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Lockdown

Lockdown Mayhem – July 2020

So… a month on, and more and more shops are opening their doors. Still not enough to tempt me back onto the trains, but there is a sense of a new normal emerging. The must have ‘wear item’ is now the facemask. I’ve tried a few varieties, bought from the local dry cleaners, online ‘bargains’ and the best fit for me is from Gap. So out I go with my choice of three fashionable face masks.

The weather has improved, but before I share my travelling stories, a little about other events that have kept me busy, entertained and angry!

The garden has looked after itself and the fruits of my labours are starting to justify the extent of my earlier hard work. Tomatoes, courgettes and runner beans aplenty, and root vegetables firmly taking stock for the autumn and winter months.

In between all that, I’ve had the pleasure of chasing up roofers to part replace the front of the house. As with all tradesmen, they promise delivery tomorrow, but what they actually mean is sometime in the unspecified future. Despite that, the work was good and I was happy with the price and equally happy to recommend in the Romford area.

But that’s not something I can say about my recent run in with a car garage. You see I was off on a jaunt to visit family, and the dashboard suddenly displays three orange amber warning signs and one red one. Not a good look, so I head back home and the garage offers me a date a month away. My hands are tied, what can I do except wait. Long story short…the bill came in in excess of four figures but just as I was about to pay, there’s mention of a faulty part. Now ‘hold on I say’, surely if there’s a faulty part, that’s not for me to pay. And do you know what…in a matter of seconds, the bill was reduced significantly with very little quibble.

Now I’m delighted of course, BUT if I hadn’t challenged the garage, I would have ended up with an inflated bill. Why didn’t they do this before presenting the bill to me? You can draw your own conculsions.

OK, that was a slight digression, so let’s get back to my July travels in and around Romford. This month I’ve concentrated my walking on the northern part of Romford, inside the A12 ring road, and to the west as far as Chadwell Heath (almost). A total of 30 kilometers over three hot days.

So here goes with my second occasional blog about my local journeys.

#08: Taking the Sheep to Market

A black and white photo looking through a tiled underpass with a row of black sheep on the ceiling. A couple of pedestrians in the far distant exiting the sunlit tunnel entrance

Romford market dates as far back as 1247 when a Royal Charter was granted by King Henry III. Originally a sheep market which no doubt inspired the ceiling mural in this underpass.

I’d never been through here before, and to be honest I didn’t think anything of it. Just another underpass for pedestrians to make their way under the busy roundabout feeding Romford’s inner ring road.

But I stopped to look behind and realised I was being overtaken by a flock of black sheep on the ceiling. I don’t think the pedestrians walking through even noticed what I was seeing: they were too busy checking their mobiles, nattering to each other or trying to calm down a child in a buggy. So it was easy to capture them walking through the underpass to add some context to the picture.

I’ve been unsuccessful in my research to find out more about this mural, so if any reader would like to shed any light, I’d be happy to update my blog.

  • Location: South Street to North Street underpass, Romford
  • Date/Time: Monday 20th July 2020 at 2.32 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO1600 

#09: R.I.P Rob

A black and white photo of a car number plate style RIP Rob sign attached to the dual carriageway central reservation barrier with a decayed bouquet of flowers

‘…Sadly missed your loving family’ is the underscore to this car number plate type memorial firmly attached to the fencing above the central reservation along the main A12 Eastern Avenue.


Looking on Google maps, this has been there since at least September 2008, and for each iteration of the Google Maps reference, there are always flowers, albeit in a sad state of decay.


Despite a thorough internet search I’m unable to reveal who Rob was, but nevertheless he was a much loved person.


It’s hard to know why it’s here, in this location, but I hazard a guess it was either a road traffic accident, or a pedestrian trying to cross the main road. Whatever the circumstance, it’s a sombre reminder of the frailty of life and the need for vigilance when crossing roads. I pause to think about the nearby underpass: was it there before the accident, or because of it?

On a related theme; whilst walking through the main Romford Cemetery along Crow Lane, I stopped to admire the array of children’s gravestones. There was one inscription that brought a tear to my eye – it simply said ‘born dreaming’

  • Location: Opposite Footpath No. 79 emerging from Parkside Avenue on the main A12 Eastern Avenue, Romford
  • Date/Time: Monday July 20th 2020 at 2.58 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO800 

#10: Victoria Centre

A black and white photo of a view of three dorma windows at roof level on the dilapidated pavillion style building

Locals will almost certainly know this as one of the places to go to for a blood test where you don’t have to queue for ages. Well that’s been my experience to date anyway.

This rather dilapidated building, is in the main, full of character even in its unloved state. In fact I think the aged and tired look adds to the building’s charms.

It was originally built in 1888 at a cost of £1,000 in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Known as the Victoria Cottage Hospital, and through gradual expansion over the decades, it grew from having 13 beds to 101 beds by the time it became part of the NHS in 1948. During the 1970’s and 1980’s changes to the health care system saw a decline in the hospital’s use when it eventually closed for inpatients in 1985 when only 32 beds were available.

Since then, the site has catered for several outpatients departments for which it continues to do so to this day. It sits proudly, in it’s own grounds (now car parks) just off Main Road in Petits Lane and serves as a reminder of how cottage hospitals once supported their communities. There’s no doubt it is a distinct looking building and one to admire for what it once was, and is now.

My thanks to the Lost Hospitals of London site for this information. I’m so glad such sites as these exist as otherwise this kind of information would be lost forever.

  • Location: Victoria Centre, Havering NHS Primary Care Trust, Petits Lane, Gidea Park
  • Date/Time: Tuesday July 21st 2020 at 12.35 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#11: Victoria Road Footbridge

A colour photo looking along the length of a footbridge with tall sides and a mesh canopy. In the bright sunlight, the blue/grey metalwork contrasts with the yellow overhead light guards

Bridge reference LTN1/103-ROU/11.

Did you know if you ever wanted to find a bridge reference number other than finding it on or near a railway bridge, then there’s a very helpful resource.


Thanks to Daniel Hanson, who made a Freedom of Information request to National Rail Limited in 2015 who subsequently provided a full list (at that time) of every railway bridge in the UK. You can view it here. But be warned, it’s a hefty data set, but if it’s your thing…then fill your boots.
Access to this footbridge on either side is via isolated cut throughs from their respective roads. Ok for daytime  passage but less so I would imagine at nighttime. 

It’s a bright sunny day today and a few pedestrians are making their way across. There’s one mum with a toddler in tow, somewhat frustrated at the length of time the little boy is hovering to see the trains pass by – oh such simple choices.

I wait until all have passed, as to be honest, it could be a little intimidating seeing someone crouch down taking photos as they walk through. I decide to err on the side of caution.

Built in 1893, this lattice wrought iron bridge has lost its charm, as probably a lot of railway footbridges have since they’ve been enclosed. No doubt a preventative measure, but one that nevertheless results in the bridge largely being devoid of its character. This sunlit and shadowy picture offers a glimpse into the view you get when crossing over five railway lines.

  • Location: Railway Footbridge over main railway line adjoining Victoria Road and Junction Road, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 12.13 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 21mm; Film Speed – ISO100  

#12: Just Chillin

A black and white photo of a gent dressed in white shirt, trousres and headcap covering long dreadlocks who's sitting on a street bench

I spotted this gent casually sitting on a bench on the opposite side of the road and I almost walked on. But I found myself backtracking to try and capture the moment. A little difficult as the junction was busy with cars, vans and lorries queuing up at the traffic lights so there were only momentary glimpses of this scene.

So as the lights changed and the traffic moved on, I took a series of shots before the next queue formed. Each shot I took, I zoomed in closer. Some of the earlier shots capture the ‘Mercury Gardens’ road sign, but that’s eventually lost as I’m at the full extent of the zoom.

The gent seemed pretty relaxed sitting there watching the world pass by, and I was equally content to capture the moment with his profile nicely silhouetted against the distant lamppost.

A serene moment in time caught in the otherwise hectic surrounds of the junction between Mercury Gardens and Victoria Road on a hot and sunny afternoon.

  • Location: Crossroads between Mercury Gardens and Victoria Road, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 12.23 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length -200mm; Film Speed – ISO250

#13: Tiled Walkway

A black and white photo with diagonal lines of this shadowy walkway edging from middle left to bottom right. A gent walking into shot at middle left helps to balance the picture

This blog seems like a story of underpasses. Well maybe it is and although unintentional, clearly the stark summer sunlight and a return to my black and white roots has helped me capture the patterns created by the contrasting shadows.

I’m crouching down at the base of this ramp just as it enters the underpass as I spot the diagonal lines converging on the corner. The dull brown wall tiles appear almost white with darker brown tiles forming the vertical darker stripes.

The combination of the slant of the ramp, and the shadowy handrail all draws my eye to where I’ve positioned myself and I take a series of shots with and without pedestrians walking through. Some walking towards me and some walking away. But this one, with the gent at the top of the ramp, almost leaning into shot and walking in the direction of the focal point helps to complete the picture’s composition.

  • Location: Underpass emerging into Waterloo Road from Rom Valley Way, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 12.45 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO100

#14: Nursery Walk

A black and white picture of a couple in the distant walking through and emerging out of a tunnel; their profile in shadow. The picture is framed by overgrown foliage to the footbath which helps to complement the shot

Unless you’re a local resident, and I mean local to the immediate area, I doubt you’ll know about this little gem. Nursery Walk is behind what used to be Oldchurch Hospital and provides a cut through under the railway line from the south to north side.

The underpass is a little dingy but suitably bedaubed by local graffiti artists and at its narrowest, probably just wide enough for two to walk through side by side. I took some shots inside the underpass, but as I emerged into Nursery Walk on the south side, I stepped to one side to let a family walk by. I walked on and looked behind and caught a glimpse of this couple exiting the underpass into Cotleigh Road.

Their shadowy relief encapsulated by the surrounding vegetation creating a tunnel effect, mirroring the underpass, helps to transform this simple shot into an almost romantic one.

  • Location: Railway underpass leading from Nursery Walk to Cotleigh Road, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 1:03 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO800

#15: The end of the Gas Works

A black and white photo of a capped gas pipe in an overgrowna and somewhat derelict enclosure

The ‘end of the line’ meets the ‘end of the gasworks’. Until recently (2018 I think), the remaining three gas holders posed as a familiar Romford landmark; a site often seen whilst travelling by train to and from Romford station as the works sat adjacent to it.

I’ve taken the picture more as a matter of record than for its photographic quality, and in some way to commemorate the works which have been on this site since the early 1880’s. 

The site is now a fenced off area, and this capped pipe no doubt represents one of the inlets/outlets to a gasholder, and is in some way a rather sad reflection on what is now a derelict, but secure, fenced site.

In researching for this blog, I’m pleased to have found quite a detailed report commissioned by the National Grid who wanted to create an Historic Building Record of these Crow Lane gas works. There’s an abstract here, and the full 78 page report, produced by Oxford Archaeology. For those interested in the detail, then it’s a worthwhile read – see here.

  • Location: The Old Gasworks, Crow Lane, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 1:11 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 170mm; Film Speed – ISO200

#16: Trinity Place

A colour photo of four columns of three vertical windows framed by white vertical bricks dotted with brown bricks to complement the main building brick colour

This is a new building on the edge of Rush Green and Chadewll Heath, next to the Three Travellers pub and near to the iconic Barking and Dagenham Civic Centre. Built on what was once a local car park.

I was coming to the end of a 10 mile walk which saw me explore, from the outside, West Ham United’s two training grounds: The Academy for Under 23’s and Women’s ground in Chadwell Heath; and the main training ground in Rush Green.

Amusingly, one of the security guards at the academy was a Manchester United supporter. But I digress…

This building catches my attention as the facade is of a different style to the ‘new norm’ cropping up all around London. The brown-on-white-on-brown brickwork provides an interesting design feature complementing the vertical windows, and I’ve saturated the picture slightly in this final image to accentuate the colour contrast. 

Here ends another interesting month during lockdown…

  • Location: Trinity Place, Wood Lane, Rush Green, Romford
  • Date/Time: Thursday July 30th 2020 at 2:26 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 39mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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