The NationalGrid divides the country up into hundreds of thousands of 1km grid squares. Greater London contains around 2000, being (very roughly) 50 squares from west to east and 40 squares from south to north. So what I thought I'd do is select one of these squares at random and then visit it and tell you all about it. It's what I do, OK, humour me.
I picked a random number for the easting and another for the northing, which gave me grid square TQ4683. Then I looked this up on a map, and sighed, because I'd hit Barking and Dagenham. Specifically I'd hit a one kilometre square between Barking and Dagenham, near Upney, on the busy A13. Well that's one Sunday afternoon I shall never get back, I thought. But I went anyway, and here are seven interesting things I found.
7 Secrets of Grid Square TQ4683
1) Lodge Avenue Flyover The A13 dual carriageway cuts a gash through grid square TQ4683, just as the road to Southend always has. That's Ripple Road, a former turnpike which bends down from the northwest before being swallowed up by the six lane monster. At the junction between the two is the Lodge Avenue Roundabout, an elongated whirligig with a makeshift-looking iron flyover leaping across the top. A useful shortcut for the cars and lorries passing through, it's had to be closed for several weekends this year to allow maintenance to take place, in what long-term can only be a temporary measure. The council commissioned a most unusual sculpture to enhance the centre of the roundabout, one of many along the B&D stretch of the A13. It's called Holding Pattern, and consists of 76 stainless steelneedles rising to echo the flyover passing alongside. During the day the resulting grid is almost missable, but at night each tip glows with a blue airport taxiway light, creating "a dramatic parallax effect" from the front seat of any passing vehicle. [website]
2) The Thatched House
It's not thatched any more, this is arterial East London for heaven's sake, but there's been a pub on the site since 1848. Back then it was known as Stonehill Cottage, serving ale to the tiny hamlet of Eastbrooks and to travellers passing through. The latest incarnation is squeezed between a Shell and Esso garage, and of a size to satisfy a post-war thirst. The most eye-catching sight is the advert for Double Diamond on the roof - alas not served within - while the unfortunate disappearance of three letters on the nameplate facing the main road suggests the pub is called THE HA CHED HO SE. This is a pub that comes to life after dark, sometimes overly so - incidents last year included facial stabbing and poison-throwing, and resulted in licensing hours being cut back. But if it's Kenyan cuisine you seek, washed down with a nice Jacob's Creek or Lucozade, this could be the gastropub you seek. [website]
3) Rippleside Cemetery
Opened in 1886, when the surrounding area was ill-drained fields, we have the Burial Board of the Parish of St Margaret Barking to thank for this extensive facility. The main gates and mortuary chapel survive, the latter in the far corner and Grade II listed. Designed as a scaled-down parish church in perpendicular style, one of the most unusual features is the hammerbeam roof, not that the casual visitor is able to get inside to take a look. Several mature trees grace the surrounding acres, including cedars, holly, yew and laurel, although rather fewer in number across the eastern extension (circa 1950). Walking round the myriad of paths you'll likely bump into family members here to pay their respects, and be struck by how relatively recent many of the graves are. Here are Hilda and Albert, and Enid and William, and Peggy and Sidney, their names lovingly inscribed into black granite, and a permanent memorial to the last generation before the make-up of Barking and Dagenham started to change forever.
4) Bassett House/Ingrave House/Dunmow House To a generation of travellers they were the triad ofLego-landtower blocks beside the A13 past Upney, a true landmark on any eastbound journey. How quickly times change. Still standing at the time of the last Olympics, the council decanted all their Goresbrook Village tenants elsewhere and in 2013 the three blocks were dismantled one by one. Today you'd never know they were ever here, so completely has the triple footprint been wiped away by a fresh estate of two and three storey homes. What's more they're almost attractive, mainly flat-gabled terraces in stock brick, and conspicuously different from the pebbledash semis of the Becontree Estate in the surrounding streets. Each new home boasts a small garden and space for parking out front - a world away from life in the sky, though surely not as dense. The one duff note is the lack of easy access to the adjacent open space at Castle Green, where a burnt-out car lurks tyreless beneath the treeline, so maybe the disconnect is for the best. [website]
5) Renwick Industrial Estate A broad strip of land between the A13 and the railway has been occupied by an industrial estate of tyre-fitters, grocery wholesalers and truck depots. The railway in question is the c2c line to Dagenham Dock, with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link running immediately underneath. On the bridge at Renwick Road is the entrance to a Freightliner terminal, while the wasteland of braided sidings to the west may one day see a brand new station built, but don't get your hopes up. The proposed Overground extension to Barking Riverside is due to bear off from the mainline here, with passive provision made for an intermediate station at Renwick Road, but absolutely no money to see it through. Councillors and residents bemoan the lack of foresight in the latest consultation documents, but only fresh housing developments merit new infrastructure these days, so the long-suffering residents of the isolated Thames View Estate can only watch as their community is bypassed for the new blocks and towers nearer the foreshore. [consultation]
6) Thames View Estate A post-war housing shortage saw Barking Council construct an unlikely new estate - ThamesView - on former marshland to the south of the railway. Huge concrete tubes had to be buried and filled to provide a stable foundation, not bad for 1954, although the resulting outpost of two thousand homes soon faded from initial optimism to distant dilapidation. The main spine road is Bastable Avenue, with downbeat crescents of flats and terraces to either side, and a fast bus to Barking the only lifeline. Recreational space is limited to Newlands Park, a patch of green with a considerable cluster of adventurous play equipment for tots to teens, but which on my visit had been entirely abandoned in favour of vegetating indoors. But I did enjoy one interaction with local youth, driving past with windows down and raising a finger each in unison, which I responded to with a different hand gesture of my own.
7) Farr Avenue Parade The estate's central parade was built with high hopes, and a pleasing symmetry, and is well used by the populace on the basis there's nowhere else. Takeaways predominate, with betting shop and pound shop infill, the busiest corner being the queue for the cashpoint at the post office. An attempt to brighten up the canopy with a timeline of local history only reinforces how little of this there is, the most recent 'highlight' the construction of a nicer estate nextdoor. Out front by the pedestrian crossing the Creekmouth Heritage Project has also had a go at inspiring communal feeling with a series of pavement graphics, one word per slab, to spell out a sequence of upbeat quotations. Billy Bragg and Captain Cook have their say, although it's questionable how many would agree with John Tisseman's assertation that "Barking is a melting pot, stir for years and keep it hot". [website]