Kentish Town

March 7, 2009

Kentish Town

Nestling below Parliament Hill Fields is a tree like an umbrella where John Betjeman used to sit and write poetry. He lived over in Highgate, and referred to Kentish Town at least twice. In the poem Parliament Hill Fields Sylvia Plath also refers to Kentish Town. It is possible to trace her footsteps across Hampstead Heath as far as Boadicea’s tumult and back to Primrose Hill. Hampstead Heath is mentioned often in terms of escape and joy. The view from Kite Hill southward you can see Crystal Palace transmitter. Trace routes through London, most key buildings are discernable. Flanking the Heath is Gospel Oak station which has a branch line to Barking from where Dagenham can be penetrated. An abandoned line lies further up Highgate Hill, steeply inclined and ending in a haunting gate like heaven or hell. Highgate Cemetry and John Betcheman’s terraced house curiously beyond. The vastness and obscurity of London suburbs are viewable from the train. Proceed to Shoeburyness and cycle uninterrupted to Tower Bridge. Let the police carry you over QE2 bridge for an alternative route back through Kent but there is no way through across River Darent. It is wild and mysterious along the flood barrier. The urban route back is convoluted and not pretty. Rejoin the river at Erith through Thamesmead to Woolwich. At Woolwich catch the train to Kentish Town West. The Essex route by cycle really is uninterrupted except you have to lower yourself over a wall through an old railway siding yard just west of the QE2. The route is Shoeburyness, Southend-on-sea, Leigh-on-sea, Benfleet, Pitsea, Vange (all flanked by near impassible marshes), Stanford-le-hope, Mucking, East Tilbury, Coalharbour Fort, slip under Tilbury power station, Tilbury Fort, skirt Tilbury Harbour an unforgiving and ugly contrast to what you have just passed through. Access to the river becomes fragmented as the choice of routes back to London widens. Jump on a train anytime and abandon your journey.

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