Chiswick School told Ofqual their system was flawed in May

Image above: Head teacher of Chiswick School, Laura Ellener

The head teacher of Chiswick School, Laura Ellener, told Ofqual back in May the statistical model they were planning to use for standardising A Level grades would not work.

When summer exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus, schools and colleges were asked to provide a centre assessment grade for each student and a rank order of students within each grade per subject. This data was put into an algorithm with data on the school’s previous performance, resulting in high-achieving ‘outliers’ – those who did much better than a student from their school had done before – often being downgraded, locking unfairness into the system.

Various bodies warned Ofqual about this, including Chiswick School:

“In May, Governors at the school made representation to Ofqual” says Laura, “and in early August also to MP Robert Halfon, who is Chair of the Education Select Committee in Parliament, our local MP Ruth Cadbury and to the Minister for Education, Gavin Williamson.

“We were concerned that the statistical model that had been published relating to how examination grades would be determined simply did not work for Chiswick School. We are a turnaround school and were expecting a huge improvement in the results of some subject areas. It would be unethical for the results of students to be based on those historic results and a statistical model that doesn’t account for rapid school improvement. It is a shame that despite having months to prepare and the flaws of the system being pointed out the strategy was pushed through”. 

While overall the school’s grades went up, entirely as they foretold, Chiswick was among the schools which had very high achieving students down-graded entirely because of the school’s past performance. On Laura’s watch, the school has gone from ‘Requires Improvement’ status to ‘Good’ in its Ofsted ranking with ‘Outstanding’ for students’ personal development.

In a blog post published on Friday (14 August) she came out fighting for her students and gave this example of the way in which they were being treated unfairly: “One student was moved from a Grade D to a U – because the school had a U last year so we had to have one this year”.

Image above: Maimuna Hassan

A letter to Boris

Another student, Maimuna Hassan, was predicted grades of A* in Maths, A* in Computer Science, and an A in Physics. Her grades were down-graded to an A in Maths and a B in Physics. She had been offered places at Cambridge and Imperial College to read Engineering, and lost both of those offers when the grades were announced last Thursday.

Maimuna is the daughter of Somali immigrants, for whom English was her third language when she arrived in this country. She wrote a heart-rending letter to Boris Johnson explaining just what it meant to her to have lost those opportunities. You can read her letter here.

She lost both those offers because Ofqual “took the wrong road” as their Chairman Roger Taylor admitted on Monday (16 August), having refused to heed previous warnings from several quarters.

One factor which might have helped them decide to abandon the standardisation algorithm was the number of court cases beginning to line up, including a Judicial Review.

Joshua Ellis, who works for Alpha Academic Appeals, giving advice on how to appeal against exam grades, told The Chiswick Calendar that Chiswick School might well have had grounds to appeal results on the basis that this year’s cohorts is not representative of previous years.

Image above: Joshua Ellis, adviser with Alpha Academic Appeals.

Not too late to appeal to universities

According to Joshua, if students were told they had lost their university place on the basis of last week’s results, they should get back in contact with the university.

Before the U turn, universities had been asked to hold places open until the 7 September for students who were appealing against their grade decision. There was no guarantee that they would and in many cases their place will have already been given away, but he says, it is important that students are in contact with their university and not just assume that all is lost.

Some Oxford colleges, led by Worcester, had already said that they would take all the students to whom they had made offer, irrespective of their final grade. Oxbridge colleges don’t go through clearing, so in theory those places should still be available, particularly as former students had been petitioning their colleges to follow the example set by Worcester.

“Many students have written letters, made phone calls and taken to social media to advocate on behalf of A-Level students who have missed their grades” he said.

“Lack of compassion”

Other universities, where over-offering (i.e. offering more students places than they have places avaliable) is common, have been less accomodating. During the past few days, lots of students he has talked to who were considering an appeal “have found a real lack of flexibility and compassion from their universities”. As a result they may well find their place has been filled.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he hoped the U turn, a week after Scotland had concluded the system wasn’t fair, and a full four days after the results were published in England, would give “the certainty and reassurance that students deserve”. Not really. Schools, universities and businesses now have to pick up the pieces, with many university places and apprenticeships already offered to other people.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick student writes to PM after missing out on place at Cambridge

See also: Interview with Laura Ellener, headteacher of Chiswick School

‘Large rise’ in Covid-19 cases in LB Hounslow includes Chiswick

Chiswick named as one of the areas in which cases are concentrated

There has been a large rise in coronavirus cases in LB Hounslow over the past two days, according to Public Health England.

Kelly O’Neill, Director of Public Health at Hounslow Council published a statement on the afternoon of Saturday 15 August saying:

“Last night we received data from Public Health England which showed cases of coronavirus continue to increase in the borough, with a large rise in numbers over the past two days. Cases are concentrated in Heston, Hounslow Central/West, Cranford and Chiswick, but also recorded in other areas.

“The spread of cases suggests it’s due to wider family and friend groups meeting and not maintaining social distancing”.

Her statement did not give the exact figures for the past few days.

LB Hounslow has had a total of 1,202 coronavirus cases confirmed up to 14 August, with 236 coronavirus-related deaths registered to 31 Jul. LB Hammersmith and Fulham has had a total of 829 coronavirus cases confirmed, with 169 deaths. LB Ealing has had a total of 1,678 cases and 411 deaths.

“We should not forget how awful the situation was for many of our residents earlier this year” said Ms O’Neill. “More than 230 people lost their lives and thousands of others became seriously ill, with many still feeling the impact today. Coronavirus is still lethal. Lives are still at risk.

“We need everyone to keep their distance from people who do not live in their home. Stay two metres away from them at all times where possible.

“Please, do your bit to help reduce the spread and keep your family and friends safe.

“If we do not reduce this contact cases will keep rising, more lives will be put in danger and we risk a local lockdown in the borough.

“You can spread coronavirus without symptoms. Don’t be the one who makes your vulnerable friends and relatives sick.

“People who ignore social distancing are making a choice to put themselves and others at risk. They may be fine, but the people they infect, particularly if they’re elderly or have long-term health conditions such as diabetes or heart problems, may not.”

Hammersmith and Fulham closing care homes to new residents

LB Hammersmith and Fulham has temporarily stopped care homes from taking in new residents because of concerns about the shortage of tests for asymptomatic people who could have coronavirus.

Ben Coleman, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care said four care homes in the borough would not be taking in new residents “as a precaution” while NHS North West London finds a solution to the problem.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Coronavirus spike being ‘monitored carefully’

See also: Covid-19 deaths in Care homes published

TfL publishes return-to-work travel guidance

Chiswick student writes to PM after missing out on place at Cambridge

Image above: Maimuna Hassan

An A Level student at Chiswick School has written to the Prime Minister after her predicted grades were downgraded by the standardisation procedure adopted by Ofqual, the body which has overseen the awarding of A Level grades in England this summer, when students weren’t able to sit exams.

Head teacher Laura Ellener made the Maimuna Hassan’s letter public, as she is fighting for both her and several other students who she believes have been unfairly treated and have lost out massively by the way the calculations are done.

‘Today the majority of our students left happy’ she wrote, ‘our staff are amazing, as are the students. A few did not and through no fault of their own are left devastated. Our school is a Turnaround School. I was the 6th Headteacher in five years; the school was graded as double RI (Requiring Improvement) and when Ofsted visited in January we were awarded a Good with Outstanding Personal Development. It is now a totally different school to the one we are compared to this year.

‘Two students let down by the grading strategy for different reasons. One was moved from a Grade D to a U – because the school had a U last year so we had to have one this year. One who has asked me to share a letter she has written to Boris Johnson this morning which says everything…

A letter to Boris

Dear Mr Johnson,

I am an A Level student in West London. I have attended Chiswick School, a large comprehensive, since Year 7 and was due to take my exams this summer. My centre assessed grades, awarded by teachers who have taught me for many years and know me extremely well, were A*s in Maths and Computer Science, and an A in Physics. However, due to the standardisation procedures Ofqual has put in place, under the guidance of your government, my grades were lowered to an A in Maths and a B in Physics.

I wanted to write to you to explain the impact of this system on one individual student.

I am the oldest child of Somali immigrants in a family of six. I was born in Switzerland before arriving in England aged nine. English is my third language and when I arrived, the Swiss education system had not prepared me for the same level in England. Despite these obstacles, I have achieved top grades throughout my school career. Through dedicated hard work, I gained eight 9s, an 8 and two As at GCSE. The As were in exams I sat early, in Year 9 and Year 10.

My school has had five headteachers in five years, and was twice graded as Requiring Improvement by Ofsted, when I was in Year 9 and again when I was in Year 11. The science department saw huge turnover in staff – during my GCSE course alone, I had five different teachers. My GCSE grades were highly unusual and the highest in the year group.

Despite very disrupted teaching and offers from more academic sixth forms, I continued at my comprehensive school because I wanted to remain part of a community which had become very important to me and I was confident that I would work hard enough independently to achieve my ambitions, even if there were problems at school. Thus, I spent a great deal of money (which was difficult to come by) on books and resources for extra home study, as well as attending as many extra-curricular courses as I could find. I studied Maths, Physics and Computer Science, subjects which I knew had a poor history of results at Chiswick, but I was determined to go into engineering. I started a Robotics Club at school in order to engage my interests more thoroughly and to give back to my school community. We ended up training younger students and winning regional competitions in order to compete at national level.

This year, I was offered places to study at Cambridge University and Imperial College, London – two institutions I was excited to have the opportunity to attend. I knew I had worked hard for these offers and deserved the places. However, due to school closures and exam cancellations, the grades I would have achieved, and which my teachers confidently awarded me based on paper evidence, were lowered by the exam boards. This is the consequence of historic results at my school and has no bearing on my ability or attainment. My A Level grades this morning are in no way a reflection of my school career, as my teachers would all attest. Thus, I have lost my places at Cambridge and Imperial and am now looking at spending another year at home before I can attend university, placing a direct financial burden upon my family which they had not anticipated, and delaying my entry into the workplace by a further year. Words cannot describe my disappointment and distress.

I feel let down by the system, and as a black, Muslim girl who was achieving highly in very male-dominated subjects, I feel that the skewed nature of our society has had an unfair and highly detrimental impact on my life. I wanted my voice to be heard today, and this perspective to be seen.

Thank you for your attention.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick School celebrates improved A Level grades

See also: Chiswick School rated ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ for students’ personal development

Hammersmith bridge closed to pedestrians and cyclists

Chiswick School celebrates improved A Level grades

Images above: Director of Sixth Form Karen Emmett, with Harry and Mya

Chiswick School is celebrating a ‘significant improvement’ in 2020 A Level results over 2019. A record number of students gained a place at university and others have won apprenticeships in their chosen field. Three students will be heading to Oxford or Cambridge, with many others going to Russell Group universities.

Harry, pictured here with fellow student Mya and Karen Emmett, Director of Sixth Form, achieved an A* in Physics, A* in Maths and A* in Further Maths and will be taking up a place at Cambridge to read Engineering.

Mya, who has been deputy head girl this year, achieved an A in Geography, and A in Psychology and A in Photography. She will be going to Bristol University to study Geography, with a year abroad.

Both have been at the school all the way through from Year 7 and paid tribute to the support and helpfulness of their teachers and the welcoming atmosphere of the Sixth Form. The Maths department felt “like family” said Harry.

‘Despite the unprecedented circumstances, we are delighted to see a significant improvement from last year on the overall results’ said a spokesperson for the school.

“Congratulations to all our students who have done exceptionally well” said Karen Emmett, “including those who have achieved a full suite of A* grades in all their subjects. I would like to take this opportunity to thank staff who also worked extremely hard to support our students on this journey”.

Almost 40% of grades downgraded in England

This year’s results day has been particularly stressful, given the publicity surrounding the ‘downgrading’ of results ‘by computer’. Because there were no exams sat this summer, teachers were asked to predict their students’ grades. These predictions were sent to the exam boards along with a grading, giving a list of pupils in the order of who teachers thought would do best.

The exam boards put together that information with data from previous years. A student’s end result could therefore change from their teacher’s prediction, and relied on accurate record keeping by the school and the scores of the whole cohort. The aim was to make sure the final results were as fair as they could be, consistent with results from previous years, so that teachers couldn’t over inflate their pupils’ achievements, but this system might have disadvantaged the kind of student who coasts along and crams effectively for exams.

It is also claimed that the predictive computer programme designed by exam regulator Ofqual exacerbates social inequality by assuming that pupils in disadvantaged, low-performing schools will do worse than others. Almost 40% of the predicted grades were downgraded. Some students have found their result is two whole grades lower than they were expecting. Many of them feel they’ve been robbed by an algorithm.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick student writes to PM after missing out on place at Cambridge

See also: Government’s downgrading of A-Level results a ‘shambles’ – Ruth Cadbury MP

Another new artisan bakery for Chiswick

Hush Hush Chefs opened in Chiswick High Rd at the weekend.

It’s an ‘indoor food market’ selling fresh fruit, veg and artisan products, as well as fresh bread, pastries, and desserts and speciality coffee.

As well as the wherewithal to make your own food, Hush Hush Chefs prepare and cook many recipes to order,  including filo pastry pies, quiches and healthy salads.

Their goal, they say is “is total customer satisfaction”.

All their products are handmade, customisable, and contain no processed ingredients.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ in Chiswick 

See also: Chris’s Fish Bar to re-open after fire

Chiswick In Pictures 2020

Images above: Chiswick House Grounds Inigo Jones Gate by Hugh Bredin; The Fishmonger by Naila Hazell

It’s good to know that not everything is being cancelled. The Chiswick In Pictures art exhibition, organised by The Chiswick Calendar, is being held at the Clayton Hotel Chiswick from Monday 31st August – Saturday 7th November.

This will be the fourth show bringing together images inspired by the area, painted by artists who live locally.

When I say ‘the area’ I mean here or hereabouts. The Fishmonger painted by Naila Hazell actually works in Shepherd’s Bush Market, but you will find many more scenes of Chiswick House and Gardens and the River Thames, and a couple more of Naila’s that might in all honesty be Hammersmith.

The Clayton hotel is open to the public at any time. The atrium, where the art will be on show, is large and light and airy, so fortunately social distancing won’t be a problem, though our usual Private View with freeflowing Simpsmiths gin sadly won’t be possible this year.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Flower Market commemorative poster uses painting by Liz Butler RWS

See also: Chiswick Festival 

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Chiswick Flower Market traders – Pepperpot nursery

Image above: Mint Apple (Mentha suaveolens)

Who knew there were as many as 40 different types of mint? I discovered this talking to Catherine and Neil who run Pepperpot nursery, one of the traders who will be at the launch of the Chiswick Flower Market on 6 September.

They just sell herbs. I say ‘just’. That still gives them a range of 200 or so vatieties that they grow at their nursery at Alton in Hampshire, including between 30 and 40 different types of mint.

The one pictured above is Mint Apple (Mentha suaveolens) – a very popular mint whose leaves can be used for mint sauce, jelly, fruit salads and drinks – but in general you will find that the common spearmints are better for food while the peppermints are better for drinks. Catherine’s favourite? Pineapple mint.

Images above: Neil & Catherine; Rock Hyssop; African Blue Basil

Catherine joined her partner Neil in the business in 1998 when she was made redundant from a job in banking. Neil studied horticulture and had always intended to run his own business selling plants, but over two decades they have built up their business, mainly supplying garden centres.

What you get when you buy from Catherine and Neil is specialist expertise. They can tell you exactly what variety of herb to buy to grow in your garden: not only how and where to grow it, but how best to use it in cooking or how best to complement the other plants and attract the bees.

Images above: Thyme Archers Gold, Thyme Carraway, Thyme Common

Thyme for example can be grown to creep along the ground and plant between paving stones or to grow as an upright bush. Which is the best one to use in Italian dishes? A particular broad leaved plant which is easier to use and has a lovely taste. Catherine’s favourite is a lemon scented plant, but there are dozens of different varieties, each with its own unique appearance and flavour: Doone Valley is one with a lovely lemon scent, Peter Davis has pretty purply foliage.

“A lot of people like us because we specialise. That’s all we grow and people like being able to talk to someone who really knows about the plants” she says.

Occasionally they are caught out when a TV gardening programme or a famous chef uses a recipe with a particular herb and everyone rushes to buy it, but mostly I’d say you’d be hard pressed to think of a herb that they didn’t have.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Flower Market traders – Urban Tropicana

See also: Chiswick Flower Market traders – Steve Burridge

Chiswick Flower Market traders – Urban Tropicana

Meet Lewis, who until the early summer of 2020 was flying regularly with BA as cabin crew, travelling the world taking every opportunity to see and find out more about tropical plants. His is one of several start-up businesses selling plants at Chiswick Flower Market. Lewis heard at the end of July that he was being made redundant, and immediately set about creating a business out of his passion.

“My parents were keen gardeners and I’ve always known plants were important to me. I love having lots of plants around and creating that jungly feel indoors”.

Flying for British Airways for 13 years he had the opportunity during stopovers to visit some of the best collections of tropical plants in the world, such as the Botannical Gardens of Singapore, but also to experience what we regard as houseplants just growing wild, all over the world. From the look of his living room, he brought half of them home with him.

Urban Tropicana sells houseplants for every taste and level of pastoral ability – everything from the delicate and sensitive to the virtually indestructible.

Where does he get his plants? In fact, he buys his plants from Holland, where they are grown, so in tropical house plant terms they are almost local.

What’s he buying? “People want statement plants which also bring health benefits”.

There has been a recent increase in people buying indoor plants for their usefulness as air purifiers. A famous study published by NASA in 1989 demonstrated that indoor plants can remove cancer-causing volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene.

Admittedly a space station is a controlled environment, unlike most people’s homes, which tend not to be hermetically sealed. But given the levels of air pollution in London, more people are concluding that if indoor plants help clean the air even a little bit, they’re worth having.

Images above: Snake plant (Zeylanica); Cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)

‘Retro, ’70s plants’ all the rage

One of the most effective plants for air filtration is the humble snake plant (Zeylanica), which might account for its sudden popularity.

“Seventies retro plants are very fashionable” he told me, “snake plants, cheese plants, spider plants are all very Instagrammable”. The Monstera Minima  Rhapidophora Tetrasperma (pictured) is a ‘must have’ for your indoor jungle, according to Lewis. “It is a rarer member of the monstera family and is a bit of a stunner”.

I never knew house plants had fashions. I just thought people just killed them accidentally and bought new plants, like I do. Lewis gave me a tip to improve my track record in keeping house plants alive. “Don’t over water” is his main advice.

“People always buy plants and take them home and put the pot the plant is in inside another decorative pot, which doesn’t usually have holes in the bottom. Then they water it and leave it sitting in water and kill it”. (Guilty as charged)

“Usually plants die because they are over watered. If the soil is at all moist then it doesn’t need watering. The way to tell is to stick your finger about two inches into the soil. If it’s still dry, then it needs watering”.

Check out Lewis’s selection of tropical houseplants, cacti and succulents. He also has a small stock of cement plant pots (also trendy).

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Flower Market traders – Steve Burridge

See also: Chiswick Flower Market

Chiswick Flower Market commemorative poster uses painting by Liz Butler RWS

If you’re reading this somewhere other than Chiswick, you will find when you come back that the place is awash with pink tulips, in anticipation of the opening of the Chiswick Flower Market on Sunday 6 September 2020.

Artist Liz Butler RWS has been kind enough to let Chiswick Flower Market use her beautiful watercolour of a Gisella Jacqueline tulip for a specially commissioned poster to mark the market’s opening.

Liz has been a member of the Royal Watercolour Society since 1996 and as well as studying art at Liverpool College of Art and the Royal College of Art, has spent four years studying the history of gardening at Birkbeck College. She is well known for her miniature paintings of gardens, and her use of pure watercolour.

She lives in Chiswick and paints the trees from her studio window at different times of year, and in different lights. She also teaches watercolour painting. She currently has two of her pictures on show at the Bankside Gallery and has been invited to take part in an exhibition there about the Chelsea Physic Garden, to be exhibited in 2021.

Images above: Ballet, lily flowered tulip; Gisella Jacqueline tulip

A passion for watercolour

Mention ‘watercolour’ and what comes to mind unbidden is often as not something pale and insipid. Liz Butler would like to disabuse you of that idea. For her, the choice of watercolour as her medium is precisely because of the intensity of colour an artist can achieve.

“You can create colours which are fantastically deep but rich with a level of intensity and radiance you can’t get with oils, I don’t think” she told me.

“You can get watercolours which are delicate and subtle, but I don’t use them in that way, except where you need them to be subtle and pale; sometimes you do.

“I love the versatility of watercolour and the fluidity of it. It can have a life of its own. You go away and it carries on seeping, creating very natural effects like you get in the sky; but most of all I love the incredibly intense, dark, rich colours you can create”.

Images above: Peonies (Karl Rosenfield); Peonies (Sarah Bernhardt) 

Watercolour is particularly suitable as a medium for painting flowers, she says because of the glow, the luminous effect you get from it being transparent.

“I like it because you can be very precise; you can get exactly the right colour by overlayering transparent washes of different colour”.

She first discovered watercolour at the Royal College of Art and decided it was the medium for her partly because she’s allergic to oil paint. “I can’t cope with oil paints at all” she says, but she reckons it’s harder to paint with watercolours.

“It’s hard to undo. You can’t be thinking of anything else while you’re doing it, so I find painting with watercolours quite meditative”.

Images above: Flora in the garden at Cliveden; Clipped hounds at Knighthayes Court

‘Hooked on historic gardens’

When she left the Royal College of Art in 1973 she worked as an illustrator and was commissioned to create a set of stamps depicting historic gardens, a subject she has always found interesting.

“I used to visit gardens a lot” she says. “I love the idea of nature that’s been tweaked. Gardening is interestingly manipulative and gardens often have a strange presence”.

She started working with the Francis Kyle gallery in 1978 having three exhibitions there, mostly of gardens and botanicals. It was working with him that gave her the passion for painting gardens.

Francis Kyle had an exhibition showing the collaboration of the artist Edwin Lutyens and the gardener Gertrude Jekyll and insisted his artists get out and see the famous gardens which were the subject of their collaboration.

The best known is at Great Dixter, near Hastings, the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd, but there are many others, including  Hestercombe in Somerset and Munstead Wood in Surrey, which was Gertrude Gekyll’s home and the first garden in which they collaborated.

“That got me hooked” she says. “They were incredible”.

Images above: Garden at the Fujiya I (Japan);  Barcoo, (Queensland, Australia)

Liz paints other subjects; she’s travelled in Japan and China, drawing inspiration from the landscape and local flora, and in Australia from the patterns in the land as seen from the air when she spent a whole day flying over it. She paints landscapes and patterns but always comes back to the precision of painting plants:

“looking and seeing and trying accurately to record what you see”.

So meticulous is her recording that she was once commissioned by the Daffodil Society to draw their species and subspecies. I asked innocently why they didn’t just take photos. The answer was that in any photograph there will be bits out of focus. Drawings are much more precise when it comes to documenting the structure of a plant apparently. She never paints plants from photos either, requiring the real thing.

“You have to look at it from all sides to understand the structure”.

She enjoys gardening, which she does “badly” she says, sharing an allotment with a friend.

Images above: Spring Sunshine with Forsythia (allotments); Greenhouse

Liz shows her work with the Royal Watercolour Society at the Bankside Gallery, the society’s home, and also with the Small Paintings Group. Her work is held in several major collections including the Government Art Collection, Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal, the Royal Collection, Harewood House, Qingdao Art Museum, China, and the National Postal Archive.

You will also be able to see some of her flower and plant paintings at The Chiswick Calendar’s Chiswick In Pictures exhibition at the Clayton Hotel Chiswick from Monday 31 August to Saturday 7 November 2020.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Flower Market traders – Pepperpot nursery

See also: Chiswick Flower Market traders – Urban Tropicana

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Chiswick Flower Market traders – Steve Burridge

We’ve said we would like to make the Chiswick Flower Market ‘the Columbia Rd of west London’. The 150 year old market in east London is one of the capital’s top tourist sights, with more than 50 market stalls, catering originally for the immigrant Hugenot community, now so packed with visitors that since the lockdown, they are asking people to stay away if they don’t live locally.

The Chiswick Flower Market is slightly more modest in its ambitions – 20 stalls rather than 52 – and keen to get the post-lockdown balance right, but who better to start us off than Steve Burridge, a market trader who’s been selling flowers all his life, and his father and grandfather before him, since 1926.

“I have been buying and selling plants from when I was seven” he told The Chiswick Calendar. “I’ve owned a stall since I was 21”.

He is literally related to half the traders in Columbia Rd. His grandfather Joe started the family tradition in 1926. He had five sons and all Steve’s uncles, brothers, cousins, his mum Josephine Ferguson, sister Denise, sister in law Lisa and now the next generation, his nieces and nephews are all involved. Of the 52 pitches at Columbia Rd, he is related to 26 of the stall holders.

Whereas his late father and grandfather used to buy and sell plants only, for the past 25 years he and his brother Peter have owned their own nursery in Hertfordshire, growing their own plants to supply their three pitches as well as other markets where they have stalls – at Waltham Abbey on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and now Chiswick Flower Market on the first Sunday of every month.

Taking a gamble

He is leaving his Columbia Rd stalls in the capable hands of his niece to come west because he is confident, he says, that the new market will do well.

“I want to come because I want to sell more plants and make more money! It’s not easy to get market stalls and I have a good feeling about this one. Although it’s a gamble leaving my stall in Columbia Rd on a Sunday, I have a lot of confidence about it. It’s the right area and I’m looking forward to a change of scene, a fresh start. It’s going to be a busy one!”

Gardening the new national hobby

Although his business was hit by the coronavirus pandemic because markets were shut, with hundred of thousands of plants to get rid of from the nursery, he found himself out delivering 50 orders a day.

“Easter Friday it was mad. Normally everyone goes away. Well everyone had the same thought – I’ll spend a bit on money on the garden instead. Good Friday I had 189 text messages from people asking for plant deliveries”.

Images above: Echinacia, Penstamon, Rudbeckia

Autumn stock

What will be be selling in September?

“It’s a tricky one. There are still 50 different types of late flowering perennials, but it’s also the change over period to winter plants. We might not quite have the winter plants ready, that might be October, depending on the weather.

So we will definitely have lots of late flowering perennials – Rudbeckia, Penstamon, Salvias, Echinaea, Coreopsis. We might also have some of the winter stock – Winter Pansies, Primroses, Cyclamen and Heathers.

Images above: Salvias; Coreopsis

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Flower Market opening Sunday 6 September

See also: Chiswick Flower Market





Playful seal pup learns to paddleboard

Thanks to Paul Hyman of Active 360 for these lovely pictures of a seal pub which lives somewhere between Richmond and Kew , who has decided to join them on several occasions of late.

At the risk of anthropomorphising, it does seem as if he just wants to join in and play with them, now they’re open again and back on the water.

“He just hops up on the board and takes an interest in what we’re doing” says Paul. “It’s happened several times now and we see him a lot”.

Pictures below – the seal they’ve been seeing in the water this year. Picture above – one which accompanied them a few times last year.

Chiswick Unbound – A Postcard from Bristol

Keith Richards, writer and resident of Chiswick, documented his Corona lock down, living on his own, in a weekly blog from 24 March to 7 July 2020 called Chiswick Confined – My Corona. Now he’s free to roam at will, the blog has mutated into Chiswick Unbound.

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find
You get what you need


Escape from Chiswick

Well, my Chiswick experience is certainly Unbound.

I finally managed to hire a car and escape from the confines of ‘greater Chiswick’ to visit my son Tom down in Bristol. I have caught, properly masked, a couple of tubes and a bus or two for local trips but I was having second thoughts about doing a long train trip especially as the warm weather would mean the trains going west would likely be very busy. In fact, I did later hear from Tom’s house mate Robin that the train he caught the next day to Bristol was standing room only by the time it got to Bath. Even though most people were wearing masks that would not have made for a relaxed journey. So I was glad I made the decision to hire a car and drive.

Now, it appears that at the moment many people are dismissing the train as an option. Clearly, one reason is the lack of control over sanitising and distancing. In a tube one can move carriage and in any case compliance with guidelines is pretty widespread, but a two or three-hour journey on a booked seat is a different matter. As Robin later reported. However, there is also the cost. I have been comparing prices in Europe for a possible holiday by train – since abandoned through fear of the rising second wave and sudden quarantine rules.

It is currently possible to go by train from Paris or Brussels to Stockholm, a journey of nearly one thousand miles, for twenty-nine Euros. London to Bristol, a tenth of the distance, is over double the price. It has been frustrating to see how British train prices compare unfavourably with European ones especially when continental government-owned European rail companies are shareholders in the UK’s dysfunctional and expensive network- along with the ubiquitously selfish and arrogant Mr “TheGovernmentShouldBailMeOutSoIDoNotHaveToSellMyIsland” Branson. Don’t even start me on a rant about how we can even consider bailing out airlines who refuse to pay anything but lip service to the Climate Crisis while more environmentally sound trains are so expensive.

So, having reluctantly decided to drive and not having a car of my own, I had to hire. It is interesting to note that my instinct is that of the herd because for the last few weeks it has been almost impossible to hire a sensible vehicle (given my pocket and self-image make me hesitate to take one of the more available models like top end Mercedes etc.). The urge to seek the country air or, like myself, to visit much-missed friends and family have meant car hire firms have been inundated.

It was only that I was lucky to catch a cancellation at the local Chiswick branch of Zoo Cars that I am, as I write this, plonked in the front room of Tom’s Bristol home. A quick big up to Zoo Cars by the way, for their customer service and friendliness. Unfortunately, the route finder Apps on my phone did not manage to warn me that the M4 was wholly closed between Junctions 5 and 6 forcing me to follow the diverted traffic through central Slough. Many motorways are going through the ‘Smart’ upgrade and I guess the authorities are taking advantage of lighter traffic for other road works, so, take my advice, if you are considering that road trip, check first.

Anyway, pootling along at a fraction of your preferred speed does give time for the mind to wander, prompted by various news items on the radio. Miserable news about increases in Covid cases right across the world, our government’s ill-communicated and suspiciously anti-Eid timed announcements of lock-down in many Northern cities, the suppression of the Russia inquiry and the bizarre collection of dubious peerages encourage me to flick through the stations in search of something less conducive to road rage. Maybe it was my imagination, or my hearing was confused by the symbolism of all the road closed and follow the diversion to nowhere signs but I could have sworn there was a radio version of Hamlet that sound just like Boris. Nah, I must have imagined it…………

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and tuck itself into my trousers!
Or that that Dominic was not nagging me
to comb my hair and look more statesmanlike! O God! God!
How annoying, chav, and inconvenient
Seem to me all the proles of this world!
Parliament! They laughed at me
at Question Time; MP’s rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
How dare they mock the heir to Churchill!
Trump has not this problem, Presidents from
Kennedy to Nixon; ignored the will of Senate.
Oh they do not understand the pressure that I have
From Putin’s cronies and those banker buggers!
And that Scottish woman showing me up;
Let me not think on’t! SNP, thy boss is woman!
And Hancock, who fucks up every task I give. I
Will scapegoat him soon tho’ then he’ll winge, just
Like Teresa, all tears – why she, even she
(And Botham! At least he smote the Aussies hard
and deserves a gong) I had to give an honour;
And my bloody brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. It’s all too soon,
As I told Bannon, to sell them the NHS
I can’t do everything at once, give me a break.
Just married. Then with wicked speed, a baby.
I have such dexterity between the sheets!
Covid has delayed my plans, but soon will pass
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
I have my reasons, for them I must hold my tongue!

Oops, I nearly missed my turning…….. It must have been some local station?

Anyway, at this point I usually post one of my Vinyls and as I am at my son’s place writing this I should choose one of his. Tom has eclectic tastes and as he occasionally DJ’s he has a few Vinyls garnered from various collections. I have photographed a few for the future from Seun Kuti and William Onyeabor to 70’s Disco and Drum & Bass. However, I picked this one as I thought it appropriate given my guest soliloquy.

Did not our Prime minister say that things would be normal and that we would be able to celebrate as usual by Christmas? Yet, we can’t think of Christmas when, no Global Warming here obviously, the temperature in Kew has just clocked 37 degrees. In which case, how perfect to offer you a combination of summer and Christmas all rolled into one! Rather bizarrely recorded in 1987 I include the back cover because it actually includes some famous names from the halls of Ska, Bluebeat and Reggae. Unfortunately, there seems to be no live versions available so you will have to use your imagination – just like our Prime Minister.

Read more blogs by Keith

Read the next in the series – Chiswick Unbound: An Homage to Beirut

Read the previous one – Chiswick Unbound: Tribute to Peter Green

See all Keith’s My Corona blogs here.

See more of Keith’s work on his website –

Feel free to post any comments or suggestions there or by email to

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See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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August 2020 Books

What’s new and good to read this month? Annakarin Klerfalk has a look at what’s on offer and chooses three good reads for August. The Midnight Library, Eight Detectives and Shuggie Bain are all out in August.

The Midnight Library

Matt Haig, bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How to Stop Time, is back with a time travel novel called The Midnight Library.

Nora Seed’s life has been full of misery and regret but when she enters the midnight library, she has a chance to make things right. The books in the library allow Nora to live as if she had made different choices in her life. But, by doing so, she puts herself and the library in extreme danger. Will she find the best way to live before she runs out of time?

Matt Haig’s books have sold over a million copies in the UK and his work has been translated into over forty languages. He also writes children’s books and has won the Blue Peter Award and the Smarties Book Prize. The Midnight Library is published by Canongate on 13 August and it’s their lead fiction for 2020.

Eight Detectives

Eight Detectives is written by Alex Pavesi, a former Waterstones bookseller. Michael Joseph (Penguin Randomhouse) pre-empted eight other publishers to this debut.

A professor of mathematics, Grant McAllister, once sat down and worked out all the rules for murder mysteries and wrote seven detective stories to prove it. Thirty years have passed and Grant now lives on a remote island where an editor, called Julia Hart, turns up and wishes to republish his book. She quickly finds herself with a mystery to solve but she doesn’t yet know about the murder.

The reviews for this thriller have been extraordinary. Alex North, bestselling author of The Whisper Man, said “I couldn’t put Eight Detectives down… I genuienly wanted to applaud at the end.”
Eight Detectives is published on 20 August.

Shuggie Bain

Shuggie Bain is a coming-of-age debut written by Douglas Stuart, who was born and raised in Glasgow, where the novel is set.

The year is 1981 and the families in Glasgow are struggling to survive. Shuggie’s alcoholic mother, Agnes, ends up alone with her three children and they are trapped in hopeless poverty. But Shuggie thinks that if he tries really hard, he can live a normal life and not only help his mother escape but also save her.

Washington Post reviewed it as “A debut novel that reads like a masterpiece, Shuggie Bain gives voice to the kind of helpless, hopeless love that children can feel toward broken parents.”
Shuggie Bain is a leading debut for Picador and it’s published on 6 August.

Annakarin Klerfalk

Anna is a literary agent based in Chiswick who is keen to hear from authors trying to get their books published. Contact her on She used to run the Waterstones bookshop in Chiswick. You can read more about her and Intersaga here.

See more of Anna’s book choices here

Hounslow Council has done a “great job” during Covid crisis

Images above: LB Hounslow Chief Executive Niall Bolger; Cllr Gerald McGregor

The new leader of the Conservative group of councillors on Hounslow council has said the council has done “great job” of handling the Covid pandemic.

“The council’s officers have been doing splendid work on that front” Cllr Gerald McGregor told The Chiswick Calendar.

When the pandemic started to take hold in March and the country went in to lockdown, LB Hounslow set up a Community Hub, to match the army of people locally who were willing to do something to help with the most isolated and vulnerable individuals who needed support.

“Social care was run extremely efficiently by council officers in coordination with councillors at a high level” said Cllr McGregor. “I have already sent the director my thanks and a letter of commendation. The Chief Executive Niall Bolger has shown exceptional leadership.

“Senior council officers gave the Conservative group weekly briefings which were very valuable in explaining how they were managing things”.

His effusive praise is perhaps a deliberate marker to show a change of approach in the leadership of Hounslow Conservative Party. Former leader Cllr Joanna Biddolph, who was replaced as leader at the councillors’ AGM on Wedneday 29 July, was known for her abrasive style, not least with council officers.

“I want the officers to feel we are engaged and supportive” said Cllr McGregor.

Cllr McGregor, who has represented Chiswick on the council since 2004, also praised the work of the local churches during the coronavirus outbreak.

“St Michael & All Angels, St Michael’s, Our Lady of Grace, Christchurch – all the churches worked hard to support people”.

Cllr McGregor is married to the Reverend Eileen McGregor, Associate vicar at St Nicholas Church.

“The abandonment of church services led to a huge amount of innovation” and the resulting live-streamed or recorded services played their part in people “feeling peaceful” during the crisis, he said, despite the very sad losses some people were facing.

The main issue now he feels, for the Chiswick’s councillors to tackle, is to protect people. His strategy for the Conservative group is to “protect, engage and advance”.

“People’s lives have been seriously disrupted, their businesses damaged and in some cases destroyed. As things move on there is huge uncertainty. We need a consensual approach to protecting residents, their employment and our environment.

“As local councillors we need to support people and to show leadership. Because I am the leader of the group, I have to deliver the views of the whole group and build a consensus about delivering policy. We have to be mindful and understand what other people think and feel”.

He is quite apprehensive about some of the impacts of the traffic management measures introduced in June and July, aimed at dissuading people from using their cars and encouraging ‘active travel’ instead (walking and cycling). But for now his main watchword, repeated several times in our conversation is “consensus”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick councillors elect new leader 

See also: “What keeps me awake at night is the thought that we might miss someone”

Home deliveries still on the menu

Images above: Deliveries from Urban Pantry and D Grande Tex Mex

So we’re out of lockdown, at least for the time being. But while some customers were keen to rush back into shops and restaurants when they opened up fully in July (remember those queues outside Primark?) others have remained more cautious.

The clinically vulnerable, for example, will probably try to avoid visiting pubs, restaurants, or even shops, for the foreseeable future. Others may be concerned at yesterday’s report in the Evening Standard, suggesting that the Covid-19 infection rate in London (including Hounslow) appears to be creeping up again.

For that reason, online deliveries and click and collect, while not at the website-crashing peaks we witnessed in March and April, remain extremely popular.

Images above: Amazon Prime; Ocado

Since the beginning of lockdown, the big supermarkets have upped their game, massively increasing their delivery slots. Now both Amazon Prime and Ocado have entered the fray, offering same-day deliveries.

This week, I tried the new Ocado Zoom service which is being tried out in west London. I was mightily impressed that they delivered my order in just over an hour, with nothing missing and no substitutions. Minimum spend is only £15 and Ocado is offering a hefty discount if you make your first order by 25 August. Zoom is currently delivering products from Waitrose and Ocado’s own brand, but is shortly due to transition to M&S products.

So what are Chiswick’s local shops and restaurants offering people who continue to shield? (Click on the links below to see what each individual shop or restaurant is offering, or visit the Covid-19 Deliveries option on our website.)

In terms of local restaurants, a few, like Vinoteca on Devonshire Road and Angie’s Little Food Shop on the High Road have now stopped doing food deliveries. although they have collection options available (and nationwide wine deliveries, in the case of Vinoteca).

But some are increasing their delivery options.

Images above: Mari Deli, Chiswick Mall; D Grande

The new Tex-Mex on Chiswick High Road, D Grande is currently closed for refurbishment. But when it reopens later this month, Manager Hannah Waddington says the restaurant will be hiring more drivers to allow it to expand its delivery service. Mario at Mari Cafe, Restaurant and Deli  just over the Hammersmith border on Eyot Gardens by the river, says he’s also introducing a new delivery service, which will be offered via its website and special app in the next few weeks.

Another Italian cafe and deli, The Italians, is also continuing to offer a combination of deliveries and online shopping, as are Cote and Hack and Veldt on Turnham Green Terrace. The Post Room cafe on Bedford Corner and La Tarantella restaurant on Elliott Road are both continuing to offer grocery items (and, in La Tarantella’s case, specialist Italian goods) as well as their traditional fare. The Urban Pantry is another example of a “hybrid” operation, with owner Kate Frobisher continuing to offer her lockdown DIY brunch kits for delivery.

Image above: Harriet and Alan, who are Harriet’s Kitchen

Harriet’s Kitchen, new on the scene, produces a weekly menu of high quality take away food – European classics, curries, Moroccan tagines and a range of delicious starters and puddings at reasonable prices. All you have to do is warm them through and voilà you have a ready made dinner party.

Meanwhile, most restaurants and cafes in the Chiswick area continue to provide click and collect (or phone in and collect) services, as well as listing their menus with independent delivery firms like Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat. So you can still get your favourite Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Indian, or Vietnamese food delivered. Some, like Shams Lebanese restaurant will also take orders over the phone and deliver locally for free.

Images above: Bears ice cream; Oddono’s gelati

As for the shops, a number of those on Turnham Green Terrace are continuing to offer home deliveries, including Macken Brothers Butcher’s, Covent Garden Fishmongers, The Source Bulk Foods and Lemon and Limes greengrocers.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, Outsider Tart is still offering its delicious cakes both through Deliveroo and a personal delivery service. You can order afternoon tea from Tom’s or pastries from Gail’s. And, as we head towards another mini heatwave this weekend, you can even get your ice cream delivered from Fouberts, Bears Ice Cream or Oddono.

The Government keeps telling us that Covid-19 will be with us for some time. The shopkeepers and restaurateurs of Chiswick, it seems, are planning accordingly.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Eat Out Help Out in Chiswick 

See also: Where to eat outside in Chiswick

Biggest night in the history of Brentford FC

Image above: Brentford player wearing the club’s special commemorative blue shirt

Tuesday’s match (4 August 2020) between Brentford and Fulham in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final will be “the biggest night in their 131 year history”.

The match at Wembley, played to an empty stadium but watched by millions worldwide, will decide whether or not they go up to the Premiership.

“It will be elation or despair” lifelong fan Simon Randall told The Chiswick Calendar. “There’s no in between. It’s just unreal”.

The players will be wearing a special commemorative blue shirt to mark the end of their 116 years at Griffin Park stadium, before moving into their new stadium this autumn, another huge milestone in the club’s history.

Simon, who runs Headliners Comedy Club in Chiswick in normal times, has been supporting the Bees for 50 years.

Images above: Matthew Benham; Simon Randall

Matthew Benham has “transformed the club”

“When we played QPR in January it was 50 years and one day since my first match” he said. “90% of the time it’s been fairly mediocre, with the odd crumb, but when Matthew Benham took over he just transformed everything”.

Matthew Benham took over ownership of the side in 2012, after bailing them out of a £500k financial hole. Since then he has invested almost £100m in the club. A physicist, who went to Oxford University, he started his working life in the Finance industry, rising to the position of Vice President of the Bank of America in the late 1990’s. He then moved into the sports betting world, working initially for sports betting bookmaker Premier Bet, then setting up his own company, SmartOdds. In 2011, he also became the owner of the betting exchange website Matchbook.

He relies on the analysis of statistics, key performance indicators and algorithms to make his decisions, some of which have left fans scratching their heads, such as when he sacked former Brentford manager Mark Warburton, along with his assistant manager and sporting director after the club was promoted to the Championship in 2015. But Brentford fans have learned to trust him.

“He has backed his own judgement with plenty of cash” says Simon. “We keep losing our best players to the transfer market but then even better players comes along”.

Brentford finished mid-table in the 2018/19 Championship season. For Matthew Benham to pull this off would be the equivalent of Brian Clough leading Nottingham Forest to win the European Cup, says Simon, it would be perhaps the greatest achievement in football of the past thirty years.

“Unreal” possibility

The possibility of Brentford being in the Premiership when they start playing at their new ground on the A205 (nominally still Chiswick High Rd in a sat nav) is “unreal” says Simon. It’s a spectacularly high stakes game. The winner goes up to the Premiership, which is immediately worth £150 million, even if they’re relegated more or less straight away; worth maybe £500 million if they manage to stay there for five years. The loser “stays in the same division and is as badly off as if they’d finished 20th” says Simon.

“My real nightmare would be if it went to penalties. I’ve had to develop coping strategies. The last few games we blew two opportunities to go straight up, so I am slightly innoculated. It doesn’t seem real, so it would be ridiculous if we did it. It’s hilarious that we could be playing Man United, Liverpool and Tottenham next season.

“Most of my life people have asked me who I support and I say ‘Brenftord’ and then they say ‘ok, that’s you’re local club, but who do you really support? But we’ve been playing really attractive football recently”.

He will be watching the match at home on TV, as of course no one is allowed into Wembley except a select few, and he has quite a few people who want to watch the match with him.

“It’s funny because eveyone wants to watch it with someone who actually cares” he says. “Everyone around the world can appreciate what a huge deal it is. Its the biggest game there has ever been for Brentford.

“Wouldn’t it be great to start the new season in the new stadium in the premiership?! Yet right now it’s looking more likely that we might be in the Premiership this autumn than it is that I will open Headliners. I never thought I’d hear myself say that!

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: News about Brentford Stadium

See also: Brentford FC Polo shirts donated to hospital

‘Eat Out to Help Out’ in Chiswick

Next phase of road changes in Chiswick announced

Image above: Road sign for Prebend Gardens at the junction with Bath Rd

LB Hounslow has been introducing a programme of traffic management restrictions across the borough throughout June and July. They have been phasing in their traffic changes, sorting out those they can do quickly with a few planters and bollards first, then moving on to to the ones which need expensive cameras and signage.

They have also been consulting residents and in some cases making changes – see my story on the changes to the Edensor Rd ‘School Street’ plan.

The next phase is a mix of planned and reactive measures, having had feedback from residents about the expected impact of the first two phases. Among the next raft of traffic measures will be changes to the Prebend Gardens area off Bath Rd and changes to Lawford Rd in Grove Park ‘following requests from residents or councillors’.

Prebend Gardens low traffic area

The council is introducing eleven more Low Traffic areas, including one in Gunnersbury Garden Estate and one in Prebend Gardens Area. After closing off Fisher’s Lane and Turnham Green Terrace in Chiswick to through traffic, drivers either have to go west to Acton Lane or east to Goldhawk Rd to get from Bedford Park to the High Rd. Residents of Prebend Rd are worried that, although their road already has a no right turn onto Chiswick High Rd to prevent people using it as a cut through, the changes will introduce a whole new fleet of vehicles who will give it a go regardless.

Image above: Google Maps showing Prebend Gardnes, which runs from Bath Rd to Chiswick High Rd

Lawford Rd closure

Hounslow have listed more Street Schools, none of them for schools in Chiswick, (those have already been announced) and three more closures of residential roads, one of which is Lawford Rd in Grove Park. As councillors and residents have been scrutinising the new traffic management plans, they are working out how the changes might affect them by creating changes to the traffic flow.

As part of the South Chiswick Liveable Neighbourhoods project, cars will no longer be able to drive all the way along Staveley Rd, so they aren’t able to use it as a cut through from the A316 to the A4, avoiding Hogarth roundabout. Staveley Road has over 5,500 vehicles along it on the average weekday, according to the council’s traffic surveys. In the busiest hour during the week there are just under 500 vehicles. The plan is to block the road so drivers are forced to turn north or south into Park Rd instead.

Image above: Google Maps showing Lawford Rd, which connects Park Rd with Sutton Court Rd.

Cllr Sam Hearn just happens to live on the corner of Park Rd and Lawford Rd, so when the council says Lawford Rd will be closed ‘following requests from residents or councillors’ I’m making a wild guess that he’s not keen on a steady flow of extra traffic past his bedroom window.

Council officers are also looking at cycling improvements on six other roads, including Chiswick Lane.

More details

For more details see the council  website:

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick traffic management changes, May – July 2020

See also: Chiswick aka the Wild West