#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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