30 September 2013

Parkland Walk – railway to pathway

More images from my recent Parkland Walk stroll.
I remember discovering Parkland Walk by accident when I moved to the Holloway area in 1988 and walndered up the hill to Crouch End. I investigated further and it was like uncovering something that no-one else knew about. My neighbours seemed to be oblivious to it when I questioned them for more info.  It reminded me of when I used to go on bike rides when I was a 10 and think that I was the only person who was aware of all those little alleys that join up the roads in Hornchurch, or the empty wartime (hospital?) buildings near the swimming pool. (Any info re this most welcome.)
Whenever I went to Parkland Walk with my sister in the early 90s we felt it was our own secret place, especially if we accessed from the little path at the top of Hillrise Rd that ran around the edge of an unloved old sports club.
Back then the trail was a bit unkept as it had been neglected for decades and we'd hardly see anyone along the whole length of the path except a few kids practicing their skateboarding skills in the half pipe at the youth centre near Crouch Hill.
A team of intrepid volunteers has managed over the years to tidy up the tangled undergrowth, remove the dead wood and really make Parkland Walk a pleasant place to pass a few hours – as they say, 'a piece of countryside in the heart of London'. Shame on me for not joining in.
There are well-maintained paths, not only along the old track, but also the little ones that lead you up and down into the trees and shrubs. Attractive stairways have been made from old railway sleepers, and information boards explain the flora and fauna. I was impressed to read about acid grassland having never even heard of it before that day (see centre images). This type of grass lives on low-nutrient acidic soils, so it's well-named!
Elements of the old Stroud Green station platforms and buildings at Stapleton Hall Rd are still in place. I looked down from the northern platform and imagined how the scene below would have looked in Edwardian times. And on the bridge at Mount View Rd I wondered why Thames Water don't let people access the lovely grass that covers the reservoir? It must be lovely on there.
The old Crouch Hill Station still retains its long platforms – there s a lovely old photo on an information board showing how it looked 100 years ago.
Enough info from me... you'll find much more here.
Please scroll down to see my previous posts about this lovely stretch of greenery.

26 September 2013

Parkland Walk graffiti

Continuing on from my post the other week, this one is not about nature so much as the colourful graffiti, mainly to be found in the stretch between Crouch Hill and Crouch End Hill.
For many years now kids who practiced their skateboarding skills on the half pipe at the adventure playground (now removed) would also practice their graffiti skills on the arches under the road and along the sides of the old railway tracks.
As I walked along I stopped here and there and took a few snaps of the patchwork of graffiti styles crashing into each other. The mix of nature and paint actually works quite well, especially contrasted by the vibrant grassy greens and the dark arches.
As I approached Crouch Hill Road Bridge I could see some hooded artists in action. I commented to them, in a jolly way, that the aerosol smell was quite heady. They half looked at me but ignored me. These men, for they were over 30, not kids, obviously didn't like me invading their play space.
I walked on and overheard them bitching about me and my type (something like): "who do these people think they are?", "how would they like to be photographed when they are working", "it's theft man".
I stood staring at them about 15 metres away hoping one of them might have the balls to come and speak to me but no.
What I would have said was, "you paint all over public property, yet, as a fellow member of the public, I can't take pictures of you doing that?"... "if you don't want people to see your work then don't do it public places at 5pm on a Sunday afternoon".
Nothing they were doing appeared to be very accomplished or new. I wanted to ask these untalented idiots "don't you have a wall on your own house you could practice on?!"
As you can see from the photos, I don't think Parkland Walk will be taking over from Shoreditch as the graffiti centre of London any time soon...


23 September 2013

Find green spaces with Parklife London

I have posting a lot recently about green things in London; living walls, paths and walks etc and I have just found a site that specifically helps Londonders find and get involved with all the lovely green spaces in the capital.
Parklife London covers all 12 inner London boroughs with interactive links on an easy to view map. The site includes events, community projects and voluntary opportunities.
Rather good eh?!
Above are some non-natural green things I have spotted in London. Find them and more here.

20 September 2013

An urban forest at the Seven Dials

Tomorrow, for one day only the junction of Earlham, Shelton, Monmouth roads, more commonly known as The Seven Dials, will be transformed into an urban forest.
As part of International Car Free Day the Seven Dials and immediate area will be closed to traffic and sixty 5 metre trees will be placed around the monument creating a leafy quiet area to sit and think about greener modes of transport such as walking and cycling.
In amongst the trees there will be lots to do and see including an Air Quality Bubble Map, an interactive cycling experience pod, and help with your bike and bike related injuries. Drinks will be available from the Orchard Juice Bar.
After the event Camden Council will be replanting all the trees at various permanent locations throughout Camden.
All a stone's through from the Seven Dials

17 September 2013

Review of this year's Thames' Festival – a washout in many respects

This year The Mayor's Thames Festival took place over 10 days, rather than one glorious fun-packed weekend as in the past. The rationale was to spread out the events along the river to include places further up- and down-stream.
But I think this backfired. The event (I can't really use the word 'festival') was, to my mind a wash out, and not just because of the weather.
I can understand that many attractions at the Thames Festival have, in the past  had little to do with the River, but they get people out and animated and interested in places and things they might never have noticed or engaged with before. 
Happier times pre-2013

This year there was no fireworks and no parade. I believe that cutting these two key events may be the main reason for the poor turnout. To make it worse, if you visited the event site for information one of the first things you would have seen, high up on the home page, was that there would be no fireworks or parade, and the admission that funds were tight. 
How very stupid!  The home page should be bigging up the good things not enhancing the negatives!! Why advertise what you don't have? Who is really going to scroll down further after reading that?! 
There is a quote on the site from Adrian Evans, the Festival Director, and he says, 
"By shedding the restriction of a weekend and broadening its geographical horizons, combined with a fantastic and wide-ranging programme of events, the festival will inspire people to re-connect with London’s greatest natural asset in new and surprising ways".
Inspire? how? Surprising?  Well yes. Surprising in the sense that there was nothing to see.
Because to remove practically everything that had been attracting people year on year was a really REALLY silly move. 
Huge leaps in marketing and promo in the past 4 years meant that the festival had become something to mark in your diary. The parade and fireworks were spectacular and kept people at the other attractions long into the final day. A win-win for all. 
This year there were walks and talks about the Thames. A great idea, but most of these were pre-book events. But there was barely anything that you could just show up and take part in as in previous years, such as the feast on Southwark Bridge, or the fire garden outside the Tate, nor were there any dancers or colourful characters walking about. 
I was in London for both weekends this year trading at the We Make London Markets, first at Bernie Spain's Gardens and then More London Riverside. Only a handful of visitors to my stall at either location had any notion that there was a festival on at all. 
Compared to previous years (I have going for 15 years now; 12 as a visitor and 3 as a trader) the event was a shadow of its former self. There were no signage or banners along the Southbank so people who wandered into the zone had no idea that the market and the music stage at Bernie Spain's Gardens were for the event and not just  an every-weekend occurrence. Festival? Where? Last year there were site-specific information points and tents where you could pickup colourful information-packed programmes. 
It was meant to be more about the river this year. I understand that there were a few boaty things happening in and around St Katharine Docks, but as regards the Central London stretch of river I saw nothing happening on the river over the first weekend and I was there from 10am until 10pm both days. 
On the evening of Saturday 14th at approx 8pm night, after a very quiet day at the Scoop with no music or entertainment at all, all day, we were suddenly blasted by a honking cacophony coming from some boats circling about in the Pool of London. Billed as a Ships' Opera, his deafening art-fart went on for much too long. It certainly wasn't singing. 
On Sunday 15th there was some lovely proper singing from choirs in the Scoop. There were lots of people enjoying the music. But they evaporated when the singing stopped. I am pretty sure the crowd was made up of the choirs' friends and family. By 5pm on Sunday afternoon there was barely anyone around at all and the market packed up at 6pm. The festival finished with a whimper rather than a bang.  
I noticed some some volunteers canvassing feedback about the event on badly designed A4 sheets. Half of the questions were about age, ethnic group, where you came from, why you were there etc. One question asked how much you expected to spend during the day and what proportion of that you would have spent had you not come to the festival. What a dippy question. I wrote 57%. 
Another asked "How did you hear about the event?" and followed that with "would you come again?". I would be interested to see the feedback on that last question alone. Because if I was a tourist visiting London and it was my first time at the Thames Festival I certainly wouldn't be going home and telling my friends what a must-see event it was!
So, I urge you... if you went there this year and you were as disappointed as I was, then please please write to the organisers and let them know what you think... because if we all sit tight and say nothing it won't be improved upon for next year.

16 September 2013

No Junk Mail

Our front doors and gardens are a mess these days – our gardens are littered with ugly plastic bins and containers meant for household rubbish and recyclable items.
A lot of paper in the recycling bins consists of take-away menus which seem to stick to the bottom of the bins hanging on for dear life.  
Many of us have added stickers to our letterboxes stating "No Junk Mail". To illustrate my point, the photos below were all taken in the space of a 5 minute walk in Barnsbury, Islington.
What these homeowners are basically saying is, "that leaflet in your hand that you are being paid to deliver to my home... is it really a quality item that I need to see, or is it rubbish? Please decide for me. And make the right decision!".
I read a while ago that a London man kept all of his junk food leaflets in a pile by the door and in just 12 months it had reached a metre high.
A pedantic friend had a 'No Junk Mail' sign on his door and, if a flyer landed inside the house, he would write on it that he didn't want it and post it back to the company in an unstamped envelope. Ooh that's harsh!

11 September 2013

Mudlarking along the Thames

One evening last week I joined a group of wellie-clad history geeks and fellow London Historians for a short walk along the Thames at low tide led by a Thames Discovery Programme guide.
As you are probably aware I am a frequent visitor to stretches of the Thames' foreshores but I wanted to learn some more snippets of historical info to pass on to customers who visit my stall and website.
Walking into the sunset from Cannon Street Station to The Millennium Bridge taking care not to trip over the vertical markers placed by proper mudlarkers (these are posts placed into the mud to alert people that there is soft ground caused by their excavations) we learned about what's left of the Walbrook River, Roman settlements, barge loading platforms, slipways, iron pipes and Mother-of-Pearl buttons.
Why not go for a wander there yourself? The Thames foreshores can be accessed at many points by steps and staircases, but please do remember that the tide is not at the same time every day – check the tide tables.
Please note that you can pick up things (except in some restricted areas) but you are not allowed to dig or disturb the surface at all. Only about 50 licensed mudlarkers have permits to do that and even they are limited to a metre's depth.
If you find anything you think is of archaeological interest then you should contact the Museum of London who keep a mapped archive. They have a sort of clinic where you can pop in glean info about your finds.
Finally, if you do go down to the foreshore, be sure to plan your exit route because the tide comes in really fast!

9 September 2013

Blackberry picking on the Parkland Walk

It's blackberry season and all along the Parkland Walk people are out collecting bowls of the lovely sweet fruit from the many bushes that line the old railway track. I didn't have a bowl with me on the day I was there so I just grazed as I walked along.
It's really lush along there at the moment as the trees and bushes are all in full leaf. The paths and woodland areas are well maintained by a sterling group of volunteers (see above link) and are accessed at many points from the adjoining roads by stairs made form old railway sleepers. There are also information points along the way explaining the various flora and fauna to be found there.
Parkland Walk is frequented by joggers, dog walkers and people just out for a stroll enjoying the greenery. And, just like London's canal paths (well, apart from the Camden stretch of the Regent's Canal), this walk makes you feel as you have left the concrete city when really it is only just a few metres above or below you.
The pictures below are all from the stretch between Finsbury Park and Crouch Hill. More posts and pictures about this thin stretch of nature to follow.

6 September 2013

Walking along the New River Path

I often take a lunchbreak in the lovely park along the New River in the Islington section between The Marquess Tavern and St Paul's Road, (see pics below).
The river isn't new. It isn't even a river. It was a channel dug in the early 1600s  to bring clean water into the City through pipes made of elm. These days the elm has been replaced, but the river still brings water into central London.
This year is the New River's 400th anniversary and Islington Council have organised a series of events in celebration (23rd until 29th September) which include three free lunchtime guided walks led by the wonderfully informative Peter Bertoud, a fully qualified Westminster Guide, who has plenty more interesting tours on his site.
Spaces for his New River walking tours are limited so if you do not manage to secure a space don't panic because the whole 45km route can be walked at your own leisure all the way from its source in New Gauge, Herts, to Sadlers Wells, The New River Head, where the water goes underground. The paths are well-maintained and there are information boards along the way.
Ooh look... I just found this interesting commemorative edition Canonbury newsletter which has even more information about the area.
And The Dugdale Centre within Enfield Museum has a free exhibition about the New River that is on until 5th January 2014. (Thinks... a walk north along the river to Enfield one day soon would be nice.)
Note in the pic top left, the pipe running through the centre which carries the clean water to Central London.

5 September 2013

Dinosaurs and devils and angels and dragons

The latest fabulously entertaining video adventure from The Lost Valley of London is about dinosaurs. It's packed full of information.
Watch it here.
I haven't any pictures of dinosaurs myself but I do have plenty of pics of mythical and mythological creatures in and around London – yeah yeah dinosaurs are/were real, but they are/were pretty weird.
Top: Nat History Museum, West Hampstead, City of London, St Giles
Middle: Bermondsey, W1, Blackfriars, Highgate
Bottom: Soho, Paddington, Kensington, Vauxhall

3 September 2013

The Mayor's Thames Festival – bigger, longer, and hopefully better than ever!!

It doesn't seem a year since last year's Thames Festival...
In past years this has been a jam-packed weekend, but this year the event is being stretched out over 10 days, from 6th until 15th September, which means it will be less of a crush and a rush to see all the good things that are on offer.
See here for information and a full programme of events.
I will be checking out some of the weekday events at a leisurely pace and at the weekends I will be selling my Thames-related wares alongside the other designer-makers of We Make London at Bernie Spain's Gardens on 7th & 8th and at More London on 14th & 15th. I was going to say that I wish it was the other way around because last year the fireworks were set off right in front of my stall at BSgdns and, being as there weren't so many people around (the Paralympic closing ceremony was also happening that night), I had the most amazing view of the display, but I have just discovered that for the first time in more than a decade there will be no night carnival or fireworks this year... boo hoo :-(
Instead I will be enjoying the singing at the Scoop on the afternoon Sunday 15th when a 600-voice kids choir will be in full song. I love all that! ;-)
Lots to see and do – I hope to see you there!!!