#17: Wimbledon – 19/07/2018

A day out to the end of the District line and the relatively new Tramlink. This was a day of discovery to explore the Tramlink and its immediate surrounds at the home of British Tennis. Thankfully, the tennis Open had finished at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club, but then again I wouldn’t have travelled here when it was on. For those who know the area, or who have visited the tennis, you’ll know that it’s a good half hour walk away from the main centre. Be that as it may, the centre still had on show the remnants of the mega advertising/promotion that accompanies tennis championship with larger than life hoardings for Lavaza and Polo still on display.

The station at Wimbledon is relatively busy serving as a gateway to the south of England but it’s very commutable to central London too, via the main line services and the District Line.

My particular interest today was the Tramlink, so I decided to hop on and enjoy the ride and help visualise the route in preparation for its three other ‘end of the line’ destinations. The trams and track features are similar to those found on the Manchester Metrolink, a service I’d used frequently when working out of Salford Quays in that the track shares road space and in places re-uses redundant rail lines. In researching this blog, I’m surprised to learn that the Tramlink began operating in 2000, so by comparison to the rest of the Tfl network, still relatively new, serving the southern region of Greater London through Mitcham, Croydon, Beckenham and New Addington.

Today I go as far as East Croydon before doubling back to Wimbledon and take in the country scenery as we ride through Morden Hall Park and Mitcham Common before hitting the metropolis of Croydon. As with all Tfl lines, there is a distinct colour scheme enshrined in the Tfl Colour Standards, which looks like lime green, but for the ‘aficionados’ it is PMS 368, C57 M0 Y100 K0, R0 G189 B25, or NCS S 0580-G30Y

Back to Wimbledon, and a casual stroll around the town as I’ll explore in more detail on my return trip. However I’m attracted to the library turning right out of the station which is an architecturally blended mix of historic victoriana and 60’s build. As with most libraries these days, it’s a multi-purpose building in full use providing free access to all media forms: be it books, magazines or internet; an events space and an area for children’s activities. Outside, on the north west wall, is an interesting sculpture by Mohammed Sheibani entitled ‘Release’: a composition of three murals depicting books on bookshelves made out of bricks or terracotta tiles – take a look if you’re passing by as it’s easy to miss. Turn around and you’ll see a stylish red brick building proudly emblazoned with ‘Bank Buildings’ but now alas like a lot of bank buildings, converted into fashionable cafes and restaurants – this one is an ‘All Bar One’

Turning back into Wimbledon, I decide to turn my attention on interesting signs; well signs that I find interesting, for no other reason other than I find the shape, colour, pattern or message stimulating. The ones captured here are:

Journey’s end is defined by a display of local festival posters, and the imposing spectacle of the Prince of Wales hotel which proudly promotes the imbibing of Brandies, Liqueurs and Wines.

I look forward to my return trip to explore in more detail the local treasures.

For more info, look up Wimbledon on Wikipedia

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

#16: Stratford International – 12/07/2018

An interesting visit to the end of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Stratford International station. It sits on the edge of the Olympic Park and it was built in time for the 2012 London Olympics and serves only the DLR. However it sits alongside the mainline Stratford International station and the mammoth Westfield shopping centre through which you can walk the short distance to Stratford’s main station serving the Central, Jubilee, Overground, DLR and National Rail services.

Having travelled through Stratford main station as a commuter for almost every day from the 6th July 2005 when London was announced as the successful bidder for the 2012 Olympics, I had an almost personal seat to view the Olympic Park’s creation and development. Everyday brought something new to the eye’s attention, and unsurprisingly, the site and the surrounds has continued to develop at an unrelenting pace since then. Predominantly office blocks and luxury apartments with unspoilt views.

The immediate surrounds of the station show signs of continued development with brave attempts to inspire new businesses, office workers and students to the area. Outside the station, the regeneration of the E20 area proudly highlights what’s on offer through sign posted flower pots attractively displayed. I almost wanted Bill, or Ben or Weed to pop up and share a ‘flobalobalob’ story with me. It’s here I met and chatted with Jamile, one of two wardens on patrol and employed to roam the E20 area offering advice, guidance and a friendly face for visitors to approach.

Just staying with the building theme for a moment, work continues across the area with a clear emphasis, quite rightly, on health and safety and hazard warnings. Some with a humorous twist aiming at capturing the building workers’ attention.

Try as I might to ignore Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, I can’t, so here’s a quick homage to its vibrancy, brightness and constant evolution as retail units change hands. On the day I visited, an area had been decked out with faux grass and deck chairs with a live tv broadcast of the tennis at Wimbledon acting as a casual distraction for those weary from shopping or those who had reluctantly accompanied others there :-). What was surprising however, but then again maybe not, and more a reflection of the times, without exception everyone seated was distracted looking at their mobile phones instead of watching the tennis.

On route from the inners of Westfield to the International Station, I pass the outside of a well known department store, whose design is somewhat iconic and renders naming it unnecessary (or does it?). And almost at the station, I encounter Bruno and his handler. Bruno is a two year old guard dog and is part of Westfield’s security patrol. His handler explained he’s a cross between a malinmor and a dutch hunter; I’m afraid I can’t find any reference to the breed malinmor so I may have misheard the handler’s description; but if any reader out there’s knows this breed then please drop me a line and I’ll update this blog

Almost at journey’s end, I head to Stratford International station and explore its surrounds. The station is run by South Eastern and is part of the only high speed commuter service in Britain. A fairly clinical station with some interesting ‘living wall’ displays outside, and inside there’s a plaque to remind travellers the site was the location of the largest train crew depot in Europe, and in the glory days of steam, the depot achieved a record of building a steam engine in 9 hours and 47 minutes; even by today’s developments that sounds pretty impressive.

Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to travel on a high speed train, I spent the grand sum of £3.90 to travel to London St Pancras station. The service runs every 15 minutes and takes a matter of minutes to get there. Today’s travels ended with a smile as the train conductor clearly loved his job and in a matter of minutes, as we approached St Pancras, I captured three of his announcements:

  • One to a passenger who was unsure of their onward travel arrangements; he provided a personal destination planner
  • “…to the ladies who party, and you know who you are: rose wine and raspberries sound enjoyable…”, and finally
  • ‘Thank you for your company, you’ve made it one of my most memorable of my career’

For more info, look up Stratford International on Wikipedia

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

#15: Walthamstow – 05/07/2018

Another sun baked day with relentless heat, and today it’s a day out at the northerly end of the Victoria line at Walthamstow Central. The station also serves the Overground, and just a few minutes away, a separate Overground line via Walthamstow Queen’s Road, which happened to be my arrival point.

I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve only driven through parts of Walthamstow before, but the landscape looked unfamiliar to me at these stations as they are some way away from the main A503 Forest Road which I was more familiar with. Nevertheless, this was a surprising day, which started slowly but one that built up to be quite a rewarding, yet tiring day.

The walk from Queen’s Road to Walthamstow Central is somewhat intimidating as it takes you through a tired social housing area, and leads you through a building site. However the building site is part of Waltham Forest’s regeneration plan for the area to make the transition between stations more pleasant…time will tell, but as you arrive at the Central station, and you look closely, you’ll notice the wall mural that clearly tells you where you are.

Walking up to Hoe Street, which is the main route through the town (I think I can call it a town), I first turn right heading south but quickly realise there’s little to offer and u-turn to walk in a northerly direction along the length of Hoe Street. And this is when I find the real Walthamstow.

The town’s beauty is revealed through it’s hidden historical features, diverse eateries, it’s vibrant and extensive market in the area known locally as ‘the village’, it’s colourfulness seen through its myriad of wall paintings; be they murals, graffiti or information, and it’s slightly retro feel through its architectural style.

The shops and places of interest unearth some local history with most older buildings having been converted into bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The Mirth, a converted cinema, looking dull and uninteresting during the day, but comes to life in the evening, with its doors open revealing the grandeur of a 1920’s cinema auditorium, beautifully lit and decorated where guests can enjoy its opulence. Next door, a former dairy where a wall plaque records it as a place where Herbert Llewelyn Walton once worked as a milkman, but now a discrete bar with some interesting artwork. Adjacent is the entrance to Tramworks, converted mews that amongst other things once housed stables for horses pulling trams through Walthamstow. It’s modern diversity is somewhat epitomised by a simple logo on one door advertising an online travel app sn-ap.

Further down the road I chat with a worker in Ruby Stables who was busy reclaiming a decorative garden urn, and returning towards the town, I’m struck by the artwork on display outside the Le Delice Italian Bakery. I end up spending some time chatting with the baker and shopkeeper (Manola) and I was tempted by the array of breads on display. This is a shop worthy of visiting if Italian bakery is your pleasure.

The market runs for a kilometer all the way from High Street, outside the Empire Cinema, through to St James Street and adjacent to its station; and in a way connects the two stations. But a walk through the market on a busy day is not for the faint hearted as the walkway between the stalls is full of shoppers determined to get the day’s bargain. As with all open air markets, I find the display of foods and clothes are always colourful, as indeed are the market traders themselves; some of whom challenged my taking pictures until I explained what I was doing and shared my ‘business card’ with them.

Having walked the full length of the market, I have it in mind to head for the William Morris Gallery but I underestimated the distance via Blackhorse Road especially in the heat of the afternoon sun. Nevertheless, I encounter some more visual treasures along the way

When I finally arrived at the gallery it was about to close, so that will be a visit for another day, but still there was plenty of time to enjoy the surrounding gardens and views of the house from different perspectives.

I hope you enjoy Walthamstow as much as I did and here are some more samples of the artwork seen around the area? I include them not only as as a record of my visit, but because they represent a statement of the people and their surrounds.

For more info, look up Walthamstow on Wikipedia

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

#14: Hammersmith – 28/06/2018

Another scorching day to travel to a vibrant part of west London and one I’ll look forward to returning to as Hammersmith serves as the terminus for both the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines. This was an interesting and delightful sojourn, not only because of the things I saw, but also for the people I met and stopped to talk with. All in all a great day out.

Before stretching my legs too far, a quick stroll around the immediate vicinity, I spot a delightful shop, Turners florist, framed nicely through some lavender; and just around the corner in Hammersmith Grove there’s an interesting traffic calming approach. In creating a road obstacle, seating areas adorned with plants are positioned in such a way to narrow the side road thus creating a sun trapped haven for those seeking some respite, or a place for a good natter.

Crossing Beadon Road, the smell of the open air food market wafts over the traffic creating a sensory experience to make the tummy rumble with excitement. Such markets have become very popular across London, and this was no exception. It’s always interesting to see which stall has the longest queue, as this serves as an indication of the quality of the food on offer. Having walked around a couple of times, I’m stopped by a passer-by who also turns out to be a keen amateur photographer with a passion for Leica cameras.

Walking on, I wanted to make a beeline for Olivier’s Bakery as I was attracted to their display of home baked breads and cakes. I courteously ask if I can take some close up pictures and offer some free advertising through this blog. This leads to a conversation about what I am doing, and the ladies were more than happy to pose. The stall is well positioned at the front of the market, and clearly attracts customers as evidenced during my visit. Many thanks too for the baguette, which served as my lunch for the day.

Hammersmith is also served by the Piccadilly and District lines, albeit from a different station about 100 metres away in the covered Broadway Shopping Centre, and en route to the extensive bus station. To get there, though, you have to navigate across Hammersmith’s extremely busy one-way ring road, and although controlled by traffic lights, many pedestrians risked life and limb thinking they knew the lighting sequencing better; they didn’t…

Out of the shopping centre onto Hammersmith’s south side, where the infamous Hammersmith Eventim Apollo theatre is found. Even at midday a leisurely queue was beginning to form presumably for the evening’s performance or maybe for the the ticket office to open, and although the advertising indicated Michael Buble was the performer, those queueing did not fit the expected Michael Buble fan base profile.

For those who know Hammersmith you’ll know that it is in some way defined by the A4 flyover which dissects a swathe from Hogarth Roundabout to Cromwell Road to manage the traffic flow to/from the M4 and west London. The vision is none more striking than how it apparently cuts St Pauls church in half.

Heading south down Queen Caroline Street towards the Thames Path and the north shore, I’m drawn into the Peabody Estate Hammersmith by its characteristically strong brick built facade, cloistered inner courtyards and functional security arrangements (but a sad indictment of today’s needs to protect property). I’m also reminded that today is England’s final World Cup group stage game with the nation having a high expectation of a win as the team has already qualified for the next knockout stage. As I walk around, I stop and chat with Gary a local resident, who has a shared interest in London photography. I also learn he’s a guitarist with Caribbean Xpress a steel band performing Caribbean music, ska and reggae; have a look at them on YouTube

On the approach to the Thames, I pass the revamped Riverside Studios and take in the view of the redeveloped north shore and espy the iconic Hammersmith Bridge, which features annually during the Cambridge vs Oxford Boat Race. Turning left to stroll along the embankment, there are several interesting stopping points, as indeed I did. There’s the impressive ‘Figurehead’ sculpture by Rick Kirby; a plaque to commemorate William Tierney Clark who built the bridge; a bust of Lancelot (Capability) Brown by Laury Dizengremel who lived nearby in the mid 18th century, and the Fulham Reach Boat Club. If you look across the Thames to the south shore you’ll also see the Harrods Furniture Depository. A busy walkway indeed full of nearby office workers enjoying the sun during their lunch break.

I decide a walk over the bridge is a must, which takes me into the neighbouring village of Barnes, which sits within the borough of Richmond on Thames before turning back over the bridge when I spot the unassuming, yet attractive headquarters of British Rowing. I end my day’s journey in Furnivall Gardens with a well deserved ice cream. I only mention this as I was surprised by the generosity of the ice cream van vendor who recognised my surprised shock at the price of a standard ice cream (£2.50) and he reduced the price by 20% to (£2.00). As my father always told me…’if you don’t ask, you don’t get’…It was a very generous portion too… mmmmmm

For more info, look up Hammersmith on Wikipedia

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

#13: Enfield Town – 27/06/2018

The summer of 2018 will be etched on my memory forever as the year to experience London’s rail travel in the heat of the sun, but thankfully Tfl’s modernisation plans sees new air conditioned trains slowly being introduced. Today I headed to north London on the branch line from Liverpool Street to Enfield, one of many destinations on the Overground network.

I chose to take an indirect route via Hackney Central changing to pick up at Hackney Downs, but miscalculated the train timetables so the journey took longer than expected, although it meant a cooling respite at Hackney Downs and realise how busy this station is. Anyway, finally onto Enfield Town, via some familiar stops such as White Hart Lane and Edmonton Green where I worked for a few years. Passing the new Spurs football ground nearing completion and due to open for the start of the 2018/19 season. An innovative stadium in that it has an extractable artificial surface for use for American Football with which it will share the stadium.

Anyway, enough of Spurs (ugh!), and onto Enfield…

My initial impression was that of an uninspiring town dominated by Enfield Council’s home at the Civic Centre, and it’s employees proudly adorning their security passes whilst walking around town (not very secure). But on reflection that would be unfair as I found Enfield has much to offer through it’s many well kept open spaces. Spaces which on a scorching summer’s day offered tranquil places to rest and play. The New River meanders through the town and provides a watery interest to passers by and local fowl.

The parks and gardens are well tended and the area by Gentlemans Row helped show off the surrounding buildings well, all in good condition and well cared for and in keeping with the area. And across the road to the expansive Town Park, children were being led in an orderly fashion following an outing on their way back to school whilst gardeners clipped the rose gardens and borders. Overhearing one conversation from an enquiring child asking ‘why do we have to go back to school?’; ‘because we do’ came the tired response…

The town is predominantly a single street served by a mix of independent hairdressers and barbers, and sadly an oxymoronic display of national chain betting shops almost adjacent to national and local charity shops. As with most London towns, there is a discrete open air shopping centre, but unsurprisingly populated with the expected chain and franchise shops making it a rather uninteresting experience to walk through.

Historically, I found some buildings of interest, namely 36 Silver Street: Enfield Vicarage, the Parish Office for St Andrew’s Church, Enfield Grammar School, where on one of it’s entrances it proudly displays it was founded in 1557, and the Kings Head pub, all of which are within spitting distances of each other.

Other memorable finds close to the station include: an interesting display of brickwork on a house in St Andrew’s Road; a mosaic on a wall in Genotin Road where the Queen’s Hall Cinema once stood serving as a reminder of its former glory; and a gold post box in recognition of Charlotte Dujardin, a locally born girl winning an Olympic Gold as part of the Equestrian Team in the 2012 London Olympics. Well done Charlotte!

…and finally, if you’re a lover of gin, you may have made your way to the Enfield Gin Festival, or by the time you’re reading this, you are recovering from it…bon viveur!

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For more info, look up Enfield Town on Wikipedia

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