#03: Elephant & Castle – 25/04/2018

On a roll, and time to travel ‘Sarf (south) of the river’, this time to the southerly end of the Bakerloo Line at Elephant and Castle. An area known for its social deprivation and regeneration, and an area I was somewhat familiar with having worked in the vicinity some time ago. My visualisation, in preparing my travels, was that of a shopping centre in the middle of a roundabout surrounded by high rise office blocks and social housing. My plan was to circumnavigate the area before venturing into the centre.

There’s something about the Bakerloo Line exit here that, for me, epitomises the older tube travelling as you have to navigate the winding tile lined corridors with matching colour splashes representing the infamous map colours (which came first?). They invoke a sense of history and retro architecture that far surpasses the modernist, and almost soulless concreted health & safety approach of places like Westminster.

I wander somewhat aimlessly turning right out of the station in a clockwise route past Skipton House, NHS England HQ, around the corner past London South Bank University to where an impressive new build with a living wall has been crafted onto its entire east face.

Across the road past the Salvation Army and around the back streets past the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star (note – religious theme continues) to New Kent Road and then around the building site currently known as Elephant Park into Heygate Street and Walworth Road. The area is steeped in history with references to Michael Faraday cropping up in several places (least of all the naming of the memorial in the central roundabout known as Elephant Square). The efforts in regenerating the area expose a diverse architectural style with each architect looking to stamp their own mark in sympathy with their surrounds. Some creative use of space can be seen under the railway arches in Spare Street where Hotel Elephant has been modelled for ‘Creative Entrepreneurs, Start-ups and Graduates’.

Turning back heading north to the shopping centre, but not before exploring The Artworks Elephant, ‘a creative hub for the vibrant and diverse community’. One of many repurposed shipping container complexes popping up over London. Colourfully providing small work areas for diverse food outlets and creative folk working independently: a stimulating experience and worth a wander around as there’s something different to see everywhere.

Hopped onto the main line station platform to take in the uninterrupted panoramic view of London, but those who know London and look south will see a tall clad building with three circles at its top; and like me often wondered what is it? The iconic Strata SE1, nicknamed the ‘Razor’ is a housing complex completed in 2010; its three wind turbines, designed to generate 8% of the buildings energy needs, have remained stationary since 2014 – hmmm.

Journey’s end, and into the shopping centre, which has become an unloved throw-back of the 1960’s. In its heyday, it was the praised for being the first covered shopping mall in Europe, but today it has become a reflection of social deprivation and a lack of investment. Those stall workers in and around the centre have a clear sense of purpose and seem full of life peddling their wares, but despite theirs and the centres best efforts in brightening up the vicinity, there is a general air of depression and gloom about the place. I mean not to offend, but just expressing a personal view here and would welcome comments, views and invitations to demonstrate differently.

For more info, look up Elephant & Castle on Wikipedia

See all Elephant and Castle pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#02: Ealing Broadway – 19/04/2018

The second hottest day of the year so far, and this time suitably dressed in shorts and t-shirt journeying to one of the two westerly ends of the Central Line at Ealing Broadway station to explore the surrounds of Ealing. This will be one of two visits here as the District Line also terminates here so whilst looking around, I had one eye on where to go next time.

Out of the station and surveyed the immediate surroundings to get my bearings and spotted an interesting authentic Japanese restaurant, the Hare & Tortoise. Not sure how an ‘un-authentic’ Japanese restaurant would differ: I guess it would just be a restaurant? This drew me slightly westerly so carried on walking in this direction and drawn to a marker on Google maps; that of Carlton Road Ancient Oak I decided to visit. Some research indicates it’s the site where an elephant has been buried, and explains why it remains in the middle of the road. It reminded me of the old Oak tree in Carmarthen in the middle of the road and the local fable that once felled, the town would drown…of course it never did (see reference Merlin’s Oak, Carmarthen).

Heading back to Ealing, I came to Haven Green Baptist Church, and here’s a theme…I popped in to browse inside the building. The church was open and being looked after by a lady serving tea and biscuits; I sensed she was more than a caretaker, but she was somewhat sceptical of my enquiring nature until she realised I was Welsh – as she came from Pontypool. She explained the church’s congregation had dwindled in recent years but had started growing again to 100+ following the recent appointment of a minister. She accompanied me whilst I explored the gallery and explained how they are slowly refurbishing some of the fixtures and fittings. I would best describe the inside of the church as likening to an overgrown Welsh chapel – some of you reading this will understand what I mean.

I bid farewell and pause outside to check my bearings , and as I turn around, I see a familiar TV face walk past – John Sergeant, he of political news and Strictly Come Dancing fame (or infamy? You decide).

Into the heart of the town through its modern, yet secluded shopping centre and I’m drawn to a pink sheep in a doorway. A great marketing symbol for the Neon Sheep shop. I of course have to stop and call in and chat a while with the shop manager who explains they are the only shop in the UK, although another opening soon in Basingstoke (although they website states there’s one in Grays in Essex as well). She proudly invites me to look up at the ceiling where there are three red sheep grazing upside down too.

Wandering out of the shopping centre, I pass a very attractive office block entrance and help myself inside and take some pics. Climbing up the escalator to the out of site reception area, I’m confronted by two security guards come receptionist who politely ask me to leave and seek my assurances not to take any pics, ‘of course’ I say without letting on I’d already taken some – oooops!

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Around the back of the town and I find the facade of the former Walpole Picture Theatre before entering Walpole Park which was being enjoyed by local residents and families in the sunshine. Maybe worth a deeper exploration when I return.

I end my visit to Ealing on a short bus ride to Alperton. This might seem out of the way if you look at the tube map, but actually only a 20 minute diversion to visit the Shri Shantan Hindu Mandir. I had seen references to this Hindu temple and thought it worthy of visiting and I’m glad I did. Such an elaborately decorated temple both outside and inside, although on this occasion I respected the ‘no photos inside the building’ request. The temple is a shrine to all the hindu gods which have their own space around the inside of the outer wall, whilst in the centre, there was a gathering of about 30 ladies chanting – I left them to it.

Another successful day, but don’t forget, please comment on quality, content, improvements or suggestions, and for more info, look up Ealing on Wikipedia

See all Ealing Broadway pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#01: Gospel Oak – 18/04/2018

…and so the journey begins. I’m selecting where to go randomly but at the same time I’ll try not to visit the same general area in sequence; we’ll see how I get on.

Onto Gospel Oak then, which is one end point of the Overground line with Barking cutting a swathe through north east London and serving its urban communities. I happen to pick the hottest day of the year so far, which meant I wasn’t quite dressed appropriately and saw me walking at a more sedate pace. But despite that, it enabled me to look at my surroundings in detail.

Out of the station heading westerly towards Hampstead Heath, but not before stopping at the Parish Church of All Hallows where I survey the outside and wander inside. I’m not a naturally religious person, having been brought up as a Welsh Independent in my formative years, but there’s something intriguing and unique about all religious buildings. You just have to admire the work effort into the building, architecture, carpentry and how they have tried to balance the natural iconic features with the onset of modernisation.

 

I bumped into, who I believed to be, the vicar (Father David), but he seemed too busy in wanting to stop and chat as he was preparing to start a clean up of the church in the coming days: a larger than life soul. Onward then to the Heath and I made a b-line for Parliament Hill to take in the iconic panoramic view across London of The City and Canary Wharf – the old and new financial centres. Whilst there, I had a chance to play with the camera settings, so loads of pics taken but most discarded, though a few survived.

 

Decided to head up to the northerly parts of the Heath along the westerly border until I reached the grounds of Kenwood House enjoying the burst of bluebells and one of Henry Moore’s sculptures. A quick browse outside the House as that’s a visit for another day, and then head back to Gospel Oak along the easterly side skirting the various ponds/pools and the more populated parts.

 

My efforts to chat to folk came to nothing for most of the day as the Heath is populated either by lone joggers plugged into headphones, insular dog walkers or tourists. However I did stop to ask a couple of ladies why they were placing camera traps at the base of trees. They explained they are part of a local community Group Heath Hands supporting the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in surveying the hedgehog population on the Heath; the survey would run for a month but they seemed unsure whether, and if so, how the information/results would be shared. If interested, follow them on Twitter @WildHeathBike.

 

Back to Gospel Oak to rest the legs and reflect on the first day of many to come with some satisfaction with testing the camera, and exploring a part of London I’ve not been to before and thoughts on the next journey.

Feel free to comment on this blog, its content, or any suggestions on how to improve it. Equally, if you have any suggestions on where you’d like me to go next, please drop me a message.
For more info, look up Gospel Oak on Wikipedia

See all Gospel Oak pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment