Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
Date : 18th November, 2020
Time : 51’ 53”
Number of runners (total to date) : 2 (7092)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5841259499
In 1901 Queen Victoria died and, in accordance with her wishes, the Metropolitan Borough of Kensington was granted royal status (she was born at Kensington Palace in the borough). In 1965 it was amalgamated with the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea and, hey presto, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was born.
Despite the combination, it is the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England. And also one of most amazing places to go for a run. Not because there are swathes of green or river banks that make for great running but because there is so much truly remarkable stuff packed into such a small space.
Darren and I started at the northern border of RBKC in the Kensal Green Cemetery* which is one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries and which was immortalised in a GK Chesterton poem “For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen; Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.”
I’m not sure we went to Paradise from the cemetery. In fact I think we went to something closer to hell because we went south down Ladbroke Grove, over our old friend the Grand Union Canal
under the Westway and turned west at Ladbroke Grove tube towards Grenfell Tower.
Anyone who lives in London will remember the terrible events of June 2017 when a fire broke out in the Grenfell Tower block of flats.** 72 people died – the worst residential fire in the UK since WWII. The remains of the tower are still standing along with a very moving memorial wall.
From Grenfell we went east through carnival territory
to Portobello Road which, in normal times, hosts the famous Portobello Road market before heading south and west through Notting Hill to Debenham House on Addison Road.
I’d never heard of Debenham House but, as D said, it’s a great example of the unexpected and bizarrely brilliant things that sometimes seem like they’re round every corner in central London. Built for Ernest Debenham, who was responsible for expanding and then selling out of the eponymous business, it’s a Grade 1 listed Arts & Craft property with an Italianate exterior (or so Wikipedia tells me.)
The route then went through Holland Park, along Kensington High Street to Kensington Palace.
A place I can never go past without recalling Princess Diana’s death. It was one of those events where you remember where you were when you first heard about it (in my case, coming out of a club in Kings Cross at 4 in the morning).
Whatever you felt about Diana, the subsequent outpouring of grief was extraordinary – both in the UK and worldwide with an estimated 2.5 billion people watching her funeral. I can still remember the resulting sea of flowers outside Kensington Palace.
Leaving Kensington Palace and Diana memories behind, we headed south for the National History Museum with its 80 million plus exhibits and 5 million plus annual visitors including yours truly for one memorable dot com Christmas party….
And, yes, we did walk past Dippy the Diplodocus*** on the way into the party.
On to the Science Museum and then the Victoria and Albert Museum or V&A as it’s known – the world’s largest museum of design and applied and decorative arts.
A quick detour via Michelin House
before the finish at Harrods which should, at that time of the year (mid-November), have been ablaze with fairy tale Christmas lights. Instead, thanks to COVID and the lockdown, it was closed and looking a little drab behind hoardings.
Never mind, Harvey Nicks had a more positive message on display. (At least it seemed positive when I took the photo. At the time I didn’t know 2021 would see a new ultra transmissible COVID mutation sweeping the country ; rioters in the Capitol ; and Spurs dropping from first to fifth in the Premier League..)
There’s a lot of RBKC we didn’t get to but hopefully this blog will have given you a sense of why it really is one of the most exceptional places in the world to go for a run. Or a walk. Or a bike ride. Whatever. Go and explore!
*Kensal Green Cemetery is a cemetery in the Kensal Green area of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. Inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, it was founded by the barrister George Frederick Carden. The cemetery opened in 1833 and comprises 72 acres of grounds, including two conservation areas, adjoining a canal. The cemetery is home to at least 33 species of bird and other wildlife. This distinctive cemetery has memorials ranging from large mausoleums housing the rich and famous to many distinctive smaller graves and includes special areas dedicated to the very young. It has three chapels, and serves all faiths. It is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London.
The cemetery was immortalised in the lines of G. K. Chesterton‘s poem “The Rolling English Road” from his book The Flying Inn: “For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen; Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.”
On 14 June 2017, a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats in North Kensington, West London, at 00:54 BST; it caused 72 deaths, including those of two victims who later died in hospital. More than 70 others were injured and 223 people escaped. It was the deadliest structural fire in the United Kingdom since the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster and the worst UK residential fire since the Second World War.
The fire was started by a malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor.[note 1] It spread rapidly up the building’s exterior, bringing fire and smoke to all the residential floors. This was due to the building’s cladding, the external insulation and the air gap between which enabled the stack effect. The fire burned for about 60 hours before finally being extinguished. More than 250 London Fire Brigade firefighters and 70 fire engines were involved from stations across London in efforts to control the fire, and rescue residents. More than 100 London Ambulance Service crews on at least 20 ambulances attended, joined by specialist paramedics from the Ambulance Service’s Hazardous Area Response Team. The Metropolitan Police and London’s Air Ambulance also assisted the rescue effort.
***By Drow male – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4933219
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A little bit of background. I’m currently undertaking a challenge – Run the World – to complete a 10km run in all 206 countries in the world. (I’ve run in 183 countries to date.) I’m doing the challenge to raise funds for Cancer Research and to promote the importance of an active healthy lifestyle.
In addition to completing a 10km run in all 206 countries in the world, I’m also doing 44 runs in the UK. Taking the global total to 250 runs.
Why? Because 250 runs is equivalent to running 2 500 000 metres. Which is a metre for every one of the two and a half million cancer sufferers in the UK.
All well and good but the question we asked ourselves at Run the World HQ is : where should those 44 UK runs take place? And part of the answer – three-quarters to be exact – is that 33 of them will take place in London. One in each of the 32 London boroughs plus one in the City of London.
We’re calling this the ‘London Borough Challenge’ and I’m hoping to run with as many people – and social running groups and crews and clubs –as possible!