#60: Epping – 18/07/2019

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

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

The Market Town of Epping

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

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

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

Gnomes and Fish

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

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

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

Theydon Bois and Debden

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

Picture of the Day

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

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

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

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