Chigwell (and areas nearby)

Central line punches through a big chunk of London. At the north-east end it splits into two branches: the main line, and a fascinating curved loop. The village of Chigwell is at the north end of this loop.

Technically the place is not in London. Coming from London, if you find yourself in Chigwell, you've crossed the border of Essex about 2 km earlier.

One of the first things welcoming a visitor near the tube station is a plant nursery. A large one at that. An omen, promising affordable land prices, but one that soon proves to be a lie.

The buildings in Chigwell are a happily mixed bunch. They range from imitation colonial style to classic, almost idyllic British cottages. They seem to range from quite old to very recent but for some reason the overall style is never too much unlike everything else nearby. The happiest finding was that there is very little feeling of picket fences. Lion's share of the houses are quite individual, and it is very rare for more than 4 buildings in a row to share an identical mold.

Somewhat related to this is the proliferation of "Hands off Chigwell" campaign posters on windows. At first one can't really understand why the locals would oppose the addition of 1200 new houses. But then the realisation sinks in: almost all the houses in and around the village are obviously results of individual builders doing what they have felt was appropriate. A mega-constructor, building 1200 houses all at once, could not help but carpet-bomb the entire region with practically identical, soulless constructs.

That could well ruin the identity of Chigwell.

A short walk due east, one encounters a small village of Grange Hill.

Grange Hill

There is a quirky division in how houses look in Grange Hill. The lots next to tube station are all generally clean and appear comfortable. Same applies to the buildings inside the Central Line arc.

But go just few hundred meters outside the region cordoned by the tube, and the look changes. Where one expects to see a variety of houses, they are suddenly surprised by collection of all too similar, crunched-up looking locations. Almost like a baby Titan had laid out his toys just to see how many duplicates there were. In a neighourhood otherwise so charming, a sudden spasm of unvitingness is even more striking thanks to the incidental contrast.

On a very positive note the cars in and around Grange Hill show a welcome lack of lavishness. At least people are not paying more for their rides than their homes.