Journey’s End

#60: Epping – 18/07/2019

I have a confession to make. In all my 30 years living in Romford, I have only once passed through Epping, a mere 12 miles away and only half an hour by car. That one pass through was on a heritage bus operated by the Epping Ongar Railway as part of a Christmas Special which picked us up by Epping Station and took us to North Weald station where we enjoyed the steam train journey to Ongar and to the edge of Epping station and back to North Weald. A glorious bright but crisp winter’s day with the grand-children who enjoyed the Santa Express. A trip I’d highly recommend.

You see the Central line did once run through from Epping to Ongar, but this service was closed in 1994, and thereafter that part of the line was sold off, and subsequently bought as a heritage railway.

The Station

This is the third most northerly underground station on the Tfl network just behind Chesham and Cheshunt. But it does boast of having the longest possible journey on the Underground without changing trains to West Ruislip, and according to the train driver I chatted with who was waiting on a red signal, takes about 100 minutes to travel the 55 kilometers through the 36 stations en route. The driver, a keen golfer, was in a particularly happy mood as after the four round trips he would make today, he’d be returning home to his family in Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain for a four week holiday.

I was once told, during my early commuting in London, that if I applied a rough rule of thumb that station stops are every three minutes, I’d have a good guesstimate of the length of my journey. And I’ve used this ever since when planning routes if in a hurry to catch a timed event.; obviously this excludes any disruptions of course.

The station is fairly typical of those built in the mid 19th century but because of its rural location the railway lines are emphasised by the long curving arch of the tracks as they approach the station. And as I stand on the railway bridge at the bottom of Bower Hill, the state of the tracks are somewhat contrasted as I look along the disused line in the other direction.

This next image is pure indulgence on my part as whenever I see these numbered markers on the side of any railway line, I’m always reminded of a scene from Douglas Adams’ ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ film. The one where after crash landing on Vogosphere, Ford, Zaphod, Arthur, and Marvin cross a wide expanse where they are tormented by shovel-like creatures that slap them in the face whenever they think of an idea. It’s an amusing thought as I wonder how many railway workers have had a similar fate as these shovel-like markers sprung from the ground? Childish I know… 🙂

The Market Town of Epping

Although mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, I am somewhat underwhelmed by what the market town has to offer by its lack of character and architectural features. So much so I had to walk the length of the High Street twice to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. However I am sure had I visited on a Monday when the Market is here, I would have a different impression, especially as I read from their website that the market was the place to buy a wife! Nevertheless, The High Street is busy with shoppers enjoying the array of predominantly independent shops and eateries.

The town centre is dominated by the impressively built, Gothic style St John the Baptist Church, with its dominant clock tower; and directly opposite there’s a row of old and tired looking cottages in the style of early American colonial architecture.

Similar to many other market towns, Epping has done much to recognise those who have contributed to the community by the erection of blue plaques on the relevant building. And it’s because of these I now know what Dr Joseph Clegg achieved in the late 19th century – that of improving the water and sanitation conditions of the town through the erection of its water tower.

Gnomes and Fish

There’s a simple pleasure in walking around places I haven’t been to before as I see things from a fresh perspective. Some images I find amusing and with those I stop and talk with, I learn of new life experiences. This is the case with the next two images. The first in the shop window of Lathams, one of two shops catering for contemporary interior design in Essex and Hertfordshire. I walked past the shop window and smiled at this scene, and on my second route around the High Street I decided to walk in, and when asked, the assistant was more than happy for me to take a series of pictures. This one represents what I believe to be a humorous and imaginative display.

At the other end of the High Street, in a courtyard between the Sorting Office and a butchers, I met Noel McRae, a fresh fish reseller from Grimsby. Noel is a little reticent at first to chat, but after I explained what I was doing he was happy to share his story. Originally a trawlerman who caught and processed his fish, he explained that the trawlerman’s life is much harder these days; partly due to depleting stocks and the international competition and partly to age. He now concentrates on travelling across the country in his van selling freshly caught cod, haddock and salmon and some smoked trout. I’m pleased that Noel is happy to pose as he explains his return to Grimsby later in the afternoon will see him stop several times at pubs where he has a regular trade.

I shared one story of my own with him when, as a very young lad, I was out with my father fishing for sewin off the wooden jetty in Aberystwyth and I recall my father’s split cane rod bending back upon itself and snapping under the strain of the fish he caught. Alas he didn’t land the fish because of this.

Theydon Bois and Debden

Journeying back from Epping, I stop at the next two stations out of curiosity and out of hope of spotting something inspirational. Alas, and by the time you read this, you will have missed the Tortoise Racing at the 109th Annual Horticultural Show in Theydon Bois, a sleepy little hamlet of a few shops and a large green. Debden, equally unimpressive, stylised by The Broadway; a sweeping arc of mid 20th century flats sitting above a parade of shops.

Picture of the Day

This is the covered footbridge over the railway line by Epping station joining Station Approach with Hillcrest Way and onwards onto Bower Hill. No doubt a much used footbridge when the side entrance from the station into Hillcrest Way is closed, but equally an unloved one judging by its state. A narrow bridge with just enough room for two people to pass side by side, and covered with a metal cage to allow some light in and to prevent anything and anyone (yes) being thrown onto the railway track below, as now prescribed by current highway standards.

The wide angle shot is taken to draw the eye down the tunnel and accentuate the grill effect of its covered meshwork. In doing so, highlighting its necessary yet unwelcoming feel and one you probably would think twice about walking through on a dark evening. The picture has been manipulated using a Google Photo ‘Reel’ filter to enhance the colour contrast.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 18mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO250; Google Photo Filter – Reel

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

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

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

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

The Arches

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

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

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

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

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

Whitechapel

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

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

Brick Lane

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

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

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

Picture of the Day

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

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

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

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#58: An Art Special – 07/07/2019

The Other Art Fair is headlined as an art fair for a new generation of art buyers and it is presented by Saachti Art, BUT ‘This isn’t an end of the line!’ I hear you say so why is this included?

Well I was visiting by invitation from Saroj Patel who I’d met during the street art festival in Croydon last September, and I welcomed the opportunity to attend as during my travels I’ve encountered art in many shapes, forms and sizes. Most recently whilst visiting Battersea Park, where the prominence of large scale art designed around/within new building development is growing, and I for one welcome and enjoy it. 

Not that I’m an out and out art enthusiast, but I know what I like and I’m intrigued by things I don’t understand. This is a relatively short blog, and is more of a means of bringing ART to you as well as providing a platform for those artists I met and whose work I enjoyed and discussed with them.

The Other Art Fair consisted of 100 established local and international artists, and additionally included eight 2019 graduates from Central Saint Martins who had been given the opportunity to show their final graduation exhibition earlier this year.

But what is art? – here are some sayings captured from over the centuries:

  • A picture is a poem without words – Horace
  • Art doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be meaningful – Duane Hanson
  • Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time – Thomas Merton
  • Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature – Cicero
  • Art is literacy of the heart – Elliot Eisner
  • Art is not what you see, but what you make others see – Edgar Degas
  • Life imitates art far more than art imitates life – Oscar Wilde
  • Painting is just another way of keeping a diary – Pablo Picasso
  • You don’t take a photograph, you make it – Ansel Adams

Saroj Patel – graduated with a BA Hons in graphic design in Leeds and now with an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2019. As part of her final work, entitled Taraxa, Saroj was excited to have been selected to exhibit at The Other Art Fair. Saroj is enthusiastic and passionate about her work and creations and has a vision of creating large scale 3D installations incorporating textile and paints. Have a look at her website and Instagram page for more examples of her work, but here are a few from my collection. 

Chris Close – Chris’ work stands out as the quality of his printed photographs are of the highest standard. Large scale landscape prints, deep in tone give the photographs a moody feel. Such is the quality of the photographs that you could be forgiven for thinking they are very fine art, and this is attributed in part to the materials he uses to complement the quality of the pictures taken.

We chatted for a while about the advent of digital photography and how there’s a resurgence in purists returning to Black & White photography using film – aha, that’s where I grew up. Chris also owns an independent Gallery in Edinburgh where other elite photographers are represented. 

Amber Roper : The Blühen Studio – another graduate from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Textile Designs, Amber’s enthusiasm for her woven work shone through when we spoke. Her works on display were of coloured wool woven over hand prepared frames and she explained her creativity in designing the colour combinations flow from her naturally. A delightful lady who was happy to chat and share her passion for her work, which is now internationally recognised. 

Francesca Borgo: Frabor Art – I stopped by to admire Francesca’s paintings as they had a simplicity about them, and yet a depth in what they represented. To me, they provided a reminder of home in Aberystwyth with a horizon splitting the sea and sky. There was nothing discernable in the paintings but the colour combination, softness and tone made them inviting. Talking with Fransecsca she explained she now lives in Trieste with the Adriatic as her palette overlooking Venice in the distance and the mountains of Slovenia and Croatia behind her. No doubt landscapes that clearly inspire her colour palette. I didn’t take any pictures but please visit her website and Instagram page

Merab Surviadze – born in Tbilisi, Georgia, Merab has on display two particular artworks that caught my eye. Both are representative of his style and consists of 3D acrylic paint works from his latest collection entitled Shadows. One in particular has tiny figures placed on canvass as if they are crossing a zebra crossing, and looking closely at the second, the yellow splashes of paint could symbolise people with black lines emanating from them suggesting a shadow.

Jonathan Speed – Jonathan’s work had a contemporary feel similar to Franseca’s (see above) although his style was quite different. The impression is one of moody peace and tranquility inspired from cloud formation and sea/sky horizons. Blues and reds are the main colour palettes of Jonathan’s work on display, which has a style not dissimilar to JMW Turner.  You can view Jonathan’s work here.

Talia Golchin – a multi-disciplinary, self-taught artist who explores themes revolving around ‘human behaviour’, her art reflects a novel, intelligent and sometimes humorous perception of the world.

The work on display, entitled Those we love and Loathe ‘…is a series of artwork depicting a sardonic view of the most reviled and admired personalities of the past century. The art is designed to stimulate both visual and intellectual senses as well as question the perception of the world around us when examined in detail…’. 

In essence there are two layers of images. The backdrop comprises of postcards for escort services similar to the type you may find littering phone boxes, and the frontispiece are other cards in a similar style, but of famous/infamous historical figures. The artwork extends boundaries too as you’re invited to ring the advertised number getting you through to a prerecorded voice message in a style you may expect to hear as if you were ringing the numbers from the cards in the background. A provocative piece indeed… Here’s Talia’s Instagram page

Ravji Dedhia Unadkat – this artists’ husband was looking after the exhibition and he explained that the work I was admiring was influenced by the artists enjoyment of playing the piano and the vertical keys were actually bits of canvas cut from other work of hers. The keys are also laced with gold so that in the right light, the piece glistens.

Picture of the Day

I caught this gent studying the narrative about the Graduate Art Prize and he was oblivious to his surroundings so I quickly caught the moment. I’ve cropped the original shot to remove any unnecessary distraction and applied a Google Photos Vista Black & White filter to add a measure of graininess to emphasise the monotone outcome.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 25mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Vista (B&W)

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Triptipedia – here I share some tips I use when travelling around London. A different twist on my ‘end of the line’ story

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

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

Chelsea Bridge and the north shore

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

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

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

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

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

Battersea Power Station 

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

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

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

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

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

Battersea Park

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

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

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

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

Picture of the Day

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

Getting this shot was a bit tricky as there were others nearby sitting in the frame who detracted from the effect I wanted to create. Anyway, after a little time they moved on freeing me up to ‘own’ the space for a short time. The striking colour is what first drew me in and the figure’s reclining effect is mirrored in a number of ways: by the red/white deckchairs which are available for those watching the large screens behind the figure showing the tennis at Wimbledon; and by the reclining chairs in the foreground which I’ve framed to emulate the shape of the reclining figure. The figure’s black cap and a cup of tea contrasts nicely with the orange, and the addition of a ‘bazaar’ Google Photos filter helps to heighten the contrast of the orange with the blue hue of the surrounding buildings.

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

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#56: Chesham – 25/06/2019

Geographically, I believe this end of the Metropolitan line is the most northerly of all the Tfl termini at grid reference 51°42’18.9″N 0°36’39.9″W. Other contenders are Cheshunt and Epping but Chesham just pips them by a whisker.

The Station

The journey north is a pleasant one and as the train leaves the London boundary, it meanders through Hertfordshire and into Buckinghamshire passing through Chorleywood and Chalfont & Latimer before reaching the end into what I can best describe as a model station. I’m taken back to a train set of my youth with model buildings glued together from Airfix kits and everything is beautifully manicured and cared for.

The station is very idyllic, proudly displaying its well tendered garden, and the station retains the ambience of the glorious railway days of steam. The signal box now a decorative piece, no longer working the leavers to change the points or signals which are now controlled by modern electronics.

The Town

Chesham is a delightfully quaint market town, and quintessentially English, and Chesham Town Council has done much to promote these qualities. Outside the Town Hall there’s a brief historical display, part of which reads ‘…In 1066 Chesham was worth precisely 70 shillings and was one of the largest parishes in the British Isles. It was one of the first places to record its population’s births, marriages and deaths and in 1257 the Earl of Oxford, as Lord of the Manor, was granted a charter to hold a weekly market and a three day fair in town…’

The main High Street, now pedestrianised, hosts a mix of shops, both national chain and many local independents, and much has been done to add colour to the town centre through many floral displays. 

The High Street also holds some surprises as there are cut-throughs to the ring road, which if you explore, reveal a myriad of small independent retailers and coffee shops. Although there is curiously one entrance I found which no longer has an open door.

The George and Dragon

Half way down the High Street stands this former coaching house where I meet Jay, the co-owner of Brothers BBQ & Grill. Jay is an enthusiastic young chef who explains he has recently taken over the catering at the pub and welcomes me into the second floor of the pub to show off his domain.

The pub is very much an ‘olde worlde’ beamed two storied building with creaky floorboards and paraphernalia of days gone by to create an ‘aged’ feel to the building, And the second floor has a ‘play room’ style with games to entertain all ages. Jay also introduces me to Jim, the landlord, who has just opened up and already serving his morning regulars. Nevertheless he is happy to spend a little time welcoming me into the pub and happy for me to take a series of pictures.

He’s also keen to share the story behind the ‘Trooper’ ale which sits dominantly at the bar and explains it was created by Iron Maiden and handcrafted by the Robinsons brewery in Cheshire. Although there is a slight difference of opinion with the brewery website which says it was ‘inspired by Iron Maiden’. Semantics eh!? Jim explains that one of the band members, Clive Burr the drummer I believe, also drank in the pub before his untimely death.

The surrounding area

A few minutes from the High Street, and I’m wandering around the back streets and enjoying the varied architecture such an historical market town has to offer: from traditional whitewashed cottages in Germain Street to The Bury, a Grade II listed building. This was once the Country house built for William Lowndes (1652-1724) who was Secretary to the Treasury in the reign of Queen Anne. The elaborate building is now a collection of offices and private businesses. 

St Mary’s church sits proudly in its own grounds adjacent to The Bury and there’s an arched door through the estate grounds into the churchyard, no doubt a private route used by William Lowndes and his family. The church sits prominently over the town and adjacent to Lowndes Park, a large open park with pond used by the community for relaxation, reflection and entertainment.

Heading back into town I cut through an underpass which has been transformed by murals ‘inspired by the Chilterns, and created by the young people of the Chilterns’. As I admire the colours of their artwork, I stop and talk with Adel, a local resident, who’s passing through the underpass and we share our mutual admiration of this work. too

Flora & fauna

I’ve touched on the town’s floral displays, but there are also colourful gardens and allotments too. The park’s flowers and wildlife also help to bring the town alive and here’s a selection of some of the colours I’ve enjoyed whilst here – thank you Chesham 

Picture of the Day

It’s been a difficult one this week to decide on my picture of the week, but I’m happy with this choice. This picture was taken by an underpass to the main road by the Library, and follows a sequence taken within the underpass of children’s murals to brighten a depressing cut through. I’ve kept a brief reference to this work in the picture to help put the picture in context. The steps are pretty uninspiring but I was drawn to the symmetry and colour of the yellow handrails and the somewhat leaf strewn stairs. I had a vision however that this could look striking in black and white.

I’d taken a few shots waiting for passers by to leave the area as I wanted a ‘clean shot’, so I had a few in the bag with the settings just right. Then thought it would make a better story by including someone on the steps and as I was about to leave, I saw this person just coming into view and quickly took them walking into frame. I didn’t want a full blown shot as I think it would have focused attention away from the object; that is a surprise waiting around the corner. 

I’ve applied a Google Photos ‘Vista’ filter to create a harsh and grainy black & white effect which I think gives the picture some depth. And curiously though, and this is a secondary feature, if you look closely at the central handrail and the joining ‘T’ metalwork, they look like a parade of faces in their own right, maybe guarding those walking through or the mural itself?!

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO2000

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#55: Watford Junction – 18/06/2019

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

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

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

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

Concrete, concrete and even more concrete

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

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

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

The Civic Centre

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

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

The People in Watford

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

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

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

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

Orphan Asylum

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

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

Picture of the Day

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

I’ve referenced above the lady walking through: she was kind enough to agree to my taking her picture provided I didn’t get her face, as having someone walk through helps to explain the underpass’s function. The irony of the sequence is that the one shot I would like to have used has the lady turning around looking at me…Ah well! But I think this one works in a different way in that it accentuates the colour scheme as created by its original designer.

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

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#54: Stratford – 13/06/2019

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

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

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

Stratford City Bus Station

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

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

East Village

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

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

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

The Lee Valley Velopark

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

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

The Marshes

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

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

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

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

Hackney Wick

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

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

Picture of the Day

The precise location of this shot is at the northerly end of Champion’s Walk, part of the original Athlete’s Village built for the 2012 Olympics; and what struck me was the unspoilt, manicured cleanliness of the area. This shot, taken from ground level to accentuate the trimmed bright green hedges accentuates the symmetry of the surrounding high rise tower blocks with the street lights on one side, and balanced by the angle of the building on the other. The shot narrows in on the pedestrian highlighted in white at the centre of the picture with a snatch of colour from an orange bag (possibly a Sainsbury’s carrier bag), and just in view, the red ‘don’t walk’ sign on the hidden traffic lights (zoom in and you’ll see it).

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

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

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