Ruislip Common

Ruislip Common, Hillingdon

An amenity area situated at the northern end of the Ruislip district, bordered on most sides by Ruislip Woods

Yes, this is really London

Evidence of late Bronze Age occupation has been found at Ruislip Common. Poor’s Field was first recorded as common wasteland in 1295.

Ruislip Common once had a hamlet called Park Hearne, with a number of half-timbered cottages that were lost when the valley was flooded by the Regent’s Canal Company to create Ruislip Reservoir in 1811. The reservoir was designed as a feeder for the Grand Junction Canal, but never performed its task very successfully.

Early plans for the development of the Ruislip Manor estate (not to be confused with Ruislip’s Manor Homes) proposed building houses almost to the water’s edge, but negotiations with landowners King’s College saved most of Park Wood for the public in 1932. Four years later Copse Wood and Mad Bess Wood were also acquired. Ruislip’s first council houses were built shortly afterwards on Reservoir Road.

The canal company developed the reservoir as a lido in the mid-1930s and Ruislip–Northwood council took it over in 1951.

A swan at the water's edge
A swan at the water’s edge

The main lido building was demolished in 1994, after a fire the previous year. It has been replaced by the Water’s Edge pub and carvery. In 1997 English Nature designated neighbouring Ruislip Woods a national nature reserve, the first in a metropolitan district.

A café and woodland centre have been built at Woody Bay, which also has a new station building (marked with a pin on the map below). At the other end of the railway line, an overflow car park has been laid out to cope with the lido’s growing popularity.

With its verdant setting, sandy beach, refreshment facilities and excellent miniature railway, Ruislip Lido justifiably attracts thousands of locals in summer – but few visitors come from farther afield because the amenity is something of a ‘well-kept secret’.

Quite recently Hillingdon council expressed a desire to improve the lake’s water quality sufficiently to make bathing permissible. However, this does not seem to have proved possible (or perhaps the cautious council just doesn’t want to risk being accused of a health and safety violation sometime in the future) and the present policy is to treat the lake as an aquatic extension of the woodland nature reserve. Nevertheless, on hot days, some disobedient people inevitably venture into the water.

Away from the lido on the west side of the common, Breakspear crematorium is the second largest in London and is run jointly by the boroughs of Harrow and Hillingdon. The Breakspear name is widely used hereabouts and this has given rise to unconfirmed speculation that Nicholas Breakspear, the only English pope, once lived nearby.

The Titanic sank at Ruislip Lido in the 1958 film A Night To Remember.

Scenes for the 1961 musical The Young Ones, starring Cliff Richard, were filmed on the beach at Woody Bay, with local kids as extras (see the video clip at the bottom of the page).

Postcode areas: Ruislip, HA4 and Northwood, HA6
Stations: Ruislip Lido Railway (Willow Lawn, Haste Hill and Woody Bay)
Website: Friends of Ruislip Lido