diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 20, 2017

There are 2563 National Rail stations in the UK.
Some of them have quite similar names.

Adlington (Cheshire) / Adlington (Lancashire)
Bentley (Hants) / Bentley (S Yorks)
Bramley (Hants) / Bramley (W Yorks)
Brampton (Cumbria) / Brampton (Suffolk)
Earlswood (Surrey) / Earlswood (West Midlands)
Garth (Mid Glamorgan) / Garth (Powys)
Gillingham (Dorset) / Gillingham (Kent)
Hope (Derbyshire) / Hope (Flintshire)
London Road (Brighton) / London Road (Guildford)
Millbrook (Bedfordshire) / Millbrook (Hants)
Moreton (Merseyside) / Moreton (Dorset)
Newport (Essex) / Newport (South Wales)
Rainham (Essex) / Rainham (Kent)
Reedham (Surrey) / Reedham (Norfolk)
St Margarets (London) / St Margarets (Herts)
Swinton (Manchester) / Swinton (S.Yorks)
Whitchurch (Cardiff) / Whitchurch (Hants) / Whitchurch (Shrops)

How Wood / Howwood
Queen's Park (London) / Queens Park (Glasgow)
Charing Cross / London Charing Cross
Waterloo / London Waterloo

Barnham / Farnham / Warnham
Batley / Gatley
Borth / Porth
Bosham / Cosham
Boston / Moston
Buxton / Cuxton
Cottingham / Mottingham / Nottingham
Cowden / Howden
Dalton / Malton / Walton
Darlington / Harlington
Dartford / Hartford
Darton / Marton / Parton
Denham / Lenham
Denton / Kenton / Renton
Diss / Liss
Fareham / Wareham
Foxton / Hoxton
Goole / Poole
Gorton / Yorton
Hatton / Yatton
Horley / Morley
Lye / Rye / Wye
Selling / Welling

ONE LETTER DIFFERENT (not the first letter)
Althorne / Althorpe
Alton / Aston
Barking / Barming
Bellingham / Billingham
Bolton / Boston
Barnham / Burnham
Dalton / Darton
Deal / Dean
Fareham / Farnham
Hersham / Horsham
Hooton / Hoxton
Honley / Horley
Hope / Hove
Kearsley / Kearsney
Lee / Lye
Malton / Marton
Malton / Melton
Neston / Newton
Otford / Oxford
Perth / Porth
Staines / Strines
Strood / Stroud
Swindon / Swinton
Whiston / Whitton

Acklington / Adlington
Aldrington / Adlington
Attenborough / Attleborough
Carrbridge / Cambridge
Habrough / Hanborough
Heathrow Terminal 4 / Heathrow Terminal 5
Hinckley / Hindley
Hornsey / Horsley
Llanaber / Llanbedr
Pluckley / Plumley
Spalding / Yalding
West Ealing / West Malling
Wokingham / Woldingham

Alexandra Palace / Alexandra Parade
Bearsden / Bearsted
Brentford / Brentwood
Buxted / Buxton
Canterbury East / Canterbury West
(ah, maybe this list isn't as interesting as I thought...)

Alton / Dalton/Malton/Walton
Amberley / Camberley
Ancaster / Lancaster
Earley / Bearley
Horley / Chorley
Eccles / Beccles
Eltham / Feltham
Ilford / Milford
Ockley / Hockley
Olton / Bolton
Romford / Cromford

Brighton / Albrighton
Brough / Habrough
Minster / Axminster/Upminster
Wick / Adwick

Adwick / Ardwick
Baildon / Basildon
Canley / Cantley
Carlton / Charlton
Chapelton / Chapeltown
Chatham / Chartham
Dalton / Dalston
Horley / Horsley
Witton / Whitton

EXTRA LETTERS ON THE END (but still one word)
Battle / Battlesbridge
Chorley / Chorleywood
Cowden / Cowdenbeath
Dean / Deansgate
Dent / Denton
Lake / Lakenheath
Preston / Prestonpans
Roche / Rochester
Ware / Wareham
Welling / Wellingborough/Wellington
Wick / Wickford
Woking / Wokingham
Lee / Leeds
Par / Partick (and six others)
Ash / Ashford (and six others)
Aber / Aberdeen (and seven others)

Leigh / Lye

Aberdare / Aberdour
Apperley Bridge / Appley Bridge
Bishopstone / Bishopton
Chapelton / Chapeltown
Hessle / Heswall
Johnston / Johnstone
Newcastle / Newark Castle
Newton / Newtown
Wilmcote / Wilnecote

Aldrington / Darlington
Bridgeton / Tonbridge
Dalreoch / Rochdale
Ely / Lye

...and, while we're here...

Ash, Ayr, Ely, I.B.M., Lee, Lye, Ore, Par, Rye, Wem, Wye

Aber, Acle, Bryn, Cark, Croy, Deal, Dean, Dent, Diss, Drem, Dyce, Ford, Hale, Hook, Hope, Hope, Hove, Ince, Iver, Lake, Liss, Looe, Oban, Pyle, Rhyl, Roby, Sarn, Stow, Sway, Tain, Ware, Wick, Wool, Yarm, Yate, York

If you spot any stations I've missed off my lists, or that shouldn't be in my lists, please let me know.

n.b. I'm using the official names of the stations (so, for example, the two Ashfords don't appear in the first list because one of them is officially Ashford International).

You can find the names of all 2563 National Rail stations in a spreadsheet on the Office of Rail and Road website... or (more accessibly) on Vicki & Geoff's All The Stations website. The Underground, Tyne & Wear Metro, Glasgow Subway, heritage railways and stations in Northern Ireland are not included. If you want to know where a particular station is, the All The Stations website also has a splendid searchable map with a drop down menu.

 Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In an echo of Summer 2012, Stratford is once again hosting a two-part summer of international athletics. Last time round the Paralympics followed the Olympics, but this time the able-bodied are going second while the wheelchairs roll in first. The World Para Athletics Championships are in town all week, with acres of coverage on Channel 4 and (numerous) tickets still available from £10. But you can still join the fun even if you weren't planning on going inside the stadium to watch... because that's what Hero Village is for.

Hero Village is a temporary compound on the lawn by the Orbit "full of athletic themed activities, events and sponsor displays specially built for the Championships". The idea is for ticketed spectators to drop in on their way to the stadium, and maybe again on the way out, to enjoy the full hospitality of the companies whose generous donations have helped keep ticket prices down. But you don't have to have a ticket to get in, you only have to get through the bag check at the entrance, and then you can enjoy all the same privileges as the official crowd.

Like free food, for example. The Co-Op are here with a "brand experience" consisting of a van and a couple of trailers on a pretend running track. What they'd like you to do is chat to an ambassador and sign up for membership, but what everybody does is queue up for a dollop of free strawberry ice cream scooped from a stack of tubs currently available in your local supermarket. Elsewhere some folk from a yoghurt company are sat in their marquee wondering whether the public will ever brave crossing the threshold, while in the bottled water tent some kind of interactive exertion is being offered in return for hydration freebies.

One particular motor manufacturer has turned up to showcase their range of future-fuelled cars, not that this appears to be proving a big draw. A big name in wheelchair manufacture is here, just as they were at the Paralympics five years ago, because this is very much their target market. A German insurance company has a presence nextdoor, because para athletics is where they've chosen to channel their values-driven funds long-term. There's also a DJ up the back in a camper van, not knowingly related to any form of marketing activity, and with the volume down so low it was barely worth him turning up.

It's not all sponsors. A separate section of the enclosure features a string of activity zones, from whatever a 'Plank Challenge' is to 'Long Jump' and more typical athletic themes. What's nice is seeing a range of positive activities targeted at visitors across the range of physical ability. Many of these people have come from all around the world for their biennial moment to shine, so the accompanying events are naturally all-inclusive too. A fair number of the other visitors to Hero Village are magenta-clad members of the WPAC workforce, rucksack dangling, either here to assist spectators or participants, or simply escaping from their staff basecamp hideaway just around the back.

If the World Para Athletics Championships are your thing, perhaps stop by for some merchandise featuring the event's mascot, Whizbee the Bee. An insect of indeterminate gender, Whizbee also has one prosthetic leg, or maybe blade, which almost makes sense until you stop to think too hard about it. If you're back here in August for the IAAF World Championships you'll meet Hero the Hedgehog, a similarly ambiguous cartoon character, and also designed by a nine year-old from the West Midlands as part of a Blue Peter competition. You can buy Whizbee on a keyring, t-shirt or notebook and pen combo, if inspiration strikes, and the mascot pair are to be found in a £6 children's picture book.

And if this sparse offer sounds like pretty poor reason to pop down to E20, consider also the unique location that is 'Medal Plaza'. Winning athletes don't get their medals presented in the stadium in front of a seated audience, oh no, because sitting through the national anthems gets really tedious for spectators when there are umpteen events in umpteen categories. Instead all the medals are presented on a stage in Hero Village, once or twice a day, with all the pomp and ceremony of flagpoles, anthems and well-trained staff bearing ribbons on cushions.

I watched a Ukraine medallist receive her gong, complete with teary close-up on the electronic screen, to the recorded strains of Shche Ne Vmerla Ukrainy. Her once-in-a-lifetime moment of glory was watched by a thin crowd mostly wearing volunteer-purple, applauding politely, in sharp contrast to the standing elation I remember from the Paralympics. If you believe that heroes deserve better after years of training and sacrifice, come make up the numbers one afternoon this week at Hero Village.

Hero Village is open...
Wed 19, Thu 20, Fri 21: 3pm-8.30pm
Sat 22, Sun 23: 9am-8.30pm
     Medals are presented...
Wed 19, Thu 20, Fri 21: 3.32pm
Sat 22, Sun 23: 2.02pm

World Para Athletics Championships: 14-23 July 2017
IAAF World Championships: 4-13 August 2017

 Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I would like to apologise for yesterday's post, in which I suggested that this might be the ranking of our royal Houses by length of tenure.
Hanover: 186y 174d
Plantagenet: 182y 345d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Stuart: 100y 11d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Lancaster: 61y 346d
York: 23y 346d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
A number of commenters were dissatisfied with this list because they would have calculated the data in a different way. I am very sorry that my outcome did not match their expectations.

I should have recognised that Lancaster and York are technically two cadet branches of the Plantagenet dynasty, as any fule kno.
Plantagenet: 268y 307d
Hanover: 186y 174d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Stuart: 100y 11d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
I also specified that my list was for the last 800 years, whereas in fact the Plantagenets came to the throne 800 years and 271 days ago, hence my given total was an exaggeration by approximately nine months.
Plantagenet: 268y 36d
Hanover: 186y 174d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Stuart: 100y 11d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
By restricting my list to only eight centuries I carelessly overlooked the previous royal House of Anjou, comprising Henry II, Richard I and John, who are generally seen as another subgroup of the Plantagenets.
Plantagenet: 330y 301d
Hanover: 186y 174d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Stuart: 100y 11d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
Had I been even more in tune with readers' thoughts, I might have been foresighted enough to extend the given timeframe back to 1066, taking on board the reigns of monarchs following the Norman Conquest.
Plantagenet: 330y 301d
Hanover: 186y 174d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Stuart: 100y 11d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Normandy: 87y 304d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
Of course technically the line of Norman succession ended in December 1135 with the death of Henry I, hence his successor Stephen was nominally of the House of Blois, possibly interrupted by the presumptive rule of the Empress Matilda, and I could have updated my league table to reflect this, but quite frankly life's too short.

Meanwhile my dates for the House of Stuart assumed a gap for Commonwealth rule between 1649 and 1660, whereas the precise date of the Restoration remains debatable, so I could instead have assumed a continuation of the Stuart line during this interregnum.
Plantagenet: 330y 301d
Hanover: 186y 174d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Stuart: 111y 130d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Normandy: 87y 304d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
I should also have made the distinction that my list of monarchs was specific to England, or at least that part of the United Kingdom now known as England. Regrettably I failed to make reference to a list of the monarchs of Scotland, specifically the impressive longevity of the House of Stuart, and I apologise for this omission.
Stuart: 343y 160d
Plantagenet: 330y 301d
Hanover: 186y 174d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Normandy: 87y 304d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
Finally, because 24 hours have now passed since yesterday's centenary, the figure for the House of Windsor must now be adjusted to an annoyingly un-round total.
Stuart: 343y 160d
Plantagenet: 330y 301d
Hanover: 186y 174d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Windsor: 100y 1d
Normandy: 87y 304d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d
I recognise that even this is probably not the categorisation you would have used if you had been constructing the table yourself, because history is subjective, hence my interpretation of the rich pageant of royal lineage is unlikely to match yours. Nevertheless I hope that the four readers aggrieved by yesterday's calculations now feel that their issues have at least been addressed, if not fully rectified.

Also, please note that the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha remains at the foot of the table, which was essentially the point of the exercise.

I would like to finish by apologising for the tedious pedantry at the heart of today's apology.

If you have any comments on the accuracy of today's post, rest assured that pretty much nobody is interested.

 Monday, July 17, 2017

LIVEBLOG - As the Royal House of Windsor turns 100, we keep you up-to-date with all the pomp and excitement surrounding today's unique royal centenary.

♕ It's time to close the liveblog on this momentous day for the House of Windsor, but the centenary celebrations will no doubt continue long into the evening, so don't forget to raise a glass to royal longevity and a century of Anglo-German unease.

♕ Still no sign of the Queen today, as the Cambridges and newly-septuagenarian Camilla hog the headlines.

♕ If today's anniversary has inspired you to take a trip to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, please note that the duchy no longer exists, but Gotha is the fifth-largest city in Thuringia and is home to Germany's only museum on the history of the insurance business, while historic Coburg in Bavaria was once home to Martin Luther and is said to be the place of origin of the hot dog.

♕ Over the the last 800 years, poor old Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is the royal House with the shortest tenure. The House of Hanover is first, just ahead of the House of Plantagenet. The House of Windsor is due to overtake the house of Stuart at the end of next week.
Hanover: 186y 174d
Plantagenet: 182y 345d
Tudor: 117y 214d
Stuart: 100y 11d
Windsor: 100y 0d
Lancaster: 61y 346d
York: 23y 346d
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: 16y 176d

♕ Members of the Royal Family who are entitled to the style of HRH Prince or Princess do not normally need a surname, but if at any time they do (such as upon marriage), that surname is Mountbatten-Windsor. This surname first appeared on an official document on 14 November 1973, in the marriage register at Westminster Abbey for the marriage of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

♕ Today is also the first day of Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on the River Thames, but no members of the Royal Family appear to have turned up to that either.

♕ There are 35 living members of the House of Windsor - thirteen descendants of King George VI, six descendants of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and sixteen descendants of Prince George, Duke of Kent. Amongst the younger members of the family are Lady Cosima Windsor, Leopold Windsor, Louis Windsor, Isabella Windsor and Maud Windsor.

♕ Queen Elizabeth II is the House of Windsor's longest reigning monarch, having ruled for 65.4% of its existence. The House of Windsor's other monarchs, in percentage order, were King George V (18.5%), King George VI (15.2%), and King Edward VIII (0.9%).

♕ In today's only other royal engagements, the Princess Royal is attending a reception at Saddlers' Hall, and the Duke of Gloucester is at the Honourable Artillery Company for the launch of the Partnership of the Mark Benevolent Fund and St John Ambulance.

♕ Confirming the extent to which relationships with Germany have changed, today the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte) flew out on a four day tour of Poland and Germany. There are no plans to visit Saxe Coburg or Gotha.

♕ The Royal family decided to change its name after being backed into a corner by a public increasingly hysterical about 'the enemy within'.
"It got to a certain point in World War I where even if you had a dachshund you were regarded as German. Pressure was applied to the king. The consensus started to be spread that the king was pro-German. It was politicians as much as anything." (Joe Little, editor of Majesty magazine)

♕ Today is the 70th birthday of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. It has been suggested that Prince Charles may have married her in an attempt to upstage today's more important royal anniversary. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were invited to her private party at Highgrove House this weekend but did not attend.

♕ On taking the throne in 1952 the Queen declared that the royal house would remain the House of Windsor - that is, she and her children would not take Philip's name of Mountbatten. The Prince was not amused.
"I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children."
The Queen made another declaration in 1960 that all non-royal descendants would be known as 'Mountbatten-Windsor'.

♕ Prince Louis of Battenberg, resident in Britain at the time, opted for literal translation and took the name Mountbatten. The original suggestion had been Battenhill.

♕ Several different potential rebrands were discussed in 1917, with the name Windsor being proposed by the King’s private secretary Lord Stamfordham.

♕ The BBC's Royal Correspondent reports on the Queen's fortuitous location this morning, and suggests that Mall-bound well-wishers should immediately relocate.


♕ As yet there is no sign of Her Majesty the Queen and the other Windsors on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.

♕ The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was introduced to the royal lineage in 1840 by the the marriage of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Queen Victoria, the last of the Hanovers. King Edward VII (1901-1910) and King George V were the only British monarchs of the short-lived House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

♕ The Royal Mint are celebrating this exciting anniversary with the issue of a House Of Windsor Centenary 2017 UK Brilliant Uncirculated Coin, face value £5, yours for £13.

♕ When revolution forced King George's first cousin Nicholas II to abdicate as Emperor of Russia, also in 1917, Britain's royal family were finally convinced of the need to abandon all titles held under the German Crown and adopt anglicised names.
By the KING. A PROCLAMATION declaring that the Name of Windsor is to be borne by his Royal House and Family and Relinquishing the Use of All German Titles and Dignities.

♕ The name change was driven by a rapid increase in anti-German sentiment in Britain after the Gotha G.IV, a heavy WW1 aircraft capable of crossing the English Channel, began bombing London directly and became a household name.

♕ On Tuesday 17th July 1917 King George V issued a royal proclamation renouncing the family name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and adopting the name Windsor instead.
We, out of Our Royal Will and Authority, do hereby declare and announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor.

 Sunday, July 16, 2017

Merstham to Westerham (10 miles)

If this stretch of the North Downs Way were shifted 15 miles further north, it'd be the same as walking from Victoria to Woolwich. Instead it covers the same distance through northeast Surrey, sometimes along the top of a hilly ridge, sometimes below, and sometimes swapping breathlessly between the two. Not as good as Day Three but better than Day Two, I'd say, assuming you're dividing up the route the same as me.

Merstham's an easy village to reach from London, either by train or on the number 405 bus. The North Downs Way takes the scenic route out of the centre, following the charming cul-de-sac of Quality Street past its chocolate box 16th-century-plus houses. Parishioners would once have been able to reach St Katharine's by following a quiet path north, but Church Meadows has long since been wiped away by the M25 in a nine-lane cutting, and a thin footbridge now performs the same task. Passing through the churchyard makes for a very pleasant minute on what is otherwise an unnecessary detour circling back to cross the A23.

The next half mile climbs Rockshaw Road, an unaffordable residential street where BMWs and Mercs with matching personalised numberplates are the norm. It's a pleasure to finally break free and tumble down a meadow brimming with brambles, buddleia and butterflies, even if the 'treat' at the bottom is a boxy tunnel under another motorway. This is the M23, a short distance away from the massive cloverleaf junction with the M25 which devoured most of Furzefield Wood. Try to ignore that, because the view as you ascend through the ripening wheat on the opposite side is glorious, stretching south for miles and miles. Enjoy it by turning round repeatedly on the way up, or from the trig point atop the ridge.

The village of Chaldon is only just not in London. The North Downs Way follows an old byway along the southern edge of the parish, past stables, a few isolated homes, chalk grassland and a man with a strimmer (one of which was likely only temporary). Of the view to the south there are only intermittent hints, then at Quarry Hangers Farm the northern treeline suddenly opens up and there's the Wembley Arch, Shard, Gherkin and Canary Wharf in all their distant urban glory. The track heads on to Tower Farm, named after a lone decrepit tower rising topless behind security gates, then follows the oddly named War Coppice Road. Follows it for too long, to be frank.

For those who prefer footpaths to roads, this section south of Caterham is a disappointment. It's never fun following a slightly-busy winding country lane, but land ownership and some very large back gardens have conspired to minimise the number of public rights of way hereabouts. It's a relief after a mile of tarmac to finally slip off into the trees, past the bottoms of some very large back gardens, and immediately above some steep shady slopes. Only at the Gravelly Hill viewpoint does the green screen clear, with roadside benches offering sight of tiny planes taking off at Gatwick... and police notices warning of regular patrols to dissuade dogging.

After a spin around what's left of Fosterdown Fort, mainly nothing, the path descends wooden steps ready to cross the A22 dual carriageway. A footbridge has been provided, before you worry. Each of the cottages on Quarry Road has a Beware of the Dog sign out front, as if the residents share feelings of collective isolation, then comes a surreal trot across the forecourt of a Britannia Removals depot, tucked into what was presumably once the quarry. On Winders Hill the path traces the top edge of a vineyard, then, as if to reconfirm this is still Surrey, crosses the mile long drive of a private girls' school.

On the brow of a small hill the chalk meadow swarms with butterfiles and is dotted with pink orchids. The ground cover is less sensational in the upcoming woods, where the carpet of wild garlic is yellowing and dying as summer draws on. At Tandridge Hill comes what passes for a cycle lane round here - a country lane used by cyclists - puffing up a 1 in 7 ascent while ramblers get their own segregated lane on a footpath above. There are other North Downs Way users too, as I discovered on a narrow bridleway when I heard shouts behind me and whipped my earphones out. The horse rider who'd been forced to dawdle for several minutes while I listened to Radio 4 was somewhat sarky as I let her pass, then diverted almost immediately up a completely different path.

Oxted Downs are glorious, as the National Trust have clearly recognised. This lengthy chalk grassland has recently been revived through scrub clearance and grazing, and has become abundantly flower-rich. Immediately above the Oxted railway tunnel a set of 80 steps drops steeply down the escarpment, which must be hellish to negotiate in the opposite direction, although there is a convenient bench halfway. An unnecessarily narrow path weaves across the top of the lower field, overgrown and hemmed in by barbed wire, but with verdant views across the valley worth every moment. And on the far side of the meadow the path descends again, to round a quarry, past occasional poppies in the ripening wheat. A delight, but for every descent on the North Downs Way there's always payback...

The path skirts a large field sliced in two by the M25, then joins up with the Vanguard Way to follow the edge of a dense plantation - look out for a plaque marking the point where the Greenwich Meridian is crossed. Ahead lies Titsey Park and its 16th century manor house - one of near-London's least well-known (visitable) stately homes. To avoid entering the estate the waymarked route climbs the forest bowl up Pitchfont Way, and climbs, and climbs. If you're breathless by the top there is a reason - at 267m Botley Hill is the highest point on the North Downs Way. I reached the upper car park a broken man.

The only way from here is down, but only gently, along a leafy path shadowing the ratrun of Titsey Hill. Unfortunately I missed the sign on the steps where I was supposed to turn off and strode purposefully downhill for five minutes before realising I'd made an error, and it took nearer ten to climb back up. Crossing open fields again, and desperately getting my breath back, I considered whether it was time to call it a day. Most North Downs Way walkers pause way back at Oxted, even though the station's nowhere near, but I had my eye on catching a London bus from Tatsfield. There again, it was only a mile and a half further on to another bus at Westerham Hill, so I persuaded my feet it was worth giving that a try.

Beyond Tatsfield the North Downs Way passes seamlessly from Surrey into Kent and enters the realm of the extremely exclusive home. Few tycoons could ever afford one of the sparse mansions on Chestnut Avenue, while even fewer are dotted along The Avenue, each hidden away within a veil of personal woodland. A tradesman's van approached me here, struggling along the unmade private road, the driver pausing to ask for validation of his satnav's rogue directions before bumping gingerly on. I was much more interested in the special North Downs Way milestone placed at the county boundary, confirming Farnham was now 48 miles behind with Dover 77 miles in front. I'll get there... but first I got the bus.

 Saturday, July 15, 2017

10 Exciting things to do this weekend

St Swithun's Day is this Saturday, which means one thing: a whole host of novelty edibles will be hitting the streets of London. Getting in on the action is chic patisserie Lagrande Ballon, who've come up with a Croquembouche Surprise to celebrate. Bite into the double-decker puff pastry crust and, depending on the weather, you'll either get a mouthful of sunny lemon yolk filling or dripping Nutella cream with meringue flakes. The sweet little number will be available for one day only from the boutique bakery in Dalston, and expect change from a tenner. We'll see you there!

With a giant waterslide, al fresco cinema, unlimited craft beer and those sweeping city views, you'll get a serious case of FOMO if you're anywhere other than Primrose Hill Country Park on Sunday. Once you've worked up an appetite, it's time to do the rounds of the tasty traders, like Caribbean flavours from Jerkmama, veggie dishes from Wholegrain Heaven and everyone's favourite steamed buns from Umbika, all washed down with a Pimms cocktail from the Tiki Bar. So, what are you waiting for? We'll see you there!

Vaguely leading question: how are you planning to celebrate Wimbledon finals weekend? Well, Japanese sushi'n'street-snacks peeps Dedfish are doing it by kindly giving away slabs of sushi strawberry cake to the first 100 customers through the doors of its Wardour Street restaurant. For free! Tennis cake! Whether you like racquets, or just the tradition of strawberries and cream that comes along with it, be sure to bag one of these neat fishy twists on an old classic (and eat through the sorrow of Andy crashing out, obvs). Cake, set, match. We'll see you there!

On a searing hot summer day, the idea of descending into a Soho basement and stuffing your face may not be an appealing one, but within seconds of entering Bumble & Squirt we're sure you'll forget the heat entirely. Their new Mystic Aura afternoon tea features sugar-glazed shortbread, signature biskies and succulent hidden gem macarons, plus a miniature goblet of steaming herbal brew. Bumble & Squirt is a dentist's dream with its superfluous mix of cake and biscuit elements, and we love it. We'll see you there!

Hot-battered avocados are now a thing and you’ve got a Canadian to thank for it. To celebrate the country's 150th birthday this month, ace fish-and-chip shop Freaky Fryday will be serving up an unusual twist on a summer brunch classic: hand-coated deep-fried avocados with a pot of maple syrup on the side. The chip-meisters are promising avos with ‘delicious crispy coatings and warm centres’ which makes us feel a bit ill, really, but also strangely exhilarated. Mountie excitement, perhaps? We'll see you there!

South Londoners, dig out your baggiest trousers because FoodFest is back and your waistline is in genuine danger. Essentially, FoodFest is the dream day out for anyone who thinks Glastonbury could really do with far fewer bands and a hell of a lot more cake. That’s not to say celebrities will be in short supply – just that these food bloggers are far handier with a spiraliser than with a Stratocaster. Forget the Lambeth Country Show and its Chucklehead, and join the privileged few in Foodfest's paid-for cuisine tent. We'll see you there!

It’s Fiesta de La Tirana this Sunday, in case you hadn’t heard, which is apparently reason enough for upmarket café chain O La Fuerza to start dishing out free empanadas. Are we complaining? We are not! All you need to do is Tweet, Facebook or Instagram a pic of yourself using the hashtag #Porlarazón, making sure to add @OlaFuerza into the post, find yourself a red poncho and slip it on, then just stroll into any branch, shout ‘Hola pastelería!’ at the cashier and – ta da! – a top treat for you. Be quick though! There are only 10 free pastries going. We'll see you there!

Supperclub experts Bookventure are back this summer, with a Hungry Caterpillar-inspired dining experience that they're calling their 'biggest, boldest and grubbiest adventure yet'. They're serving up an immersive dining experience at a secret north London location, with the seven-course feast taking you from an apple-themed picnic to a sublime cherry pie and sausage feast. Expect adventures and misadventures, mysterious — but on-theme — 'additional surprises' and a chance to relive a childhood classic. We'll see you there!

What better way to celebrate summer than to watch back to back episodes of Game of Thrones on a giant screen while sitting on a deck chair sipping a refreshing beverage? Elephant & Castle shopping centre is going all out for the new season of everyone's favourite Westeros drama, screening it in its entirety on a fibreglass mountainscape with staff dressed as wraiths and a specially-themed photo-booth. One of the cast from season 2 episode 9 has promised to turn up, and there's even a lucky dip where you can win epic prizes from the centre's retailers. We'll see you there!

Hey Tom, we've been sent a press release about the launch of some food abomination called a Sugar Balloon, which looks like some kind of caramel bag full of flavoured water, and comes in seventeen rainbow flavour combinations. I know it's not the journalism you thought you were signing up for when you started your internship, but this kind of reportage is our bread and butter business these days. Could you write 100 words making the inedible sound unmissable, then pop down and film yourself eating one using as many excitable phrases as you can. We'll see you there?

 Friday, July 14, 2017

Today's post is an experiment, in an attempt to make comments easier to follow.

Please leave all your comments in the appropriate comments box.

McDonald's is a fast food restaurant specialising in hamburgers.

If your comment is about McDonald's
restaurants - perhaps you have eaten in
one, or have an opinion on their food, or
would like to tell us a personal anecdote -
please leave your comment here.


I live two minutes walk from a McDonald's drive-in restaurant. It opened 15 years ago.

I have never been inside it, or bought anything from it, because I have self restraint.

If your comment is about the
McDonald's restaurant by the Bow
Roundabout, or my sanctimonious
response to its presence,
please leave your comment here.


This week they poked a flyer through my door advising me that they now home-deliver.

They home-deliver via an app called UberEATS.

I understand the price is the same as in the restaurant, but with a £2.50 delivery charge added.

An UBER employee gets on a moped and drives to your door, so long as you live within 1.5 miles.

If your comment is specifically
about McDonald's new operation
in conjunction with UberEATS
- for example the logistics, the cost
of delivery or long-term viability -
please leave your comment here.


If your comment is about takeaway
delivery apps in general, and
the public's enthusiasm for them,
please leave your comment here.


I'm amazed that they posted the flyer through my door.

How lazy do you have to be to get McDonald's delivered from two minutes down the road?

If your comment is about the
actual subject of today's post,
which is that McDonald's are targeting
customers who live two minutes walk
from their restaurant for home delivery,
please leave your comment here.

 Thursday, July 13, 2017

J Hornsey/Wood Green/Southgate
Today Enfield sits to the north of Haringey, but the Herbert Commission proposed splitting them west/east instead. The western tranche would have comprised the Municipal Borough of Southgate, the Municipal Borough of Wood Green and the Municipal Borough of Hornsey. Inspired by the name of the central borough, I decided to hunt down areas of local woodland, specifically ancient woodland, of which four tracts remain. Might I even manage to track down that key indicator, the elusive wild service tree? Armed with photos of what one actually looks like, I set off.

Highgate Wood (70 acres)

Haringey's largest expanse of ancient woodland is Highgate Wood. Officially it belongs to the City of London, who bestow upon it the love and care that only a mercantile throwback with bottomless coffers can afford, with correspondingly magnificent results. Originally part of the Forest of Middlesex, Highgate Wood covers a hilltop to the north of Highgate station, and is bounded to the west by the curve of a disused railway. Its trees are mostly hornbeam or oak, the former often multi-stemmed (following years of coppicing), the latter left to grow tall (hence ideal for building Tudor battleships). Foresters still coppice small areas of the wood on a five year timetable, and seal off others to encourage flora and fauna to regenerate... although apparently it's fine to barge through the fences if you're an entitled mother in an orange headscarf following a flat-capped toddler you're too busy to talk to because you have a mobile phone pressed to your ear.

Access to Highgate Wood is through one of seven ornate iron gates decorated with foxes, hedgehogs and rabbits. Most summer visitors make for the sports field by the central cafe, and plonk down to watch the cricket or watch the kids run around. But step away from the picnic fringe and some of the peripheral pathways are a peaceful joy, weaving through shady glades and through the remains of ancient earthworks. To dig deeper into Highgate Wood's ancient and natural history I tried following Michael Hammerson's excellent self-guided walk, but it was originally printed as a 16 page booklet and the pdf proved unmanageable. Instead the information centre by the cafe came up trumps with maps and histories to take away, plus news of newly-fledged tawny owls, plus a display explaining North London's ice age geomorphology. Highgate Wood is beautiful intelligently-managed woodland, ideal for recreational exploration, and well worth a visit at any season of the year. I still didn't find any wild service trees, though.

Queen's Wood (51 acres)

On the opposite side of Muswell Hill Road, making for a really easy double visit, lies Queen's Wood. The monarch in question is Queen Victoria, although the forest is much older and was previously Churchyard Bottom Wood. Less intensively managed than Highgate Wood, and considerably less flat, it has a very different feel. Three tiny streams follow thin channels down the hillside, or at least they do after wetter weather, and meet in a broad valley bottom at the 'Dog Pond'... where canine visitors are encouraged to play. Another low level clearing has recently been repurposed from children's paddling zone to 'Frog Pond', although I saw no evidence of anything hopping through the algae cover. Meanwhile at the top of the hill is a chalet-style lodge containing a community cafe serving up food part-sourced from the organic garden at the rear, all highly Mumsnet-friendly.

It feels quite easy to get lost, or to end up panting up some unexpectedly steep path, and always a trifle surreal to stumble upon the road running across the southern ridge. Are those who park here out rambling in the woodland, or simply taking advantage of the lack of yellow lines so close to Highgate tube station? Ground cover and birdlife across Queen's Wood are particularly rich for London, including rare lady fern if you know where to look, plus carpets of wood anemones in the spring. Woodpeckers, spiders and jewel beetles are also abundant, the latter usually quite rare and to be found hiding out in decaying oak stumps. Most of the other trees are hornbeam, forming a mixed understorey beneath the taller oaks, with hazel, rowan and holly mixed in. I still didn't manage to spot any wild service trees, alas.

Coldfall Wood (35 acres)

A little further north, midway between Muswell Hill and East Finchley, is all that's left of Coldfall Wood. Until the early 20th century it was twice the size, until the southern half was felled and used for gravel extraction, then built over by residential avenues and two schools. Hornsey Council rescued the rest, which remains intact as an intriguing patch of prehistoric woodland. The western boundary is marked by an ancient ditch and wiggling woodbank, still visible, and a rather less attractive metal fence sealing off St Pancras & Islington Cemetery beyond. It was in Coldfall Wood in 1835 that local geologist Nathaniel Wetherell found unexpected rocks and fossils previously seen only in the north, and first came to the conclusion that glaciation must have affected southern England. Indeed Coldfall marks the farthest south the Anglian ice sheet advanced 450,000 years ago, with Highgate fractionally untouched beyond the snout.

Again Coldfall's dominant trees are oak and hornbeam, here forming a dense canopy which blocks out light in summer from most of the centre of the wood, resulting in an unusually plant-free ground layer. This means it's easy to ramble anywhere, rather than being restricted to paths, an opportunity especially popular with dogwalkers and their scampering charges. There's also a squidgy stream to follow, optimistically labelled the Everglades, crossed by mini-footbridges and a zigzag of wooden decking. I'd never visited before and was struck by how much I liked the place. What's more Coldfall has the best website of Haringey's four ancient woodlands, including an interactive map you can follow on the way round to spot glowworm habitats and, ooh, a wild service tree. I think I found it by the water tank at the entrance, with its characteristic chequered bark and propagating suckers, and will continue to believe this until proved otherwise.

Bluebell Wood (3 acres)

Bluebell Wood is by far the smallest of today's quartet, a thin remnant of the much larger Tottenham Wood. It's also really badly named given there are no bluebells here, so I'm told, not that it's easy to tell in July. But it is genuinely ancient, as you'll discover if you manage to find the entrance up the end of a cul-de-sac in Bounds Green. Most of the surrounding area has been swallowed by a golf course, several back gardens and some allotments, but this arboreal segment remains, and is just long enough to exercise a small dog on a walk to the bottom and back. Confirmation of age comes from a ditch and earthen bank along the northern edge, probably once dug to keep out livestock and other grazing animals.

Today a Haringey information board and a red dogmess bin stand guard at the entrance, and a laminated sign requests volunteers for holly clearance in a couple of Sundays time. Take your pick from a broad downhill track or narrower brambly paths to either side, and watch out for the sweet smell of cannabis smoke drifting in from the end of Winton Avenue. I wasn't here for more than ten minutes, and that was a push, but I did spot a squirrel, two pigeons, a trunkful of fungus... and perhaps a wild service tree. This minor sapling at the foot of the wood wasn't labelled but I think I recognised the shape of the leaves, or else it was just a hawthorn bursting forth instead. Whatever, it's amazing that built-up London still has patches of woodland lingering from prehistoric times, if you know where to look, and what to protect.

 Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In which I attend the Shareholders Meeting

I've held shares in The Company for fifteen years, ever since someone suggested this might be a useful introduction to investment. During this period my shares have nearly doubled in value, and almost halved, and are currently pretty much back where they started fifteen years ago. I have never been tempted to buy any other shares since.

Every year The Company invites me, and all its other shareholders, to its annual Shareholders Meeting. Previously I've not been available at 11am on a Tuesday morning, but this year I think "why not?" It might be really interesting to see how one of these events works, and to share some time with my fellow investors, plus the venue is our National Stadium which I've never been inside before. So this year, yes, I attend.

A couple of thousand shareholders turn up, traipsing a lot further from the nearest station than they'd have liked. Almost all the shareholders are past retirement age, while anyone conspicuously under the age of 40 is almost certainly a member of staff. Beaming employees in white sashes wave us onward towards the bag search under the concrete overpass, then into registration, then up the escalators, then across the landing, then into hospitality.

Inside this featureless space a team of stewards stands poised to pour a cup of coffee or The Company's tea. The tea tastes much like any tea ever served at a corporate event, fresh from a vacuum flask and topped up from a jug of tepid milk. The contents of packets of The Company's biscuits have also been laid out on plates, although only from the more basic range, and absolutely nothing chocolate-coated. Through a locked door the arena of the National Stadium is visible, but none of the grey-haired husbands and wives seem interested, preferring to sit and chat over their free cuppa.

At the appointed time a disembodied voice invites us to ascend one further set of escalators to the Great Hall. This large dimly-lit room, ideal for conferences or cocktails, could be anywhere, with no hint of the vast sporting bowl which lies immediately behind. Several rows of temporary seating fill slowly to a background of instrumental muzak, with one particularly jaunty Mylo track interrupted by recorded advice about fire exits and switching off your mobile phone.

Ten members of The Board then process onto the stage to sit on the leather chair behind their name. Only two of them will speak, while the other eight are present solely for the experience, and to confirm gender and ethnic balance. The running order for the meeting is confirmed, along with the news that this year voting on resolutions will take place during the question and answer session, rather than in a tedious drawn-out palaver at the end.

The Chairman introduces himself and expresses regret that this will be his last AGM after seven years at the helm. He outlines the changes that have taken place on his watch and the challenges of the current trading environment. He praises huge improvements in logistics, customer engagement and the website, and defends the slimming down of the international portfolio. He explains away the negative lines in the first quarter results by reminding us that recent restructuring has been both essential and a one-off. In fact the Company's share price has dropped 4% since trading opened this morning, and has further to fall, but of this there is no reference.

The Chief Executive steps up next and makes reference to the protesters that attendees will have seen outside the venue, before reaffirming The Company's staunchly apolitical stance. He provides an upbeat summary of priorities and actions, drilling down to refreshed colour palettes, multiple store openings and signature food portfolios. He tells the shareholders how much he appreciates their engagement, and introduces a short video to prove his point. His delivery from autocue isn't quite as deft as The Chairman's, but smooth enough, as befits the leader of a blue chip corporation.

It's time to start voting on resolutions, but no hands will be raised or cards employed. Instead each shareholder has been handed a retro Blackberry, along with a sheet of instructions to try to explain which buttons to press, and the device now springs to life awaiting input. Manoeuvring through the menus eventually makes sense, but entering a meaningful response proves unexpectedly difficult. The precise wording of each of the 24 resolutions appears only in an accompanying booklet, in ridiculously small type, which with the lights dimmed is nigh impossible to read. We try our best.

The most memorable part of the meeting is the hour-long Q&A. Shareholders who've submitted a question are invited, sequentially, to step forward to either Question Point A or Question Point B, a bit like being summoned to the counter at Argos. It soon becomes clear that some shareholders are clued up, some are obsessed, some are only interested in the share price, some are attention seekers and some simply don't know when to shut up. Several prove to be repeat offenders from previous years. The next hour proves something of a trial.

Why has someone with no fashion experience been drafted in to run the fashion business? Why does one particular store in the West Midlands have such a poor selection of size 3 shoes? Why continue to give out plastic carrier bags when bags for life could be prioritised instead? Why are all the ready meals now tarnished with chilli? Why can't the AGM go up north for a change? Why did nobody think to run shuttle buses from the station to the venue? Why... I will get round to my question eventually, honest, but first let me drone on making various observations on how I could run your company better.

The Chairman deals with each question fairly and humbly, facing his toughest challenge when a young woman steps up to request that The Company pulls all its advertising from a certain 'hateful' newspaper. Some of the audience get restless when she produces a petition, but The Chairman requests silence so that her voice can be heard. The heckling increases when a second objector has the temerity to raise the same issue, at which point patience starts to decline and several red-faced gentlemen erupt with jeers of indignation. I am not proud to be sitting amongst them.

Eventually the cavalcade of opinion and ego draws to an end, and the Chairman announces that voting is closed. Provisional results show that every resolution has been carried, most by 99-point-something percent, although the Director's Remuneration Report met with some opposition. I'm sorry I'll not see you next year, says The Chairman, but as a treat I've arranged for you all to enjoy a box of my favourite extremely chocolatey dark chocolate ginger biscuits. Thanks for coming, safe journey home, and don't forget to pick up your lunch bag on the way out.

I will not attend the Shareholders Meeting again, despite the free cheese and pickle roll, petit macaroons and box of chocolate biscuits. The opportunity to gain insight into The Company's financial decisions was fascinating, as was the chance to see inside the business end of the National Stadium. But what I'd rather not hear again are the opinionated dullards this open platform event attracts, overshadowing those with something pithy or genuinely challenging to contribute. The Board carry out their AGM duties with aplomb, but must smile with relief when it's all over for another year.

 Tuesday, July 11, 2017

If you can't raise fares for four years, because the Mayor says so, there is still a way to increase revenue. Change the way you collect those fares, and keep more of the income for yourself.
"We need to innovate to attract customers to our services and to drive down operating costs."
TfL have been cutting down their overheads on fare collection for years. Fifteen years ago we all travelled round London by buying bits of paper from actual people. What an expensive delivery system that was. Today over 90% of journeys on public transport are paid for with Oyster or some form of contactless payment.
"PAYG now comprises 52 per cent of all paid TfL journeys. Contactless payments now account for two in every five PAYG journeys and are growing rapidly. Mobile payments now account for nearly 10 per cent of contactless payments."
Oyster first arrived on the scene in 2003, with Pay As you Go in operation from 2004. Daily capping was introduced in 2005, which was also when weekly travelcards stopped being physically available. Cash fares were made more expensive than Oyster fares in 2006, to encourage behavioural shift, then in 2010 PAYG was extended across the National Rail network. In 2012 contactless payments arrived on the buses, whose operation went entirely cash-free in 2014. Also in 2014 contactless reached the tube, which helped TfL to close all of its ticket offices the following year.
"Ticket Vending Machines are obsolete as mechanisms of payment in the near future. This paper recommends moving London Trams to cash free ticketing, and for the removal of TVMs from stops."
Many of these ticketing changes have made travel more convenient for passengers, others rather less so, but the driving force behind each has been to save TfL money. And there are a lot more changes on the way.
"Objective is to reduce commissions on sales by encouraging online purchases."
This month, for example, TfL are making it easier to buy PAYG credit or a season ticket online. Previously you had to nominate a station to collect these from, and wait up to a day before it was ready, but now you'll be able to collect it at any station, 30 minutes after you've ordered it, as part of making a normal journey. In October collection will also extend to the yellow reader on any bus, which it's hoped will nudge a lot more bus passengers to embrace online sales over Ticket Stops.
It's also now possible for customers with non-Zone 1 Travelcards and discounted National Rail through tickets to buy boundary extension tickets from all station ticket machines... which might excite a few of you.
"Underlying Assumption: All season tickets currently sold at Oyster Ticket Stops will migrate to other products and channels over 5 years."
Next month, security approval permitting, Tfl's fares app arrives. They've been piloting it with 900 volunteers for a few months, but in August anyone'll be able to download it for free from the App Store or Google Play. Those of you who like to wave your smartphone around in busy public places will no doubt leap at the opportunity. The app's not over-blessed with functionality, but will allow you to top up your PAYG or buy a season ticket, as well as display your journey and charging history. It'll also provide notifications if your balance is running low, your season ticket is about to expire or a Maximum Fare has been applied. Initially it'll only work for those customers who own an Oyster card (issued since 2010), but next year the app will work for contactless customers too.
"Customers will be encouraged to switch to contactless to fully benefit from our future proposition."
Early next year the refund system gets an update, with automated refunds delivered in 24 hours rather than 48, and from any station. Next Spring the Hopper fare opens up to multiple buses - as many as you can ride in one hour - the implementation of which has proved a programming headache. Then next summer comes the real biggie, the introduction of weekly capping on Oyster. Currently only contactless users can use take advantage of the Monday-Sunday cap because their fares are totted up overnight, not throughout their journey. Updating software systems which were never meant to cope with this level of complexity has been tricky, but the aim is to bring Oyster into line with contactless and make the the charging of fares more consistent. Ultimately TfL hope we'll all stop buying weekly travelcards and simply trust the system to get it right.
"This will allow us to promote PAYG more heavily as the payment method of choice, thus achieving greater fares transparency and improving social inclusion."
There's no suggestion in any of TfL's documentation that monthly or annual Travelcards will be replaced. Totting up journeys at the end of a month or year would be ridiculously complicated, plus purchases are infrequent, and only wealthier London residents tend to use them. All the big savings are to be found by weaning everyone else onto using a card they already own, rather than one TfL has to provide, and encouraging everyone to self-serve as much as possible. It all adds up to millions more which can be spent on investment rather than backroom operations... and that's how you raise revenue without raising fares.

 Monday, July 10, 2017

Ten years ago, evictions complete, steel gates clanged shut around the Olympic Park. Five years later they reopened, the world arrived and two fortnights of sport took place. Five years after the Games a massive amount of repurposing has taken place, and much of the Olympic Park is now scarcely recognisable from what came before. But it's still not the case that everything's finished, ten years on, nor indeed that all the old ways into the park have been opened up. On the tenth anniversary of the initial lock-up, I'm been down to see whereabouts you still can't get in.

I started at the Bow Flyover, and worked my way east.

The River Lea towpath is still passable, but remains diverted (via a pontoon) while a new electricity substation is built alongside to power Crossrail. The pontoon was supposed to be removed in February, according to the website puddingmilllanesubstation.com, but towpath restoration is currently running six months behind schedule and workmen are still faffing around with walls and surfaces.

Barbers Road reopened in March, having been closed off since 2009, leading to a windswept new piazza outside Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. But not everything's open yet.

This is a new ramp from Marshgate Lane up towards the Greenway, parallel to the DLR viaduct, which workmen have been swarming over for months. It replaces a creepier, less accessible footpath which used to follow approximately the same route until 2007. Eventually this new footpath/cycleway link will connect the station to the Greenway and a new residential wedge beyond... but for now it's still very closed.

The Greenway remains straightforward to reach by ducking under the railway and heading up to the View Tube.

The View Tube's cafe is now under new management, paired up with The Common on Old Bethnal Green Rd, and offers a different slant on drinks and snacks to the previous tenants. Bike hire is also available, daily (except Tuesdays) throughout the summer. But footfall around this sparsely developed location remains low, so I'm not sure how the business survives, especially now that 'coming up onto the Greenway to see the Stadium' is nothing special.

Here's the latest view of the Stadium from the Greenway.

As you can see, a large building is going up inbetween... a new secondary school on the banks of the City Mill River. Students shouldn't expect any playground space, except perhaps on the roof, so tight is the footprint of the site, although they will have a community athletics track nextdoor. That diversion sign stuck to the railings is needed because a tented village has sprung up on the lawn south of the Orbit during a special summer of athletics, and the resulting pedestrian detour is both dull and inconvenient. It also looks like all the pink arrows will fall off soon. Stay away.

I'll now return to Stratford High Street and check the next former entrance into the park.

The next former entrance into the park, up Blaker Road, is blocked. What's more the bars across the tunnel under the Greenway mean it looks like remaining blocked permanently, making this once pleasant riverside path a dead end... and a good place to sleep rough on a dumped mattress. What I best remember from standing here before Olympic construction began were the dragonflies dancing on the water. There are no dragonflies now, dancing or otherwise.

Another connection to the Greenway once existed from Blaker Road, along the northern bank of the Waterworks River.

That's still blocked too. I got excited because the barriers at the City Mill Lock end have finally been removed and I was able to walk along a long-sealed path. I reached the bench overlooking the canal, and further, but at the far end, just before the steps, no luck, the barriers remain. What is it about the Greenway which makes all these connections as yet impassible?

At the main entrance on Stratford High Street, here's the answer. 'Early investigations'.

The Greenway's northern access has been blocked since 2009, initially for Olympic reasons. When the Games were over, Crossrail operations took precedence, encompassing a major worksite where fresh railway tracks will enter tunnels. Crossrail were supposed to be finished by July 2016, but then a third interested party turned up, namely Thames Water, who need to carry out 'strengthening works to the bridge over Waterworks River'. Initially the plan was for this to be completed by July 2018, but the paperwork attached to the fence suggests the work's only just started, that the company they've brought in are "asbestos removal specialists", and that the work won't be complete until 1st January 2019. I wouldn't count on it.

The next potential entrance to the park is from Bridgewater Road, past the allotments.

This arty tunnel has been blocked off for years, then was silently opened up last winter, then was mysteriously closed off again. I managed to walk round one barrier and under the railway bridge, which has thankfully been cleaned of pigeon droppings since I was last here. But the barrier on the far side was still in place, so I had to retrace my steps and return to Warton Road to enter the park instead.

I've never seen this obstruction on Warton Road before.

These lumpen security barriers aren't permanent, hopefully, but have been installed as a precaution during "a spectacular Summer of World Athletics". The Yoghurt-Sponsored Anniversary Games took place yesterday, the World Para Athletics Championships begin on Friday and the IAAF World Championships kick off on 4th August. Congratulations to the stadium-bookers on an impressive haul of top class action, for which tickets are still available, but the associated backstage operations and security are an echo of the less attractive side of 2012.

The Stadium is no longer in West Ham mode.

The triangles on the exterior wrap remain claret and blue, but the club's name has been removed from the roof and the huge video screen is now streaming pictures of athletes rather than footballers. It's good to see the Stadium being used for the purpose it was originally designed for, even if the rarity of athletics events is a reminder of why a completely different kind of sporting presence needed to be wheeled in as anchor tenant.

And finally, here's something not yet open for those arriving by water.

Carpenters Road Lock last operated in the 1960s, but has been expensively restored and its unique double radial lock gates are finally due to open again at the end of the summer. An East London Waterways Festival is pencilled in for Bank Holiday Monday 28th August, with a variety of events on land and water including a boat flotilla, live music and dragon boat racing. The full Bow Back Rivers network will then be accessible for the first time in decades, ideal for cruising should you have a narrowboat at your disposal.

Ten years may have proved insufficient, but wait long enough and the entire Olympic Park does open up.

 Sunday, July 09, 2017

When Crossrail kicks off in 518 days time, travel patterns are going to change. And not just rail travel. Passenger flows by bus are going to change too, as this forecast map shows.

TfL expect fewer bus passengers on the green sections, because Crossrail will provide faster alternative links. The really big drops are expected to be a) between central London and Paddington, b) west of Ealing, c) east of Stratford. TfL expect more bus passengers on the red sections, as locals suddenly gain a super new station to commute from. The biggest rises are expected to be a) around Hayes and Southall in the west, b) around Woolwich and Abbey Wood in the southeast.

Which is why TfL snuck out an enormous bus consultation on Friday, as they try to mould the capital's bus network to the realities of future demand. More than 30 different suburban bus routes could be affected, on top of the 17 routes already being tweaked following last winter's West End Bus Review. Between them, that's almost 10% of London's bus routes facing Crossrail-related change. What's more, this latest consultation suggests something unprecedented in recent years... the introduction of seven new bus routes. Might your daily ride be changing?

The proposed changes are grouped into three clusters, each based around a different arm of Crossrail. There's the West London cluster, feeding passengers into Ealing Broadway, Southall and Hayes & Harlington. There's the Southeast London cluster, feeding passengers into Woolwich and Abbey Wood. And there's the Northeast London cluster, feeding passengers into Whitechapel, Stratford, Custom House and stations beyond Romford. If you have a particular local interest in one of these areas, check out the specific consultation page, linked above. If you're super-interested, an 81-page technical report exists here.

What I'll give you is an overall summary, and a few details of some of the more intriguing tweaks.

First of all, the routes themselves.

AreaRoute extendedRoute divertedRoute shortenedNEW route
W LONDON95, 112, H32440, E5140, 223, 266, 391, 427218, 278, 306, X140
SE LONDON129, 180161, 180, 469472, B11301
NE LONDON241, 330115, 300, 47425, 104, 241304, 497

Most of the diversions are to send existing routes past Crossrail stations and help distribute passengers around the surrounding area.
» For example, in West London route 440 is being diverted in three separate locations, one of which will snatch it away from West Acton tube station and pass Acton Main Line Crossrail station instead.
» For example, in Southeast London route 469 is being diverted to the other side of Lesnes Abbey Wood as a new link to Abbey Wood station for residents in West Heath.
» For example, in Northeast London route 115 is being diverted via Whitechapel and through Stepney, rather than its current route along Commercial Road.

More routes are being shortened than lengthened. A lot of the curtailments are to make routes more reliable, or to remove excess capacity on certain sections of road.
» For example, in West London route 427 is being halved in length, so will only go from Uxbridge to Southall, not to Acton.
» For example, in West London route 266 is being cut back to Acton, so will no longer have to struggle through the traffic to Hammersmith.
» For example, in Northeast London route 241 is being cut back to Custom House rather than Canning Town (but also extended at the northern end to Here East in the Olympic Park).

Some of the extensions are to serve new housing developments. This isn't all about Crossrail, not by a long chalk, this is TfL taking the opportunity to serve new centres of population.
» For example, in West London routes 95 and H32 are being extended to serve Southall Waterside, the mega-development I mentioned in my recent post on Southall's canals.
» For example, in Northeast London new route 497 will thread a bus service through the new Kings Park estate opposite Harold Wood station.

Some of the brand new bus routes are to replace connections broken by Crossrail-related changes.
» For example, in West London new route 218 will comprise bits chopped off route 266 and route 440, and new route 306 will comprise bits chopped off route 266 and 391.
» For example, in Southeast London new route 301 will follow some current sections of routes 472 and B11, providing a more direct route to Thamesmead from the Crossrail stations at Woolwich and Abbey Wood.
» For example, in Northeast London new route 304 will take over one arm of current route 104, which will no longer dogleg down to the A13 and back.

A lot of these modifications are only possible because of the Hopper fare. Previously TfL's planners would have thought twice about breaking passengers' journeys, but now they don't have to worry because two buses cost the same as one. The downside, of course, is that two bus rides with a wait inbetween invariably takes longer.
» For example, in Northeast London passengers on route 25 will no longer be able to reach the West End without changing buses.
» For example, residents of southeast Thamesmead can currently reach their neighbourhood shopping centre direct on route B11, but in future they'll need to take two buses.

Now let's consider capacity... are buses running more or less often? Here's another summary table.

AreaHigher frequencyLower frequencyDouble-deckered
W LONDON120, E10140, 391, 427, E1 
SE LONDON 129, 472, B11178, 244, 291
NE LONDON104, 17425296

When Crossrail begins, some of the required additional capacity can gained by running buses more frequently.
» For example, in West London route 120 (via Southall) will increase from six buses an hour to eight.
» For example, in Northeast London route 174 (via Romford) will increase from a bus every eight minutes to a bus every six.

Another simple solution is to replace single deckers with larger vehicles.
» For example, in Southeast London routes 178, 244, 291 will all link to Woolwich station using double deckers.
» For example, in West London route E10 will get longer (two-door) buses and run two extra buses every hour.

But not everything improves. TfL's latest bus-buzzphrase is "matching capacity to demand", which generally means running fewer buses.
» For example, in West London route 427 will only run every ten minutes, not every eight.
» For example, in Southeast London route B11 will be cut from four buses an hour to three, and route 472 cut from ten to seven and a half.
» For example, in Northeast London passengers on route 25 can expect to wait an extra minute and a half for the next bus.

I'll summarise by considering three particular routes, one from each cluster.

In West London, route 140 is metamorphosing into three separate strands. Buses currently run from Harrow Weald to Heathrow Airport via an orbital route unshadowed by any railway line, so buses are often crowded. The downside in the proposals is that route 140 is going to be cut back at its southern end, at Hayes and Harlington, because it needs go no further than the Crossrail station. The upside is that a limited stop service is to be introduced, numbered X140, which'll go all the way from Harrow bus station to Heathrow Airport stopping only ten times inbetween. Boris Johnson proposed introducing several orbital express bus routes when he became Mayor, you may remember, but it's taken ten years for the first new one to materialise. Meanwhile the nightbus service will be left unchanged, still Harrow Weald to the airport, so that'll become the N140.

In southeast London, route 180 is being seriously played around with. At its eastern end it'll no longer serve Belvedere Industrial Estate but will be extended to Erith, before doubling back to a new housing development at Erith Quarry. Then at its western end it's being diverted away from Lewisham to terminate at North Greenwich instead, helping to make up for the reduction in frequency on route 472. Meanwhile route 129, which has been shuttling minimally between North Greenwich and Greenwich since 2006, finally gets an extension to Lewisham to make up for the 180's removal. This whole consultation sometimes feels like a giant game of dominoes, with one change setting off another change setting off another.

In northeast London, route 25 is currently the busiest bus route in London.... but TfL clearly think its crown is under threat. That's because the 25 shadows Crossrail from Bond Street to Ilford, so TfL expect thousands of passengers to switch from bus to rail, and are cutting back the service accordingly. Not only will the frequency be reduced from ten buses an hour to eight, but the route is being completely withdrawn along Oxford Street and High Holborn. Instead buses will start and finish at Holborn Circus, a not-entirely useful terminus, and Soho-bound passengers will have to switch to the 242... hang on, no, that's been cut back too, which leaves just the 8... except no, that's been cut back to Tottenham Court Road. Could this be sequential curtailment overkill? Many's the night I've waited on Oxford Street for a 25 home, but no more, unless someone official decides an N25 might be a sensible option.

In conclusion, Crossrail has set off an avalanche of potential bus changes affecting approximately 10% of London's bus routes. Some of these are to match supply to post-Crossrail demand, but others are simplifications, reductions and rationalisations which may affect your journey in other ways. It seems the Hopper fare has finally allowed TfL's backroom bus planners to be let loose, crayons poised, 'matching capacity to demand' in radically new ways. Expect a faster rate of changes in the future, and for the current London bus map to be seriously out of date in a few years time.

If you like (or don't like) what you've seen here, be sure to respond to the consultation and make your voice heard, else opinions on each individual route will be lost amongst the hubbub of the other thirty.

A special hello to TfL's bus consultation department. Your West London page says at the top that you're planning to make changes to route E1, then completely fails to mention further down what those changes actually are. Oops. I only know what your proposals are because I've read page 28 of the technical report - you'd like to cut peak hour frequency from eight buses an hour to six, and cut one bus an hour on Sundays "to better match capacity with demand". Best add that in on the main page, otherwise it's not really a proper consultation. [Tuesday update: This has been added]

And while we're here, a word about the numbers TfL have chosen for their brand new routes. The eight lowest numbers which aren't currently used for a TfL bus route are 82, 84, 218, 239, 278, 301, 304 and 306. This consultation proposes using five of these (218, 278, 301, 304 and 306), which would leave the lowest three unused route numbers as 82 (recently withdrawn), 84 (still lingers in Barnet) and 239 (last used 2008).

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