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Northern TfL Underground

#78: Battersea Power Station – 11/02/2020

This is the first of three bonus stations that have as yet to be built – well to be precise, to be completed as construction started several years ago and commissioning isn’t expected until at least 2021/22. Nevertheless, I thought it right to draw attention to them as much work has already been done, though much still to do.

The Tfl website explains the plans for this Northern Line Extension, so no need to repeat what’s there, so this is more a walk around a building site. But still, it’s an interesting day out.

The Station

There’s some amusing media speculation on the final station name, and this LondonIST article speculates how the standard naming convention may not apply in this case. Should it be Battersea Power Station Station, or simply Battersea Power Station? Time will tell.

So other than showing some hoardings surrounding the building works, I was alas, unable to get a high enough vantage point to get some meaningful construction works shots of the site being built by Ferrovial Agroman Laing O’Rourke.

For those who are local to Battersea, you’ll have seen the area surrounding Battersea Power Station evolve into a mini construction city as the Grade II* listed building is redeveloped into luxury accommodation, along with new builds surrounding it. And despite being a building site, builders and the Battersea Power Station Development Company actively encourage visitors and have done much to achieve this through the provision of a carefully managed road infrastructure and by providing a regular free shuttle bus service from the site entrance into the heart of the site. You can of course walk through as well.

For those who don’t know the area, I’d highly recommend a visit as there are many points of interest to keep your attention.

Battersea Power Station – I’ve already touched on the area in my previous blog when I visited Battersea Park in July 2019, so I’ll focus on what’s changed and how the development corporation continues to encourage visitors to come and take a look. One example is through the sponsorship of four spectacular light installations. Alas, by the time you read this blog, they will have been dismantled, but I have no doubt there will be others to follow.

Talking Heads: – a striking artwork by Viktor Vicsek, and I’m struck by the scale of the exhibition as I approach the Riverside Walk, overlooking The Thames. There are two super-sized heads each with some 4,000 controllable LED’s which show different facial expressions which not only react to each other but to those walking past too.

Eternal Sundown: – a light installation by Mads Vegas consisting of an array of 160 coloured fluorescent tubes arranged around the Coaling Jetty under the shadow of the Power Station. The best time to have seen this would have been nighttime and from the north bank opposite the Power Station, but despite being there during the day, the intent and colour pallete is still evident. And it was here I chatted with James, the lighting technician who’s in charge of the displays and running safety checks following the deluge in the wake of Storm Ciara.

Nine Elms Lane

My walk sees me meandering along the A3205 from Queenstown Road (Battersea) station to Vauxhall Bridge and I stop in a few places to admire what I see. Here are a few of them:

Battersea Exchange Arches: – nothing spectacular other than some neon lights under the arches to draw you into the area which has now been redeveloped into a modern housing and business complex that has no life or soul. I take the picture of the place name more as a reminder of where I am, but it has a rather striking quality don’t you think?

The Duchess Belle: – this pub stands out opposite all the building works and no doubt serves the local community of those living in the adjacent tenement houses equally well as the building workers. Its window display catches my eye as it’s clearly promoting allegiances to four of the six nations in this year’s six nations rugby tournament.

New Covent Garden Market: – unlike the old Covent Garden which is a delightful tourist destination, the new one is a hidden and inhospitable complex which offered little other than a walk along its service road. Maybe if I arrived at 4 in the morning instead, I’d be drawn into the hustle and bustle of the fruit & veg and floral merchants which would have provided a different atmosphere, but as it’s early afternoon, all the traders have gone. Maybe I’ll return another day and forgo my sleep.

Embassy of the United States of America: – Since 2018, the US Embassy moved from its Grosvenor Square site to NIne Elms, where the administration is housed in a new square building encased in screening sails. No doubt partly to obscure people looking in, and in part providing some sun shade to those inside.

I approached the embassy with a little trepidation as I thought the sight of a casual photographer may have attracted some unwanted attention.. So I decided to check out with the nearest armed police guard stationed on one corner, who helpfully confirmed it would be OK to take pics. So I did…

The wind was blowing the flag quite resplendently and I positioned myself to capture the right moment. And as I did, and waited for the flag to unfurl, I noticed a gentleman surreptitiously pointing his mobile phone in my direction. Each time I caught his gaze, he turned away, and I’m a little amused by this as if he’s an embassy employee, why not ask me what I’m doing.

Well his behaviour continues to entertain me so I make a deliberate effort to look at him, and at this point he starts stroking a nearby sapling but still pointing his mobile at me. As I move to walk on, he does too, ahead of me, so I decide to confront him and openly invite him to take my picture. Walking at his pace behind him, he avoids eye contact as he turns around and stops on some stepping stones in the middle of a water feature. I follow him and ask his intention to which he spun me a line that he’s a textures student interested in tree bark. I smile inwardly as this elderly gent seemed unfazed by my challenge, not the kind of behaviour I would have expected.

So if indeed I’ve been followed by an embassy official…I only hope they found me interesting? I have no doubt in my mind that he was NOT who he claimed to be – well it makes for a good story doesn’t it…

The Secret Intelligence Service: – better known as MI6, whose headquarters is adjacent to Vauxhall Bridge on the South Bank. Now an iconic building since its appearances in several James Bond films, especially when it gets blown up. But not surprisingly, it’s not as accessible as the Embassy of the United States of America as I walk past it’s high rise perimeter wall surrounded by cameras pointing in every possible direction.

Directly overhead there are two chinook helicopters looking to land: probably nothing to do with either the American Embassy or MI6, but their low flying downdraft adds to the mysterious and secretive nature of these two buildings.

Albert Embankment

I continue walking easterly and I’m soon reminded that Old Father Thames pops up everywhere symbolised in several sculptures along the way. The first I see is back along Nine Elms Riverbank where the artist, Stephen Duncan has depicted the demigod amidst his watery cohorts. And the second is a bronzed relief in the Sturgeons Lamp Posts that adorn the embankment. These lamp posts were designed by the Victorian architect George John Vulliamy.

Regular readers will know I have a view on modern architecture, and today is no different. I appreciate architects need to be creative, adventurous and bold when designing buildings, but would you like to live in a 25 storey concrete tube as depicted by these modern (?) assisted living apartments. And the price of such privilege – oh yes…nearly £3,000 per week!

A little further along, I see these intriguing seating areas created to reflect a type of working boat no doubt associated with Lambeth’s history, and their symbolic significance is revealed as I turn into Black Prince Road. The site is the location of London’s White Hart Dock, one of the City’s many docks and slipways: this one dating back to the 14th Century. The location also marks, rather sadly, Lambeth’s Cholera Epidemic where, in the mid 19th Century, at least 1618 residents perished of the disease. The epidemic here was also the trigger for the discovery by Dr John Snow that Cholera is a water borne disease.

Further along the embankment, my walk leads me past the former Headquarters of the London Fire Brigade, a glorious and imposing art deco building, which will soon be redeveloped into flats and house the London Fire Brigade museum.

And finally, a jaunt past the International Maritime Organisation, part of the United Nations, which displays its maritime link through this imposing sculpture of a ship’s bow protruding out of the front of the building. It is known as the International Seafarers Memorial.

Pictures of the Day

Today’s picture is taken in the piazza on Riverside Walk just west of Battersea Power Station – this is called ‘Talking Heads’. This one is part of a study of each of the two heads which I took at intervals to create an animation showing the different facial expressions.

This selection, with both heads in shot, helps to set the scene. The heads are in metallic black, and the white LED’s help to complement the effect. So I’ve added a black and white filter to this shot to show it off at its best

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 125mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google Photo Filter – Vogue

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Northern TfL Underground

#75: High Barnet – 23/01/2020

‘…On the 14th April 1471, a very foggy Easter Sunday, two armies faced each other across a plain just north of the market town of Barnet. The War of the Roses had arrived in Barnet…’

I arrive on a bright crisp wintry day, and alight at my fifth and final Northern Line terminus; a somewhat different day and means of transport to those fighting the war 549 years earlier..

The Station

Some commentators declare that the station has been built in the wrong place, and that the entrance is also misaligned. The purists believe that the entrance/exit should be at the end of the line, but this is not so as in High Barnet as it’s on the side of the station. I’ve thought about this and reflected on all the stations I’ve visited, and there are several stations where the entrance/exit isn’t as the purists would have. I guess ultimately the location is determined by the surrounding landscape.

High Barnet station is at the bottom of a dip about one kilometre away from the main shopping area with a two hundred metre steep climb out of the station to road level. Even for the able bodied, this can be arduous, but for those less able, the three grab rails along the length of the footbath are a must as I observed at least two senior citizens struggle to make it to the top. The lady on the right of this picture stopped several times and she didn’t have a kind word to say about the footpath when she stopped to catch her breath besides me.

Chipping Barnet

Chipping Barnet: High Barnet: or simply Barnet – Not confusing at all, just three names for the same place. The reference to ‘Chipping’ donates the presence of a market, this one established by Royal Charter in the 12th Century. Today’s not a Wednesday of Saturday, so I miss the spectacle, but as I walk up Barnet Hill and the HIgh Street, I can’t miss the imposing church of St John the Baptist Barnet which dominates the centre of the road as it splits heading west and north. The church has impressively decorated flint walls and a bell tower with dominant gargoyles pointing out towards the four main cardinal directions.

Heading into town, I’m a little underwhelmed, as despite its historic connections, I find little of architectural interest along the main street, or as I meander into the side streets. However, the town does much to promote its historical association with The Battle of Barnet; as I stop to read one of the several elaborately painted notices referencing the battle between the Lancastrians led by The Earl of Warwick and the Yorkists led by King Edward IV. More later…

On one of the painted displays, attention is drawn to five historical coaching inns which served the 150 coaches that would pass through Barnet each day. Imagine: if each coach is driven by at least four horses; that would be 600 horses a day, 3,000 a week and at a guess 120,000 a year. Some gardner’s would no doubt have been happy? The The Red Lion is one of these former coaching inns, and it is the first of the five I notice as I make my way into town.

Barnet Museum

The museum sits opposite the Church and it is well worth a visit, especially as it’s free to enter. It’s located in a townhouse that has dedicated it’s basement, ground and first floors to local memorabilia and a dedicated space for the Battle of Barnet. Some of the heraldic banners associated with the Battle are also on display whilst they undergo some decorative ‘touching up’ in preparation for their annual airing throughout the town each April. These three represent the Yorkists Houses of Gloucester and Woodhouse, and the Lancastrian House of Mauleverer.

I’ll not be able to do justice to the museum’s entire collection as there’s too much to see and enjoy, but here are a few of my highlights:

Domestic Life: this collage depicts several items you’d no longer find in the modern home. The first is a cork shaper used for compressing and shaping corks for sealing bottles and jars. The second is a door vent in a Victorian/Edwardian kitchen cabinet, and the third a rather attractive and elegant decorative clock.

Pearly King, Queen and Princess for Barnet: In the basement, amongst a display of Victorian and Edwardian dresses are the Pearly suits once worn by Mr Jack Hammond, his wife Brenda and daughters Lisa and Tracey. Jack was awarded the title of Pearly King of Barnet in honour of his fundraising for charity in 1962 by the Association of Pearly Kings and Queens who appoint all ‘the regents’ for all the London Boroughs. Jack sewed each mother-of-pearl button onto their outfits and the approximate cost (at 1976 prices) at £0.60 a button was £4,000. The King’s suit weighed 14.5Kilogrammes (32 pounds).

A moving Tribute: I find upstairs to be quite evocative, as there’s a display of artifacts from Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, known more recently as Friern Hospital which closed in 1993. The fact that it’s been converted into a luxury housing development takes none of the reminders away of how those with a mental illness used to be treated. Examples of straight  jackets are prominently displayed as is this padded cell door.

And whilst walking around the first floor, there’s a haunting rendition of early 20th Century music being played to complement the exhibits of the two World Wars. I’m moved by this copy of a handwritten poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD – ‘In Flanders Fields

Back to the Station

Almost adjacent to the museum is Barnet Southgate College, which now incorporates an Elizabethan Tudor Hall. This is where the original Queen Elizabeth’s School was founded following its being granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1573. It’s now used as a banqueting hall and small conference space.

Further down the road, I stop outside The Sound Garden music shop and take in the Fender guitar maker’s sign which glows quite brightly in the gloomy afternoon.

And finally, as I pass Papa John’s take away Pizza shop, I’m beckoned by a gent from inside to take his picture as he sees me walking by with my camera in hand. Never wanting to miss an opportunity, I oblige and then move into the shop and meet Stargy, a budding musician. Nice to meet you Stargy…

Picture of the Day

Today’s picture aims to highlight the gradient from High Barnet station entrance and I’ve cropped this picture vertically using the three handrails to accentuate the descent. Applying a deep Black & White filter (Vista) helps to highlight the horizontal sunbeams hitting the middle railing and ground as the sun shines through an out of shot fence on the right.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter – Vista

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Metropolitan TfL Underground

#74: Aldgate – 16/01/2020

Aldgate is the last of the five terminal Metropolitan stations to visit, a line that changed the face of travelling for Londoners. In 1863, the Metropolitan Line opened the first underground service between Paddington and Farringdon…That’s enough of the history but read here for more details.

I’ve left visiting Aldgate towards the end of my travels as it was here I last worked before retiring almost two years ago. One of my final acts when working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) was to secure a suitable location and manage the transition from our previous residency in Holborn, and this I achieved in 2016. So you see, I have an affinity with the area which I got to know quite well, and I wanted to put as much time behind me before returning and studying the area objectively.

The area is an eclectic and diverse one which merges many cultures and industries and offers a wealth of history, colour and architecture. Here’s my view which takes me into Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Shadwell and down towards the river at Wapping. It’s hard to discern where the boundaries for these areas lie, although I’ve no doubt there’s a map somewhere depicting them. That really isn’t important, but what is interesting and exciting is that wandering as I do, I’m always amazed at some of the sights I see that are either hidden or forgotten. Hidden in the streets are murals and buildings with architectural significance in full sight of everyone, but no one sees them. And forgotten in the sense that their importance, and/or value, are no longer considered relevant. I’ll try and rekindle some of them here.

The Station

Serving both the Met and Circle lines, the station is on the edge of The City and in easy reach of main line stations at Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street; so great for commuters. As with all of the Met line, it was created using a ‘cut and over’ method rather than tunnelling, and this can be seen quite well when I’m in the station.

The platforms cuts quite a large arc to accommodate the Circle line trains as they route south westerly to join the District line headed towards Westminster and Victoria, and this is quite noticeable as trains stop at this busy interchange between The City and suburban London to the East.

There’s also a busy terminal bus station directly across the road, thus making the area an excellent commuting hub; and plenty going on to entertain the casual observer too as this lonely figure from across the station suggests. Not quite the Woman in the Window, but maybe there’s a sequel to be written? – the Man in the Window?

And adjacent to the station in Aldgate Square, there’s a coffee shop with an  interesting design: it has a fan like roof as if capturing, or even embracing the surrounding office buildings.

Spitalfields

Today’s association is maybe with the Old Spitalfields Market, but the area is steeped in historical changes. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the area was occupied by Irish and Huguenot immigrants who immersed themselves in the silk industry until its demise in the mid 1700’s followed by an influx from the Jewish Community who set up a textile industry here.

Alas, by the Victorian era, Spitalfields was synonymous with deprivation, slum dwellings, criminality and prostitution, and was the scene of a brutal killing of a young woman by the serial killer Jack the Ripper.

During the 20th Century, there was an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants who worked in the textile industry, and made Brick Lane famous as the curry capital of London. And this sculpture by Spitalfields Market in some way aims to reflect the area’s rich history of providing shelter for successive waves of immigrants. This piece is by the Greek sculptor Kalliopi Lemos

Petticoat Lane Market is an area made up predominantly of Wentworth Street and Middlesex Street and famous for its street stalls selling cheap clothes. But nowadays, as with many markets, equally noted for its food stalls which attracts crowds of near-by office workers each lunch time who come to sample and enjoy the variety of flavours on offer.

The market stands in the shadows of and within spitting distance of The City, with The Gherkin being the most notable skyline companion. And close by is the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, part of the London Metropolitan University.

Wentworth Street crosses Commercial Street where I find an interesting arch leading into the housing complex through Flower and Dean Walk. The inscription on the arch serves as a reminder of the slum days and efforts by the philanthropist Nathaniel, the 1st Lord Rosthschild, to change the living conditions for the Jewish Community by setting up the Four Percent Industrial Dwelling Company Ltd.

And across the road, there’s a brief glimpse at the cobbled streets of London, but alas now bastardised by the blight of the ever present yellow line.

Whitechapel Gallery, on the HIgh Street, offers an eclectic mix of exhibitions, but I hadn’t realised that there’s a tiny alleyway on its left: Angel Alley. It doesn’t go far but towards the end is an unassuming ‘bookshop’ with this interesting mural on its wall. It’s only now as I research this bookshop I realise its social significance. The Freedom Press has had its place in the (troubled) anarchist movement for over 140 years. This summary is well worth a read, and I now understand that the mural depicts 38 individuals who may have been sympathetic, at one time or another, to the Freedom Press.

Brick Lane: if you have never visited, then put it on your list of places to go. But be warned, if you go on a market day, be prepared to get squashed and pushed around as it’s a hive of like minded folk wandering around gawping at the colours on display. Don’t let that put you off, but if you fancy a more leisurely look at the area…go on a non-market day.

I roam aimlessly admiring the abundance of wall art. In fact there are few walls that haven’t been decorated. Some are clearly artistry and no doubt have been commissioned or painted with permission, and some are random acts of graffitti, but to be honest, not out of place. Here’s a sample of some of my finds whilst poking my nose into discrete alleys. I can guarantee, if you go visit, you’ll find your own favourites.

My wanderings take me in and out of several side streets where I stumble across Links Yard. What was once probably a remnant of the textile industry, the abandoned workshops have been craftily redeveloped as part of a wider community effort to regenerate the Brick Lane area by the Spitalfields Small Business Association

I eventually end up at the new Shoreditch Overground station, in awe of the wealth of artistic talent that surrounds the area. But there are still reminders of modern day poverty and homelessness; as I walk under the railway arches, there’s at least one homeless woman who’s clearly made this place her own.

Whitechapel

Whitechapel’s heart is Whitechapel High Street, extending further east into Whitechapel Road forming part of the A11 road. In the past this was the initial part of the Roman road between the City of London and Colchester, exiting the city at Aldgate, but today’s modern day travelling is no doubt significantly different; as indeed is the City’s skyline. 

And although the main road was not squalid, the surrounding side streets had very much evolved into classic Dickensian with problems of poverty, overcrowding and deprivation during the Victorian era. Thus, Temperance, Salvation and Alms can be found aplenty along Whitechapel Road; being born out of the determination of several individuals to improve the plight of the poor and homeless in the East End of London. 

Trinity Green, a small conclave of Almshouses along the Whitechapel Road were built by the Corporation of Trinity House on ground given by Captain Henry Mudd for mariners. If you pass, look up at the roof line of the gatehouses where you’ll see these ships.

Next door is the Tower Hamlets Mission set up by Frederick Charrington, the son and heir of the brewing empire, in the late 19th Century.

And of course, no reference to the East End is complete without a mention to the 19th Century work of the Christian Revival Society set up nearby by William Booth and his wife Catherine. Now known as the Salvation Army. Statues of the two stand proudly outside the Almshouses and Mission.

On the south side of the road, and opposite Whitechapel underground station is the renowned Royal London Hospital. Now a modern hospital standing just behind the original, demolished, brick building. It’s facade still erect, and I think this view of the new through the old is quite striking.

Shadwell

Heading south from Whitechapel HIgh Street, I meander through Shadwell, and stumble upon Watney Street Market; one of many localised markets throughout the borough of Tower Hamlets. The market offers a cut through from the main A13 Commercial Road to Shadwell Overground station, and it’s a busy market day offering a glimpse of the borough’s diverse range of residents. At the southern end of the market there’s a collection of large flat slabs set in a straight line upon which I’m invited to sit on. And as I do, I see there’s a historical theme engraved on them, with references to the area’s shady past. If anyone has any knowledge of these slabs, please drop me a line.

Onward into Cable Street, the street’s name states simply what its purpose was; that of a straight path along which hemp ropes were twisted into ships’ cables. I have some familiarity with such a place name as in my home town of Aberystwyth, I lived near ‘Rope Walk’ which has a similar historical origin. Walking along to the entrance to St George’s Gardens and I find I’m  immersed, through a very large mural, in the story of the Battle of Cable Street. 4th October 1936 saw a hand to hand battle between the fascist supporters of Oswald Mosley and local residents and the Metropolitan Police. Go take a look, as both the mural and the story are well worth seeing and reading about.

Leaving Shadwell through St George’s Gardens, and before crossing The Highway heading into Wapping, I’m acquainted with former residents through their memorials, epitaphs and gravestones. Prominence is given to Henry Raine; a wealthy man who built a school for poor children. But my attention is piqued by the gravestone of Mr Alexander Wyle (?) who died on the 4th December 1741 and whose remains are buried here.

Wapping

Synonymous with the maritime trade, the area is famed for its wharves, docks and marine trades. The area was badly affected in the Second World War blitz, and it further declined into dereliction as a consequence of the post war closure of the docks.

The area’s fortunes changed during the 1980’s when redevelopment and regeneration saw many of the empty wharf buildings converted into fashionable riverside apartments. A trend that has since been adopted right along the Thames shoreline.

I pass Tobacco Dock, a destination I’d seen heavily advertised over the years as I drove through The Highway, so I was keen to see what’s here. But as I arrive, I’m disappointed as it’s a cordoned off events centre. There are no events today, so it has a derelict feel to it, although there’s some maritime interest as I explore the two ships moored in the dry docks in front of the centre. The docks name gives a clue to its purpose in its heyday.

Further down Wapping Lane, I pass St Peter’s London Docklands Church, and admire its gaunt frontage which was built as a memorial to its founder, Father Lowder.

A little further down, there’s a small parade of shops and my attention is drawn to P&J Bakers. This is partly because of its delightful window display of home baked breads and cakes, and partly because of the intriguing black metal doors on the side and rear of the bakery. At a guess, they may have been old oven doors for the bakery but when I asked inside, no one was able to give me an explanation of their history. Maybe you do…drop me a line.

Waterman’s Stairs and Mudlarking

Approaching Wapping HIgh Street, the overground station is directly ahead and as I turn right, I’m confronted with an array of repurposed Wharves. They include Gun Wharf, King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf, St John’s Wharf, Aberdeen Wharf, Pierhead Wharf and Oliver’s Wharf: all within 400 meters of each other.

The walk is somewhat unexciting, until I realise the real gem is when I explore the little alleyways in between the wharves which lead to the water’s edge and I discover the Watermen’s stairs. These were used historically as access points to ferry people along and across the Thames, or even to bring ashore the cargo for ships moored in the Thames. The stairs would provide access to the ferry boats at high tide and at low tide the ferry boats would use the adjoining causeways.

This helpful guide lists all the stairs along the Thames (for Wapping, go to page 31). Some of the stairs are in good condition and others less so, even if you can access them through locked gates. 

The ones I explore are Wapping Dock Stairs, King Henry’s Stairs and I access the shoreline down Wapping Old Stairs where I meet Norman, a mudlarker. He explains that mudlarking requires a permit which grants permission to dig up to 7.5 cms beneath the surface (3” in imperial measurement), and after three years you can apply for a permit to dig deeper. He proudly shows me his find of the day, and along with another mudlarker who happens along, they determine it may well be a vintage lace bobbin.

A little further along the shoreline, I meet Christopher, a like minded photographer with whom I share my ‘endoftheline’ story and reminisce about the early days of black and white film photography. Here is one of Christopher’s photos, which he has kindly agreed that I can publish. This one is taken under Oliver’s Wharf looking west towards Wapping Old Stairs.

Wapping is the home for the Metropolitan Police Marine Unit and Boatyard, and I spot a couple resting their feet in Waterside Gardens, which sits in between the two buildings. They seem to be enjoying the riverside view of working and pleasure boats moving up and down stream.

And no riverside is complete without a pub, and it’s at the nearby Captain Kidd I meet a group of gentlemen enjoying the view from the open terrace. They are all from the Greater Anglia Control Centre in Romford enjoying a social afternoon sampling the local ale and taking in the views.

Returning to the City

I’m back on familiar ground now as I approach St Katherine’s Dock. I’ve covered these docks in an earlier blog, but there’s an interesting side note about the nearby Ornamental Canal, which is now a popular route for joggers, keep fit enthusiasts and serious runners alike. Did you know that it was once a location for the filming for the 1999 James Bond film ‘The World Is Not Enough’?

My travels around Aldgate come to an end as I reflect on how two towering Grade II listed buildings have been sympathetically restored. The first in Back Church Lane, within earshot of the mainline rail service into Fenchurch Street, is Wool House. No guesses for working out its original purpose in the Victorian era, but now it’s a multi-tenanted office and residential space. I walk around the building and count 12 hoisting stations, an indication of how busy it would have been at the height of the wool trade in London. But here’s an interesting fact – the second series of the BBC television series, Dragon’s Den was filmed here.

The second is of the HULT International Business School sitting on the corner of Commercial Road and White Church Lane and directly opposite the home of The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers. This Grade II listed building was once the St George’s Brewery, Whitechapel, but there’s very little information to be found other than this architect’s journal

Time for home to rest my weary legs…

Picture of the Day

This picture was taken in the food market in Goulston Street, just off Wentworth Street, and is part of a series studying lunch-time office workers deciding on their food choice of the day. The street is lined with open air pop-up food stalls, and their menus and price guide erected high up on their stalls so that potential customers can see what’s on offer whilst they move around the crowds.

I’m standing amidst the crowds and slightly elevated when taking this shot, and I notice that those queuing to be served are all studying the menu board intently, oblivious to their surroundings. Presenting this in black & white helps to strengthen the observation, and I believe it also helps to focus attention on the three main subject’s gaze. The individual in the centrepiece has a simple ruggedness to him which playfully offsets the more traditional office gent on the right.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO2000; Google filter – Vista

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District Overground TfL Other Services TfL Underground

#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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#70: Kennington – 15/10/2019

Now I know some of you will ask yourselves after looking at the tube map that ‘…hang on, Kennngton isn’t at the end of the line!… BUT then there are a few out there who know differently, and I became one only recently after reading about the Kennington Loop. You too can read about it here.

I resisted the temptation of riding the loop when I alighted at Kennington, but I’m sure it could have been an interesting ride. Anyway, that’s why I’m here; so please read on…

The Station

There’s nothing particularly exciting about the station which sits at the junction where the Charing Cross and Bank branches meet, and the building remains largely unaltered since it was opened in 1890. A Victorian building stylised in classic London red brick with a domed lift shaft.

The fate of the Kennington Loop is somewhat uncertain as work on the Northern Line Extension will see trains from Charing Cross branch being extended through Nine Elms to Battersea Power Station, and utilise some of the loop’s infrastructure. Although not due to complete until 2020, work is well advanced as evidenced in the building works in and around the Kennington Area.

Although not connected with the station, I spot these colourful artworks on the side of a neighbouring corner shop by a local artist, Sevan Szekely.

Kennington as a Community

The area is predominantly residential with local shops scattered around serving the main A3 road. It’s a leafy area with wide avenues lined with a variety of trees with large town houses now converted into multi occupation flats.

The main roads feed smaller residential streets with a mix of typical London terraces and a variety of local authority style flats probably now privately owned or managed by responsible social housing organisations. No doubt the location and immediate surroundings help shape and determine how their residents live, and this example of Calstock House, just off White Hart Street has a poignant tribute to one of its lost residents: Mary ‘Mhairi’ Veronica Mackinnon, who died in 2017.

A wall plaque lays tribute to her time as ‘…someone who gave so much time and love to the community and surrounding gardens…’ Alas, the gardens seem to have fallen into neglect as I suspect no one has picked up the trowel to continue with the green fingered care. I don’t know if this chair was hers, but its positioning directly under the wall plaque would seem to indicate it was.

Another example, this time at Read House in Clayton Street which is within catching distance of a ‘6’ being hit out of  the Oval cricket ground, demonstrates the practical needs of those living within.

Nearby the local Durning Library is a powerful example of how one person’s philanthropy has benefited the wider community. In the guise of Jemima Durning Smith, a lady of means who created a legacy of free libraries across the south of London. This one, built in a gothic style and carries a relief of her on the outside, is now being used as a multi purpose venue. The library staff were kind enough to allow me to photograph inside the building.

Kennington is somewhat defined by two large spaces, the Oval which I touch upon later, and Kennington Park, a large open space of fields, walkways, play & sport areas and formal and informal gardens. It is a busy thoroughfare for those cutting through the park, and with those enjoying the tranquility and calmness away from the main road: casual walkers, dog walkers, mothers with children, and sadly the rough sleepers.

It’s an attractive park with many items on display, and this one in particular caught my eye because of its significance today. The stone memorial, which carries a quote from Maya Angelou, an American civil rights activist and poet, and outlining the plinth is an inscription remembering those who were killed 69 years ago. I pay my respects as it now seems a forgotten memorial, albeit it in a prominent place, as there is no other acknowledgement of the day’s significance.

‘…to commemorate the wartime suffering of the people of Kennington & in particular over 50 men women and children who were killed on the 15th October 1940 when a bomb destroyed and air raid shelter near this sport. Rest in peace…’

Read the full story of Kennington’s Forgotten Tragedy here. My thanks to the Friends of Kennington Park who shared this story with me. (updated 24/07/2020)

The Kia Oval

A visit to Kennington wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the home of Surrey County Cricket, but alas I wasn’t allowed in as there are no planned tours scheduled today. Instead I circumnavigate its outer walls and gates and in true ‘visitor style’ I spent my time peering through the railings and captured this view.

Not just of the cricket ground, but also as seen in the background, a diminishing reminder of the country’s once dependence on coal gas where the manufactured gas was stored in large tanks supported by the iconic metalwork. Such architectural structures have fallen by the wayside to developers, but a few can still be seen as preserved heritage reminders.

I’m also surprised to find The Oval has its own version of the ‘Angel of the North’ as depicted here. Well, it’s my take on one of the floodlight towers that adorns this cricketing arena, but when viewed from below, it does (I think) present a vague similarity.

Extinction Rebellion

Throughout my tour of the area, I begin to feel a little paranoid as there’s a police helicopter circling overhead, And no matter where I am, the helicopter seems to be following me. It’s only as I approach Vauxhall station, later in the day I get a sense of what’s happening. The roads leading to the station are awash with police and police vehicles which have a notice inside their windscreen something along the lines of ‘…patrol no. xx for removal of arrested protestors…’

It’s only as I turn into Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens I realise what’s afoot. The Extinction Rebellion, who have over the past week or so, demonstrated across London,  have partly decamped right across the gardens.

But the police are invoking a civil order to disband the gathering of many hundreds of protestors who have clearly made the gardens their home in the past week. This is a peaceful engagement between the police and protestors, and whilst there is continuing reluctance to move, the protestors do gradually and slowly move on.

Electric Cabs

My encounter with a black cab driver earlier in the day seems to balance the Extinction Rebellion’s cause quite nicely as it brings into play the, albeit, slow growth of electric cars in response to the climate change challenge.

I see a cab pull up next to an electrical charging point so I wander up to ask the driver about his experiences with his cab. Peering inside the cab, I see how technical an electric black cab has become as there are at least four separate touchscreen displays. The cabby is quite candid about his experiences and says it would be foolish to buy one of these new cabs at a cost of £60,000. This is because their technical immaturity still cause breakdowns, and in his view, there are discrepancies too between the limited liability of aftercare and the potential cost of fixing such repairs. Such is the plight of those who chose to be early adopters of new technology products, but because of that, he has chosen to rent his cab which offers him the safeguard against maintenance and breakdown costs.

He explains a full battery charge can take up to an hour to complete, and I noted during my 10 minute conversation, the battery charge indicator has increased by about 20%. He also explains that a full charge will give him about 400 miles of driving; this is of course subject to weather and driving conditions, and is enough for about half a day’s driving. He was, however, positive about the transition and saw only opportunities for improvement in the coming years.

Picture of the Day

There’s an interesting back-story behind today’s picture. The artwork I’ve captured here is found at the entrance to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens just east of Vauxhall Station. The history of the Pleasure Gardens dates back to the 18th Century when they became popular with the urban middle classes as places for paid entertainment. Vauxhall also had a seedier reputation for prostitution here too.

For those who saw the recent dramatisation of Vanity Fair by William Makepiece Thackarey, you’ll be familiar with the vision of fun and frollicking within the context of a fairground – then that’s how I imagine the pleasure gardens to have been.

This is a picture of two sculptures atop tall plinths. The sculptures recently erected in 2015 represent the coming together of Vauxhall as seen today with its historical significance. Let me explain: the artwork depicts the figures of a lady in 18th century garb being offered a flower from a young man from the present-day; and shows a representation of a silent conversation between the past and present in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

I took several shots in colour and black & white and feel this grainier image depicts the scene best, with a slight homage to the modern day with the building crane in the middle foreground and the scaffolding on the right.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ10; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 50mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Camera setting – grainy B&W

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Metropolitan Piccadilly TfL Underground

#69: Uxbridge – 02/10/2019

I return to Uxbridge today, this time to complete the final leg of the Piccadilly line’s ‘end of the line’. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I thought I had covered the town pretty well on my first visit, but…

The Station

When I was here earlier in the summer, I spent some time exploring the station so I decided to walk through this time and head for the town centre instead. Because of this though, I did stop at other stations on the line as my day comes to an end, so read on and see where else I have been.

The Town Centre

So who knew Uxbridge has a runway? Well in truth it doesn’t, but this view from the top of the Cedars Car Park made me think ‘what if?’. It’s a view looking north easterly from the top floor of the empty car park and the empty blue sky combines nicely with the parallel lines on the surface giving the impression that it’s a runway.

At the north end of the High Street, it’s market day so I have a chance to do some people watching, and this shot of workmen at rest eating their lunch outside the Pavilions shopping centre catches my eye. Their high vis jackets complementing their soft drink bottle colouring quite nicely.

The shopping centre itself is a little old and tired, it’s an open style market place with fixed and temporary stalls in the main square. But in fairness, the centre has made some effort to spruce the place up as this view suggests. It’s of the overhead walkways that joins the car park to a central lift shaft in the middle of the market area; it’s an interesting ‘upside down’ view from the reflective mirrors on the underside of the walkways.

At the southern end of the High Street is the old Regal Cinema proudly showing off its art deco exterior. It’s now a nightclub and despite a multi-million renovation over 10 years ago, I think sadly its glory days as a cinema are long gone.

Nearby, and returning to the aeronautical theme of earlier, I cross the main road to the land which was once the proud home of RAF Uxbridge and Hillingdon House. It’s now another of London’s  fashionable property developments, this one by St Modwen, and as I walk outside the building site I come to the end of one of the buildings. This one is a three storey building with doors leading nowhere, but what makes the picture more interesting is that the sun peeks out from behind the clouds and casts this majestic tree shadow.

Before leaving town, I walk through Uxbridge’s new Intu shopping centre, where there’s a display showing that the town is the birthplace of the once infamous Christine Keeler. For those of you born after the 1960’s, look her up; and apparently the chair on which she sat on for the renowned photo-shoot in 1963 is now on show in the V&A Museum.

The Grand Union Canal

The canal is less than half a kilometre from the town centre, so what better way to spend part of the day than walking canal side for a mile or so with the sun shining and colourful river boats for company. My starting point is at Uxbridge Lock (Lock No 88)

I follow the path under The Swan and Bottle Bridge (no 185) and over The Bell Punch Footbridge (no 185A) where for part of my walk, I’m accompanied by a swan and and her ten signets. She keeps a wary eye on me as I walk by, but I wonder where the dad is as there’s no sign of him.

The path takes me under The Dolphin Bridge (no 186) and I finally leave the canal at Gas Works Bridge (no 187). By the way, all bridges and locks are numbered across the British Waterways, so next time you’re walking under/over one, look out for the numbered plate. The following is a small collection of the colourful views from beside the river

Out of Uxbridge

Today’s end of the line visit is courtesy of the Piccadilly line, but to be honest it’s a shared line with the Metropolitan line from Rayners Lane where the final seven stops are served by the same track. The Piccadilly line out to Uxbridge started life as the District line but only as far as South Harrow when in 1910 the Uxbridge extension was completed. Its conversion to the Piccadilly line took place in 1933.

Hillingdon – this is the first station out of Uxbridge and its full name is Hillingdon (Swakeleys) as evidenced on its roundel. Why? Well I can only presume it’s a reference to the once Manor of Swakeleys, and now Swakeleys House, which is only a short distance from the station.

Hillingdon is a bit of a pass through location, but its position right on the A40 Western Avenue makes it an ideal spot for commuters. My visit here is somewhat sobering as I’m reminded right outside the station of the frailty of life as I read the messages laid in tribute to one of London’s most recent fatal stabbings. Young Tashan Daniel, on his way to watch Arsenal play, football at The Emirates Stadium, was attacked on the station and fatally wounded. My thoughts go out to his family and those affected by this event.

Mystery Station – my final picture is of Labyrinth maze number 32/270 from Mark Wallinger’s collection which was commissioned by Transport for London (Tfl) to commemorate 150 years of the London Underground. Post a message to let me know where I ended my day’s journey.

Picture of the Day

This is my first picture of the day taken inside the flight of stairs leading to the top of Cedars Car Park from High Street above Tesco. I’m drawn in by the red and green colouring of the stairwell I see from the street so I decide to traverse the stairwell, and my curiosity to see Uxbridge town centre from the rooftop is piqued.

It’s the type of stair well you’d rather not go into as it smells of urine; although I have to say it was relatively clean. I had no expectation of finding anything of interest but after walking up the first flight of stairs, this image is staring back at me.

I’m intrigued by the graffitti as its socio/political statement is clearly directed at the Town’s Member of Parliament who is also the current (at the time of writing) Prime Minister. The ‘statement’ raises the question in my mind as to whether the ‘artist’ is dyslexic, or that they have decided out of respect not to spell the swear word in full. But amusingly they are quite content to bedaub a publicly accessible wall in a somewhat hidden position where only a few passers by will see it. 

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 53mm; Film Speed – ISO2000; Google filter effect – Auto

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#68: Finchley Central – 24/09/2019

Central Finchley is the other end of the Mill Hill East daytime shuttle service I wrote about earlier in April, and today I walk about five miles up and down Regent’s Park Road, Ballard Lane and High Road into North Finchley.

Finchley residents may disagree with me, but I only find a few places of passing interest, so I try to make the most of their history here. The majority of the day is about dodging torrential downpours, and whilst most of those out and about find this to be a troublesome inconvenience, I take full advantage to capture the mood of the changing weather conditions. But first…

The Station

This is one of three stations that carries the ‘Finchley’ name, all along the Barnet branch of the Northern Line; East Finchley and West Finchley being the other two. The station is typically Victorian retaining most of its original features, although this could have been quite different had plans to redevelop the rail network under the auspices of the Northern Heights Plan in the early part of the 20th Century materialised. However the Second World War scuppered those plans due to the cost of rebuilding the network after the war damage.

Access to its three platforms is gained from both the north and the south side of the railway line via Chaville Way and Station Road respectively, with a footbridge connecting all three platforms.

Local Landmarks

This is a busy part of London with a diverse community served by a thriving mix of independent shops ranging from ethnic eateries and groceries, beauty shops and barbers, charity shops, and thankfully only a few national chains. The link (above) does much to provide a history of the area, so I’ll not try to compete with this save for the following landmarks:

King Edward Hall – A prominent Grade II listed building situated in the convergence of Hendon Lane and Regent’s Park Road. It was built in 1911-12 as a private banqueting hall on the upper floors with shops on the ground floor; interestingly though it was used as a temporary hospital during the First World War. Currently in a somewhat dilapidated state, its restoration is now being considered. 

Manor Farm Dairy – across the road on the corner of Victoria Avenue is a corner shop underneath flats in an impressive red bricked building. Look to the top and you’ll see set in each of the three facets the name ‘Manor Farm Dairy’. A little research through the annals of the British History Online site indicates the Dairy was founded c. 1875 by Joseph Wilmington Lane and joined in the 1920’s with United Dairies, which had been founded in 1917. From the middle ages, historical data shows the area was dominated by several Manors, each with their own dairies, and this unrelated article in The Times gives an interesting insight into the plight of dairies in their formative years.

Newton Wright Limited – All that remains of this maker of x-ray equipment and scientific instruments is what I presume to be the factory gates which now sit proudly on Ballards Lane. Sadly the factory which once stretched as far back as 30 houses behind Ballards Lane is now itself a housing estate.

Joiners Arms – diagonally across the road, and next to Tesco is this rustic inspired pub. As most high street pubs do these days, they have to cater for what their clientele want and so they offer sports TV to attract and retain their customers. Nevertheless, their exterior is attractive and well maintained, and they have creatively adopted the modern wall art genre to advertise themselves.

Grand Arcade, North Finchley – this arcade epitomises art deco at its grandest, but to see it you really have to look deep into the gloom as the arcade is largely unloved and has been left to deteriorate. A campaign against its demolition and replacement with modern offices and flats is being lead by Dave Davis, lead guitarist of The Kinks.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day

Today’s forecast is thundery downpours and I wish I’d prepared a bit better as I’m under dressed when the rain comes. The sky darkens ominously quickly and there is little doubt what is about to happen but I remain undeterred as I capture the moody skyline.

When the downpour comes, I’m at the front entrance to Tesco, cowering under a very narrow ledge that barely manages to keep me dry. But the spectacle of the rain bouncing back from the steamy pavement is too much to ignore so I set my camera near to the ground and capture the image created as the sun starts to re-emerge. People rushing by, eager to get under cover, seem oblivious to my presence so I’m able to get some interesting shots.

Once the rain stops, I carry on along Ballards Lane and stop at Lovers Walk, a small passageway which seems to invite me in to take its picture, but I can’t find a composition that works well. Almost walking away, I realise I’m leaning against a litter bin and notice its two open mouths face through to the passageway and this creates a different perspective. As I crouch down, I spot a young couple walking through the frame and I set about taking a series of shots composing their approach as the centrepiece; and they oblige unwittingly by keeping to the centre of the path.

Picture of the Day

I’d intended to have a predominantly black and white day to help capture the moody weather conditions, but when I saw this wall, it simply wouldn’t have worked in B&W. The location is on the side of a closed and disheveled restaurant, the Central Restaurant, part of the Central House tower block complex on the corner of Ballard Lane and Nether Street.

It’s a very simple scene as this part of the wall has been painted in these three bright colours. The taking of the picture was less than simple as I’m positioned on the opposite side of the road, my camera low on the ground, and waiting for traffic queueing at the nearby traffic lights to move along. I’m keen to get a shot uninterrupted by cars, but this setting only gives me about two to three seconds every three minutes or so as the lights change and traffic moves by. I end up taking several shots to get the one I want, with the added challenge in that the sky is getting darker by the minute and about to pour, so there’s some additional pressure not to get wet as well.

I set my camera in ‘art vivid’ mode which creates an enhanced effect by taking three consecutive shots with slightly different settings. The camera software then stitches the individual pictures into one creating heightened colours. I’m pleased with the outcome but realise that the vanilla shot (with no traffic) lacks something in the composition, and I believe this one with a ghostly image of a car just entering the frame on the left hand side helps with the picture’s story. The effect is created by the image of the car being taken on the third shot and appears somewhat shadowy when stitched with the other two pictures. 

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Auti; Camera effect – Vivid

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#66: West Ruislip – 27/08/2019

A 10 mile walk on one of the hottest post Bank Holiday Tuesdays ever recorded. Phew! Today’s visit is a final farewell to the Central Line. This time to the north west of London in what was  once the county of Middlesex, but now the suburbia of West Ruislip which is entrenched in the London Borough of Hillingdon.

A particularly challenging day, not only for the distance I travelled, but for the harsh daylight conditions too. I’ve decided to set my camera in black and white mode and a fixed ISO of 100. Ideally I would like to have had a lower setting to help with the harsh lighting, but alas this is a limitation of my camera. One of the outcomes from today is that many of my pictures appear somewhat ‘flat’ in monochrome, but that challenge has been part of the fun in trying to get a well lit and composed picture.

 I’ll let you be the judge.

The Station

The station’s island platform serves two lines with trains arriving and departing every 10 minutes or so. An early 20th Century station which is adjacent to a separate Chilterns Railway station served by a separate entrance but with a walkway joining the two. Although there is nothing particularly striking about the station or its surrounds, the feeling of ‘big brother watching’ is clearly evidenced by this picture of these overhead cameras. They look somewhat sci-fi and menacing as they could easily have appeared as a large winged drone hovering overhead.

At the end of the platform there’s a gateway to the driver’s rest rooms reached up a flight of steps and a gangway across the railway line. And whilst contemplating a shot, the driver of the recently arrived train walks up and we chat. He outlines his itinerary for the day, which includes two return trips to Epping, a lunch stop and rest break in Acton before ending his day, returning home for his tea – all before making his way to Watford to watch his football team play Coventry in the EFL Carabao Cup that evening. I’m pleased for him that Watford won 3-0.

HS2

Whatever your thoughts, views and emotions surrounding the HS2 project, it’s impact on West Ruislip’s residents is clearly set out on notices surrounding the station despite development work having already started just across the road.

And it’s across the road I wander and poke my nose around the West Ruislip Golf Centre. I find I’ve made my way, unchallenged, to the 40 bay driving range and I’m somewhat surprised there’s no one’s about other than a singular golfer whose picking up his golf bag and walking out. All becomes clear as I’m approached by an employee asking me to leave the premises. I explain my purpose and ask if I can take some pictures but I’m told that the business was sold to HS2 the day before and therefore the Golf Centre is no longer an operating business. We exchange a few comments on the impact of HS2, but the employee remains non-committal but her sadness is etched across her face.

Ruislip

Ruislip is very much suburbia at its best and is well served by 5 stations bearing its name (West Ruislip, Ruislip Gardens and South Ruislip all on the Central Line, and Ruislip and Ruislip Manor on the shared Met/Piccadilly Lines). There is little of interest around West Ruislip so I head off to the main town centre which is about a mile away. En Route, I pass Training Ship (TS) Pelican, the Sea Cadet’s home in Ruislip. An otherwise indistinct building but it catches my eye as it reminds me of my days as a Sea Cadet on board TS Hydra which once had a presence on the shores of The Menai in Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic) on the North Wales coast. This was over 50 years ago, but I’m still thankful for the skills I learnt – in particular how to tie knots: the sheepshank, bowline and clove hitch.

The station in Ruislip opened around the same time as its counterpart in West Ruislip and reflected the population growth in suburbia in response to the ingress of the railways into the ‘Metropolitan areas’. This station has a little more character than the one to its west where a well maintained disused signal box has been preserved within the station’s boundaries.

Into the town, I head to its northern approach and browse around Manor Farm and associated buildings. The Manor Farm is a 22-acre historic site incorporating a medieval farm complex, with a main old barn dating from the 13th Century and a farm house from the 16th. Nearby are the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle believed to date from shortly after the Norman conquest.

The buildings have been renovated courtesy of a National Lottery grant, and although the site promotes that it is ‘open’ 365 days of the year, the only accessible building is the Library. A beautifully renovated barn with exposed beams, now filled with rows and rows of books and as part of this summer’s theme, workshops are run for children introducing them to space exploration as part of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing celebrations.

Sadly, I found little else of interest in the immediate vicinity, and unwisely I decided to walk the one and a half miles to Ruislip Gardens. In the searing heat, it was no fun, but equally it was unexciting as I passed rows upon rows of similarly designed houses. The purpose of my sojourn was to return to the Central Line and head for Perivale.

The Hoover Building

As I’m in the vicinity, I decide to head for and explore the iconic art deco style Hoover Building as it would be a shame to pass up on the opportunity to bask in the buildings historic architecture. But before I do, a final mention about the heat: well I can only imagine it is the heat that’s led to my bemusement as I get on the tube at Ruislip Gardens and see this discarded bra on the floor. WTF (sorry) – WTH?! What on earth makes anyone believe it’s OK to just leave such a thing lying around, presumably having been taken off because of the heat; who knows?. I ponder this thought for the ten minutes or so it takes me to travel the four stops to Perivale station.

The Hoover Building is less than ten minutes from the station and in recent years, this Grade II* listed building has been converted into a Tesco Superstore, a Halal Friendly Asian Restaurant (The Royal Naawab), and a collection of 66 luxury apartments. But thankfully all of the iconic features have been retained for everyone to see. I’ll end today’s blog by letting the building speak for itself – well more specifically its original architects: Wallis, Gilbert and Partners

Picture of the Day

I’ve taken this picture within the grounds of Ruislip Manor Farm buildings. In particular within the green area enclosed by the Great Barn, the Library and the Cow Byre Gallery. I’m looking directly at the Great Barn and as I walked through the first time I was struck by the magnificence of the restored buildings, the starkness of the black wooden cladding and the contrast this created with the sun soaked roof tiles. 

Getting the right tone of black is difficult, especially with the sun directly overhead, so I take a few practice shots to get the camera settings just right.

Now I’d seen this lady when I first walked by; she seemed to have stopped for her lunch and is now intently studying her mobile. My first thought is to capture The Barn without her in the frame, but the more I played with my positioning, the more I thought her inclusion helps to set the scene. I deliberate on whether to ask her to stay, but decide against this as it would then have made her conscious of my presence and she may have portrayed a different visage. It’s her intense concentration and complete lack of awareness of her surroundings that I believe adds to the final picture.

I started with a shot from afar which captures too much foreground, so I walk closer to tighten the shot, and then maybe after every 10 steps I take the same picture. In this final shot, I’m probably no more than 3 or 4 metres away and I’m very happy with the outcome. Even as I walk right past her, she still doesn’t acknowledge me, so whatever she’s doing, it’s certainly very riveting.

In post production, I played a little with Google Photos filter settings to get the starkness of the black I was after to represent as close as possible the colour I saw. The ‘Vista’ setting does this justice.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 47mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter effect – Vista; Camera effect – B&W

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Metropolitan TfL Underground

#65: Watford – 20/08/2019

Today’s story is a relatively short one and is my penultimate trip on the Metropolitan line. This time to its end at Watford, and this story complements my visit to Watford Junction earlier in the year. My focus is on the north and west of Watford as this is where the station is located; about a mile out of the town centre.

The Station

The station is in an odd location, but its history explains why. In essence, in the early 20th Century the railway line enticed Londoners with its ‘Metro-land’ advertising campaign promoting the new railway as an opportunity to live in a rural location with easy transport to central London. And although it wasn’t intended to be the terminal station, wars, financial challenges and local authority objections resulted in no further development of the line.

The station itself is fairly unexciting, with one central walkway servicing two platforms. Only half of the platform is covered providing shelter from the elements, but the supporting ironmongery nicely displays the met line colouring.

Cassiobury Park

On exiting the station after the morning peak, it feels like a calm suburban sun-washed peaceful day. There are few people about, other than mums with their pushchairs headed for the park through one of it’s two main entrances nearby.

This park has recently been voted as one of the top 10 parks in the UK and I can see why as it’s a place offering a delightful mix of entertainment for the passive and active visitor. It’s heritage trail takes me on a tour explaining the history of the now demolished Cassiobury House, and the tree lined avenues of what was once the main carriageway, glimmer with iridescent sunshine through the magnificent green canopy overhead.

As I walk past the ‘Hub’ and play areas, children are clearly enjoying the attractively developed paddling and splash pools. And as I walk on, I suddenly find I’m singing along to the tune of ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round’ as a mum with two kids on bicycles ride past. I smile as I can’t get the tune out of my head as I follow the path towards a rustic bridge which crosses the River Gade, with dogs and children paddling in the pools on either side.

Just off the path, some carefully placed logs and rocks span the river which entices many a child to cross. Some achieve their goal of getting to the other side without wet feet more successfully than others, and I laugh with them as their parents cross and fail to achieve this. I wait my turn and cross successfully and I explore the leafy undergrowth on the other side.

There are remnants of river management of days gone by alongside a newer weir which becomes the focal point for the trail. I find though I have to return across the stepping stones as the only way to get back….I do so with both feet dry.

A short hop from the weir, and I’m standing by the Grand Union Canal and chat with a couple on route from Rugby to Harefield in their narrow boat. A journey that has taken them over a week so far to reach the Ironbridge Lock (no. 77) that takes them under Cassiobury Park Bridge (no. 167) where several onlookers enjoy the spectacle. The effort of opening the lock is a well practised event, and I’m amazed at the skill of the pilot steering the narrow boat through the bottom gates as only one is opened – there is no room to squeeze anything else through, but the narrow boat is steered through masterfully.

My picture of the day is taken here too, so read about it below.

Watford Football Club

I feel a visit to Watford wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Football Club, so I retrace my steps through the park, into town and out again along Vicarage Road. It’s not a match day, so the streets are relatively quiet and as I pass the cemetery on my right I see the stadium looming up ahead on the left.

There’s a homage to Graham Taylor on the corner outside the Hornets Shop and the Elton John stand is proudly emblazoned on the left where I take this shot. The image nicely demonstrates the effect of the triple exposure when taking a ‘vivid’ shot with the pedestrian, I suspect an employee returning with his lunch, walking through.

Walking around the stadium, it has a clinical exterior, with the building being encased in matt black cladding, with splashes of colour here and there representing the team’s home colours of gold, black and red: a powerful effect.

Watford General Hospital

Next door is the hospital which is a large sprawling site made up of a variety of early and late 20th Century buildings. As with all hospitals of a similar style, you can tell where the boiler room is, as in this case, you can’t ignore the towering chimneys.

Equally evident is the poor state of some of the buildings, which is somewhat symptomatic of a lack of building investment. This image undermines the great work carried out by the NHS, and it doesn’t help that it’s directly on the main road by the main entrance so casual visitors to the hospital may well perceive a false impression of the hospital’s overall service.

Picture of the Day

This is Cassiobury Park Bridge (No. 167) besides Ironbridge Lock (No. 77) on the Grand Union Canal as it flows through Cassiobury Park. After seeing a narrow boat through the lock, I wander around it and under the bridge and notice the sunlight shimmering off the canal surface iridescently onto the underside of the bridge.

I’ve taken this shot using a vivid art effect on the camera, and in post production, I’ve applied the green Alpaca filter from Google Photos. The effect is quite mesmerising, particularly with the water reflection continuously changing its display on the underside of the bridge. The combined effect not only saturates the greens, but adds a sparkle to the story as your eyes are drawn to the rustic lock gates..

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO640; Google filter effect – Alpaca; Camera effect – HDR art vivid

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Metropolitan Piccadilly TfL Underground

#63: Uxbridge – 07/08/2019

Today’s a creative day shooting predominantly in Black & White once I’d finished  exploring the main station area; I’ll explain why a little later. But first, it’s to the end of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines at Uxbridge, the journey takes me almost from one end of the Metropolitan line at Liverpool Street to Uxbridge. I had thought maybe travelling to Aldgate (one stop) in the opposite direction to lay claim to a complete end to end journey – but I didn’t.

The Station

The station has three platforms with a two level concrete canopy. The higher level over the middle platform which serves the Metropolitan line, and a lower canopy over the outer platforms serving the Piccadilly line. This maybe because the Metropolitan line trains are taller than the Piccadilly line trains, but I’ve no evidence to substantiate this.

I didn’t know this, but until the mid 1930’s, the station was served by the District line, but the service was taken over by the Piccadilly line which now serves as the main artery from Ealing Broadway.

The concrete canopy extends from the platforms over the booking hall which is overlooked by colourful stained glass representing the area’s association with the counties of Middlesex and Buckinghamshire before the creation of the London Borough of Hillingdon. You can’t see the stained glass from the front, but adorning the entrance from the outside are a pair of winged wheels in an art deco style.

On the north eastern approach to the station, there are large sidings, empty at the time of my visit, presumably for the overnight storage of trains at the end of the day. As an aside, getting to the station was trouble free, but my journey back was blighted by a points failure at Ickenham which affected the Piccadilly trains but thankfully the Metropolitan line had a reduced service allowing me to travel as far as Rayners Lane where I could pick up the limited Piccadilly line service.

Uxbridge

The town centre is largely pedestrianised dominated by the railway and bus station at one end, and Hillingdon Council offices at the other end. The council offices are in the main, a collection of brick monstrosities – functional but soulless, featureless and uninviting.

The town centre is a mix of local independent shops and the obvious high street stores, all overlooked by two shopping centres: the more modern Intu Centre and a classic 60’s style concrete Pavilions centre. Both centres host the standard larger retail stores and both are served by large car parks which are accessed via the ring road surrounding the town centre.

Walking around the town, I find few things of interest, although this cutting from the Intu centre to the High Street provides a colourful interlude. And on the outskirts, I see this wall mural in homage to a local landowner, Kate Fassnidge, who bequeathed the park land now known as Fassnidge Park to the District Council.

I take a walk through the park, and see many doing the same and enjoying the shade under the trees as they eat their lunch. The Fray’s River runs through to the adjoining Rockingham recreation ground serving as a conduit for the local ducks and swans. The birds are clustered around an elderly lady feeding them on the river bank by the bridge at Rockingham Road.

A study in Black & White

By this point, I realise I’ve taken very few pictures and I’m starting to think about how best to represent my visit to Uxbridge. The overarching architectural feature is concrete and brickwork, and as I return to the town, I find I’m at the car park entrance of The Pavilions shopping centre looking up at the footbridge that allows pedestrians to access from the other side of the ring road at Oxford Road.

I have an idea: One of my aims in following this ‘end of the line’ journey is to fall back in love with digital photography, and to this end with my current camera. I decide to set a filter on my camera to ‘Grainy B/W’, and leave it in this setting mode for the rest of the day. And as I do, I find I’m transported back to the early 1970’s, a time  when I used to develop my own pictures using B&W film.

Around the back of the shopping centre, I spot a large wooden clad shed. It turns out to be a local taxi firm, and I’m intrigued by its character which stands out so well with its graininess accentuated in black and white.

Through a little alleyway, I enter Windsor Street where I find a parade of small beauty and health related businesses and this is where I meet Reez, Rosh and Graeme. You see, as I pass Reez the Barbers, I’m drawn to the scene of two barbers meticulously tending a customer’s beard as they trim it. As they are right by the front door I stop to admire the precision with which Reez and Rosh are operating and chat to them and Graeme, their customer who are all kind enough to allow me to take some pictures. 

Around the corner is the Charter Building. Once the headquarters of Coca Cola, it has now been refurbished into a fashionable workspace, a growing concept across the city where businesses can rent flexible workspace as their businesses grow. As I explore inside the building, I notice some similarities with The Whitechapel Building in Aldgate, where I last worked for the Government Digital Service. I chat with Tigi and Tehlia, the building receptionists who give me permission to take some internal photos.

Battle of Britain Bunker

I start following a sign for the Battle of Britain Bunker and a half hour later I arrive at my destination to find out two things: I’d just walked three sides of a square to get here as I had in fact followed the road signs instead of a shortcut footpath. And although the venue was open, it has just closed its admissions for the day. Argh! But not to worry as I’ll visit again on my return to Uxbridge. There’s enough outside interest to explore before heading back to the station through Dowding Park.

Picture of the Day

I spent most of the day with my camera set in Black & White mode, and this picture comes from that collection. The graininess I’ve applied to this picture adds a particular edge to it which I think works well. I’m standing on the footbridge over the Oxford Road leading to the car park entrance to The Pavilions shopping centre.

The concrete and graffiti stand out and whilst I’m trying to get the right lighting effect, there’s an elderly gent walking down the ramp trying to avoid being in the picture. I respect his desire for anonymity and leave him to walk out of sight, but think that the photo would be better with someone in it. 

I move onto the lower part of the ramp looking up. With the sun casting strong shadows, I line up the metal handrail on the right hand side so that my eye is drawn to the graffiti on the end wall. And as I’m crouched low, trying to emphasise the rising ramp, I wait for someone to walk into the shot. This gentleman obliges, unaware of my presence, apparently distracted by his mobile conversation – thank you.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 51mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Eiffel

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