Kensal Rise and Kensal Green
In the last decade there have been changes here that have altered the dynamic of the area. The Irish pubs have gone (except one – Maggie’s), the estate agents have moved in and Tesco has planted its foot on Station Parade. A good or bad thing? We were here in the last century and have watched the changes.
They have been for the better. The impassive façade of John Nodes, Funeral Directors, still stands firm across Chamberlayne Road, but the local sandwiches are now in a different league – avocado, French cheeses, the list goes on.
There are butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers, charity shops, corner shops, cobblers, dry cleaners, florists and Warwick Estate Agents. It’s all here, thriving around the nexus of Station |Parade.
The Victorian villas lining the avenues have stood the test of time, with period rooms and gardens, while further north there are ‘30s family houses once owned by All Soul’s College in Oxford. To the south is the extraordinary Kensal Cemetery, a rival to Highgate.
Developers hunt for sites to build state of the art apartments to cope with the demands from south of the Harrow Road, but there are few such sites left. It’s all protected. The character of Kensal is resilient, while accommodating the new. This a neighbourhood, and one that is alive.
Two schools stand out, not just here but in London. Princess Frederica C of E Primary is rated as ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ by Ofsted, while Capital City Academy, next to the sports grounds and health club, is as high tech as it gets. Transport is good, with excellent buses, Kensal Green (Bakerloo) and the overland from Kensal Rise.
The Queen’s Park, named for Queen Victoria, is a verdant enclave between Chamberlayne Road and Salusbury Road that is a magnet for residents in the area.
The café there is probably as sophisticated as in any London Park, though the animal sanctuary, with its saturnine goats, playground, woodland and impromptu football games preserve a ready cosmopolitanism. There also tennis courts, a small golf course and a petanque pitch if you care for such things.
Either side of the park elegant small villas stretch west and east, built by Solomon Barnett between 1895 and 1900.
To the north are large family houses, relatively undiscovered, while to the south the area is bordered by the main West Coast railway line. In Salusbury Road there are eateries, bars and boutiques, quaintly at odds with the character of the area that not so long ago prevailed when it was less salubrious. They sit well together. There is also the police station, the library, a medical health centre, the whole together providing what the locals zealously describe as a village atmosphere.
Transport is served by Queen’s Park Underground (Bakerloo) and a number of buses immediately south that go to apparently unstrategic destinations. Perhaps that’s why Queen’s Park retains its individuality. Residents car permits are issued by Westminster Council to the east and Brent to the west.
Harlesden and Willesden Junction
As Notting Hill and the Portobello once was, so is Harlesden now. It has a rich Afro-Caribbean culture, dappled with Irish, Indian, Portugese and Brazilian, and has the essential qualities of vitality that so marked out W11.
We all know what happened in Notting Hill. The same is happening in Harlesden, already attracting young professionals who prefer not to afford Kensal Rise or Queen’s Park.
To the north and east stretch quiet Victorian cottages in avenues towards Willesden, and are already the target of those with foresight.
The architectural critic Tom Dyckhoff of The Guardian recently wrote:
"It is only a matter of time before this dusty corner becomes the Next Big Place."
There are good libraries, while Roundwood Park, Grade II Listed, is regarded as a gem by the locals. They would rather keep it quiet, but the circus comes once a year.
The local schools are rated ‘good’ by Ofsted – two primaries are Roman Catholic and C of E – while transport is soon to be revolutionised by the development of Willesden Junction to accommodate both Crossrail and the High Speed 2 link from the North. That too, apart from the shrewd attention of those with an eye for the Next Big Place, will have a significant effect on the area.
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