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#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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#79: Abbey Wood – 18/02/2020

This is the second of three bonus ‘end of the line’ stations that have yet to be built or commissioned. 

The Station

In the case of Abbey Wood, the station was refurbished and reopened in its current state in 2017, in preparation for the initial opening of the Elizabeth Line. But because of the line’s repeated delays, the TflRail platforms are currently mothballed and fenced off. Tfl’s latest plans for operating the line is in 2020/21, but who knows? Simultaneously, Tfl took over responsibility for the station and ironically, it does not yet operate any services through the station.

Currently, only Network Rail services, operated by Southeastern and Thameslink run through the station serving South East London and Kent. Although as I look closely at the two TflRail platforms, there’s evidence that a full service is operating; but clearly the displays are for ‘display purposes only’ as nothing is moving.

The station has had an attractive makeover, with new stairwells, decorative concourse, lifts and external walkways, and whilst chatting to the TflRail station staff on duty, they explained that even they are not allowed to access the Elizabeth Line platforms which are shuttered closed at all levels. Nevertheless, the station staff and security guards are extremely helpful to all those who pass through with some passengers being referred to by their first name; great customer service.

There’s also an obligatory piano to entice budding musicians to have a go, as one accomplished musician demonstrated whilst I was there cowering from a sudden hailstorm.

The surrounding entrances, closed to all except those engineers in high vis jackets, was a little eerie, and it all had a rather ghost station feeling to it: everything in its place, but nothing moving.

Harrow Manor Way

I’ve taken a while to mull over how best to depict this walk and I can only be honest, but in doing so I’ll try and be as objective as I can. The area north of the station is at best intimidating, but it’s clearly going through a massive regeneration programme. Most of the work seems to be being undertaken by the Peabody Trust who are making a significant investment in clearing outdated concrete high rise estates with more modern living accommodation. This is a programme of works that will take many many years to complete, so the area is at best a confusing mix of properties at the moment.

Along Harrow Manor Way, there is a cordoned off part of the Lesnes Estate labelled Caroline Walk, and it’s difficult to determine, initially, whether the barriers are an attempt to keep people in or out. The existence of razor wire helps me conclude that the area is cordoned off to prevent unwanted squatting as it is primed for demolition.

Nevertheless, walking around and through the area gives me an uneasy feeling because of it’s stark and grey surroundings with a somewhat decaying urban look, and with little human contact, I hasten to want to return to the ‘relative safety’ of the main road.

I have no doubt that those living in and around the area are warm and welcoming as there’s some evidence that within the estate, properties are being cared for as some have been decorated in a modern style. But there’s no hiding the fact that these are few and far between, and attempts to brighten up communal areas with artwork seem forgotten and faded.

I continue walking as far as SouthMere lake and Lower Thamesmead and onto The Ridgeway and cross over the almost deserted Eastern Way into the fringes of Crossway Park.

I see very few people, and other than a small collection of teenagers, possibly making their way to/from The Gym and/or The Link I feel isolated and somewhat vulnerable and maybe a little guilty for not exploring a little further.

Walking past the fenced off Lakeside Events Centre, I later learn this is itself undergoing redevelopment as an arts centre, and it’s description as having an ‘…iconic Brutalist architecture, and stunning views of SouthMere Lake and the area’s famous skyline, is a Thamesmead landmark…’ is quite telling. I guess I would liken it to the Marmite sensation that is The South Bank Centre in terms of architectural design – concrete on concrete on concrete – you either love it or hate it!

I skirt around the fringes of the SouthMere lake and amble along part of the Green Chain Walk that runs alongside the lake and back towards Abbey Wood station. Work on redeveloping the lakeside tower blocks is evident, as is the dredging of the lake to transform and return it to its former glory as one of the jewels in Thamsemead’s crown. I have to admit though, on this cold wintry and blustery day, it feels far from being a jewel.

Although there aren’t many people about, there is one jogger, one dog walker and one cyclist, but it’s hard to mask the fact that the greenway walk is merely an attempt to break up the array of 1970’s concrete tower blocks with uninviting communal stairs and walkways. 

As I cross over the railway bridge into the area south of Abbey Wood station, it seems like I’ve entered a different time zone as the building and architecture becomes more mid 1930’s London bricked terraced houses. And in some way quietly marks the obvious contrast with the more modernist concrete jungle style that began to emerge during the 1950’s.

My journey ends here, but who knows I may return one day to explore the much promoted Lesnes Abbey or indeed return and explore, with more confidence, the grittiness of the surrounding concrete estates.

Picture of the Day

This is one of two striking graffiti/murals on the wall opposite the station lift entrance in Gayton Road. The original is in colour, but to be honest, the colour palette is marginal as the majority of the artwork is in black and white. So I’ve applied a Vogue black and white filter to emphasise the quality of this bold piece. The detail is fine and the eyes follow you, which provides a somewhat evocative feature.

And interestingly, if you look closely, the work has other graffiti etched across the cheeks too.

The artist ‘astek-London’ has signed his presence and he’s clearly keen to promote his work, so go and have a look at his Instagram page for other examples of his skills and talent.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO125; Google Photo Filter – Vogue

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#77: Reading – 04/02/2020

Today, I stretch the boundaries of my Freedom Pass to its limits as I travel from Gidea Park to Reading for free. This will be an uninterrupted route courtesy of the Elizabeth Line, once it starts operating, but today, I have to change at Liverpool Street and Paddington.

Nevertheless, hats off to London Councils and Tfl for this great experience.

The Station

I have ‘fond?!’ memories of Reading Station as I travelled through here during different stages of my life. In my early working career I spent 6 weeks in Reading so the weekend commute to/from my home in Aberystwyth was always a challenge. And again, some 30 years ago, I passed through the station on my weekend visits back to Cardiff as I waited to move my family up to London. And more recently as I visited nearby IT and Telecoms providers in Newbury, picking up connecting services here.

Over the years, I’ve seen the station change, and I have to say its current incarnation is a significant improvement on what was once a severe bottleneck for the weary traveller. The station was remodelled in 2015 and it now boasts 15 platforms serving four train operating companies: Great Western Railway (GWR), South Western Railway, Cross Country (by Arriva), and Tfl.

I’m no train geek when it comes to spotting trains, but being one of the top 10 busiest stations across the country, this is an ideal location to see the variety of trains passing through. Some of today’s trains include: the sleek bullet shaped electric trains recently introduced by GWR, the stylish electric Tfl Rail trains introduced as part of the Elizabeth Line; the familiar South Western electric trains; and the more laboured Cross Country (diesel?) trains.

Alongside the 15 platforms, there’s a new inter-platform walkway, complete with shopping experiences and wide covered stairs and escalators to each platform (there are lifts too). All colour coordinated throughout in a ‘pleasing to the eye’ themed blue and grey. 

It’s a bitter cold day and even though the inter-platform walkway is covered, access to the platforms and stairs/escalators is open to the elements. So as I crouch down taking a few shots, I’m approached by a very pleasant and chatty Interserve supervisor who’s intrigued by what I’m doing, so we chat for a while. She’s an Irish girl quite used to the cold, but a little surprised when I tell her tales of having to scrape the ice from inside my bedroom window when I was growing up. As we part company I remark on her cold hands, to which she responds…’ah but I have a warm heart…’

Passengers come and go, with little regard to their surroundings as they work out which platform to head to. But their heads popping into shot through the angular structures makes for an interesting collection of pictures. I wonder what they’re thinking?

Before leaving the station, I notice that the Tfl Rail returning destination shows Ealing Broadway, even though the scheduled destination is Paddington. I’m intrigued and when I ask a Tfl platform guard, she helpfully explains that it’s done to prevent those journeying through the station thinking that it might be a fast service to Paddington. I speculate this may have been the case when this service was first introduced just before Christmas.

As it’s been a bitterly cold morning, I decide a short respite in The Three Guineas pub which backs onto the station is called for. I rest my feet whilst enjoying a coffe and as I leave I try to work out what’s the time?

Out of the station, heading to the river, I pass under the brightly coloured railway bridge with repeating geometric shapes that are formed from the girders spanning the road. A combination of having a back-lit footpath on the opposite side and pedestrians from a nearby building site  wearing high-vis jackets helps to make this picture. I also notice a couple of stranded birds roosting up above too.

The River Thames

A walk along the south and north banks brings a different Reading into perspective, and here are a few of my highlights.

Thames Water Property Searches: not necessarily everyone’s idea of a landmark, but this open circular building has some interestingly shaped access stairs. No doubt purposely designed to reflect the circular shape of the building, but in my mind also mirroring an Archimedes Screw designed to move water, and now used in some hydropower schemes.

Christchurch Bridge: this is a relatively new foot and cycle bridge built in 2015 to connect Reading and Caversham through Christchurch Meadows. A cable-stayed bridge with one mast and 14 pairs of cable in a fan style. I’m sure this looks very attractive at night time lit by its 234 LED’s, but this monochromic shot helps to show off its simplistic beauty.

Caversham Weir and Lock: continuing along the north bank I return via Heron Island and View Island, a once derelict boatyard now converted into a wildlife haven. There’s a footpath running through it which brings me out at the Weir. An impressive water feature used to manage the water flow at this point on The Thames, and with the sluices wide open, the water flows rather fiercely.

The footpath across the weir is quite popular, and standing in the middle peering over the edge, I get a strong sense of the water’s power. And I can understand why the local community has successfully lobbied to build an environmentally friendly hydropower scheme utilising two Archimedean screw turbines here.

The Thames Path: I only cover a minute part of the 215 mile path, which at Reading runs along the south bank from Caversham Bridge, under Reading Bridge and past Caversham lock and weir before meandering easterly towards Henley-on-Thames. There’s one peculiar river boat moored along the path and as I say farewell to Reading, I reflect on the achievements of my sister-in-law and her sister who both completed the Thames Path challenge recently. Well done ladies…

Birdlife

A few birds catch my attention as I walk along the riverbank. On the Caversham side walking through Christchurch Meadows I pass a small copse and hear some rustling in the undergrowth. I assume it to be a squirrel so I decided to ignore it, but the sound seems to follow me. Looking around, I could just make out a bird ground feeding around the copse. It’s unperturbed by my presence, although I did keep my distance, and this short animation captures its movements. I didn’t recognise the bird instantly, but my suspicion was confirmed once I looked up the RSPB Identify a Bird site. Some of you will recognise it instantly as a Redwing.

Further along I arrive at Heron Island, and no guesses what I see here.

And in the middle of the river, there’s a trio of Seagulls perched on a rather faded Danger sign, no doubt placed to warn anyone approaching of the nearby weir and reminding boaters to keep right towards Caversham Lock.

Picture of the Day

This is a view of the footpath over Caversham Weir. I waited for some cyclists and pedestrians to pass by and I crouched down to get the low view shot. The railings on either side help to guide you through the picture and the Vista filter adds strength and starkness.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 28mm; Film Speed – ISO125; Google Photo Filter – Vista

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#76: Emirates Royal Docks – 28/01/2020

My penultimate end of the line: what am I to do afterwards? Suggestions on a postcard please.

Today’s wintry cold yet bright day sees me heading to the northern end of the Emirates Air Line at Royal Docks London and/or London’s Royal Docks alighting from the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Royal Victoria.

The route I take is a fairly simple one: twice around the westerly part of the docks from The Emirates Royal Docks station in an anti-clockwise direction over the Royal Victoria Bridge and back. Once in the daylight and once at night time.

I also ‘fly’ in the Emirates Air Line to North Woolwich and back to enjoy the experience and daytime and nighttime views which shows the Dockland’s continuing development.

The Station

Commissioned, built and opened just before the London Olympics in 2012, the ‘air line’ has  a capacity of 2,500 passengers per hour travelling at five miles per hour and taking three minutes to complete the crossing.

On my outward flight, I’m joined in the gondola by VeJay, a resident from Australia who’s visiting friends in London for a couple of months. We both remark on the rocking motion of the gondola as it’s battered by the winds when at the highest point of the journey, but thankfully, the structure is designed to withstand such winds. I spot some of London’s distant landmarks and observe the waterline’s tidy array of yachts some 80 metres below.

This night time shot of the North Greenwich station is quite striking as the Moon and the planet Venus shine brightly against the cloudfree sky.

Reflections

Nearby to the station is The Crystal, a conference centre designed and built with sustainability at its core generating its own electricity needs through 1,580 m² of solar panels. Despite being closed for refurbishment, the conference centre boasts a daily average visitor attendance of 1,000, but today, it’s the exterior that grabs my attention as its glass fronted surface offers an opportunity to capture some reflective moments.

Nearby water puddles, which shimmer slightly in the breeze, also provide a similar opportunity by creating a fuzzy view of the neighbouring residential block.

And into the night, the low lit footpath along the southern end of the dock casts a colourful display on the water’s surface transforming an otherwise drab vista into an almost Meditaranean one – oh if it were only 20 degrees warmer…

Historic Docks

Constructed in the mid 19th Century, the docks were an instant commercial success as they could easily accommodate all but the largest steamships; and despite being badly damaged in the Second World War, the docks remained a viable hub until the 1960’s. With the onset of containerisation, shipping throughout the London docks migrated easterly towards Tilbury where the larger ships could more easily be managed, and consequently by the 1980’s, the Royal Docks closed to commercial shipping traffic.

The docks have been sympathetically restored with obvious reminders, here and here, of their heydays on display as the docks are surrounded by a display of cranes and derricks, as if ‘on guard’ for what has now become a fashionable residential and leisure area.

On the northern bank and just outside the entrance to the ExCel Centre is a poignant statue created by Les Johnson entitled ‘Landed’. Commissioned by the Royal Docks Trust, it has been erected as a tribute to the history of the communities of the Royal Docks and the men and women who worked there between 1855 and 1983.

Leisure

The docks are now a hub for a variety of conferencing, entertainment and leisure industries, although as it’s the middle of winter, all of the water borne leisure facilities are closed. There are few people milling around although there is a steady stream of visitors making their way into the Sunborn Yacht Hotel which is permanently moored by the ExCel Centre. This shot is taken through the legs of one of the cranes on the opposite side of the dock.

The docks is also the home of Lightship 93, a former Trinity House light vessel, now repurposed as a photographic studio and location. And looking east, about one kilometre away is London Docklands Airport with planes landing and taking off at regular intervals.

I end my day where I started, but spend a little time reflecting on the moody lighting which casts a soft shadowy glow on the footpath as a few revelers head for the DLR or to one of the nearby hotels. The overhead gondolas continue to pass robotically by, regardless of whether they carry any passengers, and I decide it’s time to get back into the warm…so it’s homeward bound for me too.

Picture of the Day

This shot is taken on the Royal Victoria Bridge looking straight into the low lying sun. I’ve positioned myself so that the point of dissection of the bridge support struts intersect the sun. The shot is unfiltered as the stark sunlight adds to the shadowy black and white effect I’m trying to create, and highlights the white wispy clouds against an otherwise clear sky…

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ13; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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#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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#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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#71: Woolwich Arsenal – 22/10/2019

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

The Station

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

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

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

Woolwich

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

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

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

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

Royal Arsenal

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

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

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

The River

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

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

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

Picture of the Day

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

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

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

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

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#67: Beckton – 02/09/2019

Let me start this week’s travelog with a question: What’s the connection between my visit to Beckton and Burt Bacharach? Vague I know, but in 1965 (and alas I remember it well!), he composed ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ originally recorded by Billy J Kramer (and the Dakotas) and later in 1996 by Dionne Warwick. You can listen to their versions on YouTube.

You see, today is a story of trains and boats and planes and a few cyclists thrown in for good measure too. Read on and enjoy the unexpected surprises I discovered on my nine kilometre walk from Beckton through North Woolwich and Silvertown.

To be honest I’m a little undecided on my camera settings for the day, but after a few colour shots in and around the station, I decide to settle on a predominantly black and white day again. Today I’m fixed on ISO 400 as I believe with the strong light I’ll have a little more control on the aperture/speed combination. I do take a few colour shots where I believe the scene warranted it. You can let me know if you agree with me.

Trains

Beckton and Gallions Reach are the two that feature today as well as the new Elizabeth Line running under the Thames emerging in Silvertown.

Beckton DLR – now when you look at the tube map you’d be inclined to think that Beckton station is the furthest east on the DLR network. But when you look on the map, and travel on it, you realise that the DLR arcs in a loop back on itself after Cyprus through Gallions Reach before terminating at Beckton. Gallions Reach DLR – is actually the most easterly DLR station by a whisker.

The station is a typically open DLR station with a modernist style overlooked by shrubbery hiding the surrounding housing estates. And across the road guarding the entrance of the bus station is the sculpture ‘Horses’ – depicting two horses created in steel by the artist Brian Yale.

The bus station shares its space with a large Asda superstore, beyond which is Beckton’s social hub with its library and adult education centre with an aspirational name – the Beckton Globe: quite different to Shakespeare’s version.

I write about Gallions Reach under my Picture of the Day, but on my way there I take a slight detour as I’m seduced by four decorative bridge posts I can see from afar. They’re on a one way road feeding via Royal Docks Road, an extension of the North Circular as it crosses the main A13 arterial road headed towards Beckton. At the top of the bridge, there’s evidence that it had been planned to go elsewhere as there’s a fenced off section where the road comes to an abrupt end. Research indicates there were plans quite some time ago to build a bridge over the Thames at this point over to Thamsemead, however this never materialised. This link offers an artist’s impression of how the bridge would have fitted in. So now it’s almost a one way road to nowhere; sadly though I can’t find any reference behind the intricacy of the bridge architecture. I wonder if there’s any significance with the area’s dockland history? If you know, please drop me a message.

So on to the Elizabeth Line.

Later in the day I’m walking along the back streets in Silvertown, returning from the Thames headed towards City Airport, and along one side of the road there’s a high concrete wall running its length. I give it a cursory glance noticing overhead power lines and without thinking I dismiss it as an established rail route. I pass the LCM Scrap Company Ltd and admire their high rise metal sculptures on either side of their main entrance, and a little later I pass the Tate & Lyle factory which I have admired from afar many a time. They proudly display the fact that they have been ‘Keeping The Nation Sweet For 140 Years’.

Turning back to face the road I see the upper part of a bright yellow engineering train on the railway line emblazoned with the Elizabeth Line logo. I then realise this is part of the new route which emerges from under the Thames nearby from Woolwich en route to Custom House and all points west.

I soon see evidence of the Elizabeth Line’s continuing building works a little further along surrounding the proudly restored St Marks Church, the home of the acclaimed Brick Lane Music Hall which has occupied this site since 2003.

Planes

From Gallions Reach, I continue south and head over the Sir Steve Redgrave bridge which spans Gallions Point Marina and London City Airport into North Woolwich. As I approach the centre of the bridge, I look east and see two bright lights high in the sky heading towards me. Now having spent many a journey travelling through London City Airport, I know that planes land in one of two directions depending on the prevailing wind. Today the wind was blowing from a westerly direction so planes were arriving and landing from the east.

This was a perfect spot for plane watching; one I took full advantage of as I set my stall out at the mid point and waited for the overhead planes to approach. I must have been there for about half an hour all told, and I didn’t seem to disturb the local police who passed me several times in their transit vans.

At this point, the planes have descended quite rapidly as the landing strip is no more than 300 metres away, and I’m standing in line with the landing beacons that guide the planes to ground. I can see the pilots quite clearly in their cockpits as they control their flights masterfully against the blustery side winds which sees some of the planes rock from side to side. I’ve been in some of those planes as they’ve approached the runway and it makes for an interesting arrival.

Later in the day, and as I end today’s travels on the other side of London City Airport, I stand and admire ‘Athena’ the tallest, at 12 metres high, bronze sculpture in the UK (as at 2012). The sculpture was created by Nasser Azam and designed to be visible to air travellers from the sky as they approach the airport.

Boats

In all my 30 years living and working in London, I’d never experienced the Woolwich Ferry crossing. I’d heard many a news report that the ferry wasn’t running for one reason or another, so as I found myself so close to the North terminal, I headed there just to see. There are messages that there’s a delay of 1 hour as only one ferry is operating, but that doesn’t deter cars and lorries queuing up. I walk past the old North Woolwich station converted into a museum and now closed, and I decide I’ll walk under the river and return by ferry.

I don’t think the Woolwich Foot tunnel is as well advertised as the one in Greenwich, but it has all the Victorian characteristics of its counterpart: over a 100 steps down (there is a lift), tiled walls throughout which reflect an eerie glow from the dimly lit overhead lights. Despite painted notices on the ground every 20 metres or so instructing there to be ‘No Cycling’, they had no effect on all the cyclists who use the walkway as a shortcut under the river. More later.

I took a series of shots but felt this one in colour best reflected the walkway; the meaningless overhead traffic lights directing which side to walk being ignored by everyone, but the colour effect casts an interesting glow. Oh yes, two girls descending in the lift have a blast, and as they walk along, singing at the top of their voices are clearly enjoying the echo effect they create.

Up the 101 steps on the south shore, I head for the ferry that’s just docking and walk on freely; you see there’s no charge for pedestrians or vehicles. The view looking west from the middle of the Thames is quite surreal with the Thames Barrier in the distance with each gate’s traffic lights directing where boats should pass. It’s a relatively short journey across the river.

Cyclists

Now a shout out to to five cyclists I met during the day. First to Mahammad, Andre, Lucas and Edward. Four young lads who were practicing wheelies in the Asda car park when I walked through earlier in the day. I stop to ask them if they’d be happy to be photographed, and after a short conflab amongst themselves they seemed happy to pose. This is a short collection showing their various skills during their valiant ( and safe) efforts up and down the car park. Thanks lads and I hope you enjoy them?

My final shout out is to Samson who I met in the Woolwich foot tunnel. He was riding through and I happened to be standing by a No Cycling sign at the time and I tried, unsuccessfully, to capture the moment. Anyway, a few seconds later he returned asking to see the pic and explaining it hadn’t quite worked, he agreed to repeat the effort and help me to recreate the moment. I wanted to reflect the moody lighting of the tunnel and capture the motion, so I avoided using a flash and panned the shots as Samson rode past. I believe this one captures that effect; so thanks again Samson, and great to have met you.

The Thames

During the day I find myself walking along the river bank several times. First through Gallions Point, past Barge House Causeway, along Royal Victoria Gardens and later along the footpath adjacent to Pier Road. Here are some of the images I captured.

Another successful day…

Picture of the Day

From Beckton I walk down Woolwich Manor Way to Gallions Reach DLR station which is surrounded by a large, empty paved area. I guess during peak travel times this is busy as commuters either make their way home or divert to the nearby shopping park. Anyhow, as I take a breather, I notice the enclosed walkways from the raised platforms to ground level have a distinct pattern; and with the afternoon sun streaming through, it casts dramatic shadows which I sense will make for a good shot.

I set my camera on the ground using my trusty bean bags (best investment next to a tripod) to help steady the shot, and with minor placement adjustments I’m pleased with how I capture the contrasting shadows. Passengers have just alighted from a recently departed train and I realise  I need to capture their movement to complete this picture. Alas I’ve just missed that opportunity so I set the camera and wait for the next train. You know what, it always seems longer when you’re waiting for something, but probably no more than 10 minutes later I get my chance as another Beckton bound train arrives.

The passenger’s black and white attire complements the shadow effect perfectly, and her gaze away from the camera somehow represents some disdain at being photographed, but she doesn’t challenge me as she passes by. I quite like the end result.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ29; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Vista; Camera effect – B&W

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#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 TfL Other Services TfL Underground

#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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