Journey’s End

#13: Enfield Town – 27/06/2018

The summer of 2018 will be etched on my memory forever as the year to experience London’s rail travel in the heat of the sun, but thankfully Tfl’s modernisation plans sees new air conditioned trains slowly being introduced. Today I headed to north London on the branch line from Liverpool Street to Enfield, one of many destinations on the Overground network.

I chose to take an indirect route via Hackney Central changing to pick up at Hackney Downs, but miscalculated the train timetables so the journey took longer than expected, although it meant a cooling respite at Hackney Downs and realise how busy this station is. Anyway, finally onto Enfield Town, via some familiar stops such as White Hart Lane and Edmonton Green where I worked for a few years. Passing the new Spurs football ground nearing completion and due to open for the start of the 2018/19 season. An innovative stadium in that it has an extractable artificial surface for use for American Football with which it will share the stadium.

Anyway, enough of Spurs (ugh!), and onto Enfield…

My initial impression was that of an uninspiring town dominated by Enfield Council’s home at the Civic Centre, and it’s employees proudly adorning their security passes whilst walking around town (not very secure). But on reflection that would be unfair as I found Enfield has much to offer through it’s many well kept open spaces. Spaces which on a scorching summer’s day offered tranquil places to rest and play. The New River meanders through the town and provides a watery interest to passers by and local fowl.

The parks and gardens are well tended and the area by Gentlemans Row helped show off the surrounding buildings well, all in good condition and well cared for and in keeping with the area. And across the road to the expansive Town Park, children were being led in an orderly fashion following an outing on their way back to school whilst gardeners clipped the rose gardens and borders. Overhearing one conversation from an enquiring child asking ‘why do we have to go back to school?’; ‘because we do’ came the tired response…

The town is predominantly a single street served by a mix of independent hairdressers and barbers, and sadly an oxymoronic display of national chain betting shops almost adjacent to national and local charity shops. As with most London towns, there is a discrete open air shopping centre, but unsurprisingly populated with the expected chain and franchise shops making it a rather uninteresting experience to walk through.

Historically, I found some buildings of interest, namely 36 Silver Street: Enfield Vicarage, the Parish Office for St Andrew’s Church, Enfield Grammar School, where on one of it’s entrances it proudly displays it was founded in 1557, and the Kings Head pub, all of which are within spitting distances of each other.

Other memorable finds close to the station include: an interesting display of brickwork on a house in St Andrew’s Road; a mosaic on a wall in Genotin Road where the Queen’s Hall Cinema once stood serving as a reminder of its former glory; and a gold post box in recognition of Charlotte Dujardin, a locally born girl winning an Olympic Gold as part of the Equestrian Team in the 2012 London Olympics. Well done Charlotte!

…and finally, if you’re a lover of gin, you may have made your way to the Enfield Gin Festival, or by the time you’re reading this, you are recovering from it…bon viveur!

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For more info, look up Enfield Town on Wikipedia

See all Enfield pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#12: Clapham Junction – 20/06/2018

Clapham Junction promotes itself as ‘the busiest railway station in Britain’ and for the purpose of this blog, I have travelled here as it becomes the end of the line for two routes. Firstly the Overground from Highbury and Islington travelling in a south westerly route around London; and secondly, again the Overground, from Stratford travelling westerly. Both routes forming a virtual rail circle around London…so this will be the first of two visits.

The area immediately around the station is Battersea, Wandsworth and an area on the south shore of the Thames known as Cotton Row. This blog will focus on the Battersea and Cotton Row areas.

As I disembark onto one of the 17 platforms, I’m reminded it’s Royal Ascot week as the platforms are busy with top hatted gentlemen and fashionable be-hatted ladies on their way to the races making sure they comply with the Royal Ascot dress code. Before I leave the station, I explore the platform surrounds and inter-platform walkway, and you can only be impressed by its length, but less so by its relatively lack of services for passengers caught between train connections. One caught my attention though: Digby’s Patisserie.

 

It’s clear Clapham Junction is a commuter hub, well served by bus services and the station caters well for today’s velocipede riders. And as with all good stations, there’s a neighbouring watering hole; here it’s classically called the The Junction pub which tries to market itself as the 18th platform encouraging travellers into its ‘beer garden’

 

Battersea is a sprawling area with its main shops concentrated around two main roads: Lavender Hill running into St John’s Hill, and at its crossroads, St John’s Road leading to Falcon Road and running into Battersea High Street. Shops reflect an independent mix of cafes and bars and I stopped for a quick chat with the owner of the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill, a newly opened American diner, who’s owner said business has been good. There’s also the impressive Grand Musical Hall, with one traditional high street store hanging on to the glories of the past by proudly displaying its former name: Arding and Hobbs

 

At either end of the main street, there’s the impressively 1920’s brick built library to the east, and an equally impressive crowd funded craft beer outlet – We Brought Beer to the west. If you look across the road, you’ll also see an interesting and yet declining piece of faded artwork above the Story Coffee shop reflecting the building’s history: Peterkins Custard. If you follow its history, you’ll unearth links with the movie industry as the mill where the custard was made was run and owned by James Arthur Rank.

 

A meander around the streets and back streets brought me to the edge of Wandsworth Common; a surprising find from a street sign in Beauchamp Road leading me to the Welsh Chapel; and a humorous connection with Harry Potter in spotting Severus Road.

 

I decide to stretch my legs and in search of the Thames,  I head for the Thames Path on the south shore between Wandsworth Bridge and Battersea Railway Bridge to an area known as Cotton Row. Its name suggests an area steeped in history with features such as Plantation Wharf, Clove Hitch Quay, Oyster Pier and Candlemakers, but alas I can’t find any details. However, as with large swathes of today’s riversides, you now see regeneration and redevelopment through the building of fashionable apartments, modern offices and walkways, and of course Old Father Thames himself, with its ever changing scenery. Oh yes, you’ll also find the London Heliport here too.

 

Heading back to Clapham Junction, I skirt around Winstanley Estates, an area of social housing which has evidence of crime through abandoned motor vehicles, and security grilled corner shops. However I am sure, as with most areas, it’s the people and communities that define the area and not the acts of the minorities. A poignant note to end my journey as I return to the station where there’s a derelict church promoting the words ‘Jesus Said I Am The Way’…

 

For more info, look up Clapham Junction Railway Station and Battersea on Wikipedia

See all Clapham Junction pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#11: Bank – 07/06/2018

Today’s visit completes the Waterloo and City line with the day spent at Bank, originally called City when the line was first opened. For those of you who know the area, you’ll know it for it’s traffic; imposing buildings and architecture and of course the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street herself – the Bank of England

All the buildings are confined within the ‘square mile’ and today’s visit rarely stepped outside of its boundaries as the area which is steeped in history, lends itself to awe and wonder. The City (or square mile) is demarcated at its boundaries by dragons as its symbol, and public furniture adorned with The City’s coat of arms.

Whilst standing on the steps of the Royal Exchange with the building behind me, I take in the mini piazza ahead of me where workers and tourists either take time for a moment’s contemplation, or rush from one of the many underground exits from one side of Bank to another. To my left is a memorial to James Henry Greathead, an engineer who invented a way of building the tube network, and beyond is Mansion House with the Bank of England dominating my right view.

Into the Royal Exchange, for my first ever glimpse of what is a cavernous building converted on the ground floor into a fashionable coffee shop cum restaurant, with the alcoved balconies dedicated to up market restaurants and high end jewellery shops. Having sought, and received permission to take pictures inside, I’m later approached to ensure I do not take any pictures of the shops.

Next a walk around the Bank of England, a route I’ve taken many a time over the years, but this time I stumble across the Bank of England Museum entrance. An entrance I must have passed before, but without realising, so I find myself drawn inside. Understanding it’s a free museum, I decide to have a look around. The museum, as you’d expect, recounts the history of the building, the history of money, displays of currency through the years and an explanation on how today’s economy is managed. An interesting insight and great for school trips, as was my luck to get caught in the melee of one. But there is a nice interactive exhibition – a real gold ingot in a perspex case with a hand hole inviting you to pick up the ingot. No worries of running off with it though as the ingot is contained within a claw like container – but a good way to realise the weight of real gold

Back out of the building and a wander around the back streets which interconnect with the main roads via alleys and cutaways which you can envisage being the centre of hustle and bustle in the 18th and 19th Centuries. I pass the City of London Magistrates Court and head over to The Parish Church of St Stephen Walbrook, a 17th century church, next to Mansion House and now dwarfed by modern financial buildings: The Walbrook Building, and a monstrously ugly and totally characterless Bloomberg building.

The church prides itself with having a high domed roof built by Sir Christopher Wren as a trial before he built the one on St Paul’s Cathedral, and a large round altar as a centrepiece to the church. I spent some time talking with Victor, one of the Church helpers, who explained that one of the church’s previous rectors (Dr Chad Varah) founded the Samaritans and the original phone used to accept calls on the number ‘Mansion House 9000’ is on display.

Back out and I stroll around the Bloomberg building looking for the entrance to the London Mithraeum which is situated under the building, but to no avail, and even the security guards on the building’s main entrance couldn’t offer any directions. Hmmm, not impressed so I head back to the mini piazza and head up Lombard Street through George Yard and Bell Inn Yard crossing Gracehcurch into Leadenhall Market; originally a meat and poultry market but now a fashionable market for wining, dining and shopping. It’s late lunchtime and the market is busy with nearby office workers and tourists enjoying a bite to eat. Ah! I remember those days…

For more info, look up Bank on Wikipedia

See all Bank pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#10: Richmond – 06/06/2018

I’ve been struggling to write about my travels to Richmond: I don’t know why, as the place has many interests, so whether it’s writers block or just tiredness after repeated visits across London I don’t know. So I’ve taken a short break away from my travels to help recharge my mental inspiration batteries. Who knows? But here we go again…please tell me if you think it’s something else…

This time to the south westerly corner of London and the leafy suburbia of Richmond. This will be the first of two visits to Richmond as it’s a terminus for both the District and the Overground lines. I don’t know if Richmond is classed as a town or village, but Wikipedia declares it to be a suburban Town – so there we have it.

Arriving at the station and exploring the immediate surrounds, I notice the station is betwixt Victorian metalwork and art deco architecture. Not unlike many of London’s stations built in the Victoriana hey-dey and added to in the 20’s and 30’s. Whatever your architectural preference, you can’t ignore some of the interesting designs and shapes of the old and new worlds that parade themselves around the station

Out of the station turning right I soon find myself at Richmond Athletic Ground, the home of Richmond Rugby Football Club (RFC) and London Scottish. I try and walk around the ground, but I’m politely asked to leave as the grounds are not open to the public. So I head in the direction of the nearest pub which overlooks the grounds, unsurprisingly named The Triple Crown Richmond, built originally under the name of The Tulip Tree in 1884 as can be seen on the inscription on the upper part of the building

Back to the heart of Richmond and its main shopping street, and you’re drawn to it’s cleanliness and tidiness, quality and upkeep of buildings and almost full occupancy of the main street shops with an overriding balance of independent shops in favour of the expected retail chains. All I believe an indication of Richmond’s prosperity and the community’s pride in its surroundings; the town has many side streets leading you westerly to Richmond Green, easterly towards religious buildings, and southerly to the river

Some notable attractions that caught my attention included a children’s bookshop, The Alligators Mouth; a new coffee shop about to open, Kiss the hippo coffee; Brewers Lane, a pedestrian alley full of bijou and artisan shops; and Richmond Theatre, which was on the day of my visit preparing for a George Michael tribute concert.

A brief mention of some of the religious building I passed. Firstly, St John The Divine which is situated adjacent to the Metropolitan Police and the First Church of Christ Scientist Richmond, a large imposing building overlooking Sheen Road. I also spent some time in and around St Mary Magdalene CofE Church where I was introduced enthusiastically to the intricate renovation works and choristers by Ruth, one of the church helpers and choir member. I’m grateful to Ruth for peaking my interest in the history of both Church and choirs, and being shown the delightful and colourful needle-craft work of the Royal School of Needlework Hampton Court Palace, a recent gift to the church, and the origami dove display. For those interested in the choir and its history, here are some related websites you may wish to explore further: StMarymagdalenechoir.co.uk; Saintmartinsingers.org and Choralevensong.org.

Some of the interesting, or architecturally curious properties that caught my eye included Michels Row, No. 7 Lower Mortlake Road, Spencer House at 23 Sheen Road, and The Gateways in Park Road. And during this time, I stopped and chatted with Richard, a delivery driver who explained he was on a Tacho break; and later in the day I stopped to feed Cooper, a fox red labrador pup who was being walked and trained by his owner. The route also took me past Hogarth House where Leonard and Virginia Wolf lived for nine years and founded the Hogarth Press in 1917. Sadly, an empty office building now.

You can’t ignore some of the attractive pubs whilst walking around, and a brief mention before heading to the river. The Sun Inn tucked out of the way at the northern end of the town; The Railway Tavern outside the station and beautifully adorned with bedding plants, and The Old Ship, on the approach to the river

On the day of visiting, it was a glorious sunny day, giving rise to many an opportunity for locals and visitors to sit on the banks with a drink and/or ice cream enjoying the view of the calm river traffic and of those brave enough to take to a rowing boat. An appropriate place to rest my weary feet and share in the delights…

For more info, look up Richmond on Wikipedia

See all Richmond pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#09: Euston – 24/05/2018

Euston isn’t an obvious contender as one of the ends of the line, but for regular Watford commuters, you’ll know one of the Overground branches ends here. So a great opportunity to explore in a little more detail an area I know well having worked opposite Tavistock Square Gardens for many a year; a time that gave me some good and not so good memorable moments: such as getting caught up in the London bombings on the 7th July 2005.

For years I had casually passed many of the historic and iconic buildings and admired the architecture without stopping to look beyond the facade. This day gave me an opportunity to do just that and made me realise why this ‘endoftheline’ journey is so exciting and revealing.

Walking along Euston Road, directly in front of Euston Station, there’s the impressive Wellcome Trust building, the modest 30 Euston Square building, a multi-occupied building which in part houses the Royal College of General Practitioners, and the historic London Fire Brigade Euston Fire Station.

Across the road, there are two imposing religious establishments: firstly Friends House, the central office of Quakers in Britain; and secondly, St Pancras Church, a home for Liberal Anglican Christianity in Central London. Often I’ve walked past and thought how tatty it looks from the outside, but one step inside and you bathe in its religious wonder. Look at this 360° view for a full immersive experience. Oh yes, as I walked across the road, I passed today’s celebrity, Lisa Hammond.

To the rear of the church, you have access to their Crypt Gallery, and across the road is The Place, ‘…a creative powerhouse for dance development that is leading the way in dance training, creation and performance…’. Impressive in itself, but the building it now occupies was once the home of the 20th Middlesex Artists RV.

Transport has to be the theme of this blog, but before focussing on the station itself, there is a new kid on the block to challenge the Boris bike, sorry Santander bike. I personally believe the innovative approach to cycling across London has been a great success, but the Ofo Bike Share is now offering a more flexible approach to bike sharing in that you don’t need to return the bike to a dedicated dock. So if you think you see bikes abandoned across London, look again and it may be an Ofo.

Entering the mainline station, the entrance is hidden behind a rather dull and dreary bus terminal, but from the main road, the road entrance is guarded on either side by two gatehouses, on which are inscribed the terminal destinations, in alphabetical order, from Euston. I am drawn particularly to the one on the left which bares, as the second inscription, the name of my birth and hometown – Aberystwyth. The station front is also guarded by an imposing cenotaph in front of the 60’s architecture.

Once inside the station, you realise how busy the concourse is with several train operators serving destinations along the west coast, Scotland and Wales. A walk along the TFL Overground platform was in order so that I could truthfully declare I had been to the end of the line.

Out of the station and running along it’s eastbound edge is Eversholt Street, where there are signs of a more seedier side of London, and walking slightly further east, you delve into Somers Town.

…and now nearing journey’s end, but not before heading up to Camden Lock and its surrounding Market and cacophony of market stalls, colourful shops and eclectic tastes. Camden deserves a blog of it’s own, but alas not here, but well worthy of a return visit to spend the day there.

For more info, look up Euston on Wikipedia

See all Euston pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#08: Heathrow T5 – 23/05/2018

I decided on a far flung destination to Heathrow Terminal 5 having been inspired by TFL’s recent take over of the Paddington to Heathrow line in preparations for the arrival of their newest Elizabeth line next year. Some prior research confirmed the maximum one way fare was £10.20, so I decided in the interest of completing this blog, it was a worthwhile investment. For those of you who arrive at Paddington frequently, you know where you go, but for new travellers, signposting is difficult to follow and there was no signage for TFL.

I ask a Heathrow Connect employee, who confirmed they had now become part of TFL, but surprised she quoted a single fare of £22.00. Some debate followed but I decided a complaint to TFL was warranted another day as I hot legged it from Paddington via Hammersmith to pick up the Piccadilly line to Heathrow T5. Having arrived there, I spoke to another Heathrow Connect employee, who was more helpful explaining there are two  services: The Heathrow Connect, a direct non-stopping service (£22); and one stopping at intervening stations (max £10.20). [Complaint now made]

The underground station at T5 is buried in the bowels of the terminal and is served by speedy lifts and multiple escalators to cater for the spurts of volume passengers at any one time.

Arriving in the terminal, it has a light, bright and airy feel, and clearly a modern terminal being the showcase home of British Airways (BA). In a way though slightly soulless, and I’m sure I noticed more BA and terminal employees than passengers when I was there. Maybe a quiet part of the travelling day?

Before travelling to the airport, and conscious of the sensitivities, I contacted the terminal’s media centre asking about photography within the terminal, but I’ve still to get a reply. So I decided to err on the side of caution and ask a BA security person who was very helpful and said the only restriction was not to photograph the departure gates and procedures. Interestingly, as we were chatting, another employee interrupts us alerting him of an unattended backpack in the vicinity, so I decided to leave him to it, and quickly walk away from the area.

Walking around the concourse, the terminal is obviously functional but the structure offers interesting geometric shapes and colours.

Outside, the terminal is equally functional, with some wall displays promoting the airport’s destinations.

In the north west corner of the drop off area, I see some plane spotters and I strike up a conversation with two young Swiss lads over in the UK for five days enjoying all that LHR has to offer. Impressed by their ability to spot a plane type well before it’s physical shape becomes clearer, they declare “…it’s only another BA (type) plane…” I also pointed out to them Windsor Castle in the far distant haze; “oh!” they proclaim, “that’s where the wedding was?!” to their delight. We exchanged contact details and you can follow their Instagram feed at airplane_pictures. Nice to have met you guys…

For more info, look up Heathrow T5 on Wikipedia

See all Heathrow T5 pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

#07: Lewisham – 17/05/2018

A trip under the river to south London at the end of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR); well one of the ends anyway. Not been there before so not sure what to expect, but en route, I felt I was being stalked by Transport for London (TfL) ticket inspectors as I was asked to show my ticket on each of three different trains. Reassuring I suppose that checks are carried out, but it will be interesting over the lifetime of this blog to see how many times I get asked to produce my ticket; my experience as a commuter was very rarely. I was also impressed by the knowledge of the DLR guard on the last leg of my journey as he gave a touristic and historical commentary of things to see and do at every station we stopped by; most famously the Cutty Sark being the first stop on the south side of the river.

Anyway, I arrived at Lewisham DLR, which is adjacent to main line services and took a moment to get my bearings. The ‘town’ is about half a kilometer from the terminus, which you get to by walking around a building site, a large regeneration development. Lewisham is defined in some way by its position between two rivers: the Quaggy to the east, and the Ravensbourne to the west, which is spawned from Deptford Creek on the Thames, down to Sydenham and beyond. Cyclists and walkers can follow the Waterlink Way, an attractive eight mile route along the river side. On a bright day, the river sides gave rise to some interesting shapes and shadows.

The town is dominated by some modern high rise tower blocks, art deco conversions and scaffolding, but a short walk off the main road reveals streets and streets of typical London bricked terraced properties. Stopping to enjoy some intricate brickwork, a local decorator who’s working on the house proudly explains it’s a former dairy where now there’s a garage was once the cowshed where the milking took place.

Walking around Lewisham, residents were clearly focussed and drawn to the market which forms the town’s hub just outside a modernised 60’s shopping centre. Predominantly fruit and veg based but with some colourful alternatives. The fishmonger was happy for me to take pictures but less so in engaging in any conversation.  A shout out though to the Ribena crew who were happy to strike a pose (other fruit flavoured drinks are of course available).

The town provides leisure facilities in the guise of a modern looking Glass Mill Leisure Centre, and caters for religious diversity as it is the home for The London Sivan Kovil Temple, a Tamil temple, as well as St Saviour, St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist Catholic Church and associated Primary School.

Social commentary comes in many guises and amusingly I overheard several conversations, but two comments caught my attention, so much so I had to write them down…

‘…I don’t mind what you call me as long as you don’t call me late for my dinner…’ and

‘…When was the last time you stood naked in front of a fella?…’

I walked on with a smile

Graffiti is never far from anywhere in London, and Lewisham is no different, although in some hidden quarters, they were quite amusing and entertaining. View the Instagram feed for the full size otter and bee


For more info, look up Lewisham on Wikipedia

See all Lewisham pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment