Sunday 30 October 2016

The Autumn glory of a Brent council estate

There are many stereotypes surrounding council estates and impressed by the beauty of the King's Drive/Pilgrims Way estate in Wembley I thought I would share some pictures with you that will perhaps challenge the stereotype and show that social housing estates can be beautiful.

The estate is in a corner of what is now Fryent Country park and is built on part of a larger site on which prefabs (temporary housing for bombed out families) were built by German prisoners of war in 1946-7.  The majority of the housing is still rented or lease holder with some private after the council right-to-buy of the Thatcher era.

A claim to fame is that Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts lived on the estate and was expelled from his home to practise his drumming in the surrounding fields. Follow these links for more LINK LINK LINK

Accounts of the time speak of the 200 or so prefab children who used to play in what seemed like countryside surrounding the prefabs and today it is still a wonderful rare place for children to be able to play out safely with their friends.  They can have adventures, play hide and seek and pick blackberries just 15 minutes walk from Wembley Stadium.

Built on a gentle slope which goes down to Fryent Way with Barn Hill to the north the estate benefits from the retention of many mature trees when the prefabs were replaced with blocks of flats and staggered terraced housing in the 80s.

The trees enhance the estate not just with their beauty but as a habitat for birds and mopping up air pollution, screening traffic noise and providing cool in the hottest of summers. I always notice a difference when I get home after a hot and dusty day in Central London.

Some of the trees, particularly the flowering cherries, are at the end of their lifetime and I do hope that Brent Housing Partnership will replace them to preserve the estate's beauty. Another problem is that Veolia, the council's Public Realm contractor, has a habit of taking a chainsaw to shrubs and,  irrespective of their natural shape, reducing them to cuboids or spheres sheering off buds or berries.

I have posted a gallery of pictures below which I hope illustrate the power of trees to enhance a semi-urban landscape:


Philip Grant said...

An excellent gallery of photos to show the importance of trees in creating a good living environment, Martin.

Thank you, also, for the link to Peter Dewrance's blog article, which I had not seen before. One of these days I hope to find time to pull together all the material I have on post-war prefabs in Wembley and Willesden into an illustrated talk!


Martin Francis said...

Thanks Philip. I was interested to see this:

Peter Dewrance said...

Glad you could link to my article on prefab lfe in Pilgrims Way. I did not realise that the site has been developed in this way - it looks great. Must visit!

Martin Francis said...

If you do visit please get in touch it would be good to hear about the old days here.