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National Rail

#109: Kings Cross – 18/09/2020

You’ll notice a trend in my early posts in that I’m travelling to the Central London main line Hub stations. Partly for convenience and to limit my travelling, and also to take advantage of the quieter nature of stations at this moment in time. Whilst office workers continue to be encouraged to work from home, the impact on travellers through these stations is evident.

Kings Cross StationThe station is home to: Grand Central Railway, Great Northern Railway, Thameslink and Hull Trains. And a new service operated by East Coast Trains is also expected to start in 2021. Let’s not forget London North Eastern Railway (LNER) too who recently launched the arrival of the new Azuma train fleet, to much accolade and fanfare..

the front of an Azuma train showing off its red and white livery

But first; my thanks again goes to the Network Rail reception staff for issuing me with my contractor’s pass giving me open access to the station and platforms…so off I set.

a large gilded station clock with roman numerals. taken from the ground and looking up to the vailuted ceiling

The station drew architectural acclaim because of it’s recent restoration with the creation of the semi-circular departures concourse with its intricate ironwork vaulted ceiling. An exciting new feature and one that complements the original design and work of Lewis Cubitt when the station was originally built in the 1850’s.

one of the intricate roof support struts of the new concourse in kings cross station

One of the other features revealed as part of this restoration was the unveiling of the original towers at the front of the station which shows off the magnificent double arched train sheds and clock tower. With access now opened up at the front of the station with a piazza style area providing an opportunity for visitors to enjoy this Victorian building.

the front of kings cross station, but taken from the side directed at the main building towers. a sepia filter has been applied to accentuate the brick colour

As the autumn sun shines through the high vaulted glass ceilings, which to me epitomises the Victorian train station, it casts a striped shadow across the platforms and trains arriving and departing to a fixed timetable. But this is no longer the case throughout the station as solar panels have been installed along the roof line to capture the sun’s energy and help the station with its greener approach.

three azuma carriages in the sttaion with a mottleed shadow caused by the sun through the roof

Having walked the length of all the platforms, I decided not to pay to have my picture taken outside the infamous Platform 93/4 where an empty queuing line awaited the next barrage of eager Harry Potter fans. But I wonder if JK Rowling may have got her inspiration for the positioning of this hidden platform from the common folklore that suggests this is the location of Boudica’s last battle and where she is buried and reportedly haunts the underground passages?

Sir Nigel Gresley – the designer of the first truly high speed trains had his offices at the station and it is where he designed the world famous ‘Flying Scotsman’ and ‘Mallard’ locomotives. There’s a larger than life sculpture of Sir Nigel by Hazel Reeves on the concourse which is worth a look.

a bronze plaque associated with the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley

The remodelled station has created many retail opportunities, but as with shopping centres, station retail outlets are pretty much the same. Overtaken by the chain companies with little scope for the independent retailers to offer their wares. I suspect rental charges may have something to do with this. However there is one ray of London independence here through the ‘pop-up’ style flower stall near the west entrance. Isle of Flowers offers an interesting alternative to the usual bouquet approach if you fancy something a little pricklier.

a flora stand with an array of cacti

Outside the station

Battle Bridge & Regent Quarter – an area now defined by Pentonville Road, Caledonian Road, Railway Street and York Way was once the fifteenth century hamlet of Battle Bridge. The hamlet grew due to the construction of Regent’s Canal in 1812-1820 and Caledonian Road in 1826. 1852 saw the arrival of the Great Northern Railway where a mixture of industrial and commercial premises was established along with large warehouses, small houses, factory complexes and industrial buildings with internal courtyards.

empty chairs and tables inside the open courtyard inside Regent's Quarter

Records show this was once the site of a varnish factory that had formerly been a pottery, a factory making patent yellow paint and premises for boiling bones. The buildings have all now been repurposed into a mixed development. Some retail, some office space and some residential accommodation surrounding a hidden courtyard. But pass through Bravingtons Walk and you’ll see some brightly coloured ceramic artwork built into the wall

bright blue ceramic frame with red diamand inserts

The Lighthouseas you exit through the front of the station, look up to your left and you’ll see a lighthouse. Yes, perched on top of the narrow row of buildings between Pentonville Road and Grays Inn Road, there’s a lighthouse. Recently refurbished, it stands proudly overseeing the area, but my internet searches can’t find any clear evidence as to why it was built. There are many speculative suggestions, but the most compelling is that it was erected in the late 19th Century to promote Netten’s oyster bar, which occupied the ground floor of this building.

a ground shot looking up at the 'lighthouse'

Scala club – further down Pentonville Road is this Cinema now turned into a music venue. The building has had a chequered past; soon after being built, it was commandeered for the war effort where aircraft parts were manufactured during the First World War. And subsequently as a labour exchange for demobbed troops before returning to life as a cinema in the 1920’s. The building closed in the early 1990’s after being sued by Warner Brothers for showing the UK banned film ‘A Clockwork Orange’, but then reopened as a music venue in 1999.

the building title - SCALA

Ironworks – north of Regent Quarter is the warehouse where the mass production of steel via the Bessemer process was pioneered in the 1860s at Henry Bessemer’s St Pancras Ironworks. In the same small workshop area there were also foundries making brass and copper, and their heritage is now reflected in a large metal wall plaque by one of the entrances to what is now another tastefully redeveloped retail, office and accommodation space.

a wall plaque inside the 'Ironworks' complex promoting the complex's previous occupants e.g. laundry, shoe black, imperial gas company, screw manufacturers

Kings Place – north again of the Ironworks, is a new building which collocates The Guardian and Observer newspapers; several floors of office space and also the home of London’s newest public concert hall with a range of performance, exhibition and education facilities. The building has a very striking wavy glass frontage, which on today’s clear and sunny day offers an artistic reflection of its surroundings.

the wavy glass font of Kings pLace with dramatic reflections and a red stripe indicating where two panels meet

Picture of the Day – Immortal Memory

a tight shot of part of the war memorial. This pasrt dipslaying, in themain, 1914-18 and 1939-45 and the words 'Northern Railway' and 'immortal memory'

Between platforms 3 and 4, there’s a war memorial dedicated to all those working for the Great Northern Railway (GNR) who lost their lives in World War One, and to those working for the LNER who lost their lives in World War 2. The memorial consists of 11 plinths with the names of 937 employees who died in WW1 and a solid metal plaque upon which the dedication is inscribed. There’s a detailed account here from Jane Roberts, a Yorkshire Based Professional Family History Researcher.

I’ve stopped to admire the memorial for a little while in the recognition that not many busy commuters will do so. Those arriving to catch their train are unlikely to see it, and those alighting at the station to head onwards into London are unlikely to give it a second glance. So I take this opportunity to remind others of its presence and if your interest is piqued, please spend a moment to reflect.

  • Location: Kings Cross Station
  • Date/Time: Thursday 17th September 2020
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO6400

Social Media – if you like what you see, do please follow me on my social media channels

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National Rail

#108 Victoria Station – 27/08/2020

This is the first blog of my new travelling adventure. Having completed my travels to the ends of all the TfL stations across London just before Covid lockdown, I took time out and focused on my local community for a while.

But as restrictions begin to lift, but who knows for how long, I’ve decided to start my next episode. This time to: the ends of the rail network lines within the TfL travel zones (where there is one); and to the furthest point of all other rail network lines within the TfL travel zones. I’ll be excluding those stations I’ve already travelled to during my first campaign which will leave me with almost 40 stations to visit; so I think that will take care of 2020 and 2021 subject to Covid restrictions.

the mosaic floor in the station comprising of brown squares within brown squares in different shades and passengers walking over them

The impact of Covid on travelling

As I set off, I admit to being a little apprehensive from having to wear a face covering for most of the day: on all public transport services and inside the main Victoria Station terminus. I set off with my new travel companions: a face mask and a bottle of hand gel.

My experience throughout the day was mostly positive, but everywhere was noticeably quiet. In fact around Victoria Station it was ghostly quiet as the surrounding offices remain vacant as most people continue to work from home. 

blue floor notices asking passengers to 'please keep your distance'

Passenger numbers are very low and everyone respected each other’s space. Other than those travelling together, people did not sit beside each other. And most passengers were facemask compliant though some didn’t have their nose covered. At times there was maybe one passenger per carriage.

My day’s experience made me full of admiration for those in the station and shops who had no choice other than to wear a facemask all the time. And the floral tribute outside Buckingham Palace in recognition for all the NHS has done during this time remains in full bloom.

a floral display shaped in the NHS logo in the gardens opposite Buckingham Palace

Victoria Station – Home to: Southern and Southeastern Railways and the Gatwick Express although this is temporarily suspended because of the impact the Covid pandemic has had on air travel.

a black and white ceiling shot of the sttaion's latticed roof

I hadn’t realised that Victoria Station is in fact two stations. Built independently side by side in 1860 and 1862 by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LBSCR) and the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LCDR) respectively. The Grosvenor Hotel, at the front, was independently opened in 1861 and then bought by the LBSCR in 1899. At the same time LBSCR became part of the South, Eastern & Chatham Railway (SECR). 

an external view of the station displaying the hotel frontage with the 'London Victoria Station' sign

1923 saw the station being grouped as one into Southern Railway, and later into British Rail in 1948 as part of its nationalisation. New retail premises were built as part of the Victoria Plaza in the 1980’s and in 1992, the two concourses became one through the integration of even more shopping outlets. But look around and you’ll see examples of the different styles of the original two buildings.

There’s a simple, yet detailed account of the station’s history on the Network Rail website, and I must also pay my thanks to Network Rail staff for providing me with a ‘contractor’s pass’ allowing me to wander freely around the station for the day.

People

I spend my day wandering in and out of the station several times. I also saunter up to Buckingham Palace to explore the station’s wider catchment area to see who’s about? And despite the lack of visitors and commuters, London being London there are still some interesting characters about. Here are a few of them.

The Drunk: Sadly, despite the efforts to help the homeless during these times, there will still be those who are wedded to old habits. This gent is walking precariously across the open air bus depot at the front of the station, swaying and stumbling from side to side as he makes his way to the station. Onlookers gawping in astonishment at the state he was in.

a drunkard walking in front of the station

The Lovers: a young couple finding a quiet spot for a cuddle on the carefully manicured gardens directly in front of Buckingham Palace. I didn’t want to get too close, as it may have ruined the moment, so this shot with a long focal length captures their intimate moment. I hope her maj wasn’t peering out of her window at the time.

two people canoodling on the gadens in front of Buckingham Palace

The Photographer and the Model: I saw this couple from the other side of the road and the photographer was giving some very clear directions on how he wanted his model to pose. Something tells me they were a couple enjoying the moment by Canada Gates outside  Buckingham Palace. It was an intense session as they seemed oblivious to my presence as I approched closley to chat with them. I mocked that I thought the photographer, as he knelt to take some pictures, was about to propose. The model jested ‘if only…’ 10 minutes later as I had circumnavigated Victoria Memorial, they were still at it…

a photographer and his model outside the Canada gates in front of BUckingham Palace

The Biker: this sole biker, waiting for what I don’t know, is parked in a dedicated motorcycle parking bay in Palace Street; just around the corner from the new Cardinal Palace eatery and shopping centre. Whatever he was contemplating, it was quite intense as he remained transfixed in the moment for quite a while. The backdrop gives it quite a continental feel; the gated and open railing walkway synonymous with some mediterranean locations.

a motocyclist sitting on his bike in front of a n open stairwell with intricate ironmongery

The Porter: at the Rubens at the Park hotel in Buckingham Palace Road opposite the Royal Mews. I watched this porter for several minutes striding between the main hotel entrance and it’s adjacent side entrance. Waiting patiently to open doors for those visiting the hotel, but alas there were none. A sign of the times methinks rather than a reflection on the quality of this 5 star hotel’s service. There’s an interesting plaque on the outside wall by the main entrance commemorating General W Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister (in exile) during the second world war, who had his headquarters in this building during the war years

a solitary porter standing patiently outside the 'Rubens at the Park' hotel

Artemis – the EWI player: as I’m walking through the Nova complex opposite the station, I approach one of their ‘customer support helpers’ who’s patrolling the area. We chat and he introduces himself as a jazz musician who plays the EWI. He says his ambition is to play full time and he offers me his flyer. I’d never heard of this instrument: EWI stands for Electronic Wind Instrument. You can contact him through his Instagram account if you’re interested.

Picture of the Day

a blck and white shot of a bicycle tyre in the foregoround emblazoned with the makers name 'Acceler8'. Passengers feet walking by in the background

I’ve remarked before that sometimes pictures just find you, and this was certainly the case with this one as I knew it stood out as soon as I crouched to compose the shot.

The passenger, who’s bike this is, was buying a ticket for an onward journey from one of the station’s ticket machines in the centre of the concourse. They’ve clearly thought about their own alternative travel arrangement either for getting to the station, or once they’ve arrived at their destination, or indeed both?

It looked like a new tyre on a new bike, so maybe the owner had decided on new travel arrangements in these estranged times. The positioning of the wheel, with passengers walking in the background and a ‘please keep your distance’ floor sticker made this an interesting composition to capture

  • Location: Victoria Station
  • Date/Time: Thursday 27th August 2020
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 46mm; Film Speed – ISO1600

Social Media

If you like what you see, do please follow me on my social media channels

  • YouTube – for my video clips where I present a compilation of my day’s pictures to music
  • Instagram – for my photo portfolio where you get to see pictures of each visit before I publish my blogs
  • Facebook and Twitter

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Memories

#107 Home to Wales – September 2020

Before I start my new travelog around a Covid London on network Rail (spontaneously entitled ‘theendoftheline #02’), I thought I’d use my recent trip home to Wales to rekindle my story telling. And in a way, it still fits ‘theendoftheline’ theme for two reasons:

  • My home town of Aberystwyth is the end of the line for three railway stations, but more importantly…
  • This was an emotional return to scatter my mother’s ashes in her hometown. So in a way it was a different ‘endoftheline’, poignant and solemn but yet a happy occasion. 

Abergavenny

I start my journey in the foothills of three mountains: The Blorange; The Skirrid and The Sugar Loaf. Mam’s home for the last 10 years, so it seems fitting to start my journey here. This is a small market town, promoted as a Gateway to Wales and sits on the confluence of two rivers: The Usk, and of course the Gavenny.

For those unfamiliar with the Welsh language, place names starting with ‘Aber’ represent the ‘mouth of the river’ so Abergavenny becomes the mouth of the river Gavenny – simple really. And whilst I’m on a bit of a Welsh teaching kick, here’s another one: a place name starting with ‘Llan’ means a church followed by the name of the saint. Don’t forget though the saint’s name will also be in Welsh so their translation into English may not be obvious.

The town, as with everywhere at the moment, is challenged by the need to ensure shopping and visiting is safe to do so, and consequently there are fewer people about. Either because local amenities are closed, or because some shops have decided not to reopen; the effect is noticeable. Nevertheless this is a very clean and well cared for town which prides itself with its local heritage and its renowned international food festival.

old fashioned street lamp outside the main entrance to the Borough Theatre in Abergavenny

I return to Abergavenny at the end of my tour to Wales, and pay a visit to the Sugarloaf Vineyards. As its name suggests, it’s on the foothills of the Sugar Loaf mountain, where Welsh wines have been produced for a number of years. The view from their recently built dining area is spectacular, and on an autumnal afternoon, you can enjoy this view of The Blorange whilst listening to the babbling brook that runs alongside the vineyard. This was a perfect end to a perfect visit to Wales.

a cheese platter and a glass of red wine with The Blorange in the background

Places we visited

Westonbirt Arboretum: I know! I know, not in Wales, but we did visit here whilst staying in Abergavenny. Just a short hop back into England over the old (original) Severn Bridge. This is my preferred route over the Severn instead of going over the recently renamed Prince of Wales Bridge, because you have an excellent view up and down the estuary, and no two journeys over the bridge are the same: the scenery changing with the tides and time of day.

two visitors walking across a high rise bridge through the woodlands at Westonbirt Arboretum

Booking is required ahead of visiting, but that’s the new normal now in order to control the flow and number of visitors. Managed by Forestry England since 1956, the National Arboretum was originally created over 200 years ago by the wealthy Victorian landowner, Robert Holford; an ambitious man with a passion for the natural world!

two autumnal reddish leaves amid the green leaves yet to change

With over 600 acres of woodland, it’s impossible to enjoy all the arboretum has to offer in one visit. Indeed, even if you could, you’d want to return during the changing seasons to see nature’s beauty at its best.

peeling rusting bark on an acer 'Acer Griseum' in Westonbirt Arboretum
peeling rusting bark on an acer ‘Acer Griseum’ in Westonbirt Arboretum

We visit with family, and as is my want, with camera in hand, I’m often trailing behind their steady walking pace. This is because I’ll have found some interesting natural occurrences that I want to capture in the best possible way. Maybe I should write a separate feature of my visit here as I have many gloriously coloured woodland shots to share.

small fruit from an unknown plant

It’s difficult to choose, and that’s always my dilemma when I select my ‘Picture of the Day’. Sometimes the picture selects itself, and other times I ponder over a short selection and decide which one best represents my memories of the day.

a felled tree with a mystical design carved on its trunk
the supporting legs of the treetop walkway

Tredegar House & Park: The house is managed by the National Trust, and as members, subject to booking, we had free access to the house and it’s ground. Although the house is currently closed whilst safe arrangements to reopen it are being considered, the grounds and surrounding buildings are well worth a visit. As indeed are the surrounding parkland and lake which are managed by the local council.

a low ground shot of the front of Tredegar House

The House’s history is steeped in early Welsh politics, the industrial age and the class divide between the landed gentry and its tenants. But later in the 19th Century, this changed with land being given away and a more lenient rent position for the tenants.

To the side of the main house, the stables are a magnificent building and walking through you get a sense of the owner’s love and passion for their horses, and their history in tragic war time circumstances. The scale needs to be seen to understand how much the owners cared for their horses.

a black and white image of light emerging through four windows at the end of the stables at Tredegar House

Equally, the enclosed gardens give a strong sense of calmness and seclusion with a few carefully planted trees providing opportunities for quiet contemplation.

a black and white image of a solitary figure under the canopy of a well established tree in the grounds of Tredegar House

The surrounding park, once part of the landed estate of Tredegar House, consists of several prominent features within its 90 acre surroundings. Noticeably are the giant redwood trees (Sequoioideae) that skirt one side of the bird-filled lake and it’s boathouse. It was nice and reassuring to see that where large groups had gathered, they did so in a socially distant manner.

a black and white image of the boathouse in Tredegar Park with it's reflection on the lake's surface

Cross Hands: en route to Aberystwyth, down the M4 and A48 to Carmarthen. And then up a well trodden twisted route that I’ve journeyed many many times over the years. I stop briefly at what is a relatively small village, now largely by-passed. But in my childhood days, it was a frequent stopping point to visit my father’s family.

I have fond memories as a child of meeting great aunts and their extended families here in my grandmother’s birthplace. She was one of 9 children, and although some died very young, relations would always come out and greet us with open hearts, open arms and a kitchen full of cake…

The purpose of stopping here was to visit my grandmother’s grave. She died in 1988, and each time I drove through the village, I always felt a pang of guilt for not stopping by to remember her. So I decided to change that today.

the path leading up to Tabor Chapel in Cross Hands

The village looks pretty much the same, although houses have been renovated and modernised. The ‘family’ home is no longer part of the family, and is itself being refurbished. But there remains one unchanged building: Tabor Baptist Chapel – my grandmother’s final resting place, interred with her husband who died some 47 years earlier.

my grandparent's headstone: John Thomas and Priscilla May

Aberystwyth

Ah! My home from birth until I left at 29. The place where I grew up, free from parental constraints; free to wander and explore in the days when this was considered normal. The only caveat was from mam…’if you’re going out, be home by tea time!’… A pleasure I was able to pass on to my children when we returned frequently, and I’m pleased that they have the same fond memories of the town as I do.

a hazy cloud swept sky overhead Aberystwyth beach with the pier in view

A town that became popular during the Victorian era as the railway arrived which brought visitors in abundance from the Midlands. And now a University Town that has captivated most of those who have studied here.

the 'old college' building on the seafront in Aberystwyth with Constitution Hill in the background

There are many popular and enjoyable things to do, such as: a walk up Constitution HIll – the home of the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway, a  funicular railway that gives unprecedented views of the coast (the first of three ends of the lines); a walk up Pen Dinas, a Hill Fort overlooking the sea; walking the 1.5 mile long promenade (prom) from the harbour (now reclassified as a marina) in the south to ‘kicking the bar’ in the north. And let’s not forget the castle ruins, where as a child, I spent many a happy hour playing hide and seek.

a collection of lobster pots stacked on top of each other at Aberystwyth Marina

My return home this time was partly a personal visit to reacquaint with school friends with whom I’d been conversing throughout lockdown via Zoom. The restrictions in Wales meant we had to meet outside, with suitable socially distant precautions in place.

a beautiful early autumn sunset over the sea at Aberystwyth

I have to admit the weekly chats have been a helpful distraction during the height of lockdown as they gave a sense of purpose and a focus each week; not to mention the opportunity to relive shared memories – and how interesting when we pool our individual recollections, it makes for a far more colourful and complete story of our day to day lives as children, teenagers and young adults.

So as I spent a few days in my hometown, I couldn’t resist wandering around with my ‘endoftheline’ camera in tow and selecting a few memories to share with you.

a brightly blue coloured house in Vulcan Street, Aberystwyth

The town’s main station which serves as the end destination for the Cambrian Coast Line is now a little dilapidated, but a walk through it’s remaining platform and rustic ironmongery helps you appreciate its historic charm.

a long shot of Aberystwyth station's name sign

The town’s railway line had partly survived the Beeching cuts in the early 1960’s, and calls for it’s full closure in the late 20th Century due to declining travellers. But for many a holiday maker and student, it’s a lifeline that now sees trains fit to burst. Such is the line’s popularity that a new station, just east of the town in Bow Street is being built to encourage commuters to travel into town from outlying areas.

The final of the three stations, adjacent to the main line, is the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway which travels to and from the remote village of Devil’s Bridge. A ride on this railway offers a beautifully scenic view of the river Rheidol valley and an opportunity to explore the waterfalls in Devil’s Bridge. Sadly, the service is currently closed due to Covid restrictions.

a black and white image of the 'Vale of Rheidol Railway' station's roof

Over the years I have seen the town encourage responsible bathing through the inauguration of the Aberystwyth Surf Life Saving Club in the early 1960’s. In fact I had several school friends who were involved in its development in the mid 1970’s and it was pleasing to see that it is still going strong today.

members of the Aberystwyth Seal Life Saving Club practicing on beach

The prom is the jewel in the town’s crown as it’s a natural gathering point for everyone. And I recall, particularly on Bank Holidays, the prom would be littered with motorbikes and their enthusiastic bikers who had journeyed out for the day to enjoy the sea air. This wasn’t to everyone’s taste as bikers had a rather dark reputation in the 1960’s and 70’s. But I’m pleased the town has embraced their arrival by providing a dedicated parking area for them on the prom. It’s quite a spectacle when the cordoned area is crammed with all makes and types of bikes.

a variety of motorbikes parked up on the promenade at Aberystwyth

As a child, I spent most summer holidays on the beach. Whilst it was an easy and cheap pastime, it was nevertheless a happy time; always shared with family who’d stay with us for the holidays, and school friends who’d join ‘our crowd’ under the prom wall overlooking the north bay. My uncle would spend hours and hours on the rocky outcrops as the tide uncovered their barnacle riddled ridges and share with us his skills at netting prawns, catching edible crabs and the occasional lobster. Tea time was always a delight when we would have the day’s fresh catch served up.

a sea view over Bath House rocks on Aberystwyth Beach's north shore

…oh timeless memories…

Picture of the Day

The river Rheidol at a discrete location near Capel Bangor

But the main purpose of my return home was to share memories of mam’s life with cousins who joined us to spread her ashes on a secluded part of a local river. This is the river Rheidol at a quiet and isolated spot near Capel Bangor, and it is Mam’s final resting place.

Why here? When my father, a keen fisherman, died over 18 years ago, we decided it would be fitting to return him to the river he once fished. We laughed at the time as one of his sayings to our children, his grandchildren would be ‘when I was living in China…’ as a preamble to a story to entertain them with. Of course he had never been to China, but we thought this could be the start of his new journey to get there.

My brother and I agreed that it would be fitting to reunite our parents here…

Social Media

Why not visit my Instagram page to see some other selected pictures of Aberystwyth

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Blog Update

Insights

A little about how my stories and pictures have been received

First of all… Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! for all your support, followings and comments.

It’s been nearly two and a half years since I started my www.endoftheline.blog and I’ve now posted over 100 updates on my site.

I’ve also branched out across many social media platforms too. Starting with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and later onto YouTube and LinkedIn.

I started all this as a personal journey with little regard for any measure of success. But as the months passed by, and I acquired a growing band of social media followers, I started to be interested in how to cultivate a wider audience.

Consequently, I started to take an interest in my various channels to see whether, and if so how I could influence those who follow me and gradually increase my readership.

I’ll not pretend it’s been a meteoric success when compared to some influencers who are paid to endorse products; and that’s not something I set out to achieve. My success has been more of a muted growth, and it’s an approach I’m content with.

Since April 2020, I’ve been capturing insightful data from across all my channels, and I thought I would share some of this data with you by way of promoting the ‘best of post/picture by social media channels. So here goes…

Blog Site

I now have 41 followers: 23 who subscribe to my email updates on the publication of a new post, and 18 who follow my site through their own WordPress account.

My most successful month so far has been July 2020 which saw nearly 850 visitors arrive, and my busiest day was when I posted this picture within my Travel/Boats theme entitled ‘Moored under the Barrier’.

three yachts moored near the Thames south shore with the barrier in the near distance

Unsurprisingly, over 90% of my visitors are from the UK, with 4% from the USA and a growing interest from China, Germany, France and Australia. Visitor journeys to my site in the early days were predominantly from Facebook and Twitter (85% in 2018), but this has now shifted to over 60% coming through search engine queries.

Twitter

I started using my personal account and in hindsight I wish I had created a separate account specifically for my travels. But it’s a bit too late now as I’d have to corral my 209 followers – unless there’s anyone out there who can advise of an easy and painfree way of doing so?

Twitter insights are measured in two ways: impressions and engagements. My simple interpretation is: those who see it, and those who do something about what they’ve seen.

My most successful Twitter impression picture was published on 12/08/2020 under my Natural World/Creatures theme entitled ‘Feline Hungry’. A quick search across twitter reveals there are many cat lovers out there which might explain this picture’s popularity

a green eyed cat crouched under a car stafing intently at something nearby

My most popular Twitter engagement picture was published on 21/07/2020 under my Social/Remembering theme entitled ‘Kennington Remembers’. It was following this post I had a helpful response from the Friends of Kennington Park who helped me complete the story behind this memorial

a stone memorial in the grouns of Kennington Park

Facebook

I started my end of the line page with a loyal group of family and friends, but since I started advertising in May 2020, on a very small budget, I now have 59 followers.

Facebook has three insightful elements: Reached, Engagements and Story. Similarly to Twitter, my interpretation of these is: those who see my Facebook post, those who react to my Facebook post, and those who have viewed the separate storyline.

My most viewed and reacted to post on Facebook was published on 13/07/2020 when I wrote about my intended plans to transition from my daily picture of the day ‘Memories to Themes’. For the previous 81 days, I had published my picture of the day from each of my 81 travels, and was about to launch a new portfolio of my photographs which I’d categorised into 5 themes. If you missed it the first time around, here’s a link for another chance to read it.

My most popular Facebook story was published on 20/05/2020 from my Memories collection and was my picture of the day from my visit to Heathrow Terminal 4 on 20/12/2018

a concourse at Heathrow airport with a spotted ceiling of white sound proofing discs

Instagram

Instagram has two insightful elements: the main page, and similar to Facebook, there’s a story line as well.

Instagram is known predominantly for being a photo posting site, although there are those who post videos there as well. And it was on 30/05/2020 that I uploaded my most successful post. Not a photograph, but a video promoting my ‘draft’ photo album which I’ve ambitions of turning into a published book in the coming months. Have a look here.

I had two joint popular Instagram stories. One published on 03/06/2020 and the second on 09/06/2020. Both published as part of my ‘Memories’ collections. The first was my picture of the day from my travels to Paddington station on 10/04/2019 and entitled simply ‘9:32 pm’

The second was my picture of the day from my travels to Brixton on 28/05/2019 and entitled ‘Walking through Brixton’

paddington sttaion at night. a view of the main GWR clock with a statue of Paddington Bear underneath
a painted 'BRIXTON' mural  with geometric green, yellow and red hatched stripes on a wall under the main bridge by the station

YouTube

I’ve had limited success with YouTube, but what I have done is created a short video from my pictures after each of my days out. The videos on the whole last just over a minute, but it’s my belief that this may be too long to capture the interest of those who just want a quick picture to view. Nevertheless, I’ve persevered with creating the videos and offering them up through my blog site as an alternative viewing source.

My most successful video to date was following my visit to Woodford Green on 22/01/2019 and is one I created as a promotional video for The Broadway Deli & Grocery. Have a look at it here.

LinkedIn

This is a relatively new venture so I’m testing the waters, but I see it as an opportunity to promote my photographs to a different group of interested people. My most successful post on LinkedIn was my very first post here: Memories #08 which reflected on my Pictures of the Day between the end of April and the end of June in 2019.

What next – it’s been a matter of learning from experience, but I’ve now established a pattern of posting one picture a day rounded up with a summary of why I took the pictures every 7-9 days thereafter. So for those who want a quick ‘photo fix’ they get a regular feed, and at the same time I don’t bombard those who prefer the detailed description which they get on average weekly.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that during the past 4 months, I’ve been discovering my local community through my ‘Lockdown Mayhem’ series of pictures. This has been an attempt to explore places closer to home, whilst still being able to act responsibly by not travelling unnecessarily to help prevent the spread of Covid19 .

However, as the ‘new normal’ embraces people’s behaviours, and the declaration that it’s safe to travel whilst wearing a facemask, I will soon be resuming my travels to begin my new adventure: 

theendoftheline #02

I’ll be embarking on a new end of the line plan. One where I’ll be visiting Network Rail’s ‘ends of the line’ within the Tfl travel zones; and travelling on other Network Rail lines as far as I can within the Tfl travel zones. Why these limitations? Because I can still travel for free using my 60+ Oyster Card.

There are 63 stations in total to visit, so I hope that will see me still travelling and writing and taking photos into 2022.

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Lockdown

Lockdown Mayhem – Nature Special 2020

My fourth and possibly last blog based on my occasional travels during these unusual times during Covid19 lockdown and the phased return to a new normality. This one focuses on pictures I’ve taken that fall into the ‘nature’ category that didn’t make it into my previous ‘Lockdown Mayhem’ series.

I hadn’t realised how many places I’d visited. As well as my local wanderings, some were taken in open areas where social distancing was easiest to maintain, or latterly to gardens which operated a timed entrance slot to help reduce the numbers at any one time. 

In a small way, these pictures help to define the Lockdown summer of 2020. I hope you like them?

#01: Cornflower

a single bright irridescent blue cornflower head

Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as cornflower or bachelor’s button, is an annual flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe. In the past it often grew as a weed in cornfields (in the broad sense of “corn”, referring to grains, such as wheat, barley, rye, or oats), hence its name.

The bright, almost iridescent, blue makes this flower stand out, and is one of several varieties which was amongst a collection of wildflowers we were given as a wedding anniversary present earlier this year. Other colours we noticed were pink and white, but to be honest the blue ones stood out by far.

From germination, they flowered for about four months and were a great addition to several pots attracting a variety of bees during the summer. Before discarding the flowers, I sprinkled their seeds along a border hoping to create a homemade wildflower area for next year. For anyone who wants to grow simple, maintenance free flowers, then I’d recommend the Cornflower.

  • Location: Home garden
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 2nd June 2020 at 6.44 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO640 

#02: Field Grasshopper

a grasshopper perched on a leaf as if ready to pounce

Chorthippus brunneus, also known as the common field grasshopper, is a species of grasshopper of the subfamily Gomphocerinae.
…and this male, one of many, was living quite happily in a corner of the garden dedicated to wild grasses.

Despite their ability to jump quite quickly, they weren’t too difficult to catch, or even get close to and this little chappie was happy posing for his picture.

I think the collection of grasshoppers were around for about a month, and reading about them, I suspect the local ants were harvesting their eggs. We had an ant infestation nearby in a walled border and each time we tried to move them on, there was a mass of eggs they shifted quickly. I appreciate they were also ant egg cases, but given their proximity, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a mixed batch.

Well, let’s see if these hoppy critters return next year?

  • Location: Home garden
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 2nd June 2020 at 7.18 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO6400 

#03: Where’s the Ice Cream?

eastbourne pier in the background. Seagull standing on a lamppost in the foreground. a black and white picture

Have you ever had your ice cream pinched by a flying seagull?
Well I hadn’t until a couple of years ago. I’ve laughed at seeing others being taken, but I have to admit when it happened to me, I was shocked at the speed and accuracy with which these ice cream pirates attacked.

This one, perched atop a lamppost on the upper balustrade of Eastbourne bandstand was evidently looking out for its next free meal: be it ice cream or chips. It didn’t happen during my brief walk past, but the picture does help epitomise today’s seafront with the pier in the background.

It was a nice stroll out though, and I have to applaud everyone’s desire to walk past each other responsibly and at a distance.

  • Location: Eastbourne promenade
  • Date/Time: Saturday 20th June 2020 at 3.26 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#04: Yorkshire Fog

three single strands of meadow grass brightly lit by the day's sun. black and white picture

Nomansland Common is an area of land about 6 kilometers north of St Albans and consists of open heathland, and a wooded oak woodland. It’s ideal for nature spotting, whether your interest is in insects or birds. And for younger kids, the trees and wooded area have been creatively managed to help encourage some fun activities. 

The common lies across two parishes, Sandridge and Wheathampstead, and during the 15th Century the monasteries of St Albans and Westminster both contested the Common for their respective parish. The Common acted as the ‘no-mans-land’ between the two warring factions, with over twenty years of disputes. Finally in 1429, a jury agreed that the parishes should share the grazing rights.

On the day I visited, the insect wildlife was awash with bees, several types of butterflies, ladybirds and spiders, all of which entertained the grandchildren in one way or another. But it was this sunlit grass that caught my attention.

It’s the kind of grass that you casually stroke as you’re ambling along a country walk or you pull up to scatter the seeds without a thought. I decided to leave well alone this time and just enjoy the simplicity of what I think is Yorkshire Fog

  • Location: Nomansland Common, St Albans
  • Date/Time: Saturday 11th July 2020 at 10.33 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO640  

#05: Pigeon Hotel

a black and white picture of scores and scores of pigeons perched on a tiled roof, basking in the sun. a church steeple in the background

What a sight this was. On the roof of the boarded up church just behind Romford Central Library. I wanted to shout at them to see them all disperse and catch the resulting mayhem, but I thought better of that.
Pigeons aren’t everybody’s favourite bird, and I understand why, especially as they poop everywhere, and when clustered like this, it’s a lot of poop.

The ground in front of me was also smothered with pigeons and I was treading carefully to avoid them as I moved about to get the best angle to capture this shot. They were quite unperturbed too, and casually moved as I got amongst them.

I’m not sure if it’s coincidental, but has anyone else noticed an increase in pigeons in the outer reaches of London since they were scared out of Trafalgar Square over 15 years ago?

  • Location: St Edward the Confessor’s Roman Catholic Church, Romford
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 21st July 2020 at 12.05 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 125mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#06: Geese Ahoy!

a black and white picture of canada geese in a V formation swimming towards the river bank

Lee Valley is an excellent expanse of managed waterways, parklands and sporting grounds and it’s somewhere to explore more than once. There are so many different areas, that once you’ve been, you’ll want to return and investigate somewhere different.

I’d been to the Lee Valley before during my endoftheline visit to Cheshunt station when I walked down the canal to the white water rafting centre, which was built for the 2012 London Olympics. You can read about that journey here.

But today’s visit is a family event and we meander around an area of Fishers Green, just north of Waltham Abbey. Not really knowing where we were going we tried following the park signposts and thankfully ended up at our intended destination.

Along the way, there are many of nature’s wonders to enjoy, and no doubt these will be seasonal too. But this flock of Canada geese, zooming towards us in ‘flight’ formation is one of my favourite memories of the visit. They must have thought we had food, as there was a determined charge in our direction, and I was surprised to see them swim in formation. But I guess the same principles of flight work equally well in the water.

  • Location: Hooksmarsh, Lee Valley Park, Fishers Green, Waltham Abbey
  • Date/Time: Wednesday 22nd July 2020 at 10.16 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 147mm; Film Speed – ISO500

#07: Sunflower

a single bright yellow sunflower head

There’s nothing like a sunflower to bring a smile to your face. So easy to grow, and they come in many different forms. My personal favourites are varieties called ‘Toyshop’ and ‘Firecracker’. Toyshop grow no larger than three feet tall, and have a variety of flower heads. Firecracker have a distinct orange colouring, and both varieties attract pollinators all season.

On one of my local days out, I walked down a path alongside the library in Gidea Park emerging in the cul de sac of Balmoral Road. I hadn’t realised, even after living here for 30 years, that there are allotments here. In fact it’s the home of the Romford Allotments Association, and if you’re interested in acquiring an allotment, you’re invited to make your way to the allotment entrance in Balmoral Road on a Sunday morning. Alternatively, contact Bob Mercer on 07779 519911.

Alternatively for any enquiries about allotments in Havering, have a look here.

This was a solitary sunflower standing about eight feet high

  • Location: Romford Allotments Association, Balmoral Road, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday 30th July 2020 at 11.47 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 89mm; Film Speed – ISO160

#08: Just Fishing

a grey heron standing still in an algae covered pond

This was a day out at Beth Chatto Gardens, east of Colchester. If you’ve never been, and you’re a keen, or even casual gardener, it’s well worth a visit and ideal if you’re looking for inspiration, or simply want to enjoy the different gardens.

The gardens are based on ecological planting: the right plant for the right place. Created by award-winning gardener, author and lecturer Beth Chatto OBE VMH, who won 10 gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, in the 70s and 80s.

There are five garden styles over 7.5 acres: Gravel garden, Scree garden, Reservoir garden; Woodland garden and a Water garden where this heron was captured.

I’ve been fortunate to photograph several herons over the last couple of years, but this has to be my favourite picture. With my zoom lens at full stretch, I’ve balanced the barrel on a handy nearby fence. The heron didn’t move, but rest assured it was studying the water very intently looking for any slight ripple of movement ready to pounce; it’s almost a seamless motion, swift and precise.

I took two pictures, one in black and white, and this one which highlights the green of the plants and water borne algae. Not sure if this is the dog dangerous blue/green variety, but in this controlled environment, it wouldn’t pose a risk to dogs.

  • Location: Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens, Elmstead, Colchester
  • Date/Time: Saturday 1st August 2020 at 11.01 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO320

#09: Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’

an almost black succulent flower head. alomost rosette like with petals radiating from it's core. dark dark red colouring of this aeonium zwartkop

My final nature shot is also from the Beth Chatto gardens in Elmstead Market, east of Colchester.
We were coming to the end of our visit and heading out past the scree gardens and exiting through the tea rooms and this almost black succulent caught my attention.

Looking closely, it’s more of a dark red/purple, but it was one of many flower heads on a shrub sized potted plant. The flower heads sat on the end of long woody stalks, almost miniature tree like. It was quite a display.

I looked for the name on the display, but there was none to be seen, so an internet search suggests this to be a member of the Aeonium family. In particular the ‘Zwartkop’ variety.

  • Location: Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens, Elmstead, Colchester
  • Date/Time: Saturday 1st August 2020 at 11.23 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO5000

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Lockdown

Lockdown Mayhem – August 2020

My third occasional blog sees me travelling around the northern stretches of Romford, and a  seaside visit down to the south coast at Eastbourne. I hope you enjoy this short selection of the month’s travel pictures?

North Romford

I had an ambitious notion of walking to Bedfords Park, a nature reserve managed by the London Borough of Havering and the Essex Wildlife Trust. I knew this would be a challenging day as it had been a number of years since I last visited and my recollection of getting there on foot was a little hazy. But I knew if I followed a simple trail through Raphael’s Park and Rise Park, it should be straight forward…

Well, despite Google Maps, and a belief I had a good sense of direction, I got a little lost. Not lost in the sense I didn’t know where I was, but more in that I believed the Park was more to the left of where I was walking (it was actually more to the right). So I ended up traversing across an open field in front of Bower House, part of the Amana Trust building, and emerging onto Orange Tree Hill instead of into the main Park area. Ah well, it was good exercise.

The Walled Garden in Bedfords Park is well worth a visit, staffed by volunteers, and it gives an insight into how an estate would have provided for itself in days gone by. My trek into the village of Havering-atte-Bower was concluded by my walking back towards Romford through Havering Country Park – a predominantly wooded forest with a striking avenue of Wellingtonia trees at the northern flank of the park. It was a very hot day so I ended my day returning to town by bus.

#01: Bedfords Park

a black and white picture with a treeline in the foreground and an overhanging branch framing a distant view across the Thames to north Kent


This view from the visitor centre in Bedfords Park looks across the Thames and into Kent. On a hot, clear day, it was a welcome, mid point stop after traipsing through the Park forest and open land.

For those who don’t know the area, the park sits in 217 acres of open land and deciduous woodland, between the northern boundary of the London Borough of Havering, and the village of Havering-atte-Bower.

Open parklands make it an ideal picnic spot and play area, and an enclosed deer park provides ideal viewing.

The park has a chequered history, with its origins being made up of two estates dating as far back as 1285. There are many internet references if you want to find out more. But for those looking for a nice day out, there’s something for all here. Alas, the visitor centre is currently closed due to the Covid19 restrictions, but don’t let that deter you from exploring this wonderfully maintained landscape.

  • Location: Bedfords Park, Havering-atte-Bower. Outside the Visitor Centre
  • Date/Time: Thursday 6th August 2020 at 12.21 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO100 

#02: Spooky Tree

a black and white photo of a (presumably) dead tree as it has no foliage. A fe black birds are perched on some of the outlying branches

I spotted this on my way out leaving Bedfords Park from Broxhill Road overlooking the open space. It’s at a distance, so full zoom needed to capture the tree in shot, which seemed to be a good resting place for a few birds.

The tree stands defiantly in isolation amid an open plain. Perhaps one of a crop of trees felled maybe to create the open plain. But if so, why wasn’t this one felled too? Perhaps it has mystic or mysterious properties which draws the crows to stand guarding its barren branches. Even in the bright daylight, it reminded me somewhat of the Daphne du Maurier story The Birds, and subsequently translated into Alfred Hitchcock’s spooky film.

Time to move on methinks…

  • Location: Bedfords Park, Havering-atte-Bower. Broxhill Road, opposite entrance to St Francis Hospice looking south
  • Date/Time: Thursday 6th August 2020 at 12.51 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ10; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO200 

#03: Havering-atte-Bower

a village sign of havering-atte-bower

Part of my intended day’s walking route was to make my way to Havering-atte-Bower. The northernmost village in the borough of Havering as it borders the county of Essex.

I’ve often driven through here whilst taking the back roads to join the M11 at Harlow, and in doing so wondered what lay behind the picturesque village green.

The village sign, which stands prominently on the village green depicts three scenes. The sign, incidentally, was unveiled in 2010 by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to commemorate the village’s 1000 year history.

I now take a little liberty in deciphering the three events depicted on the sign as despite many internet references to the sign, I’m unable to unearth any information about it’s make up. So here goes, but I’m happy to be corrected:

  • The top picture, I speculate, may represent the original ‘bower’ or country retreat and hunting lodge owned by Edward the Confessor, which later became known as Havering Palace. There are several interesting references worth reading to help you differentiate between the real and fabled history here: Wikipedia and Hidden London.
  • The final image represents the Havering coat of arms with the date 1042, no doubt symbolising the earliest known date of the village. This is some 44 years before it’s reference in the Doomsday Book under the name of ‘Haueringas’ meaning a ‘settlement of the followers of a man called Hæfer’

So the next time you pass a village sign, why not stop and explore its history too?..

  • Location: The Green, Havering-atte-Bower
  • Date/Time: Thursday 6th August 2020 at 12.56 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 106mm; Film Speed – ISO400

Eastbourne

For over 40 years, Eastbourne has been my second home as it’s my father in law’s (FIL) home town. Our trip was to spend time helping FIL recover from a spell in hospital. Not Covid19, but nevertheless one that serves to remind us of our frailties. Thankfully, FIL is making a good recovery.

On this particular day, it was very interesting as there were high winds and I wanted to explore the shoreline under the pier at low tide. Very reminiscent of my childhood days exploring under the Pier in my own home town – Aberystwyth.

Personally I don’t think you can beat a bracing walk along the shoreline, the incoming tide splashing on your shoes and getting a little wet, and being mesmerised by whatever the sea and winds throw at you.

#04: Speckled Shoreline

a sepia toned black and white picture of eastbourne shoreline as the tide comes in

I noticed the tide times were quite favourable with the low tide conveniently at mid morning, so time enough to get the early morning chores done before making my way to the beach.

A combination of the strong winds and the effect on the tourist industry due to Covid19 saw the prom almost empty. Only a few hardened, or maybe foolish souls were out and about.

This shot is taken right on the shoreline looking west towards The Wish Tower and beyond to the Western Lawns where the frame of the summer ferris wheel stands out. I’ve applied a sepia filter to add a little mood to the shot, which shows tidal debris on the sandy beach being washed in by the incoming tide.

The upturned marker buoys in the distance, act as a warning of deep water and of the submerged barriers to bathers and swimmers during high tides.

  • Location: Eastbourne Beach
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 25th August 2020 at 10.04 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 46mm; Film Speed – ISO100  

#05: Mid Flight

a black and white photo of a young seagull, amid wing, with the scrolling waves underneath

Seagulls are I think a bit like Marmite. You either like them or hate them. But for me they are synonymous with the seaside, chips and ice cream, and their squawk/cry is so unique that once you hear one, you instantly know what the bird is.

I once recorded a seagull sound as my phone ringtone…I always found it funny.

There’s a large flock of seagulls on the waterline, all standing into the wind blasting from the west. Adults and youngsters alike, the later with their distinctive brown and mottled plumage. Some are happy wading, others dipping for food, and there was one pair fighting over a pebble.

When on the wing, their flight pattern could be quite erratic, but taking off was an intentional act on their part. Their flight is determined by the swirling gusting wind, but give them credit, they’re just as happy being blown about to recover their intended flight path to achieve their goal. For some it was just to get back to where they left. But I suspect it’s not a folly to randomly fly into the wind and end up going backwards, but an attempt to gain some height to search for food.

This is one of the youngsters which I’ve captured showing off its immature colouring against the pier in the background and the incoming rolling tidal waves.

  • Location: Eastbourne Beach looking towards the Pier
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 25th August 2020 at 10.11 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO200

#06: Watery Legs

a black and white picture of eastbourne's pier supporting legs

I took a similar picture in my teenage years when I first started exploring black and white photography. It was under the pier in Aberystwyth at about 5.00 am in the morning as the sun was rising behind and casting amazing shadows. That picture has stayed with me all these years and was one of the ones that inspire me to enjoy photography.

I had a notion to try and recapture that image, but clearly there are several things not the same: there’s no sun to cast shadows, and it’s not Aberystwyth Pier. Nevertheless, the hour or so I spent this morning taking a collection of pictures here was just as invigorating.

I probably collected a portfolio of over 20 pictures in this short spell, and this ONE, evokes the image I wanted to capture. Taken in black and white in homage to the image I had in mind, it also transforms what would otherwise be a dull and drab colour picture blanched by the windswept seaspray. The strong black tones of the pier legs against the rolling seahorses on the incoming tide sells the picture which is framed by the body of the pier at the top and the shadowy breakwater on the bottom.

I’m happy…

  • Location: Under Eastbourne Pier looking west
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 25th August 2020 at 10.14 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#07: Eastbourne Pier

eastbourne pier

Okay, okay, okay. This is a postcard picture of Eastbourne Pier. But it’s one that I played with for a while to decide how best to represent it.

You see, after over two years of using my trusted camera, I’m still learning how to get the best out of some of the settings, and this one jumped out at me.

Whilst composing the shot, the boulders in the foreground were an obvious candidate, and then I played with several settings. This is taken with an ambient setting, and what struck me immediately was how the golden towers just stood out as if under a spotlight. The picture looked exciting, almost like an antique postcard with the towers painted.

From local knowledge, the pier’s owner is overtly flamboyant and he has deliberately emblazoned all his properties (of which there are several) with splashes of gold. He even has a gold plated car!

  • Location: Eastbourne Pier from the shoreline
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 25th August 2020 at 10.41 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#08: Just Visiting

a black and white profile photo of Mary Elizabeth. An elderly lady enjoying the windswept view looking out at eastbourne pier

Meet Mary Elizabeth.

This young lady was sheltering under the bandstand canopy away from the windswept rain as she caught my attention as I was walking by. She had been watching me take pictures along the shoreline and questioned whether there was a dead seal down there; I reassured her that what she could see was simply a collection of boulders.

That led to a long conversation where we shared each other’s stories and how she had come to be in Eastbourne during the Covid19 lockdown. A very adventurous lady with a thirst for life and a passion to enjoy herself.

If you happen to be her relative reading this, please rest assured that I was fully vetted by Mary before we chatted and that she decided I was OK to chat to. You see, as Bob Dylan once sang “the times are a changin” as her children have warned her not to talk to any strangers. I hope I’m no longer a stranger? It was a delight to meet you Mary…

  • Location: Under Eastbourne Bandstand shelter
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 25th August 2020 at 11.09 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO400

#09: Stormy Sails

a black and white photo of a windsurfer caught beteen railings

Even in stormy seas there are those who want to challenge the elements. I just hope those who do, do so carefully and sensibly.

I caught this windsurfer as I peered through the railings on the Bandstand parapet, and I followed his progress as he sailed into the wind. I’m not sure how long he had been surfing for, but soon after this shot, the session came to an end.

Here ends my windswept walk along Eastbourne seafront, and my August lockdown memories

  • Location: Looking out to see from Eastbourne bandstand paramet
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 25th August 2020 at 11.14 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO250

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Lockdown

Lockdown Mayhem – July 2020

So… a month on, and more and more shops are opening their doors. Still not enough to tempt me back onto the trains, but there is a sense of a new normal emerging. The must have ‘wear item’ is now the facemask. I’ve tried a few varieties, bought from the local dry cleaners, online ‘bargains’ and the best fit for me is from Gap. So out I go with my choice of three fashionable face masks.

The weather has improved, but before I share my travelling stories, a little about other events that have kept me busy, entertained and angry!

The garden has looked after itself and the fruits of my labours are starting to justify the extent of my earlier hard work. Tomatoes, courgettes and runner beans aplenty, and root vegetables firmly taking stock for the autumn and winter months.

In between all that, I’ve had the pleasure of chasing up roofers to part replace the front of the house. As with all tradesmen, they promise delivery tomorrow, but what they actually mean is sometime in the unspecified future. Despite that, the work was good and I was happy with the price and equally happy to recommend in the Romford area.

But that’s not something I can say about my recent run in with a car garage. You see I was off on a jaunt to visit family, and the dashboard suddenly displays three orange amber warning signs and one red one. Not a good look, so I head back home and the garage offers me a date a month away. My hands are tied, what can I do except wait. Long story short…the bill came in in excess of four figures but just as I was about to pay, there’s mention of a faulty part. Now ‘hold on I say’, surely if there’s a faulty part, that’s not for me to pay. And do you know what…in a matter of seconds, the bill was reduced significantly with very little quibble.

Now I’m delighted of course, BUT if I hadn’t challenged the garage, I would have ended up with an inflated bill. Why didn’t they do this before presenting the bill to me? You can draw your own conculsions.

OK, that was a slight digression, so let’s get back to my July travels in and around Romford. This month I’ve concentrated my walking on the northern part of Romford, inside the A12 ring road, and to the west as far as Chadwell Heath (almost). A total of 30 kilometers over three hot days.

So here goes with my second occasional blog about my local journeys.

#08: Taking the Sheep to Market

A black and white photo looking through a tiled underpass with a row of black sheep on the ceiling. A couple of pedestrians in the far distant exiting the sunlit tunnel entrance

Romford market dates as far back as 1247 when a Royal Charter was granted by King Henry III. Originally a sheep market which no doubt inspired the ceiling mural in this underpass.

I’d never been through here before, and to be honest I didn’t think anything of it. Just another underpass for pedestrians to make their way under the busy roundabout feeding Romford’s inner ring road.

But I stopped to look behind and realised I was being overtaken by a flock of black sheep on the ceiling. I don’t think the pedestrians walking through even noticed what I was seeing: they were too busy checking their mobiles, nattering to each other or trying to calm down a child in a buggy. So it was easy to capture them walking through the underpass to add some context to the picture.

I’ve been unsuccessful in my research to find out more about this mural, so if any reader would like to shed any light, I’d be happy to update my blog.

  • Location: South Street to North Street underpass, Romford
  • Date/Time: Monday 20th July 2020 at 2.32 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO1600 

#09: R.I.P Rob

A black and white photo of a car number plate style RIP Rob sign attached to the dual carriageway central reservation barrier with a decayed bouquet of flowers

‘…Sadly missed your loving family’ is the underscore to this car number plate type memorial firmly attached to the fencing above the central reservation along the main A12 Eastern Avenue.


Looking on Google maps, this has been there since at least September 2008, and for each iteration of the Google Maps reference, there are always flowers, albeit in a sad state of decay.


Despite a thorough internet search I’m unable to reveal who Rob was, but nevertheless he was a much loved person.


It’s hard to know why it’s here, in this location, but I hazard a guess it was either a road traffic accident, or a pedestrian trying to cross the main road. Whatever the circumstance, it’s a sombre reminder of the frailty of life and the need for vigilance when crossing roads. I pause to think about the nearby underpass: was it there before the accident, or because of it?

On a related theme; whilst walking through the main Romford Cemetery along Crow Lane, I stopped to admire the array of children’s gravestones. There was one inscription that brought a tear to my eye – it simply said ‘born dreaming’

  • Location: Opposite Footpath No. 79 emerging from Parkside Avenue on the main A12 Eastern Avenue, Romford
  • Date/Time: Monday July 20th 2020 at 2.58 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO800 

#10: Victoria Centre

A black and white photo of a view of three dorma windows at roof level on the dilapidated pavillion style building

Locals will almost certainly know this as one of the places to go to for a blood test where you don’t have to queue for ages. Well that’s been my experience to date anyway.

This rather dilapidated building, is in the main, full of character even in its unloved state. In fact I think the aged and tired look adds to the building’s charms.

It was originally built in 1888 at a cost of £1,000 in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Known as the Victoria Cottage Hospital, and through gradual expansion over the decades, it grew from having 13 beds to 101 beds by the time it became part of the NHS in 1948. During the 1970’s and 1980’s changes to the health care system saw a decline in the hospital’s use when it eventually closed for inpatients in 1985 when only 32 beds were available.

Since then, the site has catered for several outpatients departments for which it continues to do so to this day. It sits proudly, in it’s own grounds (now car parks) just off Main Road in Petits Lane and serves as a reminder of how cottage hospitals once supported their communities. There’s no doubt it is a distinct looking building and one to admire for what it once was, and is now.

My thanks to the Lost Hospitals of London site for this information. I’m so glad such sites as these exist as otherwise this kind of information would be lost forever.

  • Location: Victoria Centre, Havering NHS Primary Care Trust, Petits Lane, Gidea Park
  • Date/Time: Tuesday July 21st 2020 at 12.35 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#11: Victoria Road Footbridge

A colour photo looking along the length of a footbridge with tall sides and a mesh canopy. In the bright sunlight, the blue/grey metalwork contrasts with the yellow overhead light guards

Bridge reference LTN1/103-ROU/11.

Did you know if you ever wanted to find a bridge reference number other than finding it on or near a railway bridge, then there’s a very helpful resource.


Thanks to Daniel Hanson, who made a Freedom of Information request to National Rail Limited in 2015 who subsequently provided a full list (at that time) of every railway bridge in the UK. You can view it here. But be warned, it’s a hefty data set, but if it’s your thing…then fill your boots.
Access to this footbridge on either side is via isolated cut throughs from their respective roads. Ok for daytime  passage but less so I would imagine at nighttime. 

It’s a bright sunny day today and a few pedestrians are making their way across. There’s one mum with a toddler in tow, somewhat frustrated at the length of time the little boy is hovering to see the trains pass by – oh such simple choices.

I wait until all have passed, as to be honest, it could be a little intimidating seeing someone crouch down taking photos as they walk through. I decide to err on the side of caution.

Built in 1893, this lattice wrought iron bridge has lost its charm, as probably a lot of railway footbridges have since they’ve been enclosed. No doubt a preventative measure, but one that nevertheless results in the bridge largely being devoid of its character. This sunlit and shadowy picture offers a glimpse into the view you get when crossing over five railway lines.

  • Location: Railway Footbridge over main railway line adjoining Victoria Road and Junction Road, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 12.13 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 21mm; Film Speed – ISO100  

#12: Just Chillin

A black and white photo of a gent dressed in white shirt, trousres and headcap covering long dreadlocks who's sitting on a street bench

I spotted this gent casually sitting on a bench on the opposite side of the road and I almost walked on. But I found myself backtracking to try and capture the moment. A little difficult as the junction was busy with cars, vans and lorries queuing up at the traffic lights so there were only momentary glimpses of this scene.

So as the lights changed and the traffic moved on, I took a series of shots before the next queue formed. Each shot I took, I zoomed in closer. Some of the earlier shots capture the ‘Mercury Gardens’ road sign, but that’s eventually lost as I’m at the full extent of the zoom.

The gent seemed pretty relaxed sitting there watching the world pass by, and I was equally content to capture the moment with his profile nicely silhouetted against the distant lamppost.

A serene moment in time caught in the otherwise hectic surrounds of the junction between Mercury Gardens and Victoria Road on a hot and sunny afternoon.

  • Location: Crossroads between Mercury Gardens and Victoria Road, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 12.23 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length -200mm; Film Speed – ISO250

#13: Tiled Walkway

A black and white photo with diagonal lines of this shadowy walkway edging from middle left to bottom right. A gent walking into shot at middle left helps to balance the picture

This blog seems like a story of underpasses. Well maybe it is and although unintentional, clearly the stark summer sunlight and a return to my black and white roots has helped me capture the patterns created by the contrasting shadows.

I’m crouching down at the base of this ramp just as it enters the underpass as I spot the diagonal lines converging on the corner. The dull brown wall tiles appear almost white with darker brown tiles forming the vertical darker stripes.

The combination of the slant of the ramp, and the shadowy handrail all draws my eye to where I’ve positioned myself and I take a series of shots with and without pedestrians walking through. Some walking towards me and some walking away. But this one, with the gent at the top of the ramp, almost leaning into shot and walking in the direction of the focal point helps to complete the picture’s composition.

  • Location: Underpass emerging into Waterloo Road from Rom Valley Way, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 12.45 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#14: Nursery Walk

A black and white picture of a couple in the distant walking through and emerging out of a tunnel; their profile in shadow. The picture is framed by overgrown foliage to the footbath which helps to complement the shot

Unless you’re a local resident, and I mean local to the immediate area, I doubt you’ll know about this little gem. Nursery Walk is behind what used to be Oldchurch Hospital and provides a cut through under the railway line from the south to north side.

The underpass is a little dingy but suitably bedaubed by local graffiti artists and at its narrowest, probably just wide enough for two to walk through side by side. I took some shots inside the underpass, but as I emerged into Nursery Walk on the south side, I stepped to one side to let a family walk by. I walked on and looked behind and caught a glimpse of this couple exiting the underpass into Cotleigh Road.

Their shadowy relief encapsulated by the surrounding vegetation creating a tunnel effect, mirroring the underpass, helps to transform this simple shot into an almost romantic one.

  • Location: Railway underpass leading from Nursery Walk to Cotleigh Road, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 1:03 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO800

#15: The end of the Gas Works

A black and white photo of a capped gas pipe in an overgrowna and somewhat derelict enclosure

The ‘end of the line’ meets the ‘end of the gasworks’. Until recently (2018 I think), the remaining three gas holders posed as a familiar Romford landmark; a site often seen whilst travelling by train to and from Romford station as the works sat adjacent to it.

I’ve taken the picture more as a matter of record than for its photographic quality, and in some way to commemorate the works which have been on this site since the early 1880’s. 

The site is now a fenced off area, and this capped pipe no doubt represents one of the inlets/outlets to a gasholder, and is in some way a rather sad reflection on what is now a derelict, but secure, fenced site.

In researching for this blog, I’m pleased to have found quite a detailed report commissioned by the National Grid who wanted to create an Historic Building Record of these Crow Lane gas works. There’s an abstract here, and the full 78 page report, produced by Oxford Archaeology. For those interested in the detail, then it’s a worthwhile read – see here.

  • Location: The Old Gasworks, Crow Lane, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 1:11 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 170mm; Film Speed – ISO200

#16: Trinity Place

A colour photo of four columns of three vertical windows framed by white vertical bricks dotted with brown bricks to complement the main building brick colour

This is a new building on the edge of Rush Green and Chadewll Heath, next to the Three Travellers pub and near to the iconic Barking and Dagenham Civic Centre. Built on what was once a local car park.

I was coming to the end of a 10 mile walk which saw me explore, from the outside, West Ham United’s two training grounds: The Academy for Under 23’s and Women’s ground in Chadwell Heath; and the main training ground in Rush Green.

Amusingly, one of the security guards at the academy was a Manchester United supporter. But I digress…

This building catches my attention as the facade is of a different style to the ‘new norm’ cropping up all around London. The brown-on-white-on-brown brickwork provides an interesting design feature complementing the vertical windows, and I’ve saturated the picture slightly in this final image to accentuate the colour contrast. 

Here ends another interesting month during lockdown…

  • Location: Trinity Place, Wood Lane, Rush Green, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 2:26 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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Themes #05 – The Natural World

Welcome to this my fifth and final blog in my Theme series where I set out the reasons behind my recent selection. Over the past week I’ve posted pictures through my social media channels, and now I can give you a little more detail behind each picture.

I’m using the current Covid-19 lockdown period as an opportunity to showcase more pictures that may previously not have had any prominence, either through my travel blogs or more recently through my Memory collection. 

This week’s theme is all about ‘The Natural World’, a look at the diversity of living things and the environment in and around London. I’ve categorised my pictures into groups: Creatures, Vegetation, The Thames, Waterways, Skyscapes, Night Time and Reflections. I think the category titles are self explanatory.

I’ve selected these pictures on the basis that a) they’re an obvious fit, b) I like it’s artistic and/or photographic quality, and c) it has a good story to tell. I hope you agree, but feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to have any other suggestions?

Creatures – Feline Hungry

a cat ready to pounce from under a car staring intensly at something nearby

Birds dominated this category, from ducks, swans and even parakeets that have now naturalised themselves in London. Oh yeah, and one spider, but thought better of using that one in case there are too many readers with arachnophobia.
Come to that, I now hope there’s not too many readers with ailurophobia too.

Brick Lane is normally a hive of activity, full of onlookers enjoying the plethora of curry houses, or browsing the markets for bargains or memorabilia. But today is not one of those days, despite it being lunch time.

But this one resident was certainly on its look out for lunch. So was its intense concentration on what it was looking at (I didn’t see as I was concentrating on the cat), s/he didn’t bat an eyelid as I neared and crouched down to capture this. The cat is half under a parked car, and I’m half taking up the pavement, so the chance of any disturbance was high. But regardless, we were both resolved to see out our quest.

I didn’t wait to find out whether the cat caught anything as I was happy that I’d captured this shot. Maybe I should have?

  • Location: Brick Lane, East London
  • Date/Time: Friday July 12th 2019 at 12.29 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 5mm; Film Speed – ISO500

Vegetation – Tree Lined Shadows

a blck and white shadowy silhouette of rows of young trees

There’s a square of planted trees in Royal Victoria Square which have grown somewhat since originally planted. If you look at Google Maps Street View, there’s some evidence they are used as sheltered parking as some of the photos posted there have cars hidden between them.

There’s no such distraction today, in fact, it’s a bitterly cold winter’s morning with a crisp sharp sun which casts a harsh shadow through the trees. And it’s this effect that caught my eye. I waited for some onlookers to walk through so as to capture the scene uninterrupted and added a harsh black and white filter to accentuate the light and dark shading.

The solitary crow, slightly off centre/right, adds an extra little ‘still life’ quality to the final image

  • Location: Royal Victoria Square, Royal Docks, London
  • Date/Time: Tuesday January 28th 2020 at 10.45 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 63mm; Film Speed – ISO200

The Thames – No Access to The Thames Barrier

a long distance view of the Thames Barrier through a spiky and wired barrier in the foreground

Peer through the metal railings, just on the water line, and you can just make out two of The Thames Barrier pontoons.

This is at the end of a walkway just west of the Woolwich Ferry North Terminal, and it’s where I encountered a couple of fishermen who were sitting besides a chained anchor sculpture. They were not in the mood to chat, so I walked on.

This is taken in black and white with some saturation to emphasise the contrast between the black railings, and rippling sun on the water. The railings clearly designed to discourage any attempt to climb over into the adjacent industrial park, but nevertheless it did make for an excellent study in light and shade.

  • Location: Footpath off Henley Road and Pier Road, North Woolwich
  • Date/Time: Monday September 2nd 2019 at 3.26 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ16; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 23mm; Film Speed – ISO400

Waterways – Paddington Basin

a night time view of the Thames Basin with high rise offices on either side of the water and their lights and those from moored barges reflect on the still water

This was a return visit to Paddington with the intention of capturing some night scenes. Thankfully I was suitably wrapped up as in the early spring night it had turned bitterly cold.
It was an evening for black and white photography, and it ended up being a very successful one too.

I’m very pleased with the outcome here as I was also test driving a new lightweight mini tripod. I don’t think I’d have successfully captured this long exposure shot otherwise which, combined with a narrow aperture and wide angle, creates a stunning view of this setting.

I also think the shot is elevated by the stillness of the basin water as it helps to accentuate the clean lines created by the reflections from the moored barges and street lighting.

  • Location: Looking east from Paddington Basin Footbridge into Paddington Basin at night
  • Date/Time: Wednesday April 10th 2019 at 8.47 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ14; Shutter Speed – 8s; Focal Length – 32mm; Film Speed – ISO800

Skyscapes – A Winter’s Sun

a shot gazing into a wintry sun with a victorian lamp providing the only point of reference

The sky has featured quite prominently in my photography during my travels. They’re mostly long shot cloudscapes, thundery skies or airplane vapour trails. But regardless of their pedigree, the London backdrop always makes for interesting pictures.
The setting here is a wintry January morning with a thin hazy cloud transforming the sun into an opaque ball. I’ve walked along the Thames Path north shore from Hammersmith to Fulham, passing the football ground before exploring Fulham Palace – well worth a visit.

It’s lunch time, so I’m not surprised at the number of joggers and serious runners there are around. Where the path is wide enough it’s OK, but they seem to have little regard for other walkers when the footpath narrows into almost one way traffic. 

The shot, taken straight into the sun creates an almost evening feel, and I positioned myself to frame the sun within the crosshair vapour trail and Victorian esque faux street lamp. The end result has the appearance of retaining the Victroian spirit I think.

  • Location: Thames Path, north shore between Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Date/Time: Tuesday January 29th 2019 at 12.51 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ14; Shutter Speed – 1/1000; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Night Time – Peabody by Night

a five storey block of flats at night time and in black and white. The doors are lit up and the shot has an interesting symmetry

This is one of London’s social housing estates managed by the Peabody Trust. This is in Roscoe Street, just off Whitecross Street in EC1 and I believe it had recently been redeveloped.
This picture fits a number of other categories: architecture/residential, architecture/windows & doors and The Arts & Design/Patterns & Symbols.

But here it is in NIght Time. I was up in London walking around the Barbican Centre and surrounding areas one evening, and I saw this view which was too good to pass by. The estate is accessed through a footpath between two parts of Roscoe Street with a large car park in front, so its frontage is uninterrupted, making it easy to position myself in a central spot to take this wide angle shot.

There’s enough brightness from the collection of door lights to have taken this without the need for a tripod; and it’s symmetry and black and white presentation made this an ideal candidate for this category.

  • Location: Peabody Estate, Roscoe Street, EC1
  • Date/Time: Thursday December 5th 2019 at 4.17 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 32mm; Film Speed – ISO6400

My final themed picture and I’m pleased this one ends my review of two years of travelling.
It had been raining hard when I was in Finchley Central and as the rain cleared, I started wandering off the main street – Ballards Lane and found myself in a discreet housing estate in Dorset Mews. Not somewhere you’d find unless like me you explore hidden corners.
This is a view from the end of the Mews back into Ballards Lane through the locked gates that once were the entrance to Newton Wright Limited 

Reflections – Newton Wright Ltd

an old works gated entrance for 'Newton Wright Limited' taken in black and white and a reflection captured in a still puddle in the foreground

My final themed picture, and I’m pleased this one ends my review of two years of travelling.

It had been raining hard when I was in Finchley Central and as the rain cleared, I started wandering off the main street – Ballards Lane, and I found myself in a discreet housing estate in Dorset Mews. Not somewhere you’d find unless like me you explore hidden corners.

This is a view from the end of the Mews looking into Ballards Lane through the locked gates that once were the entrance to Newton Wright Limited 

This is all that remains of the factory that once made x-ray equipment and scientific instruments and stretched as far back as 30 houses behind Ballards Lane.

The reflection jumped out at me as I reached this point, but I had to take a few shots before this one as there was a slight breeze that rippled the puddle and obscured the reflection. But it was well worth the wait to capture this mirror image of a recently forgotten historical memory.

  • Location: BallardsLane (opening into Dorset Mews, Finchley Central
  • Date/Time: Tuesday September 24th 2019 at 2.12 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 45mm; Film Speed – ISO800

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Themes #04 – Arts & Design

Welcome to this my fourth blog in my Theme series where I set out the reasons behind my recent selection. Over the past week I’ve posted pictures through my social media channels, and now I can give you a little more detail behind each picture.

I’m using the current Covid-19 lockdown period as an opportunity to showcase more pictures that may previously not have had any prominence, either through my travel blogs or more recently through my Memory collection. 

This week’s theme is all about ‘The Arts & Design’, a look at the creative side of life in and around London. I’ve categorised my pictures as follows: Sculptures & Statues, Street Signs, Patterns & Symbols, Station Names, The Arts and Entertainment. I think the category titles are self explanatory.

So I’ve selected these pictures on the basis that a) they’re an obvious fit, b) I like it’s artistic and/or photographic quality, and c) it has a good story to tell. I hope you agree, but feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to have any other suggestions?

Sculptures & Statues – Silent Dockers

a black and white image os a statue of three dockers going about their business. The background also captures the shadowy image of some of the cranes used in the docking heyday

Another from my day walking around The Royal Docks. But first a word about the abundance of sculptures and statues around London. Some sponsored privately and others publicly, but there’s definitely a trend to open up this creative art form to a wider audience.

It’s always delightful to find an unexpected work of art in a public place. Some are static and others only on display for a short time. So whenever you have the chance to look at them, make sure you do as you’ll not only learn about the work, but maybe look further into the artists or the reason for the work in the first place.

This represents the almost forgotten industry that once made London docks the economic centre of the western world. It’s a larger than life bronze work depicting three dockers grafting. One pushing a barrow, another crouched and the third, possibly the gaffer, overseeing. In silhouette, the gaffer looks almost as if he’s looking at his mobile phone – ha if only. But nevertheless the log book he’s using probably meant as much to him as we feel about our mobile phones today.

I’ve taken the shot directly into the sun to create the strong silhouette and made sure the crane artefacts appear in the background to help with the story telling. I think it’s quite dramatic.

  • Location: ‘London Dockers’ sculpture by Les Johnson in Royal Victoria Square outside the Excel Centre
  • Date/Time: Tuesday January 28th 2020 at 10.43 am 
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ11; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Street Signs – No.1 Street

a simple street sign displaying 'No 1 Street' from SE18 in the London area of 'Royal Arsenal'

What’s so interesting about a street sign? Well for me it helps identify (obviously) and in a way helps characterise its setting. 
I’ve seen some humorous and/or novel street names, such as Severus Road (for Harry Potter fans), Barnes Pikle and Moromon Terrace, but as soon as I saw this it made me question ‘is this where London started?’

Obviously not, but similarly as with Apsley House which has the postal address ‘No. 1 London’, No 1 Street has a unique sense of ‘I’m the first’

This is a redeveloped street of fashionable residences in the Royal Arsenal Heritage site in Woolwich. The thing about London street signs is that they not only carry the postal district (SE18), but usually some other distinguishing reference point. Sometimes the borough name, and sometimes some other historical reference as in this case, the area described as Royal Arsenal…neat.

  • Location: No. 1 Street, Royal Arsenal Heritage Site, Woolwich
  • Date/Time: Tuesday October 22nd 2019 at 1.15 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 34mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Patterns & Symbols – The RLH

this is a section of the east facade of the Royal London Hospital covered in an array of aerofiols which creates a striking striped black and white covering

Buildings, be they old or new, are built predominantly to be functional, but for some they are designed to demonstrate the architect’s creativity. And having tramped hundreds of miles around London, I’ve seen a wide and diverse demonstration of both attributes.
Some buildings are powerfully prominent, be it for historic reasons, or as observed in more recent times for their flamboyant use of materials. We all have a view, whether we express this or not. Prince Charles clearly didn’t hold back when describing the proposed extension to the National Gallery as a ‘monstrous carbuncle’,  back in 1984.

Notwithstanding their architectural merits, I also look out for patterns in the design. Maybe it’s because of my ‘organised mind’ or the need for order, but I do get some pleasure from seeing things that others might not.

Sometimes patterns are intentionally designed, and sometimes, as in this case, they only emerge at certain times of the day. 

The contrast between the two types of finish is in itself of interest. But with the late morning sun high up casting a shadow on the underside of the aerofoils, the resulting stark black and white effect is quite striking. 

  • Location: Royal London Hospital viewed from Stepney Way, Shadwell
  • Date/Time: Thursday January 16th 2020 at 11.18 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 106mm; Film Speed – ISO400

Station Names – Welcome to Reading

this is a view across Reading station where there are five 'Welcome to Reading' signs

As a matter of record, I would photograph the station names as I travelled on my ‘endoftheline’ journey. Some would be from an interesting angle, but at the end of the day, the station name is a point of reference.

It could be for those arriving at their destination for reassurance that they are at the right station. Or conversely for those travelling to the station to catch their train, reassuring them they are at the right station.

There is a third reason and this picture helps show that. It’s for those weary travellers on long tiring journeys who may just pop their head up to look through the window amid slumber to read where they are? 

The array of signs on each of the 15 platforms here made this so unmissable, and when I viewed them across the platforms, it seemed my view was totally obscured by ‘Welcome to Reading’!

  • Location: Reading Station platforms viewed from Platform 15
  • Date/Time: Tuesday February 4rg 2020 at 11.19 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 106mm; Film Speed – ISO1000

The Arts – A Budding Artist

a child's painting of a boat with charicature crew of a captain and a number of stewerdesses. Emblazoned with the American flag and advertising American Express

I have many examples of street art and graffiti artwork that I could have selected for this category, and whichever I’d have chosen would have just rights to be here.
However, I’ve plummed for this child’s artwork which is part of a wider display.

This is one drawing of many on display emblazoned on the side of building hoardings surrounding a new build at Wood Wharf and Thames Street in Greenwich. Clearly created in conjunction with the adjacent Meridian Adventure Play Centre as part of the developers approach to work closely with the local community.

This one in particular stood out as the artists’ pen strokes are quite delicate, and s/he are obviously looking for marketing opportunities given the invitation to American Express to ‘come along’. Of all the pictures on display, it’s the only one I can see where the artists had mastered the creative signature. It’s amusing.

  • Location: Seen on building hoardings around a construction at Wood Wharf on Thames Street, Greenwich
  • Date/Time: Tuesday August 14th 2018 at 3.47 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 49mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Entertainment – Let The Weekend Begin

five rows of tressle tables with an array of revelers eating and drinking in groups

Musicians, funfairs, museums and exhibitions make up this category, and of the pictures I’d selected for this category, they have mostly featured before in my weekly blogs. 
But this one of the Boxpark by Croydon Station represents a different type of entertainment. The type that the nation has missed for the last four months.

My day at Croydon had been an exciting one, one where I had been introduced to the world of street art, as part of Croydon hosting Rise Festival. Nevertheless, It had been a long day and I was heading back to West Croydon via Croydon station. Now I’d heard of the concept of Boxparks, but not experienced one, and what a buzzing place this was.

Bare in mind it’s just gone 5.00 pm on a Friday afternoon, and people are heading home, so the scene I share with you is of those relaxing, meeting friends and ‘switching off’ after a busy week’s work. The scene is influenced by the DJ in the background who was noticeably cranking up the bass as I stood, almost mesmerised by the sound of excitement in the air. 

Look closely and see how many groups there are just chilling with their mates or colleagues, or just waiting for someone else to join them for a drink. What a great way to begin the weekend. But sadly one that’s not been seen for several months due to the Covis-19 restrictions. No doubt there will be those cherishing the easements recently introduced.

  • Location: The Boxpark at Croydon Station
  • Date/Time: Friday September 7th 2018 at 5.21 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 33mm; Film Speed – ISO320

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Themes

Themes #03 – Architecture

Welcome to this my third blog in my Theme series where I set out the reasons behind my recent selection. Over the past week I’ve posted pictures through my social media channels, and now I can give you a little more detail behind each picture.

I’m using the current Covid-19 lockdown period as an opportunity to showcase more pictures that may previously not have had any prominence, either through my travel blogs or more recently through my Memory collection. 

This week’s theme is all about the diverse ‘Architecture’ we enjoy around London, and I’ve compiled them into the following categories: Residential, Industrial, Stations, Commercial, Windows & Doors, Station Fixtures & Fittings and Street Furniture. I think the category titles are self explanatory.

I’ve selected these pictures on the basis that a) they’re an obvious fit, b) I like it’s artistic and/or photographic quality, and c) it has a good story to tell. I hope you agree, but feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to have any other suggestions?

Residential – Southwyck House

a black and white picture of the facade of Southwyck House in Brixton. Made up plain bricks, small windows and a zig-zag feature to brak up the plain view

I wrote about this during my Brixton visit but felt it was worthy of a second airing.
Southwyck House looks vastly like a prison with a concrete zigzag to delineate the frontage with its co-joining staircase looking like a caged pen to keep the inmates in. This is a housing complex built in the 1970’s in anticipation of a motorway flyover which was never built.

One commentator records that it is known locally as ‘Barrier Block’ as indeed that was its design purpose. Hideous to think that this social housing was considered acceptable enough to be built. The architectural design whilst creating some features, does nothing to uplift the feeling of isolation and incarceration the building exudes.

My thanks though to @brixtonbuzz who has drawn my attention to the fact that ‘The Barrier Block actually provides a high standard of social housing. The back is all windows and open balconies’

Although taken in black and white to add effect, to be honest, the building creates the drama itself.

  • Location: Southwyck House which sits along Coldharbour Lane in Brixton
  • Date/Time: Tuesday May 28th 2019 at 11.27 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 33mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Industrial – Overhead Tension

a collection of pulleys and wires set against a blue sky

I’ve debated whether this should be included under the ‘Architect’ theme as it’s more a piece of engineering. However I’m content that engineering is a form of architecture in that it’s not only functional but as this image portrays, it has a design element too.

This is a collection of pulleys and tension bars keeping the overhead electric cables taught. I saw the image in my mind, and set against a cloudy blue sky, this helps to highlight it’s elevated position.

It’s a simple shot, but not one you would normally see unless you happen to be standing on Bethnal Green Overground station platform looking up admiring the overhead infrastructure.

  • Location: Standing on Bethnal Green Overground station looking at the overhead electric cabling
  • Date/Time: Friday July 12th 2019 at 10.48 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Stations – Euston Plaza

a dull blue/grey view of a hidden part of Eustaon Plaza with a high rise view as the backdrop and the foregound focussing on a white tiles walkway and stairs

With few exceptions, the stations I’ve visited have been predominantly rural and styled in the first half of the 20th century. And the main termini in Central London modelled and shaped by the gothic style favoured by the victorians.

But Euston station is different. Re-built as part of the concrete revolution in the 1960’s and not to everyone’s taste. It’s a functional station, but yet it too has its charms when you look deeply into its nooks and crannies.

This isn’t an obvious shot, and not a location you would see unless you went looking for it. It’s by the bike park under the bus terminal canopy at the front of the station and I’m looking up at the office tower at 1 Eversholt Street.

I’m attracted to the almost black and white colour palette and distinctive 60’s tiled stairwell and overhead walkway which classically evokes the architectural style of its period. The reference to the bikes is intentional to demonstrate the station’s transient purpose. I’ve emphasised the blue tone in the final image to highlight the white tiles against the industrial building facades that surround them.

  • Location: Behind the main plaza at Euston Station
  • Date/Time: Thursday May 24th 2018 at 11.25 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 21mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Commercial – Pure Geometry

an array of square blocks each with a cross pattern creating a visual pattern

This is the facade to one of Watford town centre’s car parks.
The structure is a simple one made of a wall of building blocks consisting of four square segments, each of which has a cross pattern. No doubt architecturally sound, but the end result is visually stunning.

I suspect quite a quick and relatively cheap way to build, but I’m not judging it on it’s constructional or economic qualities but on it’s visual impact.

Whether you stand close or from afar, the effect is mesmerising, and maybe I should issue a health warning to migraine sufferers (of which I am one), as staring at the spots may trigger some visual disturbance.

This may appear a simple shot to take, but I had to exercise patience as the facade covers the parking bays and in some shots I captured the red parking lights as drivers arrive/leave. Whilst these made for a different outcome, I wanted to highlight an undistracted simplicity to this structure, which this example brings. I like it…

  • Location: CitiPark, Church Street, Watford
  • Date/Time: Tuesday June 18th 2019 at 12.29 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 28mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Windows & Doors – The Seedier Side of Watford Hospital

some tired looking doors and windows in a corner of this old hospital with water damage from downpipes on show. The colours are drab which highlights this tired view

First of all, let me confess I have a ‘thing’ for windows and doors. I can’t explain it but I’m always drawn to them when on holiday. Maybe it’s because of their variety, colour or location. Whatever the reason I know I’m not alone with this enjoyment and I feel it’s right that I have this as one of my Architecture categories.

I’m looking at the outbuildings facing Vicarage Road, and believe this is the corner of the Social Services unit and the Chaplaincy. The scene portrays a somewhat unloved corner of the hospital complex and no doubts reflects the significant challenges faced in maintaining a large NHS Trust these days.

The colours are slightly enhanced to emphasise the state of disrepair, but nevertheless not a welcoming site to new or returning visitors who pass by here whilst alighting from the adjacent bus stop.

  • Location: Watford General Hospital, Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Date/Time: Tuesday August 20th 2019 at 1.05 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 45mm; Film Speed – ISO100

Station Fixtures & Fittings – Arched Pipework

looking up into the roof void of this platform canopy , taken in black and white. the view shows off the symmetrical arched duct work intersected with rainwater down pipes

This picture is indicative of the station’s Victorian architectural character with the view taken through the supporting roof arches holding up the central platform’s canopy.
A simple shot taken from the staircase leading from the platforms, and looking down the length of the ironwork to capture the symmetry of the supporting arches.
Although taken originally in colour, the station colour scheme is predominantly black, echoing the Underground’s Northern Line style. I have though applied a black and white filter to give the otherwise faded colouring a bit of life.

  • Location: High Barnet Northern Line Underground Station
  • Date/Time: Tuesday January 21st 2020 at 12.40 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 70mm; Film Speed – ISO6400

Street Furniture – Walking Through Litter

a black and white shot taken through the opening of a littler bin framing a couple walking through

This is Lovers Walk, a small passageway which invited 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 providing an interesting 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.

Sometimes, you have to smile as the opportunities present themselves, as the lesson here is always be ready to capture that moment.

  • Location: Peering down Lover’s Walk, just off Ballards Lane, Finchley Central
  • Date/Time: Tuesday SEptember 24th 2019 at 1.49 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 47mm; Film Speed – ISO500

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