#52: Crystal Palace – 14/05/2019

This is the last of the Overground destinations to/from Highbury & Islington, although I’ve still some of the other Overground lines to get to. The story of the day is primarily a 6.5 Km walk around Crystal Palace Park which is adjacent to the station, with a slight detour down Anerley Road and up Anerley HIll to the main drag, although nothing sensational to report from either end of town. But first…

The Station

For those who have recently been following the Victoria series on ITV will have seen the opening of the Great Exhibition by Prince Albert and the erection of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park (London). After the Exhibition the Palace was relocated to an area of South London known as Penge Common, when it was then renamed Crystal Palace. The station was opened in 1854 to serve the millions of annual visitors to the relocated ‘Crystal Palace’.

The station is typically Victorian, combining intricate ironwork, high ceilings and attractive brick work, and on a bright sunny day like today, the sun and shadows added to the spectacle. In addition to being the end of the line for the Overground, the station also serves Southern Railway destinations to/from London Victoria and London Bridge stations.

The station is also host to a Brown & Green cafe, which on first glimpse seems rather cluttered and untidy. But walk inside and it is the epitome of a moderns bijou trendy cafe with an earthy feel keenly promoting healthy eating and equally keen to promote the community.

The Paxton Centre

I reference this centre as it is the only building of interest I saw whilst walking into the village of Crystal Palace; down the slight incline from the station, it sits directly opposite on the main road. Once a hotel, it is now a community craft centre, no doubt well served by visitors to the park and its immediate surrounds. I was very much drawn to the mural with its depiction of Joseph Paxton, the Palace’s designer, and imagery of a dinosaur, which in a way advertises what’s across the road just a stone’s throw away.

Crystal Palace Park

In thinking about what to write here, I’ve been in danger of re-writing the map and highlighting its main features, which is of course what I saw. The park is clearly a showcase for the remnants of the rebuilt Palace with its Italian Terraces and Sphinxes. The Sphinxes looking vacantly over the countryside, and standing guard at what I presume would have been the main entrances. My ‘picture of the day’ below covers this more widely.

Other landmarks include the BBC transmitter, which dominates the skyline; and expanses of grassland and woodland which provides areas for quiet contemplation for those looking for some solitude.

But what strikes me the most is that whilst it’s a popular location for visitors and locals alike, and indeed it is well maintained, it feels a little tired and in need of regeneration as evidenced by the somewhat dilapidated concert bowl, the aged sports centre, even the dinosaur park and the unused skateboard park. Don’t get me wrong, each area is worth a visit as I found out whilst meandering through the park, and the community is very proud of what it has, but looking closely around the edges, there’s some evidence of decay.

People make the park, and here is no different with the paths and open spaces offering professional dog walkers with ample space to let the dogs stretch their legs. I spotted one dog walker emptying his van with his canine friends and stopped counting after 10 dogs were led out of the back of his van. He wasn’t alone either. And in comparison, I spotted a lady dressed in pink practising yoga in an isolated spot on a grassy bank: I wanted to approach her as the contrast of her pink against the green was quite striking and could have made an interesting picture, but I sensed she was intensely engrossed ‘in the moment’ and I didn’t feel it right to interrupt her.

There are children abound in the play areas, high pitched screams of laughter, and indeed screams from babies, hungry or just being babies and mums enjoying the sunshine nattering away. In contrast, and somewhat sadly, wino’s sit nearby with their brown paper bag covered bottles of alcohol sitting on park benches surveying the scene.

So there’s quite a mix of people, aware of each other but similarly choosing to be unaware of each other. Nevertheless, the park is large enough to accommodate everyone.

Miss Oopsie Ooohh

Walking through one of the many park areas, I glimpse what looks like someone practising hoola hoops, and as I near, I see a young woman going through a routine with 4 hoops. I ask if she minds me interrupting her, and she is happy to chat and pleased I’ve stopped and asked as often passers by will just take photographs without her permission. We introduce ourselves and Beth explains that as well as being a graphic designer, she also performs under the stage name of ‘Miss Oopsie Ooohh’. Today, as indeed she had the previous day, she will spend up to 5 hours rehearsing for a forthcoming burlesque show in Reading.

Beth was happy for me to take theses pictures which I took over a 15 minute period as she carried on practising her routine. Thank you Beth for your patience and I hope I’ve captured your routine adequately?

By the way, whenever I ask anyone for their permission to take their photograph, I’ll always send them the final shots, copyright free, so should they wish to use them in any promotional way, then they are free to do so. My only ask is a ‘shout out’ for my blog.

Victoria

Feeling a little sun bleached and tired, I decide on a lazy route home via Victoria station which culminates in a look around, and a quick visit to the coach station as well. Here are a few images from my final destination of the day, though I suspect I will return to Victoria one day.

Picture of the Day

As soon as I saw this sphinx, I knew it would feature as my picture of the day as the artwork somehow elevated the statue to something else. There are several of these sphinxes adorning what would have been the many entrances into the original Crystal Palace, but this one in particular stands out because a budding artist has stamped their own mark on the sculpture.

I’m standing on the plinth about 6” away from the sculpture, and although not in imminent danger of falling, one misplaced step could have been awkward. Nevertheless, I felt the calculated risk was worth the effort as I closed in on the face making sure I kept the neighbouring sphinx in frame. The sphinx looks South Easterly across the North Downs, and on a day like today the view is uninterrupted as far as the eye can see.

I particularly like this picture because of the modern twist given to the faux relics, and who knows, would the Egyptians have done likewise?

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/8; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 24mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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#51: Bank (again) – 09/05/2019

A return today to Bank station courtesy of the Dockland Light Railway (DLR). A day where the weather forecast was looking pretty grim and dismal, the first in over a year. So I did some advance planning on where to go if the weather turned bad…which it did. Today turned out to be a tour of central London stations including Bank, Monument, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

Today was also a study in underground passageways, and my thanks go to other Underground Twitter enthusiasts who have posted pictures which have inspired some of mine today.

Bank Station

Those of you working in the City, or have a need to change at Bank know how busy it is, and somewhat complicated now whilst improvement works are being undertaken. The station, which is inter-connected with Monument provides underground access to the Central, Northern, Circle and District lines; the DLR and the Waterloo & City line. It’s main feature is the 300m long adjoining walkway running directly under King William Street.

From personal experience, I was caught off guard one summer’s day when lugging a heavy suitcase from one station to the next without realising how many flights of stairs there are, and how long it takes when battling with commuters charged with only one goal in mind – getting to their end point as quickly as possible.

My study of the underground has yielded many pictures in an attempt to capture the constant flow of travellers making their way through the tunnel between the two stations, or on route to/from Waterloo via the underground tunnels and travelator. Some travellers have a clear plan on where they are going and others are bemused by the the whole experience. Nevertheless, I’ve compiled some of the pictures into animations to help set the scene.

I decide to head for Monument Station which is a popular destination for tourists who flock to the aptly named Monument, opened in 1677 as a permanent reminder of the Great Fire of London.

Outside the station, street promoters try to catch the eye of the passer-by by handing out leaflets with a promise of free cash ‘…if you sign up today!..’

As I walk around to the Monument, I notice that I’m now in The Ward of Candlewick and ask myself, what is a Ward? The answer is here…

Saint Magnus the Martyr and The Thames Path

London is littered with churches of all denominations, and from my own observation, the City has more than its fair share. Heading down towards the embankment and the Thames Path, I pass this church and explore its surroundings, and as I do, I spot a plaque declaring the churchyard formed part of the roadway onto the original London Bridge. Intrigued, not out of religious conviction, but more out of historical interest, I head inside and I’m struck by the ornate decorations; full of colour and all the religious icons you would expect to see.

By the doorway there is a long, if not at least ten feet long, encased model replica of the original London Bridge bedecked with houses and shops. The vaulted ceiling is magnificent, as indeed are the stained glass windows in homage to the good saint, and before leaving I feel compelled to light a candle.

The church sits on the river so a quick canter around the back of the church and I’m overlooking the river with The Shard for company ahead of me, and London Bridge to my right. There’s what appears to be a collection of stones as a seating area, but on closer inspection there’s an inscription explaining the stone bench was part of an Architectural Student Award in 2009. Each stone engraved with a floral design and its name.

I pass under London Bridge, which has a mysterious eerie feel to it, and could it be that ghosts of eons past are still lurking as you just don’t know what would have transpired here over the years and centuries. Or maybe as it was about to pour with rain the ominous sky affected my senses. Who knows?

I didn’t give any thought to the name of the footpath until I came to Cannon Street station rail bridge – Hanseatic Walk. But before walking under the bridge, I spot a wall plaque, a little difficult to get at to read. But when I do, I see it was erected in 2005 to commemorate a site where 400 Hanseatic merchants lived in a German self-governing enclave for nearly 600 years up to the 19th Century.

Cannon Street station is my third station of the day, each of which are no more than 300 metres apart such is the density of the working population that it needs so many stations to cope with the daily influx. This station has recently been modernised and therein stands the Plumber’s Apprentice, erected at the location where once stood the Livery Hall of The Worshipful Company of Plumbers

London Bridge station and its surrounds

One stop by train across the river and I’m at London’s most recently modernised station where the architects have blended the modern functional needs with the classic cavernous catacomb like arches. Now that’s it’s finished, the station provides an exciting feast for the eye as I journey through the station. Glass and lighting are the two main features used to excellent effect to bring out a modern design.

I’m asked by a security lady to explain what I’m doing and although she doesn’t stop me, she does suggest a visit to Network Rail’s reception would be in order to check on whether I need permission to take pictures. Thankfully, through their twitter feed, I’m directed to their very helpful and clearly set out online Guidelines for taking photos at stations.

I exit the station south side and I’m immediately drawn to a sight of red ants crawling over a full size train carriage atop a low level building. Go see it as it’s an impressive piece of art from Joe Rush – never heard of him? Well he also created the Arcadia spider at a recent Glastonbury festival.

The artwork helps to promote one of London’s newest open air food and container box outlets at Vinegar Yard. It is almost deserted, with only a couple of seated guests and a few others, like me, wandering around taking photos; the reason being that it is cold and raining, so not the ideal combo for this place. Nevertheless, I suspect as the evening wears on, more brave souls will be attracted to eat and drink here later.

This was a surprising and delightful find at the end of the day, and is partly what this sojourn is all about – a personal discovery of communities that otherwise might not get seen by outsiders.

Picture of the Day

This was one of my first photos of the day and after a few test shots to get the settings right, I waited for a sequence of trains to pull into the end of the DLR at Bank station. With a slow shutter speed to capture the train’s movement, I was pleased, and surprised, to get the focus just right as this is a hand held shot. The position of the train as it is just about to pass the station sign was planned, and as the sign states the platform is for ‘alighting only’ so there were no other passengers waiting other than me. I was half expecting to get stopped by passing Tfl staff as I was loitering there for quite a while, but guess they’re used to enthusiasts hanging around. The wide angle shot lets me get the full length of the station in frame, and the fast ISO setting lets me get the depth of field I wanted too. Maybe the lighting could have been slightly darker with a slower film speed setting, but sometimes a compromise is OK.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/22; Shutter Speed – 1/5; Focal Length – 318mm; Film Speed – ISO12800

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#50: Clapham Junction (revisited) – 30/04/2019

Wow! Just over a year on since I started this blog when I took my first nervous step from Gospel Oak in April 2018; and now I’ve completed my 50th journey. An average of one a week that has grown from a simple idea, to one that now has multiple channels to help spread the word.

The station

I first visited Clapham Junction nearly a year ago, so today was a return to complete my visit of the twin Overground line termini. Strange as it is, both termini are on the same platform, though separated by buffers and different parts of the platform named Platform 1 and Platform 2.

Clapham is a busy station with 17 platforms and over a 1,000 trains stopping daily for passengers to change trains to other destinations from Addlestone to Yeovil Junction…and slightly offset in the middle of the platforms are multiple sidings and train sheds where services either start from or end up after all passengers have alighted.

As I head out of the station through the Brighton Yard entrance to make my way to the river, I meet Jermaine and his travelling companion – Sif, a Bearded Dragon.

It is Sif’s picture that makes it as my ‘Picture of the Day’ below, and we chat a little as I enjoy the sight of Sif basking in the sun. The focus of our discussion is the impact of today’s teaching demands on teachers and on their wellbeing; teachers who care passionately about children’s development but are blighted by unrealistic educational targets and dwindling resources. We agree that good support mechanisms can be invaluable but regrettably it’s not universally available.

The Thames Path

My journey today is a relatively short one following the Thames Path from where I’d previously visited in Cotton Row, and I head west as far as Putney, with a flirtatious diversion through fashionable Wandsworth.

Now I’ve referenced The Thames Path many a time before, but this time I’m including a personal reference. My sister in law and her sister, who call themselves ‘Two Welsh Walkers’ are soon to walk the full length of 185 miles from the source of the Thames at Trewsbury Mead in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier in aid of Asthma UK. They are lovers of walking and last year completed the 60 mile route of the Caledonian Canal, so I send my best wishes to them on this year’s epic. If you’d like to support their cause, please visit their Just Giving page.

Riverside Views

I can’t begin to imagine how the riverside may have looked a 100 years ago except through historical photographs. Even in my lifetime, 50 years ago it will have looked different to today as almost every stretch of the embankment, as far as the eye can see, has been transformed into a luxury high rise dwelling with magnificent views; and for the hardy marine folk, houseboats adorn part of the embankment too.

Let’s not forget the Thames is still a working river, and I’ve tried to capture the artistry and architecture of some, where today’s light industry meets the shoreline.

Cement works, Pier Terrace
Western Riverside Waste Authority Recycling Facility, Smuggelrs Way

Old Wandsworth

Admittedly I only flirt with old Wandsworth as I detour from the river, but what I see along York Road is a very bijou and fashionable street full of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. One in particular captures my immediate attention; that of a static coffee stall immediately outside the station – CWTCH.

Now those of you who know the Welsh language will recognise this word with affection, and their website nicely defines its meaning as ‘a small Welsh hug’. Not a literal translation, as I don’t think there is one, but it does represents the intent behind the word, although not necessarily the emotion. (There are other meanings too such as cubbyhole or cupboard).

I spend a little time talking with those working there who beam broadly when I ask them if they know what it means, and they explain a little about the stall’s brief history and naming. Ah! Such a welcome sight that makes me smile as I continue with my journey.

I hadn’t realised that Wandsworth gets its name from the river Wandle, and the eagle eye’d of you will know that I’ve encountered the Wandle before during my visit to Morden. The river now reaches its journey’s end as it discharges into the Thames nearby at Bell Lane Creek where a little oasis of peace has been recreated on a small peninsula known as The Spit.

Nearby is one of London’s many Victorian backstreet pubs, and this one with its unusual name captures my interest – The Cat’s Back. The pub has a history of several name changes (formally Brush; Forester’s Arms; Ye Olde House at Home), but in the 1990’s it was renamed after a lost cat returned.

The local community is blessed with much greenery and I notice as I walk through Bramford Gardens, a thriving community garden which has taken over a quiet corner of this unassuming space. And on a much grander scale is the open space and tree lined avenues of Wandsworth Park with its riverside walk, and if you look closely as you walk through, there are several sculptures dotted around to help pique your interest. On today’s sunlit afternoon, and the trees almost in full leaf, the view is an enticing one which has drawn many people and children out to enjoy this space.

Bramford Community Garden
Wandsworth Park

I end my journey arriving at Putney Bridge, but not before a quick scamper onto the Fulham Railway Bridge that has a footpath running along side it. I also stop at 13 Deodar Road where I spot an unusual building plaque. This one for the Grand Priory of England of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. A small unassuming building tucked away, but one that made me read about the Order and its history. I invite you to do the same.

Fulham railway bridge looking from the south shore

Picture of the Day

Ah, the bearded dragon named Sif. Surprised to see him sitting on a book (The end of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas) with his keeper, both of whom were enjoying the sunshine. I had to ask if he was real and in doing so, got into conversation with Jermaine. This is one of a short snatch of pictures which I took making sure I wasn’t shooting straight into the sun. The soft tones of the book he’s sitting on blended nicely with the brick wall behind, and with each shot I got closer but making sure the eyes were the focal point. Sif was a good subject, and seemed unperturbed by my intrusion, but just like taking pictures of children, I believe the secret is to shoot quickly and keep a close crop so that the subject fills the screen.

Sif, a bearded dragon

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 37mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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