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#71: Woolwich Arsenal – 22/10/2019

Today’s visit completes the series of seven ‘ends of the line’ on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which includes a return to the Woolwich Ferry, and some more stunning views along the Thames.

The Station

At platform level the station is typically DLR with all things concrete, but the modernist design of the upper station is in some way a retro homage to the art deco era.

I’d not realised the station also doubled up with national rail services provided by Thameslink and Southeastern running from Central London into Kent. And on their shared platform (No. 1), there’s an interesting terracotta mural by Martin Williams entitled ‘Workers of Woolwich’ which portrays the history of Woolwich Arsenal in its munitions heyday.

About 200 metres south of the station is where there’ll be a new Crossrail/Elizabeth Line station running to Abbey Wood. Still under construction but it’s a shame it couldn’t have been designed to co-exist with the existing rail services. Maybe there’s a hidden passageway yet to be revealed?

Woolwich

The town centre is a somewhat depressing area, and although there’s evidence of some investment, it seems to have done little to hide the anti-social behaviour on open display: alcoholism, homelessness and drug dealing are just three examples I just ‘happened’ upon.

The town centre is dominated with an open green square overlooking the main bus stop and main station, and it’s here those with little to do seem to congregate. Listening in on their conversations as I walk past, I hear a preponderance of Eastern Europeans dialects; and there’s also a strong contingency of retired Gurkhas who have adopted one side of the square as their own. In one corner, there’s a large screen showing the Brexit debate, but those walking by or encamped in the square seem oblivious to (or maybe just bored with) the political shenanigans being played out in public.

A little north of the green is Beresford Square Market with a few fruit & veg and clothes stalls tempting those passing through looking for a bargain. It’s a colourful area, but I suspect today isn’t the market’s main day as there aren’t too many stall traders about.

Nearby, the pedestrianised and tree lined Powis Street is where the main shops are. Here I find the usual ‘budget’ high street stores interlaced with a large number of charity shops and a few local independents.

Royal Arsenal

Once an area covering 1,300 acres and employing 100,000 people at its peak, the Royal Arsenal sits on the south bank of the Thames and just north of the town. There are many well documented internet sites that provide its full history so rather than trying to precis it myself, you can read some of them for yourselves here and here.

These are well worth a read and you can learn about the early 17th Century need for munitions through to how the site grew and developed the creation of munitions supporting all the war years through to its closure in the 1960’s. This is of course where Arsenal Football Club started life back in the late 1800’s too

This area has undergone, and continues to undergo extensive regeneration; but what is noticeable is that the original architecture has been kept and that the heritage of the area is being boosted. Even some of the original road names have been kept, and I’m captivated by the road named ‘No. 1 Street’. Seems somewhat iconic don’t you think? Looking down towards James Clavell Square, there’s a very interesting sculpture by Peter Burke, but more on this in my ‘Picture of the Day’ below.

The River

I’ve listened to the London weather and traffic reports most mornings before setting off to work and often heard, particularly during the winter months, that the Woolwich Ferry is either not running or is running with a restricted service of only one ferry. Well, in the spate of a few weeks, I’ve now travelled in both directions on this free service. Two ferry boats operate in harmony and viewed from afar they look as if they perform some form of ‘Strictly’ dance midstream. They’re quite mesmerising to watch: named the Dame Vera Lynn and the Ben Woollacott. The latter in honour of a deck-hand who died in 2011.

There’s something quite wonderful about walking along the Thames; despite the river looking still, there’s movement all around as London busies itself on this arterial waterway. And plenty of walkers and cyclists take advantage of the well groomed Thames Path whose shadows ripple in the murky foreshore.

My journey’s end today is in the middle of the Thames looking west towards Canary Wharf and onwards into The City through the Thames Barrier. I never get tired of this view as it keeps on changing: day or night.

Picture of the Day

Taken at the very bottom of the Royal Arsenal Heritage site in James Clavell Square. There is nothing (as far as I can see) to tell me who the sculptor is so an internet search is needed. My first inkling is that it’s an installment by Antony Gormley, and some internet results also suggested this. But wrongly as it turns out and it’s a sculpture by Peter Burke.

Approaching the square from the west, I see this interesting installation from afar and capture some shots through a telephoto lens to narrow the frame whilst also capturing passers by between the 16 statues. But as I get closer, I feel it’s better to be amongst the rusty statues and I compose today’s shot still with passers by framed between the statues. I frame the decorative street lamps in such a way that they are positioned as if they’re almost part of the installation as well.

In post production, I’ve decided a black & white filter influences the picture best as it helps to highlight the starkness of the shadows cast by the early afternoon sun.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 130mm; Film Speed – ISO200; Google filter – Vogue

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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 busy 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 good 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.

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. I quite like the end result.

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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#54: Stratford – 13/06/2019

Back from two weeks holiday and it seems I’ve forgotten what to do. Well, one of the key ingredients of this photo journal is my ability to take pictures – so I can only claim my holiday brain caused me not to charge my camera battery, so at less than 50% capacity, it didn’t take long to exhaust.

But to my rescue came the rain. Yes: whatever happened to ‘flaming June’. I went out of the house relying on good ‘ol BBC’s forecast that there was only a 25% chance of rain. Well it seems I was in that part of London where the 25% had been converted to 100%. So today was a bit of a soaking, but to be honest, it still turned out to be an interesting one.

The Station

I’ve written about the station before, so I won’t repeat myself. The Overground platforms, Nos 1 and 2 are on the most northerly end of the station, and serve trains to Richmond and Clapham Junction. The end of Platform 1 is overshadowed by a large cage like building creating an almost tunnel effect.

Whilst exploring the platform, I look for a different angle to capture, and as I do, I bemuse a couple of station staff as I crouch down below some fixed seats to capture this locked toolbox.

The overground platforms are oddly adjacent to platform nos 11 and 12, and having commuted through Stratford for over 30 years, and looked at these platforms from a passing train I’d never ventured there until now. There’s a large platform expanse, which seems slightly out of place, but there have been occasions when I’ve seen the area crowded as commuters wait for a delayed train taking them home east. But I wonder how many will have stopped to look at Jonathan Edwards – yes the Olympic triple jumper? You see there’s a rather tired perspex case up against the wall that does nothing to inspire the casual viewer to look beyond the faded, discoloured casing. But peer inside, and there’s a sculpture by Ptolemy Elrington who creates art from recycled material.

This one of Jonathan Edwards holding up the union flag depicting the scene when he won the Olympics in 2000 was commissioned as part of the 2012 Olympic preparations and the statue toured the country before finding its resting place here. I think more should be done to promote this forgotten piece of work.

There are some unusual building facades that probably puzzle passers by. No doubt the external facade is purposely designed to hide their ugliness, and if so,  the architects seem to have achieved this quite well. These two masking a car park and an energy centre are now part of the accepted landscape of the area.

Stratford City Bus Station

This is a hub for local London buses and National Express airport coaches located by the south entrance to Westfield Shopping Centre and is bubbling with transient passengers. Although I don’t count the number of buses pulling in whilst I’m here, I would guess though there’s a bus arriving/leaving every two minutes or so. But unless you have a need to use the bus station, or walk past it destined elsewhere, you wouldn’t know it’s here.

London Buses is a conglomeration of 20 separate bus companies who provide the city with it’s distinct red livery and managed under the TfL banner. And for this privilege, they can carry the iconic London Transport roundel…

East Village

Built as the athlete’s village for the 2012 London Olympics, the housing complex of mid rise self-contained secure tower blocks dominates the east side of the Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre. And 5 years on, development has and continues to expand, and you can get a sense of the surrounding environment in my ‘picture of the day’ below. Now an established residential area of architecturally attractive buildings, I still believe the area lacks character and soul as it’s devoid of personality. And if you’d like to know what an apartment costing more than £750,000 looks like in its naked state, here’s one I made earlier – and it’s exactly the same as any other development…

The village is adjacent to an area called Chobham Manor which gives its name to the local academy, and I’ve noticed a trend with modern academies – they no longer look like schools. I guess that’s a consequence of the market forces driving their financial models? This one looking more like a collection of office blocks with a little effort to camouflage their walls with some educational messages…

…and it seems any unused space is also open game for businesses to utilise, as exemplified by this nearby re-purposed prison van.

The Lee Valley Velopark

Tucked just inside the main A12 trunk road that cuts a swathe through east London, is the Velopark; built for the main cycling events at the 2012 London Olympics and now part of its ongoing legacy. There aren’t many people about on this windy rainy day, and as I walk around the Velodrome admiring the attractive cedar canopy, there’s one lone tri-cyclist on the road circuit cranking his way around the track. I’ve visited the Velodrome before but hadn’t realised it’s free to enter, so in I pop following in the wake of a coach load of school kids who had come to enjoy the spectacle.

The Velodrome runs Experience Sessions where you can be coached in the use of a fixed wheel bike and the basic skills required to safely ride the velodrome track. From my observations it’s not as easy as it looks, and some degree of nerve is needed to balance the right speed with the angle of the curves. At the London Velodrome the steepest curves are banked at 42°, but standing on top of it (safely  behind the barrier I hasten to add), it looks much steeper. Those practicing today were being guided by the professionals at a modest pace on the lower level.

The Marshes

Leaving the Velodrome, I have it in mind to head for the New Spitalfields Market now on the other side of the A12, but as I make my way there, the heavens open and within minutes I’m a little like a drowned rat. Not perturbed, I walk past the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, over the main road and take refuge under a bus shelter by one of the fields that makes up the infamous Hackney Marshes sports ground. But on a midweek wet day, there’s not a soul in sight on any of the 88 full sized football pitches.

I think the rain begins to ease (oh how wrong am I!) and walk up to the New Spitalfields Market, on the expectation I’d see how today’s fruit and veg distribution works in London. But alas the signs into the market make it quite clear this is private land and no photography without permission. Given the rain soaking conditions, I feel disinclined to follow through and search out the person whose permission I’d need. I satisfy myself, somewhat dejectedly, with a photo of their sign behind railings.

Drenched by now, I decide to head to Leyton underground as the lesser walk rather than returning directly to Stratford as I can’t see a bus coming. In the pouring rain, it’s much further than I thought, but I do pass a couple of things that catch my eye. One of which is my first introduction to London’s Quietways: a different sort of cycle route for those looking for a quieter ride. This one on the edge of Orient Way showing what I assume to be the number of cyclists that have passed today (328), and the number that have passed so far this year (85105). I couldn’t see, though, how this measurement was taken and if indeed it reflected this particular spot or the whole Quietway in its entirety. Perhaps someone reading this may have the answer – please drop me a line and if you do and I’ll update this blog.

The second thing is this distance measurement emblazoned on a brick wall. There’s nothing to indicate what it signifies, but I hazard a guess it’s nothing more than a reference to how far the nearest Asda store is, as the wall is on the route from the main road to Asda’s car park. Nevertheless catching the wet pedestrian within the measurement is slightly entertaining.

Hackney Wick

By the time I’m back in Stratford, it’s bright and sunny, so I decide to visit Hackney Wick out of curiosity. It’s a part of London I have walked through before en route to ‘Here East’, the former Olympic Media Centre which sits directly opposite on the other side of the River Lee. I was there exploring its suitability for an office move when at GDS, but the move to here was trumped by another location in Aldgate where GDS is now based. Hackney Wick has a long industrial heritage, but through the 20th Century, its association is more with poverty and deprivation. Walking around you can understand why, but there’s a 21st Century resurgence with the area now being popularised with millennial business ventures happy to work out of urban/industrial premises surrounded by graffiti and wall art.

The area, which sits by the river Lee, is also popular with river dwellers, and the recently modernised station helps to breathe new life into the area. An interesting way to end the day and I think a revisit here would be worthwhile in the future so that I can truly capture its essence. If anyone is up to joining me, drop me a line.

Picture of the Day

The precise location of this shot is at the northerly end of Champion’s Walk, part of the original Athlete’s Village built for the 2012 Olympics; and what struck me was the unspoilt, manicured cleanliness of the area. 

I’ve taken this shot at ground level to accentuate the trimmed bright green hedges. It also helps to highlight the symmetry of the surrounding high rise tower blocks with the street lights on one side, and balanced by the angle of the building on the other. The hedges appear to narrow in on the pedestrian highlighted in white at the centre/bottom of the picture. You can just see her with a snatch of colour from an orange bag (possibly a Sainsbury’s carrier bag), and just in view, the red ‘don’t walk’ sign on the hidden traffic lights (zoom in and you’ll see it).

The shot also helps to remind me of the excitement and the crowds that would have been prevalent in the summer of 2012 as the country (and world) welcomed the sporting elite and others to London. Maybe I’ve captured more than I’d imagined?

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/8; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 35mm; Film Speed – ISO250; Google Photo Filter – Alpaca

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#51: Bank (again) – 09/05/2019

A return today to Bank station courtesy of the Dockland Light Railway (DLR). A day where the weather forecast was looking pretty grim and dismal, the first in over a year. So I did some advance planning on where to go if the weather turned bad…which it did. Today turned out to be a tour of central London stations including Bank, Monument, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

Today was also a study in underground passageways, and my thanks go to other Underground Twitter enthusiasts who have posted pictures which have inspired some of mine today.

Bank Station

Those of you working in the City, or have a need to change at Bank know how busy it is, and somewhat complicated now whilst improvement works are being undertaken. The station, which is inter-connected with Monument provides underground access to the Central, Northern, Circle and District lines; the DLR and the Waterloo & City line. It’s main feature is the 300m long adjoining walkway running directly under King William Street.

From personal experience, I was caught off guard one summer’s day when lugging a heavy suitcase from one station to the next without realising how many flights of stairs there are, and how long it takes when battling with commuters charged with only one goal in mind – getting to their end point as quickly as possible.

My study of the underground has yielded many pictures in an attempt to capture the constant flow of travellers making their way through the tunnel between the two stations, or on route to/from Waterloo via the underground tunnels and travelator. Some travellers have a clear plan on where they are going and others are bemused by the the whole experience. Nevertheless, I’ve compiled some of the pictures into animations to help set the scene.

I decide to head for Monument Station which is a popular destination for tourists who flock to the aptly named Monument, opened in 1677 as a permanent reminder of the Great Fire of London.

Outside the station, street promoters try to catch the eye of the passer-by by handing out leaflets with a promise of free cash ‘…if you sign up today!..’

As I walk around to the Monument, I notice that I’m now in The Ward of Candlewick and ask myself, what is a Ward? The answer is here…

Saint Magnus the Martyr and The Thames Path

London is littered with churches of all denominations, and from my own observation, the City has more than its fair share. Heading down towards the embankment and the Thames Path, I pass this church and explore its surroundings, and as I do, I spot a plaque declaring the churchyard formed part of the roadway onto the original London Bridge. Intrigued, not out of religious conviction, but more out of historical interest, I head inside and I’m struck by the ornate decorations; full of colour and all the religious icons you would expect to see.

By the doorway there is a long, if not at least ten feet long, encased model replica of the original London Bridge bedecked with houses and shops. The vaulted ceiling is magnificent, as indeed are the stained glass windows in homage to the good saint, and before leaving I feel compelled to light a candle.

The church sits on the river so a quick canter around the back of the church and I’m overlooking the river with The Shard for company ahead of me, and London Bridge to my right. There’s what appears to be a collection of stones as a seating area, but on closer inspection there’s an inscription explaining the stone bench was part of an Architectural Student Award in 2009. Each stone engraved with a floral design and its name.

I pass under London Bridge, which has a mysterious eerie feel to it, and could it be that ghosts of eons past are still lurking as you just don’t know what would have transpired here over the years and centuries. Or maybe as it was about to pour with rain the ominous sky affected my senses. Who knows?

I didn’t give any thought to the name of the footpath until I came to Cannon Street station rail bridge – Hanseatic Walk. But before walking under the bridge, I spot a wall plaque, a little difficult to get at to read. But when I do, I see it was erected in 2005 to commemorate a site where 400 Hanseatic merchants lived in a German self-governing enclave for nearly 600 years up to the 19th Century.

Cannon Street station is my third station of the day, each of which are no more than 300 metres apart such is the density of the working population that it needs so many stations to cope with the daily influx. This station has recently been modernised and therein stands the Plumber’s Apprentice, erected at the location where once stood the Livery Hall of The Worshipful Company of Plumbers

London Bridge station and its surrounds

One stop by train across the river and I’m at London’s most recently modernised station where the architects have blended the modern functional needs with the classic cavernous catacomb like arches. Now that’s it’s finished, the station provides an exciting feast for the eye as I journey through the station. Glass and lighting are the two main features used to excellent effect to bring out a modern design.

I’m asked by a security lady to explain what I’m doing and although she doesn’t stop me, she does suggest a visit to Network Rail’s reception would be in order to check on whether I need permission to take pictures. Thankfully, through their twitter feed, I’m directed to their very helpful and clearly set out online Guidelines for taking photos at stations.

I exit the station south side and I’m immediately drawn to a sight of red ants crawling over a full size train carriage atop a low level building. Go see it as it’s an impressive piece of art from Joe Rush – never heard of him? Well he also created the Arcadia spider at a recent Glastonbury festival.

The artwork helps to promote one of London’s newest open air food and container box outlets at Vinegar Yard. It is almost deserted, with only a couple of seated guests and a few others, like me, wandering around taking photos; the reason being that it is cold and raining, so not the ideal combo for this place. Nevertheless, I suspect as the evening wears on, more brave souls will be attracted to eat and drink here later.

This was a surprising and delightful find at the end of the day, and is partly what this sojourn is all about – a personal discovery of communities that otherwise might not get seen by outsiders.

Picture of the Day

This was one of my first photos of the day and after a few test shots to get the settings right, I waited for a sequence of trains to pull into the end of the DLR at Bank station. With a slow shutter speed to capture the train’s movement, I was pleased, and surprised, to get the focus just right as this is a hand held shot. 

The position of the train as it is just about to pass the station sign was planned, and as the sign states the platform is for ‘alighting only’ so there were no other passengers waiting other than me. I was half expecting to get stopped by passing Tfl staff as I was loitering there for quite a while, but guess they’re used to enthusiasts hanging around. 

The wide angle shot lets me get the full length of the station in frame, and the fast ISO setting lets me get the depth of field I wanted. Maybe the lighting could have been slightly darker with a slower film speed setting, but sometimes a compromise is OK.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/22; Shutter Speed – 1/5; Focal Length – 318mm; Film Speed – ISO12800; Google Photo Filter – Auto

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#46: Tower Gateway – 03/04/2019

Four seasons in two hours today: Sunshine, rain, hail, snow and thunder.

Having decided at the start of the day to take all photos in black and white, the weather conditions make the task slightly more challenging as I stand/crouch framing a shot and then spend time in testing different settings. However I’m very pleased with the outcomes and hope you are too?

The Station

A busy station with trains every 10 minutes running along this single track line serving commuters, and tourists travelling to see the historic Tower of London and Tower Bridge. I hadn’t realised how close it is to Fenchurch Street station: almost in touching distance if you could open some of the station windows. But just as well you can’t as you’d otherwise get electrocuted by the overhead cables serving the c2c trains into that station.

I had some fun trying not to get in the way of passengers through the station and ascending the recognisable escalator coverway, by taking some slow exposure shots to exaggerate passenger ‘movement’.

Minories

The Minories is a former civil parish now sitting within the ‘City of London’ boundary and extends from Aldgate station in the north and Tower Hill in the south. My research about the area’s history is quite fascinating especially in relation to its extra-parochial status and the impact of the new poor laws. The name is probably more synonymous now with the pub that sits under the railway bridge which itself gives rise to some stark and contrasting images.

I follow the road around the gyratory traffic system along the side of the raised railway lines weaving under several bridges leading to Chamber Street.

A somewhat blended area, with its roots clearly in light industry but now almost fashionable with the advent of office space and ‘build ‘em up quickly’ hotel chains. I focus my attention on the ruggedness of the area, which is in no way though threatening.

Leading into Dock Street, I take some time admiring the bridge support structures and looking at their symmetry against the ever changing backdrop. The pillars have been painted with a marble effect which is no doubt an attempt to hide their concrete greyness; and those on foot walking past are evidently oblivious to their surroundings and my photographic efforts.

The space under the arches is occupied by light industrial businesses; the most prominent being Tower Tyres who promote themselves as ‘East London’s leading low cost tyre specialist’.

Photographer Beware

I cut across The Highway, the main east/west road, headed towards St Katherine’s Dock, but en route through Vaughan Way I detour into a new development. London Dock Wapping is a Berkley Group development branded under the name St George, and if you have £1.3m to spare you can buy a ‘near the river’ apartment. A smart development, BUT yet another location across London where I’m asked told not to take photographs and I’m reminded by the friendly concierge that I’m on private land.

I had quite a long conversation with the concierge, not having a go at him as he was simply delivering the landlord’s message, but about the inconsistency in the Landlord’s attempt to prevent photographers taking pictures. You see, had I been walking around with my mobile taking pictures, I wouldn’t have been challenged – and given that mobile cameras can take high resolution images, their approach doesn’t make sense.

It seems the camera type is the definer; having a DSLR instantly makes me a recognisable professional and thereby needing permission to take pictures. There’ll come a time when we’ll all need a licence to take pictures as we’re all walking on private land, and where’s the sense in that. Rant over….

Through to Tower Hill

I’m now in Wapping, a part of London I’ve never visited before. Yes I know St Katherine’s Dock is just around the corner, and it’s so easy to just visit the fashionable parts of this area, so I stroll around and enjoy the old docks view alongside Spirit Quay and the river view from Hermitage Memorial Garden which showcases the old and the new along the river bank.

The sky looks ominous as I head towards St Katherine’s Dock and I stumble across, and almost pass by an unassuming gateway to the river known as Alderman Stairs (see page 31 of this link). The wash of a passing boat splashes against the steps and serves as a reminder of the history of such steps up and down the river.

By now, snow and hail is falling quite hard and all the right minded people have taken cover, but I can’t resist this shot of Butler’s Wharf from across the water as the hail bounces off the surface of the Dock. Alongside St Katherine’s Pier, I look up at Tower Bridge and espy a different angle to highlight its ironwork.

By now the weather has scared away day trippers and tourists alike who have suddenly become scarce as I walk along the cobbled road in front of The Tower. It’s here I capture my ‘picture of the day’ (see below) before ending my day’s journey at Tower Hill station with its walls encased in some interesting artwork.

Picture of the Day

I seem to be developing a creative theme of low, pavement level shots to capture a slightly different angle of the subject. Sometimes with a slow shutter speed to give the effect of movement when people/vehicles are moving past, or as with this shot, to create a different perspective of a well known landmark.

This is taken on the cobbled path between the Thames and The Tower looking towards Tower Bridge in the murky background through a bicycle stand set out as an array of metal hoops.

I’m trying to showcase the ruggedness of the cobbles, particularly as it has just started to rain so the light effect on the ground has just changed. Amazingly, as soon as it rained, everyone and I mean everyone suddenly disappeared and there was no one around. I took a few shots to get the framing right and played around with the settings to create the stark contrast in Black & White. A slight reddish filter helps to highlight the wet surface of the cobbles.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ10; Shutter Speed – 1/40; Focal Length – 30mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Blush

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#40: Stratford (Jubilee) – 05/02/2019

Returning for this, my third visit to the area. Firstly alighting at Stratford International (DLR) and more recently at Stratford (DLR) when I decided to carve the surrounding area into quadrants, so today I was set to explore the southern area of Stratford. But first I wander around the Jubilee line platforms and the surrounding station environment.

Stratford station and its surrounds

The Jubilee line is one of a few on the Tfl network which doesn’t have any spur lines. In this case, the Jubilee runs from Stratford north west to Stanmore and is the newest line prior to the emerging Elizabeth line. The station entrance has also undergone some regeneration as it prepared for the anticipated increased footfall because of the 2012 Olympics, which the station prided itself on successfully meeting without a hiccup.

There’s a large concourse outside the station which acts as a gateway between Westfield shopping centre and the Stratford shopping centre, and today it is is the turn of Centrepoint chuggers trying to attract donors for their charity. There is, I think, one genuinely homeless person propped asleep against the station sign, but having seen the chuggers I wasn’t too sure if they were trying to create a dramatic effect – I’m too cynical I know…

The bus terminal sits nearby and its canopy combined with the Shoal, a shimmering wall of titanium fish, offers an interesting backdrop to the surrounding buildings, old and new which sit together in unplanned harmony.

Greenway footpath

I flirted with this footpath last time I visited Stratford and I had planned to come back and walk further along it, and today’s the day for that. I’m not sure how far I’ll get so I decide to just wander and see where it leads me.

From the High Street, where the footpath crosses the road from Wick Lane, it runs for six kilometres easterly to Beckton. It is in fact a pathway created above the Northern Outfall sewer which forms part of the Tideway project which will connect all of London’s sewers and prevent spills into the Thames. Because of its height, at roughly eaves level of neighbouring properties, you get a great overview of the surrounding and distant area as far as Canary Wharf.

Sadly, as with any unattended open space, graffiti artists take the opportunity to promote their skills, and the path is no different, although their endeavours are somewhat encouraged by the local authority which seems to have cordoned off an area across a bridge ripe for their intrusion.

Abbey Mills Pumping Station

Half a kilometre along the path, the Abbey MIlls pumping station stands proudly, almost cathedral like in its own grounds. The building, has been described by one commentator as ‘…An assured Victorian mishmash of Byzantium, Moorish, Slavic and Northern Italian influences. A feat of engineering, ingenuity and boundless confidence resulting in this ‘plant’, camouflaged and transformed into a peculiar industrial palace…’

Built by Joseph Bazalgette, this is a name I became familiar with during the formative days of the Government Digital Service (GDS) as we were once entertained by the presence of the former head of Channel 5, Sir Peter Bazalgette who visited and shared his wisdom and admired what we were doing. He is Joseph Bazelgette’s great-great-grandson.

West Ham Station

A little further along, I spy West Ham underground station, and to be honest I hadn’t appreciated how close it is to Stratford, so I decide to detour slightly and explore more closely. West Ham station is a transport hub for several interconnecting lines: Jubilee, District and C2C services running from Fenchurch Street station to Grays, Southend and Shoeburyness.

It is a station I’ve passed through many a time, giving but a cursory glance to my surroundings. My ‘picture of the day’ (see below) captures a particular commuting moment, and signs at the station entrance help to highlight other commuting statistics. I spend a little time outside the station pursuing other travelling themed shots too.

Boleyn Ground

Back onto the footpath, I carry on walking as far as the sign for Plaistow underground. Heading through rows and rows of uninteresting houses to the station as I have a notion to head over to Upton Park and have a look at the development underway at West Ham United’s former home ground.

In my opinion, housing developments around London have become fairly standardised these days, both in style, brick work and colouring, and this one by Barratt, now renamed Upton Gardens, is no exception. I fear the marketing hype will overstate the development as it becomes yet another over priced mid rise housing development with shared amenities in an otherwise socially depressed area of London.

Picture of the Day

This was an easy one to identify as once I’d seen the outcome of the shot I knew it worked. The location, seasoned district line commuters will recognise, is the walkway between the Jubilee and District lines at West Ham.

I was trying different settings to catch the light and as commuters passed in waves, some looked my way. Those shots didn’t work, but persevering, this guy in muted commuter mode ignoring everything around him, provides a great silhouette.

The hazy background works well too as the pixelation created by the 60’s style wall tiles lets you see the immediate and distant London scene, and thereby creates a picture within a pictures.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 37mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Metro

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#34: Stratford (DLR) – 28/12/2018

This is the second of four visits to Stratford, although the first was to Stratford International so a little bit of ‘fake news’ but I’m mentioning it as I partly covered the Olympic Park and the shopping centre during my earlier visit.

The Jubilee, Overground and DLR lines all terminate at Stratford and today’s visit is in homage to the DLR station. Given that I’ve other visits to make, I’ve decided to explore the Stratford area by compass points so you won’t get the whole view of the area until I’ve completed all visits; I went to the West and South West of Stratford today. The Jubilee line visit will focus on the South, and the Overground visit on the East. I hope that makes sense?

The station and the immediate surrounds

As a commuter of nearly 30 years into London, passing through Stratford was a twice daily occurrence and changes, albeit subtle, would suddenly spring to life as I became conscious of them. However there was no greater change than the awarding, in 2005, of the London Olympics in 2012. This had a monumental impact on the station and the town, and through the regeneration of wasteland running through the Lee Valley by the creation of a new shopping complex which opened ahead of the Olympic Park.

The station grew to accommodate new and more frequent trains, a new bus station and of course the creation of Stratford City (Westfield) shopping centre. I am no shopaholic and the occasional jaunt into the centre fills me with acute antipathy as the experience of visiting offers nothing other than a genetically modified version of every other shopping centre and major high street where the multinationals have taken over. Sadly there’s no room for the independent shops any more. It seems though I’m in the minority as thousands still flock there…

Getting here today has not been straightforward. As is often the case over holiday periods, National Rail undertake engineering works when the demand for services is less, and 2018 is no different resulting in my taking three different services to travel what is normally a 22 minute journey. Today it is: train from Gidea Park to Romford; Bus replacement from Romford to Newbury Park; and Central Line from Newbury Park to Stratford. In recent years this has become an oft travelled route so I knew what to expect.

The Olympic legacy

The Olympic Park is well worth visiting as it is place to enjoy the relative peace of a country park with focal points in all corners. The cleaned up River Lee with returning wildlife, the Olympic Stadium now rented to West Ham Football Club and the recently built Bobby Moore Academy are the immediate companions to the west of the shopping centre.

I stop to look further afield and spot an old work reminder to the north silhouetted against the darkening skyline. Here East is a modern and attractive office and retail complex that once housed the Media Centre during the Olympics. For me, it was a prospective location where the organisation I worked for was being encouraged to move and it was my responsibility to set out the business case for a counter proposal. We successfully moved to Aldgate in the end, but I still smile whenever I see the Here East sign.

Wintry Skylines

The skyline as I pass through the park is striking, and only one week on after the Winter Solstice the sun is still low and the sky a deep azure blue set off against the striking and at times threatening cloud formations. I feel compelled to try my hand at aerial photography of a different kind, and I’m pleased with the outcome

Pudding Mill Lane

Skirting the Olympic Stadium, I come across the View Tube, originally built as a viewing area for visitors to wonder at the building works during the park’s construction, but now a ‘community venue with a difference’ hosting a cafe, garden, a studio and a place for bikes and boasts it is open 7 days a week. Alas not when I visited though…

Under the railway bridge (and see my ‘Best Picture’ later), I come to Pudding Mill station. This is the first stop on the DLR out of Stratford heading to Canary Wharf and it’s been a stop I’ve strangely wanted to visit for no reason other than for its name. In recent years, the station has been relocated slightly to the south of its original position as preparatory engineering works for the forthcoming Elizabeth Line tunnel had to be accommodated as it starts it’s underground journey westwards from here.

Whilst roaming the high rise platform and looking west, I muse at the efforts in the distance of many high vis dressed work people congregated on the railway lines…so this is what ‘engineering works’ really looks like?! I pose for you, dear reader, a question purely for your entertainment – can you work out how many people there are working? Why not drop a reply to this blog if you think you know…

Industrial Wasteland

The area south of Pudding Mill Lane is an industrial wasteland still, with some cleared ground serving as a car park for those driving to watch West Ham play – a stone’s throw to the stadium.

Some partly demolished buildings overlooked by high rise accommodation and a surprising parade of houses at City Mill Lock at the confluence of Bow Back, City Mill and Waterworks Rivers. The adjacent houses curiously seem out of character with their surrounds, and the weed filled canal; and the towpath heading back towards Stratford is abandoned and blocked off by fencing.

The Greenway

From City Mill Lock I cross the main A118 High Street and discover Abbey Lane Open Space and the Greenway route, a combined footpath and cycleway and I nearly fall foul of those wishing to pass at speed as they give little notice of their presence. ‘Darn cyclists…!’

In the distance towards West Ham I spot a towered building and resolve to explore but as the day is waning, I decide this will be a journey point on another day when I explore the southern reaches of Stratford.

High Street

Returning to the High Street, and now almost at journey’s end, there’s a stark reminder of what housing regeneration looks like as I pass a cacophony of high rise living accommodation interspersed with traditional buildings. Architecturally attractive on their own, but when viewed so close together it seems to me to be a bit of an eyesore.

Stratford is, however, proud of its rail history as shown off by an intricate ‘railway tree’ sculpture close to the station, as indeed the town is also keen to ensure people know where to go. For me though it’s time to return home by tube, by bus and by rail…

Picture of the Day

Just south of the Bobby Moore Academy, the road meanders under The Greenway, one of the original East London sewers still used, and from the 1990’s covered over to create a footpath to encourage walkers and wildlife. I’ve taken this picture through the wide footpath that’s adjacent to the road that goes under The Greenway

It’s a moody shot and despite the footpath’s location, it’s surprisingly clean, albeit having a dank and dismal feel. But I suspect it’s relatively well maintained as it acts as a cut through from Pudding Mill DLR station and the London Stadium, the home of West Ham United Football Club.

I’ve tried to portray the old arch brickwork, dimly lit by the neon lighting and in the foreground, a shard of light streaming through a gap between the arches and a new concrete bridge. An atmospheric shot I think and somewhat symbolic of the area represented in its immediate surroundings.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 29mm; Film Speed – ISO500; Google Photo Filter – Vista

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For more info, lookup Stratford Station on Wikipedia

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#16: Stratford International – 12/07/2018

An interesting visit to the end of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Stratford International station. It sits on the edge of the Olympic Park and it was built in time for the 2012 London Olympics and serves only the DLR. However it sits alongside the mainline Stratford International station and the mammoth Westfield shopping centre through which you can walk the short distance to Stratford’s main station serving the Central, Jubilee, Overground, DLR and National Rail services.

Having travelled through Stratford main station as a commuter for almost every day from the 6th July 2005 when London was announced as the successful bidder for the 2012 Olympics, I had an almost personal seat to view the Olympic Park’s creation and development. Everyday brought something new to the eye’s attention, and unsurprisingly, the site and the surrounds has continued to develop at an unrelenting pace since then. Predominantly office blocks and luxury apartments with unspoilt views.

The immediate surrounds of the station show signs of continued development with brave attempts to inspire new businesses, office workers and students to the area. Outside the station, the regeneration of the E20 area proudly highlights what’s on offer through sign posted flower pots attractively displayed. I almost wanted Bill, or Ben or Weed to pop up and share a ‘flobalobalob’ story with me. It’s here I met and chatted with Jamile, one of two wardens on patrol and employed to roam the E20 area offering advice, guidance and a friendly face for visitors to approach.

Just staying with the building theme for a moment, work continues across the area with a clear emphasis, quite rightly, on health and safety and hazard warnings. Some with a humorous twist aiming at capturing the building workers’ attention.

Try as I might to ignore Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, I can’t, so here’s a quick homage to its vibrancy, brightness and constant evolution as retail units change hands. On the day I visited, an area had been decked out with faux grass and deck chairs with a live tv broadcast of the tennis at Wimbledon acting as a casual distraction for those weary from shopping or those who had reluctantly accompanied others there :-). What was surprising however, but then again maybe not, and more a reflection of the times, without exception everyone seated was distracted looking at their mobile phones instead of watching the tennis.

On route from the inners of Westfield to the International Station, I pass the outside of a well known department store, whose design is somewhat iconic and renders naming it unnecessary (or does it?).

Almost at journey’s end, I head to Stratford International station and explore its surrounds. The station is run by South Eastern and is part of the only high speed commuter service in Britain. A fairly clinical station with some interesting ‘living wall’ displays outside, and inside there’s a plaque to remind travellers the site was the location of the largest train crew depot in Europe, and in the glory days of steam, the depot achieved a record of building a steam engine in 9 hours and 47 minutes; even by today’s developments that sounds pretty impressive.

Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to travel on a high speed train, I spent the grand sum of £3.90 to travel to London St Pancras station. The service runs every 15 minutes and takes a matter of minutes to get there. Today’s travels ended with a smile as the train conductor clearly loved his job and in a matter of minutes, as we approached St Pancras, I captured three of his announcements:

  1. One to a passenger who was unsure of their onward travel arrangements; he provided a personal destination planner
  2. “…to the ladies who party, and you know who you are: rose wine and raspberries sound enjoyable…”, and finally
  3. ‘Thank you for your company, you’ve made it one of my most memorable of my career’

For more info, look up Stratford International on Wikipedia

Picture of the Day

Meet Bruno, a two year old guard dog; part of Westfield’s security patrol. His handler explained he’s a cross between a malinmor and a dutch hunter; I’m afraid I can’t find any reference to the breed malinmor so I may have misheard the handler’s description; but if any reader out there’s knows this breed then please drop me a line and I’ll update this blog.

Both handler and dog were very friendly but I have no doubt Bruno would quickly jump into action on his handler’s instruction. I decided not to test this out.

I couldn’t quite get him to look straight into the lens as he averted his eyes; trained I guess to keep watching out, but this shot gives a very good impression of his poise, discipline and strength.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 33mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Alpaca

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#07: Lewisham – 17/05/2018

A trip under the river to south London at the end of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR); well one of the ends anyway. Not been there before so not sure what to expect, but en route, I felt I was being stalked by Transport for London (TfL) ticket inspectors as I was asked to show my ticket on each of three different trains. Reassuring I suppose that checks are carried out, but it will be interesting over the lifetime of this blog to see how many times I get asked to produce my ticket; my experience as a commuter was very rarely. I was also impressed by the knowledge of the DLR guard on the last leg of my journey as he gave a touristic and historical commentary of things to see and do at every station we stopped by; most famously the Cutty Sark being the first stop on the south side of the river.

Anyway, I arrived at Lewisham DLR, which is adjacent to main line services and took a moment to get my bearings. The ‘town’ is about half a kilometer from the terminus, which you get to by walking around a building site, a large regeneration development. Lewisham is defined in some way by its position between two rivers: the Quaggy to the east, and the Ravensbourne to the west, which is spawned from Deptford Creek on the Thames, down to Sydenham and beyond. Cyclists and walkers can follow the Waterlink Way, an attractive eight mile route along the river side.

The town is dominated by some modern high rise tower blocks, art deco conversions and scaffolding, but a short walk off the main road reveals streets and streets of typical London bricked terraced properties. Stopping to enjoy some intricate brickwork, a local decorator who’s working on the house proudly explains it’s a former dairy where now there’s a garage was once the cowshed where the milking took place.

Walking around Lewisham, residents were clearly focussed and drawn to the market which forms the town’s hub just outside a modernised 60’s shopping centre. Predominantly fruit and veg based but with some colourful alternatives. The fishmonger was happy for me to take pictures but less so in engaging in any conversation.  A shout out though to the Ribena crew who were happy to strike a pose (other fruit flavoured drinks are of course available).

The town provides leisure facilities in the guise of a modern looking Glass Mill Leisure Centre, and caters for religious diversity as it is the home for The London Sivan Kovil Temple, a Tamil temple, as well as St Saviour, St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist Catholic Church and associated Primary School.

Social commentary comes in many guises and amusingly I overheard several conversations, but two comments caught my attention, so much so I had to write them down…

‘…I don’t mind what you call me as long as you don’t call me late for my dinner…’ and

‘…When was the last time you stood naked in front of a fella?…’

I walked on with a smile

Graffiti is never far from anywhere in London, and Lewisham is no different, although in some hidden quarters, they were quite amusing and entertaining. View the Instagram feed for the full size otter and bee


For more info, look up Lewisham on Wikipedia

Picture of the Day

This is a short pedestrian bridge over the Ravensbourne River at Waterway Avenue headed towards the main ring road at Molesworth Avenue. The bright sun casts a dark shadow through the geometric designs of the railings onto the footpath, and creates an interesting mirror image.

Although the original picture is taken in colour, the Vista filter transforms the image into a strong Black and White landscape.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Vista

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