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