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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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#43: Stanmore – 28/02/2019

This is a rare day: my first wet travelling day since starting this blog. Not bad as it’s been almost a year since my first trip. Thankfully, although the showers came in heavy bursts at times in almost flash flood style, they did wear off by early afternoon.

Stanmore is at the north westerly end of the Jubilee Line, 25 stops from its other terminus at Stratford, and the station is fairly typical of those built in the first half of the 20th Century. The sidings though were unsurprisingly abandoned as all the rolling stock are out so I capture some interesting, and attractive posters from the platform and station buildings instead.

There’s a new retirement complex being developed adjacent to the station, promoting itself as ‘…an elegant concept in later living’, and like a lot of new developments I find these days, the building constructors are keen to engage with the local community. And this was no different with local school children’s artwork on display promoting their interpretation of what constituted good health and safety. No doubt inspired after a visit to the site, but nevertheless the message was a good one and this poster particularly caught my eye.

Shopping Parade

Exiting the station I head west through the bus terminus towards the shopping parade built around the main cross roads. As I do, I pass a rather unassuming block of flats with a ‘Harrow Heritage Trust’ plaque declaring the building is on the site of the former home (Heywood) of Clement Atlee, the post WW2 Prime Minister. Spring is declared aplenty in the high street with flower boxes adorning railings .

Further along, there’s an interesting sculpture in between Bernays Hall and Sainsbury’s, but there’s no plaque to explain what it is. If anyone knows, please drop me a line?

My next stop is to admire the cakes on display in Yosi’s Boulangerie and I see what looks like an array of custard slices. Now those who know me from Aberystwyth heritage will know there’s one cafe famous for its custard slices against which all other custard slices are compared. I regret not going in to try one.

At the end of the parade of shops is Bernays Gardens, a delicate walled garden that hasn’t quite woken up from winter, and in the far corner visible through the confines of the garden is Cowman’s cottage. The cottage has a chequered past and I think the building looks more attractive than its history reveals.

As another shower begins to descend, I decide to return to Yosi’s Boulangerie to try their custard slice. Alas, it was a Lemon Cheesecake, but I had to try it – a bit too rich and heavy for me though.

Wood Lane

The rain is relentless so it’s time to get wet and I head north up Stanmore HIll turning into Wood Lane. As I do, I admire Stanmore Hall from afar as public access is prevented because it has high gated security barriers, but the building’s splendour can still be seen through the gates. Various internet searches record the site to have been used in several TV programmes and films.

Just across the road are Spring Ponds, also known as Stanmore Little Common, which is a small green space containing the Upper and Lower Spring Ponds, reportedly man made, dating from at least Roman times and possibly earlier. Indeed Upper Spring Pond is also known as Caesar’s Pond, based on a tradition that there was a Roman garrison quartered near there. Boudicca (Boadicea) almost certainly camped by and drank from these ponds. It is these stony ponds or “Stane Meres” that gave Stanmore its name. This photo almost made it as my ‘photo of the day’ and maybe if I could have recreated a downpour from the pump handle emptying into the pond, it would have been quite humorous.

Walking past an Islamic Centre and Shree Swaminarayan Temple, I decide not to enter their walled confines, unlike me I know, and continue as far as the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Aspire Leisure Centre before crossing over to Stanmore Country Park. A high spot overlooking London, but the damp conditions make further exploration unattractive. The common, I’m sure, is a veritable feast of wildlife delights either across the common ground or through the dense woodlands, but today nothing was moving other than some woodland management by way of tree felling.

Canons Park

The next stage of today is more a trip down (a work related) memory lane, and finding how things have changed. You see when I worked for the DHSS/DSS (Department [for Health and] Social Security), I had occasion to visit their training centre in Canons Park and Regional Estates Centre in Wembley Park so I thought I’d revisit the areas. I knew things had changed and I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s a short walk from Stanmore to Canons Park through King George V Memorial Gardens,  which are a little reminiscent of my impression of Stanmore; loved but unkempt.

Arriving at Canons Park station I cross the road into an attractive modern housing complex and Business Centre where once stood the DHSS/DSS Training Centre. The centre was what I once described as a ‘flat pack former hospital’. I think across the country, field hospitals were erected quickly to deal with the injured from the World Wars, and post war they were converted into government establishments. Functional but cold. The address was Honeypot Lane, where now stands an elegant sculpture by Andy Hazell entitled ‘Seed’ – inspired by the idea of settlements and putting down roots.

Wembley Park

I decide to hot foot it to Olympic Way by tube (a bit far to walk), which is directly by Wembley Park Station where the DHSS/DSS Regional Estates Offices once stood. The building still stands but the area is now so different since the re-erection of Wembley Stadium in its current guise and pedestrianisation of the immediate surrounds. This was a brief stop over and I think it warrants a return trip to explore in more depth. But for now, the underpass with its changing lights, and walkway to the stadium provide for some interesting photo opportunities where I also capture today’s ‘picture of the day’.

Picture of the Day

This shot reflects the geometric pattern of the windows on the side of the Novotel Hotel along the Olympic Way from Wembley Park underground station heading towards Wembley Stadium. The sun was just showing itself before dusk after a gloomy day of rain and overcast sky. So the opportunity of getting the sun to highlight the colour was too good to pass by. This is one of a sequence of shots, but for me this stands out as you have to look closely to realise they are windows. The pattern and colour combination, I believe, are quite striking.

Although not a picture taken in Stanmore, I remind myself that my ‘end of the line’ destination is actually the start of my journey. And my Picture of the Day reflects my journey of the day: from all the pictures taken today, this one for me stands out by a country mile.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO160; Google Photo Filter – Palma

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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