Under the Westway there is a special hub of activity, a group of people busy looking after 14 horses and keeping alive a way of life that first started there in the 1850s. Sarah Tuvey (pic right) took over the stable in 1994 to create a local riding school and now the Westway Trust, which holds the land in trust, plans to upgrade the facilities and develop the West London Stables as a community riding centre which will teach more than 130 children and young people each week and also provide support for people who are disabled or vulnerable.
Originally the stables housed ponies used by travellers, totters (rag and bone men) and costermongers (fruit sellers) from Portobello. When the Westway was built in 1968, it isolated the stables which still exist in a calm and ordered way, ignoring the surrounding rush and noise of combustion engines and the concrete crescents of motorways built around them.
Yard manager, Daniel Lukasek (pic above) started riding at the West London Stables when he was 10. "My mum bought me a lesson for my birthday and I started volunteering. I liked a pony and bought him and worked here to pay his livery," says Lukasek. Since then he has worked in other stables, a Norfolk Arabian stud, a racing yard in Wales, and for the Olympic rider Carlos Ribas but has come back to West London Stables to help Tuvey, whose licence to operate as a riding establishment could not be renewed last January while the Westway Trust considers it's plans, so she doesn't have an income. "I saw it was in trouble," says Lukas, "I grew up in this stable, so it made sense to me [to come back and help out]."
It is a frustrating time for Tuvey who is so passionate about the riding school and the community work it has undertaken for many years. As she talks a group of volunteers muck out stables, groom and feed horses in the background. "There's so much work to be done here to get the licence," she says. The arena needs to be resurfaced, the Portakabin housing the office needs to be replaced and maintenance work needs to be done on the timeworn stables. There has been a huge outpouring of support for the stables from the local community who see many communal facilities in the area being closed. Tuvey maintains the Westway Trust was trying to evict her from the stables and have been slow to realise the stable are a part of the local community that they should be supporting. "What we are doing is community work," she says. Now, a CIC, a community interest company which is a not for profit organisation, has been formed to collaborate with Tuvey and partner her in managing the stables.
Stephen Wren, Westway's director of Sport says: “Back in April we made a commitment to develop a new and improved riding facility on the Westway estate. Since then we have been working on the feasibility of different approaches to operating the centre. What we envision is a community of experts and interested members of the community coming together to provide a much improved riding facility to many more young people. We’ve been working with planners and engineers to estimate the scope of any improvements and we hope to have some proposals soon."
The Westway Trust is now trying to move the teaching arena to the garages alongside, though Turvey says if they left it where it is, they wouldn't need to wait for planning permission. "If the intention of the Westway Trust is good, then everything would flow forward easily." Meanwhile the children who usually arrive in groups for summer riding lessons, some from the charities Full of Life and St Quintin's, are not able to ride. As Lukasek says: "It's therapeutic in a way. It does a lot for you if you are growing up in London."
Under the Westway
Daniel Lukasek, stable manager
First look at the Design Museum is one of awe and excitement. Then the captivating space is hard to leave. The old Commonwealth Institute, a London icon since the 1960s, has been given a new life and purpose as a creative centre nurturing the next generation of designers.
The £83 million museum is three times the size of the former Design Museum at Shad Thames. At it's opening an emotional Sir Terence Conran said: “Moving the museum to Kensington has been the most important part of my career. It’s a dream to me, a dream that has been a long time materialising, 10 years in fact. The little museum in Butlers Wharf became too small for all the things I wanted to do. [The new museum] is truly international with the size and scale for serious promotion of design and architecture in this country. I don’t think there is anywhere in the world that comes up to this museum at the moment. Perhaps China in the future. I am full of excitement as we open this amazing cathedral of design.”
Reinier de Graaf of OMA was the architect responsible for the structural refurbishment of the building's shell and the stunning new interior is the work of local architectural design genius John Pawson. "The owners wanted to bring the site back to life," says de Graaf, pointing out the limitations that were imposed on the architects as it is also listed. The original building, by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners, completed in 1962, marks the transition from British Empire to Commonwealth and is regarded by English Heritage as an important modern building, but it has stood empty and been closed to the public since 2002. Then, in 2006, the grade II* listed building was threatened with demolition after a failed government proposal to delist it.
Pawson and his team learnt a lot about the building from English Heritage and kept the marble and stained glass windows and the old map many of us remember well. A main concern was keeping the openess of the building so you see the parabolic roof above you. Pawson says: "Having decided to keep the atrium and the amazing view of the roof, [the next thing] was to try to make a building that was beautiful for people as well as objects.” As Sir Terence says, it has been done with quality and intelligence and he adds: "I think the museum is friendly and full of surprises. I feel like I could live here."
Notting Hill trees
Around 1740 Portobello Road was a country land surrounded by hayfields and orchards called Green's Lane - a winding country path leading from Kensington Gravel Pits, in what is now Notting Hill Gate. Portobello Road in today's form was built by the Victorians. The road ultimately took form piecemeal in the second half of the 19th century. It's shops and markets thrived on serving the wealthy inhabitants of the elegant crescents and terraces that sprang up around it, and its working class residents found employment in the immediate vicinity as construction workers, domestic servants, coachmen, messengers, tradesmen and costermongers. Today it is the home of the fabulous Portobello Market, which sells everything, from antiques at the south end (great knives and forks), jewellery, carpets, fruit and vegetables to fabulous clothes (great second hand Burberry coats and vintage dresses) under the Westway towards the northern end.
Portobello market is full of joy, and as you walk down from south (Notting Hill tube) towards the north, you pass various sections, antiques, fruit and veg, new stuff, vintage clothes, more unusual antiques. It's great fun, and there is lots to eat too, my favourite is Felafel King