30 June, 2007

Waltham Abbey and Cross

The Eleanor Cross at Waltham (which comes under Cheshunt in my guidebook) was erected in the 13th century to commemorate one of the resting places of Queen Eleanor (not the overalls)on her way from Harby near Lincoln where she died to burial in Westminster Abbey. This is one of the surviving three original crosses and it is in the middle of a pedestrianised area with a red brick shopping centre nearby. It is one of the best of the eleanor crosses although the upper parts are pure 19th century.

The old Swan Inn has been demolished but its forlorn and pointless sign still crosses the now pedestrianised street from the shopping centre.

Crossing the border into Essex, Waltham abbey contains a fine Norman church of Holy Cross and St Lawrence, which is actually the old abbey nave. There is pure romanesque arcading with characteristic round topped arches and columns with decoration reminiscent of Durham Cathedral. The Abbey was built by King Harold. The ceiling of the church is painted with the signs of the zodiac. I came to the abbey five minutes before closure so only had a brief look round the crypt gift shop (described as a visitors centre but really a gift shop)and the church itself. From what I could see the church was well worth a return visit.

The Welsh Harp Inn acts as a lytch (or corpse) gate (although I have seen that word in a newspaper as a 'Lynch gate') and is a fine and picturesque black and white building, with the timbers having become askew.

The town was a typical small town, again well worth a return visit with what looked like pargeted shops and old ruins.

There is a coöp in the town, in the town.

To get to Harlow I found it was a mile along dual carriageway (hateful phrase - who thought that up?) to Waltham Cross Station or a mile along the Lee Navigation to get to Cheshunt railway station. I chose the latter and saw a heron on the canal, and some very charming boats. Cheshunt station also has more trains to Harlow.

24 June, 2007

Bracing Brighton

Another visit to Brighton, this time for the Coöperative Congress, the large meeting of Coöperative societies that predates the Pioneers. Alan Gill, good County Durham man made history as the last president of Congress and Peter Marks the Chief Executive Designate of the United Coöperative Group made a keynote speech setting out his vision and telling us all that he would know a coöperative principle if it slapped him in the face. However you will no doubt be able to read the congress reports in the Coöperative news if you are so inclined. Friday and Saturday gave good weather but Sunday was wet and I got soaked just going to the Metropole where congress was held (see illustration). Round the back of the Metropole is the little French Church (although it is really the services that are in French). I had a little walk on the pier but really the purpose of the visit was Congress.

17 June, 2007

Bustling Brighton

Brighton is the Queen of the Watering Places, with a lot going on in the summer months. On Saturday Kemp Town Carnival took place with music and stalls and a French Market. I was down with Mark staying at Mike and Ken's flat in Kemp Town (thanks fellas!). The weather was kind and the stalls were good, including the coöp stall, which was giving away a free fair trade banana to everyone who signed a petition to make trade fair. They had almost run out of bananas by 4:00 after bringing 22 cases of bananas! Still, I hope the Kemp Town store did well from the day. We met with Mike and Tony at the carnival and visited the stalls and St Georges Church Kemp Town, a dignified georgian church with a beautiful painted rood and reredos with the obligatory decalogue, creed and Lord's Prayer written down. The blue colour scheme was very calming. This is the second oldest church in Brighton (the oldest is the 14th Century St Nicholas) most of Brighton's churches being Victorian to cope with the growing population as Brighton became a resort and industrial town.

We spent the late afternoon in the pub then had a walk on the pier. We were going to go on the dodgems but it would have been £6 to go on one car for the two of us, although the same for two of us in two cars, so we didn't. Brighton Pier need to get their prices sorted out I think. We had dinner then walked down the sea front to the Metropole Hotel and back. We went back to the pub later.

On the Sunday we walked up through the town Calling in at the Oxfam and Books for Amnesty bookshops. We walked through the Pavillion grounds and saw the fountains playing on the steine, which is a very rare sight (see illustrations) . We also saw the cyclists on the London to Brighton run. 27000 cyclists do the run each year, although at the finish line I saw one man on a motor scooter. He had lost his way, and ended up on the route.

After a short snooze on the pier with a Mr Whippy for Mark (I refused the Mr Whippy but balked at the price of a proper cornet) we went back to the flat to tidy up, and left town. The cyclists were still arriving.

The other illustration is the view towards the seven sisters cliffs from the pier.

10 June, 2007


Hertford is the County Town of Hertfordshire but it's still a small market town at the confluence of the Lee, the River Beane, the River Mimram and the river Rib. The New River also rises nearby. Hertford is delightful with quaint streets, a half-timbered library and an old castle. The peace memorial has a bronze hart on top of it. Outside the library there is a drinking fountain (which doesn't work due to municipal meanness) made from the windows of a 13th century church. There are also half timbered buildings although many of these bear their original pargeting. The curious egyptian style house (see illustration) is located just off the market place near Shire Hall.

After lunch Mark and I went into the 1895 church of All Saints which was having a music marathon. We watched a good looking alto who sang stuff from Peter Warlock, Handel Scarlatti and others. I wasn't really in a concert mood but it was quite enjoyable. Then it was time to go home after a balanced day out.

09 June, 2007

The suburb - Dame Henrietta's dream and Spaniards

A trip to Zone 3 to see a pageant but also a long walk up to Hampstead to take some photographs. The walk was nothing much to write about, going by Euston station, Camden town with its gimcrack market and the TV-AM building now shorn of its egg cups. Haverstock Hill, with the pub where I had the best roast beef in London - the Haverstock Arms, was a bit better leading into Hampstead with its proprietary chapel of St John, Downshire Hill built in the regency period, and the derelict church of St Stephen's Hampstead built in the victorian period. St Stephens was affected by subsidence caused by building the Royal Free Hospital at Hampstead. It is currently being restored but not as a church. There is another church opposite which [is the orthodox cathedral]. St John's Downshire hill is the proprietory chapel for the Downshire Hill estate designed to keep the estate exclusive. A proprietary chapel receives no funds from the diocese and makes no contribution to it. They are usually evangelical in opposition to high church practices elsewhere. The Downshire Hill estate is where Keats lived, and his house is now Hampstead library.

I walked up through Hampstead to the tube station then caught the tube to Golders Green. Arriving early for the pageant I took some photos of Golders Green church St Alban, a nice looking, bricky twentieth century church.

Then it was time to walk up past St Jude's on the hill to watch the pageant in Little Oak Wood. This traced the hundred year history of Hampstead Garden Suburb, a model community planned by Henrietta Barnett for housing of all social classes, although the atmosphere there today is decidedly well to do. Nevertheless as an experiment in town planning it remains a supreme example, although by no means unique. Henrietta was a philanthropist, but also acting out of self interest - she and her husband lived on Hampstead Heath and wanted to protect their view from unsightly development when the railway was driven through. Just like the development I found in my last post in Haringay.
The pageant was a warts and all portrait of Henrietta, and celebrated the suburb as a good place to live, which it undoubtedly is. There is even a suburb song, sung to the tune of the Vicar of Bray, Words by Miss M M Scott

Come all who think that songs are good! A joyous song we'll sing
And praise our Garden Suburb Home until its echoes ring
A home we have beyond compare, where all men may be free
To live in cheery fellowship with man and flow'r and tree.


Come then rejoice and raise your voice and sing right merrily
Good luck attend our Garden Home! Good luck to you and me!

There are two more verses: If there's demand I'll put them on.
Everybody in the audience sang that song but nobody in the audience sang "There'll always be a suburb".

I ended the evening with cheery fellowship with men, althougn not flow'r and tree in the Spaniards Inn on Hampstead Heath, a haunt - in years gone by - of highway robbers including Dick Turpin. Overall an entertaining evening out.

05 June, 2007

Finsbury Park to Hornsey on the new river path.

For the curse of water has come again because of the wrath of G*d
And water is on the Bishop's board and the higher thinker's shrine
But I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine.

An evening walk from Finsbury Park to Hornsey on some of the most boring and dangerous roads in Harringay if not London as a whole. I started out at Finsbury Park Station when I should have got off the train at Manor House. Never mind. Finsbury park is quite attractive to walk through with a pleasant avenue, although you do have to dodge the bicycles and the drunks. Meeting the new river in the corner of the park, I lost it again at the main road. The only redeeming feature of the car-choked Wightman Road was the wonderful post modernist church of St Paul, Harringay (see illustration). The original church was burnt down in 1984 and was rebuilt with a new organ which is apparently exceptionally good. The attached accomodation for the incumbent was also post modernist.

The path by the new river is closed at the request of Harringay Council although much of the New River is open here. There is a tunnel and when I rejoined the river it was at the end of this tunnel where there was a barrage attracting flotsam of very dubious charm! I saw all sorts of refuse in the river here as it ran next to the East Coast Main Line, again the river was on an embankment. I soon needed to leave the river and go via three sides of a triangle to arrive in Hornsey.

There was building work taking place on a pumping station and water treatment works site (luxury flats no doubt) and the path was closed. It was here I saw a Thames Water Authority coat of arms, a combination of the LCC and New River coats.
So I decided to explore Hornsey. I went past a church tower, minus church, that looked like it had been bombed. Actually it was demolished in 1927 and a new church built nearby. Drat, I didn't see the new church and didn't even look! Then I had a walk round Priory Park, complete with three fountains and two people with dogs breaking into the paddling pool. The third fountain was in the 'philosopher's garden' named after a group of old men who meet there in order to have 'casual conversation. The park was a lot more run down than Finsbury Park but there was good play equipment. There were some curious houses round about, including what looked like war surplus buildings - the sort with the crittall windows and the flat overhanging roofs transformed into flats.

Coming out of the park I called in on my friends Jason and Liz. Jason showed me Hornsey Common which had been planted as a wild flower garden - at vast expense.