On Redington Road in Hampstead, all is not as sedate as it may seem. Last week a hole opened up unexpectedly in the middle of the road. And not just any hole, a "gaping cavern". The photo (by Nigel Sutton in the Ham & High) shows Cllr Chris Knight being sucked into its yawning maw.
The article doesn't make the connection, but Redington Road is crossed by the buried River Westbourne on its way down from Branch Hill towards West End Green. It be clearly heard flowing under a manhole cover at the north end of Redington Gardens, and an unmissable valley crosses Redington Road with the river underneath. The Westbourne rolls off the Hampstead Ridge and is also known as the Kilburn further south. It is famous for crossing the District Line at Sloane Square station in a fat pipe.
Not only that, there are tributaries in the area. A local resident tells me he hit water nearby on Oak Hill while sinking piles for his garden wall. The water was flowing, 3.8m below the surface. This is likely to be the reported, but unmapped Tyburn tributary which flows down Oak Hill to Redington Gardens. Another tributary flows into the valley from Telegraph Hill opposite.
The trend for basement extensions in the wealthy back streets has Londoners interested again in long-forgotten streams. It looks as though people would be wise to check what may be under their houses before they book the JCBs.