Today hadn’t worked out as I had planned. I intended to travel to Upper Warlingham, the furthest point on the East Grinstead or Uckfield line I can reach using my 60+ travel card. But on arriving at London Bridge station, the display boards showed ‘ask staff’. So after a quick chat, I’m directed to platform 12 to catch the Caterham train and alight at Whyteleafe as Upper Warlingham station is just across the road from Whyteleafe station. I decided this was OK.
There’s a platform change with only three minutes to go, so I now head to platform 16 instead. Ha, the things commuters have to put up with. Anyway, I’m at the front of a ten carriage train with announcements that the train splits at Purley. The front five heads to Caterham, and the rear five to Tattenham Corner. Good, I’m on the right part of the train, and helpful to know as I’ll be back another day.
However, once on the train, I decide to head to Caterham instead, as it seems to make sense.
But here’s an amusing anecdote. The train announcements repeatedly reminded passengers of the train division at Purley, but when I listened carefully, I thought I was mishearing an announcement. It seems the automated recording hadn’t taught the announcer to say Caterham; either that or I was going to Caterha…I started to wonder if there was a silent ‘M’. It made me smile.
The first station opened in Caterham in 1856, and its original purpose was to transport stone from Godstone. But as urban growth extended into the attractive secluded valleys, the station was replaced by the existing station in 1900. The site of the original station is now the station’s car park and a Waitrose. The line was electrified in 1928. Simultaneously a guards depot opened here but closed in the late 1980s.
Platform 1 is used for slower trains to London Bridge via Selhurst and Tulse Hill. For the faster, more direct service to London Bridge, use platform 2. These trains connect with those from Tattenham Corner at Purley. Some services run to London Victoria at peak times too.
Could this image be the cover of my next book? Let me know what you think.
It’s always admirable when stations try to green up with plants and flowers, often down to the commitment of one or two workers or even volunteers. There is an excellent initiative across London’s railways called the Energy Project, which supports communities to install and maintain gardens on railway stations, and I wonder if Caterham has thought of this?
There are a few planted troughs along the platform. However, not all of them are as well-tended as this one at the foot of the stairwell. Nevertheless, this shot tries to portray a welcoming feel onto the platforms. Is your station green?
Caterham is a town of two parts. Caterham-on-the-Hill, and Caterham, the main retail area and transport hub. The main town sits in a valley along the North Downs, and Caterham-on-the-Hill is about one and a half kilometres to the northwest.
It seems to have a lot to offer for a small town with an active community supported through Caterham BID. Their claim to fame is that Caterham is the birthplace of Hollywood actor Bill Nighy and the world-famous Caterham Cars.
The town has a rich history, summarised on two posters alongside the fountain at the entrance to Church Walk. The fountain was donated by Charles Asprey, the famous London jeweller, in 1890, and it was also the town’s first street light. The seated area around the fountain is a quiet spot where several residents enjoy the midday sun, read their papers, and have a chin-wag.
There are signs of redevelopment and regeneration all around the town. But not all is to the local community’s liking. An article in SurreyLive about the Old Post Office, which closed in 2014, is a good example. The report outlines residents’ strong opposition, keen that the building retains its character. The Concerned Caterham Residents Facebook group has also commented that initial plans were unsuccessful earlier in 2021.
My eye, however, is drawn to the graffiti signature ‘Wave’ on the door. If anyone has any info or knowledge of this artist, please share.
The Church Walk Shopping Centre, directly opposite the station entrance, is a small retail development leading to Morrison’s, the town’s second supermarket, with Waitrose just across the road. And on either side of the station, new high-rise buildings are being erected. I suspect these will be town apartments, and it seems one development will also house a Lidl. But, can a small town sustain three supermarkets so close to each other?
Along the main Croydon Road, there’s a bit of an eyesore in the guise of Quadrant House. Tandridge District Council acquired the building in 2019. They are now undertaking significant works to redevelop the building as part of their plans to regenerate the town. Consequently, scaffolding now shrouds the building.
I’m standing inside the scaffolding in one of the gaps created for pedestrians to access the shop entrances on the ground floor. I’m keen to capture the symmetry on show, but make sure I heed the prominent Health and Safety notices all around.
As I make my way up the hill, I pass the East Surrey Museum, resolved to visit on my return down the hill. I capture its side entrance which, to me, epitomises an age of simple architectural beauty with herringbone brickwork and floral displays. You see, this is a well-camouflaged, modern door when you look closely. Alas, I return on the stroke of 5.00 pm as the museum is closing. Maybe you’ve been inside, and you have some memories to share? If so, use the comments box.
The Churches of Caterham
There are at least four churches within 700 metres of each other: two in the town and two on the hill. First, there’s the United Reformed Church down the road from Morrisons, and not too far away, there’s St John’s Caterham, whose church tower is seen here from Church Hill. See also my Picture of the Day later.
And further, up the hill, there’s St Lawrence as seen in this photo through the gates of St Mary’s in Caterham on the Hill. Based on the Norman windows, it’s guesstimated that St Lawrence church dates back to the late 11th century. However, the church fell into disuse when St. Mary’s was built across the road but was renovated and brought back into regular use in the 1960s, and it now plays an integral part in church life today.
The People of Caterham
Limi – It’s a rare moment when anyone invites me to take their photo, but Limi did just that. He was standing outside Buzz Kebab after finishing his lunch, and with a broad grin, he beckoned me over to take his photo.
We spoke for a while, and we played a guessing geography game as to his country of origin. His clue was from somewhere between Italy and Greece, and after going through a few country names, I finally arrived in Albania. He has lived and worked in Britain for nine years, and he’s currently repairing roof damage on Quadrant House across the road. I took a series of shots and believe this one portrays Limi the best. It was a delight to meet you.
Sam – I’d spotted Sam earlier in the day talking on her phone, holding on to a ladder whilst painting outside Park & Bailey Estate Agents. And now, later in the day, she’s outside Edi’s Barbershop and seeing me with my camera, she jokingly poses for a shot.
It’s my lucky day, as Sam is the second person who’s asked me to photograph them today. The local council have commissioned her to decorate the windows of several shops in Caterham in a festive style. She adopts an artisanal approach to her illustrations and calligraphy, bringing colour to the windows, and it’s evident she loves her work.
Thank you, Caterham, for an unexpected day out, but my travels aren’t over yet as I head back to London Bridge station, more than a little weary. Thankfully, I didn’t have long to wait for my train, and on arriving in London, I decided to walk to Liverpool Street station for my final journey home.
London by NIght
I was surprised by how busy the area around the London Bridge station was. Still, I guess it’s an indication that more office workers have returned to London to work as part of their organisation’s normalisation after lockdown. However, and despite Covid infection rates remaining high, there’s a general sense (misplaced in my view) that if you’ve been double jabbed, then you are OK.
I decided not to mingle with those waiting for a bus and walk across London Bridge instead, and in doing so, I reminded myself how wonderful London is at night. All lit up, with office lights reflecting on the river as it shimmers and ripples with the tide and passing boats.
There’s a separate conversation to be had with building managers about the greenhouse effect of their offices ablaze on all floors, and I wonder what their strategy for reducing this is? However, it’s a fleeting thought for now as I gaze over the bridge towards Cannon Street station and see an Uber Boat by Thames Clippers heading in its direction.
Uber partnered up with Thames Clippers in 2020, and they are now rebranding their boats and piers, as seen in this photo as it approached Cannon Street railway bridge with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background.
A little further on and I’m standing in the middle of London Bridge, casually taking long exposure shots of people walking past with Tower Bridge in the background, and happy for buses to blur the photos as they pass by.
When I reviewed some of them, I noticed the lights on Tower Bridge shining through the bus window. So I spent a good 10 to 15 minutes repeating this happy accident, and here’s the result, a somewhat playful shot. Sometimes when you’re out taking pictures, you just have to go with the flow.
I’m nearly at my final travel destination, and here’s one last image of the evening as I pass Leadenhall Market. This view is full of office workers having an evening drink outside the New Moon pub before heading home. But what’s striking is the golden haze of the indoor market lighting giving an atmospheric vibe to the setting.
Picture of the Day – Sunlit Poppies
This photo is of the grounds of St John’s church in Caterham at the corner of Clareville Road and Godstone Road. The sun was piercing through the tree in the church grounds making it challenging to look at the poppies placed there during Armistice week.
My eyes took a while to focus. But once they did, the church seemed to be shrouded in a haze. And in some way, evoking an image of how the fields of Flanders may have looked. I will never know, of course, but this scene of backlit poppies certainly created strong emotions.
Picture of the Day
- Location: St John’s Church, Godstone Road, Caterham
- Date/Time: Monday 17th November 2021 12:52 pm
- Settings: Camera – Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100
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