#68: Finchley Central – 24/09/2019

Central Finchley is the other end of the Mill Hill East daytime shuttle service I wrote about earlier in April, and today I walk about five miles up and down Regent’s Park Road, Ballard Lane and High Road into North Finchley.

Finchley residents may disagree with me, but I only find a few places of passing interest, so I try to make the most of their history here. The majority of the day is about dodging torrential downpours, and whilst most of those out and about find this to be a troublesome inconvenience, I take full advantage to capture the mood of the changing weather conditions. But first…

The Station

This is one of three stations that carries the ‘Finchley’ name, all along the Barnet branch of the Northern Line; East Finchley and West Finchley being the other two. The station is typically Victorian retaining most of its original features, although this could have been quite different had plans to redevelop the rail network under the auspices of the Northern Heights Plan in the early part of the 20th Century materialised. However the Second World War scuppered those plans due to the cost of rebuilding the network after the war damage.

Access to its three platforms is gained from both the north and the south side of the railway line via Chaville Way and Station Road respectively, with a footbridge connecting all three platforms.

Local Landmarks

This is a busy part of London with a diverse community served by a thriving mix of independent shops ranging from ethnic eateries and groceries, beauty shops and barbers, charity shops, and thankfully only a few national chains. The link (above) does much to provide a history of the area, so I’ll not try to compete with this save for the following landmarks:

King Edward Hall – A prominent Grade II listed building situated in the convergence of Hendon Lane and Regent’s Park Road. It was built in 1911-12 as a private banqueting hall on the upper floors with shops on the ground floor; interestingly though it was used as a temporary hospital during the First World War. Currently in a somewhat dilapidated state, its restoration is now being considered. 

Manor Farm Dairy – across the road on the corner of Victoria Avenue is a corner shop underneath flats in an impressive red bricked building. Look to the top and you’ll see set in each of the three facets the name ‘Manor Farm Dairy’. A little research through the annals of the British History Online site indicates the Dairy was founded c. 1875 by Joseph Wilmington Lane and joined in the 1920’s with United Dairies, which had been founded in 1917. From the middle ages, historical data shows the area was dominated by several Manors, each with their own dairies, and this unrelated article in The Times gives an interesting insight into the plight of dairies in their formative years.

Newton Wright Limited – All that remains of this maker of x-ray equipment and scientific instruments is what I presume to be the factory gates which now sit proudly on Ballards Lane. Sadly the factory which once stretched as far back as 30 houses behind Ballards Lane is now itself a housing estate.

Joiners Arms – diagonally across the road, and next to Tesco is this rustic inspired pub. As most high street pubs do these days, they have to cater for what their clientele want and so they offer sports TV to attract and retain their customers. Nevertheless, their exterior is attractive and well maintained, and they have creatively adopted the modern wall art genre to advertise themselves.

Grand Arcade, North Finchley – this arcade epitomises art deco at its grandest, but to see it you really have to look deep into the gloom as the arcade is largely unloved and has been left to deteriorate. A campaign against its demolition and replacement with modern offices and flats is being lead by Dave Davis, lead guitarist of The Kinks.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day

Today’s forecast is thundery downpours and I wish I’d prepared a bit better as I’m under dressed when the rain comes. The sky darkens ominously quickly and there is little doubt what is about to happen but I remain undeterred as I capture the moody skyline.

When the downpour comes, I’m at the front entrance to Tesco, cowering under a very narrow ledge that barely manages to keep me dry. But the spectacle of the rain bouncing back from the steamy pavement is too much to ignore so I set my camera near to the ground and capture the image created as the sun starts to re-emerge. People rushing by, eager to get under cover, seem oblivious to my presence so I’m able to get some interesting shots.

Once the rain stops, I carry on along Ballards Lane and stop at Lovers Walk, a small passageway which seems to invite me in to take its picture, but I can’t find a composition that works well. Almost walking away, I realise I’m leaning against a litter bin and notice its two open mouths face through to the passageway and this creates a different perspective. As I crouch down, I spot a young couple walking through the frame and I set about taking a series of shots composing their approach as the centrepiece; and they oblige unwittingly by keeping to the centre of the path.

Picture of the Day

I had intended having a predominantly black and white day to help capture the moody weather conditions, but when I saw this wall, it simply wouldn’t have worked in B&W. The location is on the side of a closed and dishevelled restaurant, the Central Restaurant, part of the Central House tower block complex on the corner of Ballard Lane and Nether Street.

It’s a very simple scene as this part of the wall has been painted in these three bright colours. The taking of the picture was less than simple as I’m positioned on the opposite side of the road, my camera low on the ground, and waiting for traffic queuing at the nearby traffic lights to move along. I’m keen to get a shot uninterrupted by cars, but this setting only gives me about two to three seconds every three minutes or so as the lights change and traffic moves by. I end up taking several shots to get the one I want, with the added challenge in that the sky is getting darker by the minute and about to pour, so there is some additional pressure not to get wet as well.

During the sequence, I set my camera to shoot in ‘art vivid’ mode which creates an enhanced effect by taking three consecutive shots with slightly different settings. The camera software stitches the individual pictures into one creating heightened colours. I’m pleased with the outcome but realise that the virgin shot (with no car interruption) lacks something in the composition, and I believe this one with a ghostly image of a car just entering the frame on the left hand side helps with the picture’s story. The effect is created by the image of the car being taken on the third shot and appears somewhat shadowy when stitched with the other two pictures. Let me know what you think about it.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Auti; Camera effect – Vivid

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#67: Beckton – 02/09/2019

Let me start this week’s travelog with a question: What’s the connection between my visit to Beckton and Burt Bacharach? Vague I know, but in 1965 (and alas I remember it well!), he composed ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ originally recorded by Billy J Kramer (and the Dakotas) and later in 1996 by Dionne Warwick. You can listen to their versions on YouTube.

You see, today is a story of trains and boats and planes and a few cyclists thrown in for good measure too. Read on and enjoy the unexpected surprises I discovered on my nine kilometre walk from Beckton through North Woolwich and Silvertown.

To be honest I’m a little undecided on my camera settings for the day, but after a few colour shots in and around the station, I decide to settle on a predominantly black and white day again. Today I’m fixed on ISO 400 as I believe with the strong light I’ll have a little more control on the aperture/speed combination. I do take a few colour shots where I believe the scene warranted it. You can let me know if you agree with me.

Trains

Beckton and Gallions Reach are the two that feature today as well as the new Elizabeth Line running under the Thames emerging in Silvertown.

Beckton DLR – now when you look at the tube map you’d be inclined to think that Beckton station is the furthest east on the DLR network. But when you look on the map, and travel on it, you realise that the DLR arcs in a loop back on itself after Cyprus through Gallions Reach before terminating at Beckton. Gallions Reach DLR – is actually the most easterly DLR station by a whisker.

The station is a typically open DLR station with a modernist style overlooked by shrubbery hiding the surrounding housing estates. And across the road guarding the entrance of the bus station is the sculpture ‘Horses’ – depicting two horses created in steel by the artist Brian Yale.

The bus station shares its space with a large Asda superstore, beyond which is Beckton’s social hub with its library and adult education centre with an aspirational name – the Beckton Globe: quite different to Shakespeare’s version.

I write about Gallions Reach under my Picture of the Day, but on my way there I take a slight detour as I’m seduced by four decorative bridge posts I can see from afar. They’re on a one way road feeding via Royal Docks Road, an extension of the North Circular as it crosses the main A13 arterial road headed towards Beckton. At the top of the bridge, there’s evidence that it had been planned to go elsewhere as there’s a fenced off section where the road comes to an abrupt end. Research indicates there were plans quite some time ago to build a bridge over the Thames at this point over to Thamsemead, however this never materialised. This link offers an artist’s impression of how the bridge would have fitted in. So now it’s almost a one way road to nowhere; sadly though I can’t find any reference behind the intricacy of the bridge architecture. I wonder if there’s any significance with the area’s dockland history? If you know, please drop me a message.

So on to the Elizabeth Line.

Later in the day I’m walking along the back streets in Silvertown, returning from the Thames headed towards City Airport, and along one side of the road there’s a high concrete wall running its length. I give it a cursory glance noticing overhead power lines and without thinking I dismiss it as an established rail route. I pass the LCM Scrap Company Ltd and admire their high rise metal sculptures on either side of their main entrance, and a little later I pass the Tate & Lyle factory which I have admired from afar many a time. They proudly display the fact that they have been ‘Keeping The Nation Sweet For 140 Years’.

Turning back to face the road I see the upper part of a bright yellow engineering train on the railway line emblazoned with the Elizabeth Line logo. I then realise this is part of the new route which emerges from under the Thames nearby from Woolwich en route to Custom House and all points west.

I soon see evidence of the Elizabeth Line’s continuing building works a little further along surrounding the proudly restored St Marks Church, the home of the acclaimed Brick Lane Music Hall which has occupied this site since 2003.

Planes

From Gallions Reach, I continue south and head over the Sir Steve Redgrave bridge which spans Gallions Point Marina and London City Airport into North Woolwich. As I approach the centre of the bridge, I look east and see two bright lights high in the sky heading towards me. Now having spent many a journey travelling through London City Airport, I know that planes land in one of two directions depending on the prevailing wind. Today the wind was blowing from a westerly direction so planes were arriving and landing from the east.

This was a perfect spot for plane watching; one I took full advantage of as I set my stall out at the mid point and waited for the overhead planes to approach. I must have been there for about half an hour all told, and I didn’t seem to disturb the local police who passed me several times in their transit vans.

At this point, the planes have descended quite rapidly as the landing strip is no more than 300 metres away, and I’m standing in line with the landing beacons that guide the planes to ground. I can see the pilots quite clearly in their cockpits as they control their flights masterfully against the blustery side winds which sees some of the planes rock from side to side. I’ve been in some of those planes as they’ve approached the runway and it makes for an interesting arrival.

Later in the day, and as I end today’s travels on the other side of London City Airport, I stand and admire ‘Athena’ the tallest, at 12 metres high, bronze sculpture in the UK (as at 2012). The sculpture was created by Nasser Azam and designed to be visible to air travellers from the sky as they approach the airport.

Boats

In all my 30 years living and working in London, I’d never experienced the Woolwich Ferry crossing. I’d heard many a news report that the ferry wasn’t running for one reason or another, so as I found myself so close to the North terminal, I headed there just to see. There are messages that there’s a delay of 1 hour as only one ferry is operating, but that doesn’t deter cars and lorries queuing up. I walk past the old North Woolwich station converted into a museum and now closed, and I decide I’ll walk under the river and return by ferry.

I don’t think the Woolwich Foot tunnel is as well advertised as the one in Greenwich, but it has all the Victorian characteristics of its counterpart: over a 100 steps down (there is a lift), tiled walls throughout which reflect an eerie glow from the dimly lit overhead lights. Despite painted notices on the ground every 20 metres or so instructing there to be ‘No Cycling’, they had no effect on all the cyclists who use the walkway as a shortcut under the river. More later.

I took a series of shots but felt this one in colour best reflected the walkway; the meaningless overhead traffic lights directing which side to walk being ignored by everyone, but the colour effect casts an interesting glow. Oh yes, two girls descending in the lift have a blast, and as they walk along, singing at the top of their voices are clearly enjoying the echo effect they create.

Up the 101 steps on the south shore, I head for the ferry that’s just docking and walk on freely; you see there’s no charge for pedestrians or vehicles. The view looking west from the middle of the Thames is quite surreal with the Thames Barrier in the distance with each gate’s traffic lights directing where boats should pass. It’s a relatively short journey across the river.

Cyclists

Now a shout out to to five cyclists I met during the day. First to Mahammad, Andre, Lucas and Edward. Four young lads who were practicing wheelies in the Asda car park when I walked through earlier in the day. I stop to ask them if they’d be happy to be photographed, and after a short conflab amongst themselves they seemed happy to pose. This is a short collection showing their various skills during their valiant ( and safe) efforts up and down the car park. Thanks lads and I hope you enjoy them?

My final shout out is to Samson who I met in the Woolwich foot tunnel. He was riding through and I happened to be standing by a No Cycling sign at the time and I tried, unsuccessfully, to capture the moment. Anyway, a few seconds later he returned asking to see the pic and explaining it hadn’t quite worked, he agreed to repeat the effort and help me to recreate the moment. I wanted to reflect the moody lighting of the tunnel and capture the motion, so I avoided using a flash and panned the shots as Samson rode past. I believe this one captures that effect; so thanks again Samson, and great to have met you.

The Thames

During the day I find myself walking along the river bank several times. First through Gallions Point, past Barge House Causeway, along Royal Victoria Gardens and later along the footpath adjacent to Pier Road. Here are some of the images I captured.

Another successful day…

Picture of the Day

From Beckton I walk down Woolwich Manor Way to Gallions Reach DLR station which is surrounded by a large, empty paved area. I guess during peak travel times this is a busy area as commuters either make their way home or divert to the nearby shopping park. Anyhow, as I take a breather, I notice the enclosed walkways from the raised platforms to ground level have a distinct pattern; and with the afternoon sun streaming through, it casts dramatic shadows which I sense will make for a great shot.

I set my camera on the ground using my trusty bean bags (best investment next to a tripod) to help steady the shot, and with minor placement adjustments I’m pleased with how I capture the contrasting shadows. Passengers have just alighted from a recently departed train and I realise  I need to capture their movement to complete this picture. Alas I’ve just missed that opportunity so I set the camera and wait for the next train. You know what, it always seems longer when you’re waiting for something, but probably no more than 10 minutes later I get my chance as another Beckton bound train arrives.

This is the final shot in a sequence and realise instantly it could be the shot of the day. The passenger’s black and white attire complements the shadow effect perfectly, and her gaze away from the camera somehow represents some disdain at being photographed, but she doesn’t challenge me as she passes by.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ29; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Vista; Camera effect – B&W

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#66: West Ruislip – 27/08/2019

A 10 mile walk on one of the hottest post Bank Holiday Tuesdays ever recorded. Phew! Today’s visit is a final farewell to the Central Line. This time to the north west of London in what was  once the county of Middlesex, but now the suburbia of West Ruislip which is entrenched in the London Borough of Hillingdon.

A particularly challenging day, not only for the distance I travelled, but for the harsh daylight conditions too. I’ve decided to set my camera in black and white mode and a fixed ISO of 100. Ideally I would like to have had a lower setting to help with the harsh lighting, but alas this is a limitation of my camera. One of the outcomes from today is that many of my pictures appear somewhat ‘flat’ in monochrome, but that challenge has been part of the fun in trying to get a well lit and composed picture.

 I’ll let you be the judge.

The Station

The station’s island platform serves two lines with trains arriving and departing every 10 minutes or so. An early 20th Century station which is adjacent to a separate Chilterns Railway station served by a separate entrance but with a walkway joining the two. Although there is nothing particularly striking about the station or its surrounds, the feeling of ‘big brother watching’ is clearly evidenced by this picture of these overhead cameras. They look somewhat sci-fi and menacing as they could easily have appeared as a large winged drone hovering overhead.

At the end of the platform there’s a gateway to the driver’s rest rooms reached up a flight of steps and a gangway across the railway line. And whilst contemplating a shot, the driver of the recently arrived train walks up and we chat. He outlines his itinerary for the day, which includes two return trips to Epping, a lunch stop and rest break in Acton before ending his day, returning home for his tea – all before making his way to Watford to watch his football team play Coventry in the EFL Carabao Cup that evening. I’m pleased for him that Watford won 3-0.

HS2

Whatever your thoughts, views and emotions surrounding the HS2 project, it’s impact on West Ruislip’s residents is clearly set out on notices surrounding the station despite development work having already started just across the road.

And it’s across the road I wander and poke my nose around the West Ruislip Golf Centre. I find I’ve made my way, unchallenged, to the 40 bay driving range and I’m somewhat surprised there’s no one’s about other than a singular golfer whose picking up his golf bag and walking out. All becomes clear as I’m approached by an employee asking me to leave the premises. I explain my purpose and ask if I can take some pictures but I’m told that the business was sold to HS2 the day before and therefore the Golf Centre is no longer an operating business. We exchange a few comments on the impact of HS2, but the employee remains non-committal but her sadness is etched across her face.

Ruislip

Ruislip is very much suburbia at its best and is well served by 5 stations bearing its name (West Ruislip, Ruislip Gardens and South Ruislip all on the Central Line, and Ruislip and Ruislip Manor on the shared Met/Piccadilly Lines). There is little of interest around West Ruislip so I head off to the main town centre which is about a mile away. En Route, I pass Training Ship (TS) Pelican, the Sea Cadet’s home in Ruislip. An otherwise indistinct building but it catches my eye as it reminds me of my days as a Sea Cadet on board TS Hydra which once had a presence on the shores of The Menai in Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic) on the North Wales coast. This was over 50 years ago, but I’m still thankful for the skills I learnt – in particular how to tie knots: the sheepshank, bowline and clove hitch.

The station in Ruislip opened around the same time as its counterpart in West Ruislip and reflected the population growth in suburbia in response to the ingress of the railways into the ‘Metropolitan areas’. This station has a little more character than the one to its west where a well maintained disused signal box has been preserved within the station’s boundaries.

Into the town, I head to its northern approach and browse around Manor Farm and associated buildings. The Manor Farm is a 22-acre historic site incorporating a medieval farm complex, with a main old barn dating from the 13th Century and a farm house from the 16th. Nearby are the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle believed to date from shortly after the Norman conquest.

The buildings have been renovated courtesy of a National Lottery grant, and although the site promotes that it is ‘open’ 365 days of the year, the only accessible building is the Library. A beautifully renovated barn with exposed beams, now filled with rows and rows of books and as part of this summer’s theme, workshops are run for children introducing them to space exploration as part of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing celebrations.

Sadly, I found little else of interest in the immediate vicinity, and unwisely I decided to walk the one and a half miles to Ruislip Gardens. In the searing heat, it was no fun, but equally it was unexciting as I passed rows upon rows of similarly designed houses. The purpose of my sojourn was to return to the Central Line and head for Perivale.

The Hoover Building

As I’m in the vicinity, I decide to head for and explore the iconic art deco style Hoover Building as it would be a shame to pass up on the opportunity to bask in the buildings historic architecture. But before I do, a final mention about the heat: well I can only imagine it is the heat that’s led to my bemusement as I get on the tube at Ruislip Gardens and see this discarded bra on the floor. WTF (sorry) – WTH?! What on earth makes anyone believe it’s OK to just leave such a thing lying around, presumably having been taken off because of the heat; who knows?. I ponder this thought for the ten minutes or so it takes me to travel the four stops to Perivale station.

The Hoover Building is less than ten minutes from the station and in recent years, this Grade II* listed building has been converted into a Tesco Superstore, a Halal Friendly Asian Restaurant (The Royal Naawab), and a collection of 66 luxury apartments. But thankfully all of the iconic features have been retained for everyone to see. I’ll end today’s blog by letting the building speak for itself – well more specifically its original architects: Wallis, Gilbert and Partners

Picture of the Day

This picture is taken within the grounds of Ruislip Manor Farm buildings. In particular within the green area enclosed by the Great Barn, the Library and the Cow Byre Gallery. I’m looking directly at the Great Barn and as I walked through the first time I was struck by the magnificence of the restored buildings, the starkness of the black wooden cladding and the contrast this created with the sun soaked roof tiles. 

Having walked around the area for a while, I decided to return to this spot to capture the Great Barn, and as mentioned earlier, getting the right tone of black is difficult, especially with the sun directly overhead, so I take a few practice shots to get the camera settings just right.

Now I’d seen this lady when I first walked by; she seemed to have stopped for her lunch and is now intently studying her mobile. My first thought is to capture The Barn without her in the frame, but the more I played with my positioning, the more I thought her inclusion helps to set the scene. I deliberate on whether to ask her to stay, but decide against this as it would then have made her conscious of my presence and she may have portrayed a different visage. It’s her intense concentration and complete lack of awareness of her surroundings that I believe adds to the final picture.

I started with a shot from afar which captures too much foreground, so I walk closer to tighten the shot, and then maybe after every 10 steps I take the same picture. In this final shot, I’m probably no more than 3 or 4 metres away and I’m very happy with the outcome. Even as I walk right past her, she still doesn’t acknowledge me, so whatever she’s doing, it’s certainly very riveting.

In post production, I played a little with Google Photos filter settings to get the starkness of the black I was after to represent as close as possible the colour I saw. The ‘Vista’ setting does this justice. I hope you like it?

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 47mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter effect – Vista; Camera setting – B&W

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Triptipedia – here I share some tips I use when travelling around London. A different twist on my ‘end of the line’ story