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#62: Barking – 30/07/2019

One of the unexpected delights of this travelog is the richness of the people I meet who have their own story to tell and help make the places I visit so rewarding. And my return to Barking has certainly had more than its fair share of that; more later but first why am I returning here?

Well Barking is the terminal destination for twoTfl lines. My first visit over nine months ago was courtesy of the Overground, and today it’s for the end of the Hammersmith & City line. Weather warning though; the forecast was miserable and although I was able to dodge the hardest rain, I decided not to let the persistent drizzle get in my way.

The Station

With eight platforms serving The Overground, District, Hammersmith & City and the c2c, this is a busy station, but desperately in need of modernisation. Classically styled predominantly in concrete, it has a very tired functional feel to it; but thankfully there are plans to regenerate the area although at the time of writing it’s unclear when this will be done. The main street level concourse is cavernous with a high vaulted concrete roof which I suspect on warmer days makes the area unbearably hot, and there are attempts to revamp the platform furniture with Tfl styled seating.

I find I’m being heckled by Sakhib, a train driver who’s walking to the front of a District line train he’s about to take out of the station. Once I’ve explained my purpose, and that I’m not a train spotter, he is keen to share a recent event at the station where he was invited onto the footplate of a steam train as it travelled through the station. We can’t chat for long as his signal is changing to green.

On another platform, I meet Geoff, a train spotter from Inverness who has spent the morning in Bethnal Green and now he is eager to spot the new Overground trains to complete his collection of the group of trains serving that line. A well travelled, and seasoned trainspotter, he is happy to share some of his European travel stories with me and I’m amazed by his depth of detailed knowledge, but guess given this is his passion, I shouldn’t be surprised really.

As I explore the platforms, I’m tickled by the thought that one of the signs I see may have been a legacy of a visit by David Hasslehoff. Now I know this is highly unlikely but it helps to lift my mood on this wet day.

Barking Enterprise Centre (BEC)

Heading out of the station, I’m drawn to a pop-up photographic exhibition where I meet Alison, the volunteer of the day looking after the exhibition. In its first exhibition, the BEC is showcasing a local photographer whose work is on display, and I admire the starkness of the black and white street photography taken by Jimmy Lee who’s recently published a book of a collection of his work along with individual prints for sale.

I explain my photographic background and approach with Alison who in turn comments on the similarity this has with Jimmy’s approach and she encourages me to connect with him (which I do later). Alison is a warm and friendly individual and I find it easy to strike up a conversation, and as we chat, I take a series of portrait shots catching her in an ‘off guard’ moment. I try to choose which is the best shot, but I think this collage best shows off Alison’s personality. Thank you Alison for your warmth and friendliness and for introducing me to Jimmy Lee. I look forward to having that drink with you one day…

Barking Park

Any London park is worth a visit, and Barking’s is no different which is only a short walk from the station. Unsurprisingly, the rain soaked day has kept people away so I feel a little isolated as I walk through the skateboard park heading to the lake. And as I approach it, I’m greeted by a large flock of Canada Geese feeding on the grass verge and I try to line up a shot of the parked up pedalos in the distance.

Sheltering under the tree lined avenue, I see four people pushing a shopping trolley walking along the lake side as I’m changing my camera lens, and as they get nearer, I realise they’re not wayward travellers but in fact a party of Park Rangers and volunteers. Carol, the team lead introduces herself and explains that every Tuesday she and a team of volunteers trawl the lake for discarded litter, plastic and/or anything else that’s been thrown into the lake. Their day is drawing to the end having collected several trolleys full of rubbish so we say farewell as I meander along the lake side and enjoy the array of birdlife.

As well as the Canada Geese, the lake is awash with nesting coots, seagulls, swans and ducks, and one solitary Heron perched on a single leg (his right I recall) on the far side of the lake as if he’s supervising all the other water birds. Here’s a brief snapshot of the waterfowl collection.

Later, as I head out of the park, I’m beckoned by Hubbard, a gent standing under the trees who’s indicated he’s ready to have his picture taken. Always happy to oblige a willing volunteer, I approach and despite the fact he’s talking on his mobile it seems we end up having a three way conversation. I’ve no idea who is on the other end of the line, but I do note that Hubbard is also enjoying a lunch time drink from a can of Guinness.

The Road to Ilford

Out of the park, and lo and behold the sun comes out and it suddenly warms up very quickly, so I decide to head up Ilford Lane to Ilford. From previous travels, I know this to be an interesting walk past many shops displaying colourful saris in their shop windows. On one corner, I’m distracted by Cleveland Junior School which has two bright blue clocks on display high on one of its walls. Both showing the same time, but one with Roman numerals and one with ordinary numbers.

I hadn’t realised until I started writing this blog that some clocks that adopt Roman numerals will display 4 o’clock as either IIII or IV. If you’re interested in finding out why, here’s an article that offers several hypotheses.

And finally, the underpass leading from Ilford Lane into Ilford is an unattractive, gloomy and depressing location, and I have walked through here before in full sight of drug dealing. Today’s passing is slightly different and as I emerge, I quite like this final shot of a high rise office block which has an interesting pattern highlighted in black and white. What do you think?

Picture of the Day

I’m trying out several long distance focal length shots: to highlight the yellow boat against the blue pedalos, and to show how they’re framed by the two tone greens of the overhanging trees in the foreground and the trees in the background. But I felt there was something missing in the final composition so I took some with geese in the foreground, but that didn’t quite work either.

Then, whilst I was kneeling and getting wet, there was a teenage lad cycling in the foreground. I waited for him to get out of the shot, but he suddenly appeared with a stick in his hand as if he was fishing. And as he appeared I snatched a few shots in case he didn’t return. I knew it was just right as he brought a human element to the shot, and thereby helping to balance the otherwise stillness of the picture.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 230mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO640; Google Photo Filter – Alpaca

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#61: Upminster – 24/07/2019

If you want to find out why there’s a vague reference to Donald Trump in today’s blog, then read on – but don’t get too excited!

Upminster is local to me as I only live 3.5 miles away, so I’m somewhat familiar with the location. Consequently I try to stay objective and behave in the same way as with all my other visits. It’s a hard and harsh day weatherwise, as it’s a record breaking sunny day; not ideal for walking about, so I make sure I take on plenty of fluids and walk as much in the shade as possible.

Knowing I’ll be returning to Upminster again as the station serves as the terminus for both the District and Overground lines, I decide to take a somewhat rural view of this suburban town today.

The Station

Upminster is a surprisingly  busy station serving the two Tfl’s lines and c2c’s destinations through Essex to Grays, Southend and Shoeburyness, and today I arrive on the Overground from Romford. This single track line is one of the latest to join the Tfl network, and other than the two end destinations, it has only one other station (Emerson Park) roughly half way along its 5 kilometre journey.

The shuttle service runs every half hour taking just 9 minutes each way and I learn from the driver that each driver does just 9 back to back journeys a day as their daily routine.

As I explore the station, I watch a number of high-vis clad Network Rail workers as they manhandle sacks of ballast from the start of Platform 1, along its length,  up and down 50 steps over a bridge to platform 2 and then to the end of that platform where engineering work is to take place later. In the heat of the day, this was beyond physical, and the effort and heat are understandably taking their toll on the speed with which they work. Nevertheless, there are a couple of workers determined to carry two sacks at shoulder height to help shorten the overall time being taken.

As I leave the station, I spot some advertising for a mobile phone app to help find water refilling stations across London. On downloading it I find it’s a national service and try it out. Refill is a scheme encouraging local retailers to offer free water refills to customers to help reduce/avoid plastic pollution, and I note there are three outlets in Upminster: Costa (2) and Greggs. I try the service out during the course of my visit and confess that both suppliers were more than happy to accommodate my request for a refill even though I wasn’t buying anything from them. I later tried it in Brentwood Costa with the same success, so it’s well worth trying it.

Tfl’s end of the line depot is 1.5 Km further east in Cranham, where their rolling stock is maintained and stored overnight. Out of interest I make my way over but alas high fencing and shrubbery prevents me being able to see anything substantial. Nevertheless, I’m drawn to the landmark that is the lighting tower that can be seen from afar, and I talk with Mike, the driver of the 248 bus service to Romford Market who’s taking a break at the nearby bus terminus. He’s a Norfolk lad who tells me of his enjoyment of writing music and he plays one of his demo’s from his phone whilst he’s finishing his cigarette before starting his journey. Although not a performing band, they play under the name of ‘Lyric Assassins’.

In the Country

The walk from Cranham takes me past ‘Pond Walk’, a protected wildlife pond, but it seems that all the inhabitants are out for the day as both the pond and the island’s sole dwelling are empty. Maybe it’s too hot for them in the midday sun?

Onwards up The Chase, a narrow single track lane laced with private secure gated bespoke houses along its length. The walk is very much a country walk as I pass several wheat fields that look ready for harvesting and spot Upminster’s Windmill towering in the distance.

At the top of the lane, I reach my signposted destination: The Parish Church of All Saints Cranham. The church has a rich history with links to the foundation of the state of Georgia in the USA, and the present building reflects the early English architectural style. The church is attractive and has the appearance of being well cared for, but a walk around the back of the churchyard shows some neglect as the gravestones are overgrown with grass and weeds and the path a little difficult to navigate. Nevertheless it’s a very pleasant English country setting.

Heading back towards Upminster, I take a gander into Clockhouse Gardens, a public garden and wildfowl haven discreetly tucked behind the appropriately named Clockhouse. As I enter the garden, I find I’m confronted by a flock of Canada geese ground feeding everywhere around a pond full of a variety of ducks. And towards the centre of the pond, perched on a small rocky outcrop is a trio of terrapins basking in the sun.

There’s a mum and small child enjoying the spectacle and I turn my head to see what they’ve spotted as the mum says ‘…look at that duck with the funny thing on its head…’. And whilst I don’t know it yet, its here I meet Donald Trump. You can read about my encounter below in my ‘Picture of the Day’.

On the shadier far side of the garden, several ladies are resting and enjoying the relative solitude. It’s in a wooded area clearly set out as a children’s reading spot with carved animal characters and little toadstools set out in a reading circle and the wizard of the wood overseeing  his domain.

Back into Town

As the crow flies, the windmill is 1.6 km’s from The Parish Church of All Saints Cranham, but in reality it’s a slow 2.25 km walk along the length of St Mary’s Lane in the basking sun. I’m a little disappointed when I get there as I find the area is a building site and the windmill is without its cap, sails and gallery. But that takes nothing away from the restoration work that’s been going on over the last two years by way of returning the mill to its former glory. Over two miles of weatherboarding has recently been applied and painted and the shape of the windmill is clear to see, and along with the recently opened visitor centre, full access is to the windmill is expected in Spring next year.

The main shopping area runs from the station down Corbets Tey Road, and the shops are a mix of small local businesses, fashion and beauty. But if you look up above the ground floor ‘marketing noise’ you’ll see the hidden exterior of the early 20th century art deco style architecture, looking a little tired and in need of sprucing up.

Picture of the Day

Meet Donald Trump…well it’s a name I’ve seen given to this type of crested duck on the internet, and I can sort of understand why with its glorious bouffoned crest beautifully coiffed in an elegant ‘comb over’ effect. This duck clearly stood out from the crowd as it was the only one of this type I could see, as it waddled majestically amongst all the other ducks.

The picture was a little tricky to capture as I’m using the barrel of my 75-300 mm lens as the only stabiliser, so the risk of camera shake is high. The lighting is also tricky as the duck is in a shaded area which is heavily backlit by the sun creating a contrasting light & shade effect. The shot is taken almost at ground level resting the camera on the low level fencing surrounding a pond.

I’ve tried to find out the breed, and the closest I’ve got to determining this is that it’s a Crested Saxony as identified by the Domestic Waterfowl Club of Great Britain. Although the crested gene can be grown into most duck breeds, it does nevertheless have a breeding consequence as not all eggs will result in a successful hatchling.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/1000; Focal Length – 255mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO5000; Google Photo Filter – Palma

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#59: Liverpool Street Station – 12/07/2019

Today is a return to Liverpool Street station, this time completing the end of the line journey on the London Overground with destinations from Enfield, Cheshunt and Chingford. A fitting day too as the BBC News is featuring an article on those who were saved by the Kindertransport rescue effort and reliving the journey they once took as children over 80 years ago. 

Commemorative statues can be found inside the station by the underground entrance, and outside in Hope Square in memory of the 10,000 or so children saved during the Second World War, and of course to countless others who were not saved.

The Station

I’ll not retrace the ground I covered during my visit in March 2019 but had thought of venturing a little further afield. But not before a walk up and down platform 1, one of the main platforms used by the Overground line. For some time now, the platform has become the home of ten JCB style yellow diggers which are being used to re-lay track just outside the station. What fascinated me were the two gents in high-vis jackets sitting by these diggers who explained that they were there during each weekday to ensure no one wanted a closer look at them. A soul destroying job I’m sure.

On my countless journeys in and out of this station over the past 30 years I’ve frequently stared thoughtlessly out of the window at the passing trains shuttling to and from remote destinations. But today I decided to try and get a different view and travelled one stop on the Overground to Bethnal Green station. The view looking westerly towards Liverpool Street station is bewildering with new buildings all around, iconic City buildings such as the Gherkin to the left, and further afield to the south, more iconic buildings in Canary Wharf such as One Canada Square. But the one that fills my vision is the myriad of stanchions and overhead lines that converge from 18 platforms in Liverpool Street Station into the six independent tracks that feed to services north and eastwards.

I also take a moment to reflect on the old and new whilst at Bethnal Green station too. The first image here is of a cut off stanchion, presumably supporting on older (now redundant) overhead line. What attracts me to this is the creation of the rusty ‘H’ in the discoloured, but nevertheless colourful concrete base. The second is a collection of pulleys, set against the azure blue sky, that take the tension from the overhead lines. I think it’s an interesting study showing off some of the intricate engineering involved in providing overhead power to today’s trains.

Later in the day returning to the station via Exchange Square, I stumble on today’s work of art entitled the Broad Family sculpted by Xavier Corberó. It’s a study in rock of a mother, father, child and dog. There’s no Google maps reference for this but I found it in an unnamed passageway between Appold Street and Sun Street Passage: here’s an interesting close up of the child statue. If you’re in the vicinity go and take  a look.

Exchange Square is a hive of activity, mostly office workers wining and dining or simply taking a break. Today has the added attraction of the Men’s semi-final tennis matches at Wimbledon on show on large screens for all to see. And what better way to enjoy all these activities than with a cup of Pimms, cordially served by Akeem…cheers!

The Arches

In true ‘East Enders’ style the area in the immediate surrounds of Bethnal Green station is awash with garage repair shops, predominantly for London Black Cabs. Three Colts Lane, and the cut through under the railway in Collingwood Street and Tapp Street are awash with Black Cabs in various states of dis-repair. My ‘picture of the day’ is representative of the state some of the abandoned cabs have been left in. These garages stretch under several arches and peering into the workshops it’s clear they’re a hive of activity.

There seems to be an unwritten circular route around Cudworth Street where cabs are moved about with little regard to their not having number plates, and although there’s the occasional roaming police presence, I sense it’s more for show than control.

The scene has an attractive grittiness to it and as I ponder on capturing the right picture whilst standing in the middle of the road, I’m beckoned by Jengins (?) to take his picture. Not wanting to disappoint him, and at the same time capture this jovial character, we exchange a few words and I happily oblige; and he’s more than happy with the outcome.

Running along Dunbridge Street walking in parallel with the railway line, there are a few small cafe’s clearly serving the local working population. One of these, Breid, draws me in for a closer look at its simple, urban feel which has a certain appeal. Maybe it’s because of its open bakery where the ovens and preparation areas are on full view and it in some way reminds me of a local bakery in my hometown where as kids, we’d be welcomed in to sample the day’s cakes and breads – within reason of course.

Breid is a local artisan bakery making sourdough bread for the local community, and serves up specialist hot drinks; and as I’m keen to capture the experience, I’m pleased that the baker is happy for me to take some pictures. Thank you.

Whitechapel

I’m not far from Whitechapel so I head south passing Swanlea School; a compact secondary school somewhat surrounded by the development of the new Whitechapel Station being built to accommodate the Elizabeth Line. This station will eventually serve trains from Shenfield and Abbey Wood passing through to Heathrow and Reading.

Onto Whitechapel Road, and at its junction with Fieldgate Street I’ll pose today’s quiz question: what have Big Ben and the original Liberty Bell in common? Well, both bells were made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry which has been based in the area since 1570. Sadly the business closed in 2017 and the premises sold on, but thankfully the Grade II listed status ensures its heritage will continue into the future. Although looking a little dishevelled from the outside, you can feel its history as you walk around.

Brick Lane

A mere stone’s throw away is the renowned Brick Lane, buzzing with tourists, school children on a field trip and local office workers alike browsing the many markets and sampling the myriad of international foods on offer. Today the street is synonymous with the Bangladesh community and known for its curry, but the area is steeped in industrial and social history from the 15th Century to date. No guessing how it got its name, but it was also the home of the French Huguenots in the 17th Century, and later in the 19th and 20th Century, Jewish and Irish immigrants.

To do justice to Brick Lane I probably need to return, so for today I merely scratch the surface of what I see. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of variety and colour on show, especially from street and graffiti artists alike.

As I bid farewell with a promise to return, I meet one resident who’s not very talkative as he/she is focusing on matters a little further away.

Picture of the Day

There are several contenders today, but I’ve chosen this one of an abandoned Black Cab with its windscreen smashed in for several reasons: It epitomises travel in London; it has reached its own end of the line and it is one in a long line of Black Cab’s abandoned under the railway arches nearby London Taxi repair garages.

I tried several shots with a wide angle lens, but decided on a longer range shot using a 75-300mm zoom lens to help me get a tighter shot and get the row of taxis together; limit the background and capture enough contrasting light to help balance and frame the result. The Vista black & white filter is perfect in emphasising the cab’s blackness and highlights the contrasting light through the arches and the overhead lighting.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 160mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO1600; Google Photo Filter – Vista (Black & White)

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

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

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

The Station

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

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

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

Chelsea Bridge and the north shore

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

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

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

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

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

Battersea Power Station 

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

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

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

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

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

Battersea Park

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

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

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

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

Picture of the Day

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

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

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

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

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#55: Watford Junction – 18/06/2019

Watford Junction is the most northerly terminus on the Overground, and I travel here with some trepidation as I’m not sure if my Oyster card will be accepted. But I needn’t have worried as all is well on that front. The forecast for the day is threatening with torrential thunderstorms, so I am keen to make an early start to avoid getting soaked later in the day. I don’t mind a good electrical storm, as the spectacle can be quite amazing, n’or do I mind the thunderclaps, especially when they are right overhead; it’s torrential rain that makes the experience unpleasant.

On a personal note, I have to laugh…my mother who is almost 95 and relies on two good hearing aids declares she doesn’t like the thunderclaps at night, but I remind her she won’t hear them anyway as she’ll not have her hearing aids in when she’s tucked up in bed.

This is my first of two visits to Watford (Metropolitan Line still to come) and it has been an interesting one because of the number of friendly people I’ve met. And what a welcome change it’s made to have those willing to stop and chat and tell me a little about themselves and what they do. More of them later.

The Station

Watford Junction is a transport hub serving several National Rail lines through Hertfordshire, up the West Coast to Scotland, into London Euston and down to Croydon south of London. A busy station with connecting bus routes to many local destinations as well as the Harry Potter Studio Tour nearby.

And as with all public transport hubs these days, cycling is positively encouraged with easy forecourt bike spaces and a separate secure bike store nearby.

The station is about 1 Kilometre from the town centre but before getting there, I take a detour around nearby back streets and through some colourful underpasses. This one in particular caught my eye and is the subject of today’s ‘Picture of the day’ but as I was composing the shot, a lady waited to pass behind. I encouraged her to walk through and asked if she’d mind my including her in the shot – as long as I didn’t show her face was her response.

Wandering up Church Road, a road containing a mix of modern houses and workmen’s cottages, there’s a sense of a hidden history as I spot this sign embedded in a couple of cottages; but no amount of research has yet revealed its history.

Further along there’s a remnant of lighting of years gone by. This old gas lamp perched on top of a street corner plinth housing a letter box may or may not be in its original position. Nevertheless, and although somewhat dilapidated, it seems to have some local significance given it’s prominent position.

Concrete, concrete and even more concrete

This might be a slightly misleading title and an unfair reflection on the town which has done  much to beautify itself with floral displays. But the ever presence of concrete in construction remains and office blocks of the 1960’s now look tired and drab.

And for new builds, there’s no escaping the tonnes of concrete being used to create the central lift shafts; their towering height clearly visible from afar.

The exterior wall of this car park created an interesting effect, as it seemed the longer I looked at it, the greater the distortion it seemed to create. Am I the only one to see grey dots all over it? This shot, taken with a flash, does just enough to capture some of the reflective number plates of the cars therein and gives the image a sense of purpose to an otherwise geometrically interesting mural.

The Civic Centre

At the top end of the pedestrianised shopping area is a collection of civic and educational establishments. Although the main ring road cuts through the area, the town has creatively re-purposed an underpass into a large walkway and cycle way to provide direct access to the area.

I spot an unusual sign which takes my fancy. This one in the civic car park; a nuance on the usual ‘have you paid and displayed?’ and a second directing cyclists coming up some steps to dismount – curious as I wonder if it’s for the attention of those adventurous cyclists making their way up the steps?

The People in Watford

I walk through the underpass, and I come to a decorative pond and floral display. The ‘W’ display clearly symbolising Watford and sits proudly in the large fishpond being watered. The gardener is a very happy chappy and he explains that the water fountains are switched off as the water has  recently been treated. He also explains that he uses the pond water to water the ‘W’ feature as the natural nutrients in the pond helps feed the flowers in the display.

A slight detour into New Watford Market where I’m drawn to a colourful display of saris.

Back onto the High Street and the floral display of three tiered bedding plants is quite striking. They are regularly positioned either side of the pedestrianised walkway, and their vibrancy adds to the local colour. Near St Mary’s Church, I stop and chat with Laura, who’s responsible for repositioning these displays using a power assisted fork-lift. She explains that the displays have been delivered by Amethyst Horticulture from Kent but placed in slightly the wrong place, and having been watered overnight, they are now significantly heavier and need some effort to move. She invites me to try moving one which I do with some effort.

Further down the road I meet John, a local Information Guide and we chat about our shared passion in photography. He is a former US professor in augmented reality, who has now settled in the UK and enjoys his role helping locals and visitors alike.

Orphan Asylum

When I first got off at the station, I noticed an intriguing spire to the east and on returning towards the station, I followed the railway line passing through a tunnel to get to the other side. And as I do, I find myself in a quiet leafy tree lined crescent where I can see the spire which forms the top of a clock tower.

Heading towards the tower, I pass the headquarters for J W Weatherspoon, and Hilton Worldwide, and enter the immaculately cared for grounds of this re-purposed grand and splendid Victorian building. My first thought is that it may have been a former hospital or asylum, and when I pass the street name, the clue to its past is staring me in the face – Orphanage Road. A quick search reveals this to be the former London Orphan Asylum. The link explains in detail how one man’s resolve to improve the lives of London’s orphans ended up with this magnificent example of Victorian architecture.

Picture of the Day

This underpass, one of many in the area, is the most colourful and cried out to have its picture taken. I tried different settings, and what makes this one work best for me is the use of flash to highlight the colour of the tiles balanced with the rectangular light effect created using the light coming through the far side of the underpass as it hits the walls on either side.

I’ve referenced in the original blog that of a lady walking through the tunnel: she was kind enough to agree to my taking her picture provided I didn’t get her face, as having someone walk through helps to explain the underpass’s function. I’ve used that picture in the original story, but I’ve selected this one, devoid of the pedestrian, as the lighting effect is unexpected and it helps create a lighting juxtaposition between the horizontal light effect through the tunnel and the vertical lines as you’re eyes are guided through the tunnel

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO3200; Google Photo Filter – Palma

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#54: Stratford – 13/06/2019

Back from two weeks holiday and it seems I’ve forgotten what to do. Well, one of the key ingredients of this photo journal is my ability to take pictures – so I can only claim my holiday brain caused me not to charge my camera battery, so at less than 50% capacity, it didn’t take long to exhaust.

But to my rescue came the rain. Yes: whatever happened to ‘flaming June’. I went out of the house relying on good ‘ol BBC’s forecast that there was only a 25% chance of rain. Well it seems I was in that part of London where the 25% had been converted to 100%. So today was a bit of a soaking, but to be honest, it still turned out to be an interesting one.

The Station

I’ve written about the station before, so I won’t repeat myself. The Overground platforms, Nos 1 and 2 are on the most northerly end of the station, and serve trains to Richmond and Clapham Junction. The end of Platform 1 is overshadowed by a large cage like building creating an almost tunnel effect.

Whilst exploring the platform, I look for a different angle to capture, and as I do, I bemuse a couple of station staff as I crouch down below some fixed seats to capture this locked toolbox.

The overground platforms are oddly adjacent to platform nos 11 and 12, and having commuted through Stratford for over 30 years, and looked at these platforms from a passing train I’d never ventured there until now. There’s a large platform expanse, which seems slightly out of place, but there have been occasions when I’ve seen the area crowded as commuters wait for a delayed train taking them home east. But I wonder how many will have stopped to look at Jonathan Edwards – yes the Olympic triple jumper? You see there’s a rather tired perspex case up against the wall that does nothing to inspire the casual viewer to look beyond the faded, discoloured casing. But peer inside, and there’s a sculpture by Ptolemy Elrington who creates art from recycled material.

This one of Jonathan Edwards holding up the union flag depicting the scene when he won the Olympics in 2000 was commissioned as part of the 2012 Olympic preparations and the statue toured the country before finding its resting place here. I think more should be done to promote this forgotten piece of work.

There are some unusual building facades that probably puzzle passers by. No doubt the external facade is purposely designed to hide their ugliness, and if so,  the architects seem to have achieved this quite well. These two masking a car park and an energy centre are now part of the accepted landscape of the area.

Stratford City Bus Station

This is a hub for local London buses and National Express airport coaches located by the south entrance to Westfield Shopping Centre and is bubbling with transient passengers. Although I don’t count the number of buses pulling in whilst I’m here, I would guess though there’s a bus arriving/leaving every two minutes or so. But unless you have a need to use the bus station, or walk past it destined elsewhere, you wouldn’t know it’s here.

London Buses is a conglomeration of 20 separate bus companies who provide the city with it’s distinct red livery and managed under the TfL banner. And for this privilege, they can carry the iconic London Transport roundel…

East Village

Built as the athlete’s village for the 2012 London Olympics, the housing complex of mid rise self-contained secure tower blocks dominates the east side of the Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre. And 5 years on, development has and continues to expand, and you can get a sense of the surrounding environment in my ‘picture of the day’ below. Now an established residential area of architecturally attractive buildings, I still believe the area lacks character and soul as it’s devoid of personality. And if you’d like to know what an apartment costing more than £750,000 looks like in its naked state, here’s one I made earlier – and it’s exactly the same as any other development…

The village is adjacent to an area called Chobham Manor which gives its name to the local academy, and I’ve noticed a trend with modern academies – they no longer look like schools. I guess that’s a consequence of the market forces driving their financial models? This one looking more like a collection of office blocks with a little effort to camouflage their walls with some educational messages…

…and it seems any unused space is also open game for businesses to utilise, as exemplified by this nearby re-purposed prison van.

The Lee Valley Velopark

Tucked just inside the main A12 trunk road that cuts a swathe through east London, is the Velopark; built for the main cycling events at the 2012 London Olympics and now part of its ongoing legacy. There aren’t many people about on this windy rainy day, and as I walk around the Velodrome admiring the attractive cedar canopy, there’s one lone tri-cyclist on the road circuit cranking his way around the track. I’ve visited the Velodrome before but hadn’t realised it’s free to enter, so in I pop following in the wake of a coach load of school kids who had come to enjoy the spectacle.

The Velodrome runs Experience Sessions where you can be coached in the use of a fixed wheel bike and the basic skills required to safely ride the velodrome track. From my observations it’s not as easy as it looks, and some degree of nerve is needed to balance the right speed with the angle of the curves. At the London Velodrome the steepest curves are banked at 42°, but standing on top of it (safely  behind the barrier I hasten to add), it looks much steeper. Those practicing today were being guided by the professionals at a modest pace on the lower level.

The Marshes

Leaving the Velodrome, I have it in mind to head for the New Spitalfields Market now on the other side of the A12, but as I make my way there, the heavens open and within minutes I’m a little like a drowned rat. Not perturbed, I walk past the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, over the main road and take refuge under a bus shelter by one of the fields that makes up the infamous Hackney Marshes sports ground. But on a midweek wet day, there’s not a soul in sight on any of the 88 full sized football pitches.

I think the rain begins to ease (oh how wrong am I!) and walk up to the New Spitalfields Market, on the expectation I’d see how today’s fruit and veg distribution works in London. But alas the signs into the market make it quite clear this is private land and no photography without permission. Given the rain soaking conditions, I feel disinclined to follow through and search out the person whose permission I’d need. I satisfy myself, somewhat dejectedly, with a photo of their sign behind railings.

Drenched by now, I decide to head to Leyton underground as the lesser walk rather than returning directly to Stratford as I can’t see a bus coming. In the pouring rain, it’s much further than I thought, but I do pass a couple of things that catch my eye. One of which is my first introduction to London’s Quietways: a different sort of cycle route for those looking for a quieter ride. This one on the edge of Orient Way showing what I assume to be the number of cyclists that have passed today (328), and the number that have passed so far this year (85105). I couldn’t see, though, how this measurement was taken and if indeed it reflected this particular spot or the whole Quietway in its entirety. Perhaps someone reading this may have the answer – please drop me a line and if you do and I’ll update this blog.

The second thing is this distance measurement emblazoned on a brick wall. There’s nothing to indicate what it signifies, but I hazard a guess it’s nothing more than a reference to how far the nearest Asda store is, as the wall is on the route from the main road to Asda’s car park. Nevertheless catching the wet pedestrian within the measurement is slightly entertaining.

Hackney Wick

By the time I’m back in Stratford, it’s bright and sunny, so I decide to visit Hackney Wick out of curiosity. It’s a part of London I have walked through before en route to ‘Here East’, the former Olympic Media Centre which sits directly opposite on the other side of the River Lee. I was there exploring its suitability for an office move when at GDS, but the move to here was trumped by another location in Aldgate where GDS is now based. Hackney Wick has a long industrial heritage, but through the 20th Century, its association is more with poverty and deprivation. Walking around you can understand why, but there’s a 21st Century resurgence with the area now being popularised with millennial business ventures happy to work out of urban/industrial premises surrounded by graffiti and wall art.

The area, which sits by the river Lee, is also popular with river dwellers, and the recently modernised station helps to breathe new life into the area. An interesting way to end the day and I think a revisit here would be worthwhile in the future so that I can truly capture its essence. If anyone is up to joining me, drop me a line.

Picture of the Day

The precise location of this shot is at the northerly end of Champion’s Walk, part of the original Athlete’s Village built for the 2012 Olympics; and what struck me was the unspoilt, manicured cleanliness of the area. 

I’ve taken this shot at ground level to accentuate the trimmed bright green hedges. It also helps to highlight the symmetry of the surrounding high rise tower blocks with the street lights on one side, and balanced by the angle of the building on the other. The hedges appear to narrow in on the pedestrian highlighted in white at the centre/bottom of the picture. You can just see her with a snatch of colour from an orange bag (possibly a Sainsbury’s carrier bag), and just in view, the red ‘don’t walk’ sign on the hidden traffic lights (zoom in and you’ll see it).

The shot also helps to remind me of the excitement and the crowds that would have been prevalent in the summer of 2012 as the country (and world) welcomed the sporting elite and others to London. Maybe I’ve captured more than I’d imagined?

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/8; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 35mm; Film Speed – ISO250; Google Photo Filter – Alpaca

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#52: Crystal Palace – 14/05/2019

This is the last of the Overground destinations to/from Highbury & Islington, although I’ve still some of the other Overground lines to get to. The story of the day is primarily a 6.5 Km walk around Crystal Palace Park which is adjacent to the station, with a slight detour down Anerley Road and up Anerley HIll to the main drag, although nothing sensational to report from either end of town. But first…

The Station

For those who have recently been following the Victoria series on ITV will have seen the opening of the Great Exhibition by Prince Albert and the erection of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park (London). After the Exhibition the Palace was relocated to an area of South London known as Penge Common, when it was then renamed Crystal Palace. The station was opened in 1854 to serve the millions of annual visitors to the relocated ‘Crystal Palace’.

The station is typically Victorian, combining intricate ironwork, high ceilings and attractive brick work, and on a bright sunny day like today, the sun and shadows added to the spectacle. In addition to being the end of the line for the Overground, the station also serves Southern Railway destinations to/from London Victoria and London Bridge stations.

The station is also host to a Brown & Green cafe, which on first glimpse seems rather cluttered and untidy. But walk inside and it is the epitome of a moderns bijou trendy cafe with an earthy feel keenly promoting healthy eating and equally keen to promote the community.

The Paxton Centre

I reference this centre as it is the only building of interest I saw whilst walking into the village of Crystal Palace; down the slight incline from the station, it sits directly opposite on the main road. Once a hotel, it is now a community craft centre, no doubt well served by visitors to the park and its immediate surrounds. I was very much drawn to the mural with its depiction of Joseph Paxton, the Palace’s designer, and imagery of a dinosaur, which in a way advertises what’s across the road just a stone’s throw away.

Crystal Palace Park

In thinking about what to write here, I’ve been in danger of re-writing the map and highlighting its main features, which is of course what I saw. The park is clearly a showcase for the remnants of the rebuilt Palace with its Italian Terraces and Sphinxes. The Sphinxes looking vacantly over the countryside, and standing guard at what I presume would have been the main entrances. My ‘picture of the day’ below covers this more widely.

Other landmarks include the BBC transmitter, which dominates the skyline; and expanses of grassland and woodland which provides areas for quiet contemplation for those looking for some solitude.

But what strikes me the most is that whilst it’s a popular location for visitors and locals alike, and indeed it is well maintained, it feels a little tired and in need of regeneration as evidenced by the somewhat dilapidated concert bowl, the aged sports centre, even the dinosaur park and the unused skateboard park. Don’t get me wrong, each area is worth a visit as I found out whilst meandering through the park, and the community is very proud of what it has, but looking closely around the edges, there’s some evidence of decay.

People make the park, and here is no different with the paths and open spaces offering professional dog walkers with ample space to let the dogs stretch their legs. I spotted one dog walker emptying his van with his canine friends and stopped counting after 10 dogs were led out of the back of his van. He wasn’t alone either. And in comparison, I spotted a lady dressed in pink practising yoga in an isolated spot on a grassy bank: I wanted to approach her as the contrast of her pink against the green was quite striking and could have made an interesting picture, but I sensed she was intensely engrossed ‘in the moment’ and I didn’t feel it right to interrupt her.

There are children abound in the play areas, high pitched screams of laughter, and indeed screams from babies, hungry or just being babies and mums enjoying the sunshine nattering away. In contrast, and somewhat sadly, wino’s sit nearby with their brown paper bag covered bottles of alcohol sitting on park benches surveying the scene.

So there’s quite a mix of people, aware of each other but similarly choosing to be unaware of each other. Nevertheless, the park is large enough to accommodate everyone.

Miss Oopsie Ooohh

Walking through one of the many park areas, I glimpse what looks like someone practising hoola hoops, and as I near, I see a young woman going through a routine with 4 hoops. I ask if she minds me interrupting her, and she is happy to chat and pleased I’ve stopped and asked as often passers by will just take photographs without her permission. We introduce ourselves and Beth explains that as well as being a graphic designer, she also performs under the stage name of ‘Miss Oopsie Ooohh’. Today, as indeed she had the previous day, she will spend up to 5 hours rehearsing for a forthcoming burlesque show in Reading.

Beth was happy for me to take theses pictures which I took over a 15 minute period as she carried on practising her routine. Thank you Beth for your patience and I hope I’ve captured your routine adequately?

By the way, whenever I ask anyone for their permission to take their photograph, I’ll always send them the final shots, copyright free, so should they wish to use them in any promotional way, then they are free to do so. My only ask is a ‘shout out’ for my blog.

Victoria

Feeling a little sun bleached and tired, I decide on a lazy route home via Victoria station which culminates in a look around, and a quick visit to the coach station as well. Here are a few images from my final destination of the day, though I suspect I will return to Victoria one day.

Picture of the Day

As soon as I saw this sphinx at the top end of Crystal Palace Park, I knew it would feature as my picture of the day as the artwork somehow elevated the statue to something else. There are several of these sphinxes adorning what would have been the many entrances into the original Crystal Palace, but this one in particular stands out because a budding artist has stamped their own mark on the sculpture.

I’m standing on the plinth about 6” away from the sculpture, and although not in imminent danger of falling, one misplaced step could have been awkward. Nevertheless, I felt the calculated risk was worth the effort as I closed in on the face making sure I kept the neighbouring sphinx in frame. The sphinx looks South Easterly across the North Downs, and on a day like today the view is uninterrupted as far as the eye can see.

I particularly like this picture because of the modern twist given to the faux relics, and who knows, would the Egyptians have done likewise?

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/8; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 24mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Auto

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#50: Clapham Junction (revisited) – 30/04/2019

Wow! Just over a year on since I started this blog when I took my first nervous step from Gospel Oak in April 2018; and now I’ve completed my 50th journey. An average of one a week that has grown from a simple idea, to one that now has multiple channels to help spread the word.

The station

I first visited Clapham Junction nearly a year ago, so today was a return to complete my visit of the twin Overground line termini. Strange as it is, both termini are on the same platform, though separated by buffers and different parts of the platform named Platform 1 and Platform 2.

Clapham is a busy station with 17 platforms and over a 1,000 trains stopping daily for passengers to change trains to other destinations from Addlestone to Yeovil Junction…and slightly offset in the middle of the platforms are multiple sidings and train sheds where services either start from or end up after all passengers have alighted.

As I head out of the station through the Brighton Yard entrance to make my way to the river, I meet Jermaine and his travelling companion – Sif, a Bearded Dragon.

It is Sif’s picture that makes it as my ‘Picture of the Day’ below, and we chat a little as I enjoy the sight of Sif basking in the sun. The focus of our discussion is the impact of today’s teaching demands on teachers and on their wellbeing; teachers who care passionately about children’s development but are blighted by unrealistic educational targets and dwindling resources. We agree that good support mechanisms can be invaluable but regrettably it’s not universally available.

The Thames Path

My journey today is a relatively short one following the Thames Path from where I’d previously visited in Cotton Row, and I head west as far as Putney, with a flirtatious diversion through fashionable Wandsworth.

Now I’ve referenced The Thames Path many a time before, but this time I’m including a personal reference. My sister in law and her sister, who call themselves ‘Two Welsh Walkers’ are soon to walk the full length of 185 miles from the source of the Thames at Trewsbury Mead in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier in aid of Asthma UK. They are lovers of walking and last year completed the 60 mile route of the Caledonian Canal, so I send my best wishes to them on this year’s epic. If you’d like to support their cause, please visit their Just Giving page.

Riverside Views

I can’t begin to imagine how the riverside may have looked a 100 years ago except through historical photographs. Even in my lifetime, 50 years ago it will have looked different to today as almost every stretch of the embankment, as far as the eye can see, has been transformed into a luxury high rise dwelling with magnificent views; and for the hardy marine folk, houseboats adorn part of the embankment too.

Let’s not forget the Thames is still a working river, and I’ve tried to capture the artistry and architecture of some, where today’s light industry meets the shoreline.

Cement works, Pier Terrace
Western Riverside Waste Authority Recycling Facility, Smuggelrs Way

Old Wandsworth

Admittedly I only flirt with old Wandsworth as I detour from the river, but what I see along York Road is a very bijou and fashionable street full of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. One in particular captures my immediate attention; that of a static coffee stall immediately outside the station – CWTCH.

Now those of you who know the Welsh language will recognise this word with affection, and their website nicely defines its meaning as ‘a small Welsh hug’. Not a literal translation, as I don’t think there is one, but it does represents the intent behind the word, although not necessarily the emotion. (There are other meanings too such as cubbyhole or cupboard).

I spend a little time talking with those working there who beam broadly when I ask them if they know what it means, and they explain a little about the stall’s brief history and naming. Ah! Such a welcome sight that makes me smile as I continue with my journey.

I hadn’t realised that Wandsworth gets its name from the river Wandle, and the eagle eye’d of you will know that I’ve encountered the Wandle before during my visit to Morden. The river now reaches its journey’s end as it discharges into the Thames nearby at Bell Lane Creek where a little oasis of peace has been recreated on a small peninsula known as The Spit.

Nearby is one of London’s many Victorian backstreet pubs, and this one with its unusual name captures my interest – The Cat’s Back. The pub has a history of several name changes (formally Brush; Forester’s Arms; Ye Olde House at Home), but in the 1990’s it was renamed after a lost cat returned.

The local community is blessed with much greenery and I notice as I walk through Bramford Gardens, a thriving community garden which has taken over a quiet corner of this unassuming space. And on a much grander scale is the open space and tree lined avenues of Wandsworth Park with its riverside walk, and if you look closely as you walk through, there are several sculptures dotted around to help pique your interest. On today’s sunlit afternoon, and the trees almost in full leaf, the view is an enticing one which has drawn many people and children out to enjoy this space.

Bramford Community Garden
Wandsworth Park

I end my journey arriving at Putney Bridge, but not before a quick scamper onto the Fulham Railway Bridge that has a footpath running along side it. I also stop at 13 Deodar Road where I spot an unusual building plaque. This one for the Grand Priory of England of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. A small unassuming building tucked away, but one that made me read about the Order and its history. I invite you to do the same.

Fulham railway bridge looking from the south shore

Picture of the Day

Meet Sif, the bearded dragon.

I’m surprised to see him sitting on a book (The end of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas) with his keeper, both of whom were enjoying the sunshine. I had to ask if he was real and in doing so, got into conversation with Jermaine, a local resident who was enjoying the sunshine.

The soft tones of the book he’s sitting on blended nicely with the brick wall behind, and with each shot I got closer but making sure the eyes were the focal point. 

Sif is a good subject, and seems unperturbed by my intrusion, but just like taking pictures of children, I believe the secret is to shoot quickly and keep a close crop so that the subject fills the screen.

Sif, a bearded dragon

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 37mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Blush

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#45: Chingford – 28/03/2019

The Station

Serving the north east of London out of Liverpool Street, this Overground line terminates right at the edge of Epping Forest. Built in the Victorian era, the station still reflects its original charm with three platforms and many sidings.

Chingford sits within the Borough of Waltham Forest, who have cleverly remodelled the Underground Roundel to promote itself as the first London Borough of Culture. I think the use of the roundel is quite creative.

As with many Overground stations, attempts to green up the station are well intended, with bursts of planting providing a colourful interest, but unless looked after, the flowers soon decay and look somewhat dishevelled. Sadly, Chingford station is no different.

A Royal Connection

Turning right out of the station, I’m confronted by a welcome sign into London’s Great Forest – Epping Forest and I’m immediately drawn to an elaborate looking building in the distance up Ranger’s Road. Alas when I get there, it’s a faux tudor style Premier Inn (yuck) but next door is The View, a visitor centre cum gallery, and Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. Both turn out to be worthy of visiting for different reasons.

The View provides visitors with a wealth of information about the Forest and offers interactive displays about the Forest and it’s upkeep. I learn, from one of the exhibits, that the social reformer Octavia Hill, who also co-founded the National Trust believed that good environments make better people and proclaimed: ‘…we want four things. Places to sit in, places to play in, places to stroll in and places to spend a day in. The poor should never be denied beauty…’

The View also housed an art exhibition which had paintings inter-dispersed amongst these displays. What strikes me is the quality of the artwork especially when I learn they have all been painted by students from Bancroft’s School. Sadly the exhibition is no longer there, but if you ever get a chance, I highly recommend seeing their work; or maybe the school will put them on their website? Here are a couple of examples.

A hunting lodge, built by King Henry VIII in his later years stands proudly overlooking the forest, and the lodge was re-modelled by Queen Elizabeth I on her succession to the throne. Used as a starting/end point for royal hunts, it’s alleged that Queen Elizabeth after one such hunt, rode her horse up the stairs to the top floor. There’s no evidence to dis/prove this, but it does add to the colourful character of the building.

My journey to Chingford Mount

I return to Chingford and somewhat disappointedly find little of interest. A long winding street, typical of London, full of independent shops and a variety of religious buildings, however the architecture offered little of interest. My eye catches one spectacle in the window of Solution, a high class clothing alteration service – that of a window display full of buttons. I stepped into the shop and the seamstress seemed quite proud of the display which had been built up over the years.

Further down the road, I pass Chingford Assembly Hall and stop to view, not the building itself, but a mosaic commissioned for the millenium depicting twelve scenes with a local interest. If you look closely at the outlining design, and apply your imagination, you could be right in seeing the underground ‘roundel’ has been incorporated as well…or maybe that’s just my imagination.

From here I head south to Chingford Mount via the Ridgeway, and on this hot sunny day, it is a slow walk through row upon row of typical London houses. My only stop is a brief diversion into Mansfield Park to view the scene overlooking the Lee Valley and its reservoirs.

I later forayed into the Lee Valley Regional Park looking for a short cut, but soon realised this was not possible and had to do a U-turn. Passing a very uninteresting London Energy centre, I did find one item of interest that became a contender for my picture of the day. Not for its beauty, but more for its symmetry. This shot is taken directly under, and in the centre of an electricity pylon that straddled the road.

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs)

By now it’s late afternoon and I’m feeling weary and ready for home, but I notice in the distance looking southwards as I was standing on the North Circular slip road (safely and on the pavement) that I can see the new Spurs ground. I decided it would be a shame to be so close and not visit so a short hop by bus takes me to Fore Street and I walk through Edmonton – a familiar location where I once worked.

As I approach the stadium, I know it is soon to open as it is hosting an exhibition match on the coming Saturday and its first home game the following Wednesday. However as I climb the open staircase, I am challenged by security who explain the ground and the raised walkway are still deemed a ‘building site’ and declared out of bounds to the public. Nevertheless, as the stadium is right on the pavement, I am able to walk right around this impressive, expensive and late opening stadium. I have no doubt though that these facts will soon be forgotten once football returns to White Hart Lane.

I speak at length with one of the security guards who is happy to share stories of his time working here and he highlights some of the high tech features of the ground. Much has been made of its retractable pitch which reveals an artificial pitch for NFL games and concerts. Here’s a collection of some of the pics I took.

I ended my journey at White Hart Lane overground station, a station which will soon have a name change to Tottenham Hotspur station. This photo-opportunity is a homage to the new stadium in the shadow of the old station name.

Picture of the Day

This is a seating area in the centre of Chingford Mount, by the war memorial and bus station. 

Today’s bright sunshine accentuates the colour of the seats, which on one side is occupied, but this side is free. The combination of the colour and shape makes for an interesting shot; and I’ve tried to draw a parallel with the offset nature of the individual seats and with the straight edge on the left.

There’s also a measure of movement with the slightly blurred passer-by in the top right hand corner. I took several attempts to get the composition right by changing the shutter speed but maintaining the depth of field at a time someone walked by in the corner of the frame.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ32; Shutter Speed – 1/30; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Bazaar

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Overground TfL Other Services TfL Rail

#44: Liverpool Street – 15/03/2019

I’ll begin by declaring I have a history with Liverpool Street station: almost 29 years of it travelling daily to and from the station on my commute through to various work destinations across London…and I’ve loved every minute of it…and I’ve worked out that I’ve passed through Liverpool Street station more than 15,000 times so I feel I have some affinity with the place.

Stories of seeing the station grow over that time spring to mind; stories of seeing the journey change – particularly in the Stratford area as the Olympic Park was developed; and stories of passenger anger as occasionally there wasn’t enough room to squeeze the next person on the train due to overcrowding as a consequence of an earlier cancelled train.

I learnt early on that starting my journey from Gidea Park, an end terminus of the now renamed Tfl Rail, that getting the right seat was vital. So it came to pass that I began to ‘own a seat’ by a window and not near an entrance – and woe betide if I caught a different train and sat in someone else’s seat…But let’s keep these stories for another time.

I hadn’t pre-planned my visit, but as I started to explore the station in depth, I decided my route would take me no further than one block away from the station complex, into parts of ‘The City’ that are defined by the iconic red, white and black bollards that mark out its boundary.

Liverpool Street Station

The station, declared as the third busiest in the uK, serves destinations to the eastern quadrant of England, embracing predominantly: Essex, East Anglia, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Having 18 platforms, it provides a service for National Rail, Greater Anglia, C2C, Tfl Rail, TfL Overground and the Stansted Express.

At the time I moved to London (1990) and started commuting through the station, it was undergoing massive redevelopment and over the succeeding years it evolved into the station it is today. The platforms were re-modelled into, what I thought at the time, unexciting,  modular and functional. But the more I looked, the more iconic I felt the vaulted roof with supported lighting became; so much so one of these pictures has made it into my ‘picture of the day’ (see below).

The main station platforms and the concourse shouts out classic Victoriana in the grandest scale and you need to crane your head up to enjoy the ironwork and glazing, fashioned in a  majestic cathedral-esque style. A marvel of architectural engineering, soon to be compared no doubt, to the feat of current underground activity in building a new station to serve the Elizabeth Line.

The current underground station has also undergone extensive modernisation and their new livery colours recently unveiled in monochromatic tiles. They too adopt a classic style synonymous with the underground network.

Broadgate

To the north and east of the station is an area predominantly occupied by financial services; the area is known as Broadgate and sits where once stood Broad Street station which was amalgamated into Liverpool Street station some time ago.

I remember Broadgate Exchange (to the north) being built over the station at the same time the station continued to operate, and didn’t realise at the time that the huge pylons being driven in-between the tracks ended up as stilts for the buildings above. Now a stylish business area with its own open air piazza with alfresco dining and watering holes. I hadn’t realised until recent years that you can walk through the station to Exchange Square. It’s an area worth a visit, even for the mildly curious, as the architecture of the immediate buildings is interestingly different, although I did have to run the gauntlet of the local building management security when taking some pics.

To the east of the station is Broadgate Circus, again a financial services district, where every winter the circus area is converted into an open air ice rink. This area has, and continues to  undergo significant redevelopment as new occupiers want to stamp their own independent mark on the buildings. In fact this is quite a feature of the City where nothing stays the same for too long. I can’t imagine the wealth that’s spent in developing and re-developing buildings. Brexit or no-Brexit: I really don’t think things will change here.

The ‘windy’ City

Heading through Finsbury Circus into an area behind The Bank of England; an area riddled with alleyways and historical buildings it’s easy to lose track of where you are – that was certainly my experience when I first wandered through this area. It is though what makes The City so interesting; a place full of character and if you dare to stop and look at what’s around, you can learn a lot about places such as the Furniture Makers Hall; Austin Friars; and Draper’s Hall which is one of the twelve great livery companies that modelled mutual assurance in England.

Exiting into the hustle and bustle of Throgmorton Street and crossing into Bishopsgate to explore around Tower 42 – or as I remember it: The NatWest Tower.

Bishopsgate leads into Leadenhall: both areas are full of history and where the old architecture is often dwarfed by the modernist statemented building, such as The Gherkin and The Leadenhall Building where office workers compete with the casual tourists for prime spots for lunch or simply to socialise. Today is a particularly windy day which is accentuated in alleys and building undercuts with gusts strong enough to blow you around.

The City is rightly proud of its heritage and does much to attract visitors. For example its Sculptures in the City exhibition draws you around looking at temporary works of art which live in harmony with more established statues. Here are a couple.

Night time in Spitalfields

I end my visit in one of my favourite haunts: Spitalfields Market, and although traders are closing up their pitches, evening time created an opportunity for some different pictures. I tried some long exposure shots to capture the effect of people walking through the frame, but such was the lighting that I’ve barely captured their ghostly image, nevertheless, these night time images of inside the market and en-route back to Liverpool Street ended what has been an interesting day.

Picture of the Day

I didn’t expect this to be my picture of the day when I took it but the more I looked at it the more I felt it reflected my visit to Liverpool Street Station. It’s also a stark reminder of the view I’ve seen so many times, having passed through so many times over the years as a seasoned commuter.

I’ve taken this shot from the very end of Platform 16/17 and aiming up at the vaulted canopy looking down the length of the platform. It’s almost a black & white photo, but small splashes of colour such as a streak of red on the train carriage to the left, and the colouring at the platform concourse (bottom centre) tells you otherwise.

A wide angle shot to get the width of the platform, and it is one of a series of shots. I’ve picked this one because of its stark black and white contrast which creates a somewhat atmospheric and moody feel.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ3.5; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 21mm; Film Speed – ISO200; Google Photo Filter – Auto

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