t realise that there were a series of Commonwealth war graves elsewhere in the graveyard, otherwise I would have carefully photographed them, although I have a backlog that I want to research as it is. There’s more information about this war memorial at https://www.stjohnwembley.org/war-memorial-history/. And, as an aside, I really like that the church has made the effort to put details about the war memorial on its web-site, it’s not all that common to take the time to do that.

Another excited photo of Wembley Stadium, I was eagerly anticipating the joyful atmosphere once again, although there was just a car speeding down the road and a child screaming. It wasn’t quite the magical scene that I had been picturing in my mind.

I manage to stay frequently at the Wembley Ibis and the staff are friendly here, although I accept that I find the staff nearly everywhere friendly. I went to get my welcome drink and stuck with the reliable Goose Island IPA, thinking about when I go back to Goose Island in a few weeks since I’ve convinced my friend Liam to come along. Again. Have I mentioned Goose Island recently? Best bar in London.

The staff member said that she hoped I liked my room as she had chosen it herself, which made me hope I hadn’t annoyed her so that I was given a cupboard somewhere. It was on the top floor with a view from an angle that I haven’t had before at this hotel (that comment hints at how many times I’ve stayed here), across the wild plains and exotic countryside of London. It’s a larger room than average due to the layout of the hotel and I did indeed like it. There was a problem with the kettle, but I’ll cover that tomorrow.

The same view from the room at night.

This was one of my very laid-back days and I did manage to get back down to email zero, which is a delight as the next day’s excitement was getting to Heathrow Airport in good time for my flight.