diamond geezer

 Friday, February 15, 2013

BAKERLOO: Dotted line

Yesterday I discussed why the Bakerloo line hasn't been extended south through Southwark. Today I've been to visit the communities who've missed out.

Poor old Camberwell. No Bakerloo line station, no tube station, indeed no station at all. And this is no insignificant location. Camberwell's been an important settlement since the Domesday Book, later home to extensive Georgian estates, now packed with people. They get around courtesy of a better-than-usual bus service, whereas what they'd really like is a station. Annoyingly, they used to have one. Just to the west of the central crossroads is Camberwell Station Road which, as all the clues suggest, used to contain a station. The northern edge of the road runs along the main railway viaduct, whose arches are filled with businesses that do things under the bonnets of cars. One of these used to be the way into Camberwell station, opened on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in 1862. A most convenient way to travel to Blackfriars and Holborn, at least until wartime operations forced its closure in 1916. And since then there's been no way to catch a train from Camberwell, even though plenty of services speed through mockingly on the tracks above.

Could the station be reopened? Sure it could, if the will were there, and the money. The only real problem is that Loughborough Junction is less than a mile down the road, and that would probably have to close if Camberwell were reopened. There's no room to have two stations so close on this line, apparently, because the priority is not slowing down services to Sutton too much. Apologies to residents of SE5, but stopping to pick you up is on nobody's priority list. In the meantime Camberwell station remains somewhere to get your tyres changed and your panels beaten, and the road is king.

Had the Bakerloo ever come calling, the station would probably have been on Camberwell Green. That sounds like a terrible idea, concreting over a rare patch of grassland at the heart of the community. But Camberwell Green's no sylvan glade, more a cut-through with pigeons, and I dare say a corner could be lost without the world ending. Council cash means the image of this open space is improving, and there's now a Farmers Market to enjoy every Saturday. It's not a big Farmers Market, to be frank, but the fresh produce and bakery goods looked good to me and should draw out discerning consumers who like to shop local. Also present every Saturday are online community SE5 Forum, offering news and advice to take away, including a hard copy of this splendid 90-page guide to Camberwell's delights.

From here I walked north to Burgess Park - the other site hereabouts where a Bakerloo line station isn't going to be built. On my way up Camberwell Road I was stopped outside a parade of shops to be offered 'Enlightenment', in the form of a colour pamphlet promising salvation dispensed from the back of a supermarket trolley. The area is dominated by large housing blocks named after famous poets, as if somehow that might soften their visual impact. But there is one lovely Regency enclave at Addington Square, now surrounded on three sides by park. These are highly desirable terraces, described by Pevsner as pleasantly irregular, gathered around a rectangular lawn already bursting with crocuses.

The Grand Surrey Canal once terminated at a wharf immediately to the north - another transport link the area has carelessly lost. The canal is now a footpath, and the surrounding land has become Burgess Park, the largest green lung round here. Unusually almost all of its 113 acres used to be housing, until this was wiped away post-war and made a recreation space for surrounding development. A limekiln, library and several former canal bridges survive, mixed in with far more modern services like a tennis club and American football pitches. It's not clear precisely where in the park a station might be located, but I'd guess somewhere near the boxing club and the butterfly mosaic, which is fairly central and already quite built up.

Immediately to the north is a dense residential zone, otherwise known as Walworth. To most Londoners Walworth doesn't exist because it doesn't have a station, although like Camberwell it once did, and the two closed on the same day. Previously when I've walked this way I've followed Thurlow Street, through the heart of the Aylesbury Estate, which is the epitome of 60s urban planning. Long residential blocks dominate the cityscape, laid out in parallel rows like a giant defensive structure. The poorest were moved in to give them a better life, but they just became poorer, perhaps because there wasn't a tube station at the bottom of the street. But on this visit I followed Portland Street, which started out just as bleak but then improved hugely.

The houses here are originals, highly characterful terraces of two or three storeys, some with variegated brick, others with Tudorbethan gables. No planner bulldozed these beauties, and they're now highly desirable in just the way that the Aylesbury's adjacent sky-boxes aren't. To add to the contrast, won't you look at Michael Faraday School? Outstanding both educationally and architecturally, its ribbed ring structure looks like an alien spacecraft has landed, in this case to bring hope. Head deeper into Walworth and you'll cross East Street Market, one of London's longest, and still thriving with bargain hunters. There's no brioche and croissants here, nor anything to cross the capital for, but many a blue plastic bag is carried home laden with fruit and veg or clothes and shoes.

As Elephant & Castle approaches the tone of the road changes until finally it ends at a locked gate beneath a concrete walkway. This is the edge of the Heygate Estate, almost as notorious as the Aylesbury, but considerably more dead. Southwark council have long had plans for regeneration, and a few years ago sold off the site to developers for what might have been too low a price. A thousand homes stand empty, their windows sealed with metal, a community dispersed. Until recently it was still possible to traipse the upper walkways and explore a maze of passages, but almost all of the stairways have now been closed off. Only ground level remains accessible, should you fancy a kickabout across an overgrown garden or a dystopian safari with your camera. Eventually something brighter will arise, but only 300 "affordable" rented homes are planned. Those relocated are unlikely to be able to return, with a more mixed crowd moving in as the Elephant heads upmarket. There's a tube station at the end of the road, you see, and that makes all the difference.

» Ten photos of the Heygate: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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