I have reached Uxbridge town centre in time for a lunch stop (12:20). (Thanks to Costa for having wifi. Good coffee and muffins too.)
It was a mixed morning all along the lonely western edge of the county: up across the scoured moor (pouring with rain) between the great reservoirs and through the undeveloped, threatened places around Heathrow; then along the boundary fence of the monstrous airport itself. It is funny to think this was once a hamlet of a few houses called “Heath Row”, and that the corridor in heart of the airport still follows the hamlet’s main lane.
Then the route led me through Harmondsworth, a village which the airport’s owners want to demolish to expand their shop. I expect it is revenge for being forced to sell Gatwick by the monopolies commission. I passed the mediæval church and just out of sight of the mediæval Great Barn (“the Cathedral of Middlesex”), along an ancient footpath, all under threat. Then north of the doomed community I reached the M4 – there is a footbridge across it – to West Drayton, and immediately entered the edge of an unbroken metropolitan sprawl which reaches from here to Essex.
It looks unpromising to the east, and the tearing motorway concrete bodes ill, but in fact there are big green spaces there; the Middlesex meadows fighting against blind, bland urbanity even on the track of the road; sports fields and the lands still free around Heston, and the magnificent Osterley Park, and if Heston is now known for a concrete service station selling plastic-wrapped food, it was once a village famed for cherry-topped buns celebrated even beyond the county. I shall indulge in more fruit buns as I go, in their honour.
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