Former world record holder David Bedford ‘was no good at sport at school’
The intellectuals of Hampstead might have given way to barristers and bankers and the high street overhauled, but for 62 years Hampstead Heath has been a constant for former long distance runner David Bedford.
Born a stone’s throw from the wild land, his connections with the capital’s largest open space run deep.
In the 1800s one side of his family busied themselves farming the land, while the other policed the streets of the village and its neighbouring beauty spot.
“I live 30 metres from where I was born in Queen Mary’s [Maternity Home] and it’s now an old people’s home, so I might complete the round trip without moving very far,” the sporting icon joked from his flat overlooking the Heath.
The former world record holder for the 10,000m first fell in love with the Heath at the age of 14.
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“I was no good at sport at school until they introduced cross country,” said Mr Bedford.
“People who left their kit at home were forced to walk around the park, well I jogged it and found I was quite good at it. That was great for a youngster to find a sport that I was actually good at.”
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For the next 30 odd years Mr Bedford roamed around the Heath discovering every nook and cranny, before his knackered knees forced him to pack it in.
In that time Mr Bedford, who swims in the ponds, discovered places such as Pitt House Gateway near Jack Straw’s Castle.
The little-known landmark is what is left of North End House where former Prime Minister William Pitt stayed as he battled depression in 1766.
While the Heath has stayed the same, the rest of Hampstead has changed beyond recognition for Mr Bedford, a loyal regular at the Duke of Hamilton pub in New End.
Ten pubs have pulled their last pints and the high street has changed, with the village becoming a “white ghetto”.
“People come here because it’s safe, but the problem with that is they shut their doors and they do not make links in the village,” said the former race director for the London Marathon.
“It just reduces the size of the village and that for me is somewhere you can go and meet your mates or nip down to the shops.”
Mr Bedford is set to give a talk tomorrow (Friday, November 16) at Burgh House in New End Square about his memories of Hampstead over the last half century.
Tickets are still on sale for �25 and can be bought from the museum.