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

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Elms Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Embankment

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures of the Day

I have several contenders for today’s picture, but this one of the ‘Talking Heads’ gets the vote. I took several shots of each of the two heads at intervals to create an animation showing the different facial expressions. But this one, with both in shot, helps to set the scene. The heads are in metallic black, and the white LED’s help to complement the effect. So I’ve added a black and white filter to this shot to show it off at its best

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

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#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

I’ve struggled with my picture of the day today, but selected this one to highlight the gradient from the station entrance and cropped the picture vertically using the three handrails to accentuate the descent. Applying a deep Black & White filter (Vista) also 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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#70: Kennington – 15/10/2019

Now I know some of you will ask yourselves after looking at the tube map that ‘…hang on, Kennngton isn’t at the end of the line!… BUT then there are a few out there who know differently, and I became one only recently after reading about the Kennington Loop. You too can read about it here.

I resisted the temptation of riding the loop when I alighted at Kennington, but I’m sure it could have been an interesting ride. Anyway, that’s why I’m here; so please read on…

The Station

There’s nothing particularly exciting about the station which sits at the junction where the Charing Cross and Bank branches meet, and the building remains largely unaltered since it was opened in 1890. A Victorian building stylised in classic London red brick with a domed lift shaft.

The fate of the Kennington Loop is somewhat uncertain as work on the Northern Line Extension will see trains from Charing Cross branch being extended through Nine Elms to Battersea Power Station, and utilise some of the loop’s infrastructure. Although not due to complete until 2020, work is well advanced as evidenced in the building works in and around the Kennington Area.

Although not connected with the station, I spot these colourful artworks on the side of a neighbouring corner shop by a local artist, Sevan Szekely.

Kennington as a Community

The area is predominantly residential with local shops scattered around serving the main A3 road. It’s a leafy area with wide avenues lined with a variety of trees with large town houses now converted into multi occupation flats.

The main roads feed smaller residential streets with a mix of typical London terraces and a variety of local authority style flats probably now privately owned or managed by responsible social housing organisations. No doubt the location and immediate surroundings help shape and determine how their residents live, and this example of Calstock House, just off White Hart Street has a poignant tribute to one of its lost residents: Mary ‘Mhairi’ Veronica Mackinnon, who died in 2017.

A wall plaque lays tribute to her time as ‘…someone who gave so much time and love to the community and surrounding gardens…’ Alas, the gardens seem to have fallen into neglect as I suspect no one has picked up the trowel to continue with the green fingered care. I don’t know if this chair was hers, but its positioning directly under the wall plaque would seem to indicate it was.

Another example, this time at Read House in Clayton Street which is within catching distance of a ‘6’ being hit out of  the Oval cricket ground, demonstrates the practical needs of those living within.

Nearby the local Durning Library is a powerful example of how one person’s philanthropy has benefited the wider community. In the guise of Jemima Durning Smith, a lady of means who created a legacy of free libraries across the south of London. This one, built in a gothic style and carries a relief of her on the outside, is now being used as a multi purpose venue. The library staff were kind enough to allow me to photograph inside the building.

Kennington is somewhat defined by two large spaces, the Oval which I touch upon later, and Kennington Park, a large open space of fields, walkways, play & sport areas and formal and informal gardens. It is a busy thoroughfare for those cutting through the park, and with those enjoying the tranquility and calmness away from the main road: casual walkers, dog walkers, mothers with children, and sadly the rough sleepers.

It’s an attractive park with many items on display, and this one in particular caught my eye because of its significance today. The stone memorial, which carries a quote from Maya Angelou, an American civil rights activist and poet, and outlining the plinth is an inscription remembering those who were killed 69 years ago. I pay my respects as it now seems a forgotten memorial, albeit it in a prominent place, as there is no other acknowledgement of the day’s significance.

‘…to commemorate the wartime suffering of the people of Kennington & in particular over 50 men women and children who were killed on the 15th October 1940 when a bomb destroyed and air raid shelter near this sport. Rest in peace…’

The Kia Oval

A visit to Kennington wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the home of Surrey County Cricket, but alas I wasn’t allowed in as there are no planned tours scheduled today. Instead I circumnavigate its outer walls and gates and in true ‘visitor style’ I spent my time peering through the railings and captured this view.

Not just of the cricket ground, but also as seen in the background, a diminishing reminder of the country’s once dependence on coal gas where the manufactured gas was stored in large tanks supported by the iconic metalwork. Such architectural structures have fallen by the wayside to developers, but a few can still be seen as preserved heritage reminders.

I’m also surprised to find The Oval has its own version of the ‘Angel of the North’ as depicted here. Well, it’s my take on one of the floodlight towers that adorns this cricketing arena, but when viewed from below, it does (I think) present a vague similarity.

Extinction Rebellion

Throughout my tour of the area, I begin to feel a little paranoid as there’s a police helicopter circling overhead, And no matter where I am, the helicopter seems to be following me. It’s only as I approach Vauxhall station, later in the day I get a sense of what’s happening. The roads leading to the station are awash with police and police vehicles which have a notice inside their windscreen something along the lines of ‘…patrol no. xx for removal of arrested protestors…’

It’s only as I turn into Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens I realise what’s afoot. The Extinction Rebellion, who have over the past week or so, demonstrated across London,  have partly decamped right across the gardens.

But the police are invoking a civil order to disband the gathering of many hundreds of protestors who have clearly made the gardens their home in the past week. This is a peaceful engagement between the police and protestors, and whilst there is continuing reluctance to move, the protestors do gradually and slowly move on.

Electric Cabs

My encounter with a black cab driver earlier in the day seems to balance the Extinction Rebellion’s cause quite nicely as it brings into play the, albeit, slow growth of electric cars in response to the climate change challenge.

I see a cab pull up next to an electrical charging point so I wander up to ask the driver about his experiences with his cab. Peering inside the cab, I see how technical an electric black cab has become as there are at least four separate touchscreen displays. The cabby is quite candid about his experiences and says it would be foolish to buy one of these new cabs at a cost of £60,000. This is because their technical immaturity still cause breakdowns, and in his view, there are discrepancies too between the limited liability of aftercare and the potential cost of fixing such repairs. Such is the plight of those who chose to be early adopters of new technology products, but because of that, he has chosen to rent his cab which offers him the safeguard against maintenance and breakdown costs.

He explains a full battery charge can take up to an hour to complete, and I noted during my 10 minute conversation, the battery charge indicator has increased by about 20%. He also explains that a full charge will give him about 400 miles of driving; this is of course subject to weather and driving conditions, and is enough for about half a day’s driving. He was, however, positive about the transition and saw only opportunities for improvement in the coming years.

Picture of the Day

Today’s picture is simply taken; but it achieves ‘my picture of the day’ status as there’s an interesting back-story behind it. The artwork I’ve captured here is found at the entrance to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens just east of Vauxhall Station. The history of the Pleasure Gardens dates back to the 18th Century when they became popular with the urban middle classes as places for paid entertainment. Vauxhall also had a seedier reputation for prostitution here too.

For those who saw the recent dramatisation of Vanity Fair by William Makepiece Thackarey, you’ll be familiar with the vision of fun and frollicking within the context of a fairground – then that’s how I imagine the pleasure gardens to have been.

The picture I’ve taken shows two sculptures atop tall plinths. The sculptures recently erected in 2015 represent the coming together of Vauxhall as seen today with its historical significance. Let me explain: the artwork depicts the figures of a lady in 18th century garb being offered a flower from a young man from the present-day; and shows a representation of a silent conversation between the past and present in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

I take several shots in colour and black & white and feel this grainier image depicts the scene best, with a slight homage to the modern day with the building crane in the middle foreground and the scaffolding on the right.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ10; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 50mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Camera setting – grainy B&W

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

#68: Finchley Central – 24/09/2019

Central Finchley is the other end of the Mill Hill East daytime shuttle service I wrote about earlier in April, and today I walk about five miles up and down Regent’s Park Road, Ballard Lane and High Road into North Finchley.

Finchley residents may disagree with me, but I only find a few places of passing interest, so I try to make the most of their history here. The majority of the day is about dodging torrential downpours, and whilst most of those out and about find this to be a troublesome inconvenience, I take full advantage to capture the mood of the changing weather conditions. But first…

The Station

This is one of three stations that carries the ‘Finchley’ name, all along the Barnet branch of the Northern Line; East Finchley and West Finchley being the other two. The station is typically Victorian retaining most of its original features, although this could have been quite different had plans to redevelop the rail network under the auspices of the Northern Heights Plan in the early part of the 20th Century materialised. However the Second World War scuppered those plans due to the cost of rebuilding the network after the war damage.

Access to its three platforms is gained from both the north and the south side of the railway line via Chaville Way and Station Road respectively, with a footbridge connecting all three platforms.

Local Landmarks

This is a busy part of London with a diverse community served by a thriving mix of independent shops ranging from ethnic eateries and groceries, beauty shops and barbers, charity shops, and thankfully only a few national chains. The link (above) does much to provide a history of the area, so I’ll not try to compete with this save for the following landmarks:

King Edward Hall – A prominent Grade II listed building situated in the convergence of Hendon Lane and Regent’s Park Road. It was built in 1911-12 as a private banqueting hall on the upper floors with shops on the ground floor; interestingly though it was used as a temporary hospital during the First World War. Currently in a somewhat dilapidated state, its restoration is now being considered. 

Manor Farm Dairy – across the road on the corner of Victoria Avenue is a corner shop underneath flats in an impressive red bricked building. Look to the top and you’ll see set in each of the three facets the name ‘Manor Farm Dairy’. A little research through the annals of the British History Online site indicates the Dairy was founded c. 1875 by Joseph Wilmington Lane and joined in the 1920’s with United Dairies, which had been founded in 1917. From the middle ages, historical data shows the area was dominated by several Manors, each with their own dairies, and this unrelated article in The Times gives an interesting insight into the plight of dairies in their formative years.

Newton Wright Limited – All that remains of this maker of x-ray equipment and scientific instruments is what I presume to be the factory gates which now sit proudly on Ballards Lane. Sadly the factory which once stretched as far back as 30 houses behind Ballards Lane is now itself a housing estate.

Joiners Arms – diagonally across the road, and next to Tesco is this rustic inspired pub. As most high street pubs do these days, they have to cater for what their clientele want and so they offer sports TV to attract and retain their customers. Nevertheless, their exterior is attractive and well maintained, and they have creatively adopted the modern wall art genre to advertise themselves.

Grand Arcade, North Finchley – this arcade epitomises art deco at its grandest, but to see it you really have to look deep into the gloom as the arcade is largely unloved and has been left to deteriorate. A campaign against its demolition and replacement with modern offices and flats is being lead by Dave Davis, lead guitarist of The Kinks.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day

Today’s forecast is thundery downpours and I wish I’d prepared a bit better as I’m under dressed when the rain comes. The sky darkens ominously quickly and there is little doubt what is about to happen but I remain undeterred as I capture the moody skyline.

When the downpour comes, I’m at the front entrance to Tesco, cowering under a very narrow ledge that barely manages to keep me dry. But the spectacle of the rain bouncing back from the steamy pavement is too much to ignore so I set my camera near to the ground and capture the image created as the sun starts to re-emerge. People rushing by, eager to get under cover, seem oblivious to my presence so I’m able to get some interesting shots.

Once the rain stops, I carry on along Ballards Lane and stop at Lovers Walk, a small passageway which seems to invite me in to take its picture, but I can’t find a composition that works well. Almost walking away, I realise I’m leaning against a litter bin and notice its two open mouths face through to the passageway and this creates a different perspective. As I crouch down, I spot a young couple walking through the frame and I set about taking a series of shots composing their approach as the centrepiece; and they oblige unwittingly by keeping to the centre of the path.

Picture of the Day

I had intended having a predominantly black and white day to help capture the moody weather conditions, but when I saw this wall, it simply wouldn’t have worked in B&W. The location is on the side of a closed and dishevelled restaurant, the Central Restaurant, part of the Central House tower block complex on the corner of Ballard Lane and Nether Street.

It’s a very simple scene as this part of the wall has been painted in these three bright colours. The taking of the picture was less than simple as I’m positioned on the opposite side of the road, my camera low on the ground, and waiting for traffic queuing at the nearby traffic lights to move along. I’m keen to get a shot uninterrupted by cars, but this setting only gives me about two to three seconds every three minutes or so as the lights change and traffic moves by. I end up taking several shots to get the one I want, with the added challenge in that the sky is getting darker by the minute and about to pour, so there is some additional pressure not to get wet as well.

During the sequence, I set my camera to shoot in ‘art vivid’ mode which creates an enhanced effect by taking three consecutive shots with slightly different settings. The camera software stitches the individual pictures into one creating heightened colours. I’m pleased with the outcome but realise that the virgin shot (with no car interruption) lacks something in the composition, and I believe this one with a ghostly image of a car just entering the frame on the left hand side helps with the picture’s story. The effect is created by the image of the car being taken on the third shot and appears somewhat shadowy when stitched with the other two pictures. Let me know what you think about it.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Auti; Camera effect – Vivid

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#51: Bank (again) – 09/05/2019

A return today to Bank station courtesy of the Dockland Light Railway (DLR). A day where the weather forecast was looking pretty grim and dismal, the first in over a year. So I did some advance planning on where to go if the weather turned bad…which it did. Today turned out to be a tour of central London stations including Bank, Monument, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

Today was also a study in underground passageways, and my thanks go to other Underground Twitter enthusiasts who have posted pictures which have inspired some of mine today.

Bank Station

Those of you working in the City, or have a need to change at Bank know how busy it is, and somewhat complicated now whilst improvement works are being undertaken. The station, which is inter-connected with Monument provides underground access to the Central, Northern, Circle and District lines; the DLR and the Waterloo & City line. It’s main feature is the 300m long adjoining walkway running directly under King William Street.

From personal experience, I was caught off guard one summer’s day when lugging a heavy suitcase from one station to the next without realising how many flights of stairs there are, and how long it takes when battling with commuters charged with only one goal in mind – getting to their end point as quickly as possible.

My study of the underground has yielded many pictures in an attempt to capture the constant flow of travellers making their way through the tunnel between the two stations, or on route to/from Waterloo via the underground tunnels and travelator. Some travellers have a clear plan on where they are going and others are bemused by the the whole experience. Nevertheless, I’ve compiled some of the pictures into animations to help set the scene.

I decide to head for Monument Station which is a popular destination for tourists who flock to the aptly named Monument, opened in 1677 as a permanent reminder of the Great Fire of London.

Outside the station, street promoters try to catch the eye of the passer-by by handing out leaflets with a promise of free cash ‘…if you sign up today!..’

As I walk around to the Monument, I notice that I’m now in The Ward of Candlewick and ask myself, what is a Ward? The answer is here…

Saint Magnus the Martyr and The Thames Path

London is littered with churches of all denominations, and from my own observation, the City has more than its fair share. Heading down towards the embankment and the Thames Path, I pass this church and explore its surroundings, and as I do, I spot a plaque declaring the churchyard formed part of the roadway onto the original London Bridge. Intrigued, not out of religious conviction, but more out of historical interest, I head inside and I’m struck by the ornate decorations; full of colour and all the religious icons you would expect to see.

By the doorway there is a long, if not at least ten feet long, encased model replica of the original London Bridge bedecked with houses and shops. The vaulted ceiling is magnificent, as indeed are the stained glass windows in homage to the good saint, and before leaving I feel compelled to light a candle.

The church sits on the river so a quick canter around the back of the church and I’m overlooking the river with The Shard for company ahead of me, and London Bridge to my right. There’s what appears to be a collection of stones as a seating area, but on closer inspection there’s an inscription explaining the stone bench was part of an Architectural Student Award in 2009. Each stone engraved with a floral design and its name.

I pass under London Bridge, which has a mysterious eerie feel to it, and could it be that ghosts of eons past are still lurking as you just don’t know what would have transpired here over the years and centuries. Or maybe as it was about to pour with rain the ominous sky affected my senses. Who knows?

I didn’t give any thought to the name of the footpath until I came to Cannon Street station rail bridge – Hanseatic Walk. But before walking under the bridge, I spot a wall plaque, a little difficult to get at to read. But when I do, I see it was erected in 2005 to commemorate a site where 400 Hanseatic merchants lived in a German self-governing enclave for nearly 600 years up to the 19th Century.

Cannon Street station is my third station of the day, each of which are no more than 300 metres apart such is the density of the working population that it needs so many stations to cope with the daily influx. This station has recently been modernised and therein stands the Plumber’s Apprentice, erected at the location where once stood the Livery Hall of The Worshipful Company of Plumbers

London Bridge station and its surrounds

One stop by train across the river and I’m at London’s most recently modernised station where the architects have blended the modern functional needs with the classic cavernous catacomb like arches. Now that’s it’s finished, the station provides an exciting feast for the eye as I journey through the station. Glass and lighting are the two main features used to excellent effect to bring out a modern design.

I’m asked by a security lady to explain what I’m doing and although she doesn’t stop me, she does suggest a visit to Network Rail’s reception would be in order to check on whether I need permission to take pictures. Thankfully, through their twitter feed, I’m directed to their very helpful and clearly set out online Guidelines for taking photos at stations.

I exit the station south side and I’m immediately drawn to a sight of red ants crawling over a full size train carriage atop a low level building. Go see it as it’s an impressive piece of art from Joe Rush – never heard of him? Well he also created the Arcadia spider at a recent Glastonbury festival.

The artwork helps to promote one of London’s newest open air food and container box outlets at Vinegar Yard. It is almost deserted, with only a couple of seated guests and a few others, like me, wandering around taking photos; the reason being that it is cold and raining, so not the ideal combo for this place. Nevertheless, I suspect as the evening wears on, more brave souls will be attracted to eat and drink here later.

This was a surprising and delightful find at the end of the day, and is partly what this sojourn is all about – a personal discovery of communities that otherwise might not get seen by outsiders.

Picture of the Day

This was one of my first photos of the day and after a few test shots to get the settings right, I waited for a sequence of trains to pull into the end of the DLR at Bank station. With a slow shutter speed to capture the train’s movement, I was pleased, and surprised, to get the focus just right as this is a hand held shot. The position of the train as it is just about to pass the station sign was planned, and as the sign states the platform is for ‘alighting only’ so there were no other passengers waiting other than me. I was half expecting to get stopped by passing Tfl staff as I was loitering there for quite a while, but guess they’re used to enthusiasts hanging around. The wide angle shot lets me get the full length of the station in frame, and the fast ISO setting lets me get the depth of field I wanted too. Maybe the lighting could have been slightly darker with a slower film speed setting, but sometimes a compromise is OK.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/22; Shutter Speed – 1/5; Focal Length – 318mm; Film Speed – ISO12800

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#49: Mill Hill East – 24/04/2019

A personal note – I’m a little familiar with Mill Hill East station as when I first moved to London over 30 years ago when I started work in Wood Green, I was in lodgings for several months some 10 minutes from this station in Devonshire Road. However my recollection of those days is somewhat vague other than the wintry walks through the suburban tree lined roads to and from the station.

The Station

I hadn’t realised either that Mill Hill East is at the end of a single track shuttle service line to/from Finchley Central with only weekday peak time through trains into London. And consequently, I proclaim Finchley Central to be a hidden ‘end of the line’ destination which I’ve now added to my list.

Described by one commentator as ‘…one of the most basic stations on the underground network, remaining largely in its original form…’ and it is the least used station on the Northern Line. However the station has a very interesting history and this amusing video helps bring that to life.

Inglis Barracks

Immediately in front of you as you leave the station is an area once occupied by these barracks; the former home of the Middlesex Regiment. Over the years the barracks became the home of the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) mail sorting and distribution centre which was bombed by the Provisional IRA in 1988, and the site was later abandoned as the mail services moved elsewhere in 2007 and the land sold for development in 2012.

Of course none of this is recognisable as the area as far as the eye can see is now a massive housing development known as Millbrook Park. Readers, you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of large housing developments as despite their attempts to look fashionable and attractive and provide local amenities, walking around as I did, I see there’s a monotonous similarity in the building style which lacks character and appears soulless.

Now I accept there’s a need for social housing across London, and this is an attempt to contribute to that. I have no doubt too that the planning application will have made some play of the fact that the Park is so close to the station and that the expected population growth’s travel needs will be catered by an increase usage of the station.

However I suspect only time will tell on whether the vision of improved conditions will be realised bringing about a community feel to the area and engender a change in social behaviour.

Social Behaviour

Attempting such a paradigm shift in social behaviour is to be applauded, but will be somewhat hard to encourage when adjacent housing provides examples of what doesn’t work now.

The challenge is made even harder by the single most impacting event, in my humble opinion, that’s changed today’s front door landscape: that of the multi-colour wheelie bin local authorities have introduced as a way of ‘helping’ householders deal with recycling. A good example of meaning well, but not quite getting it right.

Picture of the Day

A difficult day to select my picture of the day as I have taken so few. Nonetheless, I’ve chosen this one to serve as a reminder of my first lodgings in Devonshire Road, and of the time of year where Cherry Blossom is abundant, but quickly blown away by the slightest of breeze. The pavement covered palate was ever changing as the wind swirled the petals on the ground. This is one of a short sequence of pictures taken from ground level and capturing the yellow dandelions in the foreground to help with the colour contrast. Timing was crucial too and this one captures a travelling car as it appears between the tree line.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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#42: Richmond (District) – 19/02/2019

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Richmond is the end of the line for the District and Overground lines and a pass through station en route to Reading from Waterloo served by South Western Railways. So today I return to complete this story following my first visit over eight months ago.

But first a passing mention to Waterloo station which I travel through as today is the day the station re-opens the platforms that once served the Eurostar service. There is much confusion with commuters and travellers alike, but all questions are quickly resolved by the very large presence of customer service staff. The iconic curved and arched roof looks gleaming in the day’s sunshine.

The Town

Richmond is an attractive town full of character and independent shops (along with the expected high street ones), but there’s a different feel whilst I walk about as the streets are spotlessly clean and it feels like people are proud of their community. I’m drawn to several buildings and shops around the town which I share here by way of showing the eclectic mix I find.

The River

For those new to Richmond, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit as its location right on the river gives very pleasant views and an opportunity to ‘people watch’. Take a walk down the cobbled Water Lane and turn left onto Buccleuch Passage and enjoy a stroll along its grassy banks and you’ll see visitors and workers alike. Like those taking in the sun with a drink or ice cream from local vendors, or those busy repairing or preparing their boats in anticipation of the coming tourist season.

But beware though, as I found whilst returning later in the day, that the river is tidal and can burst its banks. No doubt a regular occurrence as those living nearby have erected flood defences, but it seems even local workers don’t check ahead for the river conditions before parking their vehicles.

The ‘Passage’ has a number of tea shops and restaurants, and this is where I take my ‘picture of the day’ (see below), but all along the walkway these eateries make every effort to make their spot attractive and entice passers by to spend a little time, and money, with them.

The Artist

At the point where the river turns, I spot an artist with canvas and easel, painting a river scene in oils. I invite a conversation and he is happy to chat and allows me to take some pictures: he introduces himself as Oliver Maughan. Oliver has been working as a professional landscape artist along the Thames for a number of years and will soon be exhibiting his works at the Russell Gallery in Putney.

Not content with the river scene he was mid-way through, Oliver explains he will be moving onto Albert Bridge later in the day as its decorative Victorian metalwork captured in oil is an attractive proposition for the casual art lover.

Check out Oliver’s website and if you happen to be in Putney at the right time, pop along and have a look at his works…

The Terrace

Making my way towards Richmond Park, I stumble across an underpass leading into Terrace Gardens which climbs up to Richmond Hill, and where it meets Star and Garter Hill there’s a fountain erected to commemorate the work of the local RSPCA in the late 19th Century.

There’s also a number of historic buildings here; two being redeveloped as upmarket apartments, and one still in a dishevelled state. All worth a look at and watch out for the building plaques that explain their histories. They are:

  • Wick House, the residence of Sir Joshua Reynolds which was rebuilt and equipped by the Order of St John and the British Red Cross Society in 1950 as a home for the nurses of the Star and Garter Home for disabled sailors, soldiers and airmen
  • Star and Garter House, and
  • Ancaster Gate, a building presented to Queen Mary for the use of the Star and Garter Home

The Park

Richmond Park is London’s largest site of special scientific interest and is part of the Royal Parks, and a focal point for walkers, ramblers and cyclists. I have to say that despite it being a bright sunny day, there were few people about and occasionally I felt alone and isolated. Perhaps though it’s more a reflection on the size and scale of the park.

Warning signs at the entrance remind visitors of an ongoing deer cull which renders the park closed to all during the night hours, and I hope the cull hadn’t been too effective as I don’t see one deer during my visit. I walk along Sawyer’s Hill, inland to the ponds and across to Queen’s Road and as I do, I’m befriended by a nine month old Irish Terrier which has decided to take a leisurely walk some distance from its owner whom I later catch up with. Whilst walking, I try my hand at some scenic shots of the skyline and felled trees; here are a few I hope you like?

Pembroke Lodge, a Grade II listed Georgian Mansion, sits at the highest point in the park, and I stroll around its grounds. Through the Dingle where children are playing through bamboo bushes, and along to King Henry’s Mount where there’s a feature point – looking ten miles in a north-easterly direction there’s an uninterrupted view of St Paul’s Cathedral which you can just see with the naked eye. For the less able, there’s a telescope…or as one child proclaimed excitedly to her mother…’and eye thingy’…

I exit the confines of the Lodge through Poet’s Corner and enjoy the view overlooking Ham House before ending my day.

Picture of the Day

I saw this and immediately wanted to capture the moment as it may look like a discarded daffodil on a table, but if so, not discarded for long as it’s still looking healthy. What caught my eye though was the colour contrast. Outside Goucho, overlooking the river, just as the restaurant was preparing to open, the outside seating area is bedecked with artistically styled white chairs against a backdrop of black decor, and the yellow just ‘spoke’ to me. Now maybe it’s because I’m Welsh and we’re fast approaching St David’s Day, but I felt the colour contrast was striking and it represented a ‘moment in time’.

For the photographic aficionados, the metadata reads: Canon Canon EOS 200D; ƒ/7.1; 1/320; 55mm; ISO100