Heathrow Villages – History on your doorstep

With the sun shining brightly this morning, I decided to show my wife around some of the landmarks in Heathrow Villages

With the ongoing fight against the new runway and the rubbish and pothole issues that are frequently highlighted by our representatives in The Villages, it is good to highlight some of the positive aspects of life in the area and to take some time to look around the sites of historic interest that Heathrow Expansion would blight

The Great Barn, Harmondsworth

Great Barn internal shotReferred to as ‘The Cathedral of Middlesex’, the Barn was constructed in the 16th century and was still a working building up until the late 1970’s.

Restored by English Heritage in conjunction with The Friends of the Great Barn, it was re-opened to the public in April and can now be viewed on the second and fourth Sunday of each month between April and October.

Situated behind the historic St Mary’s Church, my wife and I were treated to a tour by local expert Justine Bayley, who pointed out a number of facts about both the building and it’s reconstruction that highlighted the level of craftsmanship that has enabled the structure to survive for centuries with hopefully many more to come.

For more details on The Barn please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/harmondsworth-barn/

The next days available to view are 14th and 28th June



The Barnes Wallis memorial

Barnes Wallis memorial

Just around the corner from The Great Barn is the relatively recent memorial to the famous inventor Barnes Wallis, who developed the revolutionary ‘bouncing bomb’ that RAF Lancasters of 617 squadron used to destroy the Ruhr dams in 1943. The leader of the raid, Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, was one of my boyhood heroes so it was good to see the architect of the raid remembered in this way. Barnes Wallis had previously designed the Wellington bomber, the mainstay of RAF Bomber Command in the early years of World War 2 and went on to play a key role in the development of the Tallboy and Grand Slam weapons that were used to sink the battleship Tirpitz and wreck well fortified underground weapons factories in Germany respectively.

The immaculate state of the memorial is a tribute to local resident Armelle Thomas, who was instrumental in its construction and spends time making sure it is always well kept.

Cranford Park

Cranford Country park sign

Cranford Park is a haven for wildlife and one of the prettiest walks in Hillingdon. Amongst the numerous plant and insect life, the park is also home to such birds as the Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Nuthatch along with birds of prey such as the Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

We kept to the pathways whilst visiting in order to not disturb the nests of the Skylarks, which they build on the ground and are very busy at this time of year.

A number of them were noticeable in the air with their distinctive calls, drowned out only by the noise of the Greater Airbus and Boeing that were in evidence on the flightpath in to Heathrow on a regular basis!

Heathrow Villages have been local communities for centuries, with settlements at the ground where the park now sits dating back to The Bronze Age. Seeing the beauty and the history today makes me more convinced than ever that a Third Runway at Heathrow must be stopped to preserve the area for many generations yet to come.


The Ryder Cup opening ceremony

Today marked the first day of the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament, where the cream of the USA takes on the top European players.

The opening ceremony was apparently a quite emotional affair, as commented on by my English Democrat colleague Fred Bishop. His evaluation follows…..

Ryder Cup

It was great to see the people of Wales use the Ryder cup to celebrate and promote their nation to an audience of 600 million. My only sadness was the realisation that England is denied the same opportunity. It was so hurtful to have to endure the sight of a small country of less than 4 million represented and promoted by their own first minister whilst England alone is without representation.

It must be very rewarding to be able to celebrate national pride and lustily sing your own national anthem. There is only one country that cannot because there is no anthem and national pride is crushed as it may offend those that do have that privilege.

One day we may hear the strains of Jerusalem ringing out at English events, but I fear that it will only be after we have followed the example of Wales and Scotland by putting our own nationals in charge of our own country.

I didn’t hear either God Save the Queen or Britain mentioned once. Only England is in Britain and then it is mostly our ruling classes who seem to think that there is something in it for them.

A blaze of Welshness that only highlighted the position of England’s 50 million second class citizens.

It only helped highlight the fact that Britain ends at England’s borders.

Every instance like this only serves to embitter we English and that is the one positive thing that we English can draw from exhibitions like this.

The Welsh first minister’s first words were in his native welsh tongue to inspire his fellow Welshmen our English MP’s can’t even bring themselves to mention the name of their country. It is ‘Britain’, ‘our country’ or ‘the regions’.

One has to ask why we bother with Britain when you consider that England is the only member. Why not scrap Britain rather than scrap England?

England is represented by British politicians who consider themselves ‘Anything But English’.

Strong words from Fred, but you have to ask yourself – If it is ‘patriotic’ to be Welsh, Scottish or an Ulsterman, then why do our ruling elite regard expressing your Englishness such a sin? Maybe Mr Cameron could answer, but he ‘has a lot of Scottish Blood running in these veins’.

English Culture – Alive and kicking

We have many traditions in this country that are still respected around the world. Talk to tourists in London, and they flock to our Royal palaces, classic museums, landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, the list goes on.

Along with my English Democrat colleague, Ben Weald, we decided to leaflet outside the Albert Hall on Last Night of the Proms recently – After all, what better than the strains of Elgar to inspire a feeling of patriotism?

Much to our surprise, rather than a crowd arriving purely of English, Scots and Welsh, we were confronted with a mixed audience comprising people from our own island, Germans, Scandinavians and Japanese! A German couple that I spoke with said that they were really looking forward to sampling the atmosphere, whilst clutching a Union Jack!

We tend to overlook or take for granted the rich history of our country. I was impressed that our continental cousins wanted to learn more about our traditions, and soak in our culture. What a difference to our national leaders, who try to downplay our status in the world, rubbish our customs in the name of ‘multiculturalism’ and rush like lemmings to give away what little sovereignty we have left to unelected Brussels Eurocrats.

Standing outside this fine old building, steeped in the history of our land, I allowed myself a little smile – Whatever our Politicians try to push upon us at home, the culture of England is still with us, and respected overseas. We just need a little nudge sometimes to remember what a proud old nation we live in.

Retirement of a Hero

I read with sadness the announcment yesterday that Andrew Flintoff is retiring from cricket due to losing his ongoing battle with injury. ‘Freddie’ was a world class talent, a larger than life character, and a great advert for English Cricket.

True, he did have his run-in’s with authority, and the odd fall from grace such as the ‘pedalo’ incident during the World Cup in the Caribbean. But most people touched with genius also have a few flaws somewhere, and his achievements on the pitch and his fierce competitive streak surely outweighed the occasional error of judgement.

Fred is one of an elite band of English cricketers to have registered two Ashes victories over Australia, no mean feat.The second series victory must have been even more special after the 5-0 series whitewash inflicted by the Old Enemy in the previous series down under, a series where he stood in as captain for the injured Michael Vaughan.

The highlights of his career are many – The Ashes series of 2005, his 5 wicket haul at Lords against the Aussies in 2009 when he was clearly injured but his spirit would not let him stop, the caring side when he stopped to console a distraught Brett Lee when the player was in pieces at his side’s defeat by England – A lesser man would not have noticed whilst enjoying the cheers of the home crowd.

Strangely enough, my own personal favourite moment and the one that is etched in my memory is not one of his duels with the Aussies, but a much more downplayed series against South Africa in 2003. England were staring defeat in the face at Lord’s when Flintoff came out to bat. Playing with carefree abandon, Fred smashed 142 off of 112 balls, with 5 sixes and 18 fours. One over in particular was stunning, facing the immensely talented fast bowler Makhaya Ntini. The first two balls that came down were swatted in to the pavilion for huge sixes, followed by two more boundaries. On the final ball of the over, Freddie lined up to hit a huge six, but instead shattered his bat as he struck the ball! Ntini, having been so savagely treated, broke in to a huge smile and raised his arms in mock triumph, laughing.

Truly a special memory of a special player – So long Fred, and thanks for the memories…