#12: Clapham Junction – 20/06/2018

Clapham Junction promotes itself as ‘the busiest railway station in Britain’ and for the purpose of this blog, I have travelled here as it becomes the end of the line for two routes. Firstly the Overground from Highbury and Islington travelling in a south westerly route around London; and secondly, again the Overground, from Stratford travelling westerly. Both routes forming a virtual rail circle around London…so this will be the first of two visits.

The area immediately around the station is Battersea, Wandsworth and an area on the south shore of the Thames known as Cotton Row. This blog will focus on the Battersea and Cotton Row areas.

As I disembark onto one of the 17 platforms, I’m reminded it’s Royal Ascot week as the platforms are busy with top hatted gentlemen and fashionable be-hatted ladies on their way to the races making sure they comply with the Royal Ascot dress code. Before I leave the station, I explore the platform surrounds and inter-platform walkway, and you can only be impressed by its length, but less so by its relatively lack of services for passengers caught between train connections. One caught my attention though: Digby’s Patisserie.

 

It’s clear Clapham Junction is a commuter hub, well served by bus services and the station caters well for today’s velocipede riders. And as with all good stations, there’s a neighbouring watering hole; here it’s classically called the The Junction pub which tries to market itself as the 18th platform encouraging travellers into its ‘beer garden’

 

Battersea is a sprawling area with its main shops concentrated around two main roads: Lavender Hill running into St John’s Hill, and at its crossroads, St John’s Road leading to Falcon Road and running into Battersea High Street. Shops reflect an independent mix of cafes and bars and I stopped for a quick chat with the owner of the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill, a newly opened American diner, who’s owner said business has been good. There’s also the impressive Grand Musical Hall, with one traditional high street store hanging on to the glories of the past by proudly displaying its former name: Arding and Hobbs

 

At either end of the main street, there’s the impressively 1920’s brick built library to the east, and an equally impressive crowd funded craft beer outlet – We Brought Beer to the west. If you look across the road, you’ll also see an interesting and yet declining piece of faded artwork above the Story Coffee shop reflecting the building’s history: Peterkins Custard. If you follow its history, you’ll unearth links with the movie industry as the mill where the custard was made was run and owned by James Arthur Rank.

 

A meander around the streets and back streets brought me to the edge of Wandsworth Common; a surprising find from a street sign in Beauchamp Road leading me to the Welsh Chapel; and a humorous connection with Harry Potter in spotting Severus Road.

 

I decide to stretch my legs and in search of the Thames,  I head for the Thames Path on the south shore between Wandsworth Bridge and Battersea Railway Bridge to an area known as Cotton Row. Its name suggests an area steeped in history with features such as Plantation Wharf, Clove Hitch Quay, Oyster Pier and Candlemakers, but alas I can’t find any details. However, as with large swathes of today’s riversides, you now see regeneration and redevelopment through the building of fashionable apartments, modern offices and walkways, and of course Old Father Thames himself, with its ever changing scenery. Oh yes, you’ll also find the London Heliport here too.

 

Heading back to Clapham Junction, I skirt around Winstanley Estates, an area of social housing which has evidence of crime through abandoned motor vehicles, and security grilled corner shops. However I am sure, as with most areas, it’s the people and communities that define the area and not the acts of the minorities. A poignant note to end my journey as I return to the station where there’s a derelict church promoting the words ‘Jesus Said I Am The Way’…

 

For more info, look up Clapham Junction Railway Station and Battersea on Wikipedia

See all Clapham Junction pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#11: Bank – 07/06/2018

Today’s visit completes the Waterloo and City line with the day spent at Bank, originally called City when the line was first opened. For those of you who know the area, you’ll know it for it’s traffic; imposing buildings and architecture and of course the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street herself – the Bank of England

All the buildings are confined within the ‘square mile’ and today’s visit rarely stepped outside of its boundaries as the area which is steeped in history, lends itself to awe and wonder. The City (or square mile) is demarcated at its boundaries by dragons as its symbol, and public furniture adorned with The City’s coat of arms.

Whilst standing on the steps of the Royal Exchange with the building behind me, I take in the mini piazza ahead of me where workers and tourists either take time for a moment’s contemplation, or rush from one of the many underground exits from one side of Bank to another. To my left is a memorial to James Henry Greathead, an engineer who invented a way of building the tube network, and beyond is Mansion House with the Bank of England dominating my right view.

Into the Royal Exchange, for my first ever glimpse of what is a cavernous building converted on the ground floor into a fashionable coffee shop cum restaurant, with the alcoved balconies dedicated to up market restaurants and high end jewellery shops. Having sought, and received permission to take pictures inside, I’m later approached to ensure I do not take any pictures of the shops.

Next a walk around the Bank of England, a route I’ve taken many a time over the years, but this time I stumble across the Bank of England Museum entrance. An entrance I must have passed before, but without realising, so I find myself drawn inside. Understanding it’s a free museum, I decide to have a look around. The museum, as you’d expect, recounts the history of the building, the history of money, displays of currency through the years and an explanation on how today’s economy is managed. An interesting insight and great for school trips, as was my luck to get caught in the melee of one. But there is a nice interactive exhibition – a real gold ingot in a perspex case with a hand hole inviting you to pick up the ingot. No worries of running off with it though as the ingot is contained within a claw like container – but a good way to realise the weight of real gold

Back out of the building and a wander around the back streets which interconnect with the main roads via alleys and cutaways which you can envisage being the centre of hustle and bustle in the 18th and 19th Centuries. I pass the City of London Magistrates Court and head over to The Parish Church of St Stephen Walbrook, a 17th century church, next to Mansion House and now dwarfed by modern financial buildings: The Walbrook Building, and a monstrously ugly and totally characterless Bloomberg building.

The church prides itself with having a high domed roof built by Sir Christopher Wren as a trial before he built the one on St Paul’s Cathedral, and a large round altar as a centrepiece to the church. I spent some time talking with Victor, one of the Church helpers, who explained that one of the church’s previous rectors (Dr Chad Varah) founded the Samaritans and the original phone used to accept calls on the number ‘Mansion House 9000’ is on display.

Back out and I stroll around the Bloomberg building looking for the entrance to the London Mithraeum which is situated under the building, but to no avail, and even the security guards on the building’s main entrance couldn’t offer any directions. Hmmm, not impressed so I head back to the mini piazza and head up Lombard Street through George Yard and Bell Inn Yard crossing Gracehcurch into Leadenhall Market; originally a meat and poultry market but now a fashionable market for wining, dining and shopping. It’s late lunchtime and the market is busy with nearby office workers and tourists enjoying a bite to eat. Ah! I remember those days…

For more info, look up Bank on Wikipedia

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

#10: Richmond – 06/06/2018

I’ve been struggling to write about my travels to Richmond: I don’t know why, as the place has many interests, so whether it’s writers block or just tiredness after repeated visits across London I don’t know. So I’ve taken a short break away from my travels to help recharge my mental inspiration batteries. Who knows? But here we go again…please tell me if you think it’s something else…

This time to the south westerly corner of London and the leafy suburbia of Richmond. This will be the first of two visits to Richmond as it’s a terminus for both the District and the Overground lines. I don’t know if Richmond is classed as a town or village, but Wikipedia declares it to be a suburban Town – so there we have it.

Arriving at the station and exploring the immediate surrounds, I notice the station is betwixt Victorian metalwork and art deco architecture. Not unlike many of London’s stations built in the Victoriana hey-dey and added to in the 20’s and 30’s. Whatever your architectural preference, you can’t ignore some of the interesting designs and shapes of the old and new worlds that parade themselves around the station

Out of the station turning right I soon find myself at Richmond Athletic Ground, the home of Richmond Rugby Football Club (RFC) and London Scottish. I try and walk around the ground, but I’m politely asked to leave as the grounds are not open to the public. So I head in the direction of the nearest pub which overlooks the grounds, unsurprisingly named The Triple Crown Richmond, built originally under the name of The Tulip Tree in 1884 as can be seen on the inscription on the upper part of the building

Back to the heart of Richmond and its main shopping street, and you’re drawn to it’s cleanliness and tidiness, quality and upkeep of buildings and almost full occupancy of the main street shops with an overriding balance of independent shops in favour of the expected retail chains. All I believe an indication of Richmond’s prosperity and the community’s pride in its surroundings; the town has many side streets leading you westerly to Richmond Green, easterly towards religious buildings, and southerly to the river

Some notable attractions that caught my attention included a children’s bookshop, The Alligators Mouth; a new coffee shop about to open, Kiss the hippo coffee; Brewers Lane, a pedestrian alley full of bijou and artisan shops; and Richmond Theatre, which was on the day of my visit preparing for a George Michael tribute concert.

A brief mention of some of the religious building I passed. Firstly, St John The Divine which is situated adjacent to the Metropolitan Police and the First Church of Christ Scientist Richmond, a large imposing building overlooking Sheen Road. I also spent some time in and around St Mary Magdalene CofE Church where I was introduced enthusiastically to the intricate renovation works and choristers by Ruth, one of the church helpers and choir member. I’m grateful to Ruth for peaking my interest in the history of both Church and choirs, and being shown the delightful and colourful needle-craft work of the Royal School of Needlework Hampton Court Palace, a recent gift to the church, and the origami dove display. For those interested in the choir and its history, here are some related websites you may wish to explore further: StMarymagdalenechoir.co.uk; Saintmartinsingers.org and Choralevensong.org.

Some of the interesting, or architecturally curious properties that caught my eye included Michels Row, No. 7 Lower Mortlake Road, Spencer House at 23 Sheen Road, and The Gateways in Park Road. And during this time, I stopped and chatted with Richard, a delivery driver who explained he was on a Tacho break; and later in the day I stopped to feed Cooper, a fox red labrador pup who was being walked and trained by his owner. The route also took me past Hogarth House where Leonard and Virginia Wolf lived for nine years and founded the Hogarth Press in 1917. Sadly, an empty office building now.

You can’t ignore some of the attractive pubs whilst walking around, and a brief mention before heading to the river. The Sun Inn tucked out of the way at the northern end of the town; The Railway Tavern outside the station and beautifully adorned with bedding plants, and The Old Ship, on the approach to the river

On the day of visiting, it was a glorious sunny day, giving rise to many an opportunity for locals and visitors to sit on the banks with a drink and/or ice cream enjoying the view of the calm river traffic and of those brave enough to take to a rowing boat. An appropriate place to rest my weary feet and share in the delights…

For more info, look up Richmond on Wikipedia

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