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Most of the work seems to be being undertaken by the Peabody Trust who are making a significant investment in clearing outdated concrete high rise estates with more modern living accommodation.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
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.
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.
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.
Today’s picture is taken in the piazza on Riverside Walk just west of Battersea Power Station – this is called ‘Talking Heads’. This one is part of a study of each of the two heads which I took at intervals to create an animation showing the different facial expressions.
This selection, with both heads 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
Today, I stretch the boundaries of my Freedom Pass to its limits as I travel from Gidea Park to Reading for free. This will be an uninterrupted route courtesy of the Elizabeth Line, once it starts operating, but today, I have to change at Liverpool Street and Paddington.
I have ‘fond?!’ memories of Reading Station as I travelled through here during different stages of my life. In my early working career I spent 6 weeks in Reading so the weekend commute to/from my home in Aberystwyth was always a challenge. And again, some 30 years ago, I passed through the station on my weekend visits back to Cardiff as I waited to move my family up to London. And more recently as I visited nearby IT and Telecoms providers in Newbury, picking up connecting services here.
Over the years, I’ve seen the station change, and I have to say its current incarnation is a significant improvement on what was once a severe bottleneck for the weary traveller. The station was remodelled in 2015 and it now boasts 15 platforms serving four train operating companies: Great Western Railway (GWR), South Western Railway, Cross Country (by Arriva), and Tfl.
I’m no train geek when it comes to spotting trains, but being one of the top 10 busiest stations across the country, this is an ideal location to see the variety of trains passing through. Some of today’s trains include: the sleek bullet shaped electric trains recently introduced by GWR, the stylish electric Tfl Rail trains introduced as part of the Elizabeth Line; the familiar South Western electric trains; and the more laboured Cross Country (diesel?) trains.
Alongside the 15 platforms, there’s a new inter-platform walkway, complete with shopping experiences and wide covered stairs and escalators to each platform (there are lifts too). All colour coordinated throughout in a ‘pleasing to the eye’ themed blue and grey.
It’s a bitter cold day and even though the inter-platform walkway is covered, access to the platforms and stairs/escalators is open to the elements. So as I crouch down taking a few shots, I’m approached by a very pleasant and chatty Interserve supervisor who’s intrigued by what I’m doing, so we chat for a while. She’s an Irish girl quite used to the cold, but a little surprised when I tell her tales of having to scrape the ice from inside my bedroom window when I was growing up. As we part company I remark on her cold hands, to which she responds…’ah but I have a warm heart…’
Passengers come and go, with little regard to their surroundings as they work out which platform to head to. But their heads popping into shot through the angular structures makes for an interesting collection of pictures. I wonder what they’re thinking?
Before leaving the station, I notice that the Tfl Rail returning destination shows Ealing Broadway, even though the scheduled destination is Paddington. I’m intrigued and when I ask a Tfl platform guard, she helpfully explains that it’s done to prevent those journeying through the station thinking that it might be a fast service to Paddington. I speculate this may have been the case when this service was first introduced just before Christmas.
As it’s been a bitterly cold morning, I decide a short respite in The Three Guineas pub which backs onto the station is called for. I rest my feet whilst enjoying a coffe and as I leave I try to work out what’s the time?
Out of the station, heading to the river, I pass under the brightly coloured railway bridge with repeating geometric shapes that are formed from the girders spanning the road. A combination of having a back-lit footpath on the opposite side and pedestrians from a nearby building site wearing high-vis jackets helps to make this picture. I also notice a couple of stranded birds roosting up above too.
The River Thames
A walk along the south and north banks brings a different Reading into perspective, and here are a few of my highlights.
Thames Water Property Searches: not necessarily everyone’s idea of a landmark, but this open circular building has some interestingly shaped access stairs. No doubt purposely designed to reflect the circular shape of the building, but in my mind also mirroring an Archimedes Screw designed to move water, and now used in some hydropower schemes.
Christchurch Bridge: this is a relatively new foot and cycle bridge built in 2015 to connect Reading and Caversham through Christchurch Meadows. A cable-stayed bridge with one mast and 14 pairs of cable in a fan style. I’m sure this looks very attractive at night time lit by its 234 LED’s, but this monochromic shot helps to show off its simplistic beauty.
Caversham Weir and Lock: continuing along the north bank I return via Heron Island and View Island, a once derelict boatyard now converted into a wildlife haven. There’s a footpath running through it which brings me out at the Weir. An impressive water feature used to manage the water flow at this point on The Thames, and with the sluices wide open, the water flows rather fiercely.
The footpath across the weir is quite popular, and standing in the middle peering over the edge, I get a strong sense of the water’s power. And I can understand why the local community has successfully lobbied to build an environmentally friendly hydropower scheme utilising two Archimedean screw turbines here.
The Thames Path: I only cover a minute part of the 215 mile path, which at Reading runs along the south bank from Caversham Bridge, under Reading Bridge and past Caversham lock and weir before meandering easterly towards Henley-on-Thames. There’s one peculiar river boat moored along the path and as I say farewell to Reading, I reflect on the achievements of my sister-in-law and her sister who both completed the Thames Path challenge recently. Well done ladies…
A few birds catch my attention as I walk along the riverbank. On the Caversham side walking through Christchurch Meadows I pass a small copse and hear some rustling in the undergrowth. I assume it to be a squirrel so I decided to ignore it, but the sound seems to follow me. Looking around, I could just make out a bird ground feeding around the copse. It’s unperturbed by my presence, although I did keep my distance, and this short animation captures its movements. I didn’t recognise the bird instantly, but my suspicion was confirmed once I looked up the RSPB Identify a Bird site. Some of you will recognise it instantly as a Redwing.
Further along I arrive at Heron Island, and no guesses what I see here.
And in the middle of the river, there’s a trio of Seagulls perched on a rather faded Danger sign, no doubt placed to warn anyone approaching of the nearby weir and reminding boaters to keep right towards Caversham Lock.
Picture of the Day
This is a view of the footpath over Caversham Weir. I waited for some cyclists and pedestrians to pass by and I crouched down to get the low view shot. The railings on either side help to guide you through the picture and the Vista filter adds strength and starkness.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 28mm; Film Speed – ISO125; Google Photo Filter – Vista
My penultimate end of the line: what am I to do afterwards? Suggestions on a postcard please.
Today’s wintry cold yet bright day sees me heading to the northern end of the Emirates Air Line at Royal Docks London and/or London’s Royal Docks alighting from the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Royal Victoria.
The route I take is a fairly simple one: twice around the westerly part of the docks from The Emirates Royal Docks station in an anti-clockwise direction over the Royal Victoria Bridge and back. Once in the daylight and once at night time.
I also ‘fly’ in the Emirates Air Line to North Woolwich and back to enjoy the experience and daytime and nighttime views which shows the Dockland’s continuing development.
Commissioned, built and opened just before the London Olympics in 2012, the ‘air line’ has a capacity of 2,500 passengers per hour travelling at five miles per hour and taking three minutes to complete the crossing.
On my outward flight, I’m joined in the gondola by VeJay, a resident from Australia who’s visiting friends in London for a couple of months. We both remark on the rocking motion of the gondola as it’s battered by the winds when at the highest point of the journey, but thankfully, the structure is designed to withstand such winds. I spot some of London’s distant landmarks and observe the waterline’s tidy array of yachts some 80 metres below.
This night time shot of the North Greenwich station is quite striking as the Moon and the planet Venus shine brightly against the cloudfree sky.
Nearby to the station is The Crystal, a conference centre designed and built with sustainability at its core generating its own electricity needs through 1,580 m² of solar panels. Despite being closed for refurbishment, the conference centre boasts a daily average visitor attendance of 1,000, but today, it’s the exterior that grabs my attention as its glass fronted surface offers an opportunity to capture some reflective moments.
Nearby water puddles, which shimmer slightly in the breeze, also provide a similar opportunity by creating a fuzzy view of the neighbouring residential block.
And into the night, the low lit footpath along the southern end of the dock casts a colourful display on the water’s surface transforming an otherwise drab vista into an almost Meditaranean one – oh if it were only 20 degrees warmer…
Constructed in the mid 19th Century, the docks were an instant commercial success as they could easily accommodate all but the largest steamships; and despite being badly damaged in the Second World War, the docks remained a viable hub until the 1960’s. With the onset of containerisation, shipping throughout the London docks migrated easterly towards Tilbury where the larger ships could more easily be managed, and consequently by the 1980’s, the Royal Docks closed to commercial shipping traffic.
The docks have been sympathetically restored with obvious reminders, here and here, of their heydays on display as the docks are surrounded by a display of cranes and derricks, as if ‘on guard’ for what has now become a fashionable residential and leisure area.
On the northern bank and just outside the entrance to the ExCel Centre is a poignant statue created by Les Johnson entitled ‘Landed’. Commissioned by the Royal Docks Trust, it has been erected as a tribute to the history of the communities of the Royal Docks and the men and women who worked there between 1855 and 1983.
The docks are now a hub for a variety of conferencing, entertainment and leisure industries, although as it’s the middle of winter, all of the water borne leisure facilities are closed. There are few people milling around although there is a steady stream of visitors making their way into the Sunborn Yacht Hotel which is permanently moored by the ExCel Centre. This shot is taken through the legs of one of the cranes on the opposite side of the dock.
The docks is also the home of Lightship 93, a former Trinity House light vessel, now repurposed as a photographic studio and location. And looking east, about one kilometre away is London Docklands Airport with planes landing and taking off at regular intervals.
I end my day where I started, but spend a little time reflecting on the moody lighting which casts a soft shadowy glow on the footpath as a few revelers head for the DLR or to one of the nearby hotels. The overhead gondolas continue to pass robotically by, regardless of whether they carry any passengers, and I decide it’s time to get back into the warm…so it’s homeward bound for me too.
Picture of the Day
This shot is taken on the Royal Victoria Bridge looking straight into the low lying sun. I’ve positioned myself so that the point of dissection of the bridge support struts intersect the sun. The shot is unfiltered as the stark sunlight adds to the shadowy black and white effect I’m trying to create, and highlights the white wispy clouds against an otherwise clear sky…
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ13; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100
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: 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.
The museum sits opposite the Church and it is well worth a visit, especially as it’s free to enter. It’s located in a townhouse that has dedicated it’s basement, ground and first floors to local memorabilia and a dedicated space for the Battle of Barnet. Some of the heraldic banners associated with the Battle are also on display whilst they undergo some decorative ‘touching up’ in preparation for their annual airing throughout the town each April. These three represent the Yorkists Houses of Gloucester and Woodhouse, and the Lancastrian House of Mauleverer.
I’ll not be able to do justice to the museum’s entire collection as there’s too much to see and enjoy, but here are a few of my highlights:
Domestic Life: this collage depicts several items you’d no longer find in the modern home. The first is a cork shaper used for compressing and shaping corks for sealing bottles and jars. The second is a door vent in a Victorian/Edwardian kitchen cabinet, and the third a rather attractive and elegant decorative clock.
Pearly King, Queen and Princess for Barnet: In the basement, amongst a display of Victorian and Edwardian dresses are the Pearly suits once worn by Mr Jack Hammond, his wife Brenda and daughters Lisa and Tracey. Jack was awarded the title of Pearly King of Barnet in honour of his fundraising for charity in 1962 by the Association of Pearly Kings and Queens who appoint all ‘the regents’ for all the London Boroughs. Jack sewed each mother-of-pearl button onto their outfits and the approximate cost (at 1976 prices) at £0.60 a button was £4,000. The King’s suit weighed 14.5Kilogrammes (32 pounds).
A moving Tribute: I find upstairs to be quite evocative, as there’s a display of artifacts from Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, known more recently as Friern Hospital which closed in 1993. The fact that it’s been converted into a luxury housing development takes none of the reminders away of how those with a mental illness used to be treated. Examples of straight jackets are prominently displayed as is this padded cell door.
And whilst walking around the first floor, there’s a haunting rendition of early 20th Century music being played to complement the exhibits of the two World Wars. I’m moved by this copy of a handwritten poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD – ‘In Flanders Fields’
Back to the Station
Almost adjacent to the museum is Barnet Southgate College, which now incorporates an Elizabethan Tudor Hall. This is where the original Queen Elizabeth’s School was founded following its being granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1573. It’s now used as a banqueting hall and small conference space.
Further down the road, I stop outside The Sound Garden music shop and take in the Fender guitar maker’s sign which glows quite brightly in the gloomy afternoon.
And finally, as I pass Papa John’s take away Pizza shop, I’m beckoned by a gent from inside to take his picture as he sees me walking by with my camera in hand. Never wanting to miss an opportunity, I oblige and then move into the shop and meet Stargy, a budding musician. Nice to meet you Stargy…
Picture of the Day
Today’s picture aims to highlight the gradient from High Barnet station entrance and I’ve cropped this picture vertically using the three handrails to accentuate the descent. Applying a deep Black & White filter (Vista) helps to highlight the horizontal sunbeams hitting the middle railing and ground as the sun shines through an out of shot fence on the right.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter – Vista
Aldgate is the last of the five terminal Metropolitan stations to visit, a line that changed the face of travelling for Londoners. In 1863, the Metropolitan Line opened the first underground service between Paddington and Farringdon…That’s enough of the history but read here for more details.
I’ve left visiting Aldgate towards the end of my travels as it was here I last worked before retiring almost two years ago. One of my final acts when working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) was to secure a suitable location and manage the transition from our previous residency in Holborn, and this I achieved in 2016. So you see, I have an affinity with the area which I got to know quite well, and I wanted to put as much time behind me before returning and studying the area objectively.
The area is an eclectic and diverse one which merges many cultures and industries and offers a wealth of history, colour and architecture. Here’s my view which takes me into Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Shadwell and down towards the river at Wapping. It’s hard to discern where the boundaries for these areas lie, although I’ve no doubt there’s a map somewhere depicting them. That really isn’t important, but what is interesting and exciting is that wandering as I do, I’m always amazed at some of the sights I see that are either hidden or forgotten. Hidden in the streets are murals and buildings with architectural significance in full sight of everyone, but no one sees them. And forgotten in the sense that their importance, and/or value, are no longer considered relevant. I’ll try and rekindle some of them here.
Serving both the Met and Circle lines, the station is on the edge of The City and in easy reach of main line stations at Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street; so great for commuters. As with all of the Met line, it was created using a ‘cut and over’ method rather than tunnelling, and this can be seen quite well when I’m in the station.
The platforms cuts quite a large arc to accommodate the Circle line trains as they route south westerly to join the District line headed towards Westminster and Victoria, and this is quite noticeable as trains stop at this busy interchange between The City and suburban London to the East.
There’s also a busy terminal bus station directly across the road, thus making the area an excellent commuting hub; and plenty going on to entertain the casual observer too as this lonely figure from across the station suggests. Not quite the Woman in the Window, but maybe there’s a sequel to be written? – the Man in the Window?
And adjacent to the station in Aldgate Square, there’s a coffee shop with an interesting design: it has a fan like roof as if capturing, or even embracing the surrounding office buildings.
Today’s association is maybe with the Old Spitalfields Market, but the area is steeped in historical changes. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the area was occupied by Irish and Huguenot immigrants who immersed themselves in the silk industry until its demise in the mid 1700’s followed by an influx from the Jewish Community who set up a textile industry here.
Alas, by the Victorian era, Spitalfields was synonymous with deprivation, slum dwellings, criminality and prostitution, and was the scene of a brutal killing of a young woman by the serial killer Jack the Ripper.
During the 20th Century, there was an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants who worked in the textile industry, and made Brick Lane famous as the curry capital of London. And this sculpture by Spitalfields Market in some way aims to reflect the area’s rich history of providing shelter for successive waves of immigrants. This piece is by the Greek sculptor Kalliopi Lemos
Petticoat Lane Marketis an area made up predominantly of Wentworth Street and Middlesex Street and famous for its street stalls selling cheap clothes. But nowadays, as with many markets, equally noted for its food stalls which attracts crowds of near-by office workers each lunch time who come to sample and enjoy the variety of flavours on offer.
Wentworth Street crosses Commercial Street where I find an interesting arch leading into the housing complex through Flower and Dean Walk. The inscription on the arch serves as a reminder of the slum days and efforts by the philanthropist Nathaniel, the 1st Lord Rosthschild, to change the living conditions for the Jewish Community by setting up the Four Percent Industrial Dwelling Company Ltd.
And across the road, there’s a brief glimpse at the cobbled streets of London, but alas now bastardised by the blight of the ever present yellow line.
Whitechapel Gallery, on the HIgh Street, offers an eclectic mix of exhibitions, but I hadn’t realised that there’s a tiny alleyway on its left: Angel Alley. It doesn’t go far but towards the end is an unassuming ‘bookshop’ with this interesting mural on its wall. It’s only now as I research this bookshop I realise its social significance. The Freedom Press has had its place in the (troubled) anarchist movement for over 140 years. This summary is well worth a read, and I now understand that the mural depicts 38 individuals who may have been sympathetic, at one time or another, to the Freedom Press.
Brick Lane:if you have never visited, then put it on your list of places to go. But be warned, if you go on a market day, be prepared to get squashed and pushed around as it’s a hive of like minded folk wandering around gawping at the colours on display. Don’t let that put you off, but if you fancy a more leisurely look at the area…go on a non-market day.
I roam aimlessly admiring the abundance of wall art. In fact there are few walls that haven’t been decorated. Some are clearly artistry and no doubt have been commissioned or painted with permission, and some are random acts of graffitti, but to be honest, not out of place. Here’s a sample of some of my finds whilst poking my nose into discrete alleys. I can guarantee, if you go visit, you’ll find your own favourites.
My wanderings take me in and out of several side streets where I stumble across Links Yard. What was once probably a remnant of the textile industry, the abandoned workshops have been craftily redeveloped as part of a wider community effort to regenerate the Brick Lane area by the Spitalfields Small Business Association.
I eventually end up at the new Shoreditch Overground station, in awe of the wealth of artistic talent that surrounds the area. But there are still reminders of modern day poverty and homelessness; as I walk under the railway arches, there’s at least one homeless woman who’s clearly made this place her own.
Whitechapel’s heart is Whitechapel High Street, extending further east into Whitechapel Road forming part of the A11 road. In the past this was the initial part of the Roman road between the City of London and Colchester, exiting the city at Aldgate, but today’s modern day travelling is no doubt significantly different; as indeed is the City’s skyline.
And although the main road was not squalid, the surrounding side streets had very much evolved into classic Dickensian with problems of poverty, overcrowding and deprivation during the Victorian era. Thus, Temperance, Salvation and Alms can be found aplenty along Whitechapel Road; being born out of the determination of several individuals to improve the plight of the poor and homeless in the East End of London.
Trinity Green, a small conclave of Almshouses along the Whitechapel Road were built by the Corporation of Trinity House on ground given by Captain Henry Mudd for mariners. If you pass, look up at the roof line of the gatehouses where you’ll see these ships.
Next door is the Tower Hamlets Mission set up by Frederick Charrington, the son and heir of the brewing empire, in the late 19th Century.
And of course, no reference to the East End is complete without a mention to the 19th Century work of the Christian Revival Society set up nearby by William Booth and his wife Catherine. Now known as the Salvation Army. Statues of the two stand proudly outside the Almshouses and Mission.
On the south side of the road, and opposite Whitechapel underground station is the renowned Royal London Hospital. Now a modern hospital standing just behind the original, demolished, brick building. It’s facade still erect, and I think this view of the new through the old is quite striking.
Heading south from Whitechapel HIgh Street, I meander through Shadwell, and stumble upon Watney Street Market; one of many localised markets throughout the borough of Tower Hamlets. The market offers a cut through from the main A13 Commercial Road to Shadwell Overground station, and it’s a busy market day offering a glimpse of the borough’s diverse range of residents. At the southern end of the market there’s a collection of large flat slabs set in a straight line upon which I’m invited to sit on. And as I do, I see there’s a historical theme engraved on them, with references to the area’s shady past. If anyone has any knowledge of these slabs, please drop me a line.
Onward into Cable Street, the street’s name states simply what its purpose was; that of a straight path along which hemp ropes were twisted into ships’ cables. I have some familiarity with such a place name as in my home town of Aberystwyth, I lived near ‘Rope Walk’ which has a similar historical origin. Walking along to the entrance to St George’s Gardens and I find I’m immersed, through a very large mural, in the story of the Battle of Cable Street. 4th October 1936 saw a hand to hand battle between the fascist supporters of Oswald Mosley and local residents and the Metropolitan Police. Go take a look, as both the mural and the story are well worth seeing and reading about.
Leaving Shadwell through St George’s Gardens, and before crossing The Highway heading into Wapping, I’m acquainted with former residents through their memorials, epitaphs and gravestones. Prominence is given to Henry Raine; a wealthy man who built a school for poor children. But my attention is piqued by the gravestone of Mr Alexander Wyle (?) who died on the 4th December 1741 and whose remains are buried here.
Synonymous with the maritime trade, the area is famed for its wharves, docks and marine trades. The area was badly affected in the Second World War blitz, and it further declined into dereliction as a consequence of the post war closure of the docks.
The area’s fortunes changed during the 1980’s when redevelopment and regeneration saw many of the empty wharf buildings converted into fashionable riverside apartments. A trend that has since been adopted right along the Thames shoreline.
I pass Tobacco Dock, a destination I’d seen heavily advertised over the years as I drove through The Highway, so I was keen to see what’s here. But as I arrive, I’m disappointed as it’s a cordoned off events centre. There are no events today, so it has a derelict feel to it, although there’s some maritime interest as I explore the two ships moored in the dry docks in front of the centre. The docks name gives a clue to its purpose in its heyday.
A little further down, there’s a small parade of shops and my attention is drawn to P&J Bakers. This is partly because of its delightful window display of home baked breads and cakes, and partly because of the intriguing black metal doors on the side and rear of the bakery. At a guess, they may have been old oven doors for the bakery but when I asked inside, no one was able to give me an explanation of their history. Maybe you do…drop me a line.
Approaching Wapping HIgh Street, the overground station is directly ahead and as I turn right, I’m confronted with an array of repurposed Wharves. They include Gun Wharf, King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf, St John’s Wharf, Aberdeen Wharf, Pierhead Wharf and Oliver’s Wharf: all within 400 meters of each other.
The walk is somewhat unexciting, until I realise the real gem is when I explore the little alleyways in between the wharves which lead to the water’s edge and I discover the Watermen’s stairs. These were used historically as access points to ferry people along and across the Thames, or even to bring ashore the cargo for ships moored in the Thames. The stairs would provide access to the ferry boats at high tide and at low tide the ferry boats would use the adjoining causeways.
This helpful guide lists all the stairs along the Thames (for Wapping, go to page 31). Some of the stairs are in good condition and others less so, even if you can access them through locked gates.
The ones I explore are Wapping Dock Stairs, King Henry’s Stairs and I access the shoreline down Wapping Old Stairs where I meet Norman, a mudlarker. He explains that mudlarking requires a permit which grants permission to dig up to 7.5 cms beneath the surface (3” in imperial measurement), and after three years you can apply for a permit to dig deeper. He proudly shows me his find of the day, and along with another mudlarker who happens along, they determine it may well be a vintage lace bobbin.
A little further along the shoreline, I meet Christopher, a like minded photographer with whom I share my ‘endoftheline’ story and reminisce about the early days of black and white film photography. Here is one of Christopher’s photos, which he has kindly agreed that I can publish. This one is taken under Oliver’s Wharf looking west towards Wapping Old Stairs.
Wapping is the home for the Metropolitan Police Marine Unit and Boatyard, and I spot a couple resting their feet in Waterside Gardens, which sits in between the two buildings. They seem to be enjoying the riverside view of working and pleasure boats moving up and down stream.
And no riverside is complete without a pub, and it’s at the nearby Captain Kidd I meet a group of gentlemen enjoying the view from the open terrace. They are all from the Greater Anglia Control Centre in Romford enjoying a social afternoon sampling the local ale and taking in the views.
Returning to the City
I’m back on familiar ground now as I approach St Katherine’s Dock. I’ve covered these docks in an earlier blog, but there’s an interesting side note about the nearby Ornamental Canal, which is now a popular route for joggers, keep fit enthusiasts and serious runners alike. Did you know that it was once a location for the filming for the 1999 James Bond film ‘The World Is Not Enough’?
My travels around Aldgate come to an end as I reflect on how two towering Grade II listed buildings have been sympathetically restored. The first in Back Church Lane, within earshot of the mainline rail service into Fenchurch Street, is Wool House. No guesses for working out its original purpose in the Victorian era, but now it’s a multi-tenanted office and residential space. I walk around the building and count 12 hoisting stations, an indication of how busy it would have been at the height of the wool trade in London. But here’s an interesting fact – the second series of the BBC television series, Dragon’s Den was filmed here.
The second is of the HULT International Business School sitting on the corner of Commercial Road and White Church Lane and directly opposite the home of The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers. This Grade II listed building was once the St George’s Brewery, Whitechapel, but there’s very little information to be found other than this architect’s journal.
Time for home to rest my weary legs…
Picture of the Day
This picture was taken in the food market in Goulston Street, just off Wentworth Street, and is part of a series studying lunch-time office workers deciding on their food choice of the day. The street is lined with open air pop-up food stalls, and their menus and price guide erected high up on their stalls so that potential customers can see what’s on offer whilst they move around the crowds.
I’m standing amidst the crowds and slightly elevated when taking this shot, and I notice that those queuing to be served are all studying the menu board intently, oblivious to their surroundings. Presenting this in black & white helps to strengthen the observation, and I believe it also helps to focus attention on the three main subject’s gaze. The individual in the centrepiece has a simple ruggedness to him which playfully offsets the more traditional office gent on the right.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO2000; Google filter – Vista
BUT FIRST – by the time you read this, Christmas will be over and it will be 2020 – so here’s wishing you all a very Happy New Year and who knows what delights it will bring….? Meanwhile, back to the plot…
Welcome to Romford! Some commentators say Romford is the capital of the East End; well I’ll let you and others debate and decide on that.
Romford is at one end of the Overground shuttle service running to/from Upminster, and this visit completes the set of 20 endpoint destinations on the Overground.
I’ve also left Romford towards the end of my journeys as this is where I have lived for almost 30 years, so I wanted to make sure I took an objective view of the area, and I hope I’ve achieved this by exploring the town over several days. In fact, on 02/07/2019; 04/12/2019; 12/12/2019 and 18/12/2019, and I make no apology that this blog is somewhat longer than normal as I want to do justice to the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met.
Almost my second home for the last 30 years as I pass through and often stop en route to/from Gidea Park, so I feel as if I have some affinity with this station. But to be honest, I’ve never really stopped to look around…until now. The station has 5 platforms. No 1 serving the Overground shuttle to/from Upminster, and the focus of my journey today. No’s 4-5 serving the Tfl line to/from Shenfield and Nos 2-3 for the fast service from East Anglia into London Liverpool Street.
This rainbow roundel was interestingly only displayed on Platform 1 during the summer pride celebrations which Tfl was supporting, but nevertheless I’m happy I had the opportunity to catch it when I did as it didn’t stay for long. And it’s when I took this shot I noticed the nameplate on the bridge leading to Platform 1 for Westwood Baillie & Co. A little research yields some interesting facts about this ironworks engineers who built bridges as far and wide as India and South Africa, and like the one in Romford, still stand today.
I’m always delighted by the wintry dusk skylines in Romford as when the sun sets on clear evenings looking westerly, the transition through red, orange and ultimately dark blue and black, when set against an industrial landscape, is always interesting. This is one of those evenings.
And heading down under the station, there are partly covered arches on the northern side of the station running into Exchange Street. In recent years, the footpath has been laid in multi-coloured bricks and the arches fenced in to make this once seedy cut through slightly more palatable. See my picture of the day below for another take on this scene.
A Shopping Mecca
On one of my outings I decide to explore the rooftops to see if there is a different view of the Town I’d not seen before. You see Romford is a shopping mecca defined by its market, and four shopping centres: The Brewery, The Liberty, The Mercury and the Shopping Hall.
Visitors are incentivised to visit by road as the centre is somewhat characterised by its ring road and 5 multi-story car parks.
From my observations, today’s Romford has been shaped by three architectural periods. The mid 30’s with its art deco style fashion. This is a time when the town grew significantly and became a commuter town; the 60’s with its overuse of concrete; and thankfully the more stylised 21st Century modernist look. One commentator describes quite eloquently Romford’s style as being ‘…at times a little scruffy and smelly…’, but my view is that these moments add character and depth to the hidden parts of the town. What do you think?
But on balance, the town has much to offer, and here I’ll share some examples of how I see Romford through these three eras…
1930’s Art Deco – I hadn’t realised, until I started reviewing my photos, how similar some of the buildings around the town are. Here’s two examples: the Town Hall and the entrance to the Quadrant Centre. Both built in the mid 1930’s.
The Concrete 1960’s – or is it a space invasion with a hidden flying saucer unseen by everyone. Ha! This is the rooftop of the car park exit ramp from The Brewery, but on a dank wintry afternoon, it has an eerie quality. However the use of concrete epitomises its functionality when it was fashionable to do so in the 60’s, and it’s evident in all of the surrounding car parks.
Modernist 21st Century – one of the newest buildings in town is the Sapphire and Ice Leisure Centre built in partnership with the council. A magnificent recreational centre encompassing a swimming pool, a multi-gym and an ice rink. And as a patron, I find that it represents exceptional value for money.
As with most town centres, there is a constant churn of how space is used, with some new developments being created and others left to fester for too long and they themselves become enshrined into the fabric of the town. By way of example, there’s a very new patisserie just opened in Exchange Street – Dolce Desserts. Perched on the cutting between South Street and Exchange Street, I’m welcomed in on their second day of opening to review their deco and range of food offerings. A very simple yet attractive setting in which to relax for a short respite.
In contrast, the cutting from the Liberty Shopping Centre alongside Debenhams to the Market has been left undeveloped for many a year. And the hoarding now installed has become a permanent advert for the shopping centre itself.
And despite the dank and dreary conditions of the day, there’s always an unexpeted and surprising moment to encounter when I least expect it. Where else would you find a leapord and three coloured sheep sharing the same table?
On most days you’ll encounter buskers in South Street or thereabouts. And today is no different, but what is different is their willingness or unwillingness to have their picture taken or engage in a conversation. As is the case with the first gentleman I encounter strumming his guitar alongside Santander just off South Street. He is most adamant that I do not take his picture – I wonder why?
And similarly close by down the side of Barclays, a couple of Eastern European gents are sharing their musical talents on an accordion and clarinet. At first they are quite happy for me to take their pictures but suddenly I’m instructed with ‘No Image! No Image!’ I gesticulate that I’ll only take pictures of their instruments, but by which time I have already taken several shots. Ooops!
Into South Street, and I meet my most interesting characters of the day; two in fact. First is Joseph who is sitting outside M&S happily singing and strumming his guitar. He’s been here a while as I could hear him earlier in the day, so I stop to chat, which he’s very happy to do. A friendly and amiable artist who enjoys the busking life, and says he’s had many an invitation to support others through being listened to in the streets. Passers by complain jovially that he’s not singing, but they are still happy to throw coins into his upturned hat, for which he thanks them. I try not to keep him talking for too long, and as I leave him, I listen to his melancholic and soulful sound. Nice to meet you Joseph.
Less than 75 meters along South Street, I stop and admire the wordsmithery of @itsTrueMendous. I listen and gesticulate if it’s OK to take pictures and with a nod of agreement, I click away. She has a very acute ear and a sharp mind as her rap takes in things in her immediate surrounds; including my distraction. She stops for a short while and as we chat, I explain my ‘journey’ to Chyvonne who’s keen to understand where the best spots for busking are in the East End. I offer some suggestions and as she continues to rap, she does so to the camera. Thank you Chyvonne, and it was a blast to meet you. Go listen to her on Twitter or Instagram.
Do you know what the distance of a day’s sheep drive is? To find out, read on…
The market originated in 1247 under a Royal Charter granted by King Henry III stipulating no other market is permitted to set up within a day’s sheep drive of Romford – defined as six and two-thirds miles. There you have it.
I have a fond recollection of markets; as a child in Aberystwyth, I’d listen to the traders shouting out their latest offerings, and on some occasions trying out their free samples (often sweets or rock) when the fair and market came to town every November. And so I have a particular memory of my first Christmas market in Romford in 1990, as I could hear an incomprehensible chant booming loudly over everyone and everything else. It sounded like…’pan yur sana at’. Now clearly I hadn’t quite grasped the Estuary English often heard in Romford, but as I got closer to the trader and realised what was on offer, I quickly translated his chant into ‘one pound for your santa hat’. I bought two…
Alas inflation kicked in a few years later as the chant had changed to ‘two pan yur sana at’.
Prior to visiting the market, I’d been in touch with the Market Manager, out of courtesy, to explain my intention to photograph the market and outline that I’d be approaching individual traders for their consent. And indeed I met some interesting characters.
First is Ola Leggings, who owned a number of leggings stalls in the vicinity. He catches my attention as he’s singing along to Christmas music being played across the market, but became somewhat bashful as I approach and encourage him to continue.
Secondly are the two gents of the Wickendens Meat wagon. Both are happy to be photographed, and as I start on their portraiture, they begin to move all the hung meet from the back of the wagon to the front. They sure know how to maximise this photo opportunity; and they are equally happy to share a joke too.
The market is an eclectic and diverse mix of traders, but from my experience, the essence has also changed over the past 30 years. The strains of austerity, internet shopping and out of town stores have resulted in fewer traders around at a time when I would have expected the market to be at its peak. Nevertheless, I’m always amazed at the efficiency of the clearing up progress once the traders have finished for the day.
The week leading up to Christmas sees, amongst other festive events, a free mini funfair consisting of a ferris wheel, spinning teapots, haunted house, swing chairs and smaller rides for the younger folk. So not wanting to miss an opportunity, here are a couple of shots showing how colour and movement can be captured. I was a little surprised though that the funfair closed by 4.30 pm when I would have thought more folk would have been looking to enjoy the funfair. But I guess its timing is kept in concert with the market trading times. Anyway, all those there were really enjoying this free time.
And if you wander around the nooks and crannies of the market area, you’ll discover seedy side streets and cuttings which aren’t for the casual passer-by. But take a look down the alleyways and there are some discoveries to be made.
Now a fashionable retail area with ample parking, this area was once the largest employer in Romford; in its heydey employing over 1,000 workers. Life began here as The Star Brewery in 1708, by 1845 as Ind Coope, and into the 20th Century as Allied Breweries, where the John Bull brand of beer was produced.
The brewery closed in 1993 and once demolished, the site was redeveloped in 2001 into the retail park we see today. Walking around you’ll see remnants of it’s brewing heritage, and you can’t fail to miss the iconic 160 foot chimney which dominates the skyline; this is one of the original chimneys from the brewing days.
As part of the development, metal artwork camouflaged as large insect like creatures help create a canopy for the shops and car park, but I’m unable to find any reference to their origin. If you know anything about them, do please drop me a line. And if you’ve not seen them, the Brewery Centre have teamed up with Things Made Public and installed 10 animal murals throughout the centre which you’re invited to go looking for them. I’ve not reproduced the murals as part of the fun in seeing them is the hunt. Have a go and see if you can find all of them – start here.
Picture of the Day
This view is taken through the partly covered arches on the northern side of Romford station running alongside and eventually into Exchange Street. The multi-coloured path is almost an attractive feature if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a somewhat seedy cut-through to the west of Romford. But nevertheless, it provides for an attractive photo-opportunity.This is taken facing west.
I waited for the right pedestrian to reach the end of the tunnel so that their silhouette helped to fill the tunnel opening. The late afternoon daylight coming in overhead helps to highlight the floor pattern, and the arch brickwork is enhanced using a green (Alpaca) filter.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ3.5; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO6400; Google filter – Alpaca
Today’s visit completes the series of seven ‘ends of the line’ on the District line, and sees me returning to one of the most easterly stations on the network. I was here not that long ago via the Overground, so I need to ensure I don’t cover old ground. Consequently this is a relatively short blog.
Although it’s the end of the District line, there’s very little to demonstrate this as there is no signage that you’d normally see at other District Line stations. The signage is predominantly c2c, with Overground roundels on its own dedicated platform number 6. The cross platform footbridge spans all platforms and leads to a security gated entrance to the signal box; and platform seating, whilst recently installed, is sparse.
Platform 1 also provides a hearing induction loop for those passengers with a ‘T’ switch on their hearing aids, but what about similarly affected passengers on the other platforms? It’s all very well saying the service is available at the station, but it should say that it’s only a restricted service…
Turning right out of the main station entrance, I head north up Hall Lane. My targeted destination is the Pitch & Putt course about half a kilometer away. I’ve driven past this many a time during my residency in Romford but had never been there. And I still didn’t see it as it is all covered up and locked away for the winter. Ah well… The Pitch and Putt course is within chipping distance of Upminster Golf Club with its course straddling the main road; its main entrance clearly defined as distinctly different to the adjacent Rugby Club.
The rugby club is all closed up, but en route, I explore the outside of the much advertised Upminster Tithe Barn. The Barn dates from 1450 and was part of an estate that supported the Abbey of Waltham. The Abbott’s hunting lodge next door was later converted into a private house and is now home to Upminster Golf Club.
The barn only opens periodically during the spring and summer months which now houses a broad display of domestic items from the last century as well as agricultural machinery.
I continue north and head to Upminster Court; again another point of interest I’ve driven past many times and I naively thought this may have been a Judge’s House used for hearing Crown Court cases. Ha! How wrong am I?! It transpires that it was once a mansion house built at the turn of the 20th Century for the engineer and industrialist Arthur Williams.
Inscriptions either side of the main gate explain that Arthur designed and developed, and later patented steel-reinforced concrete piling. It was these that were used to construct part of the Dagenham jetties that helped grow the Dagenham industrial area and that once housed the Ford factory. The house is now a multi-occupied residential and business centre. My picture of the day shows the main entrance seen through the ironworks, but here’s an uninterrupted view of the mansion house.
Upminster has an eclectic and diverse shopping area made up of a couple of streets which form the shape of a cross. South from the station is the imaginatively named ‘Station Road’ which becomes ‘Corbets Tey Road’ at its intersection with ‘St Mary’s Lane’. Largely independent shops, with one local department store dominating the Station Road area with a large clothing and homeware store at the northern end, and a fashionable furniture store nearer the St Mary’s Lane end – welcome to Roomes.
I walk up and down past all the shops looking for an interesting window to admire, but I only find one that’s of particular interest that makes me stop and return to it. It is Sweet Rose Cakery in St Mary’s Lane. Inside this tea room I’m greeted very warmly and as I explain why I’d like to take pictures of their window, I espy several ladies who are busy socialising over a cuppa and a scone. The shop window catches my eye for its simplicity in explaining what’s on offer in the cafe, but it’s done in a very graphical way that clearly spells out the menu. Well done Sweet Rose on the stylised display…
A wintry day that’s not too cold as I walk about admiring the mackerel skyline and the gold and brown of the leaf fall and late changing trees, but still a little chilly when I stop for too long. So I decide it’s time to head home for the comforts of slippers and a hot toddy…
Picture of the Day
This is taken at Upminster Court along Hall Lane headed north out of Upminster showing off its grandeur, and highlighting its seclusion behind these locked gates.
This should have been a simple shot to capture if it wasn’t for the fact that to get the full frame of the gates in view and keep both mansion and gates in focus required that I stood at the very edge of the pavement set against a busy Hall Lane. So I keep one eye on the traffic and the other on framing this picture.
I take several shots with attempts to capture the right colour and vividness using flash for some fill in, and some shots using the camera’s in-built grainy black & white filter. However, this one has been taken in full colour with flash, and in post production I’ve adjusted the final image with a harsh black & white filter to create the starkness that makes this picture work well.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter – Vista
At platform level the station is typically DLR with all things concrete, but the modernist design of the upper station is in some way a retro homage to the art deco era.
I’d not realised the station also doubled up with national rail services provided by Thameslink and Southeastern running from Central London into Kent. And on their shared platform (No. 1), there’s an interesting terracotta mural by Martin Williams entitled ‘Workers of Woolwich’ which portrays the history of Woolwich Arsenal in its munitions heyday.
About 200 metres south of the station is where there’ll be a new Crossrail/Elizabeth Line station running to Abbey Wood. Still under construction but it’s a shame it couldn’t have been designed to co-exist with the existing rail services. Maybe there’s a hidden passageway yet to be revealed?
The town centre is a somewhat depressing area, and although there’s evidence of some investment, it seems to have done little to hide the anti-social behaviour on open display: alcoholism, homelessness and drug dealing are just three examples I just ‘happened’ upon.
The town centre is dominated with an open green square overlooking the main bus stop and main station, and it’s here those with little to do seem to congregate. Listening in on their conversations as I walk past, I hear a preponderance of Eastern Europeans dialects; and there’s also a strong contingency of retired Gurkhas who have adopted one side of the square as their own. In one corner, there’s a large screen showing the Brexit debate, but those walking by or encamped in the square seem oblivious to (or maybe just bored with) the political shenanigans being played out in public.
A little north of the green is Beresford Square Market with a few fruit & veg and clothes stalls tempting those passing through looking for a bargain. It’s a colourful area, but I suspect today isn’t the market’s main day as there aren’t too many stall traders about.
Nearby, the pedestrianised and tree lined Powis Street is where the main shops are. Here I find the usual ‘budget’ high street stores interlaced with a large number of charity shops and a few local independents.
Once an area covering 1,300 acres and employing 100,000 people at its peak, the Royal Arsenal sits on the south bank of the Thames and just north of the town. There are many well documented internet sites that provide its full history so rather than trying to precis it myself, you can read some of them for yourselves here and here.
These are well worth a read and you can learn about the early 17th Century need for munitions through to how the site grew and developed the creation of munitions supporting all the war years through to its closure in the 1960’s. This is of course where Arsenal Football Club started life back in the late 1800’s too
This area has undergone, and continues to undergo extensive regeneration; but what is noticeable is that the original architecture has been kept and that the heritage of the area is being boosted. Even some of the original road names have been kept, and I’m captivated by the road named ‘No. 1 Street’. Seems somewhat iconic don’t you think? Looking down towards James Clavell Square, there’s a very interesting sculpture by Peter Burke, but more on this in my ‘Picture of the Day’ below.
I’ve listened to the London weather and traffic reports most mornings before setting off to work and often heard, particularly during the winter months, that the Woolwich Ferry is either not running or is running with a restricted service of only one ferry. Well, in the spate of a few weeks, I’ve now travelled in both directions on this free service. Two ferry boats operate in harmony and viewed from afar they look as if they perform some form of ‘Strictly’ dance midstream. They’re quite mesmerising to watch: named the Dame Vera Lynn and the Ben Woollacott. The latter in honour of a deck-hand who died in 2011.
There’s something quite wonderful about walking along the Thames; despite the river looking still, there’s movement all around as London busies itself on this arterial waterway. And plenty of walkers and cyclists take advantage of the well groomed Thames Path whose shadows ripple in the murky foreshore.
My journey’s end today is in the middle of the Thames looking west towards Canary Wharf and onwards into The City through the Thames Barrier. I never get tired of this view as it keeps on changing: day or night.
Picture of the Day
Taken at the very bottom of the Royal Arsenal Heritage site in James Clavell Square. There is nothing (as far as I can see) to tell me who the sculptor is so an internet search is needed. My first inkling is that it’s an installment by Antony Gormley, and some internet results also suggested this. But wrongly as it turns out and it’s a sculpture by Peter Burke.
Approaching the square from the west, I see this interesting installation from afar and capture some shots through a telephoto lens to narrow the frame whilst also capturing passers by between the 16 statues. But as I get closer, I feel it’s better to be amongst the rusty statues and I compose today’s shot still with passers by framed between the statues. I frame the decorative street lamps in such a way that they are positioned as if they’re almost part of the installation as well.
In post production, I’ve decided a black & white filter influences the picture best as it helps to highlight the starkness of the shadows cast by the early afternoon sun.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 130mm; Film Speed – ISO200; Google filter – Vogue
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…
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.
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.
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.
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
There’s an interesting back-story behind today’s picture. 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.
This is a picture of 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 took 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