A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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68 - A clean shave, a vicious stabbing, the very best way to de-stress, and a peace garden

Before World War Two, Sussex Way was Sussex Road, and further back in time it was Cottenham Road. It used to lead over the railway bridge as far as Elthorne Road, but now there's a barrier on the bridge, blocking the route for vehicles. Moreover, the road itself, crosses Fairbridge Road and then fades out into a wide open pavement area, which is Courtauld Road. Half of Elthorne Road has been replaced by the Elthorne estate.

On the corner of Fairbridge Road is a shabby property, covered in graffiti on one side, and advertising 'Geo F. Trumper 1875 Perfumer' on the other. Despite appearances, it would be a mistake to turn my nose up at this property. George Trumper did indeed establish his perfume business in 1875, not here but in Curzon Street, Mayfair. He received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria (and others from five subsequent monarchs). The business continues to this day with a shop in Curzon Street and one in Jermyn Street. This building here, though, is the company's head office and mail order centre. Offering a choice of more than twenty colognes, including the signature GFT fragrance, Trumper claims to have one of the largest ranges of gentlemen's grooming products and accessories (shaving creams and soaps, aftershave balms, skin foods and moisturisers, bath soaps and shower gels, razors, shaving brushes, mirrors, hair brushes and bathroom requisites).

Trumper seems to be popular in the US. This is how one website advertises its products: 'What can we say about George F. Trumper, the man? Not much, sorry to say. Mr. Trumper's been dead over a hundred years . . . We can tell you this much: Geo. F. Trumper, the company, 9 Curzon Street, in London, has been turning out well-groomed men since 1875, among them celebrities, some of whom only look dishevelled, in case you're wondering where you've gone wrong. Trumper's knows it's a studied look; note the absence of razor burn, ingrown hairs, and bits of toitie paper. We happily accommodate the full variety of men's faces and lifestyles, and if you want to get on with re-stocking your supplies of Trumper's, the appropriate links are at the top of the page.'

As I veer left across the paved area in Courtauld Road, I can't help noticing the large 19th century building, which stands on the corner of Mulkern Road in the midst of the council estate. It has been renovated recently, with an extra storey, bright cream and mulberry paint, and turned into 15 residential units. This was the Birkbeck Tavern, a name that must stem from the Birkbeck Freehold Land Society, one of the land societies that was laying out roads in this area during the mid-19th century. Apart from odd buildings, such as the pub, much of this area was cleared by the Greater London Council in the early 1970s, to make way for 1,500 homes distributed in the new estates. Before its clearance, it had become a noted example of urban decay (and was even the focus of a book called 'Community Decay' by J. Rowland).

Courtauld Road brings me past some old factory buildings, as well as buildings of the Fairbridge and Elthorne estates into Hazelville Road, which bends round Elthorne Park. It was from this park that, during a music festival in August 2000, a very scared young Somali boy, Abdirazak Hamza, was chased by a gang of youths. He ran through the Elthorne estate to Mulkern Road, where he was stabbed six times. And then he died. In January 2002, two of the gang were convicted of violent disorder and two for conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. They were sentenced to between one and three years detention in a Young Offender Institution. However, there was a fifth member of the gang, Kay Martin. After extensive psychiatric evidence, he had been judged unfit to plead at the main trial. Nevertheless, in March 2002, a jury found that Martin had committed the murder, and he was made subject of a hospital order. In 2003, Martin's legal team successfully brought an appeal against the jury decision.

My route takes me past Hornsey Rise Baptist Church, across Hazelville Road and in front of an over-sized hut that looks to be made of rust-coloured plywood panels. It houses Islington Boxing Club. A small notice in the door window says that boxing is 'Simply the best way to de-stress, strengthen stamina, self-defence'. There is club training for all and no experience is necessary. From here I enter the park, which like Whittington Park, dates from the 1970s.

A road called Duncombe Road used to run right across the area and meet up with Ashley Road on the other side. There may be a lot of traffic streaming around its outside but this park is a great place. There are play and sports grounds, outdoor gym exercise machines (that look good and are in working order), plenty of benches, a lawn full of flowering daffodils and purple crocuses, and an avenue of short silver birch trees that catch the sun and add character. And in the southeast corner, there is the Philip Noel-Baker Peace Garden. Unfortunately, I can't enter the walled-off garden because it's closed for 'essential maintenance'. The Sunnyside Community Gardens Association - an organisation that helps people with special needs - is responsible for its care.

Although Noel-Baker grew up in England, he was Canadian born, his father, a Quaker and pacifist, having moved here before the turn of the century. He excelled academically and in athletics (captaining Britain's 1924 Olympics team). He served with ambulance units during World War One, was decorated, and then, subsequently, became involved with the League of Nations. For over 30 years, from 1936 to 1970, he held a seat in the House of Commons, and was appointed to various governments when Labour was in power. After World War Two he took part in the British delegation that negotiated the new United Nations charter. He died in 1982 and is most remembered - as through these gardens - for his strenuous campaigning on multilateral disarmament. In 1958, he published 'The Arms Race: A programme for World Disarmament'; a year later, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After hearing the news of the award, he told a reporter 'war is a damnable, filthy thing and has destroyed civilisation after civilisation - that is the essence of my belief'.

I exit from Elthorne Park into Beaumont Road, pass Hornsey Rise Health Centre, and turn left into Hornsey Rise. This is the first hill of any gradient that I've encountered this side of the Thames. The road is narrow, busy and built up with modern buildings. I walk round the crescent of Hornsey Rise Gardens (originally called Crouch End Crescent), simply because it crosses the 300 easting twice before returning me to Hornsey Rise. It is a calm side street of large Victorian houses, rich in detail, with porches, brick mouldings and stained glass. Number 41 looks derelict, while its neighbour looks extra-specially well-maintained. The Parkland Walk Guest House trades from number 12, where a double room costs from £46 a night.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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