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Blog Update

#83 – Transforming a Picture into a Story

So that’s it!  

Almost two years to the date when I set off on the 18th April 2018 with some nervousness, trepidation and a great deal of excitement on an exploration. An exploration in which I didn’t know what I’d find, who I’d meet or what (if anything) I’d learn. And what an amazing two years it’s been!

Royal Oak station 18/04/2018

Having now reached the end of ‘theendoftheline’, I’ve set out in my last blog what my plans are for the future. But before ploughing ahead with those plans, I thought I would write about: what I’ve learnt; explain my motivations; and thank those who have helped and inspired me along the way.

Barking Riverside (under construction) 10/03/2020

Before doing all that, here’s a small list of the the things I’ve achieved:

  • I’ve visited 76 ends of the line stations; 3 bonus ‘under construction’ stations; and attended two special events
  • I’ve travelled across all sixteen Tfl transport modes embracing the underground (11); overground; tramline; Emirates airline; TflRail and the Docklands Light Railway
  • I’ve travelled the ‘A to Z’ from Abbey Wood to Woolwich Arsenal
  • I’ve walked over 700 Kilometres; an average of 9 kilometres per station visit 
  • I’ve taken almost 7,000 pictures and shared over 4,000 through links in my weekly blogs, and shared a selection through my Instagram account
  • I’ve created 62 videos and shared them through my YouTube channel
  • I’ve written 81 regular blogs and published through Twitter and Facebook
  • I’ve occasionally published on Triptipedia

What have I learnt?

My original intention was to bring together three aspects of my work/life experiences over the last 40 years: commuting, photography and digital exposure. I believe I have successfully fulfilled this aim.

Secondly, as I was new to blogging, I wanted to develop my digital skills. I believe I have achieved this through learning how to use and digging a little deeper into several social media tools: WordPress, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Photos and Bit.ly. I’d no longer call myself a digital virgin.

I was also looking to invite feedback, but this has not been the success I had wished for, so I still have some work to do here.

What’s motivated me?

Rekindling a Passion for Photography

As a photographer, I wanted to and needed to embrace the digital landscape as this was one of the reasons I fell out of love with my hobby over forty years ago. I felt the onset of digital cameras took away the creative element of combining composition, lighting, speed and aperture. 

But in conversation with others I’ve learnt to accept that today’s world simply makes a fifth dimension that would otherwise have been carried out in the darkroom more accessible to all: that of photo manipulation. This is where the picture is transformed into a story. Be it through software manipulation or lens filtering, or both.

What I do know is that it’s brought the joy and excitement of photography to millions of people that would otherwise have been left in the dark. 

My trusty camera for the two years has been my Canon ES200D using predominantly a Canon EF-S 18-55 mm zoom lens (1:3.5-5.6)), and occasional use of a Canon EF 75-300 mm zoom lens (1:4-5.6). Since the start of the New Year in 2020, these have been replaced by a Sigma 18-200 mm zoom lens (1:3.5-6.3). All lenses are protected by a UVc lens filter.

My shoots over the years have seen me try out techniques and settings using the camera’s software applying different filters. Predominantly I’ve used black & white, grainy black & white, high definition art, and close up settings. Some more successfully than others, but what I do know is that I still have a lot to learn but I feel more confident in applying these settings now than when I started off on the 18th April 2018.

Aldgate 14/01/2020

The one thing I absolutely respect through, is to remember the composition, because that’s where the real story lies. As an artform, I continually ask myself ‘what is it I’m trying to say with this picture?’ and as long as I can answer that question, then I’m happy.

Paddington 10/04/2019

Don’t be afraid to explore

One of my late father’s words of wisdom, which has stayed with me all my life is ‘if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out!’ Read that in any way you want, but at the end of the day it’s been one of my life lessons and motivators.

And with this in mind, I resolved not to let a moment pass where I thought there would be a good story to tell or a great photo to capture. This would sometimes manifest itself as an awkward moment or a conversation to be had to capture someone’s emotion, or a moment in time never to be repeated, or even delve down the alley to see what’s there.

Now to follow this through I’d assess the situation as best I could and weigh up the personal risk of doing so, but to my delight I’ve often been rewarded with meeting some colourful characters. Equally, the people I’ve met have been as interested in me and my experiences, or the alleys and corners I’ve explored have yielded some unexpected results. 

And I now find that if I ever walk past a scene and ask myself ‘I wonder what if…’, I do a quick u-turn to explore that moment as it’s likely never ever to happen again.

How to keep the costs down without compromising the Quality

My hope was not to spend any money, but  where this was unavoidable, to keep it to a bare minimum. I’m not averse to spending money (although close family members may disagree with me), but it has been more about showing how to sustain and develop this hobby without digging too deeply into the pension pot. Let me explain a few things.

  • Travelling: now as a 60+ London borough resident, I’m entitled to free travel on the majority of transport systems right across the Transport for London (Tfl) network. This includes the underground, overground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and London Trams with reduced fees on the Emirates air line cable car and River Boat services
  • Since the incorporation of Tfl Rail and by extension those stations that will make up the Elizabeth Line, their stations are also open to free travel. From the east in Shenfield and Abbey Wood to the west in Heathrow and Reading
  • I can’t say thank you enough to Tfl who provide this fantastic resource and with it the opportunity to explore
  • Website management: I’ve adopted WordPress as my platform of choice for which I pay an annual fee of £55 for my domain name and the hosting services
  • For all other digital tools, I take advantage of the free versions to manage my social network. These include Google: for Mail, Storage, Photos and YouTube; Facebook: for Facebook and Instagram; and Bit.ly for URL management

So all in all, I reckon I only spend between £60-£100 per year. There are however some limitations to what I do, which are mostly self imposed as I decided in my later years at work, and since retiring, not to work on a Windows PC or an Apple Mac.

My device of choice is a Chromebook and thereby I wanted to show how easy it is to exploit today’s cloud services. This does mean I’m limited to the applications I can use as the storage and memory on a Chromebook are limited. BUT that’s my point, and with no exceptions, I’ve not been prevented from doing anything. 

Clearly I am not using the finest device based photo editing software that’s available, such as Photoshop, but I do find that the cloud Google Photo service sufficiently helps me transform my pictures by applying filters, allowing me to crop and to individually adjust the lighting, colour and intensity of the pictures. For more creative adjustments, which I rarely do, my current application of choice is befunky.com (but there are so many others out there).

The advantage of using today’s cloud services is that being on the go, I’m able to do most of the things I need to on my Android mobile device although I do tend to review my photos, and write my blog in the comfort and solitude of home. Access to free wifi across London and within the Tfl network is also a bonus as this helps to reduce my dependency on my mobile provider’s roaming data provision.

The free storage of my photos in Google has a limitation in that the files are compressed when being uploaded. By way of example, an original JPG file size of 4.5Mb is reduced to 217Kb; and a RAW file size of 35Mb is reduced to 448Kb. I’ve not yet found that this compromises the quality of my photos, as the largest print size I’ve used is A4 where the quality and integrity is very good. This may, however, be an issue for larger displays, but it’s not one I’ve had to consider just yet.

There are of course other options; I could upload the full file format, or use other cloud storage services which offer free space. Canon and Amazon are two I can think about; there will be many others too. So whilst in the main I rely on free cloud storage, I will always keep the original photo on local removal storage.

But what I’ve set out here works well for me, so if you’re thinking of following in my footsteps, I’d be more than happy to guide you through.

Thank you’s

It’s inevitable with so many travel writers in London, there comes a point where we write about similar locations or similar experiences, and over the two years I’ve grown to admire a number of other writers. But the beauty of how we present our material is that we each do so from a different perspective and we each have a Unique Selling Point (USP).

Some do so from a commercial perspective, such as those who rely on tourism for their living; some do so from a historical perspective, some from a rail enthusiast’s perspective and some as hobbyists. What I’ve grown to appreciate is that whilst we are all different, our collective knowledge and experience is far greater than the sum of our individual offerings…and this provides for a wealth of information to those eager to explore and learn about LONDON and beyond.

By way of a public thank you, here’s a roll call of some of the travel writers who’ve inspired me through their stories and insight into how they see life, and London differently. 

A London Inheritance

Geoff Marshall

Ian Visits

Katie Wignall – Lookup London

Laura Porter – About London

LondonIST

Nigel Harris

Sue Hillman – It’s Your London

Tim Dunn

Likewise there are a number of photographers I follow closely as I admire their style and  I appreciate their content and stories. I’ve never met any of you, but again my thanks for being out there.

Chris Close

Jimmy Lee

John Dawson

Linda Wisdom

Matt Hardy

Tube Mapper

My final thanks goes to my wife, for humouring my passion, obsession and indulgence in what I do, and for her honest and positive feedback as my critical content editor and proofreader.

30th March 2018 – 1st day of retirement

Onwards into 2020 – but for now:

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Blog Update

#82 – A New Beginning and What Next?

Is this the end of ‘theendoftheline’?

I set off on the 18th April 2018 with some nervousness, trepidation and a great deal of excitement on an exploration. An exploration in which I didn’t know what I’d find, who I’d meet or what (if anything) I’d learn.

And what an amazing two years it’s been, full of wonderful experiences, meeting new people, enjoying new and colourful locations and artworks, and rekindled a thirst to learn again.

Stratford (DLR) 28/12/2018

For the last few months, as I started to approach the end of ‘theendoftheline’, I turned my attention to’ What Next?’ I had some ideas, but not the opportunity to make them happen, until now. But before explaining more about these, here are a few of the things I’ll be doing in the next couple of ‘socially distant’ months.

Immediate Plans

This blog has remained unchanged for a couple of years so I’ve refreshed its look and feel by giving it a new theme. I may also play around with this in the coming months trying out new templates so if there’s one you particularly like, do please let me know.

I’m also crafting a survey in the expectation that I can understand from my readers and followers what you’ve enjoyed; and what you might like to see.

And as it’s my second anniversary, and given that I’m currently unable to travel, I’m going to publish each of my 81 ‘Picture of the Day’ every day from the 18th April for the next 81 days. I’ll do this in a number of ways: I’ll change my featured blog picture daily and I’ll post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Reading (Tfl Rail) 04/02/2020

What next?

I have absolutely enjoyed my travels around London, seeing it in all kinds of weather, and I’ll write another blog shortly as I have many to thank for their kindness, support and inspiration.

Beyond that, there are of course extensions always being considered to the Transport for London (Tfl) network, so I’ll be keeping an eye open for those. Here are a few I know about, but let me know if you’re aware of others:

And of course, let’s not forget the River Boat Service too.

Memories

Of the 7,000 or so pictures I’ve taken, I’ve indirectly shared over 4,000 of them through the links in my weekly blogs. And for every visit over the two years, I’ve selected one picture as my ‘Picture of the Day’. However I didn’t include this feature in my blogs until mid-November 2018, so I’m reviewing all my early blogs and updating them to reflect this.

I’m also collating ‘Picture of the Day’ into a book: my working title is ‘Memories’. More on this later in the year as I may ask you to select your favourite picture and why so that I can feature the most popular reader’s picture in my book.

Over the last year I’ve also been compiling my photos into thematic albums. I’ll be writing separate blogs, so watch out for these, featuring: People; Art & Sculpture; Stations; Landscapes; Night Time and others.

‘theendoftheline#02’

Once the travel restrictions have been lifted, 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.

What’s in a Name?

And finally, I’m contemplating a change of name. Whilst ‘theendoftheline’ has served me well, I’m mindful that I’ve not been able to use that name across all the social media platforms I use. My blog and YouTube are the only sites that carry this name. Facebook, Instagram and email accounts are under the name of ‘theendofthetflline’ and for Twitter I use my personal account.

Any thoughts will be gratefully appreciated.

But for now…

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Overground TfL Other Services

#81: Barking Riverside – 10/03/2020

Regenerating a landscape on an industrial scale…This is my final of three bonus ‘end of the line’ stations that have yet to be built or commissioned, and brings to a close my first series of travel blogs around London….phew!

The Station

In 2014 the Chancellor announced, in his budget, that the Overground line would be extended to Barking Riverside. This was in preference to previous plans to extend the Docklands Light Railway; and works began in 2017 to construct this station which is currently scheduled for completion in December 2021.

But first, my thanks to another travel blog by Ian Visits, who wrote recently about the station’s progress, challenges, and included current pictures of the building site. So I don’t need to repeat things here, so please visit this site for the details.

The only picture I’ll add to the mix is this one, which is literally the end of the line! I know…it’s a concrete wall…but it is the end of the construction site that forms the raised station of what will be the Overground stop….that is if/or until the line is further extended across the Thames to Thamsemead as is currently planned – although there is no date set for when this will happen.

Barking Riverside London (BRL)

This scheme will bring together nearly 11,000 homes to a former marsh land and brownfield site once occupied by the Barking power stations. The land was sold off to developers in the late 20th Century and the site is currently being developed by the L&Q Group.

As with all developments, L&Q are building in phases and the first to be open for occupation is an area named Parklands (see Picture of the Day below). But the infrastructure for other parts are well evidenced even though not yet accessible.

But buyer beware, remember that the developer’s marketing material is full of impressive images of how the place will look; but go take a look yourselves, it’s still very much a building site and will be for years to come. Nevertheless the long term vision is impressive.

The development includes an exciting waste disposal system where waste will be deposited through surface mounted waste collection centres. These will chanel the waste underground via an automated Envac system: ingenious in its design.

Whilst roaming around by some of the properties being fitted out, I chatted with a couple of carpet fitters who were in the midst of carpeting an entire block that day. One explained the history of the area and remarked about how, during the Second World War, the area was heavily bombed, and jokingly remarked how he hoped that all the unexploded bombs had been identified and removed. I have no doubt that this has been done.

Walking past the BRL project office, which sits beside the Thames with a commanding view of the river, I come to Footpath 47. This is a short riverside footpath that runs along the river bank and connects with Choats Road along The Gores. In case you’re planning to walk the path, there are, thankfully, helpful warning signs on what to do in the event you spot anyone in distress in the river or in the mud.

The river, as ever, is busy with passing ships, but what attracts my attention is the derelict pier and mooring point which I suspect are a legacy of the days when coal was once delivered to the nearby power stations. 

There’s also one unexplained waterside marking which I’m struggling to identify. My early thought is that it’s a navigation aid, but not one I can readily identify. I wonder if it’s a high tide water mark, and if so it doesn’t bode well for the new development?

As part of the BRL’s project office site, there’s a ‘nod’ to wildlife conservation with the creation of a small water feature and bug house. Sadly, not well maintained and now looking a little tired and lost, with no sign of any water borne or land based insects in residence. 

River Road

This is a loop road, joining with Renwick Road, from the A13 and comprises mostly of heavy and light industrial business where the road is potted with parked lorries and an unforgiving footpath. The road now also feeds the area into what is becoming Barking Riverside, where in contrast the road is more manicured and serviced.

The road reflects its home for electricity production/distribution sites, container storage centres and car dismantlers & spares outlets, and one of its notable occupants is the Dagenham Sunday Market. The market occupies an expanse of unused waste industrial land, and attracts visitors from far and wide, and despite being closed, its colourful Helter Skelter and other fun fair rides can be seen quite clearly from a distance.

My days visit can’t go unfinished without a reference to the industrial heritage of the area: that of the power stations, or more precisely the generation and distribution of electricity as the original electricity producing power stations closed many decades ago.

However the National Grid has a significant presence in the area with several high security fenced buildings nearby, and of course the ever present pylons carrying the power to/from their distribution centres.

…and finally…

… whilst strolling around the pond near the Rivergate Centre, I had a chance conversation with Jill, from the Swan Sanctuary. She had come to check on the pond’s water quality after a concern had been raised a few years previously that the conditions were unhealthy and not conducive to attracting wild fowl. The pond has since had a fountain installed which now helps with water aeration and reducing stagnation, but alas there were no swans to be seen today.

However a pair of Canada geese, ducks and coots were happy to take advantage of the feed being thrown at them and Jill explained their behaviour: that the males were letting the females eat first in preparation for their nesting and brooding days as mating season approaches.

Picture of the Day

For this my final Picture of the Day from this first series of travels, choosing a picture to remember the day had been a struggle. Mainly because the sky was dull and grey which tended to flatten the pictures I’m taking, and because the landscape I’ve walked through has been predominantly industrial. 

But nevertheless, today’s picture merges the old and new industries. The setting is that of the fast developing Barking Riverside housing development:  once a marshland and a brownfield site occupied by the Barking Power Station.

This is a view of the ‘almost complete’ Parklands development at the eastern end of Fielders Crescent (a new road) which I’m looking at in a westerly direction. The symmetry of the design and the harshness of the brickwork, which has now almost become the standard brick used across London for such developments (well that’s my opinion), lends itself to being taken in Black and White.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 170mm; Film Speed – ISO1000; Google Photo Filter – Vista

Social Media

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

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Art Special

#80: NOW Gallery, North Greenwich – 05/03/2020

This is a short occasional blog, my second with an art theme; this time from the Now Gallery in North Greenwich which I had occasion to pass recently when I was at the Emirates Royal Docks. I saw an intriguing art installation being created and vowed to return. Here’s what I found…

The Gallery

This unassuming gallery is situated just on the right hand side of the concourse as you exit North Greenwich Underground station headed towards the O2. It’s easy to pass by but my recommendation is don’t, as you’ll undoubtedly miss something thought provoking.

During the two years I’ve been travelling around London, I’ve been amazed and delighted by the growing number of public artworks. Some commissioned by galleries and others by building developers; but they all have one thing in common – to draw you in, challenge your thinking or simply make you stand in awe. Today’s exhibition does all three.

The artist, Emmanuelle Moureaux, has a strong history of showcasing 100 colours as her expressive theme, a theme inspired by the Tokyo street scene, and a place where she’s been the Associate Professor at Tohoku University of Art and Design since 2008. Her work has been commissioned by many prestigious companies and displayed worldwide.

The Slices of Time exhibition is simple in it’s format, but beautiful to admire and walk around. It’s made up of two collections of suspended numbers; each in a globe shape. Let me try and explain…

The first is representative of the artist’s 100 colour theme with the globe made up of layers of suspended numbers. Each slice of the layer is made up of numbers suspended from the top and anchored on the ground. That’s the simple bit, but the artistry is created by the way each slice/layer is precisely positioned to complement its neighbour; so when you look through the installation, you see the symmetry of what’s been created and marvel at the geometric designs that you eye creates for you.

At the lower level, about a foot off the ground, is a smaller collection of numbers running the length of the exhibit. The thought provoking bit? Well you’re invited to write down a memorable moment/time and post it on the surrounding walls.

The larger couloured globe is then counterbalanced by a smaller (but still large) white globe. The concept and design is the same as its coloured partner, but the shapes created seem cleaner and more linear.

I may not do justice to this work, so do go and see it for yourself, and whilst you can walk-in as I did, pre-booked sessions are also available for busy times.

Welcome to New London

The gallery also shares floor space with The Greenwich Peninsula development company who use their space to promote the benefits of what the Greenwich Peninsula has to offer. Primarily to encourage you to buy/rent property in their scheme, but also to encourage businesses to consider North Greenwich as a base.

There’s an interesting tableau, composed of perspex (?) blocks, representing the peninsula, which when lit up by a wall mounted display, brings the tableau to a colourful life. And in doing so, complements the colour scape with the gallery exhibition nearby.

Picture of the Day

Ah! A difficult choice as most of the pictures I took are of numbers, from the Slices of Time exhibition by Emmanuelle Moureaux. I think this one reflects the mood of the piece best for me as it portrays the colour palette, symmetry and precise intricacy in one shot.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 33mm; Film Speed – ISO2500; Google Photo Filter – Blush

Social Media

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

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TfL Other Services TfL Rail

#79: Abbey Wood – 18/02/2020

This is the second of three bonus ‘end of the line’ stations that have yet to be built or commissioned. 

The Station

In the case of Abbey Wood, the station was refurbished and reopened in its current state in 2017, in preparation for the initial opening of the Elizabeth Line. But because of the line’s repeated delays, the TflRail platforms are currently mothballed and fenced off. Tfl’s latest plans for operating the line is in 2020/21, but who knows? Simultaneously, Tfl took over responsibility for the station and ironically, it does not yet operate any services through the station.

Currently, only Network Rail services, operated by Southeastern and Thameslink run through the station serving South East London and Kent. Although as I look closely at the two TflRail platforms, there’s evidence that a full service is operating; but clearly the displays are for ‘display purposes only’ as nothing is moving.

The station has had an attractive makeover, with new stairwells, decorative concourse, lifts and external walkways, and whilst chatting to the TflRail station staff on duty, they explained that even they are not allowed to access the Elizabeth Line platforms which are shuttered closed at all levels. Nevertheless, the station staff and security guards are extremely helpful to all those who pass through with some passengers being referred to by their first name; great customer service.

There’s also an obligatory piano to entice budding musicians to have a go, as one accomplished musician demonstrated whilst I was there cowering from a sudden hailstorm.

The surrounding entrances, closed to all except those engineers in high vis jackets, was a little eerie, and it all had a rather ghost station feeling to it: everything in its place, but nothing moving.

Harrow Manor Way

I’ve taken a while to mull over how best to depict this walk and I can only be honest, but in doing so I’ll try and be as objective as I can. The area north of the station is at best intimidating, but it’s clearly going through a massive regeneration programme. Most of the work seems to be being undertaken by the Peabody Trust who are making a significant investment in clearing outdated concrete high rise estates with more modern living accommodation. This is a programme of works that will take many many years to complete, so the area is at best a confusing mix of properties at the moment.

Along Harrow Manor Way, there is a cordoned off part of the Lesnes Estate labelled Caroline Walk, and it’s difficult to determine, initially, whether the barriers are an attempt to keep people in or out. The existence of razor wire helps me conclude that the area is cordoned off to prevent unwanted squatting as it is primed for demolition.

Nevertheless, walking around and through the area gives me an uneasy feeling because of it’s stark and grey surroundings with a somewhat decaying urban look, and with little human contact, I hasten to want to return to the ‘relative safety’ of the main road.

I have no doubt that those living in and around the area are warm and welcoming as there’s some evidence that within the estate, properties are being cared for as some have been decorated in a modern style. But there’s no hiding the fact that these are few and far between, and attempts to brighten up communal areas with artwork seem forgotten and faded.

I continue walking as far as SouthMere lake and Lower Thamesmead and onto The Ridgeway and cross over the almost deserted Eastern Way into the fringes of Crossway Park.

I see very few people, and other than a small collection of teenagers, possibly making their way to/from The Gym and/or The Link I feel isolated and somewhat vulnerable and maybe a little guilty for not exploring a little further.

Walking past the fenced off Lakeside Events Centre, I later learn this is itself undergoing redevelopment as an arts centre, and it’s description as having an ‘…iconic Brutalist architecture, and stunning views of SouthMere Lake and the area’s famous skyline, is a Thamesmead landmark…’ is quite telling. I guess I would liken it to the Marmite sensation that is The South Bank Centre in terms of architectural design – concrete on concrete on concrete – you either love it or hate it!

I skirt around the fringes of the SouthMere lake and amble along part of the Green Chain Walk that runs alongside the lake and back towards Abbey Wood station. Work on redeveloping the lakeside tower blocks is evident, as is the dredging of the lake to transform and return it to its former glory as one of the jewels in Thamsemead’s crown. I have to admit though, on this cold wintry and blustery day, it feels far from being a jewel.

Although there aren’t many people about, there is one jogger, one dog walker and one cyclist, but it’s hard to mask the fact that the greenway walk is merely an attempt to break up the array of 1970’s concrete tower blocks with uninviting communal stairs and walkways. 

As I cross over the railway bridge into the area south of Abbey Wood station, it seems like I’ve entered a different time zone as the building and architecture becomes more mid 1930’s London bricked terraced houses. And in some way quietly marks the obvious contrast with the more modernist concrete jungle style that began to emerge during the 1950’s.

My journey ends here, but who knows I may return one day to explore the much promoted Lesnes Abbey or indeed return and explore, with more confidence, the grittiness of the surrounding concrete estates.

Picture of the Day

This is one of two striking graffiti/murals on the wall opposite the station lift entrance in Gayton Road. The original is in colour, but to be honest, the colour palette is marginal as the majority of the artwork is in black and white. So I’ve applied a Vogue black and white filter to emphasise the quality of this bold piece. The detail is fine and the eyes follow you, which provides a somewhat evocative feature.

And interestingly, if you look closely, the work has other graffiti etched across the cheeks too.

The artist ‘astek-London’ has signed his presence and he’s clearly keen to promote his work, so go and have a look at his Instagram page for other examples of his skills and talent.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO125; Google Photo Filter – Vogue

Social Media

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

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TfL Other Services TfL Rail

#77: Reading – 04/02/2020

Today, I stretch the boundaries of my Freedom Pass to its limits as I travel from Gidea Park to Reading for free. This will be an uninterrupted route courtesy of the Elizabeth Line, once it starts operating, but today, I have to change at Liverpool Street and Paddington.

Nevertheless, hats off to London Councils and Tfl for this great experience.

The Station

I have ‘fond?!’ memories of Reading Station as I travelled through here during different stages of my life. In my early working career I spent 6 weeks in Reading so the weekend commute to/from my home in Aberystwyth was always a challenge. And again, some 30 years ago, I passed through the station on my weekend visits back to Cardiff as I waited to move my family up to London. And more recently as I visited nearby IT and Telecoms providers in Newbury, picking up connecting services here.

Over the years, I’ve seen the station change, and I have to say its current incarnation is a significant improvement on what was once a severe bottleneck for the weary traveller. The station was remodelled in 2015 and it now boasts 15 platforms serving four train operating companies: Great Western Railway (GWR), South Western Railway, Cross Country (by Arriva), and Tfl.

I’m no train geek when it comes to spotting trains, but being one of the top 10 busiest stations across the country, this is an ideal location to see the variety of trains passing through. Some of today’s trains include: the sleek bullet shaped electric trains recently introduced by GWR, the stylish electric Tfl Rail trains introduced as part of the Elizabeth Line; the familiar South Western electric trains; and the more laboured Cross Country (diesel?) trains.

Alongside the 15 platforms, there’s a new inter-platform walkway, complete with shopping experiences and wide covered stairs and escalators to each platform (there are lifts too). All colour coordinated throughout in a ‘pleasing to the eye’ themed blue and grey. 

It’s a bitter cold day and even though the inter-platform walkway is covered, access to the platforms and stairs/escalators is open to the elements. So as I crouch down taking a few shots, I’m approached by a very pleasant and chatty Interserve supervisor who’s intrigued by what I’m doing, so we chat for a while. She’s an Irish girl quite used to the cold, but a little surprised when I tell her tales of having to scrape the ice from inside my bedroom window when I was growing up. As we part company I remark on her cold hands, to which she responds…’ah but I have a warm heart…’

Passengers come and go, with little regard to their surroundings as they work out which platform to head to. But their heads popping into shot through the angular structures makes for an interesting collection of pictures. I wonder what they’re thinking?

Before leaving the station, I notice that the Tfl Rail returning destination shows Ealing Broadway, even though the scheduled destination is Paddington. I’m intrigued and when I ask a Tfl platform guard, she helpfully explains that it’s done to prevent those journeying through the station thinking that it might be a fast service to Paddington. I speculate this may have been the case when this service was first introduced just before Christmas.

As it’s been a bitterly cold morning, I decide a short respite in The Three Guineas pub which backs onto the station is called for. I rest my feet whilst enjoying a coffe and as I leave I try to work out what’s the time?

Out of the station, heading to the river, I pass under the brightly coloured railway bridge with repeating geometric shapes that are formed from the girders spanning the road. A combination of having a back-lit footpath on the opposite side and pedestrians from a nearby building site  wearing high-vis jackets helps to make this picture. I also notice a couple of stranded birds roosting up above too.

The River Thames

A walk along the south and north banks brings a different Reading into perspective, and here are a few of my highlights.

Thames Water Property Searches: not necessarily everyone’s idea of a landmark, but this open circular building has some interestingly shaped access stairs. No doubt purposely designed to reflect the circular shape of the building, but in my mind also mirroring an Archimedes Screw designed to move water, and now used in some hydropower schemes.

Christchurch Bridge: this is a relatively new foot and cycle bridge built in 2015 to connect Reading and Caversham through Christchurch Meadows. A cable-stayed bridge with one mast and 14 pairs of cable in a fan style. I’m sure this looks very attractive at night time lit by its 234 LED’s, but this monochromic shot helps to show off its simplistic beauty.

Caversham Weir and Lock: continuing along the north bank I return via Heron Island and View Island, a once derelict boatyard now converted into a wildlife haven. There’s a footpath running through it which brings me out at the Weir. An impressive water feature used to manage the water flow at this point on The Thames, and with the sluices wide open, the water flows rather fiercely.

The footpath across the weir is quite popular, and standing in the middle peering over the edge, I get a strong sense of the water’s power. And I can understand why the local community has successfully lobbied to build an environmentally friendly hydropower scheme utilising two Archimedean screw turbines here.

The Thames Path: I only cover a minute part of the 215 mile path, which at Reading runs along the south bank from Caversham Bridge, under Reading Bridge and past Caversham lock and weir before meandering easterly towards Henley-on-Thames. There’s one peculiar river boat moored along the path and as I say farewell to Reading, I reflect on the achievements of my sister-in-law and her sister who both completed the Thames Path challenge recently. Well done ladies…

Birdlife

A few birds catch my attention as I walk along the riverbank. On the Caversham side walking through Christchurch Meadows I pass a small copse and hear some rustling in the undergrowth. I assume it to be a squirrel so I decided to ignore it, but the sound seems to follow me. Looking around, I could just make out a bird ground feeding around the copse. It’s unperturbed by my presence, although I did keep my distance, and this short animation captures its movements. I didn’t recognise the bird instantly, but my suspicion was confirmed once I looked up the RSPB Identify a Bird site. Some of you will recognise it instantly as a Redwing.

Further along I arrive at Heron Island, and no guesses what I see here.

And in the middle of the river, there’s a trio of Seagulls perched on a rather faded Danger sign, no doubt placed to warn anyone approaching of the nearby weir and reminding boaters to keep right towards Caversham Lock.

Picture of the Day

This is a view of the footpath over Caversham Weir. I waited for some cyclists and pedestrians to pass by and I crouched down to get the low view shot. The railings on either side help to guide you through the picture and the Vista filter adds strength and starkness.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 28mm; Film Speed – ISO125; Google Photo Filter – Vista

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Emirates Air Line TfL Other Services

#76: Emirates Royal Docks – 28/01/2020

My penultimate end of the line: what am I to do afterwards? Suggestions on a postcard please.

Today’s wintry cold yet bright day sees me heading to the northern end of the Emirates Air Line at Royal Docks London and/or London’s Royal Docks alighting from the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Royal Victoria.

The route I take is a fairly simple one: twice around the westerly part of the docks from The Emirates Royal Docks station in an anti-clockwise direction over the Royal Victoria Bridge and back. Once in the daylight and once at night time.

I also ‘fly’ in the Emirates Air Line to North Woolwich and back to enjoy the experience and daytime and nighttime views which shows the Dockland’s continuing development.

The Station

Commissioned, built and opened just before the London Olympics in 2012, the ‘air line’ has  a capacity of 2,500 passengers per hour travelling at five miles per hour and taking three minutes to complete the crossing.

On my outward flight, I’m joined in the gondola by VeJay, a resident from Australia who’s visiting friends in London for a couple of months. We both remark on the rocking motion of the gondola as it’s battered by the winds when at the highest point of the journey, but thankfully, the structure is designed to withstand such winds. I spot some of London’s distant landmarks and observe the waterline’s tidy array of yachts some 80 metres below.

This night time shot of the North Greenwich station is quite striking as the Moon and the planet Venus shine brightly against the cloudfree sky.

Reflections

Nearby to the station is The Crystal, a conference centre designed and built with sustainability at its core generating its own electricity needs through 1,580 m² of solar panels. Despite being closed for refurbishment, the conference centre boasts a daily average visitor attendance of 1,000, but today, it’s the exterior that grabs my attention as its glass fronted surface offers an opportunity to capture some reflective moments.

Nearby water puddles, which shimmer slightly in the breeze, also provide a similar opportunity by creating a fuzzy view of the neighbouring residential block.

And into the night, the low lit footpath along the southern end of the dock casts a colourful display on the water’s surface transforming an otherwise drab vista into an almost Meditaranean one – oh if it were only 20 degrees warmer…

Historic Docks

Constructed in the mid 19th Century, the docks were an instant commercial success as they could easily accommodate all but the largest steamships; and despite being badly damaged in the Second World War, the docks remained a viable hub until the 1960’s. With the onset of containerisation, shipping throughout the London docks migrated easterly towards Tilbury where the larger ships could more easily be managed, and consequently by the 1980’s, the Royal Docks closed to commercial shipping traffic.

The docks have been sympathetically restored with obvious reminders, here and here, of their heydays on display as the docks are surrounded by a display of cranes and derricks, as if ‘on guard’ for what has now become a fashionable residential and leisure area.

On the northern bank and just outside the entrance to the ExCel Centre is a poignant statue created by Les Johnson entitled ‘Landed’. Commissioned by the Royal Docks Trust, it has been erected as a tribute to the history of the communities of the Royal Docks and the men and women who worked there between 1855 and 1983.

Leisure

The docks are now a hub for a variety of conferencing, entertainment and leisure industries, although as it’s the middle of winter, all of the water borne leisure facilities are closed. There are few people milling around although there is a steady stream of visitors making their way into the Sunborn Yacht Hotel which is permanently moored by the ExCel Centre. This shot is taken through the legs of one of the cranes on the opposite side of the dock.

The docks is also the home of Lightship 93, a former Trinity House light vessel, now repurposed as a photographic studio and location. And looking east, about one kilometre away is London Docklands Airport with planes landing and taking off at regular intervals.

I end my day where I started, but spend a little time reflecting on the moody lighting which casts a soft shadowy glow on the footpath as a few revelers head for the DLR or to one of the nearby hotels. The overhead gondolas continue to pass robotically by, regardless of whether they carry any passengers, and I decide it’s time to get back into the warm…so it’s homeward bound for me too.

Picture of the Day

This shot is taken on the Royal Victoria Bridge looking straight into the low lying sun. I’ve positioned myself so that the point of dissection of the bridge support struts intersect the sun. The shot is unfiltered as the stark sunlight adds to the shadowy black and white effect I’m trying to create, and highlights the white wispy clouds against an otherwise clear sky…

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ13; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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Northern TfL Underground

#75: High Barnet – 23/01/2020

‘…On the 14th April 1471, a very foggy Easter Sunday, two armies faced each other across a plain just north of the market town of Barnet. The War of the Roses had arrived in Barnet…’

I arrive on a bright crisp wintry day, and alight at my fifth and final Northern Line terminus; a somewhat different day and means of transport to those fighting the war 549 years earlier..

The Station

Some commentators declare that the station has been built in the wrong place, and that the entrance is also misaligned. The purists believe that the entrance/exit should be at the end of the line, but this is not so as in High Barnet as it’s on the side of the station. I’ve thought about this and reflected on all the stations I’ve visited, and there are several stations where the entrance/exit isn’t as the purists would have. I guess ultimately the location is determined by the surrounding landscape.

High Barnet station is at the bottom of a dip about one kilometre away from the main shopping area with a two hundred metre steep climb out of the station to road level. Even for the able bodied, this can be arduous, but for those less able, the three grab rails along the length of the footbath are a must as I observed at least two senior citizens struggle to make it to the top. The lady on the right of this picture stopped several times and she didn’t have a kind word to say about the footpath when she stopped to catch her breath besides me.

Chipping Barnet

Chipping Barnet: High Barnet: or simply Barnet – Not confusing at all, just three names for the same place. The reference to ‘Chipping’ donates the presence of a market, this one established by Royal Charter in the 12th Century. Today’s not a Wednesday of Saturday, so I miss the spectacle, but as I walk up Barnet Hill and the HIgh Street, I can’t miss the imposing church of St John the Baptist Barnet which dominates the centre of the road as it splits heading west and north. The church has impressively decorated flint walls and a bell tower with dominant gargoyles pointing out towards the four main cardinal directions.

Heading into town, I’m a little underwhelmed, as despite its historic connections, I find little of architectural interest along the main street, or as I meander into the side streets. However, the town does much to promote its historical association with The Battle of Barnet; as I stop to read one of the several elaborately painted notices referencing the battle between the Lancastrians led by The Earl of Warwick and the Yorkists led by King Edward IV. More later…

On one of the painted displays, attention is drawn to five historical coaching inns which served the 150 coaches that would pass through Barnet each day. Imagine: if each coach is driven by at least four horses; that would be 600 horses a day, 3,000 a week and at a guess 120,000 a year. Some gardner’s would no doubt have been happy? The The Red Lion is one of these former coaching inns, and it is the first of the five I notice as I make my way into town.

Barnet Museum

The museum sits opposite the Church and it is well worth a visit, especially as it’s free to enter. It’s located in a townhouse that has dedicated it’s basement, ground and first floors to local memorabilia and a dedicated space for the Battle of Barnet. Some of the heraldic banners associated with the Battle are also on display whilst they undergo some decorative ‘touching up’ in preparation for their annual airing throughout the town each April. These three represent the Yorkists Houses of Gloucester and Woodhouse, and the Lancastrian House of Mauleverer.

I’ll not be able to do justice to the museum’s entire collection as there’s too much to see and enjoy, but here are a few of my highlights:

Domestic Life: this collage depicts several items you’d no longer find in the modern home. The first is a cork shaper used for compressing and shaping corks for sealing bottles and jars. The second is a door vent in a Victorian/Edwardian kitchen cabinet, and the third a rather attractive and elegant decorative clock.

Pearly King, Queen and Princess for Barnet: In the basement, amongst a display of Victorian and Edwardian dresses are the Pearly suits once worn by Mr Jack Hammond, his wife Brenda and daughters Lisa and Tracey. Jack was awarded the title of Pearly King of Barnet in honour of his fundraising for charity in 1962 by the Association of Pearly Kings and Queens who appoint all ‘the regents’ for all the London Boroughs. Jack sewed each mother-of-pearl button onto their outfits and the approximate cost (at 1976 prices) at £0.60 a button was £4,000. The King’s suit weighed 14.5Kilogrammes (32 pounds).

A moving Tribute: I find upstairs to be quite evocative, as there’s a display of artifacts from Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, known more recently as Friern Hospital which closed in 1993. The fact that it’s been converted into a luxury housing development takes none of the reminders away of how those with a mental illness used to be treated. Examples of straight  jackets are prominently displayed as is this padded cell door.

And whilst walking around the first floor, there’s a haunting rendition of early 20th Century music being played to complement the exhibits of the two World Wars. I’m moved by this copy of a handwritten poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD – ‘In Flanders Fields

Back to the Station

Almost adjacent to the museum is Barnet Southgate College, which now incorporates an Elizabethan Tudor Hall. This is where the original Queen Elizabeth’s School was founded following its being granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1573. It’s now used as a banqueting hall and small conference space.

Further down the road, I stop outside The Sound Garden music shop and take in the Fender guitar maker’s sign which glows quite brightly in the gloomy afternoon.

And finally, as I pass Papa John’s take away Pizza shop, I’m beckoned by a gent from inside to take his picture as he sees me walking by with my camera in hand. Never wanting to miss an opportunity, I oblige and then move into the shop and meet Stargy, a budding musician. Nice to meet you Stargy…

Picture of the Day

Today’s picture aims to highlight the gradient from High Barnet station entrance and I’ve cropped this picture vertically using the three handrails to accentuate the descent. Applying a deep Black & White filter (Vista) helps to highlight the horizontal sunbeams hitting the middle railing and ground as the sun shines through an out of shot fence on the right.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter – Vista

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Metropolitan TfL Underground

#74: Aldgate – 16/01/2020

Aldgate is the last of the five terminal Metropolitan stations to visit, a line that changed the face of travelling for Londoners. In 1863, the Metropolitan Line opened the first underground service between Paddington and Farringdon…That’s enough of the history but read here for more details.

I’ve left visiting Aldgate towards the end of my travels as it was here I last worked before retiring almost two years ago. One of my final acts when working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) was to secure a suitable location and manage the transition from our previous residency in Holborn, and this I achieved in 2016. So you see, I have an affinity with the area which I got to know quite well, and I wanted to put as much time behind me before returning and studying the area objectively.

The area is an eclectic and diverse one which merges many cultures and industries and offers a wealth of history, colour and architecture. Here’s my view which takes me into Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Shadwell and down towards the river at Wapping. It’s hard to discern where the boundaries for these areas lie, although I’ve no doubt there’s a map somewhere depicting them. That really isn’t important, but what is interesting and exciting is that wandering as I do, I’m always amazed at some of the sights I see that are either hidden or forgotten. Hidden in the streets are murals and buildings with architectural significance in full sight of everyone, but no one sees them. And forgotten in the sense that their importance, and/or value, are no longer considered relevant. I’ll try and rekindle some of them here.

The Station

Serving both the Met and Circle lines, the station is on the edge of The City and in easy reach of main line stations at Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street; so great for commuters. As with all of the Met line, it was created using a ‘cut and over’ method rather than tunnelling, and this can be seen quite well when I’m in the station.

The platforms cuts quite a large arc to accommodate the Circle line trains as they route south westerly to join the District line headed towards Westminster and Victoria, and this is quite noticeable as trains stop at this busy interchange between The City and suburban London to the East.

There’s also a busy terminal bus station directly across the road, thus making the area an excellent commuting hub; and plenty going on to entertain the casual observer too as this lonely figure from across the station suggests. Not quite the Woman in the Window, but maybe there’s a sequel to be written? – the Man in the Window?

And adjacent to the station in Aldgate Square, there’s a coffee shop with an  interesting design: it has a fan like roof as if capturing, or even embracing the surrounding office buildings.

Spitalfields

Today’s association is maybe with the Old Spitalfields Market, but the area is steeped in historical changes. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the area was occupied by Irish and Huguenot immigrants who immersed themselves in the silk industry until its demise in the mid 1700’s followed by an influx from the Jewish Community who set up a textile industry here.

Alas, by the Victorian era, Spitalfields was synonymous with deprivation, slum dwellings, criminality and prostitution, and was the scene of a brutal killing of a young woman by the serial killer Jack the Ripper.

During the 20th Century, there was an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants who worked in the textile industry, and made Brick Lane famous as the curry capital of London. And this sculpture by Spitalfields Market in some way aims to reflect the area’s rich history of providing shelter for successive waves of immigrants. This piece is by the Greek sculptor Kalliopi Lemos

Petticoat Lane Market is an area made up predominantly of Wentworth Street and Middlesex Street and famous for its street stalls selling cheap clothes. But nowadays, as with many markets, equally noted for its food stalls which attracts crowds of near-by office workers each lunch time who come to sample and enjoy the variety of flavours on offer.

The market stands in the shadows of and within spitting distance of The City, with The Gherkin being the most notable skyline companion. And close by is the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, part of the London Metropolitan University.

Wentworth Street crosses Commercial Street where I find an interesting arch leading into the housing complex through Flower and Dean Walk. The inscription on the arch serves as a reminder of the slum days and efforts by the philanthropist Nathaniel, the 1st Lord Rosthschild, to change the living conditions for the Jewish Community by setting up the Four Percent Industrial Dwelling Company Ltd.

And across the road, there’s a brief glimpse at the cobbled streets of London, but alas now bastardised by the blight of the ever present yellow line.

Whitechapel Gallery, on the HIgh Street, offers an eclectic mix of exhibitions, but I hadn’t realised that there’s a tiny alleyway on its left: Angel Alley. It doesn’t go far but towards the end is an unassuming ‘bookshop’ with this interesting mural on its wall. It’s only now as I research this bookshop I realise its social significance. The Freedom Press has had its place in the (troubled) anarchist movement for over 140 years. This summary is well worth a read, and I now understand that the mural depicts 38 individuals who may have been sympathetic, at one time or another, to the Freedom Press.

Brick Lane: if you have never visited, then put it on your list of places to go. But be warned, if you go on a market day, be prepared to get squashed and pushed around as it’s a hive of like minded folk wandering around gawping at the colours on display. Don’t let that put you off, but if you fancy a more leisurely look at the area…go on a non-market day.

I roam aimlessly admiring the abundance of wall art. In fact there are few walls that haven’t been decorated. Some are clearly artistry and no doubt have been commissioned or painted with permission, and some are random acts of graffitti, but to be honest, not out of place. Here’s a sample of some of my finds whilst poking my nose into discrete alleys. I can guarantee, if you go visit, you’ll find your own favourites.

My wanderings take me in and out of several side streets where I stumble across Links Yard. What was once probably a remnant of the textile industry, the abandoned workshops have been craftily redeveloped as part of a wider community effort to regenerate the Brick Lane area by the Spitalfields Small Business Association

I eventually end up at the new Shoreditch Overground station, in awe of the wealth of artistic talent that surrounds the area. But there are still reminders of modern day poverty and homelessness; as I walk under the railway arches, there’s at least one homeless woman who’s clearly made this place her own.

Whitechapel

Whitechapel’s heart is Whitechapel High Street, extending further east into Whitechapel Road forming part of the A11 road. In the past this was the initial part of the Roman road between the City of London and Colchester, exiting the city at Aldgate, but today’s modern day travelling is no doubt significantly different; as indeed is the City’s skyline. 

And although the main road was not squalid, the surrounding side streets had very much evolved into classic Dickensian with problems of poverty, overcrowding and deprivation during the Victorian era. Thus, Temperance, Salvation and Alms can be found aplenty along Whitechapel Road; being born out of the determination of several individuals to improve the plight of the poor and homeless in the East End of London. 

Trinity Green, a small conclave of Almshouses along the Whitechapel Road were built by the Corporation of Trinity House on ground given by Captain Henry Mudd for mariners. If you pass, look up at the roof line of the gatehouses where you’ll see these ships.

Next door is the Tower Hamlets Mission set up by Frederick Charrington, the son and heir of the brewing empire, in the late 19th Century.

And of course, no reference to the East End is complete without a mention to the 19th Century work of the Christian Revival Society set up nearby by William Booth and his wife Catherine. Now known as the Salvation Army. Statues of the two stand proudly outside the Almshouses and Mission.

On the south side of the road, and opposite Whitechapel underground station is the renowned Royal London Hospital. Now a modern hospital standing just behind the original, demolished, brick building. It’s facade still erect, and I think this view of the new through the old is quite striking.

Shadwell

Heading south from Whitechapel HIgh Street, I meander through Shadwell, and stumble upon Watney Street Market; one of many localised markets throughout the borough of Tower Hamlets. The market offers a cut through from the main A13 Commercial Road to Shadwell Overground station, and it’s a busy market day offering a glimpse of the borough’s diverse range of residents. At the southern end of the market there’s a collection of large flat slabs set in a straight line upon which I’m invited to sit on. And as I do, I see there’s a historical theme engraved on them, with references to the area’s shady past. If anyone has any knowledge of these slabs, please drop me a line.

Onward into Cable Street, the street’s name states simply what its purpose was; that of a straight path along which hemp ropes were twisted into ships’ cables. I have some familiarity with such a place name as in my home town of Aberystwyth, I lived near ‘Rope Walk’ which has a similar historical origin. Walking along to the entrance to St George’s Gardens and I find I’m  immersed, through a very large mural, in the story of the Battle of Cable Street. 4th October 1936 saw a hand to hand battle between the fascist supporters of Oswald Mosley and local residents and the Metropolitan Police. Go take a look, as both the mural and the story are well worth seeing and reading about.

Leaving Shadwell through St George’s Gardens, and before crossing The Highway heading into Wapping, I’m acquainted with former residents through their memorials, epitaphs and gravestones. Prominence is given to Henry Raine; a wealthy man who built a school for poor children. But my attention is piqued by the gravestone of Mr Alexander Wyle (?) who died on the 4th December 1741 and whose remains are buried here.

Wapping

Synonymous with the maritime trade, the area is famed for its wharves, docks and marine trades. The area was badly affected in the Second World War blitz, and it further declined into dereliction as a consequence of the post war closure of the docks.

The area’s fortunes changed during the 1980’s when redevelopment and regeneration saw many of the empty wharf buildings converted into fashionable riverside apartments. A trend that has since been adopted right along the Thames shoreline.

I pass Tobacco Dock, a destination I’d seen heavily advertised over the years as I drove through The Highway, so I was keen to see what’s here. But as I arrive, I’m disappointed as it’s a cordoned off events centre. There are no events today, so it has a derelict feel to it, although there’s some maritime interest as I explore the two ships moored in the dry docks in front of the centre. The docks name gives a clue to its purpose in its heyday.

Further down Wapping Lane, I pass St Peter’s London Docklands Church, and admire its gaunt frontage which was built as a memorial to its founder, Father Lowder.

A little further down, there’s a small parade of shops and my attention is drawn to P&J Bakers. This is partly because of its delightful window display of home baked breads and cakes, and partly because of the intriguing black metal doors on the side and rear of the bakery. At a guess, they may have been old oven doors for the bakery but when I asked inside, no one was able to give me an explanation of their history. Maybe you do…drop me a line.

Waterman’s Stairs and Mudlarking

Approaching Wapping HIgh Street, the overground station is directly ahead and as I turn right, I’m confronted with an array of repurposed Wharves. They include Gun Wharf, King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf, St John’s Wharf, Aberdeen Wharf, Pierhead Wharf and Oliver’s Wharf: all within 400 meters of each other.

The walk is somewhat unexciting, until I realise the real gem is when I explore the little alleyways in between the wharves which lead to the water’s edge and I discover the Watermen’s stairs. These were used historically as access points to ferry people along and across the Thames, or even to bring ashore the cargo for ships moored in the Thames. The stairs would provide access to the ferry boats at high tide and at low tide the ferry boats would use the adjoining causeways.

This helpful guide lists all the stairs along the Thames (for Wapping, go to page 31). Some of the stairs are in good condition and others less so, even if you can access them through locked gates. 

The ones I explore are Wapping Dock Stairs, King Henry’s Stairs and I access the shoreline down Wapping Old Stairs where I meet Norman, a mudlarker. He explains that mudlarking requires a permit which grants permission to dig up to 7.5 cms beneath the surface (3” in imperial measurement), and after three years you can apply for a permit to dig deeper. He proudly shows me his find of the day, and along with another mudlarker who happens along, they determine it may well be a vintage lace bobbin.

A little further along the shoreline, I meet Christopher, a like minded photographer with whom I share my ‘endoftheline’ story and reminisce about the early days of black and white film photography. Here is one of Christopher’s photos, which he has kindly agreed that I can publish. This one is taken under Oliver’s Wharf looking west towards Wapping Old Stairs.

Wapping is the home for the Metropolitan Police Marine Unit and Boatyard, and I spot a couple resting their feet in Waterside Gardens, which sits in between the two buildings. They seem to be enjoying the riverside view of working and pleasure boats moving up and down stream.

And no riverside is complete without a pub, and it’s at the nearby Captain Kidd I meet a group of gentlemen enjoying the view from the open terrace. They are all from the Greater Anglia Control Centre in Romford enjoying a social afternoon sampling the local ale and taking in the views.

Returning to the City

I’m back on familiar ground now as I approach St Katherine’s Dock. I’ve covered these docks in an earlier blog, but there’s an interesting side note about the nearby Ornamental Canal, which is now a popular route for joggers, keep fit enthusiasts and serious runners alike. Did you know that it was once a location for the filming for the 1999 James Bond film ‘The World Is Not Enough’?

My travels around Aldgate come to an end as I reflect on how two towering Grade II listed buildings have been sympathetically restored. The first in Back Church Lane, within earshot of the mainline rail service into Fenchurch Street, is Wool House. No guesses for working out its original purpose in the Victorian era, but now it’s a multi-tenanted office and residential space. I walk around the building and count 12 hoisting stations, an indication of how busy it would have been at the height of the wool trade in London. But here’s an interesting fact – the second series of the BBC television series, Dragon’s Den was filmed here.

The second is of the HULT International Business School sitting on the corner of Commercial Road and White Church Lane and directly opposite the home of The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers. This Grade II listed building was once the St George’s Brewery, Whitechapel, but there’s very little information to be found other than this architect’s journal

Time for home to rest my weary legs…

Picture of the Day

This picture was taken in the food market in Goulston Street, just off Wentworth Street, and is part of a series studying lunch-time office workers deciding on their food choice of the day. The street is lined with open air pop-up food stalls, and their menus and price guide erected high up on their stalls so that potential customers can see what’s on offer whilst they move around the crowds.

I’m standing amidst the crowds and slightly elevated when taking this shot, and I notice that those queuing to be served are all studying the menu board intently, oblivious to their surroundings. Presenting this in black & white helps to strengthen the observation, and I believe it also helps to focus attention on the three main subject’s gaze. The individual in the centrepiece has a simple ruggedness to him which playfully offsets the more traditional office gent on the right.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO2000; Google filter – Vista

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#73: Romford – 18/12/2019

BUT FIRST – by the time you read this, Christmas will be over and it will be 2020 – so here’s wishing you all a very Happy New Year and who knows what delights it will bring….? Meanwhile, back to the plot…

Welcome to Romford! Some commentators say Romford is the capital of the East End; well I’ll let you and others debate and decide on that.

Romford is at one end of the Overground shuttle service running to/from Upminster, and this visit completes the set of 20 endpoint destinations on the Overground.

I’ve also left Romford towards the end of my journeys as this is where I have lived for almost 30 years, so I wanted to make sure I took an objective view of the area, and I hope I’ve achieved this by exploring the town over several days. In fact, on 02/07/2019; 04/12/2019; 12/12/2019 and 18/12/2019, and I make no apology that this blog is somewhat longer than normal as I want to do justice to the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met.

The Station

Almost my second home for the last 30 years as I pass through and often stop en route to/from Gidea Park, so I feel as if I have some affinity with this station. But to be honest, I’ve never really stopped to look around…until now. The station has 5 platforms. No 1 serving the Overground shuttle to/from Upminster, and the focus of my journey today. No’s 4-5 serving the Tfl line to/from Shenfield and Nos 2-3 for the fast service from East Anglia into London Liverpool Street.

This rainbow roundel was interestingly only displayed on Platform 1 during the summer pride celebrations which Tfl was supporting, but nevertheless I’m happy I had the opportunity to catch it when I did as it didn’t stay for long. And it’s when I took this shot I noticed the nameplate on the bridge leading to Platform 1 for Westwood Baillie & Co. A little research yields some interesting facts about this ironworks engineers who built bridges as far and wide as India and South Africa, and like the one in Romford, still stand today.

I’m always delighted by the wintry dusk skylines in Romford as when the sun sets on clear evenings looking westerly, the transition through red, orange and ultimately dark blue and black, when set against an industrial landscape, is always interesting. This is one of those evenings.

And heading down under the station, there are partly covered arches on the northern side of the station running into Exchange Street. In recent years, the footpath has been laid in multi-coloured bricks and the arches fenced in to make this once seedy cut through slightly more palatable. See my picture of the day below for another take on this scene.

A Shopping Mecca

On one of my outings I decide to explore the rooftops to see if there is a different view of the Town I’d not seen before. You see Romford is a shopping mecca defined by its market, and four shopping centres: The Brewery, The Liberty, The Mercury and the Shopping Hall.

Visitors are incentivised to visit by road as the centre is somewhat characterised by its ring road and 5 multi-story car parks.

From my observations, today’s Romford has been shaped by three architectural periods. The mid 30’s with its art deco style fashion. This is a time when the town grew significantly and became a commuter town; the 60’s with its overuse of concrete; and thankfully the more stylised 21st Century modernist look. One commentator describes quite eloquently Romford’s style as being ‘…at times a little scruffy and smelly…’, but my view is that these moments add character and depth to the hidden parts of the town. What do you think?

But on balance, the town has much to offer, and here I’ll share some examples of how I see Romford through these three eras…

1930’s Art Deco – I hadn’t realised, until I started reviewing my photos, how similar some of the buildings around the town are. Here’s two examples: the Town Hall and the entrance to the Quadrant Centre. Both built in the mid 1930’s.

The Concrete 1960’s – or is it a space invasion with a hidden flying saucer unseen by everyone. Ha! This is the rooftop of the car park exit ramp from The Brewery, but on a dank wintry afternoon, it has an eerie quality. However the use of concrete epitomises its functionality when it was fashionable to do so in the 60’s, and it’s evident in all of the surrounding car parks.

Modernist 21st Century – one of the newest buildings in town is the Sapphire and Ice Leisure Centre built in partnership with the council. A magnificent recreational centre encompassing a swimming pool, a multi-gym and an ice rink. And as a patron, I find that it represents exceptional value for money.

As with most town centres, there is a constant churn of how space is used, with some new developments being created and others left to fester for too long and they themselves become enshrined into the fabric of the town. By way of example, there’s a very new patisserie just opened in Exchange Street – Dolce Desserts. Perched on the cutting between South Street and Exchange Street, I’m welcomed in on their second day of opening to review their deco and range of food offerings. A very simple yet attractive setting in which to relax for a short respite.

In contrast, the cutting from the Liberty Shopping Centre alongside Debenhams to the Market has been left undeveloped for many a year. And the hoarding now installed has become a permanent advert for the shopping centre itself.

And despite the dank and dreary conditions of the day, there’s always an unexpeted and surprising moment to encounter when I least expect it. Where else would you find a leapord and three coloured sheep sharing the same table?

Buskers

On most days you’ll encounter buskers in South Street or thereabouts. And today is no different, but what is different is their willingness or unwillingness to have their picture taken or engage in a conversation. As is the case with the first gentleman I encounter strumming his guitar alongside Santander just off South Street. He is most adamant that I do not take his picture – I wonder why?

And similarly close by down the side of Barclays, a couple of Eastern European gents are sharing their musical talents on an accordion and clarinet. At first they are quite happy for me to take their pictures but suddenly I’m instructed with ‘No Image! No Image!’ I gesticulate that I’ll only take pictures of their instruments, but by which time I have already taken several shots. Ooops!

Into South Street, and I meet my most interesting characters of the day; two in fact. First is Joseph who is sitting outside M&S happily singing and strumming his guitar. He’s been here a while as I could hear him earlier in the day, so I stop to chat, which he’s very happy to do. A friendly and amiable artist who enjoys the busking life, and says he’s had many an invitation to support others through being listened to in the streets. Passers by complain jovially that he’s not singing, but they are still happy to throw coins into his upturned hat, for which he thanks them. I try not to keep him talking for too long, and as I leave him, I listen to his melancholic and soulful sound. Nice to meet you Joseph.

Less than 75 meters along South Street, I stop and admire the wordsmithery of @itsTrueMendous. I  listen and gesticulate if it’s OK to take pictures and with a nod of agreement, I click away. She has a very acute ear and a sharp mind as her rap takes in things in her immediate surrounds; including my distraction. She stops for a short while and as we chat, I explain my ‘journey’ to Chyvonne who’s keen to understand where the best spots for busking are in the East End. I offer some suggestions and as she continues to rap, she does so to the camera. Thank you Chyvonne, and it was a blast to meet you. Go listen to her on Twitter or Instagram.

Romford Market

Do you know what the distance of a day’s sheep drive is? To find out, read on…

The market originated in 1247 under a Royal Charter granted by King Henry III stipulating no other market is permitted to set up within a day’s sheep drive of Romford – defined as six and two-thirds miles. There you have it.

I have a fond recollection of markets; as a child in Aberystwyth, I’d listen to the traders shouting out their latest offerings, and on some occasions trying out their free samples (often sweets or rock) when the fair and market came to town every November. And so I have a particular memory of my first Christmas market in Romford in 1990, as I could hear an incomprehensible chant booming loudly over everyone and everything else. It sounded like…’pan yur sana at’. Now clearly I hadn’t quite grasped the Estuary English often heard in Romford, but as I got closer to the trader and realised what was on offer, I quickly translated his chant into ‘one pound for your santa hat’. I bought two…

Alas inflation kicked in a few years later as the chant had changed to ‘two pan yur sana at’.

Prior to visiting the market, I’d been in touch with the Market Manager, out of courtesy, to explain my intention to photograph the market and outline that I’d be approaching individual traders for their consent. And indeed I met some interesting characters.

First is Ola Leggings, who owned a number of leggings stalls in the vicinity. He catches my attention as he’s singing along to Christmas music being played across the market, but became somewhat bashful as I approach and encourage him to continue.

Secondly are the two gents of the Wickendens Meat wagon. Both are happy to be photographed, and as I start on their portraiture, they begin to move all the hung meet from the back of the wagon to the front. They sure know how to maximise this photo opportunity; and they are equally happy to share a joke too.

The market is an eclectic and diverse mix of traders, but from my experience, the essence has also changed over the past 30 years. The strains of austerity, internet shopping and out of town stores have resulted in fewer traders around at a time when I would have expected the market to be at its peak. Nevertheless, I’m always amazed at the efficiency of the clearing up progress once the traders have finished for the day.

The week leading up to Christmas sees, amongst other festive events, a free mini funfair consisting of a ferris wheel, spinning teapots, haunted house, swing chairs and smaller rides for the younger folk. So not wanting to miss an opportunity, here are a couple of shots showing how colour and movement can be captured. I was a little surprised though that the funfair closed by 4.30 pm when I would have thought more folk would have been looking to enjoy the funfair. But I guess its timing is kept in concert with the market trading times. Anyway, all those there were really enjoying this free time.

And if you wander around the nooks and crannies of the market area, you’ll discover seedy side streets and cuttings which aren’t for the casual passer-by. But take a look down the alleyways and there are some discoveries to be made.

The Brewery

Now a fashionable retail area with ample parking, this area was once the largest employer in Romford; in its heydey employing over 1,000 workers. Life began here as The Star Brewery in 1708, by 1845 as Ind Coope, and into the 20th Century as Allied Breweries, where the John Bull brand of beer was produced. 

The brewery closed in 1993 and once demolished, the site was redeveloped in 2001 into the retail park we see today. Walking around you’ll see remnants of it’s brewing heritage, and you can’t fail to miss the iconic 160 foot chimney which dominates the skyline; this is one of the original chimneys from the brewing days.

As part of the development, metal artwork camouflaged as large insect like creatures help create a canopy for the shops and car park, but I’m unable to find any reference to their origin. If you know anything about them, do please drop me a line. And if you’ve not seen them, the Brewery Centre have teamed up with Things Made Public and installed 10 animal murals throughout the centre which you’re invited to go looking for them. I’ve not reproduced the murals as part of the fun in seeing them is the hunt. Have a go and see if you can find all of them – start here.

Picture of the Day

This view is taken through the partly covered arches on the northern side of Romford station running alongside and eventually into Exchange Street. The multi-coloured path is almost an attractive feature if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a somewhat seedy cut-through to the west of Romford. But nevertheless, it provides for an attractive photo-opportunity.This is taken facing west.

I waited for the right pedestrian to reach the end of the tunnel so that their silhouette helped to fill the tunnel opening. The late afternoon daylight coming in overhead helps to highlight the floor pattern, and the arch brickwork is enhanced using a green (Alpaca) filter.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ3.5; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO6400; Google filter – Alpaca

Social Media

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