HARRIET ROWLANDS is the founder and director of No Place Like Home (www.nplhome.co.uk), a property search company specialising in finding family homes in West London. She lives with her husband, James, a sculptor and fabricator, and her two young children, George (3) and Lottie (2).
‘WHY not move to Ealing?’ an old colleague of mine suggested when she knew that my husband and I were looking to buy our first family home.
Having lived in Kensington & Chelsea for more than 13 years, I felt I was moving into the middle of the countryside by comparison.
Historically, Ealing is where the well-to-do sought refuge from the smoke and smells of the city. It wasn’t until the 1850s, with improved travel, that villages began to grow into towns and merged into the residential areas that we now know as Ealing.
I had taught at Durston House School for the previous seven years and had cycled the same route from my flat in Holland Park to Ealing every day of every term.
As a single and (fairly) young woman, I had no desire to live in what I classed as the ‘outskirts’ of London. Almost always a degree colder than Central London, it felt like I was entering a town that really had little connection to our capital city at all. How very wrong I was.
As we were expecting our first child, my husband and I had planned to spend a day driving around pockets of West and South West London to decide where the next chapter of our lives was to begin.
A family member had mentioned Pitshanger Village, so we thought we would start our search there, purely to humour him more than anything else.
When we entered the area, we were met by a tree-lined road fringed with privet hedges and sprawling ceanothus, at the end of which was a cricket pitch with a match in full swing.
As we listened to the sounds of bat against ball and the gentle clapping of players and spectators, we felt we had found a little gem, so quintessentially English, tucked away in a corner of West London.
Needless to say, we never did drive to any other parts of London that day. We knew, without a shadow of a doubt, this was going to be home for us.
So, three weeks before we were expecting our first child, we moved to the conservation area of Brentham Garden Suburb in Pitshanger, a move that proved to be a great investment in every sense of the word.
Over the past three years I have grown to love everything that Ealing has to offer.
All of its many segments – Pitshanger, Northfields, South Ealing, Ealing Common to name a few - have a community feel I never thought was possible to experience in London. We really do know our neighbours and, in my experience, this is certainly a rarity in more central parts of London, where anonymity is implicit in city life.
I now live a stone’s throw away from Pitshanger Lane, which boasts an independent butcher, fishmonger, bookshop, bakery, a hugely inviting village pub and many warm and welcoming coffee shops.
There is always a friendly face to be seen, someone waving from across the road or stopping for a chat.
If this isn’t enough, Pitshanger Park is the perfect place for dog walking, pram pushing, tennis playing and soon we will be able to sip coffee and enjoy a bite to eat in the much anticipated café.
With the knowledge that Dickens Yard, which is scheduled for completion in 2016, is set to revolutionise the shopping experience in Ealing, and the arrival of Crossrail in 2019, meaning that the journey time from Ealing Broadway to Liverpool Street will be cut to only 18 minutes, I am happily convinced this is the place to be.
After all, what did they nickname Ealing in the 1850s? Ah yes, the Queen of the Suburbs.