31 May, 2006

Banbury- Oxfordshire Market town.

A visit to Banbury- but I didn't ride a cock horse to get there- more like a chiltern train.

A fine lady on a white Horse- Banbury Posted by Picasa

This is a rather nice market town in North Oxfordshire with a pretty market square and a pleasant (if small) museum although rather spoilt by the member of staff who admonished me at considerable length that no photography was permitted in the museum! The museum contained the acid embossed glass from the former Banbury Industrial Coöperative Society door so that was good- but I can't give you a photo of it.

The locals obviously don't eat after 3 as this is when all the public houses stop serving food and only a few serve after 5. Not very adventurous then. There was a curious church with a pepper pot spire and of course the famous cross which was erected only in Victorian times as the reformers pulled the old one down as a relic of superstition- perhaps it was! Banbury was a roundhead stronghold in the civil war and it seems to be pleasant if dull. It was a good day out and I didn't have to wait longer than 5 minutes for trains that day either.

Black and white house Banbury Market place Posted by Picasa

Pride in Birmingham and Leamington Spa

A bank holiday visit to Birmingham - Thanks Phil! - followed by a visit to Leamington Spa.

Birmingham pride was on this Bank Holiday weekend so I decided to go up. You can see pics on dontstayin.com. It was pretty poor considering it cost £10 but I did see my friend Richard and his mates and Mike and Tony were also up there.

All in all a good time.

Leamington Spa is a pleasant Georgian Spa town that really has seen better times and competition from Stratford on Avon and Warwick. The saline spring still operates but I can drink salt water any time. The library and museum are housed in an old swimming pool (the pump room) and the museum has a restored turkish bath and some water treatment rooms. Still a bit posh it has seen better days, the church is massive and was used while Coventry Cathedral was bombed out in the war. I couldn't get in though.

The highlight was Jephson Gardens, named after the doctor who promoted the Spa although the land was given by someone called Willes. This park contains a greek temple to Dr Jephson with a statue. It also contains a curious fountain in the shape of a parachute commemorating seven Belgian parachutists who were killed during hostilities. There are lakes and fountains and a tropical plant house (useful shelter from the rain) which has a saline fountain in it. The evidence that it is saline is that copper plated coins thrown in it go turquoise.
The worst thing about the park was that all the shelters were locked up with grilles. Similar to American jails. I would have thought that Leamington Criminals would be dealt with in Warwick but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is some kinky purpose to it. Certainly it is no help to anyone who wants to shelter from the rain.

22 May, 2006

Capital Ring walk 13, 14 and 15 – a mixed bag done over 2 days.

Ups and downs, success but not very good success: I have now completed the capital ring!

For walk 13 (and part of 14), Sunday 21st May 2006 I got to Stoke Newington, Cazenove road by a rather unpleasantly full bus. The walk is not well signed here with a few signs missing in the earlier parts of the walk, but what made this walk really unpleasant was the rain which came down in torrents when I was nowhere near a bus stop and dried up when I was. That and some of the depressing areas the walk leads through. April showers in May forsooth. Anyway I walked through some boring suburban streets peopled with patriarchal types, this being the Chassidic Jewish quarter.

As I entered a street called Springfield I saw a place I knew from College, Lea view House. I studied it for my housing management exams. It had been built in the 1930s as a slum clearance scheme with excellent amenities such as tennis courts for the tenants. It had fallen into disrepair and worse and was refurbished as a pioneer in community involvement. It looks as though it is still thriving. The Estate Manager’s name at the time of the refurbishment was Dick Head. You can get a film about it all should you be so inclined.

Lea View House Posted by Picasa

Springfield Park of 33 acres looked very pleasant and I’m inclined to go and do this walk again (from there) as there was a park café and (allegedly) a conservatory and bandstand all with views towards the River Lee. Rain rather stopped play here so I just carried on across the River Lee by bridge where I could not get my camera and gadget bag through the bollards. A really portly person could not have done it at all – is Lee Valley Regional Park fattist? I walked through the Walthamstow Marshes blinded by the rain and sheltered under Railway arches which were where A V Roe made the first all British powered flight in a triplane, the Yellow Terror, in 1909. This is commemorated by a plaque which I could not see. The next part of the walk past a trim track in a local park was closed but with the fencing down and already wet through I decided to chance it. The Middlesex water filter beds were on this stretch, which is something else I’d like to see but had to give it a miss.

I passed Hackney Marshes with its 80 football pitches and the Lesney Matchbox toy factory (which does not seem to be used for that anymore) on the river at Homerton Road. Here the rain got so bad I left the route to wait for a bus but no bus came and the rain eased off so I just carried on. The Lee here is broad and wide. Inconsistent spellings are intentional – natural features are lee, manmade are lea. Who am I to argue with the Park Authority?

The Eton Mission Boat house commemorating Mr Johnstone was built in 1934 and still provides rowing and canoeing facilities for east Londoners.

Eton Mission Rowing Club Posted by Picasa

I missed the turn off the route here and carried on to do part of Walk 14. I walked past the junction with the Hertford Union Canal where a new block of flats has been built. Quite nice! Continuing (still in the rain) to Old Ford Lock there was a party, which appeared to be doing the route in the opposite direction (widdershins).

Capital ring sign old ford lock Posted by Picasa

I then went onto the Greenway, which is really the mound that covers the Northern Outfall Sewer which discharges London’s waste water into the river for carrying away at high tide. Designed by Joseph Bazalgette in the 1860s like all London’s waterworks they are still doing the same job as they ever did for a larger population that likes getting washed more often than their ancestors did, and has more baths, basins and toilets than the were the norm in the mid 19th century. It’s all rather a strain. Investment in new supplies now please – and Ken that desalination plant sounds attractive, although you want us to grow cactuses in our window boxes. Let it through!!

This path went through an area of rubbish dumps and dirty industry, most of which backed the bid for London 2012. I suppose their businesses are worth more as land for development than the business is worth. Pity, because if we can’t add value to something we can’t afford anything.

I left the walk for that day at Stratford High Street.

As the next day 22nd May 2006 dawned bright and sunny towards the East I headed off again to Stratford to rejoin the walk. Unfortunately it dulled in again so although not as bad as previously still pretty grim walking. At the start of today’s walk was a block of flats called Albert Bigg Point. Does this person live in the block? If so can I meet him?

There was a human sundial set into the ground on the meridian line. I could not check it for accuracy due to lack of sunlight!

I crossed some of the Bow Thames Backwaters- navigable rivers to the Thames and passed Abbey Mills Pumping Station built to pump sewerage from the Northern Outfall sewer to the Thames. This was a curious blend of large Victorian house with an ornate porch and a public building of some sort with a Moorish turret. Moorish seems to be an architecture well used for sewerage. At the Channelsea river there is this piece of sculpture – part of the machinery from Abbey Mills.

Machinery from Abbey Mills Posted by Picasa

The Greenway is not interesting walking although I did have to use my ingenuity to scramble over some pointed poles to get out where Newham Parks Dept had not unlocked the gate at one end of the strip. I checked my trousers and there were no punctures, I’m pleased to say.

After the greenway the walk led me to a view of Beckton Alps. Beckton was named after Beck, chief engineer to the Gas Light and Coke Company (the GLCC), who laid out a new town around the refraction plant. Superseded by North Sea Gas in the 1970s this became redundant and the Beckton Alps are the slagheaps from the plant. They do look like Alps though. After this I went into Beckton District Park with loads of waterfowl all with chicks. Two swans with three chicks, several geese with many chicks. Not that all will reach maturity but a lot will. The park was pleasant enough with identified trees and moderately well kept. I decided to go on to Walk 15 to finish what I began three months ago.

This was by far the least interesting part of the ring. Most of the walk was in scrubby parkland or housing estates, even the bits by the river with good views were not so interesting.

I did visit the University of East London Campus but rain again stopped play there. However wonderful it is it will never be great in the driving rain. The views from the riverside included the RACS former central premises clock (You’ll have to visit my other blog to see that one) and the free ferries. The day was against me for seeing the railway museum at North Woolwich (once part of the Borough of Woolwich) as this only opens on weekends.

The Woolwich Foot Tunnel was opened in 1912 and confusingly has two entrances: one for stairs and the other for lifts. I took the lift, although unlike the Greenwich Foot Tunnel these lifts are small and have no seats in them. Perhaps the Woolwich Tunnel was built when the Moderates were in power on the LCC and the Greenwich one when the Progressives were in power.

The Picture shows the gloomy Woolwich tunnel.

Subterranean Gloom- Woolwich foot tunnel Posted by Picasa

I completed the walk with a sigh of relief. For a moment I reflected on the walks I would do again. Certainly 4, 7, 12 and 13 which have been the highlights. Never again will I do 14 and I probably won’t do 9 again either.

Now for the London Loop…

21 May, 2006

Manchester, Stockport and Hazel Grove.

A visit to Manchester for a day to attend the Coöperative Group Annual General Meeting led to a day out with Mike and Tony to look at the coöps in and around Stockport, by bus.

Stockport is dominated by its viaduct and the Coöperative Bank pyramid call centre building. There is also a hat works museum (!) and as you can see from the picture it has air raid shelters. Does Stockport council know something that we don’t? Are they expecting an air raid? Shouldn’t they share their intelligence with the rest of us?

Stockport takes air raids seriously Posted by Picasa

Stockport also has a very fine coöp department store, formerly United Norwest Society’s Central Premises and now owned by Anglia Regional. Unfortunately I can’t show you any pictures of the store as the loss prevention officer told us not to take any pictures of the store from the street (and I will never take pictures inside a store). I wasn’t sure though if the person was the loss prevention officer as he did not have any form of identification.

Hazel Grove suggests images of a rural idyll amongst the hazel trees. The reality is somewhat different. The rural idyll has gone brickily industrial, a long, busy and dirty street and a very uncared for air. The Coöperative superstore there looked somewhat dated and the Coöperative Bank ‘tardis’ kiosk had been vandalised to death, the screen on the ATM had been booted in (still working though), all the lights had been put out rather unpleasant graffiti had altered the sign ‘Telephone Banking’. A rather dismal place all told.

14 May, 2006

Highgate to Stoke Newington- the old straight track

Walk 12 of the Capital Ring began with a steep climb from Highgate station up to the Highgate Library (shut on a Sunday). Then the walk went down the road leading to the Archway, with a tantalising glimpse at that glorious arch before going down onto the old straight track of the parklands walk. You can see two locked and gated tunnels but you do not walk past these- you carry on to the right and walk towards the East.

highgate tunnels Posted by Picasa

The track is London’s longest nature reserve and is home even to Muntjack Deer although I didn’t see one. The track has artworks installed, both officially and unofficially. An official one is the figure of a spriggan emerging from the old brickwork outside the former crouch hill station. Spriggans were said to steal human children and leave baby spriggans in their place!

the spriggan Posted by Picasa

The track crosses Tollington Park, which is where, at No. 63 Miss Eliza Barrow was murdered by Frederick Henry Seddon, called by some the meanest murderer of all time. He poisoned Miss Barrow with using flypapers, but it is hard to have any sympathy for any of the participants in the case, although Seddon called on the Great Architect of the Universe when in the dock to try to prove his innocence. All rather too late as he was hung.
After crossing the East Coast Main Line I entered Finsbury Park where I was surprised to find Jason Beazley and a friend of his, Greg, cycling through the park. We passed the time of day. Jason had been going to work but wasn’t going to make it on a bicycle that day so was going home.
Finsbury Park was quiet and, in keeping with London park names, is 3 miles from Finsbury. Southwark Park is also in Rotherhithe not Southwark although it is in the Borough of Southwark. But a pleasant park none the less. The New River was next. I have walked by this in Hertfordshire at Cheshunt. The new river is not a river and it isn’t new. It is over 400 years old and is a canal designed to bring water to the capital from springs in Hertfordshire, a function it performs to this day. It looked quite full as did the reservoirs. I could not walk all the way along the river as the path was closed but I walked down Seven Sisters Road (which for some reason I translate into German – Sieben schwestern) and joined the new river again disturbing two rats in the process.
The reservoirs were home to bird life including a moorhen with chicks, a nesting swan some Canada geese with chicks and a heron, again the heron flew away before I could get a good shot. Rather camera shy are herons. Here you can see two geese with their goslings.

geese and goslings Posted by Picasa

The path came out at the castle, a former pumping station, and the next green spot was Clissold Park. Jason had warned me that Clissold Park would be busy and he was right. There were lots of people using the park and several drinking fountains in view of the reservoirs nearby I suppose. I drank at the fountain in memory of “three sweet sisters” aged one three and four. Clissold Park is very beautiful with lakes and flowering trees, all dominated by the massive spire of George Gilbert Scott’s St Mary’s Church. The Mansion in Clissold park holds a café and I had a fairly nice burger here! The walk led on by the little 16th Century church, also dominated by the 19th Century one. I had a peep into the old church but something was going on in it so I didn’t go further. The fine 1930s Stoke Newington Town Hall is now just relegated to offices for Hackney Council but Stoke Newington Church Street is fine with lots of cafes and fair to lousy bookshops with surly assistants or maybe they were their proprietors. I was impressed with this street and it seems like one of the nicer parts of Hackney.
Leaving Church Street behind I entered Abney Park Cemetery, where William Booth founder of the Salvation Army is interred and where Isaac Watts has a memorial (although he is buried with other great dissenters in Bunhill Fields). The ruined chapel (including ruined outside toilet with pointed window) looked rather sad, I hope the trust can restore it. The cemetery as a whole was very overgrown and luxuriant. Over 300000 people have been buried there. One of the graves had a racehorse with a horseshoe over it, one had a lion couchant and yet another had a bicycle on to commemorate a record breaking feat of cycling. The Cemetery and the walk ended at Stamford Hill. A very quiet walk with some pleasant scenery and only 12 miles to Woolwich!!

09 May, 2006

Hendon to Highgate – Walk 11 of the Capital Ring.

One of the nicest walks so far in many ways and especially on the domestic architecture front. So it should be as it incorporates Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Starting at Hendon Park I took a walk to Brent Park. This was not clearly signposted and I did get slightly lost on the way. Brent Park was tatty it just looked like waste ground but the 1000 year old duck decoy lake was interesting to see as were the little pillars (like a fallen down bridge) over the Brent River. This led me to the mutton brook and eventually to Hampstead Garden Suburb, a model suburb, laid out by Parker and Unwin.

The suburb is the forerunner of 1920s council estates but unlike these the suburb has had money spent on it and consequently is a very pleasant place indeed. The Lyttleton Playing Fields had an interesting 1930s pavilion (see Picture) and the walk to East Finchley station passed through a 1930s development with a little green area in the middle of it (see picture).

lyttleton Pavillion Posted by Picasa

beauty in suburbia Posted by Picasa

East Finchley station has a sculpture of an archer on it to symbolise rapid transport. Ironic it should be on the Misery line but the extension to East Finchley must have seemed rapid when it was built.

Cherry Tree Wood (formerly Dirthouse Wood as it was where London’s night soil was dumped) is more of the ancient Middlesex woodlands. This is a nice park and somewhat unexpected in the middle of the traffic on the Great North Road.

Highgate wood is where the Capital Ring was launched in 2005 and there is a commemorative plaque. The City Corporation has opened a café there which was very busy. The whole wood was thronged with people unlike the nearby Queens Wood which was so peaceful I sat in it for a good quarter of an hour and saw nobody!

Highgate station represented journey’s end – for now at least.

Capital Ring inaugauration plaque Posted by Picasa

Weymouth – King George III and Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

A mistake led me to a day out in Weymouth, where the boat trains used to run in the streets and the Condor Ferry still makes its expensive way to Guernsey and Jersey. We intended to go to Swanage but ended up in Weymouth. Weymouth was made famous by King George III the first monarch to enter a bathing machine in 1789 and there is a garishly coloured statue of him by the sea. There is also a clock erected to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and the picture shows this monument. Weymouth is a dignified Georgian place with a few modern touches that do not detract. It has beautiful views of the Dorset coast and a marina.

Of course the joke goes “I went to Weymouth for my holidays”
“In Dorset?”
“Yes, I’d recommend it to anyone!” Boom boom!

jubilee clock weymouth Posted by Picasa

Bournemouth and Boscombe - Health Resort?

I made a day trip to Bournemouth, which always reminds me of Scarborough. Bournemouth is celebrating 100 years either this year or last year and it has always been a planned town with the gardens running down to the sea front complete with pines which seem to indicate that the resort was aimed at tuberculous patients – of a refined sort of course. You have to pay to go on the pier (6d probably) so I didn’t take up that pleasure but went in the Russell Coates Museum (admission free). This museum is in the former home of an ex mayor of Bournemouth (Mr Russell Coates) and is being restored by the Bournemouth Council to house the Russell Coates Collection and other things. The house itself is interesting with its insights into late Victorian interior design. The fireplace in the study had a monogram on the tiles – MRC – which could stand for Metropolitan Railway Company! It’s a nice museum though and feels quite pleasant as you walk around.

After this I walked along the cliffs to Boscombe where the picture was taken. It was a beautiful sunny day and the gorse was in bloom. Then I went on to Pokesdown where I got the train back.

The picture shows beach huts under the cliff with gorse behind.

Beach huts and gorse - Boscome Posted by Picasa

01 May, 2006

Greenford to Hendon- stages 9 and 10 of the Capital Ring

After an unpromising start the weather got better in the morning so I decided to continue the walk. The water meadows at Greenford (with views over a shopping centre) were OK but Horsenden Hill at 84 Meters (278 feet) was one of the highlights of this walk, which took in some very diverse areas. Firstly though I walked by the towpath of the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) and saw a heron. I just had time to get a picture (it will be OK but not good) when it flew away its massive wings flapping. I left the canal at Ballot Box Bridge. The advertised visitors centre for Horsenden Hill is nothing of the kind. They are lax about locking up and the gate was open when I called although “it shouldn’t be” said one of the rangers. Getting onto Horsenden Hill was easy enough. There was a great abundance of birdlife and I saw a Goldfinch, a Nuthatch and plenty of tits in the old woodland. The top of the hill had some wonderful views, again the sort that cannot be captured on camera so you’ll need to go and see them yourself! The thing about Horsenden Hill is that there are two reservoirs under it, one used and one disused. Surely in these times of drought both should be used.

In the woods coming down from Greenford towards Sudbury Hill the bluebells were in bloom and this was a chance to use the rolleinar close up lens. I hope I have a good macro photo of the bluebell!

After this the walk led through some suburban streets (which with the number of skips around looked more like building sites) past a rather attractive brick built church with a concrete cross and a beautiful peace garden and up to Sudbury Hill Station in the moderne style. Off the walk there was a cottage ornee style building bearing the legend Lancsville. I do not know what this was but it was most incongruous amongst the 1930s factories and houses.

Back on the walk there was a steep climb up Piggy Lane and an incongruous Regency Terrace in a modern gated development overlooking playing fields. Next a steep climb up Sudbury Hill to Harrow, dominated by its school for boys, rather posh don’tcha know, and its church of St Mary. The church (heavily restored) was being used for an ‘art’ exhibition but these were mostly chocolate boxy views and cutesey teddy bears playing poker so awful daubs really. Harrow school was quite attractive with buildings dating from all periods, but none of them were open this morning so I couldn’t go in. The playing fields were fun with joggers wearing skimpy shorts and taking the Ducker Path I took a naughty diversion to see the old derelict swimming pool for Harrow School. After a brief getting lost on Northwick Park Golf Course dodging the golf balls I came out into Northwick Park itself where there was some filming going on. The walk leaflet said that the Windemere pub was noted for its 1930s interiors so I stopped there for refreshment. Unfortunately it was only liquid refreshment that they could offer so I had a pint and soaked up the atmosphere. It had horizontal panelling on the walls, a tiled fireplace with pictorial tiles of windmills and a scalloped coved ceiling with globed brass chandeliers. There was a dancing room (which I didn’t see much of) and the gents had large upright urinals. The interior was typically 1930s but it also had a typical 1930s smoky fug and an untypical large screen television for football matches. I did not stay long there.
Walk 10 led me through South Kenton which appears to be quite a poor suburb, the Borough of Brent is not so posh as Harrow and in fact this section of the walk was quite dowdy altogether. I passed under the Jubilee Line and saw (but did not pass) a little brick church with a pepper pot turret in concrete – very amusing! Thtough more suburban streets into Fryent Country Park, (see earlier entry) then on into Kingsbury where the old church of St Andrew incorporates roman bricks in its structure. I could not see inside it. The new church of St Andrew has been moved stone by stone from where it stood in Wells Street (WC1).

The next port of call was the Welsh Harp (or Brent) Reservoir which was built to supply the Regent’s Canal with water. The welsh Harp was a pub with a music hall and dining room and was a great resort in Victoria’s day. Demolished in 1971 to make way for the Hendon Passover. After this there were some very dull suburban streets but Hendon Park at the end was good. Basic and small but full of life. All in all these two walks were too much for one day but I managed it!
The picture shows the Greenford Cascade