#36: New Addington – 10/01/2019

The last of my TramLink destination journeys, this time to New Addington, South East of Croydon. The tram station, like most others is an open air affair with no distinguishing features or anything to report as unique. This is in part largely due to the TramLink’s construction in the later part of the 20th Century and designed and built in such a way to improve accessibility and keep costs down.

Today is a cold and overcast day, and the depressing weather conditions does nothing to enhance what seems to be a depressing area. I know first impressions are hard to dispel, but after wandering around for some time, my impression changes little.

For those who know my home town, you will be able to picture this area if I liken it to Penparcau but on a much larger scale. Both are areas of social housing specifically built in the mid-1900’s to cater for a growing population and the Wikipedia entry for New Addington is worth a read as it eloquently describes the area, it’s history and its social challenges. My comparison with Penparcau I believe is now no longer valid though as the two communities seem to have matured in different ways; maybe their relative sizes had something to do with that, but I leave that to other social commentators to debate.

Getting off at the tram stop at the northern end of Central Parade looking south I see the main low level shopping parade to my left with evidence of regeneration to my right. The dividing avenue is tree lined which in Spring I’m sure would look attractive with the trees in foliage. Immediately to my right is a collection of four wood sculptures of a bear, gorilla, dolphin and an eagle. There’s nothing around to explain their origins and other online commentators are also unable to find any helpful references.

Planned Regeneration

At the end of Central Parade is the library within which there’s a display of the planned regeneration of the area, and outside there’s a rather tired looking mosaic created by the local high school some time ago. The mosaic has been designed to reflect local scenes and characters, but like the surrounding area, it is somewhat scarred with damage that has remained un-repaired for some time.

Towards the centre of the parade there’s a memorial stone to those who died and were affected by the nearby Tram crash in November 2016. My observation here, as with other memorials I see around and about is ‘what’s the right length of time to leave flowers besides a memorial?’ This picture sadly depicts what ‘too long’ looks like.

Some regeneration work is well underway with the erection of a new leisure centre and in conjunction with the construction company, Wilmott Dixon, Croydon Council have partnered to set up a training academy for any local residents wishing to work in the construction industry; although  there is no evidence of anyone working in the academy at the time of my visit.

Heroes Walk – ‘a celebration of New Addington’

This is a local description of a walkway created between the current leisure centre and the new building encased with hoarding as either side is a building site. The full length of the hoarding is adorned on both sides of the walkway with black and white photographs of local residents who have been selected as having gone ‘the extra mile’ and provides a brief glimpse into the community spirit created by this art installation. The linked newsletter explains who they are and what they have achieved – well done to them!

Two miles, as the crow flies south from the library is Biggin Hill Airport, and I can hear the occasional plane taking off/landing. I’m tempted to head over, but the local bus service timetable makes that a slow journey. Equally, although within walking distance (about 3 miles by road), the daylight isn’t at its best and with the short wintry days I reckon it will be dark before I need to return home.

Addington Village

I decide, instead, to head north as I noticed on my tram journey to New Addington a stop named Addington Village. A mile and a half later, after passing housing estate after housing estate, and off the main road, I come to a very picturesque, albeit a very small village.

The village is dominated by the 11th Century flint encrusted Anglican church: St Mary the Blessed Virgin. Walking carefully over the gravestones outside the church, my thoughts turn to those I have known who are no longer with us. I’m particularly affected by a gravestone for a very young child which seems to have been placed discreetly in a corner and slightly obscured. Out of respect, I decide not to take any photographs other than of the once Archbishop of Canterbury, John Bird Sumner’s rather ornate memorial.

The church is open so I head inside and I’m in awe of the high vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows and altar, and I read about a War Hospital in the nearby Addington Park during World War 1 as part of the church’s history display.

Adjacent to the church is an appropriately named ‘Flint Cottage’ and just down the road is the ‘The Old Forge’ which is claimed to be the ‘last surviving working forge in the area’

Best Picture

This one of the altar inside St Mary the Blessed Virgin church I find quite striking. The intensity created by a flash free shot (as different to the one above) adds a contrasting dimension to really showcase the colour and detail of the three 11th century stained glass windows. Tell me what you think…

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

See the sidebar for a sample of New Addington pics on Instagram

For more info, lookup New Addington on Wikipedia

#35: High Street Kensington – 03/01/2019

OK. So I’m not sure if this should be included but I’m here now so I’ll get on with it. The reason for including is that the station serves as the end of the District Line shuttle service to Olympia (Kensington). The doubt I have is I haven’t included any other similar destinations on other lines where the scheduled service ends before the geographic end, for example West Croydon on the TramLink? A debating point maybe once I’ve completed this particular series. For now though I give you High Street Kensington…

The Station

Fairly typical of the period when stations were built out of traditional London brick with facades now influenced and somewhat defined by their modern towering neighbours, High Street Ken as it’s popularly known is no different.

As I explore the station platforms, I come across one of Mark Wallinger’s ‘Labyrinth’ artworks. You’ve all seen them in passing as you scurry through your stations, and you may have thought as I did, ‘how curious’ without a second thought. Today I stop to admire and ponder at its purpose and realise this is a unique piece of work given away by the numbering. This is number 237 out of 270…270 being the magical number of underground stations.

Follow this link to learn more about the artists and this art installation across the underground and then muse with understanding when you see the next one and realise its own uniqueness.

The main entrance, which opens onto the high street, is awash with travellers, mostly looking to see the sights and I spotted this group of girls hogging the central walkway taking a selfie.

High Street

Fashionable high street names and couture independent shops adorn The HIgh Street which is dominated by the once towering Barker’s department store. What remains is a classical Art Deco style building that you can’t but be impressed by. The real beauty of the area though is only a short stroll away across the road as I begin to explore the back streets and mews in the immediate vicinity.

First I stroll through the cloisters of St Mary Abbot Parish Church which is still bedecked in Christmas lights. I stop to read several of the memorial plaques that adorn its walls and porch, and wonder what a lonely worshipper is thinking as he makes his way through the cloisters.

And then into Kensington Church Walk and admire the bijou shops all with their independent stamp and marketplace. I’m particularly drawn to Hermione Harbutt, a bespoke wedding accessory designer, and just up the road, a gentleman’s clothier – Hornets.

Heading back towards the High Street, and westerly following the main road towards Holland Park I reach its entrance which is protected from traffic by some very ornate gates. The history of the park can be read if you follow the link, and I reflect on a visit I made to the park several years earlier when I decided to walk from Earl’s Court to Notting Hill via the park. My recollection of that steamy hot day was of a very steep incline as I trudged my way past the fields and the adjoining school.  

the Design Museum

the Design Museum is at the mouth of Holland Park and I feel my visit today is worthy of particular mention as my interest in design has been piqued since my recent (and last) employment with the Government Digital Service (GDS). One of its cornerstones of enabling transformation is that of understanding the User Needs and creatively designing services that are functional and so so easy to use that people choose to use them. My exposure to creative designers during this time, in particular Ben Terrett, has enriched my experiences and enabled me to look at shapes and patterns with different meaning.

What is ‘good’ design? In the 20th century the Modernists believed that good design was about usefullness.

Museums are a living exhibition encouraging, provoking and challenging you to think about what you see, and if you are repeat visitors, you know you do so in expectation of seeing something new and/or different each time. The Design Museum is no different and I am impressed by its hands-on approach to many of its exhibitions. Two items in particular catch my eye. The tower of numbers which is a 3D printer creation, and a construction hoarding for an Apple store in Taipei created using traditional Chinese paper-cutting techniques.

English Heritage Blue Plaques

Walking around the area I begin to think that those living here must feel rather inferior if they don’t have a blue plaque on their property as it seems almost every other property has one. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but there is a higher proportion of plaques on properties here than other places I’ve visited. There are many links to sites with maps of all the blue plaques of London, but most are out of date as the number of plaques continues to grow. I’d suggest a visit to the English Heritage website for the latest update or download their app.

There was one plaque that caught my eye: that of Ka Mpande Cetshwayo, King of the Zulus, which seemed out of place, but clearly has its place under the ‘overseas visitor’ category. I found this plaque in Melbury Road in a neighbourhood adjacent to Leighton House, the former home, and now museum, of the Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896).

Addendum – Jimmy Page vs Robbie Williams.

I took a picture of The Tower House in Mebury Road but decided to exclude it. I hadn’t realised the significance of the building: it turns out it’s now owned by Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin guitarist. Not only that, he’s also having a spat with Robbie Williams (of Take That fame) about Robbie’s plans to build a swimming pool in an adjacent property. See this BBC news report for details. I was particularly drawn to the shape of the house and the corner gargoyle.

Best Picture

For reasons I’ve outlined above under ‘the Design Museum’, I’m including this photo as my best picture as a personal reminder of my time in GDS. But I also like the picture for what it portrays and the bright colour scheme I’ve captured. The picture tells several stories:

  • that of my personal recollection;
  • on the first level it depicts a portfolio of buildings influenced by different design principles;
  • on the second level a changing mural (the picture snapped it at ‘USER’) leading into a hands-on exhibition; and
  • the top tier showcasing the exposed vaulted roof space now somewhat hidden by an unexplained canopy. I spoke with one of the guide volunteers who was also a little perturbed by the installation of the canopy as he could not see how it aesthetically enhanced the visitor experience…

I hope you enjoy?

See all High Street Kensington pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See the sidebar for a sample of High Street Kensington pics on Instagram

For more info, lookup High Street Kensington Station on Wikipedia

#34: Stratford (DLR) – 28/12/2018

This is the second of four visits to Stratford, although the first was to Stratford International so a little bit of ‘fake news’ but I’m mentioning it as I partly covered the Olympic Park and the shopping centre during my earlier visit.

The Jubilee, Overground and DLR lines all terminate at Stratford and today’s visit is in homage to the DLR station. Given that I’ve other visits to make, I’ve decided to explore the Stratford area by compass points so you won’t get the whole view of the area until I’ve completed all visits; I went to the West and South West of Stratford today. The Jubilee line visit will focus on the South, and the Overground visit on the East. I hope that makes sense?

The station and the immediate surrounds

As a commuter of nearly 30 years into London, passing through Stratford was a twice daily occurrence and changes, albeit subtle, would suddenly spring to life as I became conscious of them. However there was no greater change than the awarding, in 2005, of the London Olympics in 2012. This had a monumental impact on the station and the town, and through the regeneration of wasteland running through the Lee Valley by the creation of a new shopping complex which opened ahead of the Olympic Park.

The station grew to accommodate new and more frequent trains, a new bus station and of course the creation of Stratford City (Westfield) shopping centre. I am no shopaholic and the occasional jaunt into the centre fills me with acute antipathy as the experience of visiting offers nothing other than a genetically modified version of every other shopping centre and major high street where the multinationals have taken over. Sadly there’s no room for the independent shops any more. It seems though I’m in the minority as thousands still flock there…

Getting here today has not been straightforward. As is often the case over holiday periods, National Rail undertake engineering works when the demand for services is less, and 2018 is no different resulting in my taking three different services to travel what is normally a 22 minute journey. Today it is: train from Gidea Park to Romford; Bus replacement from Romford to Newbury Park; and Central Line from Newbury Park to Stratford. In recent years this has become an oft travelled route so I knew what to expect.

The Olympic legacy

The Olympic Park is well worth visiting as it is place to enjoy the relative peace of a country park with focal points in all corners. The cleaned up River Lee with returning wildlife, the Olympic Stadium now rented to West Ham Football Club and the recently built Bobby Moore Academy are the immediate companions to the west of the shopping centre.

I stop to look further afield and spot an old work reminder to the north silhouetted against the darkening skyline. Here East is a modern and attractive office and retail complex that once housed the Media Centre during the Olympics. For me, it was a prospective location where the organisation I worked for was being encouraged to move and it was my responsibility to set out the business case for a counter proposal. We successfully moved to Aldgate in the end, but I still smile whenever I see the Here East sign.

Wintry Skylines

The skyline as I pass through the park is striking, and only one week on after the Winter Solstice the sun is still low and the sky a deep azure blue set off against the striking and at times threatening cloud formations. I feel compelled to try my hand at aerial photography of a different kind, and I’m pleased with the outcome

Pudding Mill Lane

Skirting the Olympic Stadium, I come across the View Tube, originally built as a viewing area for visitors to wonder at the building works during the park’s construction, but now a ‘community venue with a difference’ hosting a cafe, garden, a studio and a place for bikes and boasts it is open 7 days a week. Alas not when I visited though…

Under the railway bridge (and see my ‘Best Picture’ later), I come to Pudding Mill station. This is the first stop on the DLR out of Stratford heading to Canary Wharf and it’s been a stop I’ve strangely wanted to visit for no reason other than for its name. In recent years, the station has been relocated slightly to the south of its original position as preparatory engineering works for the forthcoming Elizabeth Line tunnel had to be accommodated as it starts it’s underground journey westwards from here.

Whilst roaming the high rise platform and looking west, I muse at the efforts in the distance of many high vis dressed work people congregated on the railway lines…so this is what ‘engineering works’ really looks like?! I pose for you, dear reader, a question purely for your entertainment – can you work out how many people there are working? Why not drop a reply to this blog if you think you know…

Industrial Wasteland

The area south of Pudding Mill Lane is an industrial wasteland still, with some cleared ground serving as a car park for those driving to watch West Ham play – a stone’s throw to the stadium.

Some partly demolished buildings overlooked by high rise accommodation and a surprising parade of houses at City Mill Lock at the confluence of Bow Back, City Mill and Waterworks Rivers. The adjacent houses curiously seem out of character with their surrounds, and the weed filled canal; and the towpath heading back towards Stratford is abandoned and blocked off by fencing.

The Greenway

From City Mill Lock I cross the main A118 High Street and discover Abbey Lane Open Space and the Greenway route, a combined footpath and cycleway and I nearly fall foul of those wishing to pass at speed as they give little notice of their presence. ‘Darn cyclists…!’

In the distance towards West Ham I spot a towered building and resolve to explore but as the day is waning, I decide this will be a journey point on another day when I explore the southern reaches of Stratford.

High Street

Returning to the High Street, and now almost at journey’s end, there’s a stark reminder of what housing regeneration looks like as I pass a cacophony of high rise living accommodation interspersed with traditional buildings. Architecturally attractive on their own, but when viewed so close together it seems to me to be a bit of an eyesore.

Stratford is, however, proud of its rail history as shown off by an intricate ‘railway tree’ sculpture close to the station, as indeed the town is also keen to ensure people know where to go. For me though it’s time to return home by tube, by bus and by rail…

Best Picture

I’ve chosen this picture mainly for its mood as it portrays the old railway arch brickwork being offset by the modern concrete bridge in the foreground. The contrast lighting of the stark tunnel mouth, the tunnel lighting and the shaft of light on the ground emanating through a gap between the two bridges, helps with the atmosphere and the proximity of the old and new bridge is also somewhat symbolic of the era’s they represent and are represented in their immediate surrounds.

Please tell me what you think?

See all Stratford (DLR) pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See the sidebar for a sample of Stratford (DLR) pics on Instagram

For more info, lookup Stratford Station on Wikipedia