14 October 2014

Trinity Buoy Wharf and East India Dock

A few weeks ago I finally found time to visit this once thriving area of London docklands.

We met at East India station and walked down the meridian line to the Thames and along the river's edge to East India Dock. Malcolm's hat was a bit big for him. It was the day of the Tall Ships and the cormorants had also come out to watch them.
The old dock basin looked sad and lonely, like a desolate wasteland with stinky stagnant water. Orchard Place, the road to leading to Trinity Buoy Wharf, is littered with street art including a taxi with a tree 'growing' out of it and a wall made of colourful cable ties. The northern section of Orchard Place which forms a kind of island surrounded by the loop of Bow Creek, was once a district inhabited by people who worked in the area and had barely ventured further than two miles from their homes. The site is now being developed. Images on the hoardings show yet another conglomeration of high rise glass and pre-formed plastic.
But forward into Trinity Buoy Wharf itself...

It's a steam punk's dream environment with art and history and containers as homes thrown into the mix. Read more here on Trinity Buoy Wharf's website.

Also see this wonderful episode of The Lost Valley of London here:

7 October 2014

The Proverbs of Hell

Earlier this year I posted about the mosaics in the National Gallery.
Another major London art gallery also has a fabulous mosaic floor, and this can be found in an octagonal room at the back of Tate Britain.

Dating from 1923, eight panels by Boris Anrep illustrate William Blake's 'Proverbs of Hell'.
Some of the statements within it are wonderful. I particularly like "The Cistern contains, the Fountain overflows".
Read more about it here.

30 September 2014

Walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel

Jen had been on about doing this for months. We finally agreed a date and met at Rotherhithe station on Sunday 14th September – a Sunday being chosen because the tunnel would be less trafficated*
There is pedestrian access to the tunnel opposite the station. We walked down the stairs (there is a similar set of stairs further down the soft slope on the opposite side and a similar arrangement at the north side) but then we turned right/south so that we could walk the full length, stopping to admire St Olav's Norwegian church with it's lovely long boat weather vane and the BRUNEL artwork near the mouth of the tunnel by Kevin Boys and Steve Cornish.

And so we set off for our march through the tunnel. I walked on the east side and Jen and Malcolm were on the west side. J+M got to briefly examine the old ornate Victorian access stairs that come up next to the Brunel Museum on the south bank and within King Edward Memorial Park on the north. These now house the extractors and there are signs saying not to loiter due to the fumes. Ugh.
On my side I had the green signs indicating how far there was to go in either direction and I also spotted that there were evenly-spaced rectangular metal handles about six inches wide all the way along at shoulder height. I am guessing that perhaps these were used to tie frightened horses to, or something similar. Answers please.
"Beer" said Malcolm as we exited. Being a Sunday we had to wander the Limehouse streets for a while until the pubs opened at noon. I took them over to York Square Gardens and we investigated a gorgeous little row of Georgian house in Flamborough Walk where front gardens must have been truncated when the railways arrived.

Hurrah. Noon! Beer o'clock!  I'd spotted the The Old Ship on the corner of York Square Gardens when I was in the vicinity a month before – it's got a Mercer's maiden on it.
Lovely pub, lovely people. Good cheap ale and proper hand-made fresh sandwiches. They do cabaret nights, open mic nights, there's a beer garden (not needed really when it's a corner pub with street seating), and the place is festooned with amusing and interesting knick-knacks. I can't recommended this place highly enough. I'd be more than happy to have it my local.

Read Malcolm's account here and be sure to scroll down and see me imitating a breakdown.

*a word another friend invented which I think should be in common use

23 September 2014

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

On Saturday 23rd August I needed to go to the Old Royal Naval College to supplement my stock at the shop and, because I'd arrange that month's forage for later on that day in Wapping, I thought I'd walk there via the foot tunnel and the Thames Path.
I sat with an ice cream near the flower beds of soft grasses and watched the world go by for a while before setting off.
Sir Alexander Binnie's 1217ft foot tunnel was constructed in 1902 so that people living on the south side could get to work in the docks on the north side. It runs 50ft under the Thames and is accessed by a circular staircases around lifts (that's elevators to you guys across the pond!) within distinctive domed shafts.
And it's free.

Considering it was a Saturday and how busy Greenwich was that day (it was tourists a go go!) I'd assumed the tunnel would be rather busy. But as you can see by these pics it was fairly empty. I walked briskly through it, narrowly dodging a lunatic cyclist who either was unable to read all the No Cycling signs or was intent on flaunting the rules.
At the north side I met my friend Jen in Island Gardens and we admired the view as we waited for some other foragers to join us for the walk to Wapping.
The pic below is the view looking back at Greenwich just to the east of Island Gardens at the most southern point of the Isle of Dogs where the Thames Path  restarts along the wall at the river's edge. I've just about managed to get all the key Greenwich landmarks into the shot...
L-R: The Old Royal Naval College, University of Greenwich, Naval College Gardens, the National Maritime Museum (hidden by trees), the entrance to the foot tunnel, The Cutty Sark, Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory and Planetarium

Coming soon... another way to sub-navigate the Thames on foot...

19 September 2014

Classic Car Boot Sale this weekend at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

You'd have probably thought I'd be banging on about this being Open House weekend, but I'd booked up for the Classic Car Boot Sale before I realised the clash.
And anyway, I have worn myself out in previous years chasing about London looking at interiors.
Tomorrow and Saturday you will find me and my friend Kevin outdoors selling all sorts of bric-a-brac from the boot of one of his cars – a black 1965 Zodiac (see bottom right) as used/featured in Endeavour, a Dr Who special and a Dizzee Rascal promo.

Pics from the March 2014 event along the Southbank

16 September 2014

Rotherhithe and Bermondsey

Following on from a post earlier this year about Surrey Docks, here are some more of my photos taken along the riverside near Rotherhithe and Bermondsey.

Boats, old signs, river views... even cormorants and stalactites. 

12 September 2014

Hanway Street and Oxford Street renovation

I recently went to check out the Veno's Lightning Cough Cure ghostsign that has been revealed due to some renovations on the triangular site bordered by Hanway St at the eastern end of Oxford Street.
It is, at the moment, possible to stand on the southern side of Oxford Street and see almost straight through to Tottenham Court Road, as there is now almost nothing left but a few propped up facades.
I have great memories of Hanway Street. It was my favourite road for late night bars in the 1990s. I fondly recall that a few after work drinks in Bradley's would transmogrify into a 3am taxi after the Mia Seville/Titos/Troy Club bar crawl and then more drinking and dancing at Costa Dorada. And I fondly recall The Angus Steak House – a place I never went inside but found great amusement when the backlight on the G was not working for a few days.

I am now wondering how and why that Veno's sign was placed on that site in the first instance –  it looks to me as if the building that abuts it was built in the same period so surely it would have blocked the ad? Also, I am guessing there must have been boarding down the middle of the sign to bridge the gap between the chimney breasts. Perhaps the building next door was constructed later than the sign was painted? but that doesn't make sense because the ad does not appear to be as old as either of the fascias. Oh, I dunno. My head hurts.

On the corner of Soho Street, where the lovely angled corner and cupola of Walton's Old Queen's Head 1880 used to be, a sort of fantasy building being constructed. It looks like a lot of shower curtains with a Christmas tree attached to the top (see second pic, above). Need I say more?!
I am just hoping that two of the oldest buildings in Oxford St, on the same side of the street nearer Tott Ct Rd Station, which were both tagged by an insensitive street 'artist', are listed and won't also be lost.

9 September 2014

Richard's got an allotment

Lat month I went to East Finchley allotments.
Let's keep this short....

It's bloody lovely up there.
We dug up things, we picked things, we raked things, we chatted with the neighbours, and we came home with heavy bags full of lovely crunchy and juicy stuff which, in contrast to the crap you can buy in the shops that goes floppy or mouldy within days, kept fresh for weeks and probably would have done so for even longer had I not eaten it all.
Yum yum... I especially liked the golden beetroot.
Thanks Richard.
Just like Arnie, I'll be back :-)

5 September 2014

Angel Canal Festival, Sunday 7th September

This Sunday come and find me at my stall on Danbury Road bridge at the Angel Canal Festival. The event takes place around the the local streets bordering Regent's Canal, Graham Street Park and City Road Basin.

Top row: Danbury Road
Second row: City Road Basin where some large developments are being constructed at the moment. I am intrigued by 'Canaletto' as a choice of name as this rather infers he lived here. This is also the first time I have seen the use of the phrase 'limited edition' in this sense. Lexicon is the name given to the huge tower being constructed next door. Lexicon means 'a wordbook or dictionary' or 'the vocabulary of a certain language'. I can think of lots of word to describe it in a very colourful language.

Some more interesting things in the vicinity

2 September 2014

The regeneration of Finsbury Park

It has recently been reported in the Islington Gazette that the area behind Finsbury Park Station, between Fonthill Road and Wells Terrace is about to be 'regenerated' with a £220 million development.
If you fancy having an apartment in one of the two [iconic] towers with views over Finsbury Park then expect to shelve out between £632,000 and £1.5million. The beauty of it is you will have underground parking for the car you use to get out of London at the weekends, and immediate access to the 120,000 sqft of retail and restaurant space below meaning you won't have to go outside and mix with or relate to the people who actually live in the area.
Apparently the architects, Benson and Forsyth, won 'Housing Project of the Year 2014', at The Sunday Times’ British Home Awards before the build had even commenced. Who judges these things? Probably the same people who gave the go-ahead to The Pointy Thing and The Dubaiification of Nine Elms.
I was a little concerned that this would mean the demolition of the old Royal Mail building in nearby Goodwin Street, but having checked it seems the area for the new development falls just short of it.

As you can see from the pics above this lovely, solid, functional building of red London Stocks is now 110 years old. At the moment area around it is being run as a private car park by a very nice Albanian fella who, when I chatted to him, turns out to also be rather concerned about what the City North development will mean to the area. After all, this is only a stone's throw from a road once considered "the worst street in London" which was completely demolished in the 1950s and replaced with a large council estate. We discussed the possibility of a "them and us / haves and have nots" situation as Finsbury Park has never been an area for millionaires (though a million doesn't really get you that much these days).
Across the road from the Post Office building is a small locals cafe and just two survivors from the 19th century that are currently being braced by metal. I hope these can be rejuvenated.
And, if this artist's impression is anything to go by, it looks like Tower House, just around the corner in Fonthill Rd will remain for a while yet.
The view shown is looking north from Endymion Road across to  Fonthill Road. The white building on the left is the Astoria/Odeon/Rainbow.
Read more about the Finsbury Park development plans in City North's online brochure.

29 August 2014

Breaker's Yard at Sutton House, and a walk through Clapton and Stamford Hill

Sutton House, Homerton, is North London's oldest residential house. Built in 1535 by a rich courtier of Henry VIII, it's now owned and managed by the National Trust.
I finally went there last Friday for a guided tour. The house is just what you'd expect from an NT property – history, eccentric past owners, wood panelling, tea rooms etc. But I was more interested and impressed by the ingenuity of Breaker's Yard, a paved garden that has recently opened on the land adjacent to the the house which in centuries past used to be part of a tannery and, more recently a breaker's yard, hence the name.
This inspirational garden contains all kinds of creative and interactive elements including planters made from huge tractor tyres, recycled rainwater, a vegetable garden, a sand pit and, my favourite elemnt, a double-decker caravan that has been transformed into a mini stately home using reclaimed panelling, an old staircase, a wooden chandelier and other decorative elements. I'd just love something similar in my own garden! Read more here.

After the tour I decided to walk through Clapton along the A107 and on my journey I spotted quite a few things that were either new to me or had changed since the last time I really took a good look along there.
For instance, in the lobby of St Andrews Mansions at No.157 Lower Clapton Rd there are some lovely tiles (see top left, below). However, the sister building next door does not retain the same.
The toilet block T the end of Millfield Road is still closed and surrounded by blue boards – that's at least six years now. Somebody do something please! Question: why are hoardings like this always painted bright blue? Answers please.
I popped into the gardens that surround nearby Clapton Pond, sat for a while with a sandwich and read the info board about the conservation area. Glad to see The White Hart pub falls into that zone and has, since I was there last, had new life breathed into it. And an old carved, recessed sign is now visible along the front reading, "The Clapton Hart". I am still waiting to see what becomes of the old cinematograph building next door.
Across the roundabout, I noticed the change in colour within the brickwork on the side of the old tram depot which I think shows where the ramps used to go up to the second floor. Further along, on the corner of Cleveley's Road, there is a clunky old optician sign.

I have for many years been trying to get a good angle on the ghost sign above Clapton Station to try to work out what it might have advertised. Well, whoopee, I think I have finally cracked it – it appears to be a NestlĂ© ad, and may have looked like this one except the lettering on the Clapton sign looks to be be outlined rather than solid. Sorry, but the pic above doesn't really capture very well what I could see on the day.
I continued towards Stamford Hill, noticing that by now almost 75% of people passing me were wearing wigs, big black hats or thick tights. None of them were wearing a smile. I tried smiling at them but they ignored me as if I wasn't there. A lot of them looked thin, pale and undernourished; others looked far to young to have three children in tow.
At Clapton Common I turned left into Oldhill Street. It's interesting to note that there are lots of hills in the road names around here; Stamford Hill, Spring Hill, Big Hill, High Hill, Harrington Hill, Bakers Hill.
Oldhilll Road contains some very strange diddy little houses – there are two skinny buildings facing the street as per normal, but a few doors further up there are some more that are set sideways like back-to-backs. I have never seen these in London before. See here. And further along the road I noticed that Stamford West Grove still has its old framed enamel street sign showing the now defunct London N.E. area. These days NE is Newcastle. The South London S code was also abolished in the 19th century.
Returning back to the main road via Braydon Road I spotted an old workshop with broken windows and peeling paint with a sign that read, "Accident Repair Centre". Quite ironic really. The faded blue paint on the shutters was pleasing. That same blue again.
I walked back to the corner of Oldhill in front of the impressive 19th century houses that face the common and mused how similar it looked to other park-facing terraces elsewhere in London i.e Highbury Fields, Clapham etc.
On an information board outside St Thomas's Church, on the corner of Oldhill, there are some old photos showing how the area used to look 100 years ago. One of them features the Swan Tavern. I used to drink there in the 80's with a friend who lived close by – it was the only decent pub in the area. As you can see by these pictures, the building has changed considerably over the years. It's now a Jewish centre and barely recognisable as an old pub. It's been even further 'simplified' since the image in the link above – the front of the building is now practically flat and I could see that the interior has been plasterboarded and magnolia'd with bright strip lights added to the ceilings. Why they couldn't have kept some of the decoration and mouldings is beyond me. At least the church who took over the Rainbow/Astoria at Finsbury Park had the decency to keep the architectural details there intact. Hallelujah.
Anyway... continuing my journey...
I stopped to snap some mish-mash patchwork wooden hoardings on another building site and then spotted an interesting church spire in a street beyond the northern side of the road so I went to check it out.
Sitting next door to the Arriva bus garage in Rockwood Road is a Grade II listed building orginally built by the Agapemonites cult in the 19th century as 'The Church of the Arc Of The Covenant'. Read more about this quite-frankly bonkers group and its loony leader here. The building is covered in intriguing sculptures featuring among other things depictions of various beasts appearing to crush humans underfoot.

There are also some and some interesting bronzes up high. The building is now used by the Georgian Orthodox community. Here's a video about it.
On the opposite side of the road there is the New Synagogue which also has some lovely stained glass windows.
I thought that was enough for one day so I got on a 254 bus and went home.

26 August 2014


I was just about to put a collection of pics together about this past weekend's walk from Greenwich to Wapping when it occurred to me that I still hadn't posted about last month. So here goes...
I went with a couple of friends to the foreshore on the southern side of the river under Blackfriars Bridge and then we wandered along eastwards.  I spotted a strange hardened lump of metal that looked like stone made from petrified eels, and some plastic poking out of the ground such like it seemed as if it was growing there. Also a foot shape ring of tufts which I though odd. There were also the usual bits of old weathered wood, oyster shells with holes in them and, of course, clay pipe fragments.

But it intrigued me how I kept seeing so many bits of leather shoes.
At first, I made a small collection and included a 'pair' of black gloves. But I kept finding more and more pieces of heel and soles, often hobnailed and beautifully handmade. In 30 minutes I managed to collect more than 30 bits so I arranged the best of them on the access steps near Tate Modern for other people to admire. The ages of these items varied a lot. Most were Victorian/Edwardian; others definitely came from the mid-20th century, and some were quite plainly less than 10 years old.
So... why/how have these all ended up here? I have never seen shoes in such profusion on any other sections of Thames' foreshore.
Was this an area particularly affiliated with cobblers?

20 August 2014

Sunshine and a rainbow

Hard to believe it's August at the moment. It's cold and wet and windy out there.
So I have put together some sunny-coloured things to remind us of that big hot thing that usually sits in the sky.

I was asked to tweet about my favourite colour of the rainbow earlier this week for Samsung's #MidnightRainbow event. I actually prefer indigo – this old post features some lovely old dark blue tiles and links in nicely with the above.

Here's a photo of the rainbow made using lots of Samsung Tab S screens taken at the press event last night where I bumped into my old school mate Andy who is now the big cheese there.
See the rainbow today on the Southbank near Gabriel's Wharf.

18 August 2014

Pretty patterns

I had a kaleidoscope when I was young. I loved the patterns it made. I also liked colouring in graph paper to make intricate patten repeats. But that's another story.
This has post nothing to do with London except that I bought a (replacement) old kaleidoscope at a London boot fair while back and rediscovered it this past weekend.
Nice eh.
Who needs technology?!

12 August 2014

Making an impression

I have been snapping marks made in wet cement or tarmac for years now and have collected a few of them together here.
Some are accidental impressions made by shoes, cones or birds; others are clever or specific written messages:

But the most common ones are where people have written their names: