The local council have recently published a useful leaflet describing a self-guided historic walk around Ealing. You can pick it up in many of the local shops (I spotted it at my hairdresser’s). The walk should take about one and a half hours to complete (more of course if you stop for refreshments at one of the several good hostelries passed en route) and takes in several of the sights I’ve described in my Things to Do tips, including Haven Green, the Ealing Film Studios, and Walpole and Lammas Parks. There are brief descriptions of all the sights and some interesting old photos of many of them. There is also an overview of the Borough’s history, from the first Stone and Iron Age settlements through the major expansion of Victorian times, to redevelopments in the late twentieth century and plans for more change in the immediate future. Well worth picking up if you’re in the area for a few days.
- Historical Travel
To the east of Ealing Broadway is the leafy green space of Ealing Common. Although bounded to the north and east by very busy roads, the common is large enough to offer a popular and peaceful spot for family picnics, ball games, dog walking and other outdoor activities. It has several avenues of large trees, and is particularly attractive in the late Spring, when the many horse chestnut trees are in bloom, and again in the autumn when the leaves are often very colourful.
A fun fair usually visits here a couple of times a year but for the rest of the time it is peaceful and uneventful. There is a good pub (the Grange) in the south west corner, and the local council website describes a walk around the perimeter of the common.
Enjoy the wildlife in Lammas Park
South and west of Walpole Park, and almost adjoining it, is the slightly smaller Lammas Park.
The name derives from the term “Lammas lands”, which were used for grazing cattle in mediaeval times. Much of the park consists of large areas of grass, dotted with some lovely mature trees. You can play ball games (though the ground is uneven and sloping in places), enjoy a picnic or relax with a good book. The path that encircles the park is popular with joggers – the loop is about one mile. Other recreational facilities here include a bowling green, croquet pitch, and tennis courts – and there are more tennis courts and a nature area in a sort of off-shoot of the park across Culmington Road. There is also a good-sized children's playground and a play-centre. On the southern side is a beautiful avenue of chestnut trees, and some flower beds that are usually colourfully planted.
You’ll almost certainly see squirrels in the park, and many birds – the usual species such as blackbird, wood pigeon, starling, magpie (increasingly populating our cities), robin and more. Look out too for the flock of parakeets that has lived around here for the last few years, bringing a touch of exoticism to this typical suburban park.
Enjoy Walpole Park
This lovely park is laid out on land that once belonged to Pitzhanger Manor (see my separate tip). Its association with the manor house, and its former owner Sir John Soane, means that today the park is on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. In its north eastern part Soane’s ornamental garden still forms the basis, with a pretty pond surrounded by flowering shrubs (and home to cute ducklings every Spring), an old stone bridge and some beautiful old cedars on the lawns next to the house. The pond is designed to look like a stream and has been here since before the time of Sir John Soane. It is thought that when he owned the property this pond was much deeper, as he is known to have fished here with his friend William Turner (the artist).
The rest of the park is given over mainly to large expanses of green grass, popular with ball and Frisbee players, kite flyers and picnickers. The paths are edged with shady trees, many of them large and quite old, but others new (replacing ones that were lost in the so-called Great Storm of October 1987). There is a well-equipped children’s play area, and a small animal rescue centre, the London Wildcare Field Centre, which rehabilitates injured urban animals such as foxes and birds. There’s a small entrance fee for this (50p last time I checked) which goes towards the care of the animals.
Every summer Walpole Park hosts a festival of jazz and comedy. We have lived in Ealing for 27 years, and every summer we say “We must go to the Comedy Festival” and have never yet done so! I’ll make a special effort to go this year and update this tip when I have.
Pay homage at the Ealing Film Studios
Mention Ealing to most English people of a certain age, and they will think of the Ealing Film Studios. These claim to be the oldest in the world, having been established in 1902, but they are best known for the incredible period of success from the late 1930s to the end of the 1950s. This golden age, with Michael Balcon as Head of Production, produced what became known collectively as the “Ealing comedies” including Kind Hearts and Coronets, Passport to Pimlico, The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob.
The BBC bought the Studios in 1959 and they spent the next 20 years creating television productions from Ealing Studios such as Colditz, The Singing Detective and Fortunes of War. Many Ealing locations were used for BBC productions, ranging from Doctor Who to Monty Python's Flying Circus. In 2000 the studios reverted to private ownership and are again being used for movie production, including Notting Hill, The Importance of Being Earnest and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The latest film to be made here is St Trinian's in which some locations in Ealing can apparently be spotted. I haven’t seen this but it’s a remake of a classic film that I loved as a teenager, so I plan to catch it on DVD and play “spot the location”!
Unfortunately the studios aren’t open to the public but they’re a must-see for any film buff even if you can only look at the outside and the famous sign.
- Arts and Culture
Relax on Haven Green
If you arrive in Ealing by train, the first sight that will greet you on exiting the station is Haven Green, one of two such spots in the town centre (the other is Ealing Green, a little to the south). This is a bit of a transport hub, with most of the buses arriving and departing from here, but it is also a lovely patch of green in the middle of the shopping centre and helps to substantiate Ealing’s claim to be one of the greenest and leafiest of London’s 33 boroughs. In the summer it’s a popular spot to relax for a short while – shoppers pause for a break, office and shop workers eat their lunches, children run around or play ball games (the latter is not really recommended though because of the roads that cross the Green).
THE FAMOUS EALING STUDIOS
Ealing studios where the great british comedy films of the fifties were made. Ever heard of Sir Alec Guiness? ..NO? where have you been !!!! This is where his great career was established. Such classics as Passport to Pimlico (1949) and The Lavender hill mob (1951) were made at Ealing.
Jazz and comedy Festival
Every year arround the end of July begining of August, Walpole Park hosts the Ealing Jazz and Comedy Festival. Which showcases both up and comming acts as well as established and well known artist and performers.
The jazz festival starts off the the festival and is free to watch and is also a very laid back afair and the best way to enjoy is on a blanket with friends a couple of drinks.
The comedy festival finshes off the festival and ticket prices are very reasionalbe with notible preformers in the past years.
Also during the festival many local pubs and bars also have live music / comedy.