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Northern TfL Underground

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

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Elms Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Embankment

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures of the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

Chelsea Bridge and the north shore

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

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

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

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

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

Battersea Power Station 

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

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

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

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

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

Battersea Park

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

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

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

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

Picture of the Day

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

Getting this shot took some patience as I waited for some people who would otherwise have been in frame, to leave the area. Anyway, after a little time they moved on freeing me up to ‘own’ the space for a short time.

The striking colour is what first drew me in and the figure’s reclining effect is mirrored in a number of ways: by the red/white deck chairs which are there for those watching the Wimbledon Tennis on  large screens behind the figure; and by the reclining chairs in the foreground which I’ve framed to emulate the shape of the reclining figure. The figure’s black cap and a cup of tea contrasts nicely with the orange, and the addition of a ‘bazaar’ Google Photos filter helps to heighten the contrast of the orange with the bluer hue of the surrounding buildings.

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

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