Park of the Week: Harrington Square Gardens

London, for such a large and sprawling metropolis is extremely well endowed with green space. A map of London looks like an irregular patchwork quilt with parks, gardens and open spaces of all shapes and sizes. I, for one, have no idea the exact number or relative virtues of each, so, in the search for enlightenment, I have set myself the task of visiting a park each week and documenting what I find. For the first week, in a rather understated start, is Harrington Square Gardens.

I would like to say my choice of park wasn’t motivated by the apocalyptically heavy rain that ushered in 2017, but, frankly it was. I have to admit to a rather fleeting visit, inspired at least partially by the intensely quizzical expressions from those passing by, and the fact that I could substantially dry off if I were to take a dip in the Regent’s Canal, thankfully, however, the park is very small, so I think my exploration of it was satisfactory to pass judgement.

Located a stone’s throw from Mornington Crescent tube station, Harrington Square Gardens is very modest. To give it the title ‘Gardens’ is a perhaps an overstatement, admittedly it does have trees, grass and even a few benches, but these are surely the very base qualifications that a garden must possess.

The park itself houses a circular pathway centering on an undersized Christmas tree. Whether the tree was planted as an afterthought for Christmas just passed, or whether they’re playing the long game for a Christmas yet to come is unclear, but that is undoubtedly the focal point. It is fairly difficult to attain a favourable view of a park in a dress rehearsal of the great flood, but I feel as though the Gardens are sorely underappreciated, modest as they are, as I have honestly never seen another soul in there. I did see an advertisement for a BBQ, which is early, late or optimistic, but I hope it does at least indicate some regular patrons.

Slipping into Chocolat

 

A sea of patchwork fields; interspersed with meandering country lanes and accompanied by the distant roar of a tractor or perhaps a peal of church bells from the village below.

This is how I picture the area that I grew up in, which, for a long time, seemed impossibly boring. There wasn’t, as far as I can recall, a single event that even approached noteworthiness in all the time I lived there. Now, however, I can appreciate that this is no bad thing, and, on returning from London, my family home seemed like a bastion of unspoilt countryside rather than a monochromatic bore.

Several weeks previously, somebody had told me about a lake a few miles away at Fonthill where they had filmed part of the film ‘Chocolat’. I understand that this immediately contradicts my saying that nothing noteworthy ever happens in the area, however, I can assure you that this is completely out of character for my humble district and I met the news with disbelief. But, after some rudimentary research, it proved to be true. The river scenes from the film, for example when Johnny Depp’s character arrives in the village, were filmed there.

My journey began rather auspiciously. The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see from one end of a field to another, and, being a fairly cold morning, the normally bustling footpaths were deserted, which felt slightly eerie. I also quickly realised that the desert boots I had chosen, having left my walking boots in London, were deeply unsuitable for the muddy and uneven paths I was following and spent more of my time developing a rudimentary style of ice skating than I did actually walking.

Eventually, I made it to Fonthill Lake, and, after clumsily vaulting the stile, I followed the footpath that led around its edge.

My first thought was that I could see very little resemblance to the scene before me and the body of water depicted in the films. I quickly came to a fence that informed me that it was prohibited to continue any farther. Unperturbed, I turned and continued back the other way and was stunned. The view was spectacular, mist shrouded the trees around me, the lake stretched far off into the distance, and to my left a stream gurgled contentedly through perfectly green hillocks and sweeping trees. I am not in the least surprised that they chose to film here, as to me it looked like an ethereal paradise.

I couldn’t believe that such a beautiful spot could exist so close to where I had grown up, and what’s more it was completely deserted. Being totally alone is a luxury I had forgotten the value of until I moved to the city.

On my way back, I noticed what looked like an extremely oddly shaped bush on a hillside, which, upon closer inspection, happened to be a grotto upon which a tree was growing. I must admit it was quite a surreal sight, and I expected any moment to see a goblin poke his head out of the side, but, to my immense relief, it was deserted. After poking around inside, and smacking my head on a low hanging rock, I left with a considerably higher estimation of my local area.