Barking is the end of the Overground line shuttling between Barking and Gospel Oak (see my very first blog), and shares its platforms with the District line and the c2c main line services running from the Essex coast into Fenchurch Street station. So a busy station with rare moments of tranquillity, and as ever like most city stations, overlooked by high rise housing and opening onto the high street
Historic Barking and its landmarks
Without realising it I found myself walking the path once trodden by William the Conqueror soon after his 1066 conquest as he took over the Abbey to the west of Barking. Now a ruin adjacent to St Margaret’s Parish Church, I found it quite eerie thinking how so different life would have been then.
To the north east, there’s an elaborate sculpture in the middle of one of Barking’s ring road roundabouts, entitled The Catch by Lorraine Leeson, created in homage to Barking’s historic fishing tradition. And in the centre of town, there’s a Folly brick wall which was built, so I was advised by Roy a local resident, by the local college bricklaying apprentices from recycled bricks from the demolished swimming pool and The Lamb pub. The Lamb now sitting proudly atop the Folly.
The ‘town centre’ is a remodelled piazza of faux old and new, The Town Hall having been redeveloped in recent years alongside modern high rise colourfully clad buildings. Within a few steps of the Town Hall there’s the Library, Arts Centre and Leisure Centre. And close by, the sunlit Travelodge wasn’t too difficult to miss either.
The Market and its People
Barking has two lively shopping areas adjacent to each other: the Vicarage Fields shopping centre and the open air market that runs the length of Station Parade through to North Street where there’s one particular restaurant that cleverly captures your attention – especially if you like pink friesian cows; well done to Cristina’s – The Casual Steakhouse!
The market has an array of colourful stalls and traders offering fruit ‘n veg; the latest ‘fashion’, household items and fresh hot food.
I begin this journey by going into the Vicarage Fields centre from the station and within minutes I thought my journey wouldn’t go any further as I spy through the window of ‘Caffe Italiano’ a couple of gents playing chess with a gathering of onlookers; so I decide to go in and introduce myself asking permission to take their photos. They are all very amenable and I’m invited to play chess against ‘the best chess player in Barking’. This was all in good fun, but he was accompanied by one of the onlookers, but little did it matter to the outcome as I explained it had been over 20 years since I last played. Thankfully though I didn’t embarrass myself completely and the sequence of shots I took set me up nicely for the rest of the day.
The colours around the market are vibrant, accentuated by the late autumnal sun which shows everything off in glorious technicolor. As I’m looking around, I’m drawn to an intriguing sight; on first glance it’s a body-less child with an eerie smile, almost ‘Carrie’esq’; but on second viewing it’s a child dummy’s head wearing a hat. Nevertheless it had an engaging quality I felt compelled to capture.
The vision of the dummies heads caught my imagination and carrying on through the market, I stopped to admire a smaller stall with dummies heads adorned with different head gear and weaves. I introduce myself to the stall holder, Lola, and we have a short yet flirtatious conversation. Lola has an infectious smile as she explains the headgear has African origins. I compliment her on the display and ask if she names the dummies? We laugh…
It was nice to meet you Lola.
I left Barking with one rather poignant and somewhat reflective memory, and a reminder that despite the civic’s intention to remember local citizens by naming streets after them, they can eventually fade into obscurity if the initial intention isn’t sustained. This reminder of Bobby Moore was almost hidden under the tree canopy and I felt a sense of regret that such a famous footballing hero had been relegated to a car park – come on Barking you can do better than that surely?
The next and final part of my journey around Barking is a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but dear reader I make the rules here and the first rule is that there are NO rules.
I head off to Barking Riverside (or Creekmouth). The area is and continues to undergo massive regeneration but it is overshadowed by a massive power distribution centre and its dominant pylons where Barking power station once stood , Dagenham Sunday Market and a ship container store. Nevertheless the ambition is evident with extensive new build surrounding the area. The only obvious issue is that the location is so isolated, but I guess the developers have looked beyond that, but for now, the new Riverside Bridge School stands in its own grounds with no surrounding infrastructure or amenities; and the only way for children to attend is by car or by bus (the EL1 or EL3).
The housing development at the Rivergate Centre is modern and all the houses appear to be fitted with solar panels. The surrounding reed filled creeks are well landscaped and attractive walkways between blocks make access easy, but it doesn’t mask the fact it is isolated and quiet. Speaking with some residents, they balanced the isolation factor with attractive and modern accommodation. One local trader, who lived in the tower block above their shop declared, with upturned hands aloft…’what can you do?’
Thank you Barking for another interesting experience full of unexpected gifts…
See all Barking pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment
See the sidebar for a sample of Barking pics on Instagram
For more info, look up Barking on Wikipedia