The Challenge of Management

Saturday 27th June 2020

Incognito visits are important. Elevation must never equal remoteness. Those at the top have to know what’s going on below. Sometimes the only way is to mount a wheeled pedal machine and mingle. Royston King and I have paid visits to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regents Park and Hampstead Heath (for comparison), thus equipped. Nobody knew who we were – or rather who he is. A Trustee of the Royal Parks. There’s to be huge re-arrangement of traffic around Buckingham Palace, but that wasn’t our mission on these visits. Our challenge was Cycle Paths. ‘This isn’t a cycle path,’ Royston hailed a number of off-piste cyclists who sailed on. We were looking at signage which is often faded or peters out. My idea is that somehow it’s got to be made clear that there is only one cycle path through Hyde Park, from the Decimus Burton screen at Hyde Park Corner straight up to West Carriage Drive, where it rather awkwardly connects with the one cutting through Kensington Gardens to Kensington Palace. If it were understood that otherwise there is no cycling perhaps it might be better. But it’s not easy to convey the message. Bossy notices everywhere are disfiguring. Royston didn’t approve of the ones that have been put up temporarily saying, ‘This is a Royal Park not a toilet’. He doesn’t think this is how visitors to a Royal Park should be addressed.

Royston favours enforcement. What are the Parks Police doing? Nobody will take any notice of any regulation unless it is enforced.

We went up to Hampstead Heath which is not a Royal Park. We first of all toured on the west side where I’ve never been before. Quite extraordinary. Thickly wooded, with clearings. In the thicker woods, a larger number of lone gentlemen that statistics might have laid down for our guidance were walking but rather obviously not going anywhere. One part of this section is old gravel pits, now an eerie many-branched wood where branches writhe in the shadows, tormented possibly that they can’t be heard or get out. Underneath, the forest floor, is bare. It was there that a neurasthenic American woman in need of a square meal (don’t say ‘meal), flapping like a trapped bird, squawked at us that it was No Cycling. We got off our cycles at once but on she squawked. Royston got annoyed. We encountered her later on the edge of the wood by the road still squawking. This time the cyclist said, ‘Who are you?’, then, ‘It belongs to everybody’ – all this without stopping on his cycle at all. ‘Not true,’ said Royston. ‘The Heath belongs to the City of London.’ I lingered to have a little snobbish conversation with the American woman about who Royston actually is and how we were visiting quietly precisely for the purpose of reviewing Cycling Path Policy in the Royal Parks. You’d have thought she’d have dropped to the floor. Royston was signalling impatiently from further away by a bramble bush. He didn’t want that woman talked to.

He showed me another hidden corner of private houses on the left side of Kenwood Road. So much history. The gravel pits have history. The Heath was nearly built over there. We crossed over onto the Kenwood side. First of all the dairy where Dido Bello, the black great-niece of the Earl of Mansfield, supervised the dairy work. Royston had been involved in its restoration. There was something about the colour chosen… then on through enclosures to Kenwood House itself. At this time the Heath is taken over, and every secluded corner is occupied by youths with ghetto blasters. An unbelievable racket was coming out of a rhododendron. When we got there it was just three youths and no ghetto blaster. How do they do it?

We were perturbed by the state of Kenwood House, only restored at vast expense a few years ago, now with paint peeling and wooden sills rotting. Why aren’t they maintaining? Royston said they’ll probably let it all go then some grandees on the committee can seek another £35 million for works and that will be their legacy.

Otherwise, Hampstead Heath really is incredible. The central vale, the ravine, could be the wildest Yorkshire moors. Quite untamed. I’ve got been there for years. Then corners more manicured, with lawns, statues and specimen trees. Strange billionaire mansions to be glimpsed through fences, another world of tennis courts, swimming pools, statuary and a Georgian mansion. ‘What road is this one on?’ I kept asking Royston. ‘It’s not on any road,’ he said. How do you get in then? We descended to a row of Deco residences in a private road full of walkers then back onto the Heath by the ponds. Massive works there, Royston said, to stop them descending onto Kentish Town below. £50 million easily. Finally we racked down to the corner by the Royal Free Hospital and ended outside Keats’ house in Keats Grove.

The Former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

The Former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

Writhing Branches in the former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

Writhing Branches in the former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

The Dairy at Kenwood where

The Dairy at Kenwood where Dido Bello Supervised 

Kenwood: I'd Forgotten how Fancied and Doll-House Like the Facade is

Kenwood: I’d Forgotten how Fancied and Doll-House Like the Facade is

Kenwood: No Maintenance. Only Restored a Few Years ago for £MMMM

Kenwood: No Maintenance. Only Restored a Few Years ago for £MMMM

Posted Saturday, June 27, 2020 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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