Weaver’s Fields – Life’s Tapestry

I probably live in one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in London.  Spitalfields has historically been the home of immigrants – both economic migrants as well as those fleeing persecution in their home countries.  In recent history (going back 300 years) Spitalfields has hosted fleeing Heugenots, European Jews, and is now home to a large population of Bangladeshis, Somalis, and economic migrants (I suppose I fit into this category as an American transplant to London brought here by work).  As an American, you grow up hearing that the US is the world’s melting pot.  But as a Londoner, I know that Spitalfields is the *real* melting pot.  I see my local melting pot each time I head out to learn to run.I am not a fan of learning to run on a treadmill.  I feel unsteady with my gait and want to be able to feel the ground under my feet – and I like being outside.  So in May I decided I needed to find a place not too far away from my house, about 20 minutes walking distance away (good for the warm up), and preferably with a nice path on the grass (less tough on my knees).  I set off early one Sunday morning with the aim of finding a “local park” (quite tough on the east side of London which is mostly concrete) knowing that if all else failed I could walk the 2+ miles to Victoria Park (I know Victoria Park really well from my training for the Moonwalk midnight walking marathon which I did in 2004).  I wandered out my door and headed up Brick Lane.  Up and to the right, my first stop in my search for a good running location was Allen Gardens – this is a little gated grassed area near the old Shoreditch Tube Stop, right by the Spitalfields City Farm.  It was early Sunday morning, and the gardens had been taken over by clubbers still partying from Saturday night, as well as the local homeless enjoying their morning Tennants Supers.  As a new runner I felt a little awkward setting off around this small area.  A little self conscious.  So I walked on by…I walked past the City Farm and turned to head up to Victoria Park.  And there on my right, as if by magic, was Weaver’s Fields.  I had completely forgotten about this little gem in the middle of the housing blocks on the way to the Bethnal Green Road.  I walked through one of the gates and decided to check it out.  In addition to a children’s playground, there were wide open fields and a grass track worn along the perimeter of the park, perfect for runners.  It was early in the morning, the park was not very busy, and this is where I took my first running steps close to home.Since then I have come back to the Fields multiple times.  Each time I walk through the gate, I feel myself transported into a different world – a world of immigrants all finding a place they can call their own.  Early on Sunday mornings the fields are marked and there are local football matches – mostly first generation kids from Asian families living in the social housing surrounding the fields, some young adult teams too.  Sometimes on a corner of the Fields there are the Eastern European guys, hanging out, talking, sometimes sharing a bottle of vodka.  On Friday evenings, I see mothers and children at the playground, and opposite, closer to the mosque, there are the men chatting before heading home to dinner after Friday evening prayers.  And then there is me – an American in London, learning to run, recovering from injury, bandaged and heading around and around the Fields.  The more I have gone, the more confident I have become.  Strangers invite me to join their circuit training now.  (Geez – maybe I *am* looking serious these days!)  Dogs trot along with me (although I am much too slow for them to keep their interest!)  I go past the benches two or three times a session, seeing the same group, and we always smile and say hello.  The Fields are where I am part of London’s melting pot – and hopefully where I will learn to run…

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