A French-sounding pocket of West London that promises little, but delivers even less.
Perivale conjures up the image of an ancient French nautical tool; it certainly delivers the same level of excitement. Encircling the A40 from the supremely aesthetic Hanger Lane gyratory to the infamous Greenford, Perivale is one of those places that feels like the runt of the litter: neglected enough to be rundown and sad, but not enough to perish.
Out of the station and you are soon reminded why you’ve heard of Perivale before: it sits on the A40 – a major road connecting London to the West. If you’ve ever been to Bristol, South Wales or Oxford by car, you’ll almost certainly have had the pleasure of travelling down it. A fervent user of this route, my friend for this week was particularly excited to visit the unfortunately-named ‘Isis’ hairdressers that he had passed so often and delicately ask if they had considered a name change. Not open, he asked the neighbouring dry-cleaners about the delights of Perivale instead: “well, it’s all industrial round here”. Perfect, I love industrial.
Passing over one of those grey, graffiti-strewn pedestrian bridges that straddle London’s arterial roads, we pass yet another city farm. Perivale Farm, though, is actually a carvery, a ‘cakeaway’ and an ice cream parlour – not a farm – but it is beautifully juxtaposed to the adjacent dual carriageway. The Farm also claims to be open daily from 7am, but obviously that doesn’t include Friday at 10.30am.
We then ventured toward Perivale Park – a large space that is almost entirely dedicated to sport. Firstly, we came across the home of Hanwell Town Football Club – a team that narrowly avoided relegation from the Southern League Division One Central last year; seemed appropriate. Then, Ealing Golf Club – a “London golfing haven just 8 miles from Marble Arch”. To be fair, the course did look above average – smattered with bunkers and continuously dissected by the River Brent – but the inauspicious nature of the course’s surroundings may well have helped.
Where the Golf Club ends, Pittshanger Park begins – a park that plays host to a mediocre playground and the occasional piece of gym equipment. Why the ‘park planner’ decided to put the odd cross trainer or ergo machine every 500 yards, instead of all in one place, is a mystery, but, then again, so is going to the gym in the park.
I asked a lady near the park’s entrance if there was a nearby café: she looked at me, shrugged and then quickly departed. I wondered if I should have done the same with Perivale, but spotting some bunting in the distance – a sure-fire sign of a good time – we continued into suburbia. As it turned out, the bunting adorned Pittshanger Lane – a relatively quaint high street that could have been airlifted from any home counties’ town.
We chose the Cinnamon for our primary stop – a surprisingly nice little patisserie-come-café with a little mirrored garden at the rear. Whilst sipping on an Americano (£2.40), we asked the lady next to our table about her favourite thing to do in the area: Ealing Broadway shopping centre, she replied. ‘Anything else besides a run-of-the-mill, commercial shopping mall that is almost half an hour’s walk away’, we politely enquire? ‘No, not much going on round here’.
How wrong she was. On leaving the café, we spotted The Clock Gallery. Dariusz, the owner and resident horologist, has been fiddling with time for 40 years. He showed us his prized piece: a magnificent grandfather clock from the 1780s, but noted with caution that clocks are becoming a thing of the past. The popularity of watches and mobile phones – the modern world’s need for instantaneous answers – was heralding a decline in clock sales. You would have thought they were timeless.
If bland parks are your thing, then Perivale is the place for you. We then walked through the tree-heavy Montpellier Park (home of the Ealing North scouts), the open-fielded Fox Wood (the former home of the Reservoir of Life, which unsurprisingly no longer exists) and Hanger Hill Park (home of a little pitch and putt), before coming across a large spit of grass with a sign forbidding people to go on it.
By now we had made our way back to the juggernaut of the A40. The Hanger Lane gyratory – a previous winner of Britain’s scariest junction award – carries around 10,000 vehicles an hour during rush hour. It wasn’t rush hour, but we still didn’t fancy crossing it, and so we headed for the equally-manic subway system, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the day.
Our hope was to find a lake on the other side (having spied some spots of blue on Google maps), which we thought could be Perivale’s pièce de la résistance: it was a car park. I thought this kind of summed up the place until we walked through another enthralling park that also served as an expressway for the Tube; even more apt.
Asking for the nearest pub, a man in the park told us that we were in the ‘middle of nowhere’. Yet, you’re never too far from a pub in London. Not even in Perivale. The Fox and Goose Hotel was a Fullers’ pub off the gyratory with a beer garden that overlooked a McDonalds. It was also quite expensive: unable to get the meal I wanted within budget, I plumped for the Club Sandwich (£6.95), a side of chips (£3.50) and a pint of Wild River (£4.75).
Chowing down on this perfectly-standard fare, I tried to sum up the area to two other friends who had come to meet us. A misnomer, I said. The whole area is littered with names that sound fancy and enticing: Montpellier Park, Ritz Plaza, Lakeside Drive, Park Royal and Royal Waterside. Each one was a misnomer. Park Royal, for example, is in fact a large industrial estate where one third of all the food eaten in London is produced. I feel very sorry for the tourists who book a hotel with beautiful views of the ‘Royal Park’.
So, it can’t all be rainbows and gold; there are some parts of London that are just not that exciting. Unless you have a predilection for truck-spotting and grassy-nothingness.
Total cost: £17.60
Time: 3 hours