Let me start this week’s travelog with a question: What’s the connection between my visit to Beckton and Burt Bacharach? Vague I know, but in 1965 (and alas I remember it well!), he composed ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ originally recorded by Billy J Kramer (and the Dakotas) and later in 1996 by Dionne Warwick. You can listen to their versions on YouTube.
You see, today is a story of trains and boats and planes and a few cyclists thrown in for good measure too. Read on and enjoy the unexpected surprises I discovered on my nine kilometre walk from Beckton through North Woolwich and Silvertown.
To be honest I’m a little undecided on my camera settings for the day, but after a few colour shots in and around the station, I decide to settle on a predominantly black and white day again. Today I’m fixed on ISO 400 as I believe with the strong light I’ll have a little more control on the aperture/speed combination. I do take a few colour shots where I believe the scene warranted it. You can let me know if you agree with me.
Beckton and Gallions Reach are the two that feature today as well as the new Elizabeth Line running under the Thames emerging in Silvertown.
Beckton DLR – now when you look at the tube map you’d be inclined to think that Beckton station is the furthest east on the DLR network. But when you look on the map, and travel on it, you realise that the DLR arcs in a loop back on itself after Cyprus through Gallions Reach before terminating at Beckton. Gallions Reach DLR – is actually the most easterly DLR station by a whisker.
The station is a typically open DLR station with a modernist style overlooked by shrubbery hiding the surrounding housing estates. And across the road guarding the entrance of the bus station is the sculpture ‘Horses’ – depicting two horses created in steel by the artist Brian Yale.
The bus station shares its space with a large Asda superstore, beyond which is Beckton’s social hub with its library and adult education centre with an aspirational name – the Beckton Globe: quite different to Shakespeare’s version.
I write about Gallions Reach under my Picture of the Day, but on my way there I take a slight detour as I’m seduced by four decorative bridge posts I can see from afar. They’re on a one way road feeding via Royal Docks Road, an extension of the North Circular as it crosses the main A13 arterial road headed towards Beckton. At the top of the bridge, there’s evidence that it had been planned to go elsewhere as there’s a fenced off section where the road comes to an abrupt end. Research indicates there were plans quite some time ago to build a bridge over the Thames at this point over to Thamsemead, however this never materialised. This link offers an artist’s impression of how the bridge would have fitted in. So now it’s almost a one way road to nowhere; sadly though I can’t find any reference behind the intricacy of the bridge architecture. I wonder if there’s any significance with the area’s dockland history? If you know, please drop me a message.
So on to the Elizabeth Line.
Later in the day I’m walking along the back streets in Silvertown, returning from the Thames headed towards City Airport, and along one side of the road there’s a high concrete wall running its length. I give it a cursory glance noticing overhead power lines and without thinking I dismiss it as an established rail route. I pass the LCM Scrap Company Ltd and admire their high rise metal sculptures on either side of their main entrance, and a little later I pass the Tate & Lyle factory which I have admired from afar many a time. They proudly display the fact that they have been ‘Keeping The Nation Sweet For 140 Years’.
Turning back to face the road I see the upper part of a bright yellow engineering train on the railway line emblazoned with the Elizabeth Line logo. I then realise this is part of the new route which emerges from under the Thames nearby from Woolwich en route to Custom House and all points west.
I soon see evidence of the Elizabeth Line’s continuing building works a little further along surrounding the proudly restored St Marks Church, the home of the acclaimed Brick Lane Music Hall which has occupied this site since 2003.
From Gallions Reach, I continue south and head over the Sir Steve Redgrave bridge which spans Gallions Point Marina and London City Airport into North Woolwich. As I approach the centre of the bridge, I look east and see two bright lights high in the sky heading towards me. Now having spent many a journey travelling through London City Airport, I know that planes land in one of two directions depending on the prevailing wind. Today the wind was blowing from a westerly direction so planes were arriving and landing from the east.
This was a perfect spot for plane watching; one I took full advantage of as I set my stall out at the mid point and waited for the overhead planes to approach. I must have been there for about half an hour all told, and I didn’t seem to disturb the local police who passed me several times in their transit vans.
At this point, the planes have descended quite rapidly as the landing strip is no more than 300 metres away, and I’m standing in line with the landing beacons that guide the planes to ground. I can see the pilots quite clearly in their cockpits as they control their flights masterfully against the blustery side winds which sees some of the planes rock from side to side. I’ve been in some of those planes as they’ve approached the runway and it makes for an interesting arrival.
Later in the day, and as I end today’s travels on the other side of London City Airport, I stand and admire ‘Athena’ the tallest, at 12 metres high, bronze sculpture in the UK (as at 2012). The sculpture was created by Nasser Azam and designed to be visible to air travellers from the sky as they approach the airport.
In all my 30 years living and working in London, I’d never experienced the Woolwich Ferry crossing. I’d heard many a news report that the ferry wasn’t running for one reason or another, so as I found myself so close to the North terminal, I headed there just to see. There are messages that there’s a delay of 1 hour as only one ferry is operating, but that doesn’t deter cars and lorries queuing up. I walk past the old North Woolwich station converted into a museum and now closed, and I decide I’ll walk under the river and return by ferry.
I don’t think the Woolwich Foot tunnel is as well advertised as the one in Greenwich, but it has all the Victorian characteristics of its counterpart: over a 100 steps down (there is a lift), tiled walls throughout which reflect an eerie glow from the dimly lit overhead lights. Despite painted notices on the ground every 20 metres or so instructing there to be ‘No Cycling’, they had no effect on all the cyclists who use the walkway as a shortcut under the river. More later.
I took a series of shots but felt this one in colour best reflected the walkway; the meaningless overhead traffic lights directing which side to walk being ignored by everyone, but the colour effect casts an interesting glow. Oh yes, two girls descending in the lift have a blast, and as they walk along, singing at the top of their voices are clearly enjoying the echo effect they create.
Up the 101 steps on the south shore, I head for the ferry that’s just docking and walk on freely; you see there’s no charge for pedestrians or vehicles. The view looking west from the middle of the Thames is quite surreal with the Thames Barrier in the distance with each gate’s traffic lights directing where boats should pass. It’s a relatively short journey across the river.
Now a shout out to to five cyclists I met during the day. First to Mahammad, Andre, Lucas and Edward. Four young lads who were practicing wheelies in the Asda car park when I walked through earlier in the day. I stop to ask them if they’d be happy to be photographed, and after a short conflab amongst themselves they seemed happy to pose. This is a short collection showing their various skills during their valiant ( and safe) efforts up and down the car park. Thanks lads and I hope you enjoy them?
My final shout out is to Samson who I met in the Woolwich foot tunnel. He was riding through and I happened to be standing by a No Cycling sign at the time and I tried, unsuccessfully, to capture the moment. Anyway, a few seconds later he returned asking to see the pic and explaining it hadn’t quite worked, he agreed to repeat the effort and help me to recreate the moment. I wanted to reflect the moody lighting of the tunnel and capture the motion, so I avoided using a flash and panned the shots as Samson rode past. I believe this one captures that effect; so thanks again Samson, and great to have met you.
During the day I find myself walking along the river bank several times. First through Gallions Point, past Barge House Causeway, along Royal Victoria Gardens and later along the footpath adjacent to Pier Road. Here are some of the images I captured.
Another successful day…
Picture of the Day
From Beckton I walk down Woolwich Manor Way to Gallions Reach DLR station which is surrounded by a large, empty paved area. I guess during peak travel times this is a busy area as commuters either make their way home or divert to the nearby shopping park. Anyhow, as I take a breather, I notice the enclosed walkways from the raised platforms to ground level have a distinct pattern; and with the afternoon sun streaming through, it casts dramatic shadows which I sense will make for a great shot.
I set my camera on the ground using my trusty bean bags (best investment next to a tripod) to help steady the shot, and with minor placement adjustments I’m pleased with how I capture the contrasting shadows. Passengers have just alighted from a recently departed train and I realise I need to capture their movement to complete this picture. Alas I’ve just missed that opportunity so I set the camera and wait for the next train. You know what, it always seems longer when you’re waiting for something, but probably no more than 10 minutes later I get my chance as another Beckton bound train arrives.
This is the final shot in a sequence and realise instantly it could be the shot of the day. The passenger’s black and white attire complements the shadow effect perfectly, and her gaze away from the camera somehow represents some disdain at being photographed, but she doesn’t challenge me as she passes by.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ29; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Vista; Camera effect – B&W