16 February 2010

Northolt In Bloom

West London covers a sprawling area, from the West End and Westminster, right the way out to Uxbridge in Middlesex, and parts of Surrey. For travellers to London, they often find the pace of much of London to be a little on the fast side, but as you go out to the West, you will find it slows down a little, becomes more green, and you will find many pleasant local communities.

West London includes many areas with points of interest, and here I will try to cover many of the great ones worth visiting.

Notting Hill

For a slice of some great night life, and some fabulous restaurants and shopping, Notting Hill, in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a lovely spot. It is the epicentre of the Notting Hill Carnival, which occurs once a year with music, food, decoration and dance.

In terms of drinking, I’d recommend The Champion, below for its wide selection of beverages, and for eating The Churchill Arms for it’s brilliant Thai Kitchen.

Encompassing Portabello Road, it has not only market stalls, but a collection of antique shops rivalled by few other places in the world. It is in this district of London you’d expect to buy an exquisite chandelier, or vintage statuettes. Another thing here are vintage record/CD shops, which buy and sell music, and tucked next to those are retro clothing shops. For even more shopping, you can walk from Notting Hill to High Street Kensington, where there specialist food stores, a few shopping centres, furniture stores, clothes shops and everything else.

Notting Hill is the home of the Israeli embassy as well as a number of other grand living places. Even Notting Hill Gate Station, at least on the District Line, has an air of Grandeur and Flair to it, with high vaulted glass ceilings, great arches and hanging globes for lighting.

It is a short walk from all of this cosmopolitan fun to Kensington Gardens - a corner of Hyde park, and Holland Park.

Notting Hill has also been used as the location for a few films, including the romantic comedy Notting Hill.

Nearest Tube Station: Notting Hill Gate - District, Circle and Central Lines.

The Churchill Arms

Arguably one of the great treasures of West London, this pub lies close to Notting Hill Gate station, nestled amid stunning antique and art shops. It is decked out with World War II memorabilia, and to the rear houses a rather good and well priced Thai restaurant, which is similarly decked out with hanging plants and baskets.

While the drinks are fairly standard for a Fullers Brewery Pub, the Thai Kitchen is highly recommended. Read below for more information.

The Champion, Notting Hill

This pub lies close to Notting Hill Gate station, and closer to the Notting Hill Gate of Kensington Gardens. It is a pub which specialises in having a broad beer selection, including blonde beers, kreiks & fruit beers, lambic beers, some great ciders, a large wine selection and ales.

It is set across two levels, with the basement level being a bit less busy than the upper level. It has traditional benches and tables, as well as more cosy lounge like furniture of sofas and chaise longues. The walls are adorned with paintings, originals - often for sale. There are also tables on the street outside, and a snug little back garden - making this a perfect summer pub.

The basement does not have its own bar, so you will need to go to the main level for drinks, but it is worth visiting because of how much quieter it can be than the rest of the pub.

It has a warm and busy atmosphere, mixing both locals and an office crowd. If you visit this pub, keep your eye open, and you may note celebrities and MP’s drinking here. Please don’t disturb them though - they are earned their drinking time like anyone else!

To add a bit of spice, they have live bands, DJ’s and open mic evenings.

The only thing I’d not recommend is the food. This is great for drinking, and simple bar snacks, but the meals are both pricey and disappointing.

Holland Park

This is a gem of a park that can be found between Olympia, Shepherds Bush, Notting Hill and High Street Kensington, putting it on the Central, Circle and District Lines. It has it’s own Tube Station, and has attractions like its Opera House, as well as being bordered by a selection of good places to eat and drink.

The park has a serene Japanese garden, balancing stillness and movement with ornate stones and Koi Carp. There are free roaming fowl including Peacocks, Moorhens and others, as well as Squirrels. You will find seasonal flower gardens, and enough long term forested areas to find bluebells in the right season.

There are occasional exhibitions, a little place to eat and drink, playparks for the kids, and cricket grounds.

To see photos and more detail, take a look at the link.

Wembley National Stadium

One area of West London that receives a great deal of attention is the new rebuilt Wembley Stadium. It is a truly magnificent building, and being residents of West London, we had the privilege of being some of the first to visit and see a couple of simple friendly football (Soccer) games there.

During the evening, its rather distinctive white lattice arch is visible across a great deal of West London. It is a landmark we are proud of.

Booking Cost: Depends on event and seating. Transport: Wembley Park - Jubilee Line (Silver Lines) and Metropolitan (Maroon Line). Website: http://www.wembleystadium.com/

As local residents we were invited to try out the stadium pre-opening, and found the seating roomy and well designed. I’d not plan on eating anything other than simple snacks though-n the food was quite dire.

BBC Television Centre, White City

Where to get free tickets to watch live BBC shows

BBC Television Centre

White City is the home of the BBC, with their Television Centre being the centre of the area, along with its lesser known Media Village buildings.

You can find tickets to join a studio audience on a show they are recording, or perhaps even live. BBC: Be In The Shows. These tickets are free! So if you are planning a visit to London, consider these as part of your plan.

You can also book BBC Tours of Television Centre, and other similarly iconic buildings that the BBC runs from.

Shopping In West London

West London has a number of pleasant shopping spots. They are also all easy to get to on the tube system.

Shopping in Hammersmith

Hammersmith Tube station (on the Piccadilly, District and Central Lines) shares a space with the Broadway Shopping Centre. While the centre itself is not at the scale of Westfield, it has a respectable number of smaller shops, and step outside onto King Street where you will find many more shops, including smaller specialist shops.

Hammersmith also hosts a Farmers Market in Lyric Square every Thursday, so time to top up on extra special cheeses, or organic fresh fruit and veg! There are lovely spots to eat, and I strongly advise to visit some of the pubs on the riverside for a pleasant drink.

Hammersmith also has entertainment, most infamously the Apollo.

Shopping in Ealing

Ealing Broadway first is home to the Broadway Shopping Centre (yes this is the same name as the Hammersmith one). It hosts a number of major brands, regular market stalls and performances in its open air middle, along with places to eat. Toys & Gadgets are well catered for with an Early Learning Centre and a few different Gadget shops.There is a row of Jewellers, there are sports shops, and clothes shops, including a large M & S with a number of departments. Leonidas Chocolates offers fantastic confectionery with plenty of luxurious varieties.

Coming out of this centre and there are many more shops - wedding shops (including cake specialists), hardware shop, music stores and clothes retailers. You will also find the Arcadia Shopping Centre, a smaller simpler spot with a large TK Maxx and a number of other shops.

For eating, you have a large choice of Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Italian restaurants as well as pub grub and fast food. My personal favourite is Chico Mexico, where I can enjoy the food with live music in the evenings.

The Westfield Shopping Centre

Shepherds Bush

The Westfield Shopping Centre, Shepherds Bush - Licensed under CC-SA from wikipedia.

This shopping centre in Shepherds Bush has so much going for it. Firstly it is a centre of fashion, with some of the greatest names concentrated there offering huge choice and variety. There are a selection of boutiques for food, gadgets, baby accessories and toys.

Also there is a huge selection of restaurants, cafe’s and bars to complement a day out, and a Cinema with large screens showing the latest films, including 3D ones.

It can be accessed via White City or Shepherds Bush Central stations on the Central Line, Wood Lane on the Hammersmith and City line, and also Shepherds Bush Overground on the Overground Line. If you are in London, this is worth a visit, and it is only a single stop from Holland Park too, making it part of a day out.

Website: http://uk.westfield.com/london/

Kew Bridge Steam Museum

  • Website: http://kbsm.org
  • Phone: +44 (0) 20 8568 4757
  • Nearest Public Transport: Kew Bridge Station (South West Trains).
  • Cost: £9.50 adults, £8.50 concessions and £3.50 for children (5-15).

The Kew Bridge Steam Museum is quite a unique spot, keeping amazing machines in good working condition and allowing the public to see them.

It is host to some of the largest steam machines I have ever seen, perhaps in the world - with the “100 inch” - so named because the cylinder is 100 inches in width. This machine has an 11 foot (that is 3.3 meters) stroke and a 32 ton beam. There is a”90”, similarly big. Both this engines were used for pumping water, and are occasionally turned, with the public able to observe them. They are not simply turned on, they have to be manually driven.

There are two other large engines for pumping water - all four of these you can observe from ground level, from the tops of the pistons and from the level of the beams. There are then a set of medium sized rotary engines, with large flywheels. Since the museum is on land previous owned byt he Metropolitan Water Board, there is a focus on engines used to pump water. These include a triple expansion engine - able to get energy 3 times from pressurised steam. Different engines in this room are started at different times of the day. A set of even smaller engines are displayed, those used in boats and other small mobile engines.

The Museum also has a working steam railway, which visitors are able to ride at no extra cost. This means experiencing the sound, and smells of real coal fired steam. Also there is a horse gin, and a number of other working manual water pumps - kids love to go and play with these. Beside one of the large cornish engines, there is a tiny steam engine that visitors are invited to try to drive with 3 levers - it is not a simulation, the pressure is real!

There are a number of diesel engines too. A permanent exhibition show the history of usage of water in the capital, with a collection of water suing household equipment since the victorian era, as well a pipework dating back from roman times.

A small cafe allows guests to sit back with a cup of tea, and offers both hot and cold food, as well as a selection of cakes and snacks.

The museum regularly attracts events, including model railway groups, Meccano days, and in 2011 will be hosting a huge Steampunk event - with a number of dates. The museum hosts a working forge, used by artists and sculptors, some of which is displayed at the entrance.

Kew Bridge Steam Museum also has a tranquil garden, from which the Steam train can be observed, where visitors can read about the history of the usage of the space for sand washing and sand filtering - once an essential part of cleaning the capitals water supply.

Close to this museum is a museum of music, which I’ve yet to visit, and a number of pleasant bars and places to eat.


The museum is a registered charity, and relies on ticket sales, donations and gift shop purchases to keep the machines running safely.


Northolt is a quiet town out west from London, it is a pleasant place to live, and has a beautiful country park, with the now iconic man made mounds, created using the rubble from the building of Westfield.

Northolt has fly overs from the Red Arrows occasionally, with otherwise quiet skies due to the RAF Northolt airfield nearby. It is also where I’ve spent a number of years living, so has obviously grown on me in that time.

Why Northolt Is Great

Another side to London

While West London is the place I chose to live and work in, it is not all fun and brightness, there are darker sides, and one particular evening in Shepherds Bush touched me quite deeply - seeing a woman both homeless and pregnant, and just at the time when my wife was also pregnant I had felt how daunting it may be to be in such a situation. When we returned home, I had to write on the subject…

Homeless and pregnant in London


Now I realise it is a sprawling description, some consider everything West of Big Ben to be part of it, but I am sure there are plenty of great gems, places to visit and things to do. I’ve only really scratched the surface with some personal favourites, and not even mentioned obvious attractions because some of the others are more interesting.