Walk 4: Arena walk to Beckenham Junction

Walk 4

ARENA to BECKENHAM JUNCTION

1 1/2 hour

The Croydon Tramlink is a tram built in the 1990s because the borough of Croydon complained about having no convenient access to the Underground network. The route followed on this walk links one of the main train lines to Kent with Croydon, making commuting easier. There was no such connection in the past because this involved fiercely competing train operators. Between Arena and Birkbeck, the tram uses tracks laid specifically for the purpose. Beyond Birkbeck, it runs parallel to an older train line linking Crystal Palace with Beckenham Junction.

The tram started as a private company that kept the ticket proceeds, but changes in the overall London fare system made it ever more complicated to calculate the appropriate compensation payments and the public authorities (TfL) purchased the system in 2008.

Nearly all stations on the Croydon Tramlink use standardised platform furniture. There is no office or building, just a glass awning and vending machines, and I therefore don’t need to comment on architecture. Please note that the Croydon Tramlink normally uses ticket readers like on a bus, but that a special, highly confusing regulation applies in Wimbledon, potentially causing overcharging.

Routing note: This walk connects in Arena with Tramlink walk 3. It connects in Birkbeck and also in Beckenham Junction with Victoria train networks walk 14. I wrote a different route for the tram as it serves additional stations. Finally, the walk connects in Beckenham Junction also with Victoria train networks walk 10.

ARENA

T1 Arena tram stop_B

Arena tram stop

The stop was created together with the tram itself in 2000. It is a tram junction where tracks coming from Elmers End (my walk 3) join the Beckenham to Croydon line. By the way, the name comes from a nearby sports facilities – stadiums are more fashionably called arenas nowadays despite not involving gladiators and wild beasts like in Roman times.

 

Follow the tram tracks north towards the track junction. The right-hand fork continues to Elmers End and features in my walk number 3. Cross the left-hand fork and take the public footpath L parallel to the tram tracks. It leads towards a sports centre and playground.

T2 South Norwood Country Park_B

South Norwood Country Park

You are crossing part of South Norwood Country Park. Most of it is a large expanse of flattish land. It was originally farmland prone to flooding and was bought by local authorities as the location for a sewage farm, the idea being that the effluent could percolate through the soil. This would be better than just dumping effluent in a river as this was known to contribute to epidemics including cholera. The scheme was ill conceived as it made no sense to drop sewage on waterlogged ground with a clay underground. The area was left abandoned except for occasional use by the Army or to get rid of bomb rubble after World War II. The bomb rubble explains the hill in the area you are crossing on this tour.

 

T3 View towards North Downs_B

Tram in the hilly part of the country park

The borough finally made the country park more accessible in 1989 by building paths and tracks throughout the area except for a corner near Elmers End station that was set aside as a nature reserve because of a lake with reed marshes attracting many birds. My Victoria train network walk 14 passes the lake while my Tramlink walk 3 visits the open spaces along the brook in the middle of the park. On the present walk, you get to see the hillier, partly wooded section.

 

T4 Totem near Pitch and Putt course_B

Totem near the pitch and putt course

The footpath ends at an access road

 

R on the access road walking along a pitch & putt course

The course reuses the site of the old sewage works. The ground hopefully had time to clean itself as the works closed in 1962, more than 30 years before the public was allowed into the country park.

L at the next opportunity on a public footpath along an other fence of the course

Ahead and L towards the tram tracks for

HARRINGTON ROAD

T5 Harrington Road tram stop_B

Harrington Road tram stop

The stop was created together with the tram itself in 2000 in order to give easy access to a cemetery. There were also vague plans to build a tram junction here, additional tracks running then towards Crystal Palace and replacing a suburban railway line. The plan was dropped as connections between Crystal Palace and Croydon are quite good already.

 

Enter Birkbeck Cemetery using the access road that crosses the tracks

Cross the whole cemetery to the main exit, passing the crematorium

T9 Old part of Beckenham Cemetery_B

Beckenham cemetery

The cemetery was opened in 1876 and was run by a private company, as usual in London. Because the owners lost interest once the cemeteries were full and did not generate any additional interment fees, boroughs usually ended up buying the grounds. This particular cemetery is still open for business and has therefore not turned into a wood, as was the case for example in Nunhead. There are no celebrity memorials but the chapel is quite nice. Unusually for the 1880s, the tower is square with no steeple on top and the style is early gothic rather than the more usual high gothic.

 

T8 Chapel in Beckenham cemetery_B

Chapel of Beckenham Cemetery

L Elmers End Road

 

BIRKBECK

T10 Birkbeck tram stop_B

Birkbeck tram stop and train station

The train station opened in 1930 when the number of residents in the area justified building it. It was originally a normal station with two platforms and a building, but the building burnt down in 1983 and one of the platforms was converted for use by the Tramlink in 2000. You see on my picture a wire mesh fence between the train tracks and the Tramlink tracks. I think this was installed in order to prevent Tramlink users from crossing the tracks illegally as they might step on the electrical third rail of the train tracks and get injured.

 

Cross under the train and tram bridge

R Mackenzie Road

Between Birkbeck and Beckenham Road, you cross a particularly bland suburb. This is the kind of suburbia that was easy and profitable to build in the 1930s but was heavily criticised by planners for lacking public amenities and bringing no feeling of community. Legislation was indeed passed at the end of the 1930s to make this kind of “ribbon development” less ubiquitous.

R Avenue Road

AVENUE ROAD

The stop was created together with the tram itself in 2000. The tram is normally single track while running alongside the railway line, but there was room to build a passing loop and two platforms here. It is a very minor stop in terms of traffic.

Cross the tram tracks using the footbridge

L Blandford Road, the road ends at the next tram stop

BECKENHAM ROAD

The tram stop is located a little awkwardly on top of a curving embankment but actually uses a location planned originally for a train station. The station was called Penge and was only used between 1858 and 1860 as a more convenient Penge station opened soon afterwards on an other train line.

R Beckenham Road (a busy highway)

T14 Baptist church in Beckenham Road_B

Baptist Church in Beckenham

The road crosses a train line and passes soon afterwards the Baptist church for Beckenham. It is an unusual church for this denomination as Baptist churches were systematically modest, strictly neo-classical buildings until the mid-19th century. The neo-gothic style was usually avoided as it reminded too much of the established Church of England, a church Baptist members were not very fond of. In the case of Beckenham, I am reminded of an early gothic village church as you would see in the French provinces.

 

 

 

T15 Beckenham fire station_B

Beckenham fire station

The road passes soon afterwards the fire station. Surprisingly, you do not see from the road a conspicuous hall for the engines. Even the tower is rather modest and the brick cladding makes it less conspicuous. The whole building is in strikingly red bricks, probably the best colour for a fire station.

 

 

T16 Mansion in Beckenham Road_B

Victorian house in Beckenham Road

The road passes several elegant late Victorian houses and ends at a roundabout with a very nice flower bed in the middle. The surroundings are interesting with an Art Déco post office on one side. The brickwork is very plain but you get the typical rounded corner.

 

T17 Beckenham post office_B

Art déco post office

T18 Film theatre in Beckenham_B

Film theatre in Beckenham

On an other side of the crossroads, there is a film theatre in classical Art Déco design. Beckenham must have been a modest suburb at the time as the theatre did not have the stunning front you can find in Streatham or Rayners Lane. It opened in 1930 and is one of the rather few theatres in London that have always been operated for films and that were not converted into a bingo hall or an evangelical church.

 

Cross the roundabout and continue

Ahead High Street

Follow this road as it snakes first L, then R

T20 Pizza restaurant with quirky name_B

Mock tudor building on High Street

Some of the commercial buildings along High Street have a rather nice neo-Tudor appearance, in particular one that was probably a pub and has been converted into an Italian restaurant. The name of the chain is hilarious in French, a “zizi” being a childish name for the male reproductive organ. What does set Beckenham High Street apart is that many buildings are not aligned in height or roof shape, giving them a pleasantly individual style.

 

T21 RC church Beckenham_B

Beckenham Roman Catholic church

Opposite the junction with The Drive, you can have a look at St Edmund’s Roman Catholic Church. The church is from 1938, which shows primarily in the massive, geometric tower with tall transparent windows. The main façade is neo-gothic, which is unusual for a catholic church of that period but might have been mandated by the appearance of the other churches in the vicinity. I was short on time and did not try to look inside, but the website shows a few interesting furnishings.

 

A bit further on, you pass the most impressive commercial premises on High Street, now operated as a barber’s. What sets the building apart is that it has medieval shapes and a Tudor-style brickwork with black glazed bricks inset in the reddish background. As opposed to suburban fancy neo-Tudor as seen at the start of the street, this shop is historically more correct Tudor – except for the too geometric corner niche that would shelter the statue of a saint in authentic houses from the period.

T22 Mock medieval house in Beckenham High Road_B

Good imitation of a Tudor mansion on High Street

 

T23 Pub sign in High Road Beckenham_B

Pub advertising itself as “historic”

When the street again bends right, you pass a pub with a white clapboard façade advertising itself as an “historic inn”. The location is historical but the house was rebuilt around 1900. I found the butcher’s next door more interesting as I had seldom seen such a choice of rather appetising sausages in London. Unfortunately, I have never found out how to cook them properly as German and French sausages need to be cooked very differently.

 

 

T24 Choice of sausages in High Road Beckenham_B

Remarkable display of appetising sausages

 

T25 Beckenham public conveniences with flower beds_B

Public conveniences and nice flowers

High Street reaches shortly afterwards a corner with Kelsey Park Road. There is a low building recessed behind flower beds at this spot. You might ignore the building as it only shelters public conveniences, but the flower beds are very impressive at the appropriate time of the year.

 

Continue on High Street. The road turns sharply L uphill towards the parish church and ends at the train station.

St George’s church was a venerable medieval church but was completely rebuilt in 1887 in a style interestingly defined as “confident” at the time. It is a rather standard type of neo-gothic construction except for the rather impressive tower. The four corner pinnacles are inspired by  examples in France; in original gothic times, only very significant towns could afford such an elaborate tower. The church suffered bomb damage during World War II but was rebuilt in the same style.

T26 High Road Beckenham with parish church_B

High Street with the 1887 “confident” Church tower

 

T29 Parish church in Beckenham_B

Parish Church and churchyard

I have read that there are a number of interesting memorials inside but the church is usually closed apart for services. I just had a walk around the churchyard, a rather pleasant green space in the middle of the town bustle. In the part of the green space away from the church, you will find a few panels with details about the history of Beckenham, particularly about the World War II events.

 

BECKENHAM JUNCTION

T31 Beckenham Junction tram stop_B

Beckenham Junction tram terminal

The station was opened originally in 1857 as the terminal for a train line coming from Lewisham. The tracks are still in place but there are no passenger trains using them nowadays on a regular basis. The station was then extended in 1858 when a new train line from Crystal Palace was opened. This new line continued towards Bromley.

 

A further extension was needed in 1863 with the opening of the new main line from London Victoria through Penge.

Beckenham Junction is also used as a terminal for the spur of the Croydon Tramlink since the year 2000. The tram platform is independent of the train station and uses the standard colour scheme without any building.

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Walk 3: West Croydon walk to Elmers End

 

Walk 3

WEST CROYDON walk to ELMERS END

2 hours

The Croydon Tramlink is a tram built in the 1990s because the borough of Croydon complained about having no convenient access to the Underground network. A tram was chosen rather than a train because tram rails could be set on existing roads across the city centre of Croydon, offering a very valuable link of both train stations with the new line. Between West Croydon and Addiscombe, the tram tracks are laid on existing roads.

Between Addiscombe and Elmers End, the tram uses a former train line that continued towards Selsdon Road (south of Croydon). The section between Addiscombe and Woodside opened in 1885, that between Woodside and Elmers End in 1871.

The tram started as a private company that kept the ticket proceeds, but changes in the overall London fare system made it ever more complicated to calculate the appropriate compensation payments and the public authorities (TfL) purchased the system in 2008. It is one of several nationalisations that happened in these years in London, several private operators being quite happy to get out of contracts at the time of a financial crisis. The annual compensation payment alone had already risen to about 4% of the final purchase price, more than TfL would need to pay for the debt incurred in purchasing the system.

Nearly all stations on the Croydon Tramlink use standardised platform furniture. There is no office or building, just a glass awning and vending machines, and I therefore don’t need to comment on architecture. Please note that the Croydon Tramlink normally uses ticket readers like on a bus, but that a special, highly confusing regulation applies in Wimbledon, potentially causing overcharging.

Routing note: This walk connects in West Croydon with Victoria train network walk 24, with London Overground walk 19 and with Tramlink walk 2. It connects in East Croydon with Victoria train network walks 15, 17 and 18 and again with Tramlink walk 2. It then connects in Sandilands with Tramlink walk 5 and in Arena with Tramlink walk 4. Finally, it connects in Elmers End with London Bridge networks walk 25.

The tram uses two different routes through central Croydon. This walk describes the more cultural, westbound route while I describe the eastbound route in walk 2.

WEST CROYDON

A1 West Croydon tram stop_B

West Croydon tram stop

The tram stop is independent of the train station but obviously located close enough to enable easy interchange. Only eastbound services stop here.

The train station was first opened as a terminal for the line from London Bridge in 1839. An extension of the line towards Waddon and Sutton opened in 1847. Finally, a junction linking the line with Selhurst and London Victoria opened some time after 1862. Between 1855 and 1997, the station was also the terminal for a railway to Wimbledon, now replaced by the Tramlink.

By now, the station is used by through trains between London Victoria and Sutton, but is also a terminal for trains from the old London Bridge line, now run by London Overground to New Cross Gate and Shoreditch

The station was originalled called plain “Croydon”, but this caused confusion when an other Croydon station was opened on a new train line towards the South coast, so that “Croydon” was changed to “West Croydon”.

Follow the tram tracks southwards, crossing London Road into Tamworth Road

You are actually walking against the direction of the trams as this section of the line is only used by eastbound trams.

At the end of Tamworth Road, there is a tram junction. The tracks to your right are used by trams from and to Wimbledon. See walk 2 for this direction. The tracks to your left are the tracks used by westbound trams across the centre of Croydon. My route does not follow closely the tracks here as there are interesting attractions in the vicinity.

A2 Peculiar roof volumes near West Croydon station_B

Reeves Corner

At the end of Tamworth Road, continue ahead between the pebble space on your left and a central reservation with a few trees on your right.

When you reach a conspicuous white commercial building called House of Reeves, walk first L along the shop windows then R into Church Street, still along the shop.

Reeves is a longstanding landmark to such an extent that there is a tram stop named Reeves Corner. The building featuring on my 2010 picture was intriguing because of the elaborate roof. It burned down during riots in 2011 and has been replaced by the present somewhat simpler structure. The riots happened not only in Croydon but also in several other London suburbs and later in the Midlands. They started when a young man was shot by police in Tottenham, inspired copycat riots in other towns partly due to sensationalist media coverage and primarily reflect the dire situation in many working class suburbs after the 2008 financial crisis.

A3 Nave of Croydon parish church_B

Nave of Croydon Minster

Croydon parish church is located in a surprising place, reasonably far away from the shopping centres and pedestrian streets. This is due to the fact that Croydon developed originally close to the river Wandle around the summer palace of the archbishops of Canterbury and that traders moved uphill later. The church is a Victorian reconstruction after a fire in 1867; it has the title of a Minster, meaning there was a chapter of clerics serving the church in medieval times and not just one priest.

 

 

 

 

A4 Monument to an archbisphop of Canterbury_B

Memorials to archibishops

The church is built in a standard neogothic style but is worth entering for several monuments to archbishops. On my picture, you get a glimpse of a late gothic one to the left while the focus is on an imposing Renaissance one.

L along the church into a small green space

A5 Churchyard_B

Churchyard of Croydon Minster

My picture shows that this is not a remarkable park, but the picture is worth noticing for the croci blooming in March as the name Croydon is usually said to stem from Saxon words meaning “Crocus” and “Valley” (“dun”). Actually, the croci in the name are probably saffron, grown in Kent and Surrey in Saxon times after Roman colonists had imported it.

 

The path turns L and exits on

R Church Road

A7 Mock Tudor in Church Road_B

Neo-Tudor in Church Road

There is a cute timber building at the corner of your path; I think it is mock-Tudor from the 1930s, when this style appealed to the more affluent middle class.

A8a Old Palace school courtyard_B

Courtyard of Croydon school

My route continues L into Old Palace Road, but you can go on a short detour R on this road in order to see the remnants of the archbishops’ palace. The complex of buildings was converted into a school with a well gardened courtyard and a tall hall with very large windows. This was the Great Hall of the palace; the structure is mainly from the 1440s, which makes it one of the most venerable buildings in London, but the windows are way too wide for this early period and were indeed modified in the 1750s.

 

A12 Great Hall of former archbishop's palace_B

Greta Hall of the archbishops’ palace

You obviously cannot visit, but you can have a look at the main courtyard as there are several other nice buildings from the old palace still standing. Parliament allowed the archbishop to sell the palace in 1907.

A11 Croydon parish church_B

Rear view of Croydon Minster

Very soon L Old Palace Road

CHURCH STREET

The stop was created together with the tram tracks across central Croydon in 2000. It is served by westbound services towards Wimbledon and also by services ending at West Croydon.

R Church Street

You are temporarily following the tracks, walking against the direction of the trams as you are going eastwards while this is the westbound tram route.

B2 Mural in Church Street_B

Shopping in Church Street

The street is a good example of what happens when a town allows the construction of huge shopping centres. The nicer shops where you enjoy spending time move to the shopping centre, partly because it is so easy to park there and because you don’t get wet if it rains, while the former shopping streets are left to “one-pound-shops”, betting stands, convenience newsagents, tattoo studios and fast-food eateries. Rents are low, building owners invest little, many shops are abandoned and the street dilapidates slowly.

B3 Surrey Street market_B

Surrey Street Market

The more pleasant part of Church Road is towards the end and the best atmosphere in a side street to your right, Surrey Street, because of the food market. Market stalls have a similarly positive impact in many suburbs.

Ahead Crown Hill

There are two possible detours from the crossroads with the pedestrianised area, for a few yards L in order to have a glimpse inside the courtyard of the almshouses, and for a few yards in front of you if you want to check on the tram stop

C1 Almshouses_B

Croydon almshouses

The almshouses were built in 1596 by the archbishop along with a school that has been demolished since. You recognise easily the Tudor brickwork including a message in black glazed bricks, here W for Whitgift Foundation. The windows with the nice white surroundings appear very small, but this was made on purpose as residents were meant to concentrate on their communal life and on their courtyard. You cannot enter the courtyard but you get a feeling through the iron gate.

 

C3 Croydon Hospital in High Street_B

Whitgift foundation almshouses

 

C4 Glimpse of courtyard_B

Courtyard of the almshouses

GEORGE STREET

The stop was created together with the tram tracks across central Croydon in 2000. It is served by westbound services only.

If you do not go on the two detours, you will turn

R High Street(photo C6)

C5 On Natwest building_B

Decoration on a bank building

C6 Old advertising on main street_B

Edwardian department store on High Street

As Croydon was a significant market town in the 19th century, ambitious businesses of course needed to invest in suitably impressive premises. The most beautiful in my opinion is Grants House at number 13. Like most old department stores, it has been converted into offices, but it still has a lovely, ornate façade with signs advertising i.a. lace and gloves. Lace must have been a very prominent item ! The architecture is typically Edwardian, mixing Tudor-inspired brickwork with Renaissance-style scrolls and a tower in the style of French palaces.

L Katharine Street

C9 Pub in Katherine Street_B

Former bank building on Katherine Street

The street is strange, with one of the ugliest buildings of Croydon on the north side and some of the most beautiful ones on the south side. At the corner of Katharine Street with High Street, there is a large pub called the Spreadagle with a shining, golden bird. As you might have guessed, it was originally a bank building, sets of neo-classical columns suggesting stability and reliability (see the name of Northern Rock).

C10 Older Croydon theatre_B

Former theatre

The next building in the street is a somewhat disorderly combination of buildings in the French Renaissance style. One of them harboured a theatre while the hall down the stairs was converted into the borough museum. It is one of the most interesting suburban museums in all London and has reasonably convenient opening times. I found the exhibition of everyday life in the past not only intriguing but truly eye-opening.

C11 Rear aisle in French Renaissance style_B

Borough museum building in the style of a French château

 

It is the only museum in London that deals unobtrusively but very honestly with controversial social issues such as homosexuality in the armed forces or racism against Irish immigrants. I also learnt that Croydon had a small film industry and the comic films shown in the museum are absolutely hilarious. Finally, there is an excellent collection of Chinese porcelain including all important styles and periods. You might plan about an hour in order to visit at leisure.

 

C13 Main entrance_B

Main entrance of Town Hall

Continuing on Katherine Street, you reach soon the corner of the Town Hall, inaugurated in 1896. As a proof that Croydon was an outstandingly important town at the time, the ceremony was performed by the Prince of Wales. The architecture announces the Edwardian love of two-colour-schemes but manages to keep to the Renaissance style with few of the useless frills you saw on Grants House before.

 

C12 Council hall and museum building_B

Town Hall clock tower

There is a very imposing clock tower at the corner of the building. This was a logical symbol of market towns as it was particularly useful to merchants at a time when few people had pocket watches. Many London suburbs built clock towers in the 1880s, but most are modest stand-alone structures.

 

Half R into Queen’s Gardens

 

C16 Croydon town hall_B

Town Hall seen from Queen’s Gardens

The Town Hall overlooks a wide open space that is surprisingly recessed down stairs because it was originally a railway terminal. It has been converted into a very nice urban park. Taking advantage of the microclimate created by the embankments around the park, gardeners are able to grow a remarkable variety of mediterranean and exotic plants. They also plant formal flower beds in the style of Royal parks (geometric shape, plants in three tiers of differing heights, blocks of primary colours). There are few boroughs that can combine an imposing Town Hall with a beautiful park just in front of it.

 

Exit the gardens using a subway at the eastern end, passing under a major highway

L along the highway

Very soon R Path along College Green

D1 Green space in front of College_B

College Green

This large paved space is a typical product of the 1960s when plain lines and empty surfaces were seen as more elegant than grass, trees and flowers. The building facing directly the highway, Fairfield Halls, is a leading theatre and concert hall opened in 1962. It is actually one of the less brutal buildings of the period. On the other side of the paved space, the large brick building with a very imposing curved colonnade is the town college. The architecture looks like 1950s, as colonnades were avoided in the 1960s.

 

D2 Croydon college in 1950s style_B

Croydon College colonnade

Cross Fairfield Gardens between Fairfield Halls and the college to the eastern end and continue L along the college buildings, not crossing the train line

R up along the main road to the train station

EAST CROYDON

T61 East Croydon tram stop_B

East Croydon tram stop

The tram stop is located on the road viaduct just in front of East Croydon train station.

The train station opened in 1841 on a new main line and was originally called Croydon. When the train company merged with an other operator who also had a station named Croydon, it became necessary to change the name and this turned into Croydon East.

A new train line from Selhurst opened through the station in 1860, but the two operators insisted on keeping separate stations called respectively East Croydon and New Croydon from 1862 on. The two stations were finally amalgamated to a single East Croydon in 1898.

Between 1909 and 1924, the station was called officially East Croydon Main Line in order to make a distinction with “East Croydon Local”.

D4 West end of Addiscombe Road_B

Western end of Addiscombe Road

Follow now the tram tracks eastwards for several hundred yards, walking on Addiscombe Road. The road is pleasantly residential and somewhat leafy when you leave central Croydon, with occasionally a side walk separated from the cars by a raised strip of greenery.

LEBANON ROAD

The stop was created together with the tram itself in 2000.

D5 Development along Addiscombe Road_B

Suburban part of Addiscombe Road

Continue on Addiscombe Road. The road is now less interesting, but is difficult to avoid in this densely populated suburb.

SANDILANDS

The stop was created together with the tram itself in 2000.

Continue on Addiscombe Road while the tram line veers away from the road

L Outram Road

D6 Neoclassical style in Outram Road_B

Ornate house in Outram Road

I noticed an unusually ornate property in this road. Bow windows at the ground level are quite usual, but triple windows upstairs are not and the decoration above what must have been the entrance to a winter garden is really unusual.

R Addiscombe Road

(Note: this is not the Addiscombe Road you followed before, but you have walked into a new borough and both boroughs have roads with this name in confusing vicinity to each other)

ADDISCOMBE

A train station was opened here in 1906 on an existing suburban train line under the name Bingham Road Halt. The station was then closed in 1915 due to wartime economy measures. It was reopened in 1935 a few yards further but had very little traffic and was closed in 1983. The tram stop is on the location of the 1906 halt and opened together with the tram line in 2000.

Before crossing the tracks L into Everton Road

R Addiscombe Avenue

At the end L Dalmally Road

Very soon R on a clearly marked passage

R on the footpath along a former railway line, passing at the end under a road. The footpath ends at

BLACKHORSE LANE

The stop was created together with the tram itself in 2000.

Climb to the road you passed under before and cross over the former railway cutting

R Elmers Road

R on a footbridge across the tram tracks

Enter Ashburton Park

T5b Ashburton Park_B

Ashburton Park in rainy weather

This large green space corresponds to the grounds of a mansion that was built in 1788. It had been converted into a convent in 1878 but was sold to the borough in 1924. The council demolished the mansion, filled in the ornamental lake and also demolished the convent cloister in 1975 because of concerns about vandalism. The rest of the convent was converted into a local library. This history explains the somewhat surprising appearance of the building with a row of arcades opening towards nothing in particular.

 

T5 Library in Ashburton Park_B

Ashburton Park Library in a former convent

T3 Pavilion in Ashburton Park_B

Ashburton Park with colonnaded pavilion

There is no particular attraction in the park beyond the library and a small pavilion with a thin colonnade that reminds a bit of a plantation house.

Keep parallel to the tram tracks for

WOODSIDE

A train station opened here in 1871 because of a nearby racecourse. It was renamed Woodside & South Norwood in 1908, the name reverting to simple Woodside in 1944. The station remained open until 1997, when works for the tram started, and the tram stop opened on the same location in 2000.

T6 Former Woodside train station_B

Former Woodside train station

The original station building was sold to commercial premises and is still straddling the tracks. It is a typical example of the stations in this part of London with yellow brick walls and rounded windows. It is actually quite substantial because there was a train junction here with trains going to either Selsdon Road (south of Croydon) or to a nearby suburban terminal called Addiscombe.

 

 

T5a Ashburton Park_B

Ashburton Park

R within Ashburton Park keeping parallel to the main road called Spring Lane

 

At the end of Spring Lane, cross Long Lane onto a path ahead past the fire station

 

 

 

T6a Woodside fire station_B

Woodside Fire Station

The fire station is a substantial, elegant building with mock tudor eaves and small sculptures above the main garage gates. The sunray design above the lateral garage gates clearly points to construction in the 1930s as it was a typical Art Déco design.

Ahead along the path until you reach a much larger open space, Ashburton Playing Fields

T7 Ashburton playing fields in a sleet shower_B

Ashburton Playing Fields

The playing fields took over from Addiscombe racecourse. It was a very popular venue but the mayor of Croydon decided that it attracted all sorts of undesirable people from London in this genteel suburb and had the racecourse closed. The property was divided later into a golf course, residential developments and the present playing fields, as part of the low-lying area flooded every winter and was not suitable for development. It is actually one of the largest open spaces in the southern suburbs (nearly 50 acres, equaling 20 hectares), but it has few amenities.

 

T9 Same from east end_B

50 hectares for sports

L across the playing fields to the northernmost corner

L Bywood Avenue

T10 Long Lane Wood and bird sanctuary_B

Bywood Avenue Bird Sanctuary

The avenue passes on the right side a patch of woodland called rather ambitiously the “Bywood Avenue Bird Sanctuary”. It was a property bought by the borough in 1924 together with Ashburton Park, but was not developed into a park. The word sanctuary refers to the fact that part of the wood is fenced off, although this does not prevent stray cats and dogs from disturbing the birds.

 

Cross Long Lane and continue ahead on a footpath

The green space on your right is a private driving range used for golf lessons.

ARENA

T12 Arena station_B

Arena tram stop

The stop was created together with the tram itself in 2000. It is a tram junction with some services continuing towards Elmers End on a former train line and others continuing towards Beckenham Junction (my walk 4).

 

R along the tram tracks

 

 

T14_B

South Norwood Country Park

You are walking here along the edge of South Norwood Country Park. It is well worth walking a bit into the park. As you also get to see parts of it on my London Bridge walk 25 and on my Tramlink walk 4, you could for example walk this time towards the brook and follow it to the edge of the lake. You should be able to see the train station from there.

T16 South Norwood Country Park_B

Brook in South Norwood Country Park

The park contains a large variety of ecological zones from plain grass meadows to fully grown wood over several types of brushy areas. This variety results from mixed uses in the past: fields, pastures, quarries and brick kilns. From the 1860s on, the Borough of Croydon decided to buy increasing parts of the location in order to spread sewage.

At the time, it was considered efficient to flood meadows with the effluents as the resulting brine could trickle into the soil and hopefully be filtered enough that nearby rivers were not too polluted. Of course, anyone who could afford it would flee the vicinity of such smelly activities. I remember living as a child 5 miles from a sewage area and this was indeed obnoxious when wind came from the wrong direction. About as bad as living near a sugar beet drying factory.

T15_B

Bird lake in the country park

Sewage contains many dangerous bacteria and chemicals nowadays and has to be treated much more scientifically. In addition, the present country park was inappropriate for the purpose as the ground is heavy clay that prevented water from trickling into the soil and being filtered. The council closed the sewage works in 1967 and nature reclaimed most of the area.

 

The lake corresponds to the flooded quarry and is very attractive to birds. For this reason, it has not been landscaped and you can only reach the waterside on a number of viewing platforms.

ELMERS END

T17 Elmers End train and tram station_B

Elmers End train station and tram terminal

The station opened in 1864 on the new train line between New Beckenham and Addiscombe. It became a junction when a branch line was opened between Elmers End and Hayes in 1882. The original train line to Addiscombe was closed in 1997 and replaced by the spur of the Croydon Tramlink in 2000, so that Elmers End is now a train-Tramlink junction instead of a pure train junction.

Although I have no documents on this, I am pretty sure that the boxy glass-and-steel station building was built in 2000 and replaced the old building. The upper level of the building is airy enough but the main level is made of plain metal sheets and looks hardly better than a container shed.

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Walk 2: Mitcham Junction walk to East Croydon

Walk 2

MITCHAM JUNCTION walk to EAST CROYDON

2 hours

The Croydon Tramlink is a tram built in the 1990s because the borough of Croydon complained about having no convenient access to the Underground network. A tram was chosen rather than a train because tram rails could be set on existing roads across the city centre of Croydon, offering a very valuable link of both train stations with the new line. On most of this specific walk, the tram uses the route of a former train line opened in 1855 and closed in 1997. The train line ended at West Croydon station and the route between the two Croydon train stations was created for the tram line.

The tram started as a private company that kept the ticket proceeds, but changes in the overall London fare system made it ever more complicated to calculate the appropriate compensation payments and the public authorities (TfL) purchased the system in 2008. It is one of several nationalisations that happened in these years in London, several private operators being quite happy to get out of contracts at the time of a financial crisis. The annual compensation payment alone had already risen to about 4% of the final purchase price, more than TfL would need to pay for the debt incurred in purchasing the system.

Nearly all stations on the Croydon Tramlink use standardised platform furniture. There is no office or building, just a glass awning and vending machines, and I therefore don’t need to comment on architecture. Please note that the Croydon Tramlink normally uses ticket readers like on a bus, but that a special, highly confusing regulation applies in Wimbledon, potentially causing overcharging.

Routing note: This walk connects in Mitcham Junction with Blackfriars/Thameslink walk 9 and with Tramlink walk 1. It connects in West Croydon with Victoria train network walk 24, with London Overground walk 19 and with Tramlink walk 3. Finally, it connects in East Croydon with Victoria train network walks 15, 17 and 18 and again with Tramlink walk 3.

The tram uses two different routes through central Croydon. This walk describes the less cultural, eastbound route while I describe the westbound route in walk 3.

MITCHAM JUNCTION

T40 Mitcham Junction tram stop_600x600_100KB

Mitcham Junction tram stop

The station opened as a train station in 1868 when a new train line linking Sutton with Streatham was built, crossing here the older line from Wimbledon to Croydon. As no one lived nearby at the time, it was only built for interchange purposes. The tram platforms are located on part of the old station, but they are completely separate from the train network and there is no station building for tram travellers.

Exit the tram stop on the main road

L along the road for a few yards

Very soon L across a gate into Mitcham Common

Follow the inofficial path parallel to a train line. It turns slowly R until it reaches a fence.

T31 Mitcham Common towars Beddington Corner_B

Entering Mitcham Common

Mitcham Common goes back to medieval grazing commons but went through rather more changes than most. In the 19th century, it was used extensively for gravel digging as this was material that could be sold very profitably to construction businesses. Like in most London commons, the legal right of residents to sell this gravel prevented protection. In the case of Mitcham, a law was passed in 1891 to stop the abuse.

 

T36 Tram tracks across Mitcham Common_B

Tram tracks across Mitcham Common

The commissionners in charge with managing the common had a very small budget and were forced to rent out most of the common for a series of purposes. The section you are now in was taken over by the Ministry of Defence during World War II and used for a very large anti-aircraft gun battery. The derelict facilities were finally demolished in 1964.

 

T34 Beddington industry from Hundred Acre Bridge_B

Overview of former filter beds

Unfortunately, dishonest persons invented a new way to generate personal profit at the cost of commons in the 1980s. They would pretend to be “travellers”, occupy the land and allow all sorts of unscrupulous businesses to dump rubbish for a fee. When local authorities finally came to throw out the squatters, they also had to deal with the rubbish. This happened in this corner of the common.

 

All this past probably explains why no mature wood has been able to grow yet. I suspect the ground is bad quality and possibly polluted. What you get is a mix of hawthorn, gorse and pioneer trees, which is actually not ugly.

L over the footbridge

Ahead on the public footpath until you reach the tram line

T35 Public footpath along Mitcham Golf Course_B

Mitcham Common golf course

The footpath runs along the edge of the common. On the right side, you saw from the footbridge a huge expanse of empty landscape. Part of it was used for industrial purposes and may be polluted, so that I have no idea what will turn out of it. Most of the area is part of a huge refuse handling complex and is obviously outside the common, but is becoming wooded as the filter beds have been abandoned for décades.

 

T33 View from Hundred Acre Bridge_B

Empty land from Hundred Acre Bridge

On the left side of your path, you walk along a public golf course. It was originally larger as per the 1891 act, but was too expensive to maintain and was reduced to the present size in 1931. The wooden fence is not very forbidding and I even saw the one or other stile, but I don’t think there is any public footpath crossing the golf course. It is easily accessible but obviously a bit dangerous as you might get hit by a straying ball.

 

R along the tram line

BEDDINGTON LANE

The tram stop uses the location of the former train station. The train station was called Beddington from 1855 until 1887 and Beddington Lane from 1887 until 1919. It was then renamed somewhat uselessly Beddington Lane Halt and reverted to Beddington Lane in 1969. There are no remnants of the train station.

Cross the tram tracks and then the main road into Brookmead Road

You can follow the public footpath ahead and this will merge into Red House Road. As this implies walking along ugly industrial premises, I recommend you walk rather into Mitcham Common to your left and climb the hill for the views. It is easy to go down afterwards to Red House Road.

T39 Crystal Palace from Mitcham Common_B

Crystal Palace seen from Mitcham Common

This part of Mitcham Common did not suffer the same fate as the two sections I already commented on. As the commissioners were desperate for money, they split the common north of the golf course in two sections, one which remained a flat expanse of grass mainly used for informal sports and the other one that was rented to public authorities to dump rubbish.

 

 

 

T40 Croydon from Mitcham Common_B

View East from Mitcham Common

After several decades of this, very serious problems started to appear such as leakage of polluted liquids and a plague of mosquitoes. The rubbish tips were covered and left to develop slowly a natural cover, which will ultimately be oak wood. An other part of the common was then rented out for dumping construction rubble, a deal called in typically “British governement” manner “landscaping”. Local residents objected strongly and only one hill of rubble came to fruition, the one I suggest climbing.

 

T38 Pond in Mitcham Common east_B

Pond on Mitcham Common

From the hill, you see one of two sizeable ponds on the common. They stem from gravel digging as in most London commons. Being on a common, fishing was free for a long period but this caused problems as fishermen overfed the fish, causing algae to grow too much, and left tackle and rubbish along the waterside. Fishing is now licensed and the commissioners also make it less attractive by removing regularly any too large fish. I found all this information in an interesting brochure on Internet: look under http://mitchamcommon.org/wp-content/uploads/Mitcham-Common-A-Short-History.pdf

 

R along the main road (A236 Mitcham Road)

R Rochford Way, soon turns L

R Therapia Lane

L Alfriston Avenue ending at

THERAPIA LANE

This busy tram stop was built for the new line in 2000.

Cross the tram line at the stop

L Ampere Way all the way to

AMPERE WAY

T43 Ikea chimneys_B

Landmark for a furniture store

This is also a busy tram stop built for the new line in 2000. Between October 2006 and March 2008, it was called Ikea Ampere Way because the Ikea company managed to convince TfL to change the name in order to advertise for a new shop. I would be curious to hear how much Ikea paid for this. TfL must have been disappointed as this remained a one-off occasion – or TfL was possibly unable to find other takers to give other stations temporary names after the 2008 financial crisis. I am sure “Northern Rock Merton Park” or “Enron Beddington Lane” would have been lovely.

 

Follow the footpath directly along the tram line all the way to the next stop. The path crosses the tracks twice and passes also underneath a highway viaduct.

WADDON MARSH

There was a Waddon Marsh train station in the close vicinity. It opened in 1930 as Waddon Marsh Halt, changed to plainer Waddon Marsh in 1969 and closed with the train line in 1997. There are just minor details reminding of the station. The tram stop was opened in 2000.

T45 Waddon gas works_B

Former gas works in Waddon Marsh

You can see the steel skeleton of an old gas tank overlooking the area. Waddon Marsh had very busy railway sidings delivering coal to a large power station built here in 1896. Fortunately, the footpaths along the tram line enable you to ignore the somewhat sad view of the derelict industrial premises.

 

Cross the tram line again and follow the tracks for a few yards along Drury Crescent.

When Drury Crescent turns R, continue along the tram tracks in Turners Way

Continue along the tracks on a new footpath across a brook all the way to the next tram stop

Note: The footpath did not exist when I walked through the area as there was construction going on, but recent maps show it clearly

WANDLE PARK

The stop was created for the tram line in 2000.

Cross the tracks and enter Wandle Park

T48a_B

Spring in Wandle Park

The park is primarily a circular patch of lawn with an alley of trees around most of it. It did not strike me as very impressive but this a bit unfair because this is an outdated impression from 2010. There is a small brook running through the middle of the park and the borough website mentions a rose garden and an ornamental garden.

 

 

T48c_B

River Wandle in Wandle Park

The park was originally a meadow along the river Wandle and was landscaped into a small urban park in 1890. It was actually a very popular attraction because the river was used to feed a sizeable boating lake. As usual at the time, there were also a bandstand, a bowling green and tennis courts. The lake was filled in and the river was diverted into a concrete culvert in 1967 because the borough considered the water flow to be unreliable and prone to flooding.

 

R parallel to the tracks until you reach the access to a footbridge over a train line. Cross the tracks and turn

L Waddon New Road

Ahead along the tracks into Cairo New Road

The road passes underneath a motorway viaduct and turns sharply R

The ugly motorway underpass is typical of Croydon. In the 1960s, enthusiastic city planners decided to completely remodel and modernise the town in order to make it an attractive, successful city with all conveniences for car drivers such as a circular motorway. As usual in Britain, the plan petered out due to costs, delays and opposition by landowners.

REEVES CORNER

The stop was created for the tram line in 2000. Only eastbound services stop here.

T52 Roof in Drayton Road_B

Reeves Corner in 2010 before the riots

The name of the stop is peculiar because it refers to commercial premises destroyed during a riot in 2011. The “house” was rebuilt and stands on the opposite side of a large empty site so that you don’t really notice it. My picture shows the old building, which had a rather attractive, unusual roof scape.

 

 

T50 Reeves Corner tram stop and peculiar sign_B

Evangelical church

The building behind the tram stop on my picture had a sign mentioning “house of favour”. I checked and this is the name of an evangelical church led by a gentleman originally from Nigeria. It is now called more impressively “Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International”, which sounds a bit like a successful business.

 

L Tamworth Road. From now on, you follow exactly the eastbound tram tracks all the way to the end of the walk.

T51 Terracotta eagle in Reeves Corner_B

Former pub entrance with ceramic eagle

At the very start of this road, I noticed nice glazed tiles over the entrance corner of what was originally a pub. They combine to a spread eagle seen from behind. Eagles are common heraldic devices, but usually seen from the front. The premises now house a community centre catering to young people and their parents. The charity running the centre (Lighthouse Educational Society) follows the teachings of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, the pet enemy of autocratic Turkish president Erdogan.

 

A little further on, you pass a Baptist chapel from 1866. As usual for this denomination at the time, the building is in an impeccably clean neo-classical style with modest proportions.

CENTRALE

The stop was created for the tram line in 2000. Only eastbound services stop here.

T53a_B

Centrale tram stop

The name of the stop is actually that of a nearby shopping centre, the developers of which paid a contribution to have the stop built. It is a very large complex opened in 2004 in direct competition with a somewhat faded but similarly huge shopping centre, the Whitgift Centre. As the competition forces the two owners to compete for the same large anchor tenants, they announced in 2013 that they would like to combine the two centres in order to have a stronger bargaining position against the big retailers. There would be no disadvantage to shoppers as big retailers anyway have the same prices throughout London.

 

Continue on Tamworth Road

Ahead Station Road passing

WEST CROYDON

The tram stop is independent of the train station but obviously located close enough to enable easy interchange. Only eastbound services stop here.

The train station was first opened as a terminal for the line from London Bridge in 1839. An extension of the line towards Waddon and Sutton opened in 1847. Finally, a junction linking the line with Selhurst and London Victoria opened some time after 1862. Between 1855 and 1997, the station was also the terminal for a railway to Wimbledon, now replaced by the Tramlink.

By now, the station is used by through trains between London Victoria and Sutton, but is also a terminal for trains from the old London Bridge line, now run by London Overground to New Cross Gate and Shoreditch

The station was originalled called plain “Croydon”, but this caused confusion when an other Croydon station was opened on a new train line towards the South coast, so that “Croydon” was changed to “West Croydon”.

The road and the tram tracks soon turn R away from the train line

At the main crossroads R on Wellesley Road

T57 Renowned Croydon urban landscape_B

Concrete world of Croydon

This whole section of the walk is overshadowed by huge concrete towers. They were built in the 1960s as part of the plan to make Croydon a successful, busy city with easy access for cars. Compared to old Victorian houses, flats in towers actually were much more comfortable in terms of plumbing, lifts, parking space, views etc. Some were built as council estates, but not in central locations, and prices in well located towers were not low.

 

Urban planners were wrong about two issues. First, they did not expect car traffic to become so heavy that most commuters prefer using trains, so that the space devoted to cars was actually overestimated and would have looked much nicer if it had been devoted to greenery. I will admit that maintenance of sterile concrete spaces is cheaper and easier than maintenance of parks… The second issue is that living in flats did not really catch – as soon as people have children, they look for a house with a small garden. Only people who cannot afford a house remain in towers, and segregation according to income and joblessness is a recipe for trouble.

T58 Shopping centre entrance on Wellesley Road_B

Shopping centre and concrete towers

In terms of architecture, the Croydon towers are among the most boring in London. It seems that architects of the period paid very little attention to the outside appearance of these buildings, being more interested in the technical aspect of lifts and in the layout of flats. In towers owned by local councils, there is slowly more interest into at least painting large frescoes on the huge concrete surfaces. In towers built over the last twenty years, architects have also started to be more inventive with the shape, materials and colours of balconies.

 

T54 Shapes of Centrale shopping mall_B

Blocks of flats linked to Centrale shopping centre

You will be passing on the way Whitgift Centre. What you see from the road is the upper level of the shopping centre due to the lay of the land. It is interesting to compare the older Whitgift Centre with the newer Centrale: the second one includes a number of smaller estates with flats integrated into the shopping centre while the first one has a flat roof with nothing above. Obviously, the Centrale model is more profitable for the developers but is also more conducive to a mix of residents as young people can be quite happy about the easy access to shops. The Centrale version is also better in ecological terms as there is less loss of heating energy when you have a building above.

 

WELLESLEY ROAD

The stop was created for the tram line in 2000. Only eastbound services stop here.

T60 Imposing style on Wellesley Road_B

Art déco tower on Wellesley Road

Just before the road tunnel under the crossroads, you can have a look at older towers on the west side of Wellesley Road. The one on my picture is definitely Art Déco with the protrusion on the façade reminding of an ocean liner. The bands of windows enable much light into the offices, a typical feature of the hygienic thinking of architects around 1930.

 

L George Street

EAST CROYDON

T61 East Croydon tram stop_B

East Croydon tram stop

The tram stop is located on the road viaduct just in front of East Croydon train station.

 

The train station opened in 1841 on a new main line and was originally called Croydon. When the train company merged with an other operator who also had a station named Croydon, it became necessary to change the name and this turned into Croydon East.

A new train line from Selhurst opened through the station in 1860, but the two operators insisted on keeping separate stations called respectively East Croydon and New Croydon from 1862 on. The two stations were finally amalgamated to a single East Croydon in 1898.

Between 1909 and 1924, the station was called officially East Croydon Main Line in order to make a distinction with “East Croydon Local”.

 

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Walk 1: Wimbledon walk to Mitcham Junction

Walk 1 WIMBLEDON walk to MITCHAM JUNCTION

2 1/2 hours

The Croydon Tramlink is a tram built in the 1990s because the borough of Croydon complained about having no convenient access to the Underground network. A tram was chosen rather than a train because tram rails could be set on existing roads across the city centre of Croydon, offering a very valuable link of both train stations with the new line. On this specific walk, the tram uses the route of a former train line opened in 1855 and closed in 1997.

The tram started as a private company that kept the ticket proceeds, but changes in the overall London fare system made it ever more complicated to calculate the appropriate compensation payments and the public authorities (TfL) purchased the system in 2008. It is one of several nationalisations that happened in these years in London, several private operators being quite happy to get out of contracts at the time of a financial crisis. The annual compensation payment alone had already risen to about 4% of the final purchase price, more than TfL would need to pay for the debt incurred in purchasing the system.

Nearly all stations on the Croydon Tramlink use standardised platform furniture. There is no office or building, just a glass awning and vending machines, and I therefore don’t need to comment on architecture. Please note that the Croydon Tramlink normally uses ticket readers like on a bus, but that a special, highly confusing regulation applies in Wimbledon, potentially causing overcharging.

Routing note: This walk connects in Wimbledon with Blackfriars/Thameslink walks 11 and 12, with Waterloo network walk 10 and with Underground District Line walk 6. It connects in Mitcham Junction with Blackfriars/Thameslink walk 9 and with Tramlink walk 2.

Please note that two short sections can be muddy or even flooded after heavy rains. You can bypass them easily on paved paths if needed. Sturdy shoes may nonetheless be more comfortable. Please note also that the walk runs along several nature reserves and that your dog will need to be on a leash.

WIMBLEDON

 

Wimbledon station

This is a venerable train station as it opened as early as 1838 on the train line linking Battersea (extended to Waterloo ten years later) with Woking. An other train company opened a line towards Croydon in 1855; this line is the one that was later converted into the Croydon Tramlink. A third train line opened in 1868, linking Wimbledon with Streatham. The present Underground line towards Putney and the West End opened in 1889. Finally, the train line to South Merton opened in 1929 and was extended to Sutton in 1930.

The station building was rebuilt in the 1920s in preparation for an expected extension of the Underground towards Sutton. This did not happen due to opposition from the train company serving Sutton, but the building proved quite convenient. Although it looks like concrete, the building is actually clad in much posher Portland stone. It is strikingly Art Déco with very straight lines and no ornaments, and it does not have a first floor as it was not necessary any more to house the station master in the building as was usual in the 19th century.

The hall is somewhat confusing inside because it serves no less than 10 platforms with staircases not in a straight line. Train enthusiasts will certainly enjoy this station where the Tramlink, the Underground and two train companies provide a large variety of colours and shapes within a relatively small space.

Cross the major road in front of the station and take the public footpath between the two large buildings. The footpath runs along the train line southwards.

Third rail power supply

You probably do not notice anything special about this main train line. Europeans will immediately wonder about this main trunk line not being electrified as they expect overhead power supply rather than the third rail system used on most lines in England. The third rail is cheaper to build but implies a safety risk (in case of trespassing, evacuation of a train or works) and is cumbersome to maintain. The speed reduction caused by falling leaves in autumn sounds like an outrageous joke to people living in Paris or Berlin. Indeed, the Paris regional system called RER and the Moorgate to Hertford line in northern London switch from overhead to third rail only once they reach sections that are fully underground.

L across the tracks using the footbridge

Ahead towards the tram line, the footpath turns R along the tracks and reaches a residential road

DUNDONALD ROAD

(to reach the station, you would detour L from my route for a few yards)

The tram stop was created in 2000, opening with the tram line.

Sherwood Road conservation area

Ahead on the marked footpath, ends at a roundabout

First L Kingswood Road

Kingswood Road

This residential road leads across a conservation area, a sensible designation considering the nice houses and the trees lining the streets. This suburb was built on farmland bought by John Innes, a businessman who decided to settle here. He is an interesting character: his parents had plantations in Jamaica making them rich but ended up selling out in order to get free of the moral dilemma of having slaves; he did not marry and his estate funded a school of horticulture. The suburb was developed according to the guidelines of the garden suburb movement and catered from the onset to the more genteel middle class.

L Kingston Road crossing the tracks

Art déco door of a telephone exchange

You might notice a conspicuous brick building on Kingston Road. The small entrance door at the corner is worth a look as it is a prime example of art déco from the 1930s. The sunray motive is typical but is seldom attempted in bricks. The lintel reminds a bit of Maya architecture in Central America and this is not surprising as reminders of the glory of the Empire (here British Honduras) were quite popular at the time.

Just after the tracks R on the footpath along the tram line

MERTON PARK

The tram stop was created in 2000, opening with the tram line. It is very close to an old train station also called Merton Park but there are no remnants visible from the tram stop.

Ahead skirting the end of Rutlish Road

Walkway on a former train line in Merton

The footpath crosses a local nature reserve that corresponds to a minor train line that linked Merton Park with industrial premises near the current Colliers Wood Underground station. The area was made accessible in 1994, twenty years after the last train ran. It is interesting to see how much vegetation grows naturally over a period of some 40 years.

Ahead on the footpath along the edge of an enclosed playing field

When the first fence ends, turn R across Abbey Recreation Ground.

Abbey Recreation Ground

This minor green space has no amenities of particular interest. It is a remnant of the grounds of an estate sold in the mid 19th century to developers. Interestingly, the property was owned by Lord Nelson when he died in 1805; despite having been the home of a national hero, no one bothered much when it was demolished, which shows how differently our ancestors thought about heritage issues.

The recreation ground has a single exit opposite near the parking spaces

R Morden Road crossing the tracks on a bridge

MORDEN ROAD

Morden Road tram stop

The tram stop was created in 2000, re-using the site of an old train station also called Morden Road. There are no remnants of the train station.

Shortly after the bridge L on a public footpath marked Phipps Bridge

The footpath crosses a triangular area between the tram line, the main road and a marshy area along the river Wandle. There are several paths but you cannot get lost if you take care not to cross the train line. I recommend taking the left-hand path at the first opportunity. You can then cross a paved path and continue ahead onto a boardwalk that meanders through wetlands.

Entering Morden Hall Park

This area is covered in reeds because it is flooded on occasion by the river Wandle. It is obviously one of the core reasons for the park being an important nature reserve.

You are now in Morden Hall Park, a large property actually owned by the National Trust. It was originally an estate owned by the businessman who operated a nearby snuff mill. He lived in a suitable mansion and set a large park around it but gifted everything to the heritage organisation in 1942 in order to ensure that no development would take place. As usual with the National Trust, there are many panels with explanations all over the property.

 

Wetlands in Morden Hall Park

One of many arms of the river Wandle in Morden Hall Park

Morden Hall with the moat

The boardwalk ends near small bridges. Turn right in order to cross the first two arms of the river and continue ahead. You pass on your right first Morden Hall itself, then the Stable Yard.

Morden Hall with the Victorian access bridge

Morden Hall is now an elegant restaurant with some 19th century decoration. It sits in the middle of lawns and is enclosed by a moat. This is not a medieval feature, just an 18th century fancy, and the moat is fed by the river Wandle. The bridge over the moat is normally closed but is worth a look as it is an elegant Victorian cast iron bridge.

 

River Wandle near Morden Hall

Morden Hall stables block

The former stable yard a little further on is where you get information about the property. There is a gate under a clock tower. Such clocks were usual in Victorian estates as this was the way the staff knew when to do certain duties. We can understand easily that normal staff would not be able to afford pocket watches in the 19th century, but what is really interesting is that such clock towers were not customary in the 18th century, a more leisurely time when staff could be relied upon to follow natural times like sunrise and sunset.

Former Morden Hall dairy

Part of the stables yard was a dairy, which could have been due to the borough using the property for grazing cattle in the mid-20th century. But dairies were also a normal occurrence in any large estate as it was the only way to ensure a supply of fresh milk.

Morden Hall Park

After the stable block, you reach the main access road. If you are interested in a bit of shopping, there is a National Trust garden centre and shop a few yards to your right. Otherwise, turn L across the river.

Rose Garden in Morden Hall Park

The building directly astride the river was the snuff mill that provided Mr Hatfield with the means to purchase the estate. The larger house behind the mill was first a hunting lodge for the original deer park and was later turned into a residence for Mr Hatfield’s son. The house has a very nice rose garden in summer.

 

Rose Garden

River Wandle near the Rose Garden

Cross the rose garden ahead and exit through a small gate back into Morden Hall Park

Aim for the small bridge over a minor arm of the river and cross the river. You might notice the row of impressive trees building a crescent away from the river. This was the original alley entering the property as it was fashionable to let visitors enjoy a view of the park before glimpsing the mansion.

Original access alley for Morden Hall

Instead of taking the alley, continue ahead to the edge of the park for

PHIPPS BRIDGE

The tram stop was created in 2000, opening with the tram line. “Phipps” is a family name referring to a family influential in the late 18th century.

R along the tracks (do not cross them)

South part of Morden Hall Park

You are still in Morden Hall Park, but more in the landscaped section that would have been used in the 18th century for vistas and grazing.

The footpath turns later away from the tracks towards a busy road

L along Morden Road passing a small shopping parade

Just after the shops

L Ravensbury Path (a public footpath)

BELGRAVE WALK

The tram stop was created in 2000, opening with the tram line.

Cross the tracks and continue ahead to the next road

R White Bridge Avenue

When the road turns L at the end, continue ahead on a footpath along a commercial fence. Continue ahead across the first road (an industrial access road)

R Church Path (a residential road)

Mitcham parish church

I did not detour to the parish church from which the road has its name. If you want to have a look, the church is a short distance up the street. The building dates back to 1821 and the architecture is a restrained version of neo-medieval. As classicism was still fashionable, involving unadorned walls and uncluttered lines, the church looks much less frilly than Victorian examples.

Ahead along the edge of London Road Playing Field, the footpath is called Baron Walk

London Road playing field

This is a plain green space with a small playground for children. There is a pleasant sitting area with a mysterious small sculpture in the middle. From afar, it reminds me of a Mayan petroglyph.

Turn L within the playing field towards the large brick estate buildings. Maps are not perfectly clear, but I expect you will find only one exit towards the main road (there was an other exit altogether when I walked the route in 2010, but it has apparently been closed)

R London Road crossing the tram line on a bridge

MITCHAM

(to reach the station, you would detour L from my route on an access road called Tramway Path)

The tram stop was created in 2000, re-using the site of an old train station also called Mitcham. There are no remnants of the train station.

R Morden Road, actually along the tracks although they are hidden in greenery

After passing two side streets, L into an open green space past fitness equipment (just before the River Side Café)

Entering Ravensbury Park

You are entering here Ravensbury Park, a green space set on the grounds of two factories and the mansion of their owner. There are a few interesting panels giving details. The property was abandoned in the late 19th century when chemical colours killed the business of the local calico factory and the borough bought part of the grounds in order to keep some green space while the rest was developed. The park was opened in 1930, providing primarily a walk along the river Wandle, while the river was dammed in the 1970s in order to provide an ornamental lake.

Lake in Ravensbury Park

Cross the side arm of the river on the paved path and walk to the river Wandle

L (upstream) along the river following the paved cycle trail

Estate seen from the Wandle Trail

You are following here the Wandle Trail, a very nice walking and cycling trail running all the way from the Thames in Wandsworth to the river spring in Waddon with few interruptions. A beautification effort in the 2000s included markers, signposts and several unusual gates probably meant to force cyclists to slow down when reaching main roads. In this particular section, the path gives you a few glimpses of a housing estate from the 1970s to your left that is interesting to look at. It is unusually low rise, with mature trees and a direct view to a side arm of the river. Definitely not a typical council estate.

River Wandle in Ravensbury Park

When the path ends at a road, cross the river on the Bishopsford Road bridge

Continue along the river, now on the south bank passing football grounds

 

Path along Watermeads

The path runs here along a sturdy fence instead of directly along the river. The area behind the fence, Watermeads, is a nature reserve. It is actually frequently flooded and it would not be sensible to build a paved cycle trail through it. When the path reaches the riverside again, you enter Poulter Park, named after the gentleman who gifted the property to the borough. His 19th century mansion, Bishopsford House, stands on upper ground to your right, but what you see is actually a 21st century building as the original mansion burnt down in 2001. It is now a block of private luxury flats.

21st century version of Bishopsford House

Follow the paved cycle path (the Wandle Trail) as it meanders along the river passing large playing fields.

Poulter Park

At the end of the cycle path, you reach Watermead Lane, a residential road along the river

Wandle Trail in Poulter Park

Mill Green

L on the road bridge across the river, you are now on Goat Road.

This road soon runs along a large open space (on the right side). You can walk in the open space called Mill Green as long as you keep close to Goat Road. Being a green, it is just a plain expanse of grass without amenities. There is a canal running through it, confirming that the name comes from a former mill.

At the large crossroads at the end of Goat Road, cross Goat Road and take a path along a row of houses. The path is parallel to the main road but is separated from it by a strip of greenery.

The path crosses two minor roads and reaches the end of the row of houses. It ends shortly afterwards at the third access road, Aspen Gardens

R towards the main road, cross the main road for

MITCHAM JUNCTION

Mitcham Junction tram stop

The station opened as a train station in 1868 when a new train line linking Sutton with Streatham was built, crossing here the older line from Wimbledon to Croydon. As no one lived nearby at the time, it was only built for interchange purposes. The tram platforms are located on part of the old station, but they are completely separate from the train network and there is no station building for tram travellers.

 

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Walk 8: Canning Town walk to Woolwich Arsenal

Walk 8

CANNING TOWN walk to WOOLWICH ARSENAL

2 1/4 hours

The Docklands Light Railway was originally built in 1989 to connect the former London docks undergoing conversion with the City of London. As authorities were sorely short of funds and did not expect much traffic initially, they settled for a lightweight service comparable to a driverless tram. It is a railway and not a tram because it runs on dedicated tracks and never on rails laid on a road.

The high success of the initial line led to an extension of the network over the years. The section between Canning Town and King George V opened in 2005 in order to improve the connections to London City Airport. The airport was hugely popular with businesspeople because it is close to Canary Wharf and to the City, but also because the smaller size of the airport made passport controls easier to organise and much quicker (this is less the case nowadays, particularly after 5 pm). But the airport had no good connection with public means of transportation and the fleet of taxis was causing congestion in the area.

The line was then extended to Woolwich Arsenal in 2009, providing a useful link between the train line from Kent and Canary Wharf bypassing the overcrowded interchange at Lewisham. The line was built by a private consortium and leased to public authorities, which enables the government to pretend it did not occur a debt although it is actually a debt in disguise as the leasing contract must be honored and includes a healthy profit margin for the private interests. It is uncertain whether the consortium built for a significantly lower cost than the government would have had, this being the only potential justification for fattening private profits with public leasing payments.

Before the DLR line was built, there was a cumbersome connection between Canning Town and Woolwich via a train line and a ferry, but the train line ran over a different route. As a result, the DLR line did not re-use the old tracks. These are still visible in a few locations.

The DLR is a system similar to a tram. Travel is ticketed in a manner similar to a bus and you need to be aware that Oyster cards are occasionally charged surprising amounts if you are not very careful about where you touch the machines.

Routing note: This walk connects in with Underground Jubilee line walks 9 and 10 and with DLR walks 5 and 7. It connects in Woolwich Arsenal with London Bridge network walks 7 and 8.

CANNING TOWN

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Canning Town station

The station was originally a normal train station called Barking Road and was renamed Canning Town in 1873. It opened in 1847 on the railway linking Stratford with the Woolwich ferry. The railway closed at the end of 2006 and was partly converted to a DLR line that opened in 2011 (my DLR walk 7).

 

In 1999, London Underground opened services on the Jubilee line through Canning Town. Finally, the DLR line to Royal Victoria and Beckton opened in 1995 and the additional DLR line between Canning Town and London City Airport opened in 2005.

These many lines imply a complex set of platforms. The lower level includes the former train platforms, now used by the DLR from Stratford, and the Jubilee Line platforms. They need to be kept strictly apart due to the different power system. An upper level was built in 1995 for the DLR line from Poplar.

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Canning Town station platforms

There is no real station building, but there is a half subterranean concourse for the Underground platforms. The unusual layout of one platform above an other one, but both being open-air, was solved by the architect with rather elegant, unobtrusive shapes. The roof above the upper platform reminds of an airplane wing. Unfortunately, it was fashionable in the 1990s to use undecorated concrete and this material turns grey and dirty over time.

 

Exit the station and turn R along the main road Silvertown Way

When the main road rises on a ramp, keep R to level ground, this is unmarked Peto Road

At the end L under the highway viaduct, you are now on Victoria Dock Road

R across DLR tracks using the obvious footbridge

You are crossing here the DLR line between Canning Town and Beckton, a line using the track bed of the old dock railway. It was the first railway built specifically to serve a dock in 1855. Before that, goods were transferred from docks via canal barges for longer distances or via horse-drawn carriages.

Ahead (away from the big roundabout) on Tidal Basin Road

Walk to the riverside

R (south) along the end of the basin

T3 Excel Centre from south side of dock_B

Royal Victoria Dock with Excel Exhibition Centre

The basin is Royal Victoria Dock, opened in 1855. It was a landmark development as it was the first dock built specifically for the new large steamships with a railway connection. The dock looked very different at the time as it was subdivided by piers bearing warehouses. Business dwindled to nearly nothing in the 1970s when container transport became widespread and the dividing piers were dismantled. This happened possibly in order to provide a good venue for water sports as there are not many convenient reservoirs available for sailing in London. There might also have been safety considerations as the basin is used as the runway approach for London City Airport in easterly wind conditions.

 

L continuing along the waterside

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Development along Royal Victoria Dock

You get good views from this quayside towards the newest developments around Victoria Dock. The older developments were publicly-owned and located on the southern side of the dock where you are walking now. The area was considered unattractive for commercial development because of the vicinity of industrial premises, noise from the airport and a glaring lack of conveniences such as shops and pubs. The architecture is standardised and not very imaginative in order to limit cost but it was considered a very good quality development at the time. The awards it gained appear justified as the buildings look as good as new after twenty years and residents keep the roads in very good and clean shape.

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Old dock cranes

The north side of the dock, which is better served by the DLR and located closer to employers such as Canary Wharf offices and the exhibition centre, started to be developed by speculators in the 2000s. You can see that the area caters to affluent buyers but not to rich investment bankers as the buildings are very massive with plain shapes, trying to maximise the number of flats on the ground available in order to compensate the fact that individual flats do not find buyers at the same outrageous prices than along the Thames in Wapping.

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Footbridge across Royal Victoria Dock

The spidery footbridge in the middle of the basin was built in 1998 in order to link the new developments on the south side of the basin with the DLR station at the Exhibition Centre as the line to City Airport did not exist at the time. The footbridge is designed in a manner reminiscent of the masts of 19th century sailing ships. It was built high enough to enable sailing and boating underneath.

 

R Keats Avenue (it should be the 3rd road marked by a double set of former harbour cranes, all other roads having no cranes to mark them)

Ahead Beaulieu Avenue

Ahead across a small park

Ahead West Mersea Close

WEST SILVERTOWN

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West Silvertown station

The station opened in 2005 together with the new DLR line in order to serve nearby housing developments.

Although the station is an unmanned stop, it appears much more substantial than the flimsy viaduct stations built on the older DLR line from Poplar to Beckton. The colour theme is particularly drab, the red pillars of the older line having been judged a little too 1970s. The staircase blocks are a bit blocky and there is something strange about one block being encased in glass and the other one being left open to the wind and rain.

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Platforms in West Silvertown station

The platforms are encased in a rounded shape that appears to flow seamlessly into the core viaduct. This is indeed an elegant solution and the awnings protect passengers much better than in the older stations.

L along the DLR viaduct (you are on North Woolwich Road)

R Bradfield Road

The road soon turns R and passes the entrance to Lyle Park. Do not walk on the road beyond the park entrance. The park looks initially like a small playground but is much deeper and wider than it looks from the entrance.

T8 Entering Lyle Park_B

Entering Lyle Park

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Ornamental gates in Lyle Park

The park was laid on the grounds of a sugar factory in 1924 when the owner (Mr Lyle, co-founder of well-known corporation Tate & Lyle) moved the factory away and gifted the ground, providing the only park in what was at the time a densely populated area with tenements for factory and dock workers. The borough put a bandstand on a raised area near the Thames but there were not many other amenities. The bandstand has disappeared but was replaced in 1994 by an imposing cast iron gate salvaged from nearby repair shipyard Harland & Wolff. The planting is low maintenance without formal flower beds, but the rose bushes around the old gate are lovely in summer. There are also a few other nice bushes and a heather bed near the entrance.

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Roses in Lyle Park

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River Thames seen from Lyle Park

The park is nearly always empty, people being more attracted to the larger and more accessible Thames Barrier Park. As the park looks out over the Thames, you get a view towards the industrial premises in Charlton. My picture shows a seagoing ship, which is not very often the case upstream of the Thames Barrier.

After visiting the park, come back to North Woolwich Road

R continuing along the DLR viaduct

PONTOON DOCK

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Pontoon Dock station

The station opened in 2005 together with the new DLR line. There are only smaller housing developments in the area, but there are some industrial premises and what was planned as a major park.

The station is an exact copy of the West Silvertown model and does not warrant an additional comment. My picture taken from below shows that the rounded shape of the awnings does not actually flow seamlessly into the main concrete beam of the viaduct, but the optical effect is reached by steel trusses and this is enough to be elegant.

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London Cruise Terminal in 2010

I suggest you climb up to the platform as it will provide you with a nice view of the Royal Victoria dock. As you can see on my picture, there was only wasteland between the station and the dock at the time and you had a very interesting view of a derelict warehouse and polluted factory sitting threateningly over what was the new London Cruise Terminal. Actually, most ships use the much larger cruise terminal in the Tilbury docks because this avoids going through narrow tidal locks. For ships that are small enough to go through the Thames Barrier, a new cruise terminal is planned on derelict industrial premises in North Greenwich.

Detour from the DLR station into Thames Barrier Park

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Thames Barrier Park

The park opened in 2000 after many years of difficult and costly work as the land had been used by a chemical factory and was heavily polluted. It was a core project to make the developments on the south side of Royal Victoria Dock sufficiently attractive and proved extremely popular with local residents but also later with people from further away due to the very convenient DLR access.

 

 

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Birch trees and café in Thames Barrier Park

A good proportion of the park is the typical set of wide open green spaces as this is popular for football and picknicks. One peculiarity is that most trees are birch trees, a pioneer tree that is happy with difficult, quickly draining ground such as former industrial soil. There are few locations in London with parks on this type of soil and therefore not many occasions to see large clumps of birch trees.

 

 

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Formal garden in Thames Barrier Park

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Formal garden in winter

The formal part of the park will come as a big surprise to people used to the English style of gardening. The landscape architect was a French company and the result of their planning is indeed the kind of postmodern park that has been quite popular in Paris and Brussels since the 1990s. It involves very geometric planning with long straight lines compensated by thick hedges pruned in wavy shapes.

 

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Garden in the postmodern style

T18a_BT17b_BFlower beds in the typical English style are eschewed in favour of coloured planting between the hedges. Postmodern landscaping likes curving walks meant to lead you along the most interesting viewpoints, a little like in traditional Japanese gardening, but this was not done in Thames Barrier Park, you can just walk along the hedges to enjoy the colourful flowers in season. One advantage of the hedges is that they cut wind (it can get really hot in summer, with people sunbathing); in addition, they are evergreen and provide an attraction in winter as well.

 

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White planting

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Blue planting

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Newham war memorial in Thames Barrier Park

The main sight within the garden is a structure that looks like a pavilion on thin pillars. It does not protect much from wind and rain as the roof is very high up with no side protection, but this is linked to the fact that the structure is actually a war memorial commemorating the victims of German bombs during World War II in an area that was a prime objective due to the docks and factories.

 

 

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Unusual view of Thames Barrier at low tide

The park looks out to the river and provides a very good view of the Thames Barrier, possibly even a better view than you can get from the official information centre on the other river bank. The barrier was designed in the 1970s once it became apparent that large seagoing ships would not need to visit the upstream docks any more, using rather the container terminals in places like Tilbury. The structure was finished in 1984 and is used half a dozen times a year, in most cases in order to prevent the rising tide from adding to a swollen river after heavy rains. The principle is simply that of rotating gates that lie on the ground of the river in normal times.

On exiting the park, resume walking along the DLR viaduct

At the road roundabout ahead, still on North Woolwich Road. The road merges into Factory Road

T22 Silvertown Music Hall_B

Church turned into a cabaret

The building that looks like a sizeable church on this road was indeed a church built in 1857 and is a listed monument since 1971 because of its unusual structure. It is actually built in steel with the bricks being just a covering. The borough had intended to convert the former church into a local museum, but the roof burned down in 1981 and the building ended up being converted into a commercial music hall in 2003. It specialises in matinees with catering.

 

T23 Poppies mural in grounds of Music Hall_B

Poppies mural and war mémorial

You might want to pay attention to the small war memorial in the grounds of the music hall. The wall behind the memorial has been painted beautifully with two scenes, one with a view of the area in the early 20th century with a large ship looming in the background due to the local repair shipyard, the other scene with a poppy field in Flanders. If you travel to Flanders nowadays, you are unlikely to see many poppies as this very fragile plant cannot resist the herbicides widely used in the industrialised agriculture of Flanders. Note that the sun rises over Flanders while it is still dark in Silvertown in the picture, which mirrors actual conditions.

Shortly afterwards L across a former train line using the old footbridge

T24 Tate & Lyle factory still working_B

Sugar factory and disused train line

The footbridge gives you a good view of the derelict train line from Canning Town to the Woolwich ferry, now being converted to the future Crossrail line. The large factory in the background is the London basis of food multinational Tate & Lyle and is a sugar refinery. It is one of the very few industrial premises still having full normal production activities within London, helped by the fact that smaller seagoing ships can reach it as it is downstream of the Thames Barrier.

R along the former train line on Connaught Road

L Parker Street

At the end R up a short ramp to reach the access road for

LONDON CITY AIRPORT

T26 London City Airport station_B

London City Airport station

The station opened in 2005 together with the new train line and was the main reason for building the line.

This is one of the very few DLR stations with an actual building and even a staffed ticket office as arriving international passengers often need information and assistance. The station consists of a plain glass box below the viaduct and a rather drab grey oval box encasing the platform. The aesthetics is very “1990s financial sector”: cheap, plain but flashy enough. The view of the platforms shows a good colour scheme with blue steel girders giving rhythm to the curved glass surface.

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Platforms at London City Airport station

 

 

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London City Airport terminal

By the way, the terminal itself is a small, utilitarian structure with a very plain glass and concrete front. It is clearly meant as a convenient terminal for businessmen, not as a flashy welcoming structure for tourists or as a high-throughput hall for masses of stag party candidates on their way to Mallorca. Airlines would love to land larger planes at this very convenient airport as there would be high demand from travelers, but the runway would be very difficult to extend and the tarmac is already congested at rush hour.

Leave the station using a subway under the access road (should be marked “Drew Road”)

L Drew Road

at the end R Leonard Street

L Newland Street

Just before the end of the road R into Sheldrake Close

Ahead on the footpath into the open space, then L still within the open space

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Sheldrake Close open space

This is the type of small open space that was not turned into an official park but has exactly the same function. It is clearly a legacy of the garden suburb movement and remained popular until the 1950s. Then came the time of the high-rise tower estates. Current fashion goes to inward-looking gated estates that look like classical garden suburbs but are off-limits to passers-by and force you to walk along main highways.

Cross a first road, continuing ahead along houses. The footpath turns R at the end towards a road corner with a small open space

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Satellite tracking station

From the open space, you have a view to a row of large satellite dishes on the other side of the main road and former train line. This is a location bearing originally the complicated name London North Woolwich Earth Station. It is now called the London Teleport but is still not a Star Wars teleportation terminal. It is used to catch signals from a large set of specialised satellites, some of them for financial institutions who need to keep in light-speed-contact with exotic stock markets in Central Africa or Pacific islands. Built by BT, it was sold in 2007 to a group of pension funds as it is the kind of low-investment, stable-return infrastructure business they like to invest in.

At the end L Fernhill Street

R Manwood Street

After a small park L to reach Dockland Street

At the end R for

KING GEORGE V

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King George V station

 

 

The station opened in 2005 as a temporary terminal for the new DLR line and was converted into a normal station in 2009 after the line was extended to Woolwich. It serves a number of nearby housing developments although these are not very sought after due to the noise from the airport.

 

 

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Platforms at King George V station

As usual on the DLR network, there is no station building. The platforms are actually invisible from the road because of a particularly ugly and massive wall. Seen from the footbridge, the platforms are very plain with a simple corrugated iron awning.

At the east end of the DLR station, turn R on Pier Road (there is a pavement sign saying “ferry”)

 

T34 Shopping square in Pier Road_B

Shopping square in Pier Road

The road crosses a small square with a few shops beneath rather low apartment buildings. The setup shows clearly that this is not a flashy suburb, but the shops are certainly very useful as they are the only ones within a significant distance.

The road turns R at the end past the former train terminal. Walk to the rotunda of the foot tunnel

 

T35 Disused North Woolwich terminal_B

Disused North Woolwich train terminal

The former train station is a very nice building from 1847, the time when train stations were still major landmarks and the access to a fascinating, nearly glamorous means of fast transportation. The terminal was built accordingly in a majestic neo-classical style. It was unusual to build stations in U-form in order not to lose valuable ground surface and the terrace above the passenger hall must have been very enjoyable for the station master whose apartment gave out on it. The building is in red bricks, a contrast to the more or less contemporary station in Greenwich, built in yellow bricks.

The building and the platforms were used for a small railway museum until 2008, when it was decided to use some of the grounds for the construction of the Crossrail tunnel. I have found no information about the potential future use of the nice railway terminal.

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Woolwich ferry pier

Take the Woolwich Foot Tunnel or the free ferry. As I comment on the tunnel in a Jubilee line walk, I suggest taking rather the ferry if it is operating. It is free since 1889 and runs quite regularly. It is actually the only ferry in London that really makes sense from a traffic point of view as there are no Thames crossings between Dartford and Greenwich. If you happen to cross with a GPS system one day, look at the screen while in the middle of the river. This gives interesting “riddle pictures”.

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Woolwich ferry

Once you are on the right bank of the Thames, walk up the ramp from the ferry pier to the large roundabout.

Walk around the roundabout on the L side and continue ahead on the main road (John Wilson Road)

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Former film theatre in Woolwich

The corner building near the roundabout, the Gateway House, now houses a church named interestingly the “New Wine Church”. I love the name as it could be used to comical effect in a number of manners (drunken churchgoers ? wine made of some new ingredients ?) while I acknowledge that this church in the evangelical tradition has a number of highly commendable charitable activities. The building was built in 1937 as a film theatre in the Art Déco style typical for this type of venue at the time.

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Art Déco detail

As opposed to the more decorative style of the early 1930s, the vertical shapes are not compensated by curving horizontal shapes and this gives a somewhat austere look fitting with the economic crises of the late 1930s. The building is used by the church since 2001.

Very soon L Powis Street

T39 Corner Powis Street_B

Former film theatre on Powis Street

One of the most conspicuous buildings near the start of the street is also an imposing Art Déco building and was a direct competitor to the other one as it opened also in 1937. The style is more traditionally Art Déco, combining vertical elements such as the tower with curving horizontal shapes. Very large plain surfaces in red brick were the height of fashion, inspired by Dutch contemporary architecture (and conveniently cheap to build). It is now also a church in the evangelical tradition, part of a very successful organisation founded in 1989 by a gentleman of Nigerian origin. As opposed to the New Wine Church, it is known more for missionary enthusiasm and investment in impressive cathedrals than for charitable outreach.

T40 Art déco in Powis Street_B

Former Art Déco department store

Just after a large parking area, the street narrows between two very urban buildings. The left-hand one is a derelict building that looks like a factory from the 1930s with the typical band of large glass windows inspired by the German Bauhaus concept. The tower is not very ornate but it was indeed a department store belonging to the cooperative movement. The building is probably listed and renovation seems under way but I do not know for which further use.

 

T42 Mid-victorian style in Powis Street_B

Former seat of Woolwich Cooperative

The building opposite with the Edwardian entrance tower marked “Central Stores established 1908” was the central building of the shopping cooperative founded by arsenal workers in 1868. It turned progressively into of the most successful cooperatives in Britain with 500,000 members throughout the southeast of England. The 1973 crisis forced it to merge into the larger Co-op group.

Although I am very much in favour of the cooperative movement as such, I think some questions can be asked once cooperatives reach such a size that individual members have very little personal link with the organisation. The difficulties of the Woolwich cooperative were indeed closely linked to the fact that members saw no differences any more between their shops and capitalist competitors apart from a very small rebate at year end. More work on appropriate governance and communication structures would be warranted.

The building is very Edwardian in terms of colour scheme (red with cream-coloured highlights) and decoration (unashamed mix of styles including Palladian, Italian Renaissance, Dutch gables, neo-romanesque window arches and a statue in the baroque tradition). The building houses other commercial interests by now. There are several commercial buildings in a similar style further up the street, but they are all much smaller and less impressive.

T44 1950s example_B

Typical shopping building from the 1950s

The very last building at the corner opposite the DLR station is a concrete box used by a bank. It is worth a short look as it is a typical structure from the 1950s, a period when not much was built in London. The concrete boxes encasing rows of windows and curtain walls are typical and testify to a new construction method: a limited number of concrete pillars carry the weight of the walls and floors and the outside walls have no carrying function.

This enables much thinner walls, which saves a lot on costs and construction time although it proved a problem later in terms of insufficient insulation against outside temperatures, causing huge heating or cooling costs. It also provided a new aesthetics, the “shoebox style”. Fancy decoration in the Edwardian or Art Déco tradition was hopelessly out of fashion and plain concrete walls were decorated if in any manner with a contemporary abstract painting (popular for schools) or with a cast iron sculpture. In the present case, there is no decoration at all.

The road ends opposite the station

WOOLWICH ARSENAL

T45 Woolwich Arsenal DLR station_B

Woolwich Arsenal DLR terminal

The station opened in 2009 when the DLR line was extended beyond King George V and is the terminal. It is one of very few underground stations on the DLR network. Although there is an easy connection to the nearby suburban train station, the two buildings are very different and clearly separate.

The station being subterranean, the only thing above ground is the entrance pavilion, a plain glass box that I suspect can be conveniently integrated into a shopping centre if the plot gets developed one day (there is a good example in Brixton). The awning is a fancy item where the light designer could have a little fun.

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Mural in Woolwich Arsenal DLR station

An other fun item is the mosaic encasing the stairs with depictions of everyday items in bright colours. Obviously, it is meant as a serious work of art in the direction of pop art.

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Walk 7: Stratford Intl walk to Canning Town

Walk 7

STRATFORD INTERNATIONAL walk to CANNING TOWN

approx. 1 1/2 hours

The Docklands Light Railway was originally built in 1989 to connect the former London docks undergoing conversion with the City of London. As authorities were sorely short of funds and did not expect much traffic initially, they settled for a lightweight service comparable to a driverless tram. It is a railway and not a tram because it runs on dedicated tracks and never on rails laid on a road.

The high success of the initial line led to an extension of the network over the years. When derelict industrial land north of Stratford was chosen for major London Olympics equipment, a good connection to this area became essential and a DLR extension was built between the olympic site gates and London City Airport. The line opened just in time in 2011.

Actually, the DLR line re-uses a former train line that remained in use until 2006. It linked Stratford with the Woolwich ferry while the short section between Stratford and Stratford International was a creation ex nihilo for the Olympic Games.

The DLR is a system similar to a tram. Travel is also ticketed in a manner similar to a bus and you need to be aware that Oyster cards are occasionally charged surprising amounts if you are not very careful about where you touch the machines.

Routing note: This walk connects in Stratford with DLR walk 4 and with Liverpool Street network walks 9, 13 and 14. It will also connect in Stratford with Underground Central Line walk 8 and with Jubilee Line walk 10. It connects in West Ham with the same Jubilee walk 10 but also with Fenchurch Street network walks 1 and 2 and with Underground District line walk 13. Finally, this walk connects in Canning Town with Jubilee line walks 9 and 10 and with DLR walks 5 and 8.

STRATFORD INTERNATIONAL

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Stratford International DLR terminal

The DLR station lies alongside a train station called confusingly Stratford International although no international trains call here. The name comes from a plan to have Eurostar trains from France calling at Stratford and continuing towards Birmingham. The plan never came to fruition and international trains bound for the St Pancras terminal have no need to stop so close to their final destination.

The DLR tracks start in a completely separate location on the other side of a service road. The terminal opened in 2011 together with the new DLR line.

The station is much more substantial than most DLR stations, probably because of its intended use as a gateway during the Olympic Games. The platforms are in a deep cutting and the facilities above ground are limited to a lift shaft and staircase access. All of this is under a wide, high canopy carried by thin pillars typical for DLR aesthetics. I find the whole setup a bit sterile but pleasantly uncluttered. The recessed lighting is even really elegant.

Exit the DLR station

R on the footbridge crossing the long-distance train station

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Canopy of Stratford Intl train station

As mentioned above, international trains do not stop here. The station is used by a small number of fast commuter trains linking Kent with the St Pancras terminal. As a result of this arrangement, the sizeable customs and passport facilities have been mothballed. The station architecture is surprisingly similar to that of the nearby DLR station, a large canopy on tall, thin, boringly grey pillars.

Ahead into the shopping centre, turn L into the first main mall avenue

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Westfield Shopping Centre

The shopping centre is huge, the third largest in Britain. It is also a large source of employment with 10,000 jobs but the shops in the centre actually kill the high street shopping in surrounding areas, as has been experienced all over Britain, so that many people are losing their jobs at the same time. You might argue that a shopping centre is a more attractive place to look at shops than a high street if the weather is unreliable. In my opinion, Westfield Centre is not very interesting and the inside architecture is boring.

Urban planners have mixed feelings about huge shopping centres. They do concentrate traffic away from central city areas that can be converted to pedestrianised precincts. They also attract many people to an area of town where they would not go otherwise, the local authorities getting some return in terms of local taxes on businesses. But these shopping centres lure people away from the streets, leaving streets empty, boring and potentially more difficult to police. In addition, competition from the shopping centre shops kills the more individual shops and many restaurants, making the city centre dull.

For business, shopping centres are also a mixed blessing. They attract more visitors than a high street shop could reach, but the rents are so high that only chain shops can afford them. As a result, all shopping centres have the same shops and it is difficult to attract visitors as soon as distance to the next shopping centre is similar. The other issue is that the high rents imply that most of the profit goes to the developer or owner of the shopping centre, often a foreign institutional investor nowadays. Considering manyfold opportunities to optimise the tax basis, not much of the profit is taxed in Britain ultimately.

Exit ahead and cross the many train tracks on the footbridge

R on the forecourt for

STRATFORD

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Stratford main station

This very important interchange is one of the oldest train stations in London as it was opened as early as 1839. The first line to pass through the station ran from London Devonshire Street (a temporary terminal in Mile End) to Romford. The station has a very complex layout on two levels. The low level includes the terminal of London Underground Jubilee line and two platforms used by the DLR line from Canning Town to Stratford International.

The high level includes the terminal of the DLR line to Canary Wharf, two platforms used by the London Underground Central line, two platforms used by London Overground trains towards Richmond and four platforms used by trains from London Liverpool Street towards East Anglia. There is an isolated platform at the rear of the station used as the terminal for train services towards Tottenham Hale. Interestingly, there are even two platforms that are unused as plans to run trains from London Fenchurch Street to Barking via Stratford in the 1940s were abandoned despite finishing construction.

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School of fish in front of Stratford station

The station was rebuilt several times due to the considerable extension of interchange possibilities. The current building is an imposing contemporary construction meant as a gateway for the 2012 Olympics visitors. There is a nice decoration along the fence between the bus station and the road. It looks to me a little like a school of fish although you could also see trees with leaves.

Walk along the length of the bus station towards a footbridge over the DLR and Underground tracks

L opposite the footbridge on a passage between office buildings towards the main highway

Cross High Steeet at the traffic lights passing the steel sculpture on the central reservation

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Stratford Magistrates’ Court

The large traffic island has a few thin palm trees and a very large abstract steel sculpture. The work by Malcolm Robertson is called “Railway tree” and refers to the 19th century growth of Stratford fueled by its location as an important railway junction. The large shopping centre you crossed before was actually built on the location of the former sidings and works.

The building on the south side of Broadway opposite the traffic island is Stratford Magistrates’ Court. It is a modern building but the front to the main road is quite elegant. It has some reminders of a medieval castle with crenellations and gothic, narrow windows. The colour scheme combining cream stone with bricks is a recurrent fashion in English architecture, it was fashionable for a time in the 17th century and again around 1900. Altogether, it is interesting and unusual to see a modern public building using neo-gothic elements like in the Victorian era.

R High Street

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Former theatre in Stratford

Just after crossing Bridge Road, you pass a composite building which was originally an Edwardian extravaganza, the Borough Theatre, seating 3,000 people from 1897 onwards. It was sold to a film theatre operator in 1933 and got a new front in a restrained Art Déco style. As the new owners only rebuilt the corner, the mix with the older parts of the building is quite weird. Like many suburban cinemas, it became later a bingo hall and then a night club.

L Bridge Road

STRATFORD HIGH STREET

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Stratford High Street DLR station

The station first opened as a train station on the line between Stratford and Canning Town and was called Stratford Bridge between 1847 and 1880, Stratford Market between 1880 and 1888, “Stratford Market (West Ham)” from 1888 until 1923 and again Stratford Market from 1923 until closure in 1957. The present DLR station opened with the new line that replaced the train line in 2011.

 

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Stratford High Street platform access

The original Victorian station building is still standing on High Street. It is substantial because of the important goods traffic, but it is surprisingly sedate with very little in terms of decorative frills or colour games. The building is now just a façade hiding a few shops and offices. A long concrete ramp gives access to the platforms.

Follow Bridge Road all the way along the DLR tracks.

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Dawn Crescent greenery

The only feature in this section is a strip of greenery along the road. Stratford (from a ford used by a “street”) is a working class suburb and you will cross mostly low-rise suburban estates on this walk.

ABBEY ROAD

The station opened in 2011 together with DLR line.

 

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Abbey Road DLR station

This is the most convenient station to have a look at the standard platform furniture used at all stations between Stratford and Canning Town: short awnings carried by plain grey pillars, small grey towers for the lifts and a very simple footbridge. The 1994 line from Stratford to Canary Wharf has awnings covering most of the platforms, the 1999 line from Canning Town to Beckford has red lift towers. But materials are always cheap, simple and dull.

L Abbey Road away from the DLR tracks

R Leywick Steet

R Manor Road

WEST HAM

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West Ham DLR platforms

The station was opened in 1901 by a railway company linking London Fenchurch Street with Barking on a line that already existed since 1858 because it was necessary to provide access to a new football stadium nearby. When the London Underground District Line opened in 1902, the station became an interchange, but trains stopped calling here from 1908 onwards (with a few exceptions). Trains call again since 1999.

In 1979, platforms were built on an other train line that ran through West Ham on its way between Stratford and Canning Town. This interchange was available until 2006; the train line was replaced by a DLR line on the same route that opened in 2011.

In addition, West Ham is served by London Underground: District Line since 1902 on tracks parallel to the Fenchurch Street train line, Jubilee Line since 1999 on tracks parallel to the Stratford-Canning Town train line.

The station building is a rather impressive structure from 1999 but the DLR part is just a short platform.

L Memorial Avenue

Enter Memorial Recreation Ground

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Memorial Recreation Ground

The original user of this place was the Thames Ironwork Football Club founded in 1897. The club is better known as the West Ham United Football Club, their later name. They moved away in 1904 to Upton Park and the grounds have mainly been used for football and rugby pitches since. The blue building with a glass roof near the playground is a community centre, but I paid more attention to the new pavilions. They gained an architecture commendation in 2010 and were built specifically with a view to discourage vandalism and graffiti through the use of appropriate materials.

The grass expanse of the park is uninteresting and there are no flower beds.

R along the sports fields to the park exit

L Grange Road

R Hermit Road

The road runs along Hermit Road Recreation Ground

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Hermit Road Recreation Ground

This park opened in 1899 as a typical neighbourhood park in the quickly growing suburb. It had most usual amenities of the time like a bandstand, a drinking fountain and a playground, with a bowling green being added later on. What it did not have was flower beds while a small rose garden exists now in a corner of the park.

 

 

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Rose garden in Hermit Road Recreation Ground

At the street corner where you leave the park edge, there is a beautifully painted substation. It commemorates primarily a former mayor, Daisy Parsons. What makes her special is that very few women were elected into political positions at the time (1937). The reverse wall of the substation is more male. I wish more boroughs would ask artists to paint such urban furniture in an interesting manner.

 

 

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Daisy Parsons mural

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John Bethell mural

R Kimberley Road

At the end L on a footpath past school grounds, the path turns R

Ahead Chester Road

L Hilda Road

R Star Lane

STAR LANE

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Star Lane DLR station

 

The station opened in 2011 together with the DLR line.

The platforms are an exact copy of those at Abbey Road. The only addition is that the station footbridge also extends above the neighbouring road to an additional grey lift tower.

Turn around on Star Lane without having crossed the DLR tracks

R Clarence Road

The road runs along Star Park, so that you can walk in the park instead of the road

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Star Park

 

This is more an open space than a real park with just a few amenities for informal sports and a small playground. Being located on the very edge of the built-up area of West Ham near industrial premises, I suppose it was leftover land that was just not convenient for housing. There is a similar, smaller open space a little further on off Malmesbury Road.

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Open space in Malmesbury Road

 

 

 

Ahead on the paved track across a corner of Star Park

R Percy Road

L Malmesbury Road

R Oak Crescent

R Barking Road

Cross the roundabout under the motorway for

CANNING TOWN

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Canning Town DLR station

The station was originally a normal train station called Barking Road and was renamed Canning Town in 1873. It opened in 1847 on the railway linking Stratford with the Woolwich ferry. The railway closed at the end of 2006 and was partly converted to the DLR line that opened in 2011.

In 1999, London Underground opened services on the Jubilee line through Canning Town. Finally, a DLR line to Royal Victoria and Beckton opened in 1995 and an additional DLR line between Canning Town and London City Airport opened in 2005.

These many lines imply a complex set of platforms. The lower level includes the former train platforms, now used by the DLR from Stratford, and the Jubilee Line platforms. They need to be kept strictly apart due to the different power system. An upper level was built in 1995 for the DLR line from Poplar.

There is no real station building, but there is a half subterranean concourse for the Underground platforms. The unusual layout of one platform above an other one, but both being open-air, was solved by the architect with rather elegant, unobtrusive shapes. The roof above the upper platform reminds of an airplane wing. Unfortunately, it was fashionable in the 1990s to use undecorated concrete and this material turns grey and dirty over time.

Posted in DLR Docklands Light Railway | 1 Comment

Walk 6: Royal Victoria walk to Beckton

Walk 6

ROYAL VICTORIA walk to BECKTON

2 hours

A light railway was built in the 1980s to link the newly developed Docklands with Stratford and with the City of London. It proved very successful both in terms of traffic and in terms of attracting conversions and developers. As a result, an additional line was opened in 1994 between Poplar and locations further east in order to encourage development in this area. The light railway uses former quayside tracks at some points but runs often on viaducts and is more or less a creation ex nihilo.

Traffic expectations were moderate and a light railway appeared perfectly sufficient. It actually works more like a tram and even the Oyster software deals with the DLR like with a bus, causing occasional overcharging if you are not very careful about where you touch the machines.

Routing note: This walk connects in Royal Victoria with DLR walk 5.

ROYAL VICTORIA

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Royal Victoria DLR station

The station opened together with the new DLR line in 1994.

As usual on the DLR, there is no station building and there are not even awnings. The staircases are standard prefabricated versions and the red footbridge pillars with the broken tops are standard for this DLR line.

Exit the station towards the new developments on the dockside

Take the narrow footpath between the apartment buildings towards the waterside

L along the basin

The Royal Victoria Dock was opened in 1855 as the largest of the Port of London docks. It looked different while in use because it included several long piers cutting it into a series of interlinked smaller basins. The dock was large enough to remain very active after World War II, accommodating large seagoing vessels. After the onset of container transport made traditional docks and warehouses redundant, the dock was left idle until conversion started in the 1990s.

Part of the conversion was commissioned by public authorities because interest from private speculators was limited: the clientele for luxury flats could afford flats nearer to Canary Wharf. The typical clientele for flats in outer suburbs with few amenities such as pubs and supermarkets in the vicinity is the lower middle class and this is not an interesting market for speculators.

Walking along the former dock gives you an overview of different types of conversions. There is the landmark development trying to do an architectural statement, a type more frequent directly around Canary Wharf.

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Development on Royal Victoria Dock

 

Then, there is the boring, high-density development compensating the lower purchasing power of the buyers through maximisation of the space available.

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Pile’em-high development near Royal Victoria station

Then, you have the derelict surviving building that developers hesitate about because they fear pollution issues.

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Derelict mills on Royal Victoria Dock

Lastly, you have the unimaginative row of mock suburban houses. They are just too tall and too fat to be real villas and they are all alike. Similar schemes were used in Rotherhithe and this is the type favoured for public commissions.

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South side of Royal Victoria Dock

 

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Royal Victoria Dock footbridge

The first part of the dock ends at a rather impressive footbridge built in 1998 in order to connect the residents of the new development on the south side of the dock with the shops on the north side. The bridge stands 15 m above water level in order to enable unhampered sailing in the dock. The shape is inspired by the several masts of 19th century vessels. I recommend you take the lift and have a short walk at the top of the footbridge in order to enjoy the view east towards Canary Wharf.

On reaching the footbridge L along the exhibition centre

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Former warehouse

The exhibition centre itself is a huge empty box, something unavoidable for this type of building. On the other side of the walkway towards the station, you can see one of the few old warehouses that were converted rather than demolished.

A covered walkway leads the DLR station

CUSTOM HOUSE for EXCEL

t32-custom-house-for-excel-station_bThere was a train station here between 1855 and 2006 on a train line linking Stratford with the Woolwich ferry. The DLR station opened in 1994 together with the new light railway.

There is no station building like in most DLR stations. The platforms and staircases are standard issue except that the station has a central platform. The awnings are therefore a simplified version of the Poplar model and not the more typical Blackwall model.

Cross the DLR tracks and the highway

Ahead Freemasons Road

R Ethel Road

At the end of the road R and soon L into Cundy Park

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Cundy Park

The park is a modest strip of greenery with no amenities of particular interest, one of several neighbourhood parks serving West Beckton.

The eastern exit of the park is a small gate at the north-east corner

R Prince Regent Road

Cross the highway using the traffic lights

PRINCE REGENT

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Prince Regent DLR station

The station opened in 1994 together with the DLR line. Its purpose is in part to provide an additional access into the nearby Exhibition Centre when overcrowding threatens at Custom House.

The platforms, stairs and pillars are a nearly exact copy of the Royal Victoria set, which obviously helped to save design and construction costs.

Cross the DLR tracks and walk between the hotel and the exhibition centre to the waterside (the easiest way is to use the raised walkway if this is open as it will lead you directly to stairs towards the basin)

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School building near Prince Regent station

From the footbridge over the tracks, you have an interesting view of the local primary school. It has a rather unusual shape, a cross with four arms around a central dome. This was made possible by the sizeable grounds but is seldom done because many school directors and parents prefer children to play in courtyards protected from potential outside influence. In the 19th century, this shape was considered convenient for buildings that needed permanent surveillance such as prisons and hospitals.

There was a lovely freeze on the wall between the DLR tracks and the bus stops when I was there in 2010. It shows typical dock activity including unloading circus animals, but it also shows World War II remembrances.

 

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Unloading circus animals

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World War II remembrances

There is also a somewhat ridiculous poem in the form of a fancy sailor’s alphabet. If you read it, you will realise that the ponderous English is likely to be a late Victorian composition for children of the upper middle class.

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Victorian sailors’ alphabet

L along the basin passing under the road

The road bridge is Connaught Bridge, actually a swingbridge as it can be opened when a larger boat needs to pass from Royal Victoria Dock into Royal Albert Dock. From the riverside pier under the bridge, you get a good view of the Excel centre and the footbridge appears now surprisingly far away.

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Royal Victoria Dock from Connaught Bridge

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London City Airport

After the bridge, the view is towards the narrower Royal Albert Dock. What you do see very well is London City Airport, one of the main reasons why the area had only limited appeal to prospective buyers of luxury flats. The noise level is limited by the fact that only smaller planes can land due to the short runway, but it is still way above a pleasant level. Services stop at night and on Sundays, but there are always exceptions with many commercial interests finding ever more pretences to achieve additional exceptions. The best view of the runway comes later, the view you have for the time being is more of the terminal and operations.

Continue along the basin to the large office building

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Royal Albert Dock from Connaught Bridge

The solitary office building along the waterside (Newham Dockside) was built in 2009 by the borough council in order to concentrate a certain number of offices that did not need to be in a central location. The borough tries to offset some of the costs by renting out part of the building, which regularly leads to speculation about the borough wanting to sell out. I expect this will not happen before the area has become significantly more attractive to developers.

 

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Entrance of borough offices

L along the building for

ROYAL ALBERT

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Royal Albert DLR station

The station opened in 1994 together with the DLR line. At the time, there were neither houses nor offices nearby and this proves how the line was planned initially as a motor for conversion and development of this derelict harbour area. Although housing remains relatively far away, the lack of alternatives ensures reasonable traffic.

The station lies on a viaduct and the architecture (or the lack thereof) follows the Blackwall model. I was a little surprised at how clean the glass panels of the staircase and platform were when I took the picture.

Cross the highway at the roundabout

After the roundabout R into Beckton District Park, keep on the edge of the park parallel to the highway

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Newham Dockside office building

The only interesting thing to be seen in the vicinity is the dockside building now that you are far enough to get an overview. The building is a rather successful example of the fashion in office building in the 1990s. It stresses the horizontal rather than the vertical, it has an unbroken glass façade hiding completely the concrete pillars and it has a central atrium up to the roof. Transparent rather than reflective or tainted glass is also rather 2000, being somewhat suboptimal in terms of sunlight and heating, but is appropriate for borough offices as it can be seen as stressing transparent administration.

At the end of the park R across the highway for

BECKTON PARK

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Beckton Park DLR station

The station opened in 1994 together with the DLR line and has not attracted much development for the time being so that traffic is very low.

This is one of the more interesting DLR stations. It does not have a station building but it is located interestingly under the central reservation of a highway roundabout. Instead of the usual blocky footbridges at both ends of the platforms, there is an elegant suspended bridge in the middle of the station.

Go back into Beckton District Park walking along the eastern edge

At the further corner R on a passage across Parry Avenue into the park extension called New Beckton Park

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New Beckton Park

The park was created in 1901 when the borough opened a council estate nearby. It was a typical Edwardian neighbourhood park with a bandstand and a lake. The primary purpose of local parks has changed since to providing sports fields and playgrounds and is not very exciting. In the case of Beckton Park, there is a large nature area, but it is located further north in a section of the park that I visit on a Jubilee line walk.

At the end of the park, take the footpath along the grounds of the primary school (the school is on your L)

At the end R along the road following the pedestrian sign for

CYPRUS

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Cyprus DLR station

The station opened in 1994 together with the DLR line.

It is an exact copy of Beckton Park station including the nice suspended footbridge.

Cross the DLR tracks and walk under the arch of the university building to the waterside.

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Older view of the University building

 

Compare my picture of the arch with that of the same arch taken three years before and you will notice that the colour changed from strong red to sky blue. The University of East London opened a campus here in 1999 when this was still a completely unused area. It is quite normal for a government to settle an important institution in such areas in the hope of kickstarting development. I must admit that I noticed little student life or corresponding commercial amenities in the vicinity.

L along the basin

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Plane spotting

This is an interesting walkway between the airport runway and conspicuous housing towers. It is one of the best locations to do a bit of plane spotting without harming too much your health. You will be less exposed to noise and fumes than you would be at the end of the runway.

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University of East London

 

 

 

 

 

The round towers are student accomodation. I suppose they are highly sought after, but certainly not because of many opportunities to go out, visit clubs, do your shopping or get drunk in walking distance – these are sorely lacking. The attraction comes rather from the fact that student flats are completely unaffordable in more attractive parts of London. I don’t know if the flats are managed by a public body or by a private corporation, which would fit the British model better.

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Student housing along Royal Albert Dock

Just before the road bridge, turn L towards the DLR viaduct

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Royal Albert Dock

You can also detour on the bridge for a view of the basin from its end. It is similar to the view from the exhibition centre footbridge, just with more water in the foreground. When it opened in 1880, this was an even large dock than the neighbouring Royal Victoria Dock. The City Airport runway was built by infilling the southern edge of the dock. There is a marina at the end of the dock near a lock still giving access to the Thames.

Follow the tracks R along part of the large roundabout for

GALLIONS REACH

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Gallions Reach DLR station

The station opened in 1994 together with the DLR line and has not attracted much development for the time being except for a shopping mall so that traffic is quite low.

The station lies on a viaduct and the architecture (or the lack thereof) follows the Blackwall model.

Walk back to the roundabout and take the second R. This is Woolwich Manor Way

At the following roundabout R on the road towards the bridge (this is unnamed because it is actually only the access bridge to an industrial facility)

Just before crossing the bridge R into a inconspicuous, paved cycle path

The path turns on itself in order to lead under the access road

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Elaborate bridge to nowhere

After crossing under the road, you get a surprising view if you turn back and look at the bridge. It has elaborate steel finials for no apparent reason.

Now ahead and right on the cycle route (marked Dagenham). It runs soon between a motorway and the grounds of a primary school

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Cycle route

At the end of the school fence L along the DLR tracks on a minor road called Stonewall

BECKTON

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Beckton DLR terminal

The station opened in 1994 as the terminal of the new DLR line. Considering that it is a terminal and that it is the main means of transportation to a densely populated suburb, it looks surprisingly modest.

The only sign of architecture is prefabricated awnings on the Custom House model.

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