It may have taken many months, community clear ups (instigated by West Hampstead Life), and a number of meetings and site visits, but regular users of The Black Path, which links West End Lane and Broomsleigh/Ravenshaw Streets, can’t fail to have noticed the transformation that’s come about in the last few weeks with less foliage and now a brand new (and appropriately black) path.
Firstly, at the end of May, Network Rail sent a team bearing very big chainsaws down the path to finally deal with the extensive overgrowth both on their (ie the railway) side and on the fences belonging to the houses on the south side of Sumatra Road. The difference is huge – no more ducking to get under those tree branches! – but Network Rail have been clear this level of drastic clearance is a one-off from them.
It will take a while for things to grow back of course, but householders on Sumatra Road should be aware that Camden is issuing notices to owners who don’t properly maintain their boundaries, which includes keeping overgrown plants in check, so if you live along that side of the road and your garden backs onto the path, it would be advisable to keep an eye on the other side of your fence. (This also applies to landlords who let their properties – if you earn money from rent you are also responsible for ensuring the properties, gardens and hedges are maintained).
But the real challenge for local campaigners was to get the council to find the budget to have the whole path resurfaced. It was in a bad condition, with only a small section near the Thameslink station having been repaired in recent memory, and cracks and holes along almost the rest of the 500 metre stretch, as anyone who has ever tried to push a buggy, drag a suitcase, scoot or cycle along it will attest. Through persistent lobbying from local councillors, notably Fortune Green’s Richard Oszlewski, budget was found, Camden’s Street Works team stepped in and resurfacing work started earlier this month.
The works were completed on Monday 19th, and the transformation is complete. With 90% of the path resurfaced, it’s now a smoothly tarmacked joy to use, all but unrecognisable from the unloved, overgrown and potholed state of a year ago.
The group of local residents involved includes actor Julia Deakin, who has been pushing for improvements ever since she had to be treated in hospital following an accident on the path three years ago. She’s delighted they have finally been achieved, but warns: “it’s crucial that the path is properly and regularly maintained, and not allowed to fall back into disrepair”.
Future concerns aside, there’s much to celebrate in a safer and more user-friendly environment for the numerous commuters and school children who use the path every day.
Ed: This is an excellent example of what can be done when local residents, councillors, council officers and others get together to sort out a problem. So West Hampstead – what is bugging you? Any suggestions to (but don’t email if you aren’t prepared to do some of the work to solve it).