diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Random borough (20): Croydon (part 3)

Somewhere famous: The BRIT School
BRIT SchoolIf fame costs, then SE25 is where you start paying. In Selhurst to be precise, in the UK's first state school for the performing arts. The BRIT School arrived here in 1991, and since then it's pumped scores of famous names into the musical mainstream. Leona Lewis for one, and Kate Nash, and Katie Melua and Adele, and even that Dane Bowers bloke who had a hit with Victoria Beckham. Plus Amy Winehouse, which just goes to show that not every school discipline policy works long term. Various record companies sponsor the place, not surprisingly given the royalties they recoup as a result. This is the type of educational establishment that ITV had in mind when they developed Britannia High, only rather more successful and with a far better long-term future. The school's on two sites, both along The Crescent and separated by a car park. One's a typical redbrick Edwardian building with high windows, nabbed from a former girls' school. And the other's much more modern, like a white-legged glass caterpillar squatting beside the road, and considerably lighter and brighter within. On a Saturday morning there's not much going on. I spotted a few extra-curricular students carrying instruments across the playground and heard the sound of animated performance somewhere within, but it was a pale reflection of the seething creating cauldron this must be on a weekday. I wonder which well-rounded alumnus wannabe we'll all be discovering this year.
by train: Selhurst   by bus: 50, 75, 157, 468

Somewhere sporting: Selhurst Park
Holmesdale Stand, Selhurst ParkTo the slopes below Upper Norwood, to the home of mid-Championship Crystal Palace Football Club. Selhurst Park is a 1920s ground that's been slowly upgraded and expanded over the years and is now a hybrid architectural hotchpotch. Along Park Road the stadium looks fairly traditional, all gates and turnstiles and tiny ticket windows. From Whitehorse Lane the stadium looks suspiciously like a boxy out-of-town trading estate, with a none-too-inviting staircase leading up from Sainsbury's front entrance towards the executive boxes. Meanwhile the Holmesdale Road grandstand resembles a very tall block of boring redbrick offices with a curved black roof on top and stacks of seating behind. I took the opportunity of a home match against Ipswich to explore more closely within the gated perimeter. Three hours before kick off the stewards were all in place, even if there was nobody to steward, and the programme sellers were similarly poised but premature. A cheery bloke in a red and blue scarf trundled by in his wheelchair, while a few bullet-headed stalwarts arrived early because Saturday is football day and it'd be wrong to stay away. Low winter sun glinted on the inscribed bricks in the Centenary Wall ("Palace 4 life", "Till I die", "Come on Eagles" "Glad All Over!"). Busy inside their solitary trailer, the executive chefs of the British Burgers Company readied their deep fat fryers for an expected onslaught of hot dog guzzlers. And in the official shop by the ticket office, twitchy retail staff watched an early trickle of punters buying not much, not even the 20%-off babywear. Oh yes, there was definitely a whiff of pre-match optimism in the air when I headed off to the bus stop. Alas, when I passed by later in the afternoon the floodlights were beating down on a 4-1 home defeat. Palace's intermittent glory years remain little more than memories amongst these suburban avenues.
by train: Selhurst   by bus: 468

Somewhere random: Purley Way
It's a three mile section of the A23. It was opened in 1925 as the Croydon by-pass. It was the first road in the UK to be lit with sodium lights. Today it's a grim arterial bottleneck. Let me take you on a journey.

Purley Cross Rotary ClockPurley: Welcome to Purley, a pleasant but rather ordinary suburb that looks like it'd much prefer to still be in Surrey. Purley Way starts at Purley Cross, once a focal crossroads but now a joyless concrete gyratory in need of urgent upgrade. No such luck, not until the Tesco supermarket alongside has its plans for expansion approved. Maybe they'll also give the Rotary Clock a kickstart, because it definitely wasn't half past six when I shuffled past into the underpass. No sign anywhere of a cemetery, alas, because I really wanted to take a photograph entitled Purley Gates. So onward up the hill, past Lucinda's handbag & blouse emporium, and very carefully across the treacherous one-way system. It's no fun for pedestrians round here, nor indeed up much of the rest of the road.

Airport HouseCroydon Airport: In the week that the Government planned to turn open fields into London's main airport, here's a location where things went the other way. Croydon Aerodrome was the departure point for airbound bright young things of the thirties, saw fighter service during World War 2 and limped to a commercial close 50 years ago. Hey presto, a runway replaced by open space - it can be achieved. I would tell you more, but I've visited this airport previously as part of my random borough trip to neighbouring Sutton. Rest assured that the Art Deco terminal building still stands, that the De Havilland Heron perched on the grass outside has seen better days, and that one day I will come back on the first Sunday of the month when the Visitor Centre is actually open.

Waddon PondsWaddon Ponds: Off-road, surrounded by housing estate, is a thin strip of municipal parkland with a secret. That curvaceous lake surrounded by trees is all that's left of the River Wandle in Croydon. It's an impressive remnant, not just for the amount of water visible but also for the many colonies of waterfowl that make their home here. Maybe it's because it was mid-January but there were birds everywhere, including up on the grass and footpaths (Important notice: Please do not chase the wildfowl). I'm not very good at identifying any bird more complicated than a duck, but I think there were coots aplenty and some geese-y creatures plus some red crested small things, erm, sorry, dunno. And, other than a lone couple walking an agitated dog, I had the flocking lot of them to myself.

Purley Way Centre (outside Sainsbury's)Big shops: Ah, so that explains the traffic jams. The northern end of Purley Way is a series of massive out-of-town shopping centres with giant warehouses fronted by expansive car parks. This is where South London comes to buy stuff, be it plasma TVs, cheap carpets or a month's worth of groceries. Start at one end and you could spend all day traipsing from one megastore to the next, and probably visit several big chains more than once. But only car drivers seemed welcome. There was no expectation that any pedestrian might dare walk this way, and at the top end they're banned from the flyover altogether. Instead I had to divert via a bleak alley past two foul-mouthed cherubs sitting on a wall (don't look at them, they'll lose interest if you don't look at them). For the first time in my life I was glad to reach IKEA, although I didn't risk my life further by popping in beneath the landmark power station chimneys for a 93p cooked breakfast.
by train: Purley   by tram: Waddon Marsh   by bus: 289


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream