#30: Harrow & Wealdstone – 19/11/2018

The Station

Unlike Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, today is a tale of two distinctly different towns and like my recent visit to Amersham, each town has its own history. So taking the Bakerloo Line, I travel to its northerly end and arrive at Harrow & Wealdstone station.

A pretty undescriptive station, akin to several on the Tfl network that are functional but have probably not seen many improvements over the years It shares its platforms with the Overground line from Euston to Watford Junction, so I expect to be passing through again when I make that journey one day. Depending on your ultimate destination determines which exit you wish to follow; west to Harrow and East to Wealdstone which is my first calling point.

En route, I learn of the tragic events of over 66 years ago on the 8th October 1952 when 112 people lost their lives and 340 others were injured when three trains collided. The triage system, which assesses those in the most urgent need, was implemented for the first time in England during this accident; and this tragic event and the efforts of those who helped to save many others is immortalised in a mural along the length of the station on its outside.

Wealdstone

Named after a sarsen stone placed at the boundary between the parishes of Harrow and Harrow Weald, it can be found outside the Bombay Central restaurant on the approach to Harrow Weald. The restaurant proudly show off their heritage with a display of four tuk tuk’s as a showpiece outside their restaurant.

Other than that, Wealdstone has very little to offer and I feel as if the town is closed in more ways than one. Derelict shops closed some time ago, food outlets not ready to open and guess they’re awaiting the evening passing trade, and signs of social deprivation by way of discarded vodka bottles and Nitrous Oxide canisters. On top of all this gloom it starts to rain, but I remain optimistic in discovering moments of interest.

There are however only a few things that catch my eye as I walk the 4km route from the station to Harrow Weald bus depot and back. These include: an array of colourfully decorated drain covers outside Holy Trinity Church in Headstone Drive; The International Siddhashram Shakti Center in Palmerston Road; and Azure Apartments in Harrow Weald, a modern building crafted in a retro art deco style.

The Civic Centre

Disappointed, and probably frustrated with what little Wealdstone was able to reveal, I decide to head for Harrow. The rain starting to ease I arrive at the Civic Centre with its imposing 1960’s style concrete office block. It being a week after Armistice Day, the memorial stone is still awash with poppy wreaths in the shadow of the Central Mosque. The Civic Centre also proudly displays a stone from El Alamein outside their main building.

Further up the hill, I spot an interesting road name painted on the road in such a way to discourage parking at Eastern Parade, and there are clear signs of the autumnal leaf fall which I catch in the damp rainy pavements

Harrow

I’d best describe Harrow town as an enclave of three main streets. The pedestrianised St Anns Road, Station Road and College Row intersected by two modern shopping centres (St Anns and St Georges) surrounded by a ring road diverting traffic. I tour the area several times looking for historical landmarks and photo opportunities in a relatively new London borough of just over 50 years, and I’m intrigued to see that Professor Brian Cox, that well known physicist has branched out into the field of Estate Agency… 🙂

I wander into St Georges centre to admire their Christmas decorations and I’m challenged by their security patrol who declare as a ‘professional’ I’m not allowed to take pictures. I try and understand their thinking, and as experienced recently at The O2, my DSLR camera is enough to attract attention and is used as the tool by which I’m classified. I explain in vain that their presumption is so wrong on many counts, but decide my case is not with the security operator who was following their centre’s protocol. I sensed though this officer was being less than vigilant as he had spotted me some 10 minutes before challenging me.

Outside, I find shades of the town’s original 60’s planning design in a shadowy walkway under one of the roundabouts west of the town and close to Morrisons with walls adorned with large mosaic style murals and tiles, and above, the creation of a new housing complex.

Lord Byron

South of the main station of Harrow on the HIll is Lowlands Rec adjacent to Harrow College and across the road to The Grove open ground. The rec is home to an open air theatre, and although closed, was frequented by the local students as a convenient place to hang out from the college. I can imagine the tree lined Grove is popular with dog walkers and others enjoying the open air, but it is quiet giving me an uninterrupted opportunity to explore the area.

Espying a church spire through the trees, I follow a footpath leading me to St Mary’s Church and find I’m standing in the spot where Lord Byron is claimed to have spent many an hour gazing across the countryside. By now the sun is out and I share in this scenic moment before descending to the edges of Harrow School which is adjacent to the church and it’s where Lord Byron was schooled for four years up to 1805.

I decide not to explore the school and its surrounds as I wanted to capture Harrow at night time.

Best Picture

I thought I might start a new feature on each blog with my favourite picture, explaining why this is so.

This one I captured in St Annes Road towards the end of the day with few shoppers around and the combination of the town’s Christmas lighting effect and reflection on the wet ground enhances the colouring and adds to the mood I believe. Let me know what you think…

See all Harrow & Wealdstone pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See the sidebar for a sample of Harrow & Wealdstone pics on Instagram

For more info, lookup Harrow & Wealdstone Station on Wikipedia

#29: Emirates Greenwich Peninsula – 12/11/2018

Built in 2012 in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics, this is a sponsored Cable Car ride funded by the Emirates airline, and operated by Tfl. It’s a mile long cable car crossing of the Thames running between Royal Docks on the north shore and Greenwich Peninsula on the south shore.

I didn’t journey on the cable car, as that’s for another day, but I did explore the surrounds by the O2 arena, and along the Thames Path as far as the Thames Barrier. As the daylight hours are now shortening, I also practised some night time photography, so I hope you enjoy the overall outcome from this day?

O2

The nearest point to the Peninsula terminus is North Greenwich on the Jubilee line; convenient for me as it’s just a short hop from Stratford. So I thought I’d have a look around the iconic O2 arena and do what every tourist and visitor does: take some pictures.

Did you know that the O2 and the land around it is private and the taking of pictures with a camera lens bigger than 35mm isn’t allowed without permission? No, neither did I until I was stopped by a local security officer who challenged me, politely, and asked what I was doing. I explained and showed the pictures I had taken and after a brief consultation with the security control I was allowed on my way and to continue with my quest. But not before I had checked the O2 website and explained to the security officer there was no mention of these arrangements and no direction as to who to seek prior approval from. I don’t mind complying, but it needs to be clearly set out how this can be achieved.

I suspect security were being extra vigilant as the ATP World Tour finals were being held at the O2. It may also have had something to do with the fact that near to where I was standing, some private filming was taking place. I spoke with one of the production staff who explained they too had been challenged and they too weren’t aware of the need for prior permission. They were filming for Dunlop Sports who it seems may be sponsoring the ATP World finals next year – you read it here first.

Cable Cars

The land immediately between the O2 and the Peninsula terminal is a construction site awash with new residential and office complexes, but the striking wintery blue sky gave an excellent photo-opportunity backdrop creating shots I had envisaged are synonymous with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Visitors for the gondola (cable car) ride were sparse when I arrived, but nevertheless, the gondolas continue to operate with robotic regularity regardless of passengers, and I hadn’t realised that depending on demand, the speed of the ride varies. Travelling at off-peak, the journey normally takes 10 minutes with spectacular views across the Thames, however at peak times, this reduces to 5 minutes.

If you have visited the area, you will be familiar with an unusual steel sculpture created by Antony Gormley celebrating the millennium entitled Quantum Cloud. If you haven’t, then this alone is worth a look even only for it’s provocativeness in asking ‘what’s it all about?’ Nevertheless, an interesting curiosity near the Greenwich Pier offering a bespoke backdrop to the gondolas crossing the river.

Architectural Design

If you’re a Londoner, you can’t have escaped noticing how the Thames shore line has, and continues to change. Both on and off shore industries laying claim to wastelands over the decades as market globalisation took its toll affecting the social and economic environments.

But with great vision, and significant investment, the last generation or two have seen rapid re-generation in previously deprived areas, although the cost of the much sought after riverside apartments far exceed the ‘average Londoner’s’ capability. More recently, Local Authorities have adopted a better socially demographic approach to fashionable development in their boroughs ensuring a good mix of residential dwellings.

Whatever the constructional motive, developers have clearly embraced an appreciation of design and the wider visual statement their buildings make, and this was on full show along this part of the Thames Path walk.

Greenwich Yacht Club

A striking club with a club house standing in splendid isolation on stilts with the tide out. Notices around the club warn of deep mud and to avoid stepping off the path, so I take note but notice an intriguing collection of debris piled up. Could this simply be an attempt at cleaning up the shoreline, or is it in fact art? You decide.

I venture onto the private slipway to capture a better view of the surrounding views. Rather breathtaking I think.

The River

As well as being used for recreation, the Thames is also a working river, and as I stop to look around, it’s surprising how many working vessels there are constantly on the move; be it pleasure clippers, ferries or tugs pulling barges.

The view along the length of the Thames shows immense contrast between old heritage and new build, and to be honest neither looks out of place. I think that’s one of the many dynamics of the river that makes it so interesting. Walking east, I pass by/through a couple of aggregate operations: Cemex and Day. You can’t miss them or avoid them, and they’re not really somewhere to stop and look at, but they’re a stark reminder of the working river.

A little further I come to the Anchor & Hope pub, a seemingly traditional working pub now catering for both the local working clientele and the passing tourist encouraged to walk this route. It appears I’ve now moved from Greenwich into Charlton, another borough I’ve not been to until now. Before moving on, I try to capture the essence of the pub, painted all in black except for a golden dome on one corner. Striking and attractive in a peculiar way.

The Thames Barrier

I hadn’t planned to walk here, but the further I travelled the path I thought ‘oh well, it’s only another mile and a half: why not?’ I’m glad I did as it’s one of those landmarks I’ve never got close to in all my 30 years living in London. The pictures, like the O2, are iconic, and it was good to get close and try different compositions and filters. There are nine piers making up the barrier, and have you ever wondered how boats know which gap to go through as they navigate up and downstream? Well, the piers operate a traffic light system with a red cross and a green arrow indicating where to go through – simple really…

There’s a timely reminder that London City Airport is just across the river as planes take off during the afternoon, and I try to capture one doing so set between two piers.

Whilst here, I meet John and Catherine, a couple from Cambridge who were spending time walking the full length of the Thames. Today was the end of their third route; they explained they’re not doing the route in geographical order, but nevertheless intend on making sure they do complete it over a period of time. I wish them well as they head off, and as I walk through the tunnel that goes under the barrier, I see a wall etching outlining the full extent of the river.

Just a little further, I see a sign for a restaurant; I was gasping by now, but alas, it’s closed for winter. But I see another reminder that I’ve stepped into Charlton through an amusing yet informative map of local landmarks.

Heading around the front of the barrier buildings I see a small memorial garden and sculpture to commemorate those who died during the construction of the barrier – poignant and a harsh reality that building mega-structures remains hazardous.

Night Time

It’s time to head back through Charlton; well the retail park area which is typically similar to every other country wide retail park. I don’t stop, but press on and by the time I get back to the Peninsula terminal it’s starting to get dark, so I decide to wait until it does and see how well my camera and I can capture the night view.

Let me know what you think…?

See all Emirates Greenwich Peninsula pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See the sidebar for a sample of Emirates Greenwich Peninsula pics on Instagram

For more info, lookup Emirates Greenwich Peninsula on Wikipedia

#28: Amersham – 09/11/2018

Amersham sits as a terminus on the North Western end of the Metropolitan line, very much in the fold of Buckinghamshire, and shares its station with Chiltern Railways with services running through to the West Midlands. I’d not been to Amersham before so I had little expectations, although I have vague childhood recollections of visiting family in nearby Little Chalfont many many years ago.

I also had an ulterior motive for visiting the town as I had arranged to meet Darren, a former work colleague who lives nearby, so plans to meet in one of the local hostelries seemed appropriate.

As the journey along the Metropolitan line passes en route through Wembley, Harrow and Pinner, the surrounding landscape quickly changes from urban to suburban and the Wembley Stadium arch soon fades into the distance, and as I arrive in Amersham, it’s very much a rural setting. Some prior preparation helped me to understand that Amersham is a town of two parts but what I hadn’t appreciated was that they are separated by a significant hill…just as well it stayed dry.

Amersham-on-the-hill

20181109111017_img_3506On exiting the station, I arrive at the new town which grew in response to the arrival of the station late in the 19th Century. The town has a rectangular shape with shops dominating two and a half sides, and the purpose built civic amenities dominating a larger part of the remainder.

20181109112039_img_3507My route was up Station Road, along Chesham Road and into Woodside Road as far as St John’s Methodist Church. Across the road is the Amersham branch of the Royal British Legion where I chat with Danny, a young gentleman who’s tidying up the grass verge and poppy display outside the Legion Hall in preparation for Armistice Day on Sunday. He explained his father, who is a committee member is out and about in the town selling poppies.

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I return along the same route heading for the Old Town, and later on returning to the new town I make my way to the civic centre where I find the council offices, library, police station, law courts and Leisure Centre. However from both my tours around the town, I find little of architectural interest. Don’t get me wrong, this is a busy town with a blended mix of independent shops, charity shops, high street names and coffee/eateries, but I felt it was a little bland with only modest features: I expected more from the Old Town though.

Amersham Old Town

20181109120339_img_3537Heading for the old Town, there are two main roads; I choose Rectory Hill, a minor B Road with no footpath, so I tread carefully with Parsonage Wood to my left, which I later glean has several paths running through it so my passage to the Old Town could have been different. Nevertheless I still enjoy the splendour of the autumnal colours on display.

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As I descend the hill, the old worldly charm and quaintness of this Old Market Town can be seen through the rooftops and my expectations aren’t disappointed as I browse through Rectory Lane and Church Street, poking my nose into some sympathetically redeveloped buildings at the former Weller’s Brewery (now Badminton Court) and Flint Barn Court (both now offices) and stroll around the grounds of St Mary’s Church.

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Into the High Street, and I couldn’t miss the Old Market Hall which dominates the town centre with its Doomsday Book references helping to highlight the town’s age. Close by is the Museum but unfortunately I don’t have enough time to go in and enjoy their displays, but I’m drawn to explore The Broadway, Whielden Street, The Platt, and in the west as far as Mill Lane. The town is full of character with several coaching houses having survived as fashionable hotels, and other coach buildings having been converted into private dwelling but still keeping the coaching house characteristics.

My admiration is temporarily interrupted with a lunch interlude at the Elephant & Castle where I meet Darren for a bite to eat and of course an opportunity to sample the local ale. We discuss many things, but most importantly where and when to meet up next for a Christmas drink. With arrangements made, we say farewell and I continue with my Old Amersham tour before returning to the station via the appropriately named, but steep, Station Road.

Amersham in bloom and the Memorial Garden

20181109113636_img_3519Since 2009 (and probably before then), the Amersham community throughout has prided itself in creating interesting floral displays. So much so that their entries in Britain’s nationwide gardening competition, Britain in Bloom, has seen them achieve annual accolades from Regional Town Winner, to Silver Gilt recipients and in 2009 and since 2014, they’ve been the recipients of a Gold Award within the Thames and Chilterns Region. (recently announced by the RHS 14/11/2018, Amersham have won another Gold award for 2018).20181109113419_img_3517

Flower tubs and roundabouts awash with various displays and colours and the impressive Memorial Garden in Old Amersham is a  ‘must see’ floral exhibitions. Have a look at the stunning video on their Facebook Page which captures the WW1 Commemoration display.

Some of my pictures which follow try to capture the essence, the effort and the creativity of all the volunteers involved in these creations.

Thank you Amersham for a snapshot into your community…

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

See the sidebar for a sample of Amersham pics on Instagram

For more info, look up Amersham on Wikipedia

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#27: Cockfosters – 02/11/2018

Cockfosters is where London becomes suburbia and trips into the countryside along the A111 out of Palmer’s Green en route to Potters Bar. I’d passed through Cockfosters before, by accident, on a mission to pick up my daughter who was destined for Hadley Wood, but owing to various delays she changed route. The two stations aren’t too far from each other, so an easy detour to make. Today was a chance to have a good look around.

The station is typical of the iconic architectural style of the early 1930’s; a style that oozes art deco and modernists tastes, and a style that adorns many a tube station owing to the underground’s expansion between the wars as London grew and stretched its boundaries.

 

20181102135917_img_3408Cockfosters sits within the London Borough of Enfield, and it is predominantly characterised by a sprawling parade of shops, a common London sight, full of independent shops on the ground floor of low rise arcade style flats. An affluent and clean area with off road parking for shoppers, and some high rise office blocks near the station, built no doubt to attract businesses out of London taking advantage of the easy train access.

 

North London’s dead

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Turning right out of the station, I go into Trent Park Cemetery. Not that I have a morbid fascination, but recent personal circumstances had me in a contemplative and reflective mood. The cemetery presents a curious celebration of life with small isolated markers spread over two fields where memories are placed. No gravestones, and I don’t think they were burial plots either as there was evidence that memories were transient. Some spiritual reminders of those departed can also be seen in the avenue of trees that delineate the fields.

Over the road, I stroll through the graveyard of Christ Church, an evangelical church with a more traditional graveyard and one dominated by a single vault within which were interred the remains of the Bevan family in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I suspect they were significant benefactors of the church – a quick search reveals the church was founded by a Robert Cooper Lee Bevan, a founder of Barclays Bank.

 

 

London Footpaths

Did you know you could walk around the outskirts of London on a 150 mile trail divided 20181102133545_img_3396into 24  sections? Neither did I until I stumble across the London LOOP (London Outer Orbital Path) managed by Transport for London as part of their ‘Walk London’ initiative.

And how about the Pymmes Brook Trail? One of London’s many long forgotten water courses which 20181102133840_img_3401springs up in nearby Hadley and runs through to the river Lee.

I spot both signs by Christ Church; a stone’s throw from the station.

 

 

Croeso i rhan fach o Gymru

‘Welcome to a small part of Wales’…Ever had that serendipity moment? A slight diversion…that’s a word I first came across whilst watching Dr Who many many years ago and it’s just sort of stayed with me. Anyway, back to the plot…

I glance down Freston Gardens and see a large imposing religious building that is sort of ‘calling me’. One of the many lessons I have learnt from this journey is ‘…to just go see…’ as if I don’t I’ll only regret it later. As I pass the detached houses along the way, there is clear evidence of the post-Halloween apocalyptic mess in gardens and shrubbery in the guise of a dismembered hand and spray cobwebs in different colours.

20181102141347_img_3413And as I approach the building, I smile and understand ‘the calling’, as I discover the Welsh Chapel of Eglwys Y Drindod. Why? Well as I was brought up as a Welsh Independent chapel goer – Capel Annibynwyr Seion yn Aberystwyth, the memories of chapel service and Sunday School were somewhat etched and surfaced in that smile.

A striking brickwork designed building, but alas I couldn’t go in , but nevertheless I let the moment and memories linger a while before saying farewell…

 

 

Chase Side

By now I’ve decided to stretch my legs as far as Southgate, and approaching the roundabout as Cockfosters Road turns into Chase Side, I spot a road sign for Chickenshed, the all inclusive theatre company. Chickenshed’s success has been well documented through London life in recent years and I was intrigued to look around. From its early beginnings, the theatre company and buildings have grown significantly to that of a multi-purpose, and all inclusive entertainment and learning centre.

 

A quick scout inside to check I can take pictures and I chat with several folk. Bill, the Deputy manager explains the theatre is purely self financed as it does not meet the Arts Council’s funding criteria, so there’s a heavy reliance on box office takings, donations and gala evenings. However, despite the constant financial challenges, they continue to expand their portfolio of performances, education and outreach events, and they will soon be performing ‘A Christmas Carol’ over the festive season. I share a moment on how I felt signing added to the value of a theatre production having recently enjoyed how a signer was seamlessly integrated at a local production of Once.

20181102145406_img_3431Adjacent in Bramley Sports Ground, is the home of Saracens Amateur Rugby Football Club, and I stroll around inside the park. The club is part of the wider Saracens brand, who now play Premiership rugby at the shared ground with Watford Football Club, but the ground here is nevertheless the historical home of the club. As with all sports, sponsorship is key, and Saracens ARFC is no different, in league with a housing development across the road from their ground.

 

Southgate

Here is where I stayed when I first moved to London in 1989. Living in digs along Chase Side before finding a house and moving the family,  and I had some romantic notion I’d be able to find the place. But a combination of faded memories and redevelopment for an Asda superstore meant that the house hadn’t survived. Ah…

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Southgate is similar to Cockfosters, but larger, and its iconic underground station set against an azure blue sky made for a striking moment.

 

 

 

A study in wood

20181102154727_img_3442My final route is through Grovelands Park which is 20181102155101_img_3446nestled between Southgate and Winchmore Hill, the station there being my journey’s end for the day. The park offers open land, an ornamental lake and a wooded walk alongside a stream, all of which was attractively captured by the low sunlight on a cool autumnal afternoon. I take the opportunity to try my hand at some creative shots, and to my surprise in the wooded area, I come across a menagerie of carved creatures that captured my attention for a little while.

 

I hope you enjoy my efforts?

 

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

See the sidebar for a sample of Cockfosters pics on Instagram

For more info, look up Cockfosters on Wikipedia

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