#55: Watford Junction – 18/06/2019

Watford Junction is the most northerly terminus on the Overground, and I travel here with some trepidation as I’m not sure if my Oyster card will be accepted. But I needn’t have worried as all is well on that front. The forecast for the day is threatening with torrential thunderstorms, so I am keen to make an early start to avoid getting soaked later in the day. I don’t mind a good electrical storm, as the spectacle can be quite amazing, n’or do I mind the thunderclaps, especially when they are right overhead; it’s torrential rain that makes the experience unpleasant.

On a personal note, I have to laugh…my mother who is almost 95 and relies on two good hearing aids declares she doesn’t like the thunderclaps at night, but I remind her she won’t hear them anyway as she’ll not have her hearing aids in when she’s tucked up in bed.

This is my first of two visits to Watford (Metropolitan Line still to come) and it has been an interesting one because of the number of friendly people I’ve met. And what a welcome change it’s made to have those willing to stop and chat and tell me a little about themselves and what they do. More of them later.

The Station

Watford Junction is a transport hub serving several National Rail lines through Hertfordshire, up the West Coast to Scotland, into London Euston and down to Croydon south of London. A busy station with connecting bus routes to many local destinations as well as the Harry Potter Studio Tour nearby.

And as with all public transport hubs these days, cycling is positively encouraged with easy forecourt bike spaces and a separate secure bike store nearby.

The station is about 1 Kilometre from the town centre but before getting there, I take a detour around nearby back streets and through some colourful underpasses. This one in particular caught my eye and is the subject of today’s ‘Picture of the day’ but as I was composing the shot, a lady waited to pass behind. I encouraged her to walk through and asked if she’d mind my including her in the shot – as long as I didn’t show her face was her response.

Wandering up Church Road, a road containing a mix of modern houses and workmen’s cottages, there’s a sense of a hidden history as I spot this sign embedded in a couple of cottages; but no amount of research has yet revealed its history.

Further along there’s a remnant of lighting of years gone by. This old gas lamp perched on top of a street corner plinth housing a letter box may or may not be in its original position. Nevertheless, and although somewhat dilapidated, it seems to have some local significance given it’s prominent position.

Concrete, concrete and even more concrete

This might be a slightly misleading title and an unfair reflection on the town which has done  much to beautify itself with floral displays. But the ever presence of concrete in construction remains and office blocks of the 1960’s now look tired and drab.

And for new builds, there’s no escaping the tonnes of concrete being used to create the central lift shafts; their towering height clearly visible from afar.

The exterior wall of this car park created an interesting effect, as it seemed the longer I looked at it, the greater the distortion it seemed to create. Am I the only one to see grey dots all over it? This shot, taken with a flash, does just enough to capture some of the reflective number plates of the cars therein and gives the image a sense of purpose to an otherwise geometrically interesting mural.

The Civic Centre

At the top end of the pedestrianised shopping area is a collection of civic and educational establishments. Although the main ring road cuts through the area, the town has creatively re-purposed an underpass into a large walkway and cycle way to provide direct access to the area.

I spot an unusual sign which takes my fancy. This one in the civic car park; a nuance on the usual ‘have you paid and displayed?’ and a second directing cyclists coming up some steps to dismount – curious as I wonder if it’s for the attention of those adventurous cyclists making their way up the steps?

The People in Watford

I walk through the underpass, and I come to a decorative pond and floral display. The ‘W’ display clearly symbolising Watford and sits proudly in the large fishpond being watered. The gardener is a very happy chappy and he explains that the water fountains are switched off as the water has  recently been treated. He also explains that he uses the pond water to water the ‘W’ feature as the natural nutrients in the pond helps feed the flowers in the display.

A slight detour into New Watford Market where I’m drawn to a colourful display of saris.

Back onto the High Street and the floral display of three tiered bedding plants is quite striking. They are regularly positioned either side of the pedestrianised walkway, and their vibrancy adds to the local colour. Near St Mary’s Church, I stop and chat with Laura, who’s responsible for repositioning these displays using a power assisted fork-lift. She explains that the displays have been delivered by Amethyst Horticulture from Kent but placed in slightly the wrong place, and having been watered overnight, they are now significantly heavier and need some effort to move. She invites me to try moving one which I do with some effort.

Further down the road I meet John, a local Information Guide and we chat about our shared passion in photography. He is a former US professor in augmented reality, who has now settled in the UK and enjoys his role helping locals and visitors alike.

Orphan Asylum

When I first got off at the station, I noticed an intriguing spire to the east and on returning towards the station, I followed the railway line passing through a tunnel to get to the other side. And as I do, I find myself in a quiet leafy tree lined crescent where I can see the spire which forms the top of a clock tower.

Heading towards the tower, I pass the headquarters for J W Weatherspoon, and Hilton Worldwide, and enter the immaculately cared for grounds of this re-purposed grand and splendid Victorian building. My first thought is that it may have been a former hospital or asylum, and when I pass the street name, the clue to its past is staring me in the face – Orphanage Road. A quick search reveals this to be the former London Orphan Asylum. The link explains in detail how one man’s resolve to improve the lives of London’s orphans ended up with this magnificent example of Victorian architecture.

Picture of the Day

This underpass, one of many in the area, is the most colourful and cried out to have its picture taken. This is one of a sequence where I tried different settings, and what makes this one work best for me is the use of flash to highlight the colour of the tiles balanced with the rectangular light effect created using the light coming through the far side of the underpass as it hits the walls on either side.

I’ve referenced above the lady walking through: she was kind enough to agree to my taking her picture provided I didn’t get her face, as having someone walk through helps to explain the underpass’s function. The irony of the sequence is that the one shot I would like to have used has the lady turning around looking at me…Ah well! But I think this one works in a different way in that it accentuates the colour scheme as created by its original designer.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO3200

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