20 March, 2006

Crystal Palace to Streatham - Croydon’s metroland.

Walk no 4 in the capital ring cycle (or rather walk) which took me over the hills around south London on a gloriously sunny (if cold) Sunday. This is a hilly walk with some fairly steep climbs but some stunning views over towards the city when walking along a ridge of South London hill. Beginning at the Crystal palace, Norwood (not Sydenham) with its somewhat noisy museum with interesting displays this walk leads to the station at Streatham Common, although I cheated and finished at Streatham Peace Memorial. I have covered Norwood in a previous post and I’m sure I will cover Streatham later.

After a somewhat uninteresting start this walk went up Belvedere Road where there was a house with two lions on it.

lion house Posted by Picasa
The road then went through Westow Park which is plain but had a building in it that I could not see its purpose- perhaps a youth club? Then via Upper Norwood Recreation Ground, just a field really, to Beulah Hill, which, with Bentleys in mock tudor mansion drives, is reminiscent of Sir John Betjeman’s Metroland. From this section were glorious views downhill towards St Pauls and Canary Wharf. The other side has views towards Croydon. These views do not come out on camera so no pictures unfortunately. Then down Biggin Hill and through the ancient Biggin wood. There were four tennis courts here and three were in use so it looks like the tennis season has already started in Croydon.

After Biggin Wood the walk led me through a 1930s housing estate of fairly substantial houses. One with a 1950s Wolesley outside (this walk is all cars) See the photo here which I have GIMPed to black and white to give a period look. It could have been taken in the 1950s…

Posted by Picasa

Norwood Grove was where my film ended. As it was such a nice day, and the purple flowers in Norwood Grove gardens were so pretty that I decided to load up with a colour film to take the pictures. This was a good choice as it stayed good all day. Norwood Grove Mansion is used for a bowling club and some other purpose which Croydon Council does not even hint at. I thought as it was the home of the Nettlefolds (the N in GKN, G is Guest and K is Keen) that it might be something to do with music as the Nettlefold Hall is part of the Music Library in West Norwood but I cannot be sure. It may just be mothballed. Anyway the gardens were very neat and tidy and the little lodge near a dried up tributary of the River Graveney and a row of 400year old oak trees mark the boundary between the Croydon part of Norwood and Streatham which is in Lambeth.

Streatham common is not particularly interesting but the Rookery Gardens (not on the walking route) are quite something and well worth the detour. On the side of a hill they descend in terraces to an olde Englishe Garden with ponds, crazy paving and a wishing well which is part of the original Streatham Spa with its medicinal wells. An informal garden with a water cascade and stepping stones leads back up the hill to a nearby café furnished with Ercol chairs but with somewhat surly service one expects in park cafés of low quality (although not low prices). I completed (well nearly) the walk by walking to the newly cleaned peace memorial which stands in a little park near a council estate called Albert Carr Gardens. I do not know where I have read about this but the name is familiar. As is Pullman court which I saw on the ‘bus home. Pullman court is an iconic modernist block of flats recently the subject of a Twentieth Century Society building of the month.

All in all this walk is recommended.

13 March, 2006

Stratford on Avon- Warwickshire Resort

Stratford on Avon (or Stratford upon Avon as the railway station is named) is a pleasant little market town in Warwickshire. I went there Thursday to Sunday and stayed at the Holiday Inn (what came first the ‘White Christmas’ film or the hotel chain I wonder?). The Holiday Inn was gradually being redecorated and refurbished and the rooms looked a little tired but the public areas and swimming pool (with better than expected quota of cutie-pies) were up to date and clean.

Stratford on Avon has more than its share of black and white buildings. Some of these are more authentic than others, but restorations have generally been good. There is a large theatre complex on a greensward near the Avon River, and these lawns have street lamp columns donated by cities and countries all over the world. Amongst the ones I saw were from Westminster, Hungary, Portsmouth, Southampton and America. The town is obviously a resort with lots of restaurants and touristy pubs, although when I arrived at 2200 on Thursday there were very few diners and some restaurants were closed.

The River Avon and the canal run through the town. There is an old bridge over the Avon and a canal basin that joins the river. I took a picture of a boat that had almost gone over the weir – cast adrift or somebody not looking where they were going – who can tell? There were narrow boats including a floating art gallery in the canal basin and moorings that must be crowded in summer. There were lots of ducks and swans.

I found two second hand book shops both on the pricey side but I thought that was rather few. Perhaps there’s a business opening for an entrepeneur? Charity shops were reasonably well represented but not well stocked.

The CoöperativesUK conference was stimulating and well attended with some controversial debate. Already the phrase ‘post Stratford’ is being used. All in all a worthwhile visit.

06 March, 2006

Chatham and Rochester

Arthur Mee says that Chatham has little that’s lovely and I’m inclined to agree. I was there for an East Kent store visit. St Mary’s Island was quite attractive where the first store was. A lot of effort has been put into cleaning up the former Naval Dockyard and there are some good developments. The rest of Chatham is still grotty although it was a good visit. At one store we visited the derelict hall above. Although my photos were poor some, did come out, including the old Coöperative Women’s Guild noticeboard and the photo of the lady who had had her wedding reception in the hall some forty years ago.

We also visited two other small places around East Kent.

A very enjoyable day out with fine weather followed by a drink in a Rochester pub. No chance to walk round the towns alas!

The picture is an old one of Rochester Cathedral