This is the second of three bonus ‘end of the line’ stations that have yet to be built or commissioned.
In the case of Abbey Wood, the station was refurbished and reopened in its current state in 2017, in preparation for the initial opening of the Elizabeth Line. But because of the line’s repeated delays, the TflRail platforms are currently mothballed and fenced off. Tfl’s latest plans for operating the line is in 2020/21, but who knows? Simultaneously, Tfl took over responsibility for the station and ironically, it does not yet operate any services through the station.
Currently, only Network Rail services, operated by Southeastern and Thameslink run through the station serving South East London and Kent. Although as I look closely at the two TflRail platforms, there’s evidence that a full service is operating; but clearly the displays are for ‘display purposes only’ as nothing is moving.
The station has had an attractive makeover, with new stairwells, decorative concourse, lifts and external walkways, and whilst chatting to the TflRail station staff on duty, they explained that even they are not allowed to access the Elizabeth Line platforms which are shuttered closed at all levels. Nevertheless, the station staff and security guards are extremely helpful to all those who pass through with some passengers being referred to by their first name; great customer service.
There’s also an obligatory piano to entice budding musicians to have a go, as one accomplished musician demonstrated whilst I was there cowering from a sudden hailstorm.
The surrounding entrances, closed to all except those engineers in high vis jackets, was a little eerie, and it all had a rather ghost station feeling to it: everything in its place, but nothing moving.
I’ve taken a while to mull over how best to depict this walk and I can only be honest, but in doing so I’ll try and be as objective as I can. The area north of the station is at best intimidating, but it’s clearly going through a massive regeneration programme. Most of the work seems to be being undertaken by the Peabody Trust who are making a significant investment in clearing outdated concrete high rise estates with more modern living accommodation. This is a programme of works that will take many many years to complete, so the area is at best a confusing mix of properties at the moment.
Along Harrow Manor Way, there is a cordoned off part of the Lesnes Estate labelled Caroline Walk, and it’s difficult to determine, initially, whether the barriers are an attempt to keep people in or out. The existence of razor wire helps me conclude that the area is cordoned off to prevent unwanted squatting as it is primed for demolition.
Nevertheless, walking around and through the area gives me an uneasy feeling because of it’s stark and grey surroundings with a somewhat decaying urban look, and with little human contact, I hasten to want to return to the ‘relative safety’ of the main road.
I have no doubt that those living in and around the area are warm and welcoming as there’s some evidence that within the estate, properties are being cared for as some have been decorated in a modern style. But there’s no hiding the fact that these are few and far between, and attempts to brighten up communal areas with artwork seem forgotten and faded.
I continue walking as far as SouthMere lake and Lower Thamesmead and onto The Ridgeway and cross over the almost deserted Eastern Way into the fringes of Crossway Park.
I see very few people, and other than a small collection of teenagers, possibly making their way to/from The Gym and/or The Link I feel isolated and somewhat vulnerable and maybe a little guilty for not exploring a little further.
Walking past the fenced off Lakeside Events Centre, I later learn this is itself undergoing redevelopment as an arts centre, and it’s description as having an ‘…iconic Brutalist architecture, and stunning views of SouthMere Lake and the area’s famous skyline, is a Thamesmead landmark…’ is quite telling. I guess I would liken it to the Marmite sensation that is The South Bank Centre in terms of architectural design – concrete on concrete on concrete – you either love it or hate it!
I skirt around the fringes of the SouthMere lake and amble along part of the Green Chain Walk that runs alongside the lake and back towards Abbey Wood station. Work on redeveloping the lakeside tower blocks is evident, as is the dredging of the lake to transform and return it to its former glory as one of the jewels in Thamsemead’s crown. I have to admit though, on this cold wintry and blustery day, it feels far from being a jewel.
Although there aren’t many people about, there is one jogger, one dog walker and one cyclist, but it’s hard to mask the fact that the greenway walk is merely an attempt to break up the array of 1970’s concrete tower blocks with uninviting communal stairs and walkways.
As I cross over the railway bridge into the area south of Abbey Wood station, it seems like I’ve entered a different time zone as the building and architecture becomes more mid 1930’s London bricked terraced houses. And in some way quietly marks the obvious contrast with the more modernist concrete jungle style that began to emerge during the 1950’s.
My journey ends here, but who knows I may return one day to explore the much promoted Lesnes Abbey or indeed return and explore, with more confidence, the grittiness of the surrounding concrete estates.
Picture of the Day
This is one of two striking graffiti/murals on the wall opposite the station lift entrance in Gayton Road. The original is in colour, but to be honest, the colour palette is marginal as the majority of the artwork is in black and white. So I’ve applied a Vogue black and white filter to emphasise the quality of this bold piece. The detail is fine and the eyes follow you, which provides a somewhat evocative feature.
And interestingly, if you look closely, the work has other graffiti etched across the cheeks too.
The artist ‘astek-London’ has signed his presence and he’s clearly keen to promote his work, so go and have a look at his Instagram page for other examples of his skills and talent.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO125; Google Photo Filter – Vogue