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#34: Stratford (DLR) – 28/12/2018

This is the second of four visits to Stratford, although the first was to Stratford International so a little bit of ‘fake news’ but I’m mentioning it as I partly covered the Olympic Park and the shopping centre during my earlier visit.

The Jubilee, Overground and DLR lines all terminate at Stratford and today’s visit is in homage to the DLR station. Given that I’ve other visits to make, I’ve decided to explore the Stratford area by compass points so you won’t get the whole view of the area until I’ve completed all visits; I went to the West and South West of Stratford today. The Jubilee line visit will focus on the South, and the Overground visit on the East. I hope that makes sense?

The station and the immediate surrounds

As a commuter of nearly 30 years into London, passing through Stratford was a twice daily occurrence and changes, albeit subtle, would suddenly spring to life as I became conscious of them. However there was no greater change than the awarding, in 2005, of the London Olympics in 2012. This had a monumental impact on the station and the town, and through the regeneration of wasteland running through the Lee Valley by the creation of a new shopping complex which opened ahead of the Olympic Park.

The station grew to accommodate new and more frequent trains, a new bus station and of course the creation of Stratford City (Westfield) shopping centre. I am no shopaholic and the occasional jaunt into the centre fills me with acute antipathy as the experience of visiting offers nothing other than a genetically modified version of every other shopping centre and major high street where the multinationals have taken over. Sadly there’s no room for the independent shops any more. It seems though I’m in the minority as thousands still flock there…

Getting here today has not been straightforward. As is often the case over holiday periods, National Rail undertake engineering works when the demand for services is less, and 2018 is no different resulting in my taking three different services to travel what is normally a 22 minute journey. Today it is: train from Gidea Park to Romford; Bus replacement from Romford to Newbury Park; and Central Line from Newbury Park to Stratford. In recent years this has become an oft travelled route so I knew what to expect.

The Olympic legacy

The Olympic Park is well worth visiting as it is place to enjoy the relative peace of a country park with focal points in all corners. The cleaned up River Lee with returning wildlife, the Olympic Stadium now rented to West Ham Football Club and the recently built Bobby Moore Academy are the immediate companions to the west of the shopping centre.

I stop to look further afield and spot an old work reminder to the north silhouetted against the darkening skyline. Here East is a modern and attractive office and retail complex that once housed the Media Centre during the Olympics. For me, it was a prospective location where the organisation I worked for was being encouraged to move and it was my responsibility to set out the business case for a counter proposal. We successfully moved to Aldgate in the end, but I still smile whenever I see the Here East sign.

Wintry Skylines

The skyline as I pass through the park is striking, and only one week on after the Winter Solstice the sun is still low and the sky a deep azure blue set off against the striking and at times threatening cloud formations. I feel compelled to try my hand at aerial photography of a different kind, and I’m pleased with the outcome

Pudding Mill Lane

Skirting the Olympic Stadium, I come across the View Tube, originally built as a viewing area for visitors to wonder at the building works during the park’s construction, but now a ‘community venue with a difference’ hosting a cafe, garden, a studio and a place for bikes and boasts it is open 7 days a week. Alas not when I visited though…

Under the railway bridge (and see my ‘Best Picture’ later), I come to Pudding Mill station. This is the first stop on the DLR out of Stratford heading to Canary Wharf and it’s been a stop I’ve strangely wanted to visit for no reason other than for its name. In recent years, the station has been relocated slightly to the south of its original position as preparatory engineering works for the forthcoming Elizabeth Line tunnel had to be accommodated as it starts it’s underground journey westwards from here.

Whilst roaming the high rise platform and looking west, I muse at the efforts in the distance of many high vis dressed work people congregated on the railway lines…so this is what ‘engineering works’ really looks like?! I pose for you, dear reader, a question purely for your entertainment – can you work out how many people there are working? Why not drop a reply to this blog if you think you know…

Industrial Wasteland

The area south of Pudding Mill Lane is an industrial wasteland still, with some cleared ground serving as a car park for those driving to watch West Ham play – a stone’s throw to the stadium.

Some partly demolished buildings overlooked by high rise accommodation and a surprising parade of houses at City Mill Lock at the confluence of Bow Back, City Mill and Waterworks Rivers. The adjacent houses curiously seem out of character with their surrounds, and the weed filled canal; and the towpath heading back towards Stratford is abandoned and blocked off by fencing.

The Greenway

From City Mill Lock I cross the main A118 High Street and discover Abbey Lane Open Space and the Greenway route, a combined footpath and cycleway and I nearly fall foul of those wishing to pass at speed as they give little notice of their presence. ‘Darn cyclists…!’

In the distance towards West Ham I spot a towered building and resolve to explore but as the day is waning, I decide this will be a journey point on another day when I explore the southern reaches of Stratford.

High Street

Returning to the High Street, and now almost at journey’s end, there’s a stark reminder of what housing regeneration looks like as I pass a cacophony of high rise living accommodation interspersed with traditional buildings. Architecturally attractive on their own, but when viewed so close together it seems to me to be a bit of an eyesore.

Stratford is, however, proud of its rail history as shown off by an intricate ‘railway tree’ sculpture close to the station, as indeed the town is also keen to ensure people know where to go. For me though it’s time to return home by tube, by bus and by rail…

Picture of the Day

Just south of the Bobby Moore Academy, the road meanders under The Greenway, one of the original East London sewers still used, and from the 1990’s covered over to create a footpath to encourage walkers and wildlife. I’ve taken this picture through the wide footpath that’s adjacent to the road that goes under The Greenway

It’s a moody shot and despite the footpath’s location, it’s surprisingly clean, albeit having a dank and dismal feel. But I suspect it’s relatively well maintained as it acts as a cut through from Pudding Mill DLR station and the London Stadium, the home of West Ham United Football Club.

I’ve tried to portray the old arch brickwork, dimly lit by the neon lighting and in the foreground, a shard of light streaming through a gap between the arches and a new concrete bridge. An atmospheric shot I think and somewhat symbolic of the area represented in its immediate surroundings.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 29mm; Film Speed – ISO500; Google Photo Filter – Vista

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For more info, lookup Stratford Station on Wikipedia

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#16: Stratford International – 12/07/2018

An interesting visit to the end of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Stratford International station. It sits on the edge of the Olympic Park and it was built in time for the 2012 London Olympics and serves only the DLR. However it sits alongside the mainline Stratford International station and the mammoth Westfield shopping centre through which you can walk the short distance to Stratford’s main station serving the Central, Jubilee, Overground, DLR and National Rail services.

Having travelled through Stratford main station as a commuter for almost every day from the 6th July 2005 when London was announced as the successful bidder for the 2012 Olympics, I had an almost personal seat to view the Olympic Park’s creation and development. Everyday brought something new to the eye’s attention, and unsurprisingly, the site and the surrounds has continued to develop at an unrelenting pace since then. Predominantly office blocks and luxury apartments with unspoilt views.

The immediate surrounds of the station show signs of continued development with brave attempts to inspire new businesses, office workers and students to the area. Outside the station, the regeneration of the E20 area proudly highlights what’s on offer through sign posted flower pots attractively displayed. I almost wanted Bill, or Ben or Weed to pop up and share a ‘flobalobalob’ story with me. It’s here I met and chatted with Jamile, one of two wardens on patrol and employed to roam the E20 area offering advice, guidance and a friendly face for visitors to approach.

Just staying with the building theme for a moment, work continues across the area with a clear emphasis, quite rightly, on health and safety and hazard warnings. Some with a humorous twist aiming at capturing the building workers’ attention.

Try as I might to ignore Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, I can’t, so here’s a quick homage to its vibrancy, brightness and constant evolution as retail units change hands. On the day I visited, an area had been decked out with faux grass and deck chairs with a live tv broadcast of the tennis at Wimbledon acting as a casual distraction for those weary from shopping or those who had reluctantly accompanied others there :-). What was surprising however, but then again maybe not, and more a reflection of the times, without exception everyone seated was distracted looking at their mobile phones instead of watching the tennis.

On route from the inners of Westfield to the International Station, I pass the outside of a well known department store, whose design is somewhat iconic and renders naming it unnecessary (or does it?).

Almost at journey’s end, I head to Stratford International station and explore its surrounds. The station is run by South Eastern and is part of the only high speed commuter service in Britain. A fairly clinical station with some interesting ‘living wall’ displays outside, and inside there’s a plaque to remind travellers the site was the location of the largest train crew depot in Europe, and in the glory days of steam, the depot achieved a record of building a steam engine in 9 hours and 47 minutes; even by today’s developments that sounds pretty impressive.

Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to travel on a high speed train, I spent the grand sum of £3.90 to travel to London St Pancras station. The service runs every 15 minutes and takes a matter of minutes to get there. Today’s travels ended with a smile as the train conductor clearly loved his job and in a matter of minutes, as we approached St Pancras, I captured three of his announcements:

  1. One to a passenger who was unsure of their onward travel arrangements; he provided a personal destination planner
  2. “…to the ladies who party, and you know who you are: rose wine and raspberries sound enjoyable…”, and finally
  3. ‘Thank you for your company, you’ve made it one of my most memorable of my career’

For more info, look up Stratford International on Wikipedia

Picture of the Day

Meet Bruno, a two year old guard dog; part of Westfield’s security patrol. His handler explained he’s a cross between a malinmor and a dutch hunter; I’m afraid I can’t find any reference to the breed malinmor so I may have misheard the handler’s description; but if any reader out there’s knows this breed then please drop me a line and I’ll update this blog.

Both handler and dog were very friendly but I have no doubt Bruno would quickly jump into action on his handler’s instruction. I decided not to test this out.

I couldn’t quite get him to look straight into the lens as he averted his eyes; trained I guess to keep watching out, but this shot gives a very good impression of his poise, discipline and strength.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/125; Focal Length – 33mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Alpaca

Social Media

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