This is the first blog of my new travelling adventure. Having completed my travels to the ends of all the TfL stations across London just before Covid lockdown, I took time out and focused on my local community for a while.
But as restrictions begin to lift, but who knows for how long, I’ve decided to start my next episode. This time to: the ends of the rail network lines within the TfL travel zones (where there is one); and to the furthest point of all other rail network lines within the TfL travel zones. I’ll be excluding those stations I’ve already travelled to during my first campaign which will leave me with almost 40 stations to visit; so I think that will take care of 2020 and 2021 subject to Covid restrictions.
The impact of Covid on travelling
As I set off, I admit to being a little apprehensive from having to wear a face covering for most of the day: on all public transport services and inside the main Victoria Station terminus. I set off with my new travel companions: a face mask and a bottle of hand gel.
My experience throughout the day was mostly positive, but everywhere was noticeably quiet. In fact around Victoria Station it was ghostly quiet as the surrounding offices remain vacant as most people continue to work from home.
Passenger numbers are very low and everyone respected each other’s space. Other than those travelling together, people did not sit beside each other. And most passengers were facemask compliant though some didn’t have their nose covered. At times there was maybe one passenger per carriage.
My day’s experience made me full of admiration for those in the station and shops who had no choice other than to wear a facemask all the time. And the floral tribute outside Buckingham Palace in recognition for all the NHS has done during this time remains in full bloom.
I hadn’t realised that Victoria Station is in fact two stations. Built independently side by side in 1860 and 1862 by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LBSCR) and the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LCDR) respectively. The Grosvenor Hotel, at the front, was independently opened in 1861 and then bought by the LBSCR in 1899. At the same time LBSCR became part of the South, Eastern & Chatham Railway (SECR).
1923 saw the station being grouped as one into Southern Railway, and later into British Rail in 1948 as part of its nationalisation. New retail premises were built as part of the Victoria Plaza in the 1980’s and in 1992, the two concourses became one through the integration of even more shopping outlets. But look around and you’ll see examples of the different styles of the original two buildings.
There’s a simple, yet detailed account of the station’s history on the Network Rail website, and I must also pay my thanks to Network Rail staff for providing me with a ‘contractor’s pass’ allowing me to wander freely around the station for the day.
I spend my day wandering in and out of the station several times. I also saunter up to Buckingham Palace to explore the station’s wider catchment area to see who’s about? And despite the lack of visitors and commuters, London being London there are still some interesting characters about. Here are a few of them.
The Drunk: Sadly, despite the efforts to help the homeless during these times, there will still be those who are wedded to old habits. This gent is walking precariously across the open air bus depot at the front of the station, swaying and stumbling from side to side as he makes his way to the station. Onlookers gawping in astonishment at the state he was in.
The Lovers: a young couple finding a quiet spot for a cuddle on the carefully manicured gardens directly in front of Buckingham Palace. I didn’t want to get too close, as it may have ruined the moment, so this shot with a long focal length captures their intimate moment. I hope her maj wasn’t peering out of her window at the time.
The Photographer and the Model: I saw this couple from the other side of the road and the photographer was giving some very clear directions on how he wanted his model to pose. Something tells me they were a couple enjoying the moment by Canada Gates outside Buckingham Palace. It was an intense session as they seemed oblivious to my presence as I approched closley to chat with them. I mocked that I thought the photographer, as he knelt to take some pictures, was about to propose. The model jested ‘if only…’ 10 minutes later as I had circumnavigated Victoria Memorial, they were still at it…
The Biker: this sole biker, waiting for what I don’t know, is parked in a dedicated motorcycle parking bay in Palace Street; just around the corner from the new Cardinal Palace eatery and shopping centre. Whatever he was contemplating, it was quite intense as he remained transfixed in the moment for quite a while. The backdrop gives it quite a continental feel; the gated and open railing walkway synonymous with some mediterranean locations.
The Porter: at the Rubens at the Park hotel in Buckingham Palace Road opposite the Royal Mews. I watched this porter for several minutes striding between the main hotel entrance and it’s adjacent side entrance. Waiting patiently to open doors for those visiting the hotel, but alas there were none. A sign of the times methinks rather than a reflection on the quality of this 5 star hotel’s service. There’s an interesting plaque on the outside wall by the main entrance commemorating General W Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister (in exile) during the second world war, who had his headquarters in this building during the war years
Artemis – the EWI player: as I’m walking through the Nova complex opposite the station, I approach one of their ‘customer support helpers’ who’s patrolling the area. We chat and he introduces himself as a jazz musician who plays the EWI. He says his ambition is to play full time and he offers me his flyer. I’d never heard of this instrument: EWI stands for Electronic Wind Instrument. You can contact him through his Instagram account if you’re interested.
Picture of the Day
I’ve remarked before that sometimes pictures just find you, and this was certainly the case with this one as I knew it stood out as soon as I crouched to compose the shot.
The passenger, who’s bike this is, was buying a ticket for an onward journey from one of the station’s ticket machines in the centre of the concourse. They’ve clearly thought about their own alternative travel arrangement either for getting to the station, or once they’ve arrived at their destination, or indeed both?
It looked like a new tyre on a new bike, so maybe the owner had decided on new travel arrangements in these estranged times. The positioning of the wheel, with passengers walking in the background and a ‘please keep your distance’ floor sticker made this an interesting composition to capture
- Location: Victoria Station
- Date/Time: Thursday 27th August 2020
- Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 46mm; Film Speed – ISO1600
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