26 February, 2006

Capital Ring Walk 3- Downham To Crystal Palace, and an art evening.

I continued my journey round the Capital ring on a long walk of 8¾ miles which started at Marvels Lane where I finished the last one. This is now unfamiliar territory to me as I am not familiar with these areas at all, although I have been to Crystal Palace Park a few times. As trains to Grove Park station don’t go where I want them to go I took the bus to Lewisham and changed to go to Grove Park Station, actually on the edge of Downham. The walk is mainly through parks and country lanes but has a few suburban streets and is therefore not particularly interesting. That said there are some excellent views. These are distant views of places and the camera does not do these sorts of views justice- you have to be there!

Arthur Mee has a bit to say about Downham. Named after a chairman of the London County Council it is a model town on 500 acres with 6000 attractive cottages with gardens. One of the streets with some woodland in its central reservation was called Undershaw Road a shaw being a copse! One of Downham’s great facilities is a narrow strip of ancient woodland. This is well maintained and does not seem to be used as a rubbish dump which is often the fate of such places. In fact the whole estate seems to have worn very well in the 70 years it has been up. There are two Coöperative stores here- Downham which is a smaller store and Downham Tavern which is a large store. Both busy when I called. There were views of Canary wharf and docklands from Undershaw Road, which is at quite a high level. Surprisingly high!

Past some of the shops and into another park, Lewisham seem to keep their parks better than Greenwich, which had the Ravensbourne River running through it. Across a railway line and into Beckenham Place Golf club which has a large mansion as its club house. This is Beckenham Place Mansion only open to golfers but perhaps that way its safety is secured unlike Danson House in Bexley. There were some very attractive houses and blocks of flats on Porchester Road. This is an area where a lot of firms have sports and social clubs- these are usually large firms, such as HSBC etc. Then on in the walk went through several parks culminating at Crystal Palace Park where I walked round the maze and admired the remains of the palace. A friend of a friend had a theory that the Government were behind the fire as it was an attraction to German bombers but there is no evidence for this. It must have been a really impressive structure though. Bromley Council run Crystal Palace Park and Bromley have been most unhelpful for the guide leaflets to the capital ring. When I can do the next stage depends on when I get leaflet No 4 – Crystal Palace to Streatham Common. People who read the liberal press will be aware how useless Bromley Council is anyway.

Crystal Palace (upper Norwood) is where 5 boroughs meet- Lambeth, Lewisham, Bromley, Croydon and Southwark.

Upper Norwood Public Library is a curious anomaly- it is jointly funded by Lewisham and Croydon but is independent of both those boroughs. It seemed well stocked and in good order in a modernised historic building. Although notices were posted saying staff did not always have resources to assist enquirers they would do their best. They seemed to be doing very well indeed.

Finished the day at a private view of Carl Hoare’s paintings, which were extremely good, although I thought they were more suitable for a gallery than for a private home.

22 February, 2006

Faversham and the Isle of Sheppey.

An unexpected visit to Faversham and the Isle of Sheppey to see coöp stores on the Island on a rainy day. I set out in the hope that I could take a few photos in Faversham before going on the outing as it is a medieval town but this was not possible owing to the rain. However the town of Faversham is very picturesque with lots of medieval buildings including half timbered houses and a market hall supported on wooden pillars which has a pump in front of it.

The Isle of Sheppey is an island in the Thames estuary reached by a lifting bridge which carries both road and railway. There is a new bridge, which is in the process of construction, to carry the road at a level where it will not need to lift, however the railway bridge will remain and will have to continue to lift. Therefore it seems as though the new bridge and associated infrastructure is a monstrous waste of money, not to mention labour and resources. The island is a popular tourist destination for Londoners as it is only an hour and a half outside London. However it does seem a bit bleak and not well developed. The seaside resort is Sheerness and it needs a lot of money spent on it. Probably only less discerning Londoners go there.

The coöp stores were worth visiting. On return to Faversham we had lunch in a pub called the Chimney Boy which had a lovely warm inglenook and decent food. After leaving there I looked round the town. Unfortunately most of the shops were closed at 4 o’clock in the afternoon! Some of the local shops were open so I don’t suppose it was half day closing. There was a campaign going on to ‘save our shops’ to ensure that local shops were able to stay open. I think they are slowly committing suicide, and therefore nothing can save them. Faversham is a commuter town and commuters will want to shop at six at night. I did not sign the petition to save our shops.

A good day spoiled by the rain.

18 February, 2006

The Capital Ring Walks 1 & 2: Woolwich to Grove Park

Went on the first and second walks of the Capital Ring today. Woolwich to Grove Park station which is at the bottom of Downham (more later). Most of today’s walk I have done before so it was more revision than new territory but one must start at the beginning and keep going. My feet will be happy when they reach the end though. Only 13 more sections to do.

I started at the Woolwich Foot tunnel (where the Capital ring begins, although a circle never ends does it?) and walked along the river, getting slightly lost at a building site. But I did see the Woolwich free ferry in operation. Woolwich was the headquarters of the Royal Arsenal Coöperative Society and although the former Central Stores with their statue of Alexander McLeod were not on the route Commonwealth Buildings (the Coöperative commonwealth of course) were. These buildings are now a funeral depot but there used to be all kinds of productive premises there, including a jam factory. It all looks a bit sad now. Woolwich is not somewhere one would go in search of visual delights, excellent shopping, beautiful architecture and it is better to get out of it fast. I did- via Maryon Park and Maryon Wilson Park. Maryon Park is quite attractive with tree covered hills and valleys made out of old sand pits- Maryon Wilson Park is a bit bleaker although it does contain a children’s zoo with a herd of deer that had to be evacuated during the second world war. In fact Maryon Wilson Park was quite overgrown with some ruined shelters. I don’t think Greenwich Council looks after its parks very well as there was another demolished shelter in Charlton Park and each toilet I passed was closed!

Charlton Park consisted mostly of boys playing football and Charlton House which you can see elsewhere on this web log. Arthur Mee liked it and it is a beautiful house with ceiling plasterwork and chimneypieces. I have been to several events there and it is well worth a visit.

From Charlton Park to Woolwich Common (which I haven’t been across before) this is bleak also, but it is where soldiers drilled in days gone by, then up by Shooters Hill to Severndroog Castle. Severndroog Castle featured in the film Mr In-between (why do they always set British gangster films in South East London? I always know the locations!), but was built to commemorate a British victory at Severndroog which was a pirate fortress in Malabar on the Indian Sub-continent. Here I had a little encounter with two extremely pleasant men out walking their dog. Another dog was playing there with it and I said what a beautiful dog it was. Trouble was it was the wrong dog I referred to! Bang went any chance of being invited in for tea and crumpets there! Actually Castle Wood, Jack Wood and Oxleas Wood around here are very ancient woodlands dating back to Saxon times and they look it.

A stop for refreshment in Jack Wood café then on to the concrete bridge over Rochester way which is the finish of Walk 1 and the beginning of Walk 2.

Walk 2 leads from the dull Eltham Park South (just a football field with nobody playing on it) through some posh suburban streets. I also called in at Holy Trinity Church Eltham which has been re ordered in a modern manner whilst preserving the best of the Victorian parts of the church. The communion table is in the body of the church in true prayerbook style and the congregation sit on chairs with a carpet to warm their feet. There is a stage at the back of the church for performances, and a little chapel, which is dedicated to the fallen of Gallipoli. There is some good stained glass both old and new and a friendly guide who gave me a history of the church.

Outside the church there was a little conduit head which, built in the 16th Century, formerly supplied Eltham Palace with water.

More boring suburban streets for me to walk down until I reached Eltham Palace (which is mentioned elsewhere in the Web log). It is well worth a visit though if you get the chance.

Crossing the railway line into the Borough Of Bromley was marked by green playing fields including the City Of London Sports Ground, and the playing fields of Eltham College. The Playing Fields of Eton in a smaller way. The path is highly fenced and I think I saw a rat (or maybe a squirrel) here. The path also goes by a very tiny River Quaggy at this point. Then on to journey’s end at the signpost on Marvels Lane- but the walk requires a final flourish to Grove Park Station. Home again tired and happy with only 66½ miles to go to complete the Capital Ring which works out as an average of 5½ miles each walk.

05 February, 2006

Fryent country park near Wembley

As Sunday was a nice day I decided to take the camera to Fryent Country Park between Kingsbury and Wembley in Middlesex. This park was like a walk through open fields with a wood in the middle and and old Saxon way called Ele Strete going through.

I started off in Roe Green Park in Kingsbury and took a pic of Kingsbury Manor, once owned by the MP for Islington. It is now a mental health resource centre for asians, but pretty none the less.

There were some good photo opps though the day may be too hazy for them to come out well. One was of a triangulation pillar at Barn Hill with the new Wembley Arch above it like a rainbow- we'll see how this comes out. The Ele Strete was like a woodland path with some woodland glade pictures available, also a very peaceful looking fox lying in the grass. It took me a good 30 seconds to realise it was dead, but took a picture of it anyway as it looked like it was only sleeping. And here it is!

Barn Hill was a slightly more formal park with trimmed lawns.

On the way home the Jubilee line was out of action so a 45 minute journey took over two hours. Very poor.

The photos show a capital ring signpost at Barn Hill pond and an arty one of my shadow to prove I was there.

Actually the Capital Ring and the London Loop might be a project for the spring and summer ahead. If I can get hold of the directions. Brent Council have been very helpful so far- many thanks to the Brent Parks Dept!