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overground

#81: Barking Riverside – 10/03/2020

Regenerating a landscape on an industrial scale…This is my final of three bonus ‘end of the line’ stations that have yet to be built or commissioned, and brings to a close my first series of travel blogs around London….phew!

The Station

In 2014 the Chancellor announced, in his budget, that the Overground line would be extended to Barking Riverside. This was in preference to previous plans to extend the Docklands Light Railway; and works began in 2017 to construct this station which is currently scheduled for completion in December 2021.

But first, my thanks to another travel blog by Ian Visits, who wrote recently about the station’s progress, challenges, and included current pictures of the building site. So I don’t need to repeat things here, so please visit this site for the details.

The only picture I’ll add to the mix is this one, which is literally the end of the line! I know…it’s a concrete wall…but it is the end of the construction site that forms the raised station of what will be the Overground stop….that is if/or until the line is further extended across the Thames to Thamsemead as is currently planned – although there is no date set for when this will happen.

Barking Riverside London (BRL)

This scheme will bring together nearly 11,000 homes to a former marsh land and brownfield site once occupied by the Barking power stations. The land was sold off to developers in the late 20th Century and the site is currently being developed by the L&Q Group.

As with all developments, L&Q are building in phases and the first to be open for occupation is an area named Parklands (see Picture of the Day below). But the infrastructure for other parts are well evidenced even though not yet accessible.

But buyer beware, remember that the developer’s marketing material is full of impressive images of how the place will look; but go take a look yourselves, it’s still very much a building site and will be for years to come. Nevertheless the long term vision is impressive.

The development includes an exciting waste disposal system where waste will be deposited through surface mounted waste collection centres. These will chanel the waste underground via an automated Envac system: ingenious in its design.

Whilst roaming around by some of the properties being fitted out, I chatted with a couple of carpet fitters who were in the midst of carpeting an entire block that day. One explained the history of the area and remarked about how, during the Second World War, the area was heavily bombed, and jokingly remarked how he hoped that all the unexploded bombs had been identified and removed. I have no doubt that this has been done.

Walking past the BRL project office, which sits beside the Thames with a commanding view of the river, I come to Footpath 47. This is a short riverside footpath that runs along the river bank and connects with Choats Road along The Gores. In case you’re planning to walk the path, there are, thankfully, helpful warning signs on what to do in the event you spot anyone in distress in the river or in the mud.

The river, as ever, is busy with passing ships, but what attracts my attention is the derelict pier and mooring point which I suspect are a legacy of the days when coal was once delivered to the nearby power stations. 

There’s also one unexplained waterside marking which I’m struggling to identify. My early thought is that it’s a navigation aid, but not one I can readily identify. I wonder if it’s a high tide water mark, and if so it doesn’t bode well for the new development?

As part of the BRL’s project office site, there’s a ‘nod’ to wildlife conservation with the creation of a small water feature and bug house. Sadly, not well maintained and now looking a little tired and lost, with no sign of any water borne or land based insects in residence. 

River Road

This is a loop road, joining with Renwick Road, from the A13 and comprises mostly of heavy and light industrial business where the road is potted with parked lorries and an unforgiving footpath. The road now also feeds the area into what is becoming Barking Riverside, where in contrast the road is more manicured and serviced.

The road reflects its home for electricity production/distribution sites, container storage centres and car dismantlers & spares outlets, and one of its notable occupants is the Dagenham Sunday Market. The market occupies an expanse of unused waste industrial land, and attracts visitors from far and wide, and despite being closed, its colourful Helter Skelter and other fun fair rides can be seen quite clearly from a distance.

My days visit can’t go unfinished without a reference to the industrial heritage of the area: that of the power stations, or more precisely the generation and distribution of electricity as the original electricity producing power stations closed many decades ago.

However the National Grid has a significant presence in the area with several high security fenced buildings nearby, and of course the ever present pylons carrying the power to/from their distribution centres.

…and finally…

… whilst strolling around the pond near the Rivergate Centre, I had a chance conversation with Jill, from the Swan Sanctuary. She had come to check on the pond’s water quality after a concern had been raised a few years previously that the conditions were unhealthy and not conducive to attracting wild fowl. The pond has since had a fountain installed which now helps with water aeration and reducing stagnation, but alas there were no swans to be seen today.

However a pair of Canada geese, ducks and coots were happy to take advantage of the feed being thrown at them and Jill explained their behaviour: that the males were letting the females eat first in preparation for their nesting and brooding days as mating season approaches.

Picture of the Day

For this my final Picture of the Day from this first series of travels, choosing a picture to remember the day had been a struggle. Mainly because the sky was dull and grey which tended to flatten the pictures I’m taking, and because the landscape I’ve walked through has been predominantly industrial. 

But nevertheless, today’s picture merges the old and new industries. The setting is that of the fast developing Barking Riverside housing development:  once a marshland and a brownfield site occupied by the Barking Power Station.

This is a view of the ‘almost complete’ Parklands development at the eastern end of Fielders Crescent (a new road) which I’m looking at in a westerly direction. The symmetry of the design and the harshness of the brickwork, which has now almost become the standard brick used across London for such developments (well that’s my opinion), lends itself to being taken in Black and White.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 170mm; Film Speed – ISO1000; Google Photo Filter – Vista

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overground

#73: Romford – 18/12/2019

BUT FIRST – by the time you read this, Christmas will be over and it will be 2020 – so here’s wishing you all a very Happy New Year and who knows what delights it will bring….? Meanwhile, back to the plot…

Welcome to Romford! Some commentators say Romford is the capital of the East End; well I’ll let you and others debate and decide on that.

Romford is at one end of the Overground shuttle service running to/from Upminster, and this visit completes the set of 20 endpoint destinations on the Overground.

I’ve also left Romford towards the end of my journeys as this is where I have lived for almost 30 years, so I wanted to make sure I took an objective view of the area, and I hope I’ve achieved this by exploring the town over several days. In fact, on 02/07/2019; 04/12/2019; 12/12/2019 and 18/12/2019, and I make no apology that this blog is somewhat longer than normal as I want to do justice to the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met.

The Station

Almost my second home for the last 30 years as I pass through and often stop en route to/from Gidea Park, so I feel as if I have some affinity with this station. But to be honest, I’ve never really stopped to look around…until now. The station has 5 platforms. No 1 serving the Overground shuttle to/from Upminster, and the focus of my journey today. No’s 4-5 serving the Tfl line to/from Shenfield and Nos 2-3 for the fast service from East Anglia into London Liverpool Street.

This rainbow roundel was interestingly only displayed on Platform 1 during the summer pride celebrations which Tfl was supporting, but nevertheless I’m happy I had the opportunity to catch it when I did as it didn’t stay for long. And it’s when I took this shot I noticed the nameplate on the bridge leading to Platform 1 for Westwood Baillie & Co. A little research yields some interesting facts about this ironworks engineers who built bridges as far and wide as India and South Africa, and like the one in Romford, still stand today.

I’m always delighted by the wintry dusk skylines in Romford as when the sun sets on clear evenings looking westerly, the transition through red, orange and ultimately dark blue and black, when set against an industrial landscape, is always interesting. This is one of those evenings.

And heading down under the station, there are partly covered arches on the northern side of the station running into Exchange Street. In recent years, the footpath has been laid in multi-coloured bricks and the arches fenced in to make this once seedy cut through slightly more palatable. See my picture of the day below for another take on this scene.

A Shopping Mecca

On one of my outings I decide to explore the rooftops to see if there is a different view of the Town I’d not seen before. You see Romford is a shopping mecca defined by its market, and four shopping centres: The Brewery, The Liberty, The Mercury and the Shopping Hall.

Visitors are incentivised to visit by road as the centre is somewhat characterised by its ring road and 5 multi-story car parks.

From my observations, today’s Romford has been shaped by three architectural periods. The mid 30’s with its art deco style fashion. This is a time when the town grew significantly and became a commuter town; the 60’s with its overuse of concrete; and thankfully the more stylised 21st Century modernist look. One commentator describes quite eloquently Romford’s style as being ‘…at times a little scruffy and smelly…’, but my view is that these moments add character and depth to the hidden parts of the town. What do you think?

But on balance, the town has much to offer, and here I’ll share some examples of how I see Romford through these three eras…

1930’s Art Deco – I hadn’t realised, until I started reviewing my photos, how similar some of the buildings around the town are. Here’s two examples: the Town Hall and the entrance to the Quadrant Centre. Both built in the mid 1930’s.

The Concrete 1960’s – or is it a space invasion with a hidden flying saucer unseen by everyone. Ha! This is the rooftop of the car park exit ramp from The Brewery, but on a dank wintry afternoon, it has an eerie quality. However the use of concrete epitomises its functionality when it was fashionable to do so in the 60’s, and it’s evident in all of the surrounding car parks.

Modernist 21st Century – one of the newest buildings in town is the Sapphire and Ice Leisure Centre built in partnership with the council. A magnificent recreational centre encompassing a swimming pool, a multi-gym and an ice rink. And as a patron, I find that it represents exceptional value for money.

As with most town centres, there is a constant churn of how space is used, with some new developments being created and others left to fester for too long and they themselves become enshrined into the fabric of the town. By way of example, there’s a very new patisserie just opened in Exchange Street – Dolce Desserts. Perched on the cutting between South Street and Exchange Street, I’m welcomed in on their second day of opening to review their deco and range of food offerings. A very simple yet attractive setting in which to relax for a short respite.

In contrast, the cutting from the Liberty Shopping Centre alongside Debenhams to the Market has been left undeveloped for many a year. And the hoarding now installed has become a permanent advert for the shopping centre itself.

And despite the dank and dreary conditions of the day, there’s always an unexpeted and surprising moment to encounter when I least expect it. Where else would you find a leapord and three coloured sheep sharing the same table?

Buskers

On most days you’ll encounter buskers in South Street or thereabouts. And today is no different, but what is different is their willingness or unwillingness to have their picture taken or engage in a conversation. As is the case with the first gentleman I encounter strumming his guitar alongside Santander just off South Street. He is most adamant that I do not take his picture – I wonder why?

And similarly close by down the side of Barclays, a couple of Eastern European gents are sharing their musical talents on an accordion and clarinet. At first they are quite happy for me to take their pictures but suddenly I’m instructed with ‘No Image! No Image!’ I gesticulate that I’ll only take pictures of their instruments, but by which time I have already taken several shots. Ooops!

Into South Street, and I meet my most interesting characters of the day; two in fact. First is Joseph who is sitting outside M&S happily singing and strumming his guitar. He’s been here a while as I could hear him earlier in the day, so I stop to chat, which he’s very happy to do. A friendly and amiable artist who enjoys the busking life, and says he’s had many an invitation to support others through being listened to in the streets. Passers by complain jovially that he’s not singing, but they are still happy to throw coins into his upturned hat, for which he thanks them. I try not to keep him talking for too long, and as I leave him, I listen to his melancholic and soulful sound. Nice to meet you Joseph.

Less than 75 meters along South Street, I stop and admire the wordsmithery of @itsTrueMendous. I  listen and gesticulate if it’s OK to take pictures and with a nod of agreement, I click away. She has a very acute ear and a sharp mind as her rap takes in things in her immediate surrounds; including my distraction. She stops for a short while and as we chat, I explain my ‘journey’ to Chyvonne who’s keen to understand where the best spots for busking are in the East End. I offer some suggestions and as she continues to rap, she does so to the camera. Thank you Chyvonne, and it was a blast to meet you. Go listen to her on Twitter or Instagram.

Romford Market

Do you know what the distance of a day’s sheep drive is? To find out, read on…

The market originated in 1247 under a Royal Charter granted by King Henry III stipulating no other market is permitted to set up within a day’s sheep drive of Romford – defined as six and two-thirds miles. There you have it.

I have a fond recollection of markets; as a child in Aberystwyth, I’d listen to the traders shouting out their latest offerings, and on some occasions trying out their free samples (often sweets or rock) when the fair and market came to town every November. And so I have a particular memory of my first Christmas market in Romford in 1990, as I could hear an incomprehensible chant booming loudly over everyone and everything else. It sounded like…’pan yur sana at’. Now clearly I hadn’t quite grasped the Estuary English often heard in Romford, but as I got closer to the trader and realised what was on offer, I quickly translated his chant into ‘one pound for your santa hat’. I bought two…

Alas inflation kicked in a few years later as the chant had changed to ‘two pan yur sana at’.

Prior to visiting the market, I’d been in touch with the Market Manager, out of courtesy, to explain my intention to photograph the market and outline that I’d be approaching individual traders for their consent. And indeed I met some interesting characters.

First is Ola Leggings, who owned a number of leggings stalls in the vicinity. He catches my attention as he’s singing along to Christmas music being played across the market, but became somewhat bashful as I approach and encourage him to continue.

Secondly are the two gents of the Wickendens Meat wagon. Both are happy to be photographed, and as I start on their portraiture, they begin to move all the hung meet from the back of the wagon to the front. They sure know how to maximise this photo opportunity; and they are equally happy to share a joke too.

The market is an eclectic and diverse mix of traders, but from my experience, the essence has also changed over the past 30 years. The strains of austerity, internet shopping and out of town stores have resulted in fewer traders around at a time when I would have expected the market to be at its peak. Nevertheless, I’m always amazed at the efficiency of the clearing up progress once the traders have finished for the day.

The week leading up to Christmas sees, amongst other festive events, a free mini funfair consisting of a ferris wheel, spinning teapots, haunted house, swing chairs and smaller rides for the younger folk. So not wanting to miss an opportunity, here are a couple of shots showing how colour and movement can be captured. I was a little surprised though that the funfair closed by 4.30 pm when I would have thought more folk would have been looking to enjoy the funfair. But I guess its timing is kept in concert with the market trading times. Anyway, all those there were really enjoying this free time.

And if you wander around the nooks and crannies of the market area, you’ll discover seedy side streets and cuttings which aren’t for the casual passer-by. But take a look down the alleyways and there are some discoveries to be made.

The Brewery

Now a fashionable retail area with ample parking, this area was once the largest employer in Romford; in its heydey employing over 1,000 workers. Life began here as The Star Brewery in 1708, by 1845 as Ind Coope, and into the 20th Century as Allied Breweries, where the John Bull brand of beer was produced. 

The brewery closed in 1993 and once demolished, the site was redeveloped in 2001 into the retail park we see today. Walking around you’ll see remnants of it’s brewing heritage, and you can’t fail to miss the iconic 160 foot chimney which dominates the skyline; this is one of the original chimneys from the brewing days.

As part of the development, metal artwork camouflaged as large insect like creatures help create a canopy for the shops and car park, but I’m unable to find any reference to their origin. If you know anything about them, do please drop me a line. And if you’ve not seen them, the Brewery Centre have teamed up with Things Made Public and installed 10 animal murals throughout the centre which you’re invited to go looking for them. I’ve not reproduced the murals as part of the fun in seeing them is the hunt. Have a go and see if you can find all of them – start here.

Picture of the Day

This view is taken through the partly covered arches on the northern side of Romford station running alongside and eventually into Exchange Street. The multi-coloured path is almost an attractive feature if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a somewhat seedy cut-through to the west of Romford. But nevertheless, it provides for an attractive photo-opportunity.This is taken facing west.

I waited for the right pedestrian to reach the end of the tunnel so that their silhouette helped to fill the tunnel opening. The late afternoon daylight coming in overhead helps to highlight the floor pattern, and the arch brickwork is enhanced using a green (Alpaca) filter.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ3.5; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO6400; Google filter – Alpaca

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district overground

#72:Upminster – 05/12/2019

Today’s visit completes the series of seven ‘ends of the line’ on the District line, and sees me returning to one of the most easterly stations on the network. I was here not that long ago via the Overground, so I need to ensure I don’t cover old ground. Consequently this is a relatively short blog.

The Station

Although it’s the end of the District line, there’s very little to demonstrate this as there is no signage that you’d normally see at other District Line stations. The signage is predominantly c2c, with Overground roundels on its own dedicated platform number 6. The cross platform footbridge spans all platforms and leads to a security gated entrance to the signal box; and platform seating, whilst recently installed, is sparse.

Platform 1 also provides a hearing induction loop for those passengers with a ‘T’ switch on their hearing aids, but what about similarly affected passengers on the other platforms? It’s all very well saying the service is available at the station, but it should say that it’s only a restricted service…

Hall Lane

Turning right out of the main station entrance, I head north up Hall Lane. My targeted destination is the Pitch & Putt course about half a kilometer away. I’ve driven past this many a time during my residency in Romford but had never been there. And I still didn’t see it as it is all covered up and locked away for the winter. Ah well… The Pitch and Putt course is within chipping distance of Upminster Golf Club with its course straddling the main road; its main entrance clearly defined as distinctly different to the adjacent Rugby Club.

The rugby club is all closed up, but en route, I explore the outside of the much advertised Upminster Tithe Barn. The Barn dates from 1450 and was part of an estate that supported the Abbey of Waltham. The Abbott’s hunting lodge next door was later converted into a private house and is now home to Upminster Golf Club.

The barn only opens periodically during the spring and summer months which now houses a broad display of domestic items from the last century as well as agricultural machinery.

Upminster Court

I continue north and head to Upminster Court; again another point of interest I’ve driven past many times and I naively thought this may have been a Judge’s House used for hearing Crown Court cases. Ha! How wrong am I?! It transpires that it was once a mansion house built at the turn of the 20th Century for the engineer and industrialist Arthur Williams.

Inscriptions either side of the main gate explain that Arthur designed and developed, and later patented steel-reinforced concrete piling. It was these that were used to construct part of the Dagenham jetties that helped grow the Dagenham industrial area and that once housed the Ford factory. The house is now a multi-occupied residential and business centre. My picture of the day shows the main entrance seen through the ironworks, but here’s an uninterrupted view of the mansion house.

Shopping area

Upminster has an eclectic and diverse shopping area made up of a couple of streets which form the shape of a cross. South from the station is the imaginatively named ‘Station Road’ which becomes ‘Corbets Tey Road’ at its intersection with ‘St Mary’s Lane’. Largely independent shops, with one local department store dominating the Station Road area with a large clothing and homeware store at the northern end, and a fashionable furniture store nearer the St Mary’s Lane end – welcome to Roomes.

I walk up and down past all the shops looking for an interesting window to admire, but I only find one that’s of particular interest that makes me stop and return to it. It is Sweet Rose Cakery in St Mary’s Lane. Inside this tea room I’m greeted very warmly and as I explain why I’d like to take pictures of their window, I espy several ladies who are busy socialising over a cuppa and a scone. The shop window catches my eye for its simplicity in explaining what’s on offer in the cafe, but it’s done in a very graphical way that clearly spells out the menu. Well done Sweet Rose on the stylised display…

Wintry views

A wintry day that’s not too cold as I walk about admiring the mackerel skyline and the gold and brown of the leaf fall and late changing trees, but still a little chilly when I stop for too long. So I decide it’s time to head home for the comforts of slippers and a hot toddy…

Picture of the Day

This is taken at Upminster Court along Hall Lane headed north out of Upminster showing off its grandeur, and highlighting its seclusion behind these locked gates.

This should have been a simple shot to capture if it wasn’t for the fact that to get the full frame of the gates in view and keep both mansion and gates in focus required that I stood at the very edge of the pavement set against a busy Hall Lane. So I keep one eye on the traffic and the other on framing this picture.

I take several shots with attempts to capture the right colour and vividness using flash for some fill in, and some shots using the camera’s in-built grainy  black & white filter. However, this one has been taken in full colour with flash, and in post production I’ve adjusted the final image with a harsh black & white filter to create the starkness that makes this picture work well.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter – Vista

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overground

#64: Dalston Junction – 13/08/2019

In my Battersea Park blog, I mentioned the existence of parliamentary trains, better known as ghost trains, and Dalston Junction is the other end of such a service shuttling between these two stations. So somewhat surprised to be visiting here, but it resulted in an interesting day.

And, carrying on with my theme of understanding my camera, I played with more creative filters today. In addition to the grainy black & white effect, I also explored the effects of the ‘high dynamic range settings’ which offered four options – the two I seemed to settle on are the ones creating an ‘art bold’ and an ‘art vivid’ effect whereby the colours are saturated making the pictures look like an oil painting or creating a graphic art effect respectively. I’ll let you be the judge, but here’s my story…

The Station

This is a relatively new station, having only opened in 2010 and it is the natural end of the service to/from New Cross; so another reason to be here. A busy station servicing several Overground lines through to Highbury & Islington to the north west and New Cross, Crystal Palace, Clapham Junction and West Croydon to the south.

It’s made up of four platforms; the two central platforms for the New Cross service and the outer platforms for the through services. The station is proud of its Orange roundels and colour scheme which are so blatant and in a nerdy way, quite eye catching.

Dalston

I’ve only once been to Dalston before; it was many years ago and work related; it wasn’t a pleasant visit in what was regarded as a depressed and drug riddled area; so my expectations were somewhat biased. And I am nicely surprised when I find I’m walking through a regenerated, yet characterful area.

Immediately out of the station I see a large wall mural which on close inspection is the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural designed by Ray Walker and painted by Mike Jones and Anna Walker after the artist’s death.

The mural is adjacent to a low key entrance to the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, but once I walk through the tunnelled entrance, I find an amazing space designed for fun, peace, tranquillity and learning. The space is being enjoyed by couples, children and those working in solitude in this relaxing space. DO take a walk in if you’re in the neighbourhood as it’s a beautiful and calming space.

On exiting, I follow a stream of pedestrians who are walking purposefully, but I know not where…until I find I’m in Dalston Kingsland, which in all honesty is just around the corner. Although on this route it was round a few corners but the short-cut leads to a thriving area and the home of Ridley Road market. A market that runs the length from its junction with the main A10 Kingsland High Street and St Mark’s Rise, some 300m long.

The market is full of shoppers jostling their way through the myriad of fruit & veg, fish, clothes, materials and bric-a-brac stalls, with everyone looking for the elusive bargain. On either side of the stalls is an array of small shops offering up more variety to those goods on display in the market stalls. I join the shoppers in weaving in and out of the stalls and through the adjacent Kingsland Shopping Centre which offers more of the same, but in slightly better surroundings.

Down the A10

This is the main drag into London, and consequently it’s pretty busy. A wide, arterial road full of delightful surprises as it passes through De Beauvoir, Haggerston, Hoxton and Shoreditch. The Overground line runs in parallel just behind the eastern edge of the road.

My first stop is a nod to a local family run business at the corner of Englefield Road with what looks like a traditional – and by that I mean olde worlde – original ironmongery where you can get things cut to size. An attractive store that monopolises the corner on both sides – this is the delight of KTS The Corner.

My next is at an interesting dilapidated factory in Hertford Road. As I turn into the road and see it’s current run down state, I have a wicked thought, and one that might resonate with a populist view about our recently appointed Prime Minister – Boris Johnson. And that’s why I spend a little time trying to get the right quality of image to encapsulate this. The Boris Limited factory, once a proud manufacturer of bags and luggage, now stands dishevelled and broken. I think this image does just that.

Returning on to the A10, I pass some modern apartments with an aquatic theme; namely ‘Quebec Wharf’ and ‘Kingsland Wharves’, and I realise these have been built backing onto Kingsland Basin which feeds off the Regent’s Canal I’m about to cross. Although the bridge is a little unassuming, buildings in its immediate vicinity make a bold colourful statement as they are adorned with some amazing street art. The ones that catch my eye include:

Charlie Hudson, a recent mural judging by the date (‘19) on the corner of Orsman Road, and at the time of writing I’m trying to confirm the mural’s authenticity.

Otto Schade, a mural by the Chilean artist, on the corner with Phillipp Street, and I now realise I first saw Otto’s work in Croydon during the street art festival in 2018 – see here.

Heading south into Hoxton, I come to the Geffrye museum of the home. Although closed until 2020 as it undergoes redevelopment, its walled garden offers surprising peace and tranquillity from the main road, and the space is currently being used for theatre productions. A delightful little spot.

Finally, under the railway bridge as I approach Shoreditch, I take a side step into Cottons Garden’s, an alley once filled with warehouses but now converted into fashionable offices and apartments. As I admire the architecture, the sun shines through one of the buildings and I capture this image of the intricate glassware, frame and reflection along with the sun through the building and the ghostly vision of this photographer.

Shoreditch and Old Street

My recent years of working in Aldgate has led me on quite a few forays into the Shoreditch area, and the one thing that amuses me is my ability to lose my bearings quite easily as side streets twist and turn. And despite efforts to ‘follow the sun’, today is no exception – but you know what? That’s half the fun of walking the streets like this.

One of my stopping points is at a building site along the length of Blackall Street at its corner with Ravey Street. I mention the location as it’s the site of my ‘picture of the day’, so read more below. But as I explore the alley between the rear of small offices and hoardings around a building site, I capture this image of today’s continuing health hazards.

A short hop around the corner, I walk past Westland at St Michael’s Church and I spot their sign which says ‘visitors welcome’ so in I pop. They are a reseller of fine architectural antiques on a grand scale, and the old church is full of articles that wouldn’t look out of place in a grand gothic castle or mansion. If you’re looking for the unusual and have the space (and the cash), then this is the place to look for that unique piece.

I end the day admiring a contrast in building architecture. These two stand out and help to demonstrate the beauty in each type. The first overlooking a car park in Clare Street, with it’s brickwork and variety of casement windows looking gritty in the black and white shot…

…and this second, of the Children’s Eye Centre, part of the well known Moorfields Eye Hospital, in Peerless Street representing a modernist twist.

Picture of the Day

Although today’s journey started at Dalston Junction, this picture is taken at the corner of Blackall Street and Ravey Street in Shoreditch. There’s a new building here where passers-by are admiring its fancy facia and a below ground coffee house and seating area. However, I’m more interested in the view along the side of Blackall Street, now almost an alley due to hoarding surrounding another new build, blocking most of the street. There’s just enough room to squeeze through, and because of its limited accessibility, I suspect that’s created an opportunity for graffiti artists to practice their art. I played with the HDR settings on this shot to create an oversaturated effect with the colour scape.

The artwork, its vividness and alley effect peering in on workmen in high-vis jackets at the far end of the street creates a colourful, gritty urban memory. One I think that reflects the day I’ve had today. 

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO1250; Google filter effect – Alpaca; Camera effect – HDR art vivid

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hammersmith & city overground

#62: Barking – 30/07/2019

One of the unexpected delights of this travelog is the richness of the people I meet who have their own story to tell and help make the places I visit so rewarding. And my return to Barking has certainly had more than its fair share of that; more later but first why am I returning here?

Well Barking is the terminal destination for twoTfl lines. My first visit over nine months ago was courtesy of the Overground, and today it’s for the end of the Hammersmith & City line. Weather warning though; the forecast was miserable and although I was able to dodge the hardest rain, I decided not to let the persistent drizzle get in my way.

The Station

With eight platforms serving The Overground, District, Hammersmith & City and the c2c, this is a busy station, but desperately in need of modernisation. Classically styled predominantly in concrete, it has a very tired functional feel to it; but thankfully there are plans to regenerate the area although at the time of writing it’s unclear when this will be done. The main street level concourse is cavernous with a high vaulted concrete roof which I suspect on warmer days makes the area unbearably hot, and there are attempts to revamp the platform furniture with Tfl styled seating.

I find I’m being heckled by Sakhib, a train driver who’s walking to the front of a District line train he’s about to take out of the station. Once I’ve explained my purpose, and that I’m not a train spotter, he is keen to share a recent event at the station where he was invited onto the footplate of a steam train as it travelled through the station. We can’t chat for long as his signal is changing to green.

On another platform, I meet Geoff, a train spotter from Inverness who has spent the morning in Bethnal Green and now he is eager to spot the new Overground trains to complete his collection of the group of trains serving that line. A well travelled, and seasoned trainspotter, he is happy to share some of his European travel stories with me and I’m amazed by his depth of detailed knowledge, but guess given this is his passion, I shouldn’t be surprised really.

As I explore the platforms, I’m tickled by the thought that one of the signs I see may have been a legacy of a visit by David Hasslehoff. Now I know this is highly unlikely but it helps to lift my mood on this wet day.

Barking Enterprise Centre (BEC)

Heading out of the station, I’m drawn to a pop-up photographic exhibition where I meet Alison, the volunteer of the day looking after the exhibition. In its first exhibition, the BEC is showcasing a local photographer whose work is on display, and I admire the starkness of the black and white street photography taken by Jimmy Lee who’s recently published a book of a collection of his work along with individual prints for sale.

I explain my photographic background and approach with Alison who in turn comments on the similarity this has with Jimmy’s approach and she encourages me to connect with him (which I do later). Alison is a warm and friendly individual and I find it easy to strike up a conversation, and as we chat, I take a series of portrait shots catching her in an ‘off guard’ moment. I try to choose which is the best shot, but I think this collage best shows off Alison’s personality. Thank you Alison for your warmth and friendliness and for introducing me to Jimmy Lee. I look forward to having that drink with you one day…

Barking Park

Any London park is worth a visit, and Barking’s is no different which is only a short walk from the station. Unsurprisingly, the rain soaked day has kept people away so I feel a little isolated as I walk through the skateboard park heading to the lake. And as I approach it, I’m greeted by a large flock of Canada Geese feeding on the grass verge and I try to line up a shot of the parked up pedalos in the distance.

Sheltering under the tree lined avenue, I see four people pushing a shopping trolley walking along the lake side as I’m changing my camera lens, and as they get nearer, I realise they’re not wayward travellers but in fact a party of Park Rangers and volunteers. Carol, the team lead introduces herself and explains that every Tuesday she and a team of volunteers trawl the lake for discarded litter, plastic and/or anything else that’s been thrown into the lake. Their day is drawing to the end having collected several trolleys full of rubbish so we say farewell as I meander along the lake side and enjoy the array of birdlife.

As well as the Canada Geese, the lake is awash with nesting coots, seagulls, swans and ducks, and one solitary Heron perched on a single leg (his right I recall) on the far side of the lake as if he’s supervising all the other water birds. Here’s a brief snapshot of the waterfowl collection.

Later, as I head out of the park, I’m beckoned by Hubbard, a gent standing under the trees who’s indicated he’s ready to have his picture taken. Always happy to oblige a willing volunteer, I approach and despite the fact he’s talking on his mobile it seems we end up having a three way conversation. I’ve no idea who is on the other end of the line, but I do note that Hubbard is also enjoying a lunch time drink from a can of Guinness.

The Road to Ilford

Out of the park, and lo and behold the sun comes out and it suddenly warms up very quickly, so I decide to head up Ilford Lane to Ilford. From previous travels, I know this to be an interesting walk past many shops displaying colourful saris in their shop windows. On one corner, I’m distracted by Cleveland Junior School which has two bright blue clocks on display high on one of its walls. Both showing the same time, but one with Roman numerals and one with ordinary numbers.

I hadn’t realised until I started writing this blog that some clocks that adopt Roman numerals will display 4 o’clock as either IIII or IV. If you’re interested in finding out why, here’s an article that offers several hypotheses.

And finally, the underpass leading from Ilford Lane into Ilford is an unattractive, gloomy and depressing location, and I have walked through here before in full sight of drug dealing. Today’s passing is slightly different and as I emerge, I quite like this final shot of a high rise office block which has an interesting pattern highlighted in black and white. What do you think?

Picture of the Day

I’m trying out several long distance focal length shots: to highlight the yellow boat against the blue pedalos, and to show how they’re framed by the two tone greens of the overhanging trees in the foreground and the trees in the background. But I felt there was something missing in the final composition so I took some with geese in the foreground, but that didn’t quite work either.

Then, whilst I was kneeling and getting wet, there was a teenage lad cycling in the foreground. I waited for him to get out of the shot, but he suddenly appeared with a stick in his hand as if he was fishing. And as he appeared I snatched a few shots in case he didn’t return. I knew it was just right as he brought a human element to the shot, and thereby helping to balance the otherwise stillness of the picture.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 230mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO640; Google Photo Filter – Alpaca

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district overground

#61: Upminster – 24/07/2019

If you want to find out why there’s a vague reference to Donald Trump in today’s blog, then read on – but don’t get too excited!

Upminster is local to me as I only live 3.5 miles away, so I’m somewhat familiar with the location. Consequently I try to stay objective and behave in the same way as with all my other visits. It’s a hard and harsh day weatherwise, as it’s a record breaking sunny day; not ideal for walking about, so I make sure I take on plenty of fluids and walk as much in the shade as possible.

Knowing I’ll be returning to Upminster again as the station serves as the terminus for both the District and Overground lines, I decide to take a somewhat rural view of this suburban town today.

The Station

Upminster is a surprisingly  busy station serving the two Tfl’s lines and c2c’s destinations through Essex to Grays, Southend and Shoeburyness, and today I arrive on the Overground from Romford. This single track line is one of the latest to join the Tfl network, and other than the two end destinations, it has only one other station (Emerson Park) roughly half way along its 5 kilometre journey.

The shuttle service runs every half hour taking just 9 minutes each way and I learn from the driver that each driver does just 9 back to back journeys a day as their daily routine.

As I explore the station, I watch a number of high-vis clad Network Rail workers as they manhandle sacks of ballast from the start of Platform 1, along its length,  up and down 50 steps over a bridge to platform 2 and then to the end of that platform where engineering work is to take place later. In the heat of the day, this was beyond physical, and the effort and heat are understandably taking their toll on the speed with which they work. Nevertheless, there are a couple of workers determined to carry two sacks at shoulder height to help shorten the overall time being taken.

As I leave the station, I spot some advertising for a mobile phone app to help find water refilling stations across London. On downloading it I find it’s a national service and try it out. Refill is a scheme encouraging local retailers to offer free water refills to customers to help reduce/avoid plastic pollution, and I note there are three outlets in Upminster: Costa (2) and Greggs. I try the service out during the course of my visit and confess that both suppliers were more than happy to accommodate my request for a refill even though I wasn’t buying anything from them. I later tried it in Brentwood Costa with the same success, so it’s well worth trying it.

Tfl’s end of the line depot is 1.5 Km further east in Cranham, where their rolling stock is maintained and stored overnight. Out of interest I make my way over but alas high fencing and shrubbery prevents me being able to see anything substantial. Nevertheless, I’m drawn to the landmark that is the lighting tower that can be seen from afar, and I talk with Mike, the driver of the 248 bus service to Romford Market who’s taking a break at the nearby bus terminus. He’s a Norfolk lad who tells me of his enjoyment of writing music and he plays one of his demo’s from his phone whilst he’s finishing his cigarette before starting his journey. Although not a performing band, they play under the name of ‘Lyric Assassins’.

In the Country

The walk from Cranham takes me past ‘Pond Walk’, a protected wildlife pond, but it seems that all the inhabitants are out for the day as both the pond and the island’s sole dwelling are empty. Maybe it’s too hot for them in the midday sun?

Onwards up The Chase, a narrow single track lane laced with private secure gated bespoke houses along its length. The walk is very much a country walk as I pass several wheat fields that look ready for harvesting and spot Upminster’s Windmill towering in the distance.

At the top of the lane, I reach my signposted destination: The Parish Church of All Saints Cranham. The church has a rich history with links to the foundation of the state of Georgia in the USA, and the present building reflects the early English architectural style. The church is attractive and has the appearance of being well cared for, but a walk around the back of the churchyard shows some neglect as the gravestones are overgrown with grass and weeds and the path a little difficult to navigate. Nevertheless it’s a very pleasant English country setting.

Heading back towards Upminster, I take a gander into Clockhouse Gardens, a public garden and wildfowl haven discreetly tucked behind the appropriately named Clockhouse. As I enter the garden, I find I’m confronted by a flock of Canada geese ground feeding everywhere around a pond full of a variety of ducks. And towards the centre of the pond, perched on a small rocky outcrop is a trio of terrapins basking in the sun.

There’s a mum and small child enjoying the spectacle and I turn my head to see what they’ve spotted as the mum says ‘…look at that duck with the funny thing on its head…’. And whilst I don’t know it yet, its here I meet Donald Trump. You can read about my encounter below in my ‘Picture of the Day’.

On the shadier far side of the garden, several ladies are resting and enjoying the relative solitude. It’s in a wooded area clearly set out as a children’s reading spot with carved animal characters and little toadstools set out in a reading circle and the wizard of the wood overseeing  his domain.

Back into Town

As the crow flies, the windmill is 1.6 km’s from The Parish Church of All Saints Cranham, but in reality it’s a slow 2.25 km walk along the length of St Mary’s Lane in the basking sun. I’m a little disappointed when I get there as I find the area is a building site and the windmill is without its cap, sails and gallery. But that takes nothing away from the restoration work that’s been going on over the last two years by way of returning the mill to its former glory. Over two miles of weatherboarding has recently been applied and painted and the shape of the windmill is clear to see, and along with the recently opened visitor centre, full access is to the windmill is expected in Spring next year.

The main shopping area runs from the station down Corbets Tey Road, and the shops are a mix of small local businesses, fashion and beauty. But if you look up above the ground floor ‘marketing noise’ you’ll see the hidden exterior of the early 20th century art deco style architecture, looking a little tired and in need of sprucing up.

Picture of the Day

Meet Donald Trump…well it’s a name I’ve seen given to this type of crested duck on the internet, and I can sort of understand why with its glorious bouffoned crest beautifully coiffed in an elegant ‘comb over’ effect. This duck clearly stood out from the crowd as it was the only one of this type I could see, as it waddled majestically amongst all the other ducks.

The picture was a little tricky to capture as I’m using the barrel of my 75-300 mm lens as the only stabiliser, so the risk of camera shake is high. The lighting is also tricky as the duck is in a shaded area which is heavily backlit by the sun creating a contrasting light & shade effect. The shot is taken almost at ground level resting the camera on the low level fencing surrounding a pond.

I’ve tried to find out the breed, and the closest I’ve got to determining this is that it’s a Crested Saxony as identified by the Domestic Waterfowl Club of Great Britain. Although the crested gene can be grown into most duck breeds, it does nevertheless have a breeding consequence as not all eggs will result in a successful hatchling.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/1000; Focal Length – 255mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO5000; Google Photo Filter – Palma

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#59: Liverpool Street Station – 12/07/2019

Today is a return to Liverpool Street station, this time completing the end of the line journey on the London Overground with destinations from Enfield, Cheshunt and Chingford. A fitting day too as the BBC News is featuring an article on those who were saved by the Kindertransport rescue effort and reliving the journey they once took as children over 80 years ago. 

Commemorative statues can be found inside the station by the underground entrance, and outside in Hope Square in memory of the 10,000 or so children saved during the Second World War, and of course to countless others who were not saved.

The Station

I’ll not retrace the ground I covered during my visit in March 2019 but had thought of venturing a little further afield. But not before a walk up and down platform 1, one of the main platforms used by the Overground line. For some time now, the platform has become the home of ten JCB style yellow diggers which are being used to re-lay track just outside the station. What fascinated me were the two gents in high-vis jackets sitting by these diggers who explained that they were there during each weekday to ensure no one wanted a closer look at them. A soul destroying job I’m sure.

On my countless journeys in and out of this station over the past 30 years I’ve frequently stared thoughtlessly out of the window at the passing trains shuttling to and from remote destinations. But today I decided to try and get a different view and travelled one stop on the Overground to Bethnal Green station. The view looking westerly towards Liverpool Street station is bewildering with new buildings all around, iconic City buildings such as the Gherkin to the left, and further afield to the south, more iconic buildings in Canary Wharf such as One Canada Square. But the one that fills my vision is the myriad of stanchions and overhead lines that converge from 18 platforms in Liverpool Street Station into the six independent tracks that feed to services north and eastwards.

I also take a moment to reflect on the old and new whilst at Bethnal Green station too. The first image here is of a cut off stanchion, presumably supporting on older (now redundant) overhead line. What attracts me to this is the creation of the rusty ‘H’ in the discoloured, but nevertheless colourful concrete base. The second is a collection of pulleys, set against the azure blue sky, that take the tension from the overhead lines. I think it’s an interesting study showing off some of the intricate engineering involved in providing overhead power to today’s trains.

Later in the day returning to the station via Exchange Square, I stumble on today’s work of art entitled the Broad Family sculpted by Xavier Corberó. It’s a study in rock of a mother, father, child and dog. There’s no Google maps reference for this but I found it in an unnamed passageway between Appold Street and Sun Street Passage: here’s an interesting close up of the child statue. If you’re in the vicinity go and take  a look.

Exchange Square is a hive of activity, mostly office workers wining and dining or simply taking a break. Today has the added attraction of the Men’s semi-final tennis matches at Wimbledon on show on large screens for all to see. And what better way to enjoy all these activities than with a cup of Pimms, cordially served by Akeem…cheers!

The Arches

In true ‘East Enders’ style the area in the immediate surrounds of Bethnal Green station is awash with garage repair shops, predominantly for London Black Cabs. Three Colts Lane, and the cut through under the railway in Collingwood Street and Tapp Street are awash with Black Cabs in various states of dis-repair. My ‘picture of the day’ is representative of the state some of the abandoned cabs have been left in. These garages stretch under several arches and peering into the workshops it’s clear they’re a hive of activity.

There seems to be an unwritten circular route around Cudworth Street where cabs are moved about with little regard to their not having number plates, and although there’s the occasional roaming police presence, I sense it’s more for show than control.

The scene has an attractive grittiness to it and as I ponder on capturing the right picture whilst standing in the middle of the road, I’m beckoned by Jengins (?) to take his picture. Not wanting to disappoint him, and at the same time capture this jovial character, we exchange a few words and I happily oblige; and he’s more than happy with the outcome.

Running along Dunbridge Street walking in parallel with the railway line, there are a few small cafe’s clearly serving the local working population. One of these, Breid, draws me in for a closer look at its simple, urban feel which has a certain appeal. Maybe it’s because of its open bakery where the ovens and preparation areas are on full view and it in some way reminds me of a local bakery in my hometown where as kids, we’d be welcomed in to sample the day’s cakes and breads – within reason of course.

Breid is a local artisan bakery making sourdough bread for the local community, and serves up specialist hot drinks; and as I’m keen to capture the experience, I’m pleased that the baker is happy for me to take some pictures. Thank you.

Whitechapel

I’m not far from Whitechapel so I head south passing Swanlea School; a compact secondary school somewhat surrounded by the development of the new Whitechapel Station being built to accommodate the Elizabeth Line. This station will eventually serve trains from Shenfield and Abbey Wood passing through to Heathrow and Reading.

Onto Whitechapel Road, and at its junction with Fieldgate Street I’ll pose today’s quiz question: what have Big Ben and the original Liberty Bell in common? Well, both bells were made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry which has been based in the area since 1570. Sadly the business closed in 2017 and the premises sold on, but thankfully the Grade II listed status ensures its heritage will continue into the future. Although looking a little dishevelled from the outside, you can feel its history as you walk around.

Brick Lane

A mere stone’s throw away is the renowned Brick Lane, buzzing with tourists, school children on a field trip and local office workers alike browsing the many markets and sampling the myriad of international foods on offer. Today the street is synonymous with the Bangladesh community and known for its curry, but the area is steeped in industrial and social history from the 15th Century to date. No guessing how it got its name, but it was also the home of the French Huguenots in the 17th Century, and later in the 19th and 20th Century, Jewish and Irish immigrants.

To do justice to Brick Lane I probably need to return, so for today I merely scratch the surface of what I see. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of variety and colour on show, especially from street and graffiti artists alike.

As I bid farewell with a promise to return, I meet one resident who’s not very talkative as he/she is focusing on matters a little further away.

Picture of the Day

There are several contenders today, but I’ve chosen this one of an abandoned Black Cab with its windscreen smashed in for several reasons: It epitomises travel in London; it has reached its own end of the line and it is one in a long line of Black Cab’s abandoned under the railway arches nearby London Taxi repair garages.

I tried several shots with a wide angle lens, but decided on a longer range shot using a 75-300mm zoom lens to help me get a tighter shot and get the row of taxis together; limit the background and capture enough contrasting light to help balance and frame the result. The Vista black & white filter is perfect in emphasising the cab’s blackness and highlights the contrasting light through the arches and the overhead lighting.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 160mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO1600; Google Photo Filter – Vista (Black & White)

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overground

#57: Battersea Park station – 02/07/2019

This station is a recent addition to the list as it isn’t marked on the Tfl maps. But my thanks goes to Google Maps for finding this one. You see one of the hidden features of Maps is that if you click on a station, Maps will highlight all the lines running through it, so I was surprised when doing a little advanced research on the ‘as yet unbuilt’ Battersea Power Station to stumble across this one.

The station only has three daily weekday services shuttling to/from Dalston Junction (so another station to visit added to my list) with trains departing at 0633Hrs and 2303Hrs and one arriving at 2248Hrs. Sadly to date London Overground have not responded to my enquiry about the purpose of these limited services. However a quick search shows these are parliamentary trains, more commonly known as ‘ghost services’ introduced to avoid the full cost of closing down services. This linked article above makes for an interesting read.

The Station

With the exception to the three Overground trains each weekday, this tired Victorian station predominantly serves the Brighton line courtesy of Southern Railways. The station is unsurprisingly close to Battersea Park, Battersea Power Station and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and surrounded by residential houses and high rise offices. Platform seating made out of reused church pews is a creative example of recycling. It was here I also met Tomas, a rail enthusiast who spends some of his time before starting work enjoying the delights that passing trains can offer.

The main entrance way has some distinguishing Victorian features which I suspect most commuters passing through fail to notice. But look up and around and enjoy the pillared and arched roof now classically restored and repainted.

Behind the station in an area now occupied by a fashionable apartment block, there once stood some old fashioned gas towers which were demolished to make way for this housing development. Whilst the towers were no doubt an eye-sore in their unused and unloved state, there are remnants incorporated into the area which help remind passers by of their purpose along with nearby murals by a local artist Ben Murphy.

Chelsea Bridge and the north shore

For the bridge enthusiasts, Chelsea Bridge is one of the 33 bridges crossing the tidal river, and the current bridge was the first ever self-anchored suspension bridge built in Britain. And no matter how many times I cross the Thames, I’m always intrigued by the ever changing scenery London provides.

On the north shore, stepping into the London Borough of Chelsea, I capture this shot of what strikes me as a somewhat unrepresentative view of Chelsea depicting squalor in what I presume to be an affluent area. However it serves as a stark reminder that littering and drinking are not the preserve of less affluent areas. 

I’m on the edge of the boundaries between Chelsea, Pimlico and Belgravia, but there’s no clear distinction to show me which part of London I’m walking through. Nevertheless there are some interesting reminders of the past and present. The first is the tower of Bazalgette’s Western Pumping Station which stands proudly as a reminder of London’s vital sewage system now, thankfully, being modernised.

Nearby is the Grosvenor Canal, once the waterway between Victoria and the Thames, but now simply a water feature in a rather affluent Grosvenor Waterside property development where you can pay over £4million for the leasehold of a top floor penthouse with views over the Thames.

Within its grounds, I stumble across this three storey ‘Shack Stack’ aluminium installation. It depicts sheds piled on top of each other and has been created by the artist Richard Wilson who has referenced the allotment sheds that once were dotted around the area when the canal was at its busiest. In doing so, the artist has created an artistic connection between the site’s past and its current incarnation.

Battersea Power Station 

A visit to Battersea can’t be complete without a stroll around the iconic Power Station, even though it’s undergoing a massive and extensive regeneration. There’s a Heritage Trail to inform and educate visitors about the power station’s history and as you approach the area, you can’t miss the welcoming bridge mural that draws in visitors and casual observers alike by its colourful entrance. It’s well worth a visit.

But how things have changed. The area is being developed by a conglomerate of three businesses under the imaginative name of ‘Battersea Power Station’, and according to Matthew at their marketing suite, once complete, prices for a top floor penthouse suite will top £50million. Phase 1 of 5 is already complete with the prestigious Circus West Village offering a variety of food outlets to attract residents and visitors alike. 

Of the many and varied eateries, the Mother restaurant particularly caught my eye. Tucked under the railway arches, its moody lighting and stripped back look gives it a 60’s cavern feel and the staff were more than happy for me to take photos. Here’s a couple of them by way of sharing the mood with you.

As with the Grosvenor Waterfront development across the water, this development also has its share of art based displays and from my observations through my travels I applaud this approach as a positive step in introducing art more widely into everyone’s consciousness. In partnership with the Cass Sculpture Foundation, Battersea Power Station has unveiled works by two artists as joint winners of the inaugural Powerhouse Commission. One, by Malaysian artist Haffendi Anuar entitled ‘Machines for Modern Living’ is seen in the piazza of the Circus West Village, and I guarantee you, no matter your taste in art, you’ll have a view on this work. The second work of art features under my ‘picture of the day below’.

Travel to the power station is being improved with a new Northern line underground terminus scheduled to open in 2021: can I wait that long? There’s also a pier serving the River Bus service too. Not one I’ve tried yet, but if their landing stage is anything to go by, then it’ll be a first class service.

Battersea Park

Now this takes me back to my childhood having once visited the park when staying with relatives in Wembley when I was very young. My recollections are of a fair and a treetop walkway, neither of which exist now, although there is a more adventurous GoApe for those with an adrenaline rush craving. Nevertheless it was refreshing walking through this large park which has many features on offer.

My first stop is at the fountains near the bandstand and I try my hand at some high and slow speed photography to capture the shapes created by the fountains which I’ve amalgamated into this brief animation.

On the other side of the bandstand is an old bowling green, now used as an events area housing a large screen showing the Wimbledon Tennis. Mid afternoon, and there aren’t too many people about, but I’m assured by the ‘gatekeeper’ that as offices close, the area will fill quite quickly especially as the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi final between England and the USA is being screened. He also explained the purpose behind the ‘Loveparks’ theme being sponsored by Wandsworth Council. I took many shots of the empty deckchairs to demonstrate the area’s emptiness but I can’t decide which one to show, so I’ve created this collage to highlight the effect.

My final stop is on the south side of the lake by the Barbara Hepworth sculpture entitled ‘Single Form’. This is a smaller version of the original which stands outside the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. It was commissioned as a memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary general of the United Nations and a friend of Hepworth whose work he collected. The positioning of the young couple enjoying a lakeside picnic looking out over the water adjacent to the sculpture stuck me as romantically poignant. I took some pictures with their permission, and this one is a fitting end to today’s travels. My thanks to Dario and Sammy and good to meet you both.

Picture of the Day

This art installation is by Jesse Wine and entitled ‘Local Vocals’. It’s outside the marketing suite and within an open piazza overlooking the river and adjacent to a viewing platform. You can’t miss the bright orange reclining figure representing workers who have stopped for a rest and a cup of tea.

Getting this shot took some patience as I waited for some people who would otherwise have been in frame, to leave the area. Anyway, after a little time they moved on freeing me up to ‘own’ the space for a short time.

The striking colour is what first drew me in and the figure’s reclining effect is mirrored in a number of ways: by the red/white deck chairs which are there for those watching the Wimbledon Tennis on  large screens behind the figure; and by the reclining chairs in the foreground which I’ve framed to emulate the shape of the reclining figure. The figure’s black cap and a cup of tea contrasts nicely with the orange, and the addition of a ‘bazaar’ Google Photos filter helps to heighten the contrast of the orange with the bluer hue of the surrounding buildings.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 27mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Bazaar

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#55: Watford Junction – 18/06/2019

Watford Junction is the most northerly terminus on the Overground, and I travel here with some trepidation as I’m not sure if my Oyster card will be accepted. But I needn’t have worried as all is well on that front. The forecast for the day is threatening with torrential thunderstorms, so I am keen to make an early start to avoid getting soaked later in the day. I don’t mind a good electrical storm, as the spectacle can be quite amazing, n’or do I mind the thunderclaps, especially when they are right overhead; it’s torrential rain that makes the experience unpleasant.

On a personal note, I have to laugh…my mother who is almost 95 and relies on two good hearing aids declares she doesn’t like the thunderclaps at night, but I remind her she won’t hear them anyway as she’ll not have her hearing aids in when she’s tucked up in bed.

This is my first of two visits to Watford (Metropolitan Line still to come) and it has been an interesting one because of the number of friendly people I’ve met. And what a welcome change it’s made to have those willing to stop and chat and tell me a little about themselves and what they do. More of them later.

The Station

Watford Junction is a transport hub serving several National Rail lines through Hertfordshire, up the West Coast to Scotland, into London Euston and down to Croydon south of London. A busy station with connecting bus routes to many local destinations as well as the Harry Potter Studio Tour nearby.

And as with all public transport hubs these days, cycling is positively encouraged with easy forecourt bike spaces and a separate secure bike store nearby.

The station is about 1 Kilometre from the town centre but before getting there, I take a detour around nearby back streets and through some colourful underpasses. This one in particular caught my eye and is the subject of today’s ‘Picture of the day’ but as I was composing the shot, a lady waited to pass behind. I encouraged her to walk through and asked if she’d mind my including her in the shot – as long as I didn’t show her face was her response.

Wandering up Church Road, a road containing a mix of modern houses and workmen’s cottages, there’s a sense of a hidden history as I spot this sign embedded in a couple of cottages; but no amount of research has yet revealed its history.

Further along there’s a remnant of lighting of years gone by. This old gas lamp perched on top of a street corner plinth housing a letter box may or may not be in its original position. Nevertheless, and although somewhat dilapidated, it seems to have some local significance given it’s prominent position.

Concrete, concrete and even more concrete

This might be a slightly misleading title and an unfair reflection on the town which has done  much to beautify itself with floral displays. But the ever presence of concrete in construction remains and office blocks of the 1960’s now look tired and drab.

And for new builds, there’s no escaping the tonnes of concrete being used to create the central lift shafts; their towering height clearly visible from afar.

The exterior wall of this car park created an interesting effect, as it seemed the longer I looked at it, the greater the distortion it seemed to create. Am I the only one to see grey dots all over it? This shot, taken with a flash, does just enough to capture some of the reflective number plates of the cars therein and gives the image a sense of purpose to an otherwise geometrically interesting mural.

The Civic Centre

At the top end of the pedestrianised shopping area is a collection of civic and educational establishments. Although the main ring road cuts through the area, the town has creatively re-purposed an underpass into a large walkway and cycle way to provide direct access to the area.

I spot an unusual sign which takes my fancy. This one in the civic car park; a nuance on the usual ‘have you paid and displayed?’ and a second directing cyclists coming up some steps to dismount – curious as I wonder if it’s for the attention of those adventurous cyclists making their way up the steps?

The People in Watford

I walk through the underpass, and I come to a decorative pond and floral display. The ‘W’ display clearly symbolising Watford and sits proudly in the large fishpond being watered. The gardener is a very happy chappy and he explains that the water fountains are switched off as the water has  recently been treated. He also explains that he uses the pond water to water the ‘W’ feature as the natural nutrients in the pond helps feed the flowers in the display.

A slight detour into New Watford Market where I’m drawn to a colourful display of saris.

Back onto the High Street and the floral display of three tiered bedding plants is quite striking. They are regularly positioned either side of the pedestrianised walkway, and their vibrancy adds to the local colour. Near St Mary’s Church, I stop and chat with Laura, who’s responsible for repositioning these displays using a power assisted fork-lift. She explains that the displays have been delivered by Amethyst Horticulture from Kent but placed in slightly the wrong place, and having been watered overnight, they are now significantly heavier and need some effort to move. She invites me to try moving one which I do with some effort.

Further down the road I meet John, a local Information Guide and we chat about our shared passion in photography. He is a former US professor in augmented reality, who has now settled in the UK and enjoys his role helping locals and visitors alike.

Orphan Asylum

When I first got off at the station, I noticed an intriguing spire to the east and on returning towards the station, I followed the railway line passing through a tunnel to get to the other side. And as I do, I find myself in a quiet leafy tree lined crescent where I can see the spire which forms the top of a clock tower.

Heading towards the tower, I pass the headquarters for J W Weatherspoon, and Hilton Worldwide, and enter the immaculately cared for grounds of this re-purposed grand and splendid Victorian building. My first thought is that it may have been a former hospital or asylum, and when I pass the street name, the clue to its past is staring me in the face – Orphanage Road. A quick search reveals this to be the former London Orphan Asylum. The link explains in detail how one man’s resolve to improve the lives of London’s orphans ended up with this magnificent example of Victorian architecture.

Picture of the Day

This underpass, one of many in the area, is the most colourful and cried out to have its picture taken. I tried different settings, and what makes this one work best for me is the use of flash to highlight the colour of the tiles balanced with the rectangular light effect created using the light coming through the far side of the underpass as it hits the walls on either side.

I’ve referenced in the original blog that of a lady walking through the tunnel: she was kind enough to agree to my taking her picture provided I didn’t get her face, as having someone walk through helps to explain the underpass’s function. I’ve used that picture in the original story, but I’ve selected this one, devoid of the pedestrian, as the lighting effect is unexpected and it helps create a lighting juxtaposition between the horizontal light effect through the tunnel and the vertical lines as you’re eyes are guided through the tunnel

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO3200; Google Photo Filter – Palma

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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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