Clapton Common is a valuable green space in a very densely populated, busy and built up part of East London.
It is trimmed and tidy but still in its natural state. The pond dates back to the 1600s although it has been renovated and is now a neat oval shape. There is an island that helps to attract and protect wildlife, and so it seems that this is a compromise between nature that can look chaotic and planners who love order and synchronized shapes.
This protected open space is especially significant because it links us with times gone by when commons formed so much of the landscape around here. On its edge, a patch of cobble stones can be seen on the road, a remnant of its surface when horses’ hooves needed the uneven surface to grip the ground.
The London plane trees were planted here when East London’s air was thick with smoke and grime from coal fires. Their enduring benevolence has helped to improve the air quality throughout the years with the particles of dirt rinsing off their leaves which stay green late into the winter, soaking up the carbon in the atmosphere and self cleansing by shedding their bark.
And they create a view here that makes spending time on the common worthwhile – along the main road that runs alongside Clapton Common they form an avenue of trees so majestic that the scene is almost identical to the boulevards of the Royal Parks in the centre of London.
And in the other direction, peep between the houses and roads and there is a vista of Epping Forest in the distance, so far away that it appears as a blue haze on the horizon.
This is the same view that would have been seen by people throughout the centuries, amongst all the changes and events that have come and gone, lasting long into our future, whatever it may bring.
Walk from Springfield Park or Clapton station