London: Muswell Hill


After a long overseas flight, it’s wonderful to have family welcome us into their home and let us gradually acclimate to the new surroundings. As I mentioned before, our middle daughter, British son-in-law and their two little girls are presently living in London. They are renting a terraced flat, as I think it’s called, in the north London suburb of Muswell Hill. It’s a very old and interesting area on a hill with narrow sloping winding streets, some of which have a great view over central London. On a clear day higher up this street, we could see the tops of the highrises of Canary Wharf. It’s a very high density but pleasant neighbourhood popular with young families, close to many shops nearby. The area is not as posh as some think, for it is showing it’s age and the wear and tear by the dense population, many of whom are renters.


Like so many areas of London, Muswell Hill consists of large old homes full of interesting architectural details in the doors, trims and chimney pots, but which decades ago have been converted into flats. This one is a narrow three level unit with a small garden at the back. We were very surprised at how many cars, small ones certainly, were parked on both sides of the street pointing in both directions (something that’s illegal here in Vancouver) while barely leaving enough room for a single lane of traffic. Yet most of them are rarely driven except on weekends while the owners used the excellent bus and tube service for commuting. Sidewalks are uneven and narrow, with small trees planted on them and front yard shrubbery hanging over. It’s all quaint, pretty and historic, so different from our wide open modern suburban sprawl in North America!


It was great to spend the first day relaxing with the family and getting to know the neighbourhood and to go to nearby Highgate Park, so freshly green and serene compared to the busy streets. The girls rode bike and scooter around, including in the very nice children’s playground area. Interesting for me was to see a sign noting an area that was the site of very ancient burial mounds (below).


Another interesting observation: because there are few side yards for access to the back gardens, there were renovators and gardeners in some houses actually hauling mud THROUGH the houses to the front, sometimes via elaborate board walks through windows! One day our daughter had bags of manure delivered, which husband and son-in-law had to carry through the house to the back garden!

(By the way, I should mention two things regarding this series of posts about our trip. First, with some hesitation, I’ve made a new category called “Travel” into which to group these, the hesitation because I have older posts on some of our travels which have been shorter and closer to home but I feel it’s confusing and too laborious to go back and incorporate them into this new category. Secondly, many if not most of the photos I’m going to display have been taken by my husband, I was lazy.)

May 29th: Added the link for Highgate Park or Wood above – interesting – I keep learning more about the places we’ve been to!

May 28, 2009 in Culture, Travel by Marja-Leena