#124: Feltham – 16/08/2021

Feltham Station

This station is not the end of the line, but it is the furthest I can travel using my 60+ travel card for free. It’s a pass-through station for South Western Rail services from London Waterloo to Reading, Weybridge and Windsor & Eton Riverside.

The station opened in 1848 and later modernised into what I would class as a standard station, recognisable across London. But, come to that, across the UK too. No doubt there’s a standard template used on all railway lines.

A central footbridge connects both platforms, recently modernised with lifts to provide step-free access. And at the northern entrance, there’s a large bus station for local buses and those connecting with all the Heathrow terminals. The station is less than three kilometres, as the crow flies, to Terminal 4, making this station an ideal location for travel to or from the airport.

The bus station has been landscaped recently to incorporate a wide and attractive step-free footbridge across the railway line, giving access to the main high street via the town’s modern restaurant and shopping plaza.

Feltham

The town is mainly residential, split by the railway line with houses north of the line predominantly terraced and semi-detached. South of the station has seen improvements and modernisation with an open plaza around the main retail area. But as I walk around, I sense some deprivation. Maybe it’s because it’s a gloomy day, but I notice things are a bit shabby, unkempt and unloved. 

Low rise flats surround the retail area, which hosts several high street brands and a supermarket, with ample parking to encourage motorists to come here. However, the car park is also overlooked by Belvedere House, a twelve-storey tower block of flats. Erected in the mid-1960s as a social housing quick fix, it now has stylised cladding, landscaped surroundings and managed entrance doors. 

I did walk north of the station a little, but not as far as 22 Gladstone Avenue, where Freddie Mercury once lived and where he is now immortalised with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. However, this is another plaque commemorating his residency in Feltham along the High Street. But it seemed the tree planted with the plaque had not survived and somehow epitomises how I feel about the area and its lack of self-care.

Further down the High Street, Feltham Green is an oasis of calm against the backdrop of the busy main road with London buses, taxis and the occasional blue siren passing by. I’m surprised, though, how few people there are taking advantage of the seats around the pond.

Bridge House Pond is a small pond with a wooded area just across the road from the station. It was created when the railway company was building the station, and they carved out the space to make the station’s embankments. It’s now being nurtured back to life by a group of volunteers after years of neglect.

The Friends of Group House Pond are committed to restoring the area’s lost beauty, recognising that Feltham has lost its sense of identity over the past 50 years. Maybe that’s the sensation I feel as I wander around this little haven that is still a little unkempt.

The area was home to two air-raid shelters demolished during recent bridge modernisation works and commemorated now by several mosaics embedded in the wall along the Pond’s western edge. There are other mosaics, too, representing the convergence of Hanworth, Feltham and Bedfont districts at this point. 

It’s also the starting point for where Major-General William Roy, a Scottish surveyor, set out the principle of triangulation that eventually became the Ordnance Survey.

Twickenham

My day isn’t done, as I want to explore the Thames at Twickenham as it’s only two stops away up the line. Now I’m a little familiar with this station as I’ve travelled there a few times over the years to watch rugby games at the famous ground. I’ve even travelled back to London on the slow loop route through Hounslow to avoid queueing for the direct rail service to Waterloo after a game.

Those who have done the same will be familiar with the queues and feel frustrated when there are insufficient train services to cope with the volume of people arriving simultaneously at the station.

I’ve never ventured into the town and river, so it’s out of the station, and I turn left and walk down London Road, where the town’s shops begin.  I stop outside the shops at 32-42 London Road, and I’m interested in some inlaid tiles along the walls. I can’t work out if they are a modern novelty or antiquity. But as I was taking some pictures of the tiles crouched at ground level, I surprised a resident coming out of her flat door, and after a brief explanation, she said she hadn’t realised the tiles were there. It seems we just don’t look around anymore!

There’s a desirable street full of independent shops and eateries at the main junction with King Street and York Street in Church Street. Like many other areas across the country, the street has been closed to traffic following the introduction of lockdown easements to encourage shoppers to head out. And in contrast to Feltham, the coffee shops and restaurants were overflowing with those relaxing and enjoying themselves.

I leave them to it, and turning right at the end of the street, I approach the river and spot a lone angler who’s waded into the river beside Champion’s Wharf. I suspect he’s enjoying himself, whether for solitude or in anticipation of a catch. Who knows?

There’s quite a debate on whether fishing/angling is a hobby or a sport. It’s not for me to say, but I guess it can be both. I sense, though, that his view on it is simply a pleasurable pastime. What’s your enjoyable pastime? Why not share in the comments?

Twickenham Rowing Club is directly opposite me. Some solitary rowers are on the river showing off their cardio-vascular strength and hand-eye coordination capabilities as they glide gracefully up and down this stretch of the river. I also spot this girl taking a moment of solace, or maybe she’s waiting for others to join her. Regardless, it’s an impressive collection of rowing boats, with as many again out of shot in the open air.

Eel Pie Island – I then realise the shoreline I’m looking at is not the river’s south bank but, in fact, the largest island in London’s stretch of the Thames. In the 1960s, it was home to music gigs by the Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd and Genesis in the 1960s. Now it’s a peaceful haven for artists whose studios are around a boatyard and the rowing club.

The only means of access is across a narrow footbridge, which provides a different view of the river as you stand in its middle. The single ‘dead-end’ footpath on the island is private, although the artists do open their studios twice a year, inviting the public to view their work, and of course, buy or commission bespoke pieces. Why not pop along this weekend as the island is open on the 4th and 5th December 2021.

As this is private land, private guards are patrolling the area. Here’s one of them doing its best to intimidate me.

Picture of the Day – Legs Eleven.

The private island, now known as Eel Pie Island, was once called the Twickenham Ait or the Parish Ayte and believed to have housed a monastery and later a courting ground for Henry VIII. 

Now the home to dozens of artists who open their studios twice a year to the public. Along the Island’s private footpath, I spied this amusing image in one of the gardens amid other curiosities, and it naturally drew me in. It’s my picture of the day simply for its unique imagery and for making me smile, and no better way to remember my day out at Feltham and Twickenham. I hope it makes you smile too?

  • Location: Eel Pie Island, Twickenham
  • Date/Time: Monday 16th August 2021 1:54 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO1250

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