The best new fitness classes in West Hampstead

New Year, new round-up of West Hampstead’s fitness and gym options (would you believe, this is our most popular article year in, year out). Most of you will already know about the main local gyms to help you shed those post-Christmas pounds (or kilos): Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Virgin Active at the O2 and the Gym up by Fortune Green.

However, West Hampstead is getting a reputation as the place for specialised fitness classes. Classes such as HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and similar interval-based training classes have proven an effective way to get fit and into shape. The festive period inevitably leads not just to a more generous girth, but also a sluggish feeling, so having an instructor telling you exactly what to do is a sure fire way to get a work out that works.

We have reviewed three very different local fitness boutiques in the area to find out which class is best for you and we have some West Hampstead Life exclusive discounts below.

Studio Society

The Studio Society boasts live and fully immersive, interactive classes with virtual instructors. You can do mountain climbers and feel like you’re on top of a skyscraper in Manhattan or take the shivanasa yoga pose feeling like you’re amongst the temples of Bali.

The instructor is video linked and you can see their posture from three different angles, so you do see their side profiles too, and with digitally inserted overlays you get a bit of extra instruction on which areas of your body you are targeting. Of course, unlike a live class, you can’t ask the instructor a question or have them spot you if you need an extra pointer, however, the instructions are quite intricate and detailed.

You may wonder whether there’s much difference between this and taking a class at home on YouTube. Being in a group environment is actually quite motivating and Studio Society has chosen to run these classes with specialised high-quality instructors. However, if you really need a real person to get you going, then there are “live” classes too.

There are a wide variety of classes (both virtual and live), including a range of HIIT sessions, in bursts of 30 or 45 minutes, sculpting, strength and conditioning as well as pilates, yoga and even mindfulness and meditation. There is also a spinning room, with a variety of scenes on the screen – with a motivational instructor getting you to sweat to the max.

Studio Society has proven very popular since opening last summer, which can mean some quite big classes in its two huge studios and a fully packed spinning room.

The facilities are excellent and feel new. There are plenty of showers and toilets, a big changing area and lots of lockers.

It’s a short walk away (right next to the Gym actually) up by Fortune Green. Its classes start early in the morning, carry on throughout the day and finish in the evening.

There’s no contract, and £26.95 a month gives you unlimited classes. There’s a January offer of no joining fee and a 50% discount on your first month’s subscription with the promo code Jan1

Great for: Value, variety of classes and excellent facilities
Less great: Distance from the station, large classes, a little less personal
January offers: £26.95 a month for unlimited classes no joining fee and 50% discount on your first month’s subscription with the promo code Jan1

The HIIT Gym

Intense, varied, fun and impactful all come to mind when it comes to the HIIT gym. HIIT is fast paced, high energy and gets results.

Although intense, I would say these classes are suitable for all levels. They are really motivating, as the instructor talks you through every minute and the exercises change so you’re never doing anything long enough to hate it. You can tailor the exercises to your level somewhat, for example by choosing heavier weights, and sometimes the instructor gives you modifications. Included in the classes are intervals on the treadmill and rowing machines, so you get to incorporate cardio into your workout.

Although the classes always follow the same format, they always feel different and never boring.

Class sizes are around 20 max which is about right, and there is just the one class every hour. I’ve very rarely had any problems getting into a class, and there are plenty of classes outside working hours. It is also conveniently tucked away on Broadhurst Gardens, only a quick hop around the corner from all the stations in West Hampstead.

The facilities are quite limited, this is more of a walk in – walk out place but you can shower if you need to.

HIIT gym is a little more expensive at £45 a month for 4 classes a month, £65 for 8 classes month or £99 a month for unlimited classes. They also offer pay-as-you-go classes and transformation packages.

HIIT gym has given us West Hampstead Life exclusive offers:

Great for: High energy, effective classes, 1-minute walk from West Hampstead station
Less great: Limited facilities, fairly big classes at peak times so less personal attention
January offers: No joining fee plus West Hampstead Life discounts (see above).

The Tone Room

New kid on the block (on Mill Lane actually), The Tone Room offers intense and specialised workouts to get you to your strength and toning goals. With tiny classes of no more than six people, trainer Sanjay offers an experience tailored to your needs, and also offers nutritional and postural expertise. It’s as good as having a personal trainer.

The Tone Room is the next level up from a HIIT class, with less room to ‘get away with it’ if, like me, those burpees tend to slow you down! There is plenty of adaptation, however, if you need modifications to suit your fitness and strength levels. If you’re feeling like you’ve plateaued with bigger classes and want to take your workout seriously, the Tone Room can help you get to where you want to be.

Sanjay has done a great job building this boutique and intimate fitness space, and his passion for health and transformation really shows.

Facilities are limited with no showers and limited changing space, however, there is room to leave your things and it feels like a safe space.

The Tone Room is offering £10 for your first class and £45 for three classes. However, if you register for your first £10 class and mention this article, you can get a West Hampstead Life exclusive offer of three classes for £35

Standard prices are: single class £25, 10 classes £175, 20 classes £280, 50 classes £600, yearly £1,500, monthly unlimited £150

Great for: Personalised attention to get you to your fitness goals
Less great: No shower facilities and limited changing facilities, a little far from West Hampstead Stations
January offers: Exclusive West Hampstead Life offer (see above).

Good luck!

Finishing line is in sight as Studio Society nears completion

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As 37 Fortune Green Road – aka Studio Society – nears the end of its 8-week build, this 8,000sqft empty space has been transformed into state-of-the-art group exercise studios. As the physical build draws to a close, the technicians are now taking control, installing multiple projectors and creating a floor-to-ceiling cinematic visual experience like you’ve never seen or experienced in fitness before.


The changing rooms are already almost complete with both wet and dry change areas tiled and painted. Everything is sleek and simple to allow the highest efficiency in cleanliness. GHD hairdryers and mirrors surrounded by light bulbs help you feel like a superstar before you leave to start your day! The sheer size and finish from the moment you walk through the door is stunning to say the least and it is now clear that the focus of these studios has had the members’ experience at heart.

We are no ordinary health club. We strive for a harmony between physical exercise and sensory motivation. Our immersive fitness studios transport you to another world. One minute you step off the tube, the next, you’re in our studio, working out on a tropical Thai beach. Think of it as your calorie burning, muscle toning, cardio-vascular paradise. Floor-to-ceiling 360-degree video, cinematic Bose® surround-sound, synchronised lighting and even the scent of sunscreen and coconut filling the air. It’s an extraordinary fitness experience for individuals who want healthier bodies and happier minds. It’s where technology meets fitness meets your imagination – the perfect ying-and-yang of exercise and inspiration.

Studio Society
37 Fortune Green Road
West Hampstead

Keep your kids safe from dental damage during sport

Hamsptead Orthodontic_mouthguard

Kids are in their element when playing sport. Running around with their teammates, safety is often an afterthought in the excitement of a live game. Parents have to be especially vigilant when their kids are playing contact sports, and though children’s orthodontics may not be at the front of many parents’ minds, thinking about it before it’s too late could save you a lot of stress and money in the long run!

Research into children’s orthodontics and contact sports has shown that orthodontic protection from a young age in budding sports stars can prevent much bigger, and much more expensive problems as they get older.

Common problems
Sports-related oral injuries can vary from the not-so-serious to the run-to-the-dentist-now sort of serious, and when it comes to contact sports, the odds of the latter increase dramatically if the appropriate protection hasn’t been taken.

Broken teeth, dislocated teeth, tears and punctures inside the mouth are the most common injuries dentists and orthodontists see in children who play contact sports. These are all relatively simple to remedy but if left unseen they can cause long-term problems for your little ones.

The Irish Health Repository conducted extensive research into the use of mouthguards and dental injuries in sports across school children, and delivered some interesting data: 10% of parents had children who had experienced a sports-related injury in the previous year, and 52% of those injuries were teeth-related. Of all the children who took part in the survey, only 22% actively made sure to wear mouth protection while playing their given sport.

Not only does this show a lax approach to safety in children’s sport, but it has more serious ramifications: if children’s oral injuries are left unchecked, they can develop into speech impediments and cosmetic problems that create body-image and confidence problems later on in life.

The solution to these problems is incredibly simple. Mouthguards are a sports person’s best friend, keeping his or her teeth unbroken and smile bright throughout their time on the field. We’ve all seen the famous boxers, rugby and hockey players with their wonky teeth and gappy smiles, and while these features may endear them to us even more than their sporting prowess, you can bet it has given them some confidence problems in the past.

Mouthguards seem simple, but they need to be expertly measured and designed to fit your mouth; this is especially important in children, since their mouths are still developing. By visiting a reputable orthodontist, you will be able to get world-class advice on oral safety in your given sport, and would be measured and examined for your mouthguard fitting.

Hamsptead Orthodontic_mouthguard_2

Mouthguards are made from a rubber-like material which is designed to fit your exact mouth shape and bite. It serves to protect your teeth from impact, exterior damage and stops your teeth from puncturing your tongue or cheeks when active. All in all, it is a simple piece of kit that prevents serious problems later in life, and is incredibly important for young budding sports stars.

If mouthguards are so important, why do only 22% of children wear them when active? Ultimately it’s down to you, the parent, to make sure your child is as protected as possible when out on the sports field. If kids don’t put their safety first then it leaves the parent to make sure the shin pads are on, headgear is tight and the mouthguard is in.

The older you get, the more expensive orthodontic treatment becomes, so it is paramount to educate your children on the benefits of sports safety and oral health. And with mouthguards coming in a range of fun and colourful designs, there is sure to be one that catches your kid’s eye and allows them to leave their orthodontic worries out of the game.

Are your kids budding sports stars? Drop into Hampstead Orthodontic Practice in North London for a mouthguard fitting and more professional information on how to keep your child’s oral health on top form during sports season.

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Get fit in 2017: The West Hampstead gym guide


It’s that time of year again; time to start thinking about undoing some of the damage from treating ourselves a little too much over the festive season. For all those times we said, ‘Oh go on then, it’s Christmas after all!’ Now your clothes are a little uncomfortable and you seem to have grown a couple of extra chins in those family photos.

But it’s a new year and you’re ready to get back into shape. There will be times it will hurt and you’ll wondering why you’re doing this to yourself. I’ve already been there and reminded myself, “Because mince pies.”

Where to go and what to do? Here’s our guide to the area’s best options for getting fit and healthy this year.

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre (

At around £55 a month, the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is a really great value-for-money choice. It boasts a huge pool that’s sectioned into lanes for different abilities, plenty of equipment and a great choice of classes, which actually run at convenient times. It’s also set beautifully, with huge floor to ceiling windows, plenty of natural light, trees and a huge water fountain, which I find helps to really motivate me. You can also see down over the pool from one of the studios and most of the equipment has built-in TVs so you can watch your favorite shows at the same time.

The downside is that actually getting onto a class it really difficult as they are so popular! Despite being able to book easily on the app or website, you need to be ready to book your place within the first hour of the slots becoming available each week or you’ll lose out! Occasionally you can manage to get a last-minute class if there are cancellations, and beware, you are charged if you don’t show up!

Being a public leisure centre, Swiss Cottage can get extremely busy with large groups of kids clubs, but that does mean it offers so much more if you have children or big groups, with choices including a climbing wall, basketball court, squash rooms and more (at additional costs.)

It also offers a flexible, monthly rolling contract, so it’s worth trying out before deciding whether to commit. For all you New Years Resolutioners, Swiss Cottage is offering a January deal of no joining fee and two months free if you pay for 10 months up front.

The Gym (

If you’re looking for great value, all the machines you need, and you can motivate yourself to go to the gym without needing an inspiring setting then this is the gym for you. At £21.99 a month (plus a £20 joining fee) this no-frills gym may be the right compromise. It’s also open 24 hours with automated signing in systems, which is great for all you night owls and extremely early birds! It also offers a few limited classes.

HIIT Gym (

These unique classes mean business! Perfect if you feel like you’ve plateaued going to the gym on your own or if you need extra motivation to see results. And with these classes you will see results. They are pricey (though we’ve got a WHL-exclusive offer below) but effective.

The HIIT gym is a group class-based workout. The instructors are great, and with varied workouts that can work on strength, fat burning and stamina it never gets boring. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, which is designed to help you keep burning fat even after the workout.

There is a downside to it not being a traditional gym in that there is not really the option if you ever did just fancy a workout at your own pace. However, if you arrive a little earlier to a class you could jump on the treadmill if you really wanted to.

A word of warning: personally I have to be at full energy to be able to take part in these classes. They are very high impact, no matter what your fitness level. So working out here can be a little ‘all or nothing.’ However, you won’t be bullied into doing that final burpie or shamed for not increasing the incline to 15 on the treadmill. It’s really important to listen to your own body if you feel it is too much.

The classes can also get extremely crowded at the most popular times (which gets a little worrying when people are swinging weights around). Some people might also feel that the showering facilities are quite limited given the cost, and often I feel I’d rather freshen up at home.

Prices vary according to membership, but if you want the most flexibility then classes are around £20 for pay-as-you-go. However, HIIT is offering a 10% pay-as-you-go discount for West Hampstead Life readers with the discount code: 10january. It’s valid until January 31st. HIIT also offers a one-week free trial, so you can try before you buy.

Virgin Active (

Virgin Active at the O2 Centre is one of the pricier options, but boasts a jacuzzi by the pool, decent equipment and great classes. It also offers spa treatments, which are very good. I’m not sure the price difference vs the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre just up the road is worth it, considering you get almost the same facilities and services. However you do get to avoid the children’s clubs and the service and quality is always great with Virgin. It does offer corporate discounts for many employers so be sure to check at work, as some of the discounts are quite substantial. For this month only it is offering a 12-month contract with no joining fee and a personal training package that works out to £99 a month. It is also offering a flexible rolling month-by-month membership at £106 a month with a £30 joining fee.

You don’t have to go to a gym

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

ParkRun (
Every Saturday, this 5k run across the beautiful Hampstead Heath is a completely free, fun and friendly social project. What could be better than getting some fresh air with with your neighbors and volunteers in this national heritage site we are lucky to have on our doorsteps.

The run starts at 9am – what a way to start your weekend! You do have to register and bring a printed copy of the barcode you’re given, which lets you keep track of your progress and time. However you are encouraged to go at your own pace.

ruNW6 (
An even more social running group that sprung up from West Hampstead Life readers also meets every Saturday. Starting from West End Green, the group tends to head out for a 30-45 minute run with a variety of routes, including the stunning Golder’s Hill park before returning to West End Lane. No runner is left behind! There’s more about this group here.

Public fitness parks: Primrose Hill, Kilburn Grange and Swiss Cottage
Another way to keep fit is to run over to the beautiful nearby Primrose Hill, where there is a substantial outdoor fitness park. The ‘trim trail’ consists of pull-up bars, parallel bars, rings, low bars, sit-up benches and more. Once you’ve had a good work out you could even reward yourself with a very short stroll over to London Zoo where you can often catch a cheeky glimpse of a giraffe!

There are also free outdoor fitness equipment facilities at Kilburn Grange Park and outside Swiss Cottage Library. These are great if you love the outdoors and don’t want to get caught up in gym membership commitments. Personal trainers also use these with clients.

With all these options you should be in tip-top shape for next year’s mince pie blowout!

West Hampstead Hockey Club: new season, new kit

Inspired by Team GB’s Olympic hockey success (the first ever gold for the women’s team), time to remind you all that there’s a hockey club on your doorstep. I’ve played at every level of hockey from junior to international and West Hampstead Hockey Club is the best club I’ve ever been involved with. There are 15 teams; 8 men’s and 7 women’s. People are always welcome to come and play or watch – all the details are on the club website.

With a host of new recruits, a new coach, a new sponsor a new Captain in Phil Young and off the back of an unbeaten pre-season, West Hampstead Men’s 1s went into the start of the season with high hopes to be challenging for promotion. After the excitement of opening up a new set of kit from new kit supplier Silver FX and emblazoned with their new sponsor, Alan Day Volkswagen, it was time to turn their attention towards the first games of the season. Despite a good run of pre-season games, the mood in the camp was that they been relatively easy and they knew the league competition would be a step up.

After a narrow defeat to Winchester in the season opener, West Hampstead arrived at Blackheath’s home ground impatient to put their disappointment to bed. After a slick warmup in their inconspicuous highlighter orange training shirts, West Hampstead went out all cylinders firing. An exceptional save by West Hampstead’s Adam Carter denied Blackheath an early goal, and it was West Hampstead’s penalty corner specialist Laxman Karan who drew the first blood, ripping the ball high and hard to the keeper’s right. The early goal from the first penalty corner of the match put confidence in Hampstead’s stride but Blackheath were quick to respond with a breakaway goal.

WHHC 1s team in their new kit!

WHHC 1st team in their new kit!

Karan, showing he wasn’t a one trick pony, converted Hampstead’s second corner with a flick into the side-netting to the keeper’s left, putting West Hampstead back in the lead. Eager to keep up the pressure, West Hampstead started impatiently pummelling the ball up the pitch, resulting in unnecessary turnovers. Blackheath were unforgiving, capitalising on West Hampstead’s loose passing and defensive errors to sneak into the lead with two goals just before half-time.

After a sloppy end to the first half, West Hampstead took control in the second, shortening their game and holding the ball for much longer periods. Back from illness, Harry Slater played an instrumental role on his debut for West Hampstead. West Hampstead’s patience was rewarded with a third penalty corner. This time it was Ed Perry who converted, slotting the ball past the linesman.

Hard running upfront by Blackheath tested the fitness of West Hampstead, who were fielding a small squad and were down to ten men at two points in the match due to sinbinning. A quick break by Blackheath resulted in a glorious deflection over Carter’s head, putting them in the lead again and bringing back memories of West Hampstead’s late defeat to Winchester. Fortunately, West Hampstead’s corners continued to bear fruit with Perry scoring his second flick low past the keeper to equalise. West Hampstead threatened to score a fifth goal to snatch the win but were denied the opportunity by Blackheath who defended strongly. The full-time whistle went at 4-4, with each team taking one point.

While disappointed not to get the win, it was a step up from the previous weekend and West Hampstead will be looking to continue the trend with a win next weekend. West Hampstead would also like to take this opportunity to thank Silver FX and Alan Day Volkswagen for their support this season.

West Hampstead running group leaves noone behind


Tired of pounding the pavements alone? Inspired to put on your trainers by the heroics of the GB athletes in Rio? Or just curious as to why you always see a gaggle of neon-clad souls on West End Green every Saturday morning? Well wonder no more!

Started on a cold wet February morning in 2015, @ruNW6 has evolved into a sociable community of runners who gather every Saturday morning at 9am, come rain or shine! No membership fees, no chip timing, no planned route, no restrictions – anyone can turn up and run. We don’t leave anyone behind and we run at a pace where you can maintain a conversation – it’s meant to be a social group and fun after all. The runs typically last for 30-45 minutes but it really all depends on who turns up and where everyone fancies going.

One of the most regular routes sees us heading up to Golders Hill Park and then negotiating the hill garden and pergola before the home stretch downhill back into West Hampstead. But variety is the spice of life and we can also be spotted taking in Queens Park, heading down to Paddington Recreation Ground to get in a couple of track laps, heading up to Hampstead Heath and summiting Parliament Hill or even running a section of the Regents Canal. Certainly beats lonely laps around West Hampstead and it’s a great way to expand your knowledge of the local area as well.

This was one of the longer runs...

This was one of the longer runs…

So whether you’re training for an event, you fancy getting fit, you want to learn some new running routes or you would just like some friendly people to run with – why not come along and join us? 9am, West End Green in West Hampstead, every Saturday. We hope to run with you soon!

Where to watch the Euros in West Hampstead

Whether you are a die hard, St George’s flag wielding, vuvuzela-blowing, Barmy Army wannabe, a student of the international game or an occasional watcher with a passing interest in major tournament football, West Hampstead has a good seat and a cold drink for you for the next month (yes it really does last until mid-July!). All the matches are on terrestrial TV, so you could just stay at home, but where the fun in that? Here’s a brief guide of where to watch all the games in the hood.

Czechoslovak Restaurant & Bar: Showing a few games during opening hours (after 5pm in the week, 12pm weekends), with sound, but particularly worth a visit for the Czech Republic and Slovakia games. Bound to be noisy for those.

The Railway: All games live on two big screens and multiple big TVs. Also possibility of parallel viewing of final group games. Flags and bunting – tick!

Seems The Railway's big screen TV is straight out of the Flintstones

Seems The Railway’s big screen TV is straight out of the Flintstones

The Gallery: All games shown on two big screens, one upstairs, one downstairs. Sound will be on downstairs for all games and upstairs for England games only.

The Gallery keeps things simple

The Gallery keeps things simple

La Brocca: Sadly not yet (sob sob) but work appears to be underway. Check back here in the run up to World Cup 2018!

One Sixty: Multiple TV screens, showing all games during opening hours with table bookings available and strongly recommended (some home nations games are already booked out!). NB One Sixty opens 5pm Monday-Friday, 10am Sat & Sun.

The Black Lion: Every game shown live with several big TVs and a big screen. Sound for all England games otherwise confined to the near corner when you walk in. They did say though that demand will drive sound for other games – watch out for that Iceland v Hungary match…. They are taking bookings for areas and have red, white and blue bunting up!

Prize for "good effort" blackboard goes to The Black Lion (though it does have bunting)

Prize for “good effort” blackboard goes to The Black Lion (though it does have bunting)

The Alliance: Several big TVs and we’re reliably informed that every game will be shown live with sound.

Prize for classiest blackboard goes to The Alliance

Prize for classiest blackboard goes to The Alliance

There may be a few other places showing the odd game or with a TV in the corner, so keep an eye out an let us know if we’ve missed anywhere.

Games tend to kick off at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. Happy watching…

Hampstead Cricket Club is 150 not out

Hampstead Cricket Club (HCC) is celebrating its 150th birthday in 2015. There was a charity dinner at Lords on Thursday night, and other events are planned throughout the year both on and off the Lymington Road ground. All have been organised by West Hampstead resident and club chairman, Jim Carter, inbetween filming series six of Downton Abbey!

Hampstead residents have been playing cricket – or forms of the game – for hundreds of years. They used cleared land on the Heath or any other open space for informal games before clubs were established. In August 1802, 11 gentlemen of Highgate challenged 11 gentlemen of Hampstead to a match, for a purse of 500 guineas. This was a huge amount of money, equivalent to about £40,000 today. Highgate won by 54 runs, noting ‘even betting at the start.’ A few weeks earlier, many of the players had been part of a combined Hampstead and Highgate team that played for the same prize money and beat the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club – the governing body of cricket as well as a team) by 112 runs.

The Hampstead Cricket Club that we know today wasn’t the first to use the name. By 1851, there was a club of that name renting a field north of England’s Lane and membership was limited to 60 players. When the land was built on, around 1870, the club closed or amalgamated.

The nearby Eton and Middlesex Cricket Ground was open by 1857. It started close to the northwest slopes of Primrose Hill, but migrated westwards as building crept ever closer. Eventually it covered 16 acres, roughly the western end of the present Elsworthy Road and Wadham Gardens, over towards Avenue Road. As far as we can tell, the St John’s Wood Club that played here became Hampstead Cricket Club. In 1871, the club moved to St Mary’s Fields, open land north of the church of the same name on Abbey Road, and was renamed as the St John’s Wood (Hampstead) Club.

The Club’s new landlords were the Maryon Wilson family, lords of the manor of Hampstead. But when the line of Priory Road was agreed and building plans were made for the land between there and Finchley Road, the club was again forced to leave. They relocated to the present site on Lymington Road in 1877, then described as a cultivated arable field with growing crops of turnips, mangold wurzel, potatoes.

The move to West Hampstead – or West End as it was called then – coincided with the adoption of a new name and colours: the St John’s Wood (Hampstead) Club became the Hampstead Cricket Club. The setting was still rural: no Alvanley Gardens, Lymington Road or Crediton Hill, and sweeping views towards the wooded Hampstead slopes. The approach to the new field was improved into a track of sorts, leading from Finchley Road to the cricket pavilion. The £1,000 moving costs included transporting the original pavilion from the pitch on St Mary’s Fields. It was rebuilt in 1879 and enlarged in 1896.

View from the ground, 1879, looking towards Hampstead

View from the ground, 1879, looking towards Hampstead

In May 1878 it was agreed that,

A cask of beer should be kept on the ground for the benefit of Members only and it was decided to sell temperance drinks at 4d a bottle and to put up a notice in the booth (at the side of the clubhouse) that no beer or spirits were sold on the ground.

With free beer, it’s no wonder HCC was very popular!

Over the years, the managing committee considered many schemes for buying the ground, but while the rent was nominal, the asking price for the freehold was always too high. Crunch time came in 1924 with rising land values. That July, the club was given until December to either purchase the freehold or leave. The landlord wanted £18,000 and the club decided to raise £25,000, to allow for necessary improvements to buildings and grounds. With help from generous donations, the money was eventually found and the freehold purchased.

Many great cricketers played at the HCC, which established itself as an important London club. Hockey was played until 1894 and tennis courts were built alongside the pavilion. Members held regular social events, including an annual black tie dinner and family sports day.

The pavilion about 1902. This was replaced by the current club house in 1927

The pavilion about 1902. This was replaced by the current club house in 1927

The Highest score on record!
On 3 August 1886, a match was played between HCC and the Stoics. At the time, declarations were not allowed and Andrew Ernest Stoddart batted for just over 6 hours, making 485 runs. This was the highest individual score ever recorded at the time – not just at Hampstead, but anywhere ever. His feat was all the more amazing because he’d been playing cards the night before and hadn’t been to bed.

Born in South Shields, the son of a wine merchant and colliery owner who moved to London in the 1870s, Stoddart was a very talented sportsman. He played rugby for England and, after joining the HCC in 1885, played 16 Test matches, captaining England in eight games. He played regularly for HCC until 1902. From the time of his marriage in 1906 to 1911 he lived at 24 Crediton Hill, which backed onto the club ground. After dropping out of the limelight, Stoddart suffered from declining health and financial worries. He committed suicide at his Clifton Hill St John’s Wood home in 1915, a few weeks after his 52nd birthday. His wife Ethel told the inquest her husband had lost a great deal of money (he’d been dealing in stocks and shares before war broke out), and was very depressed. Employed as secretary to Neasden Golf Club and then Queen’s Tennis Club, ill health forced him to resign in 1914 and he had not worked since.

On 3 May 2015, HCC will hold a match against The Stoics and former England captain Andrew Strauss will unveil a new bronze statue of AE Stoddart.

World War One
In 1915 the ‘Hampstead Heavies’ trained with their horses on the HCC grounds. Officially they were called the 138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, which had been formed in the autumn of 1915, with the Mayor of Hampstead spearheading the campaign to recruit 200 men. On 13 April 1916, the Battery embarked for France, reaching Le Havre after a rough crossing. They travelled by train to Bethune. Equipped with 60-pounder field guns each weighing over 5 tons, conditions in the mud were often appalling for both men and horses. The Heavies served in many of the key battles of World War One and suffered considerable losses. Of the men who landed in France with the original Battery, only one officer and about 30 other ranks had survived when the last round was fired in November 1918.

Charity Matches
For many years matches were played at HCC to raise money for charity. The teams were made up of well known musicians, actors and writers. Many famous stage and film actors took part, such as Owen Nares, who made 39 films between 1914 and 1941. He was a heart throb of his generation. He married the actress Marie Polini and they lived at 29 St John’s Wood Park in the 1930s.

Sir Charles Aubrey Smith, known to film-goers as C. Aubrey Smith, was also an England Test cricketer. He was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the best bowlers to play the game. His oddly curved bowling run-up, earned him the nickname ‘Round the Corner Smith’. When he bowled round the wicket his approach was concealed from the batsman by the umpire until he emerged, leading W.G. Grace to comment ‘it is rather startling when he suddenly appears at the bowling crease.’

As an actor he played officer-and-gentleman roles, and appeared in the first ‘talkies’ version of ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ (1937). In Hollywood, in the 1930s Smith organised English actors into a cricket team, playing matches on a pitch turfed with imported English grass. He attracted fellow expatriates such as David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Nigel Bruce, Leslie Howard and Boris Karloff to the club as well as local American players.

Sir Cedric Hardwicke played in several HCC matches. He made 110 films from 1913 to 1964. One of the great character actors, he was knighted in 1934. He was reputedly George Bernard Shaw’s favourite actor but later Shaw said he was his fifth favourite actor – after the four Marx Brothers!

The comedian Stanley Holloway also played for the actors’ team. He appeared as Alfred P. Doolittle in the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ in the West End and Broadway. As a character actor he was in many films such as, ‘Brief Encounter’, ‘Passport to Pimlico’ and ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’. He is particularly remembered for his monologues such as ‘The Lion and Albert’, based on a news item about a boy who was eaten by a lion in the zoo.

The annual charity matches were suspended during the two world wars. But the tradition continues today with an annual match of star guests against the first XI to end the season.

Jim has commissioned an illustrated full-colour 48 page book about HCC, to which we contributed material on its early history, but as the book says, the club is “celebrating the past and building for the future”.

Hampstead Women win again

Hampstead v Hemel Hempstead

Hampstead CC secured another 18 points following a positive performance at Hemel Hempstead on Sunday, taking control of the second innings with the ball.

The tourists were put into bat on a green wicket and totalled 116 off their 30 overs with only one wicket in hand.

Skipper Lucy Horitz top scored on 40 not out, with a 38 run partnership with Jenny Heppell (17). A few mix-ups as well as excellent catches saw some early returns to the clubhouse, but Hampstead’s tail wagged, with the lower order all making useful contributions.

It was in the field that Hampstead excelled, with one of the best fielding and bowling displays of the season.

Opening bowlers Jenny Heppell (2/2 off 6) and Jess Black (1/11 off 6) stopped Hemel from leaving their starting blocks, and at the fall of the first wicket in the third over the score was 5/1.

The pressure intensified as the rest of Hampstead’s bowling arsenal was unveiled. Fast bowler Ange Bonora (1/4 off 6) and Emma Edwards (1/20 off 6) helped the wickets fall, and Ruth Charles (2/21 off 6) took two wickets with precision and focus.

With 10 overs to go, Hemel needed 74 runs to win but they never looked likely and finished well short of the total.

Hampstead’s fielders supported the bowlers well with solid performances from all.

“I’m so pleased with today’s result. We never allowed Hemel to get a foothold in their innings. The whole team were inspirational today.”, said captain Horitz.

Hampstead Ladies back on track

Vicky Griffiths-Fisher defending on her way to a top score of 32

Vicky Griffiths-Fisher defending on her way to a top score of 32

Hampstead Ladies secured the full 18 points this weekend in a confident win against Chesham which places them in second position on the league table.

Playing away on a spongy wicket in Buckinghamshire, the sun shone through and losing the toss, Hampstead were put in to bat.

Ange Bonora (20) replaced opening batsman Vicky Griffiths-Fisher (32), scoring a six off her first ball followed by a four. Bonora’s 20 came off just 9 balls to give Hampstead a strong start.

Positive batting continued down the order with Elle Mitchell (8) replacing Sian Culley (16), followed by Harriet Millard (12) and Thea Graham (14). Hampstead batted out the 30 overs to reach a defendable 130.

Chesham were under pressure from the start of their innings, with Hampstead’s accurate bowling and tight fielding preventing runs flowing freely.

With all bowlers performing well and plenty of maiden overs between them, Hampstead ground out the victory by stifling Chesham’s run rate.

The win was achieved through a team effort including safe hands from Chloe Hole and skipper Lucy Horitz taking catches.

“I’m so pleased by the way we bounced back from last week, with our second win against Chesham,” said Horitz. “Everyone’s energy and enthusiasm was great! I feel that the squad is really gelling and things are looking good for Hampstead in the league.”

The Hampstead Ladies section isn’t only about winning league matches – the team also played a friendly against North London the same day, with three Hampstead debutantes playing cricket for the first time ever.

League table

West Hampstead cyclist rides Tour for charity

The Tour de France peloton hurtles through London on Monday afternoon, after its foray into Yorkshire this weekend. Yet, one intrepid West Hampstead resident already passed through last Monday on the third stage of his attempt to ride the entire 3,664 kilometres from Leeds to Paris via some of the toughest mountain roads in Europe.

Monty Wates

Monty Wates is a trustee of the William Wates Memorial Trust. In 1996, William Wates, Monty’s younger brother, was killed while travelling abroad aged just 19. The Trust raises money, which it gives to hand-picked charities that work offer young people opportunities, otherwise unavailable to them, to fulfill their potential and stay away from a life of crime. The Winch in Swiss Cottage is one of the charities the trust supports, and it recently received a grant for £60,000 over three years for its Promise Worker project which supports children who need it through the complex and often overwhelming labyrinth of social services that they encounter.

Since 2004, the charity has held the Tour de Force – a fully supported ride of that year’s Tour route a week ahead of the actual race. Most participants ride a “taster”, a few stages of the event. But some – around 30 this year – are what the charity terms “lifers”; the foolhardy few who dare to take on the entire course.

Monty himself has been on a taster or two but despite being intimately involved in the charity he hasn’t before committed to becoming a “lifer” before. He confesses that he’s not really a cyclist although of course he has been doing some training! His personal target is to raise £50,000 for the charity.

Follow Monty’s progress on Twitter @fullmontytour and track the whole Tour de Force. And if you feel moved to donate to the cause you can do so here, or text “WILL19 £10 (or whatever number you want to!) to 70070.

Good luck Monty!

Touched by greatness: Sachin Tendulkar visits West Hampstead

Sachin Tendulkar – cricket’s finest batsman of recent times, and arguably of all time – spent about an hour and a half in West Hampstead today. The Little Master, as he is known, was recording a piece for Sky Sports, which is making a documentary about him. By happy coincidence, Sky Sports producer Bryan Henderson is also the president of Hampstead Cricket Club in Lymington Road (which turns 150 next year) and the stars aligned to bring India’s former test captain and talisman to the ground.

Sachin Tendulkar_HampsteadCC

In his native India, Tendulkar is worshipped like a god. Ever since he burst onto the international scene at just 16, he has wowed crowds with his astonishing skill. He retired from Test Cricket in November last year, aged 40, with many of the sport’s batting records in his locker.

As well as doing pieces to camera, Tendulkar also spent time with the club’s colts batting and bowling with them. Although some of the younger players may not have been aware of Tendulkar’s prowess, their parents were suitably bowled over.

Cricket is one of the few big professional sports where global greats mingle with club level players, but while international players certainly pop up at clubs like Hampstead from time to time, it’s not so often that an all-time great spends time passing on tips to some local kids.

West Hampstead’s astonishing football pedigree

West Hampstead FC 1903

As the World Cup kicks off a continent away, we cast our eyes back to Victorian times – and the little-known fact that West Hampstead and Kilburn played an important role in the Football Association and early football.

There are three parts to this story: Arthur Pember, was the FA’s very first Chairman back in 1863. He lived in Carlton Road, later called Carlton Vale, and he established a team called No Names Kilburn.
Cuthbert Ottaway was the first captain of the England football team and is buried in Paddington Cemetery, off Willesden Lane. And finally, West Hampstead Football Club, which was banned from joining the FA and once had a Scottish “ringers” on its books.

Arthur Pember was born into a wealthy family in 1835 at 4 New Park Road off Brixton Hill. In 1848 the family moved to Clapham Park where Arthur was educated by a governess with his four sisters and his brother George. Arthur became a stock broker and joined his father at Jones Loyd and Co. Arthur was very energetic and as a keen mountaineer, he climbed Mont Blanc and later wrote and lectured about the ascent.

Arthur Pember and His Incredible Moustache

Arthur Pember and His Incredible Moustache

On 13 March 1860, at St Mark’s Church on Hamilton Terrace in St John’s Wood, he married Elizabeth Hoghton, the daughter of a fellow stockbroker who lived at 7 Abbey Road. After their marriage they moved to 26 Carlton Road, Kilburn (later renamed Carlton Vale), close to Elizabeth’s parents. Sadly, following a miscarriage, Elizabeth died in December 1860. Arthur was devastated and moved to 30 Carlton Road where he lived alone apart from three servants. He married his second wife in 1862. Seventeen-year-old Alice Mary Grieve was the daughter of William Royal Grieve, a wealthy wine merchant who lived at 3 Waterloo Cottages on the Kilburn High Road. They had four sons.

About 1863, Arthur formed the No Names Club of Kilburn. The unusual moniker may have been a play on words based on Arthur’s stockbroking background where investors were typically known as “Names”. The team played on fields opposite his home in Carlton Road. These fields later became Paddington Recreation Ground. NN (Kilburn) appears to have continued until 1870. Apart from Pember, the only other NN players we know are CM Tebbut, Lawson and A. Baker.

Football, in various forms, had been played for many years, but there was no agreed version of the rules. In October 1863, a letter in The Times sparked a debate about establishing a universal code. Further letters followed from several public schools, such Eton, Harrow and Rugby, but with no enthusiasm for a single version of the rules.

The first meeting of the Football Association was held at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen’s Street, on the 26 October. Arthur Pember, from No Names Kilburn, was the chairman, and the secretary was Ebenezer Morley from the Barnes club. A series of further meetings were held in November and December 1863. Although the public schools were invited, they didn’t attend. There was considerable debate, with the main point of discussion focussing on whether the ball could be carried or not. Pember and Morley pushed ahead despite opposition from Rugby and other public schools, to say that under the FA rules players could not carry the ball and that hacking and tripping was not allowed. This effectively distinguished football from rugby.

In September 1864, there were 18 teams in the FA, including No Names Kilburn. Very few sides outside London used the FA rules for several years. In 1866 NN Kilburn complained that there were so few clubs adhering to the new code that they were able to play matches only against Crystal Palace and Barnes that year. Arthur Pember was the FA chairman until 1867 when Morley took over.

In 1868 Pember decided to take his family to New York where he worked as a journalist. To obtain material he worked in disguise in the poorer parts of the city. He looked at prostitution and gambling and in 1874 wrote a book about his ‘undercover sleuthing’ adventures. He died in 1886 in North Dakota.

Cuthbert Ottaway was born in Dover in July 1850, the only child of James Ottaway, a surgeon and former mayor of the town. Cuthbert had a privileged upbringing and was educated at Eton and Brasenose College Oxford. He was a very talented all-round sportsman who represented Eton in racquets and in their annual cricket match against Harrow. At Oxford he became the only student who was awarded Blues for football, cricket, racquets, athletics, and real tennis. After Oxford he practiced as a barrister. He played cricket for the Gentleman against the Players and opened the batting with W.G. Grace on many occasions.

Cuthbert Ottaway, England's first football captain

Cuthbert Ottaway, England’s first football captain

Although playing several sports at a very high level, Ottaway gained most fame as a footballer. He led the England team against Scotland in what is now recognised as the first international football match on 30 November 1872. He was again captain in the England vs. Scotland match in 1874. Like many others in the early days of amateur sport, he played for several teams, and took part in three successive FA Cup finals between 1873 and 1875. He was a centre forward and particularly noted for his speed and skill at dribbling.

In 1872 during an England cricket tour of Canada he met and fell in love with 13-year-old Marion Stinson. She was sent to England to finish her education and when she was 17 they were married in Ottawa. They returned to London and lived at 34 Westbourne Place, Eaton Square. But less than a year later, in April 1878, Cuthbert died aged only 27 while Marion was pregnant. The cause of his death is not clear. It was said that he caught a chill after a night’s dancing and died from complications. But diabetes ran in his family and this may have contributed to his susceptibility to respiratory diseases. It is also possible that he had earlier contracted TB. When he died his personal estate was less than £800, worth about £64,000 today.

A memorial for him was erected at Paddington Cemetery in August 2013. The grave is in Section 1F, grave number 5628. There is a website for more information at

Ottaway memorial celebration at Paddington Cemetery (Simon Inglis, August 2013)

Ottaway memorial celebration at Paddington Cemetery (Simon Inglis, August 2013)

The first record of West Hampstead Football Club is an 1895 newspaper report when the team was due to play Wood Green. In 1897, West Hampstead FC joined the Second Division of the London League alongside Fulham and Orient and that season they finished fifth out of ten clubs. The following year, after promotion to the First London Division, they finished eighth of the nine clubs. In 1900/01 they won the Middlesex Cup beating London Caledonians.

The following season – 1901/02 – the team joined the superior Southern League Division Two, and finished fifth out of nine teams. The division included Fulham (the current club), Shepherds Bush, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Wycombe Wanderers.

Problems arose during the 1902 season when Shepherds Bush FC complained about West Hampstead FC. This was a time when there was considerable disagreement betweem those ‘gentlemen’ with sufficient income to play as amateurs and working class players who wanted to be paid.

The FA held a commission of inquiry in January 1903 which concluded that Mr J.C. Christie, Sec. and Treasurer of West Hampstead FC, did not provide the commission with evidence or hand over the books relating to the management of the club, although repeatedly being asked to do so. Because of this he violated the rules of the FA and would not not admitted to membership of the FA, nor to take part in their football or football management until further order.

Five members of the club’s committee were suspended until the end of the 1903/4 season. One of these men, Joseph Comodonico, was a blacksmith who lived in Agamemnon Road and who later worked for the Hampstead Council. The club captain, a W. Denham, was declared a professional and was suspended for one month

Perhaps most bizarrely, the FA said, “The fact of bringing in players under the names of Gray, Craig, Barber, and Reid (whose proper names are believed to be respectively: Graham, Adams, McDonald, and Nesbitt), from Scotland, will be reported to the Scottish FA.” In other words, the club had brought in four ‘ringers’ from Scotland who they paid to play for West Hampstead.

Even though the FA had legalised professionalism as far back as 1885, the London FA was one of the last county associations to deny membership to professional clubs. In 1907 this issue caused a split when they broke away from the FA to form the Amateur Football Association. The AFA continued until 1914 when it rejoined the FA.

West Hampstead FC in 1903

West Hampstead FC in 1903

The photograph shows the team as the winners of the Middlesex Cup and the Hospital Charity Shield, 1902-3. We know that some of team members were the four Westley brothers, who are probably some of the men with moustaches in the photo. These were, Harold Charles Percy Westerly, outside left, Arthur John West Westley, fullback, Francis Joseph Westley, goalkeeper, and Herbert Oscar Westley, no position given. They were the sons of John Westley, of Lee in Kent. He was a cashier to a foreign banker. None of the brothers seem to have lived in West Hampstead. There were six Westley brothers in all, who signed up together for the Boer War. One brother, Gerald was killed.

The man holding the ball is the captain Herbert Kingaby, who was born in August 1880 in London. Kingaby initially worked for a woollen manufacturer. After he played part-time for Clapton Orient he was sold to Aston Villa for £300 in March 1906. Here he was paid the football maximum wage of £4 per week but after two months, Villa were not impressed with his ability. They were unwilling to lose their £300 with a free transfer, so offered to sell him back at half price but there were no takers. His wages were stopped and he was placed on Villa’s retained list which effectively stopped him earning a living in the English League, so he joined Fulham in the Southern League. At the start of the 1910/11 season he re-joined Clapton Orient. That year the FA and the Southern League agreed to mutual recognition of each other’s retain and transfer systems. Villa now disclosed that Kingaby was still on their retained list and demanded £350. This prevented a move to Croydon Common but he eventually joined Peterborough City in 1910 for one season.

In March 1912 Kingaby brought legal proceedings against Villa for preventing him from playing. The Player’s Union funded his legal costs, but his counsel concentrated on Villa’s use of the transfer scheme and made no use of the law on restrictive practices. The suit was dismissed and the Union were almost financially ruined. Kingaby played with Croydon Common from 1913 to 1916, when he seems to have ended his career. He died in 1957 in London.

Wondering where the football ground was? We’re not sure exactly. In October 1896, Hampstead Council agreed to write a letter to the secretary of West Hampstead FC complaining about the excessive noise from supporters at their matches on land near Hampstead Cemetery. This interfered with services taking place at the Cemetery on Saturday afternoons. So at this time they clearly played close to the Cemetery. The Victoria County History says that West Hampstead Football Club had a new ground at Willesden Green in 1898. We haven’t been able to find where this was. A football ground is shown off Cricklewood Lane on the 1912 Ordinance Survey map.

We would like to thank Dil Porter, De Montfort University Leicester, and West Hampstead resident Simon Inglis, the editor of the Played in Britain series, for their help with this story.

Bradley Wiggins honoured in Kilburn at last

Wiggins Sculpture

It’s been a long time coming but in the wake of Bradley Wiggins’ astonishing achievements in 2012, his secondary school in South Kilburn now looks out over a shiny new sculpture that commemorates these and the rest of his illustrious career.

If you’ve been on another planet for the past few years then you’ll still have been aware of Sir Brad’s palmares. It would be hard to top being the first Brit to win the Tour de France, but Brad, who grew up in South Kilburn and went to St Augustine’s School, went on to win gold in the men’s time trial at the London Olympics, adding to his already impressive medal haul from previous games.

In the aftermath of this, everyone was clamouring to claim him as their own and there was a push for a victory parade down Kilburn High Road. Sadly this never came to pass but, on the eve of Wiggins winning the Tour of California (proving there’s plenty of life in the old mod yet), a sculpture has been unveiled at St Augustine’s sports centre, across the road from the school.

The sculpture is the work of artist Sophie Marsham, who was helped by Year 8 students from St Augustines, and the project was supported by Groundwork London and the South Kilburn Trust.

Wiggins puts Kilburn (roughly) on the map

Kilburn has amorphous borders. Estate agents will do anything to avoid labelling a street as being in Kilburn, so it’s rather refreshing that someone at the very top of their game, someone kids should look up to, someone who calls it like he sees it; that someone like that should identify himself with Kilburn.

I’m a bit older than Bradley Wiggins, the first British winner of the Tour de France [and now 4 times Olympic champion], but, like him, my schoolboy bedroom walls were covered with photos ripped out of Cycling Weekly. My heroes were Greg LeMond and Robert Millar; Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert; Charly Mottet and Tony Rominger. For more than 25 years I’ve cheered on these riders on television, or from the side of the road. In short, I really love pro cycling despite all the depressing news that often surrounds it.

Wiggins on the penultimate stage of the 2012 Tour (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

This also means that like all cycling fans I’ve known about Bradley Wiggins for many years. After all, he won his first Olympic medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is tied with Steve Redgrave as Britain’s most medalled Olympian [now of course he’s overtaken Steve but is behind Chris Hoy]! He’s always been a bit of an oddball mind you – especially when compared with the clean cut superhero figure of Chris Hoy. Wiggins is a bit irascible, a rider with incredible lungs and an incredible heart. He’s not a smooth media operator like Lance Armstrong. He doesn’t read off the script. He is, as has been cited ad nauesum in the press, the self-styled “kid from Kilburn“.

Wiggins on the Champs-Elysées (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

When it looked as if Wiggins was going to fulfil his promise as pre-race favourite, journalists delved more seriously into his Kilburn background. He wrote in his autobiography that he grew up in Paddington, while acknowledging that everyone called it Kilburn. The press are interested, I guess, because people tend to have a very definite impression of Kilburn – and it’s not one that you’d associate with incredible sporting prowess although there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t.

But Wiggins has quite literally put Kilburn on the map. Revered French sports paper L’Equipe had to show its readers where Wiggins grew up. He himself was quoted in the French press over the past few days saying that people from Kilburn end up as postmen, milkmen, or worked in Ladbrokes. Not winners of the toughest cycle race there is.

L’Equipe’s map of London via @mascart

Not that Kilburn – wherever its borders may be – can claim to have played a large part in his success. At St Augustine’s school he was good at sport but played football. It was his mother who fostered his cycling. Wiggins wrote that no-one at school had any idea he was into bikes, even when he became British schoolboy champion in the points race in 1995.

In 2002, Wiggins moved to France spending six years with various French teams, even though he was far more famous for his exploits in a Team GB vest careering round the track. He speaks fairly fluent French – not bad for the boy who wasn’t noted for his academic abilities while at St Augustine’s.

Since news broke of Wiggins’ Kilburn ties, there has been a lot of good natured chat with people who live across the border in W9 a.k.a. Maida Vale. They point out, quite correctly, that he actually lived and went to school in Westminster (although St Augustine’s is linked to a parish that straddles Westminster, Camden and Brent). His mother still lives in Dibdin House, where Bradley grew up, and she and Wiggins’ half-brother both work at St Augustine’s today. No-one seems to have found out how he ended up competing for Camden in the London Youth Games.

Politicians are never known to miss a passing bandwagon and there is a call from one councillor for Wiggins to be given the freedom of Westminster. Hard to believe he’d be interested. There are calls for streets in the area to be named after him. Nice idea I suppose. There is quite a groundswell of support for him to ride down the Kilburn High Road in some sort of parade. I confess I rather like this idea – not least because for someone who grew up at the intersection of three boroughs, this would give a nod to them all. But also because he’s definitely captured the imagination of locals, and maybe he might just inspire the next kid from Kilburn.

But lets remember this is a man who has settled in Eccleston, Lancashire and who trained at Herne Hill velodrome. Young Bradley wasn’t time trialling up and down the A5 behind the 98 bus; and if the school wasn’t helping him further his cycling ambitions, then I’m not sure local politicians from today or from the 1990s can bask in Wiggins’ reflected glory.

Of course I’ve engaged in some of this back and forth over Wiggins’ Kilburn connections – and was amused to read that his parents briefly lived on West End Lane before Bradley was born. Such things are entertaining. But I really don’t care. I’m just delighted that after 25 years of watching the Tour de France, someone who is quintessentially English – forget the Australian father and the Belgian birthplace, he’s a mod for christ’s sake! – has lived up to his potential and conquered the quintessentially non-English Tour de France.

Allez Wiggo

Bradley Wiggins the cycling champion from Kilburn wins the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour De France (Wiki Commons)
History was made yesterday, 22 July 2012, when Bradley Wiggins became the first Englishman to win the Tour de France and so become Kilburn’s most famous sportsman.
The sport is in his blood. His mother Linda Cozens met handsome Gary Wiggins, an Australian professional cyclist, at Paddington Recreation Ground. In 1976 they moved into a house in West End Lane and got married at St Augustine’s church in January 1979. They went to live in Ghent, a centre for cycling, where Bradley was born on 28 April 1980. Unfortunately, Gary had a drink and drugs problem, and was nicknamed ‘Doc’ on the circuit because he used and sold amphetamines. He dumped Linda, when Bradley was only two years old.
In December 1982 she returned to her family home in Kilburn and Bradley grew up in Dibdin House, on the edge of Kilburn and Maida Vale. Dibdin House is a large block of flats owned by the Church Commissioners and was built in 1937. (Gary later returned to Australia and in January 2008 was found beaten up, unconscious, and died soon after in hospital).
Dibdin House, 2012 (Dick Weindling)
Bradley, who went to St Augustine’s school, was keen on football but as he said, ‘cycling was in his blood’. Every Thursday he walked to WH Smith in Kilburn to buy a copy of ‘Cycling Weekly’. He cut out the pictures of his heroes and stuck them on the wall. As a shy 12 years old he regularly rode the eight miles to Herne Hill Velodrome and began track racing.
Main entrance to Dibdin House, 2012 (Dick Weindling)
Bradley married Catherine Cockram in 2004 and they have two children. He became world champion in 2003 and 2007; won two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and was awarded a CBE. But he suffered periods of self-doubt and was helped by fellow cyclist Chris Boardman and Steve Peters, the Team GB Cycling Psychiatrist, who said he sees Bradley as a tiger who he ‘feeds’, but who then disappears and only re-appears when he is ready. He was also mentored by head coach Shane Sutton and achieved great success on the track. But he wanted to race on the road and eventually joined the French team Cofidis. Angered by the 2007 doping revelations in the team, he left, saying he would never ride for them again.

In December 2009 Wiggins was persuaded to join the newly-formed British-based ‘Team Sky’ for a large fee. Performance analyst Tim Kerrison realised Bradley needed to up his training regime and they worked hard on the mountain climbing sections of the races. Things looked good in the 2011 Tour de France until Bradley crashed and broke his collarbone.

Bradley Wiggins (Wiki Commons)
Everything came right for the 2012 Tour and Bradley won the punishing three-week 2,172 mile race.
He left his team celebrating in Paris last night to return to the UK and start preparations for the London Olympics.

He won Gold in the Olympics and was Knighted in the Queen’s New Year’s Honour List in January 2013.

Olympic Travel Part II: How to move around London

I’ve had my whinge about TfL’s model not showing West Hampstead as a hotspot. Now for some more practical advice about travel during the Games. If you are going to an event, I’m sure you’ve already worked out your strategy. I’d recommend the Overground to the Olympic Park, but the Javelin back from Stratford to Kings Cross and then tube or Thameslink home. It’s also less than a 3hr walk from West Hampstead to the stadium if you feel like the exercise.

Tube ¦ Overground ¦ Bus ¦ Rail ¦ Roads ¦ Bikes ¦ Stats

The Jubilee Line will be exceptionally busy pretty much all the time and is, frankly, going to be best avoided if possible. It’s estimated that 80 percent of all spectators attending Greater London venues will travel by rail, including the Tube.

Here’s what GAOTG says:

“Busiest Section: Bond Street to Stratford
Most affected: Weekdays 7-9.30am eastbound and 4-7.30pm both directions, and from 10pm until last train
Other stations on the Jubilee Line will also be busier than usual at certain times.

  • If possible, try to complete your travel either before 7.30am or after 9.30am or before 4pm or after 7.30pm on weekdays.
  • During the Games, you might find it quicker to travel using a different route to normal or using an alternative station.
  • At busy times, passengers are advised to avoid changing lines at London Bridge, Canada Water, Green Park or Bond Street.”

As always, GAOTG directs you to its funky hotspot map, with a slider so you can see where the busiest stations will be on each day of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Friday August 3rd is going to be busy!

Services will generally start between 5-5.30am, but on Sundays they will start 30-45 minutes earlier than usual, at around 6.30am. This will vary by line and station.

The Tube and DLR will run around 60 minutes later than normal on all days. Last trains from central London will leave around 1.30am.

There’ll be extra evening services on the Jubilee, Central and District lines and more trains running in the late evening from Friday 3 August, when events start at the Olympic Stadium.

On certain days and at certain times of day during the Games, some stations will operate differently. Measures may include entry or exit only at some stations, one-way movement within the station or station closures at stations where capacity is not high enough to deal with the demand. These changes will be signed within the affected stations in advance.

On the Bakerloo, expect a lot more people especially when Wembley is in use. Baker Street station will inevitably be very busy as a major interchange.

The Met Line will also be exceptionally busy when Wembley is in use, and Finchley Road is another hotspot station.


Despite being a direct route to the Olympic Park, our stretch of the Overground has not been singled out as being a major bottleneck, although it will – like everywhere else – be busier than normal. Highbury & Islington in particular will be a busy interchange station.


Buses will run more frequently on many routes to cater for the additional passengers. However, some bus services will need to be temporarily diverted and some stops moved or suspended as a result of the road changes that will be in place.

Thankfully, our local bus routes are barely affected. The good ol’ C11 doesn’t even get a mention in TfL’s 86-page bus route report. The archery at Lords shouldn’t affect the 139, although it is likely to be slow going down Abbey Road/Lisson Grove, as it is when there’s a test match on. The 139 and 189 will also be allowed to turn right off Oxford Street onto Portman Square even though that little stretch is a Games Vehicles only route.

139: On Sunday 5th and Sunday 12th August, and Sunday 9th September, the 139 will terminate at Haymarket because of the marathons. This will be in place until Trafalgar Square reopens.

328: During the men’s and women’s road race (July 28th and 29th), the southbound 328 will terminate at the top of Earl’s Court Road, just off Kensington High Street. This will be in effect all day apparently. Initially, there had been plans to increase the frequency of the 328 generally to service Earls Court, but this is now believed to be unnecessary.

The 328 will terminate in West Kensington during the road races

Those of you who head up the Finchley Road, take note of two changes
113: At Marble Arch, the last stop and stand will be on Orchard Street as the Cumberland Gate bus stand will not be available from 20 July-15 August inclusive.

N113: Restrictions on Whitehall require amendments to out of service turning movements. From Cockspur Street, buses will run via Whitehall and Whitehall Place to stand on Northumberland Avenue and will return directly to Cockspur Street and the line of route. Expected to apply 20 July-15 August inclusive


National Rail services from London will operate later than normal. Last trains to locations within two to three hours of London will typically leave between midnight and 01:00. National Rail will also run longer and/or more frequent trains to and from most venue stations when events are taking place. Remember that Kings Cross St Pancras will be exceptionally busy as that’s where the Javelin trains to Stratford run to/from, and this will be one of the major routes people take to the Olympic Park. Expect lengthy queues.

Here’s what First Capital Connect says about Thameslink:

Trains already run throughout the night from Sunday to Friday on the Thameslink route so we have lengthened 34 of these per week out of London and added one new service on a Saturday night to get people home.

At the weekend we have also doubled in length the majority of our services that run between Wimbledon/Sutton and St Albans/Luton, as well as our Sunday services between East Croydon and Bedford. We have also extended four Sunday services beyond London to Bedford and Brighton.

We have ramped up train fleet maintenance at our depots to provide the extra services and we have cancelled all driver-training during the 2012 Games. We have special plans for the busiest stations we manage where there may be queueing systems. We’ll have over 1,000 additional shifts for customer facing roles. We have also increased our cleaning contract by 175 hours a day.

Oyster users will be charged only the minimum fare if they can’t touch out because of altered station arrangements.

Below are the estimated busy/very busy/extremely busy predictions for Thameslink trains in and out of London (click for full size).

Thameslink heading north out of London
Thameslink heading south into London


The Olympic Route Network doesn’t really affect us very much. Obviously any attempt to drive into central London means running into issues, but in our bit of NW London, the only issues are around Lords and Wembley, and in neither case is there anything too drastic to worry about. The ORN comes into place on Wednesday and runs right through to August 14th. Normal traffic can use the vast majority of the ORN, although there will be temporary changes such as suspended turns, stopping and loading restrictions, and traffic signal timing alterations. Stopping or parking on the ORN will result in a £130 penalty charge and your vehicle may be towed away.

These two maps and a reasonably good video give you some idea of what to expect.

Changes around Lord’s (venue for archery)
Changes around Wembley Stadium



Cycling around London may well be one of the best ways of getting around. Just one thing to note though – many of the central London Boris Bike hire stands will be suspended during the Games.


And finally
A few stats from TfL on what London is going to be coping with (and a pretty map showing numbers of spectators on Sunday August 5th)

Sunday 5th (click for full size)

Up to one million extra visitors are expected in London every day during the Games. They will make an additional three million journeys, over and above the regular 12 million journeys made on public transport

During each of the 16 days of the 2012 Games, London will be transport an average of 500,000 spectators and around 55,000 members of the Games Family each day, including athletes and team officials, technical officials, press and broadcasting teams, Olympic and Paralympic families, and marketing partners.

Around 800,000 tickets are available on the busiest days (Friday 3 August for the transport network, although overall more tickets are available on Saturday 4 August) – 510,000 of which will be for London-­based venues.

West Hampstead stations will strain at the Olympic seams

Wembley and Finchley Rd as hotspots on Sunday July 29
(from GetAheadOfTheGames)

We’ve known for quite some time that TfL hasn’t deemed West Hampstead to be a hotspot during the Olympic Games, but will the narrow pavements of the interchange be able to cope with the increase in pedestrian traffic? After all:

  • Two of the three train lines through West Hampstead go directly to the Olympic Park
  • Seven Olympic venues (Wembley, Lord’s, Hyde Park, Horse Guards Parade, North Greenwich Arena, the ExCel centre, and the Olympic park itself) are on the Jubilee Line
  • The West Hampstead interchange is always congested during rush hour, or when there are big matches at Wembley.
Luton fans trying to get home
(photo via @stopsleyvicar)

What does it take to qualify as a hotspot? TfL’s Games Communication & Engagement Manager, Midge McCall, explained in an e-mail forwarded to local councillor Mike Katz back in June:

West Hampstead is a key interchange on the Jubilee and Overground and will be busier than usual, in particular on days when Wembley Stadium will be in use. However it is not considered to be busy enough to cause the type of queueing from 15 mins upward on a regular basis during the day on several days to be termed a hotspot station.

Councillors, the Safer Neighbourhoods Team, and many others including me have queried TfL’s assessment. The response has been consistent: yes, West Hampstead will be busier than normal during the Games but no, it won’t be so busy that it qualifies for “hotspot” status.

Finchley Road station is very much a hotspot station, as people come in fron the outer reaches of north-west London and the suburbs and change onto the Jubilee Line or travel to and from Wembley Stadium. Overcrowding on the platforms here seems inevitable, perhaps more than in the ticket hall. TfL recognises that this means some people (surely lots of locals) will walk up to West Hampstead to board the Jubilee there instead, where there will be a better chance of getting on a train. The full assessment of Finchley Road’s peak times is printed below.

Finchley Road estimated peak times
(click for full-size)

TfL has modelled the impact of the Games on the transport network based on passenger numbers at this time of year in a normal year, and on the postcodes of ticket holders. This allows it to work out what routes people will take to which venues. Download the relevant presentation (which also shows predicted numbers of spectators per venue on peak days) here.

So far, so smart. However, it fails to take into account two factors: people don’t always behave rationally (either deliberately or not), and the West Hampstead interchange is a narrow congested area that does not allow the smooth passage between stations that one finds at Kings Cross or even London Bridge.

The result, I fear, is that at peak times, West Hampstead will become clogged with people changing trains, which in turn holds up traffic and generally impedes people from moving around.

Here’s TfL’s response to a query made by the local Lib Dem councillors:

The website highlights stations where it is predicted that demand for services during the Games will exceed available capacity if people do not change their regular travel behaviour…

…West Hampstead does not appear as a ‘hotspot’ because the additional travellers predicted to use the station during the Games is within the available capacity for both the station and the lines serving it. For example, on one of the busiest days of the Games, Friday 3 August, approximately 16 per cent more passengers are predicted to use West Hampstead station. Based on this prediction, London Underground expects to be able to manage with minimal customer impact. Further, if regular travellers do change their travel habits during the Games, the situation will be further improved.

However, it is important to remember that these are only our best predictions of where and when travel hotspots may arise. The travel situation in London will be different each day and may change throughout the day, as crowds travel to and from the different sporting and cultural events. Therefore, my advice to customers using West Hampstead station, and indeed any other part of the transport network, is to refer to to plan their Games-time journeys and to check before they travel in order to avoid disruption to their journey. TfL will also provide real-time information to assist Londoners and visitors with their travel at stations.

So, it seems that some disruption is inevitable, and there’s no doubt that West Hampstead will not suffer in the way that most zone 1 stations will.

BBC London’s travel correspondent Tom Edwards told me a while ago via Twitter that West Hampstead is not alone among areas that feel TfL has not built the local nuances of a given area into its model. I suspect we’ll find out within the first few days of the Games whether it’s made any mistakes – lets hope that if it has, there is also the flexibility built into its plans to make any necessary adjustments.

In the meantime, we will have to hope TfL’s prognosis is correct and that we don’t see repeats of the scenes we had when Luton Town played at Wembley recently and there was a dangerous crush around the Thameslink station that required police intervention.

Thankfully, while TfL remain unconvinced about the potential for overcrowding at West Hampstead, First Capital Connect seem to be taking more precautions. According to Cllr Risso-Gill, the rail operator has included West Hampstead Thameslink station in its Enhancement Plan. This means the station will be manned 24 hours a day and tensile barriers may be installed to manage any crowding.

Cllr Risso-Gill has also asked the council for additional signage on Iverson Road and West End Lane to give clear directions between the three stations and four entrances, particularly from the new Thameslink exit to the Jubilee Underground and the Overground stations. Sounds very sensible. Lets hope it happens in time.

West Hampstead’s Olympicks

No, no spelling mistake here. On Wednesday evening I joined about 40 other locals at West End Lane Books to hear local author and historian Simon Inglis and University of Southampton academic Martin Polley talk about the history of the Olympics in the UK. Polley’s book “The British Olympics: Britain’s Olympic Heritage 1612-2012“.

Local actor Paul Brightwell added a dramatic touch and theatrical timbre as he read out extracts from some of the early marketing literature for local variants of the Olympics. This included West Hampstead’s very own contribution to the story around the end of the 18th century when a fair was held on West End Green, sponsored by the Cock & Hoop pub, which stood where Alexandra Mansions is now.

Simon and Martin explained the political and social context in which local communities held what would today be termed “Village Games” using the Olympick banner largely tongue in cheek.

You really should buy Martin’s excellent book (from West End Lane Books of course) for the full story. I really recommend it – I went to this talk expecting to find it mildly interesting, but in fact it was very engaging indeed.

Sadly, West Hampstead’s part in the story came to light too late to make the book. But fear not, there will be more on the West End Green Games coming out later this year, and I’m hoping that Simon will be writing something about this for West Hampstead Life in the very near future.

Olympic History: COMPETITION

Next Wednesday, July 4th, local author and sports historian Simon Inglis will be at West End Lane Books together with Dr Martin Polley to talk about when the Olympics came to West Hampstead, drawing on Polley’s new book “The British Olympics: Britain’s Olympic Heritage 1612-2012“.

The event is free, but please contact West End Lane Books if you’d like to attend as space is scarce ().

In the meantime, you can win a copy of the book (worth £17.99) courtesy of West Hampstead Life. You just need to answer a simple question.

Which village was the site of the first games of the post-classical era to adopt the formal title “Olimpick”?

To enter, just with the subject line “Olympic Quiz”, and include your answer and name. Winners will be drawn Tuesday the 3rd.

Good luck – it shouldn’t take too much sleuthing to find the answer!

All the swimming at Swiss Cottage pool

I get quite a lot of press releases these days, and most aren’t even opened let alone read. But this one caught my eye. Because it’s about a man who’s clearly a bit mad. And also brilliant. And he’s doing one of his mad brilliant things in the Swiss Cottage pool this Friday starting at 2pm and you can, nay should, go along and cheer him on.

Let me start again. Dan Thompson has decided to tackle every Olympic and Paralympic event to raise awareness and funds for five UK charities: Cancer Research UK, Oxfam, Right To Play Scope and NSPCC.

Just think about that for a second. Every single Olympic and Paralympic event. There are 114 of them by his reckoning. This is his Gold Challenge.

Tomorrow he’s going to swim. If you add up all the swimming competitions (no, he doesn’t do 100m for men and 100m for women, just the one 100m) then it’s the equivalent of 182 lengths of the pool. Or 4.5km. It is quite a lot. 18 of those lengths have to use the butterfly, which he’s yet to master.

Dan started his challenge in 2010 and has completed 84 events and aims to finish the remaining 30 before the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. Dan has already competed in an overwhelming range of sports from synchronised swimming to pole vault, wheelchair rugby to high diving and boccia to rhythmic gymnastics. A genuine fear of horses meant that it took two sessions before he even got on a horse and a further six before be able to tackle a small jump and learning to high dive as a 6’4″ 51-year-old vertigo sufferer took a very patient coach, namely former world diving champion Chris Snode.

He has spent well over 1,000 hours on his challenge in all weather conditions and including training will travel over 1 million metres including having run 77,505 metres, cycled over 228,000 and walked over 70,000. As the challenge has progressed he has received help & coaching from Olympians and GB coaches as well as completed some sports at Olympic venues.

Dan is aiming to raise as much money as possible for the charities and you can sponsor him at and follow his challenge on facebook The Gold Challenge website is

Kilburn Grange Olympic Irish festival causing concern

Early last week a licence application was brought to my attention. Vince Power – music promoter and owner of Power’s bar in Kilburn – has applied to hold a Feis Village in Kilburn Grange Park. A Feis is an Irish cultural and music festival (Power held one in Finsbury Park last year that attracted big name performers including Van Morrison and Bob Dylan). So far so good.

Here’s the catch: he wants to run it for the entire duration of the Olympics: from July 26th to August 12th, i.e., for just over two weeks, and is also requesting a 2am licence at the weekends (of which there are three in that period). Local residents (those within 250m of the site) were invited to a meeting in The Black Lion on February 14th to discuss it, although ward councillor Mike Katz only found out about it that day and was unable to attend. Vince Power has since extended an invitation to meet Cllr Katz to discuss it further.

Click for full-size

The reaction to the idea on Twitter has not been overwhelmingly positive.

The licence application has a lot of documentation, much of which relates to security (Vince isn’t asking or expecting the local police to be required – all the security will be provided). The application is for up to 5,000 people at any given time, and places a lot of emphasis on the organisers wanting flexibility as the precise schedule for the festival has not been agreed, so they would not necessarily use the late licence. There is also a request for Camden to dispense with the traditional maximum noise level limits although the venues used for comparison are much larger parks such as Hyde Park.

Here’s the event overview and audience profile, taken verbatim from the application (bold sections, my highlights):

Event Overview
2.1 The Feis Village 2012 is based on an already established contemporary Irish music Event, the Fleadh Festival which was launched 22 years ago. The Event was re-launched last year as the London Feis Festival.

2.2 Spanning 18 days during the London 2012 Olympic Games period from the 26th July-12th August in Grange Park Kilburn, with the aim of offering a centre for Irish culture and entertainment during this exciting time. The operational hours of 11:00-02:00 has been applied for in order to give us flexibility and offer a variation in programming and entertainment each evening. We would not look to stay open until the maximum licensed hour each night just to have the flexibility to choose which days the event is open later.

2.3 Musical Entertainment will be provided on some of the days, other days will have comedy and other forms of low-level entertainment. This entertainment will take place on a temporary stage within a Big Top structure. We would be requesting permission to have a live stream of the Olympic Games at the Feis Village, showing key Irish games and events of interest.

2.4 The Big Top will have an audience viewing capacity of 5,000. The venue will be managed by our team and capacity will be monitored by the security team and crowds monitored continuously. A copy of the site plan is available as a separate document which shows the lay-out of the stage and venue. Live music will always finish at 23:00.

2.5 The event site will open to the public at 11.00 on most days – but this will be TBC in line with the entertainment schedule. There will be low-level entertainment, food and drinks on offer during the day. With live music entertainment starting late afternoon / early evening. This will not be on every night of the event and all live music will be finishing at 23.00. We would request the flexibility within the license to be able to stay open late on some nights, in line with key Irish Olympic events and provide low-level entertainment and serve food and drink until 02:00 on some nights. We will be looking at the public transport schedule and will ensure that the entertainment schedule is in-line with this. We would look for the flexibility to have the bars open until 02:00 on some nights, with the site cleared by 0230 and the site secured. We would look to close everything an hour earlier on Sundays.

2.6 Entry will be strictly by ticket only, and a secure perimeter will be established around the Park site. A system will be implemented for clearly identifying legitimate ticket holders by means of secure wristband. We would work to a maximum capacity on site at any one time of 5,000, but this would most likely be spread over the day due to the varied programming of the entertainment.

2.7 Tickets will be sold as separate day tickets and in combinations. We would look into the option of having a separate day ticket and an evening ticket to enable us to clear the site. Ticket combinations are currently TBC as is ticket pricing.

2.8 Disabled tickets will be available that will give free access for the career. Under 12 tickets will be free when accompanied by a full paying adult. We will be offering a reduced price ticket for locals who live within a certain distance to the park.

2.9 There will also be a hospitality area for around 250 seated guests. This area will be controlled via a distinctive wristband and will remain open after the main event closes. This is where we would look to have bars and low-level entertainment until 02:00 for this limited number of guests.

Audience Profile
3.1 Information indicating the performers is included in Appendix 1. This Appendix will be updated regularly as contracts are signed and acts are confirmed for the bill. Currently these acts are TBC.

3.2 The audience profiles for both event days is expected to be is predominantly mid 20’s to mid 50 year olds, with an even gender split and often in couples, small peer groups and large percentage of families, partially during the day. Whilst the music will be of a broad appeal it will be mainly Irish Folk style music. The audience profile will be broadly similar and of little variation across all event days.

3.3 A large proportion of the audience is expected to be people who live locally to the area.

3.4 Under 16’s will not be permitted on site, unless accompanied by a person of 18 years or over. No more than two Under 16’s will be allowed to enter with any one designated adult. Under 12’s will be permitted to the event free of charge but will have to be allocated a FOC ticket that can be obtained when booking a full adult ticket. Only 2 FOC children’s tickets can be allocated to each adult ticket.

3.5 None of the acts booked are liable to lead to crowd conflict or “tribalism”, or of concerns regarding excessively boisterous behavior, “moshing” or “crowd surfing”.

Here’s how the park would look during the festival (the writing is just about legible if you click for full-size version), followed by a photo of last year’s Kilburn Festival (which is currently due to take place this year on July 8th).

The Big Top is the large stadium-shaped bit in the middle
2011 Kilburn Festival (stage behind camera)

The objections are fairly obvious: too late, too noisy, and goes on for too long. The local Conservatives have already churned out a response, in which none other than London Assembly member Brian Coleman says that “Music festivals are good but an 18 day event in a park in a residential area in the summer goes too far.” It may well be that a majority of people agree with that perspective. The deadline for making representations to Camden is March 12th, and you can post them online.

Click for full-size version

The full documentation can be found here, and below are selected pages from the draft noise evaluation appendix, with sections highlighted by me.
Draft Noise Appraisal for Kilburn Feis 2012 Licence

Anyone for rugby?

Adam Hirschovits contacted me recently and asked if I could post something about his local rugby club. Always happy to oblige, I suggested the best person to write about it was probably him. So he did: 

“UCS Old Boys Rugby Football Club (“UCSOB RFC”) was founded in 1892 by some ex-pupils of University College School. However, it was not until 1979 that UCSOB RFC started playing its home matches in West Hampstead, which has always been our spiritual home.

We train and play our Saturday home matches at UCS Playing Fields, Ranulf Road, NW2 2BH. Training is every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-8.30pm and matches are on Saturday afternoons.

These days, the 1st XV competes in the highly competitive London 2 North West league – a remarkable feat given the size of the club. Its 2nd and 3rd teams compete in the Hertfordshire leagues, with the occasional friendly for our 4th XV.

The great appeal of UCSOB RFC is that it can cater for all your rugby needs: if you are looking to train hard and join a competitive and ambitious club, then our 1st XV could be for you. Our 2nd and 3rd XVs bring together young players who wish to challenge at a higher level, those who have been at the top and fancy something a little less intense, and those who are just there to take part and enjoy the camaraderie!

We have been fortunate enough, over the past three years, to have had two ex All Blacks represent us (Taine Randell and Anton Oliver), one of whom just wanted a run-out with his mates, and ended up playing in the 4th XV!

After our Saturday matches (all in and around London), players tend to stay in our (subsidised) bar, and if you’re not interested in moving very far, you can always find a group of people happy to walk home via a bar crawl along West End Lane.

So, whether you are a serious competitive rugby player looking for a new club, or someone who has never played before but would like to give it a try, come down to one of our training sessions and get involved. Everyone who wants to play will get a game.

If interested, please contact Geoffrey Boxer on or on 07984 467189.”

And before you ask, I checked with Adam, and the teams are men only at the moment but naturally women are welcome to join in the post-match drinking!

Celebs turn out for local cricket match

Last Sunday the Hampstead Cricket Club hosted its third annual charity celebrity cricket match. Andy Sarner (@bubela) was on hand with notebook and camera to report

“The HCC Celebrity Cricket Match was, as always, a thoroughly pleasant affair. Due to Chairman and organiser Jim Carter’s role in Downton Abbey there was a distinct Downton presence this year, including Dan Stevens (playing) and Penelope Wilton (watching).

HCC chairman Jim Carter commentates

Local actor/author/tweeter Michael Simkins played a great match, and Greg Wise – sporting huge sideboards for a film – bowled the winning ball after his wife Emma Thompson had bowled the opening delivery.

Greg Wise strides off the pitch

Michael Simkins looks focused

Yes, I think the celeb team (albeit including a Middlesex player) beat the Club team, though I was too busy perusing the cakes and food stalls to watch much cricket. Jim Carter did his usual witty commentary on the match and the following raffle draw. The weather was lovely, the crowd picnicked and, as soon as everything was packed away and we’d all gone home, it rained.”

Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law

Imelda Staunton

Soldiers of Fortune (Green) vs. Athletic – the West Hampstead 5-a-side derby

After a decidedly unsuccessful first season, finishing dead last in the Fortune Green 5-a-side league, West Hampstead Wanderers FC disbanded, splitting into two separate teams for the start of the new season. Dan reports on their first encounter.
Despite the new teams – West Hampstead Athletic and Soldiers of Fortune (Green) – maintaining a core of the old Wanderers players, both sides recorded victories in their respective opening games. But this positive start was bound to end for one of the teams as match day 2 saw the former team-mates go head-to-head for the first time in what must now be the ultimate North London derby. 
This rivalry brought out the best in both teams, and what resulted was an incredibly tight, hard-fought match. The energy levels were high, the quality of the football higher.
The Soldiers opened the scoring, but Athletic soon drew level. Goals were harder to come by than in previous matches, thanks mainly to sterling displays in goal by the two keepers, and some brilliant defending. 
With about a minute left to play, and the scores level at 4 goals apiece, everyone on the pitch turned their dials up to 11. In the end, a late goal from Thom Hoffman handed the win to the Soldiers of Fortune (Green). But never have cliches such as “it could have gone either way” and “both teams deserved to get something out of the match” been more applicable.
It was a fantastic game to be involved in, and I can’t wait for the return fixture.
Final Score: Soldiers of Fortune (Green) 5 – 4 West Hampstead Athletic.

Positive end to the season for Wanderers

The team was already consigned to the bottom of the table, but was able to salvage some pride in a 5-a-side match that suggests next season’s league (revised to 5-a-side from 6 this season) could be much more competitive. Tim reports:

Matchday 12. Monday April 4. KO 7.20
West Hampstead Wanderers 11 – 9 The Gym Utd.

Gym Utd arrived at Fortune Green fresh from their title decider the previous week. Maybe it was the taste of defeat in that match, or having one eye already on next season; but either way, a match between the league runners up and the dead last team coudl have been expected to be a walkover to an outsider.

The Wanderers struggled to field a full line-up for the final match, so it seemed the writing was on the wall. However, The Gym Utd kindly agreed to field a 5-a-side team, which allowed more space in the previously cramped court. Some of the early football played by the Wanderers was reminiscent of the tiki-taka approach taken by some larger, foreign teams.

Wanderers were very quickly two goals to the good, following some simple pass and move with calm finishing from @timcheese and @matthewmargot. The gents from the Gym fought back, and the game was close as half-time approached. In the blur of competition, the writer considers that the scores were around 4 a-piece. Most surprising at the interval was that @timcheese already had a hat-trick under his belt, as he hadn’t scored all season whilst playing in defence. With 10 players on the court, far greater space was afforded with counterattacking suiting the bolder, quicker team.

Following the changeover, Utd looked shell-shocked early into the second half as the plucky Wanderers continued as they had started, with a couple of quick goals from a rejuvenated @samwong1. There was real belief that an upset beckoned. @MartinTse was kept busy in goal, with some quite optimistic defending, and tired legs betraying Wanderers’ ambitions. During the mid-point of the second half, Wanderers started to slow and dictate play, with @thomhoffman picking up two of his three goal tally; one of which involved a sublimely understated use of his eyes to direct the keeper away from his exquisitely placed shot. With that, The Gym Utd were almost broken, and after the addition of a fourth by @timcheese following a dubious handball claim denied, all that was left was to see out the final onslaught. Utd’s goliath effort was finished, David like, by @matthewmargot with the simplest of tap-ins before the final whistle blew.

The match had no effect on the standings, but dead rubber or not, the boys from West Hampstead showed their neighbouring cousins with their 11-9 victory that the battle for next season is just beginning.

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P12 W8 D2 L2 GD +27
The Gym Utd.             P12 W6 D2 L4 GD +17
Abacus Athletic          P12 W4 D2 L6 GD -4
West Hampstead Wanderers P12 W2 D2 L8 GD -40

Last minute goal thriller consigns Wanderers to last place

With three weeks left until the end of the season, the Wanderers needed a win and other results to go their way if they were not to be destined to finish bottom of the league. Thom reports

Match day 10. Monday 21st March. KO 6.30
West Hampstead Wanderers 9 – 10 Abacus Athletic

A solid start saw the Wanderers take the lead after pressure high up the pitch led to a penalty, which was  stuck away by Thom. Abacus scored two in return before another penalty made it 2-2. The hard work at the start of the half  began to take its toll and some clinical finishing by the opposition meant that the Wanderers went into the break 5-2 down.

Heads didn’t drop though and the pressure was ramped right back up in the second half.

Some slick finishing and another penalty brought the score to 5-4 but the Wanderers’ carefree attacking play led to them being caught on the break and although they scored several, they were conceding as well. With a minute to go before the final whistle, Abacus was leading 9-8 when they gave away yet another penalty. Thom stepped up to stick it away and the Wanderers were on the verge of drawing the match. Amazingly, all the hard work was undone with seconds to go as Abacus’s Yemi released a belter from the halfway line, that even the lovechild of Jesus and Peter Schmeichel wouldn’t have been able to stop. Final score 10-9 to Abacus.

It was a good fun game with some great performances, and with no subs to bring on the shape and movement of the team was a lot more controlled, which bodes well for next season.

Goals: @ThomHoffman x6, @SamWong1 x1, @MatthewMargot x1, @Talalb01 x1

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P10 W7 D1 L2 GD +25
The Gym Utd.             P10 W5 D2 L3 GD +17
Abacus Athletic          P10 W4 D2 L4 GD 0
West Hampstead Wanderers P10 W1 D1 L8 GD -42

At the end of this season, the league becomes 5-a-side and the Wanderers will split into two separate teams so more people get a chance to play.

Wanderers get caught on the break

The season is starting to draw to a close and, as in the Premiership as in the Hampstead 6-a-side league, teams beginning with W are struggling. Tal reports on the Wanderers’ latest outing:

Match day 9. Monday 14th March. KO 7.20
West Hampstead Wanderers 3 – 10 The Gym Utd.

After a few disappointing defeats the Wanderers were looking for a win against a side they have had close and well fought battles with in the past. Unfortunately, we were missing our goalkeeper, but @Martin_Tse stepped up to the plate and took the gloves after others shied away from the responsibility. Martin put in an excellent performance early in the game and was helped massively by the energy and desire shown by the outfield players. The team seems to have addressed its problems of closing down early and the team defended as a single unit.

The Wanderers peppered the opposition’s goal with shots throughout the first half and had the best chances throughout. The team did a great job of regaining lost posession and shooting when the opportunity arose. Lady Luck, however, wasn’t on the Wanderers’ side and many of the shots were very close or were saved – on another day they’d have been in the back of the net.

The Gym Utd. got stronger as the game wore on and stole a few goals on the break giving them a healthy lead, The Wanderers pushed further upfield in search of goals, @ThomHoffman nabbed a brace through hard work and continual pressure, and @MatthewMargot used his strength and power on the ball to score another long range shot.

Of course, as the Wanderers pressed forward, The Gym Utd attacked on the break and pulled further ahead leaving the final score 10-3 to The Gym. This score doesn’t tell the tale of the game though. There were some positive signs from the Wanderers: a good defensive attitude, a willingness to shoot and slowly developing a knowledge of each other’s movement. This can only lead to good results in a  league which has proven to be very competitive in the Wanderers’ debut season. As always, the next game will be a win!

Team: @nickhudgell, @NWSixDan, @ThomHoffman (x2) @Talalb01, @Martin_Tse, @SamWong1, @MatthewMargot (x1), @TimCheese

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P9 W7 D0 L2 GD +25
The Gym Utd.             P9 W5 D1 L3 GD +17
Abacus Athletic          P9 W3 D2 L4 GD -1
West Hampstead Wanderers P9 W1 D1 L7 GD -41

Wanderers fall under Wizards’ spell once more

The third outing of the NW6 derby game saw league leaders Kilburn Wizards notch up another win although as in the previous encounters, the Wanderers weren’t so far off the pace despite being without player/manager Nick. Matt reports:

Match day 8. Monday 7th March. KO 7.20
West Hampstead Wanderers 4 – 8 Kilburn Wizards

The Wanderers got off to a cracking start applying pressure all over the field. The Wizards struggled to keep the ball and gave away an early penalty which @thomhoffman casually put away, giving the Wanderers an early lead.

The Wanderers were missing some regular defenders and the Wizards were able to carve out a couple of chances against the patched up defence. Had it not been for the exploits of @domchristie in goal we would have gone in to half time with a larger deficit than 2-1.

The second half saw three amazing Wanderers goals. The first was the culmination of an excellent passage of play and a superb finish from @thomhoffman after a wonderpass for his second of the night. The second was a long hit into the bottom corner from @MatthewMargot as was the third by @Talalb01.

Unfortunately in the second half the Wizards scored 5. Very disappointing for the Wanderers, and due to a few lapses in concentration, superior opposition fitness and some dodgy refereeing decisions (including a disallowed Wanderers goal).

Team @DJVectra, @DomChristie, @NWSixDan, @SamWong1, @ThomHoffman (x2), @MatthewMargot (x1), @Talalb01 (x1)

Thom tops the Wanderers’ goal scoring so far this season with 12 goals, followed by Matt on 10

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P8 W6 D0 L2 GD +19
The Gym Utd.             P8 W4 D1 L3 GD +10
Abacus Athletic          P8 W3 D2 L3 GD +5
West Hampstead Wanderers P8 W1 D1 L6 GD -34

Wanderers continue to prop up the table

Another week, another match. The Wanderers were facing Abacus Athletic once again in the league. Would the team be able to restore some pride after last week’s drubbing. Dan reports.

Match day 7. Monday 28th February. KO 6.30
West Hampstead Wanderers 5 – 11 Abacus Athletic

After last week’s resounding defeat at the hands – and feet – of Gym United, the Wanderers were determined to get a positive result against Abacus Athletic. A positive opening period saw the Wanderers take the lead, with an early goal from @MatthewMargot.

For 10 whole minutes, the West Hampstead side looked genuinely good. The passing was slick, despite a wet and skiddy surface, the defense was strong and physical, and @Martin_Tse pulled off some spectacular diving saves in goal.

But then it all went down hill. Abacus scored an equaliser, and then took the lead. The Wanderers players’ heads went down, and three more Abacus goals followed. At half time, the Wanderers were 5-1 behind.

At this stage a comeback was still on the cards. The Wanderers were playing some good attacking football, and working hard off the ball. But for large periods, Abacus simply outplayed them.

Second half goals came from @ThomHoffman and @NWSixDan, and @MatthewMargot deservedly completed a hat trick, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap. Final score: West Hampstead 5, Abacus 11.

It was a fair result on the night – Abacus were definitely the better side – but there were plenty of positives to draw from the Wanderers’ performance. Next week, West Hampstead take on the table-topping Kilburn Wizards in what will be another tough game. But in this crazy old league, anything can happen.

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P7 W5 D0 L2 GD +15
The Gym Utd.             P7 W4 D0 L3 GD +10
Abacus Athletic          P7 W3 D1 L3 GD +5
West Hampstead Wanderers P7 W1 D1 L5 GD -30

Dan also interviewed Wanderers’ player/manager @NickHudgell who dissects the team’s performance and prospects for the rest of the season.

Video streaming by Ustream

Black Monday for Wanderers

It was another outing against The Gym Utd for West Hampstead Wanderers last night. A couple of tweets after the match suggested things hadn’t gone the Wanderers’ way. Nick reports:

Match day 6. Monday 21st February. KO 7.20
West Hampstead Wanderers 2 – 17 The Gym Utd

With previous outings against the Gym Utd being close battles that had gone both ways, the expectation for last night’s game was high.

As the saying goes, “great expectation can bring great failure”* and it did. For whatever reason the Wanderers failed to string anything together that would even resemble football – in attack, midfield and defense, the football was lacking.

Despite goals either side of half time by @MatthewMargot and @NWSixDan, which spared some blushes, the Wanderers could not stop the goals from leaking in, and failed to get anything back for themselves.

As a result, and to sum up: last night we got beat. Bad.

We’re half way through the league, and there is time to pick up more points. So we’ll scratch last night as a bad night at the office – and move onwards (and upwards?).

* quite possibly not a ‘saying’.

 [Ed: notable that the table-topping Kilburn Wizards also lost yesterday, so was clearly a strange night]

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P6 W5 D0 L1 GD +18
The Gym Utd.             P6 W3 D0 L3 GD +7
Abacus Athletic          P6 W2 D1 L3 GD -1
West Hampstead Wanderers P6 W1 D1 L4 GD -24

V for Valentine’s not Victory in the NW6 derby

Derby day again in the 6-a-side league as the Wanderers took on top of the table Kilburn Wizards on a cold February 14th evening. David reports:

Match day 5. Monday 14th February. KO 7.20
West Hampstead Wanderers 3 – 8 Kilburn Wizards

This didn’t turn out to be the Valentine’s Day massacre that many feared – just a solid, if unspectacular defeat. It featured a brave performance from a Wanderers’ team shorn of a few key players by the commercial nonsense lovely occasion that is Feb 14th. @Martin_Tse made a welcome return to the backline to marshal the defence, but the Wizards were on good form, moving the ball quickly and effectively and lived up to their billing as league leaders. @NickHudgell ’s energy was rewarded with a cheeky goal in the first half and @Talalb01 used his cannon of a right foot to score a couple of nicely taken goals. The Wizards were only 5-2 up at half time but, by scoring first in the second half, they took control of the game and never let the Wanderers have a sniff of victory.

The post-game debate centred on appropriate fines for @NW6Dan and @ThomHoffman for being “missing in love”… all suggestions welcome. Fines will also be introduced for every time @TimCheese incorrectly rolls the ball back into play – it is becoming a weekly ritual, as predictable as a Paul Scholes booking. Man of the match for the Wanderers was once again @DJVectra, who finds new parts of his body to make flying saves with every week, and continues to showcase his wide range of replica shirts.

The Wanderers are a much better team than when we first played together – more cohesive, skilful and committed – and continue to enjoy the Monday night local league.

Team: @NickHudgell (1 x goal), @Talalb01 (2 x goals), @TimCheese, @DomChristie, @SamWong1, @DJVectra, @Martin_Tse, @oneDavidLewy

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P5 W5 D0 L0 GD +19
The Gym Utd.             P5 W2 D0 L3 GD -8
Abacus Athletic          P5 W1 D1 L3 GD -2
West Hampstead Wanderers P5 W1 D1 L3 GD -9

Wanderers rack up a point against Abacus

Monday night is football night here in NW6, and this week’s clash saw the West Hampstead Wanderers take on Abacus Athletic in a rematch of the first game of the season, which the Wanderers lost 7-11. But in a rich vein of form, could they steal the points in the reverse fixture. Dan reports:

Match day 4. Monday 7th February. KO 6.30
West Hampstead Wanderers 9 – 9 Abacus Athletic

When Newcastle United came back against Arsenal from 4-0 down at half-time last weekend to eek out a 4-4 draw, many pundits thought that a more impressive comeback, and a more emphatic capitulation, could not be repeated. Not in our lifetimes, at any rate.

But last night, in a thrilling goal-fest at the Home of Football – Fortune Green play centre – the West Hampstead Wanderers faced an Abacus Athletic side with all the spirit, grit and determination to rewrite the history blogs.

The Wanderers took an early lead after @Talalb01 surprised the Abacus keeper with a long-range effort. The “Mathematicians” equalised, but the Wanderers, brimming with confidence and playing the kind of tiki-taka football that would have Lionel Messi salivating, kept their heads and kept scoring. This reporter’s memory isn’t what it used to be, but the score was somewhere in the region of 5-3 as half-time approached.

Abacus did brilliantly to close the gap, and if not for some outstanding keeping by @DJVectra in the West Hampstead goal, may well have taken the lead. Thankfully, superb goals from @ThomHoffman, @DomChristie and @Talalb01 meant that the Wanderers always had their noses in front.

A close-fought and well-deserved 9-8 victory looked to be a certainty but, with what would turn out to be the very last kick of the game, one of the Abacus players completed a great solo run and shot into the bottom corner of @DJVectra’s goal.

Final score: 9-9. Another strong performance from West Hampstead Wanderers, who really do seem to be going from strength to strength. It’s a long season – and a game of two halves, etc – and there’s still all to play for.

Goal Scorers:
@ThomHoffman x2, @Talalb01 x2, @DomChristie x2, @MatthewMargot, @NickHudgell, @NWSixDan

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P4 W4 D0 L0 GD +14
Abacus Athletic          P4 W1 D1 L2 GD -1
West Hampstead Wanderers P4 W1 D1 L2 GD -4
The Gym Utd.             P4 W1 D0 L3 GD -9

Wanderers win as Hoffman bags five

Before the season re-started, The West Hampstead Wanderers had played The Gym United. It was the team’s first competitive match and they lost. Quite badly. Now, with the league properly underway and the Wanderers’ form improving with every game, it was time for a rematch. Thom Hoffman reports.

Matchday 3. Monday 31st January. KO 6.30
West Hampstead Wanderers 5 – 2 The Gym Utd.

A solid start to the match saw a series of tight exchanges between the two teams. Hard running from the Wanderers made it very tough for the Gym Utd, who were restricted to a few long-range chances. Eventually the ball broke for @nickhudgell who played a great pass to @thomhoffman who slotted home the first goal of the match. The Gym Utd chased back and made it 1-1 after good work from their big striker who had been the thorn in the Wanderers’ side in the previous encounter. The Wanderers’ defence had learned from that however, and changed tactics – not committing too close and making it hard for TGU to play where they wanted. The Wanderers were playing some superb passing football, with the rock solid @timcheese breaking from the back and providing options on the wing. A sneaky one-two with a TGU defender allowed @thomhoffman to make it 2-1, and solid defence kept the scores that way until half time.

The second half started with TGU on the up and only some unbelievable goalkeeping by @DJVectra kept them out. Eventually though, they found some space and the game was level once again. @thomhoffman slipped back on the pitch and managed to nick a goal after a good pass from the throw in. Back in the lead again, the Wanderers began to ‘pass and move super smooth’ like an Anfield Rap instructed behemoth. Great performances all around the pitch and a 100% work rate made it impossible for TGU to get back in the game. @thomhoffman nicked a couple more to end up with five goals. The United keeper worked hard all night, and kept out many shots from almost all the Wanderers – the final score could have been a lot more.

Team: @NickHudgell, @nwsixDan, @ThomHoffman, @MatthewMargot, @DomChristie, @Talalb01, @TimCheese, @DJVectra

Goal scorers: @thomhoffman x 5

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P3 W3 D0 L0 GD +8
Abacus Athletic          P3 W1 D0 L2 GD -1
The Gym Utd              P3 W1 D0 L2 GD -3
West Hampstead Wanderers P3 W1 D0 L2 GD -4

Wizards cast a spell on Wanderers

Matchday 2 of the 6-a-side season was a close-fought NW6 derby game as the West Hampstead Wanderers took on the Kilburn Wizards. Sadly the Wanderers couldn’t find enough tricks to unlock the Wizards’ defence. Dom Christie reports:

Match day 2. Monday 24th January. KO 6.30
West Hampstead Wanderers 3 – 6 Kilburn Wizards

West Hampstead Wanderers had a near-full squad available ahead of the game against the unbeaten Kilburn Wizards. @timcheese was forced to pull out thanks to “British Rail” while @martin_tse replaced the injured @djvectra between the posts. @thomhoffman and @nwsixdan were back from trials at (or “trips to”)  Barcelona, and went straight into the starting lineup.

The Wanderers kept it tight from the start, and eventually took a well-deserved lead mid-way through the first half thanks to @thomhoffman. This good form continued with some superb saves from @martin_tse, but the Wanderers couldn’t quite hold out and, on the stroke of half-time, the Wizards levelled.
It was the first time the Wanderers hadn’t headed off for half-time oranges trailing their opponents, so optimism was high. The second half was feisty, and the Wizards were getting away with some pretty aggressive slide tackles. The quick tempo saw them slot home three quick goals and suddenly the Wanderers found themselves 4-1 down.

The referee sin-binned Wanderers’ @onedavidlewy midway through the second half, and appeared to do the same to a Wizards’ player a few minutes later; but the Wizard – clearly deploying some cunning mind spell – played on regardless. Despite being a man down, the Wanderers plugged away with @MatthewMargot scoring a second and @thomhoffman getting his second and the Wanderers third. Unfortunately the Wizards had two more tricks up their collective sleeve and also scored twice. Final score: 6-3 to the Wizards.

The Wizards are top of the league, but once again the Wanderers’ improved on their previous week’s performance. There’s a long way to go in this campaign, and you can be sure that next time the two teams meet the Wanderers will be highly motivated to pull the rabbit out of the proverbial and turn the tables on their tricky opponents.

@NickHudgell, @Martin_Tse, @nwsixDan, @ThomHoffman, @SamWong1, @oneDavidLewy, @MatthewMargot, @DomChristie, @Talalb01

Goal scorers:
@thomhoffman x 2

League standings:

Kilburn Wizards          P2 W2 D0 L0 GD +6
Abacus Athletic          P2 W1 D0 L1 GD +1
The Gym Utd              P2 W1 D0 L1 GD 0
West Hampstead Wanderers P2 W0 D0 L2 GD -7

Wanderers start the season (again)

Another Monday, another first match of the season. As the league began again, the Wanderers were able to wipe the memories of last week’s defeat and start afresh with a match against Abacus Athletic. Matthew Margot reports

Match day 1. Monday 17th January. KO 6.30
West Hampstead Wanderers 7 – 11 Abacus Athletic
West Hampstead Wanderers second first game of the season was against Abacus Athletic. The league format had undergone a slight reshuffle with a team dropping out and the games changing to six-a-side.
The Wanderers started slowly conceding an early penalty. Abacus were moving the ball quickly and their superior fitness was on display in the early stages of the game. A couple more goals from Abacus saw the Wanderers trailing 3-0.
The Wanderers had the advantage of three subs and brought on some fresh legs. @Talalb01 scored a tidy goal and the comeback was on. @MatthewMargot also added a goal with a mishit left foot volley but with halftime approaching Abacus added a few more goals and the score going into halftime was either 5-2, 6-2 or 7-2. Without @DJVectra’s excellent goalkeeping it could have been much worse.
Following an encouraging team talk from the captain/manager/player @NickHudgell with instructions to press further up the pitch, pass the ball quickly and shoot on sight the Wanderers returned to the pitch.
The second half started well with the Wanderers dictating the play. @TimCheese and @Martin_Tse were strong at the back and @SamWong1 and @DomChristie were pulling the strings in midfield. The instruction to shoot on sight meant shots were flying in from all over the place and it wasn’t long until @Martin_Tse had a long ranger fly in courtesy of a massive deflection. @Talalb01 added his second of the night with a good shot from range and then @MatthewMargot scored from the edge of the box. The deficit had been reduced and the score was 7-5.
The Wanderers were pushing for more goals but unfortunately got caught on the break a couple of times by Abacus. @oneDavidLewy added one for the Wanderers from long range and with the clock running down @MatthewMargot completed his hat trick following in on a rebound but it was not enough to complete the comeback. Final score 11-7.
In summary it was a very good second half performance. The Wanderers grew as the match went on adapted to the conditions and style of play required, with more time the game could have been levelled. The extra three subs probably helped a little.
Goal Scorers:

Tough first outing for West Hampstead Wanderers

Yesterday, the newly formed West Hampstead Wanderers kicked off their season in the Hampstead 7evens League with a game against The Gym United. Player/manager Nick Hudgell reports:

Match day 1. Monday 10th January. KO 7.15.
The Gym United 10-4 West Hampstead Wanderers
The first game of a new season, let alone for a new team is always hard. The Wanderers took to a cold and dark Fortune Green Playcentre for their first ever 7-a-side game against the ominously named ‘The Gym United’. Despite a slight delay while the floodlights went off and the Wanderers practiced some 1-touch in the dark to hone their skills, the game started fairly promptly at 7.15pm, a light drizzle making the ball move quickly across the surface.
The Wanderers, used to playing on the more spacious Fortune Green park, started slow but, despite some early pressure from TGU, they opened the score sheet. The goal will undoubtedly go before the dubious goals committee, but was claimed at the time by @nwsixdan. The lead was short-lived as the red-clad Wanderers conceded a penalty that was swiftly converted to bring TGU level. 
The Wanderers regrouped and quickly got back into their stride with a goal from @Talalb01 to go 2-1 up, but under sustained pressure from TGU the Wanderers lead couldn’t last for long. TGU’s main player (and league organiser) showed some impressive striking ability and a flurry of goals put them quickly into the lead despite some superb efforts from @DJVectra in the Wanderers’ goal. Thankfully, before the half was up, a sloppy pass across the goal from TGU’s defence allowed @nickhudgell to steal in and grab a goal – a lifeline on the stroke of half time.
A second half “impact substitution” brought on a flu-riddled @thomhoffman, but even operating on just one lung, he gave the Wanderers a bit of pace, some more movement, and put TGU on the back foot. However with only one more Wanderers goal from @nickhudgell, and a couple more from TGU – the final whistle blew with the score 10–4 to The Gym United.
If the game had gone on longer, the Wanderers could have come back into it. They learned and adapted as the game went on. The team certainly learned a few lessons, but also took away a lot of positives, with some fantastic individual performances from @samwong1 and in goal from @DJVectra and @Martin_Tse.
Thanks to Chris from @TheRailwayNW6 for a meal-deal offer that was taken up by four of the team – a good way to end the day.

The next match date will be announced very soon.

WANTED: Eager football players

Yesterday I tweeted about Hampstead 7evens, a local seven-a-side football organisation based in Fortune Green. West Hampstead local Thom Hoffman was trying to get a team together and then faster than a Gareth Bale strike into the bottom right corner/Theo Walcott run down the line* people were replying left right and centre expressing an interest.

Then, Thom had an idea and asked if I’d post it, so I am:

“Hi, as there is a lot of football interest I propose an official kickabout. I think it would be a good idea to have a big footy match on Fortune Green next Saturday 13th November K/O 12 noon. Loads of people seem interested, and I’d love to play a bit more locally. There could be enough for a few 7-aside teams in the future; or just enough people interested that we can have kickabout tweetups once in a while. I realise Saturday mornings aren’t great for everyone but it has to be sometime…”

Where: Fortune Green Park
When: Saturday 13th November, midday
Bring: Trainers and shinpads!
Email: thom.hoffman (at) if interested or tweet @thomhoffman

*delete according to your north London football predilections

West Hampstead Digest No.7 Local news where you set the agenda

(Click here for the one-page PDF version)

Accidents, Algerians and aggrieved locals… It must be #whamptravel

The challenges of getting to, from and around this part of London have once again dominated the local chat. Digest came out too early last week to catch the news of another traffic accident involving a bus on West End Lane.

Calls to change the traffic system came in, with suggestions of zebra crossings near Tesco’s. Perhaps, however, West Hampstead should be more cutting edge and take the approach that is gaining traction across Europe of Shared Space. The idea is to de-segregate road and pavement users. This might seem counter-intuitive but, where the idea has been implemented, the statistics show that there are fewer accidents because everyone (and especially drivers) tends to be more cautious. It is not a scheme that will work everywhere of course but perhaps West End Lane, which already has slowish traffic, could be a good testing ground. Already there is a campaign to bring the idea to Hampstead.

The other excitement of last weekend was that the Metropolitan Line made its inaugural stop at Willesden Green (which it will now do on weekends when Jubilee Line is shut ). Thanks to @PkerUNO for the photograph. Of course this weekend both lines were down. Plus ça change.

Wednesday evening was football evening, and demonstrated neatly the evolving nature of Kilburn’s population. Early on in the evening, Algeria beat Egypt to qualify for the World Cup, and immediately messages began to appear about honking horns on the Edgware Road and Kilburn High Road. A few hours later when Ireland were denied the chance of a penalty shootout by the hand of Thierry Henry, there was nothing but silence from the traditional Irish enclave, once affectionately known as County Kilburn.First Capital Connect is never far from the news at the moment. Its timetable continues to be a work of fiction as staff work to rule. It has got to the stage where questions are being asked in Parliament.

To add to FCC’s woes, there is now a late-stage minor revolt about the proposed new station on Iverson Road. @joe_sayegh spotted this article in the Ham & High about residents arguing that the plans will remove parking bays and destroy the embankment. There will be a meeting on Tuesday, but Digest’s readers were largely unsympathetic.

The plans are exempt from requiring planning permission, and the company will argue that it has made efforts to liaise with the local community using measures such as the drop-in meeting at the library a few weeks ago. Is this going to run and run? It seems a certainty that there will be a station on Iverson Road, but will residents manage to gain any further concessions? #whamptravel

Remembering the place of politics
Electioneering at public ceremonies of remembrance is frowned upon. Both Brown and Cameron have apologised for the photographers at Westminster Abbey to capture their appearances at what should be an apolitical event.

Old news for Camdenites. A council hoo-ha kicked up after Lib Dem PPC Jo Shaw was accused of muscling in on the borough’s Remembrance Sunday event and filming it. She issued a statement saying she would not be using the film for party political purposes and emphasizing her per-sonal connection to the armed forces.

Adding fuel to the fire, Lib Dem PPC (Hampstead & Kilburn) @edfordham posted footage of himself at an Armistice Day ceremony in West Hampstead on his You Tube channel. This incurred the ire of both Tory and Labour representatives alike.

Ed replied, but never explained what the facts to be checked were. See @RichardOsley’s blog for more.

Other news. @CamdenGP confirmed that H&K Green candidate Beatrix Campbell is on Twitter (albeit quietly). #whampvote