diamond geezer

 Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Norfolk isn't known for its hills, indeed global warming is predicted to take quite a chunk out of its eastern flank. The county's highest point is Beacon Hill near Sheringham at a mere 105m (or 344 ft), a figure even Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex can beat. But even Norwich has its hills, so while I was in the city on Monday I climbed some.



I'm not counting Castle Hill because that's artificial, knocked up by the Normans at the end of the 11th century. And I'm not counting Elm Hill, once voted one of Britain's top ten prettiest streets, because that's more a sloping cobbled relic than a proper full-on ascent. Instead I mean proper breathless uphill climbs, of the kind that my part of East London has absolutely none whatsoever.

There's Gas Hill.



Gas Hill lies a few streets north of the railway station, and is renowned in Norwich as the place where you practise hill starts. The road breaks off from the River Wensum opposite Bishop's Bridge and climbs steeply up the chalk escarpment, becoming narrower as it ascends. The pub at the bottom is called the Lollard's Pit after the execution site on which it was built - why not enjoy a pint of Fosters on the site where Queen Mary had dozens of religious protestors burnt at the stake?

The reason for Gas Hill's name used to be obvious further up on the right hand side. This was a giant disused gasholder, the last surviving feature of the city's gas works and a locally listed building. The council hoped developers would be able to incorporate it into a future housing development, but this proved unviable so this familiar feature on the Norwich skyline is to be replaced by a dozen or so flats. May 2019 marks the end of the dismantling project, and all I could hear behind the gates were the last vestiges of demolition.

There's Ketts Hill.



Technically Ketts Hill is exactly the same hill as Gas Hill, just a different (busier) road slightly further north. I've been driven down it dozens of times but never walked, so never slipped through the gate to visit the wooded ridge of Kett's Heights. The Kett in question is Robert Kett, a yeoman farmer from Wymondham who rallied fifteen thousand anti-enclosure protestors in the summer of 1549. They camped up here when taking over the city, holding out for a few weeks before the rebellion was quashed and Robert was hung from the walls of the castle. This is peak Norwich history, this is.

Kett's Heights was a 1980s attempt to open up a strip of historic hillside to the public, and has been dramatically improved since 2015 when a group of local volunteers took over. They cleared undergrowth on the terraces, tidied up the remnants of an old chapel and cleared trees to open up the view (although one remains in an awkward location part-obscuring the cathedral spire). Plainly visible are the castle, the thin clocktower of Norwich's City Hall and both cathedrals. I'd like to apologise to the retired couple on the bench beside the Armada beacon for interrupting their afternoon tryst.

There's St James' Hill.



This is a proper summit, though a small one, essentially a gorse-covered hump poking out from exactly the same ridge we were discussing earlier. You can access it by finding the small track behind the pub at the Ketts Hill roundabout, then scrambling up a sandy path that weaves through vegetation. Or you can drive - a big car park's been provided beyond the summit in front of an very imposing Victorian building. This was originally Britannia Barracks, home to the Royal Norfolk Regiment between 1885 and 1959, and is now occupied by Norwich Prison. I wondered why prisoners were outside drinking tea and eating cake, but it turns out the front terrace now operates as a social enterprise cafe for current and ex-offenders.



Inmates have the best view in the city, or would do if only they could see out. The unconfined can step out across the heath to a single bench at the optimum peak position and stare down. I stared lots. The spire of Norwich Cathedral dominates - at 96m the second tallest spire in England (which thankfully isn't quite enough to attract unwanted Russian tourists). If the council get their way it'll be joined by a single 20-storey residential block on the site of 70s shopping centre Anglia Square, tainting the skyline, but the government have called in this decision and the communities minister may not be so financially minded.

And there's Mousehold Heath.



Technically, again, this is just a continuation of much the same ridge overlooking the River Wensum. But Mousehold Heath is very much its own entity, an undulating 184 acre nature reserve to the northeast of the city. Originally it was treeless and stretched all the way to the edge of the Broads and was used as common land for grazing, but the rest became farmland or housing and this preserved chunk was taken over by broad-leafed woodland. At weekends it's a bit of a recreational magnet. On Monday afternoons the ice cream van waits in vain.

I'd been to the American diner at the heart of the heath before for a birthday meal but never ventured further up the hill into the trees (it was dark at the time, it wouldn't have been wise). And it was glorious, a proper woodland labyrinth with broad tracks plunging down into shadowy valleys and narrow paths weaving across sandy slopes littered with pine cones. I found the pond and the bandstand on my solo stroll but missed the old tram track. And rubbing up along more than one side I found rows of very ordinary houses with this wonderful resource on their doorstep, higher above Norfolk than you might imagine.

 Tuesday, May 21, 2019

For years East Anglians have been trying to make their trains run faster. A typical rail journey between London and Norwich takes about one hour fifty minutes, best case one hour forty-two, which does the region's economy no favours. So a decade ago the political imperative became "Norwich in 90", not because it was doable but because it sounded good, and the most recent franchise was awarded on the basis that it must happen. Since then track and signalling have been upgraded, new trains have been purchased... and yesterday Greater Anglia finally delivered. I took the 11am train to Norwich, and it took one and a half hours precisely.

The initial timetable looks unadventurous. Only two trains from Norwich to London take ninety minutes, and only two trains from London to Norwich. They start quite late. They tend to avoid peak hours. They only require a single train shuttling back and forth. They don't run on Sundays. And they only stop once along the way.

0900 Norwich
0933 Ipswich
1030 London Liv St
1700 Norwich
1733 Ipswich
1830 London Liv St
1100 London Liv St
1153 Ipswich
1230 Norwich
1900 London Liv St
1955 Ipswich
2030 Norwich

This timetable's brilliant if you happen to want to go all the way at the time the trains actually run, or if you're a politician wanting to claim a massive personal success. Several politicians, businesspeople and railway top brass were on board the very first train which left Norwich at 09:00 yesterday morning. They must have been delighted, and somewhat relieved, when it pulled into Liverpool Street two minutes early. Several grey-haired men looked very pleased when they hopped off for a lengthy photocall at the head of the train. London in 88, very impressive.



Most of the VIPs went straight back again in first class. I headed for second class and found an impressively underpopulated carriage. There shouldn't have been any classes because yesterday was also supposed to see the introduction of a brand new train set, the all-standard-class Class 755. But these four-car units aren't ready to go into service yet - a sadly familiar story - and were themselves an unplanned stopgap for longer, also-delayed, Class 745s. So Greater Anglia wheeled out their most reliable ageing workhorse Class 90 and prayed it wouldn't fail. It didn't.

We crossed the M25 in under 15 minutes. This is normal. We skated through Shenfield in 17 minutes. Slowcoach Crossrail's going to take 43. We skipped Chelmsford in 24 minutes and Colchester in 38. This train doesn't bother stopping in Essex because the sacrifice allows it to reach Suffolk and Norfolk quicker. The view was often gorgeous, with rippling fields of yellow rape, dense herds of cattle and a glistening tidal estuary. The gentleman sat in the seat in front of me read his railway magazine, filled in his notebook and unwrapped a buffet brunch.

We reached Ipswich in a highly impressive 52 minutes. Technically the doors were open and passengers were stepping onto the platform at 51 minutes 55 seconds, so I'm going to call that Ipswich in 51. I'm baffled why the chosen slogan is Ipswich in 60 when the outbound timetable shows the intended target is 55, but I guess marketing folk and politicians have a thing for round numbers because they reckon people remember them better.

The train departed Ipswich on time, accompanied by a previously unheard-of announcement stating we'd be "calling at Norwich only". Normally every northbound train stops at Diss, and maybe Stowmarket too, because economically it's a poor idea to run straight past 40 miles of intermediate population. In this case it's OK because the Norwich in 90 services are all extras, shoehorned into the existing half-hourly timetable as a bonus rather than a replacement. But this cunning fix has created additional pressures elsewhere... as we'll see later.

Just before Diss the train slowed, unnervingly, raising the possibility that we might not hit our target. A member of Greater Anglia's Engineering Team wandered down the aisle, because politically important trains require extra staff on board lest they be seen to fail. He wasn't needed. We returned to full whack and approached Norwich with the clock inexorably ticking. Four minutes to go, just crossing the outskirts. Two minutes to go, passing all the shiny new trains in the depot that were supposed to be operational by now but aren't. And absolutely bang on time (OK, maybe 20 seconds late but that's irrelevant) we pulled in beside the platform. Norwich in 90 achieved. A dozen careers saved.



And at 17:00 I was back on platform 2 to ride the second fast train of the day back to London. I should have been on platform 4 to ride the slower 17:03 to London instead, because that was scheduled to stop at Stratford and I'd actually have got home faster. Staff were really careful to announce that the next station was Ipswich and the only other station after that was London, but some passengers still overshot their intended destination so had to get out at Ipswich and grab another train back the other way.

Beyond Ipswich we were running bang on time, or fractionally early, strategically sandwiched between the train from Clacton and the train from Braintree. We zoomed through Stratford at 18:22, i.e. still eight minutes before our deadline, so all looked good. But towards Bethnal Green we slowed, and dammit stopped, then sat there at a red signal for six minutes and threw everything away. BBC Look East were livestreaming our arrival on local news, and the timing couldn't have been worse. I think the train in front of the train in front of us got delayed pulling into Liverpool Street, but that was enough to unravel everything and we only managed London in 97.

The last fast train of the day also failed, having started to lose time after Chelmsford and arriving into Ipswich four minutes late. On it went, inexorably catching up with the slower 18:30 departure which was running even later. The signallers then did something heinous, switching the slower northbound train onto the 'wrong' platform at Diss to allow the fast train to overtake, and simultaneously delaying the next southbound departure from Norwich. The overtaken train ended up being 15 minutes late, the overtaking train a less newsworthy five. Unsurprisingly you can't squeeze magic trains into a timetable without damaging the others.

So yesterday's final tally was London in 88, Norwich in 90, London in 97 and Norwich in 95. Two successes, two fails. Technically even London in 97 is brilliant, but when you play the simplistic targets game it's all too easy to brand wins as losses. Expect dozens more wins and losses as the service inexorably improves, and maybe by the mid-2020s Norwich in 90 will be the status quo rather than an unreliable ideal.

 Monday, May 20, 2019



Last month Hammersmith Bridge had to be closed to road traffic after safety checks revealed "critical faults". The bridge is 132 years old and built for elegance rather than strength, its decking comprising 999 square panels in various states of disrepair. Best not stare too carefully as you cross.



Previous emergency closures have been relatively short, whereas this latest closure is indefinite pending a proper funded plan. Walking and cycling across the bridge is still allowed, which is just as well, but motorists now face lengthy diversions via Chiswick Bridge or Putney Bridge.

Before the closure five bus routes crossed the bridge, providing an invaluable connection for Barnes residents otherwise hemmed inside a sweeping Thames meander. TfL responded with some temporary rejigging of routes, then launched a consultation on something more medium-term, then enacted those changes three days later. The 72 they curtailed to run only north of the river, the 33, 419 and 485 only south. The 209 was diverted to Putney Bridge instead of Hammersmith, linking to the tube being its raison d'être. And because the less mobile still need to be able to get across the river without walking they introduced a new route, the 533. I took a ride on the 533 on its first day, which was Saturday. It was an unexpectedly awful experience.

Here's a map showing roughly where all the rejigged routes go.



It's of very poor quality because I knocked it up in MS Paint, but simultaneously very much better than any map TfL have produced because they haven't produced one. In what follows, the lack of a coherent map will be a significant contributory factor.


Route 533: Hammersmith to Castelnau
Length of journey: 6 miles, 30 minutes
In normal times: ¾ mile, 5 minutes




Route 533 runs every half an hour between Hammersmith bus station and Castelnau, Lonsdale Road - which is just the other side of Hammersmith Bridge. You could walk it in 15 minutes. The bus takes rather longer because it has to go the long way. Not everybody who gets on board realises this.

I turn up at Hammersmith bus station in time for an afternoon departure. I head to Bus Stop K in the lower bus station where about a dozen passengers are waiting. Amongst them are two young footballers, a pair of brownies in uniform and a mum with pink hair swigging an orange juice. I need to show you Bus Stop K, because it contains the worst tile infringement I've ever seen on a London bus stop.



There is no route N782, never has been, never will be. TfL don't run buses with numbers in the seven hundreds, let alone nightbuses - the bus in question should be the N72. And yet someone made a tile labelled N782, someone else installed it, and somebody more important failed to spot it shouldn't be there. If you need firm evidence that the team who organise TfL's bus operations have taken their eye off the ball, here it is.

A poster displayed inside the shelter shows which bus stop to use to board your bus, either here in Hammersmith or on the other side of the bridge. Two of the stops are called Bus Stop K, the one we're starting at and the one we're going to. One of the most useful stops doesn't have a letter. Two bubbles depict walks of 10 and 20 minutes respectively, which it turns out relate to thin dotted lines across the river. This is the sole reference to the bridge still being open to those on foot. I've seen far clearer explanations of complex situations.



A steward in an SFM tabard is waiting beside the stop to offer guidance if required. She's the only person who has a map of route 533, marked on a printout in blue highlighter, and also the only person who has a timetable. She's also very keen to warn people against boarding a 72 instead. "It's only going as far as Hammersmith Bridge," she shouts, four times, before the next number 72 departs.

In fact, assuming you're reasonably able-bodied, the 72 is easily the quickest way to cross the Thames. A one-stop hop takes you to Hammersmith Bridge Road, from which it's a two minute walk to the bridge and a further five minutes to Castelnau on the other side. As things turn out, anyone taking the 72 and walking would have saved themselves an hour on how long it'll eventually take, but instead the footballers and brownies and orange juice swiggers dutifully wait.

Every few minutes an announcement about Route 533 is made over the tannoy. I'll be hearing it several times while I'm waiting, so I'm pretty certain it goes like this...
"The Hammersmith Bridge is closed. The route 533 will run a shuttle service via the A4 towards Chiswick Bridge and continue the service towards the south side of Hammersmith Bridge via the Barnes area. For more details speak to SFM or TfL staff or visit TfL-dot-gov-dot-uk."
In the absence of a map or a timetable, this is the best explanation of route 533 any of us will be getting. Those with local knowledge, and who are actually listening, will realise that's quite a long way. But everyone else is just pleased there's a direct bus, a magic red box that'll transport them somehow across the river. And so they wait.

The incoming 533 arrives and lets off quite a lot of passengers. The driver does some tidying up, closes the door behind him and wanders off. The time of our scheduled departure passes, and "533     due" sits at the top of the electronic display for some considerable time.



Another member of staff wanders over and complains that she can't get into the ladies toilet. Our steward knows the door can be a bit stiff, so wanders off to provide assistance. While she's away a number 72 arrives and, because there's nobody to warn them, several people get on. Four get straight back off after the driver explains he's only going one more stop. These include the two footballers and their mum. "The 533 will be fine," she says, "it's only four stops." She's wrong, of course, it's going to be twenty.

The staff member who wanted the toilet turns out to be our bus driver. She boards the vehicle twelve minutes after it should have left and faffs around inside. Sorry, says the steward on her return, they've cancelled the quarter to and this is now going to be the quarter past. She also reveals she's been on duty since six this morning and won't be off shift until nine this evening. She's doing a sterling job.

Up rolls a member of British Airways flight crew with a peaked cap hung over the handle of his suitcase. He's making a call and his phone is still glued to his ear when a 72 pulls in, and on he gets. "It's only going to the bridge!" says the steward, repeatedly, following him onto the bus to try to press the point. But Peter the pilot isn't listening and heads off obliviously aboard the curtailed bus. Perhaps he cursed at the other end. Perhaps he got home quicker.

At last our 533 is driven over and on we get, sixteen of us in total. The driver doesn't go anywhere for five minutes, just sits there revving the non-Euro-VI-compliant engine. The footballers' mother walks forward to the driver's cab and waves the screen of her phone, keen to confirm that our bus will actually be going to her chosen destination. She returns reassured. According to the electronic display outside, the next 533 departs in 6 minutes. But this is rubbish, it's quarter past and off we go.



Our first stop is beside St Paul's church on Hammersmith Bridge Road. Anyone alighting here and proceeding on foot could be in Castelnau in under ten minutes. From there four different bus routes proceed through Barnes at regular intervals, which is easily the fastest option for several of those on board. But nothing at the bus stop mentions this, only an out of date map showing the previous temporary situation, and so a hockey player and a lady carrying a bunch of M&S dahlias climb aboard.

Beyond the flyover we ease onto the Great West Road and join three slow moving lanes of traffic. No other bus goes this way, only the 533. The iBus display is now showing that our next stop is at the Hogarth Roundabout, which is over a mile away. After a few minutes Footballers' Mum finally twigs that we're taking the scenic route to Barnes, and heads up to the front of the bus to show the driver her phone again. The driver uses hand gestures to reassure her, successfully, and back she sits.

Eventually we bear off the A4, and lose the traffic, speeding instead past the grounds of Chiswick House towards Chiswick Bridge. Traffic in the opposite direction looks somewhat clogged, so I don't rate the chances of any 533 heading back to Hammersmith. The view from the bridge is splendid. After fifteen minutes we have finally crossed the river Thames... but are now two miles away from the point we could have walked to in that time instead.



The Brownies and their mother alight outside the Stag Brewery in Mortlake, three quarters of an hour after they first turned up at the bus station. Further passengers alight on the riverside road towards Barnes, where we're now making good progress because traffic heading away from Chiswick Bridge is light. Towards Chiswick Bridge, not so good. I notice that every bus stop along the route has the same yellow poster to try to explain the latest changes. Unfortunately all it shows is where to board your bus on either side of Hammersmith Bridge, so out here it's no use whatsoever.

Waterfront Barnes is, as ever, gorgeous. It's also where buses on route 209 would normally head off down the High Street towards the heart of the village. Alas none of the newly-rejigged routes currently do this. Instead we head north along the riverbank, which provokes Footballers' Mum to make yet another trek up front to speak to the driver. Route 533 runs in a big clockwise loop round Barnes and Castelnau so the driver confirms yes, we really are going to the Red Lion. On foot from here it would only have taken ten minutes. Aboard our 533 it's going to take more than fifteen.

The next mile up to Castelnau is normally Hail and Ride on the 419, so is also designated Hail and Ride on the 533. The lady with the M&S dahlias spots this on the display and dings the bell at the appropriate point in the hope of getting off. Alas our driver has other ideas and ignores her, even sailing past a mysterious innovation I've never seen before - a bus stop labelled HAIL & RIDE. Admittedly its temporary sign was obscured behind a leafy tree and a school sign, so maybe she missed it. Further dings have absolutely no effect, so Dahlia Lady has to walk up front and urge the driver to obey instructions and stop. She departs huffily with an "And now I have to walk all the way back there!"



The next Hail and Ride dinger is equally unsuccessful, failing to alight at the traffic lights a short walk from the south side of Hammersmith Bridge. Instead she has to wait until we've swung round to an actual bus stop outside the shopping parade on Castelnau proper. At least 30 people are waiting on the pavement, but our driver doesn't open the front doors, merely closes the middle ones. Footballers' Mum is getting restless. The lady in front of me turns round with a look that says "what on earth is going on?"

I know what's going on, because I've spotted the light on the Oyster card reader has turned red. This stop is the so-called hesitation point on the 533's looping journey, the place where the driver has to stop and flip the blind. I've also seen the timetable online, so I know a) we're two minutes late b) we're only scheduled to wait here for a minute. Our driver decides to wait for four minutes... doors closed, engine running, passengers waiting, no explanation offered.



When the doors do finally open, many of the hordes boarding have questions for the driver. They're confused by a bus which says 'Hammersmith' on the front but is pointing away from Hammersmith Bridge. Our driver tells them yes she is going there, and yes Barnes Pond too, and in they pour. This is what happens on the first day of a new bus route when all the bus timetables and spider maps at a bus stop are out of date and the only information available is a small diagram showing where to catch your bus but not which way it goes.

We set off nine minutes late, rather than two, very much standing room only. Driving down Castelnau is a dream, there being hardly any traffic, this the advantageous consequence of closing a nearby bridge to all motor vehicles. We reach the Red Lion in a trice, which is where Footballers' Mum and her two strikers finally alight... 65 minutes after turning up at Hammersmith bus station. Lots of people alight with them, indeed most of the crowd who've only just boarded had no intention of going to Hammersmith, they merely wanted a lift to Barnes.

At Barnes Pond a lady waiting with a terrier engages with the driver, fails to receive an intelligible answer and reluctantly boards. She gets off a couple of stops later with an exasperated shrug, having not been carried to where she expected to go. This is also where the very last passenger from Hammersmith bus station alights, right at the end of the 533's loop, indeed we were barely 100 metres away twenty minutes ago. I think I've had enough too.

Unbelievably it's at this point that another 533 overtakes us. This shouldn't be possible on a route than operates every half an hour - we're not running that late - but it's happened all the same. The overtaking bus is almost empty. At least a dozen poor souls are still aboard our overtaken service, heading towards the queues at Chiswick Bridge and a lengthy detour. I wish them luck, and walk back to Hammersmith instead.



Sorry if that went on a bit, but I don't ever remember blogging a bus journey that was quite such a fiasco from start to finish. The rogue driver didn't help, but the main bone of contention was the 533 itself. It's a perfectly reasonable route in the circumstances, linking across the Thames as best it can for the benefit of those who can't walk across the bridge. What's unforgivable is how badly it's been explained, as the baffled public I met along the way so ably demonstrated.

A raft of changes hurriedly implemented. A bus stop tile depicting an entirely fictional nightbus. Bus stops with changed tiles but unchanged timetables. Spider maps still showing what buses stopped doing a month ago. Passengers told the destination of a bus but not where it actually goes. A map showing where to board your bus in Hammersmith stuck to every bus stop in Barnes and Mortlake. Maps of individual routes hidden within a consultation subpage but nothing showing how everything links together. And dozens of people wasting their lives aboard an infrequent indirect bus when they could have been told to walk across the bridge and catch their normal bus from there.

The team that coordinates and communicates changes to London's bus routes is an embarrassment. With dozens of big changes across Central London imminent, this is unlikely to end well.

 Sunday, May 19, 2019

Today's the day.

Sunday 19th May 2019 was supposed to be the day that Crossrail connected up to Shenfield.



Nah, not even close.

According to long-established timelines, purple trains should already have been shuttling between Paddington and Abbey Wood for the last 23 weeks. As we all know, this did not happen.



Today was going to be the day that Crossrail's second arm came into being, with trains bearing off after Whitechapel towards Stratford, Ilford and beyond. Technically speaking the day the Central Section Passenger Service linked up to the Great Eastern Surface Section. Proper Crossrail, with just the extension to Reading to go. Not a chance.

Today the platform indicators at Bond Street should have been showing alternating eastbound trains for the first time... Shenfield/Abbey Wood/Shenfield/Abbey Wood. Not only is that not happening, but Bond Street is so far behind schedule it could never have happened anyway.



I'd long been looking forward to hopping onto a train at Stratford today and disappearing through the Pudding Mill Portal to destinations like Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Paddington. No further, because the connection at Paddington wasn't due to happen until Sunday 15th December 2019, but of course that won't be happening either.

Today's also the day every Crossrail station from Stratford out to Shenfield should have been completed with upgraded entrances and step-free access, but this hasn't happened either. Maryland, Forest Gate, Manor Park and Seven Kings made the deadline, as did Brentwood and Shenfield further out.



But at Harold Wood the front entrance remains closed and passengers have to enter via a temporary gateway up the side of the eastbound platform, then lumber over the footbridge to head into town. Lifts at Gidea Park and Chadwell Heath are also not yet ready. And at Goodmayes the ticket office is still lodged in a stack of portakabins out front which blocks the pavement, and looks nothing like the final picture on the Crossrail website.



At least passengers on the Shenfield arm are getting to use their stations while they wait. Purple trains with TfL Rail branding have been running into Liverpool Street (high level) since 2017, and will continue to do so for some time. But Woolwich's Crossrail station remains non-functional, Canary Wharf's is still just a shopping centre, and the front entrance to Whitechapel hasn't even re-opened yet for District and Overground services. Everything's still really really behind schedule. We know this.



As a proper kick in the teeth, today trains are skipping Maryland, Forest Gate and Manor Park "to allow for testing of trains transitioning between Crossrail tunnels and Network Rail infrastructure." The poor folk along what should today be Crossrail East have suffered dozens and dozens of weekend engineering closures over the past few years, and on the very day the whole thing was supposed to open they're again being told to get the bus.



Worse, we still have no idea when the Whitechapel - Stratford connection will be made. Stage 1 from Abbey Wood to Paddington is pencilled in for New Years Eve 2020 plus or minus three months. Nobody has dared give a date for Stage 2, save that it'll be after Stage 1, so likely some time in 2021. Two years after the day it was supposed to happen.

Which was today.



I doubt that anybody official will be reminding you of this.

 Saturday, May 18, 2019

The
TUBE MAP COLLECTORS
ASSOCIATION

Newsletter
(number 30)
May 2019

Dear Subscriber,

So it's out! The thirtieth tube map of the modern era landed in tube stations across London on Friday, and it's caused quite a stir. Map T2019i builds on its illustrious predecessors with a further evolution of the post-Beck diagram, and aims to transform the way in which we see the capital today.

If you've not yet been able to pick up the new map, say if you've been out of the country or something, please send a stamped addressed envelope to TMCA, PO Box 1863, SW1.

What's new on the map? [By our Topological Director]

There are no new station openings or improvement works, so why the sudden rush from TfL to print a new map?

It's because six more stations have become step-free since the last map in December.

One is South Woodford, which now has step-free access to both platforms. Another is freshly-renovated Finsbury Park.

The other four are all on TfL Rail out of Liverpool Street, namely Maryland, Forest Gate, Manor Park and Seven Kings. Brilliant though this may seem, it means four further 'Crossrail' stations have missed their May 2019 step-free deadlines, the most significant of which is Ilford.

The other big news is the addition of three more walking connections. Walking connections appeared for the first time in December as dotted lines between stations up to 10 minutes apart. The new three are as follows...

• Hanger Lane - Park Royal
• Caledonian Road - Caledonian Road and Barnsbury
• Manor House - Harringay Green Lanes

I think we all saw the first one coming! Park Royal has moved north of the Central line (not where it is in real life!) as a consequence.

The two Caledonian Road stations are 650m apart, entrance to entrance, although the platforms are considerably more distant. As for Manor House to Harringay Green Lanes that's 750m, so very much pushing at the 10 minute threshold. One wonders if that's now the final complement of walking connections!

Just two more things of note...

The Victoria line has lost one of its bends and now does a stark right-angled turn between King's Cross and Highbury and Islington - that's a 50-year first! Also the designers have pushed the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines apart on the Uxbridge branch leaving a thin white gap between them, although of course we all remember this being done on T1997ii so it's nothing new.

Please note: There is no new Night Tube Map, because step-free access at South Woodford is not deemed worthy of kickstarting a whole new print run. Please retain N2018ii for your records.

If you spot any other differences, please update us via the T2019i forum on our Facebook page.

Readers' letters

Dear TMCA,
I went to my local tube station yesterday and every single paper map in the ticket hall was of the old style. I mean, what is the point of announcing a brand new tube map if you're going to carry on stocking the old ones?
Yours, Gavin453

Dear TMCA,
I went to my local tube station yesterday and every single paper map in the ticket hall was of the new style. I mean, what a waste of money to pulp all the old ones overnight. I hope they recycle them or something.
Yours, TrevorK

Dear TMCA,
I went to my local tube station yesterday and grabbed ten copies of the new tube map for my collection. The member of staff in the ticket hall looked at me like I was some nutter or something. Why are we collectors never taken seriously?
Yours, 1974Nigel

Dear TMCA,
Does anyone have a T1969i I can swap for a T1983ii?
Yours, MikeMcT

The map features a brand new cover design created by Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost. Her work is entitled "In Grand Ma's dream this map would always be with you and would resist the passing of time", and consists of the title written in capital letters in front of a very pale swirly blue skyscape. Anyone could have done it, but Laure did which is why she's the artist.

This cover is merely the advance guard of Laure's first public art commission which will appear at all 270 Underground stations from June. Each poster will be a digital reproduction of a hand-painted sign complete with a sentence explicitly devised for the Underground in Johnston typeface. The crux of the project begins with a poster stating ‘you are deeper than what you think’, an interplay between the literal place the work will be encountered and a reminder that there is more inside all of us than we might initially feel. Significant installations at Heathrow and Stratford stations will bookend the project from east to west London.

Exclusive Interview With T2019i Cover Designer Laure Prouvost

TMCA: We love your distinctly playful and poetic voice.
Laure: English is my second language. I am French.
TMCA: What inspired you to create this iconic new image?
Laure: In my dream and Grand Ma's we were in the underground and they asked us to fly (post) along the walls… deep down to reach new states, for you to stay with us and stay connected. Her dream is here.
TMCA: Grand Ma is the abandoned partner of your conceptual grandad, we understand. Did he collect tube maps too?
Laure: (continued on page 4)

Daggerwatch

The number of daggers on the tube map has not changed - four blue and six red. As usual if you want to know what the red daggers mean you have to go to the TfL website and plan a journey, then click on further details, then think to open the Access, lifts and escalators tab. This is apart from Emerson Park station where no such information appears, but if you do eventually manage to click through to the station webpage you'll discover that "A limited service runs on this branch" which is no bloody help whatsoever.

Indexwatch

We're extremely excited because the index is now in alphabetical order for the first time in three years, following the shuffling of Acton Main Line before rather than after Acton Town.

Deeper scrutiny reveals that West Ealing no longer has cycle parking, Blackhorse Road no longer has a car park and Euston no longer has a TfL Visitor Centre (the latter because it's been demolished to help create a new station entrance).

Alas the addition of a symbol depicting step-free access at South Woodford has necessitated the use of an extra line, displacing Sydenham into the final column and knocking Woolwich Arsenal into the margin at the bottom of the page.

Thicknesswatch

The paper on which T2019i has been printed is even thinner than T2018ii, as you can easily determine if you hold both maps in your hand simultaneously. At this rate of reduction, T2023i will be printed on toilet paper.

Subscribers please note: Map T2019i completes the third volume of the exclusive leatherbound Tube Map Collectors album. All regular subscribers will automatically receive the next 10-pocket album before the next scheduled map launch in December.

Tube Map Prediction Competition #30

Post your predictions for Tube Map 31 (T2019ii) in the following categories to the usual address by 1st November.
1) Total number of daggers (currently 10)
2) Total number of walking connections (currently 26)
The winner of competition #29 is Caroline from Colindale

See inside for...
• In or out? - a full history of tube map folds.
• The Finchley Kink - good riddance to bad rubbish.
• Reading or bust - expectations for T2019ii.
• Minimum readable font sizes - an optician speaks.
• The quest for information accessibility (part nine)

 Friday, May 17, 2019

Next week's European elections are likely an irrelevance, assuming the UK leaves the EU shortly after they take their seats. Our MEPs won't be around to make decisions on trading relations between the EU and Britain, or any other legislation, assuming the forces of Brexit get their way. But the political fallout at home may be profound, as certain parties gain momentum and others fall behind, indeed it was UKIP's strong showing in the 2014 European Elections that propelled us into the mess we're in today. Whatever, we have a vote we weren't expecting, and it's important to have our say. But who to vote for?

Former Conservative and UKIP voters keen to back Brexit in the European elections will be drawn inexorably towards the Brexit Party, a one-issue protest bandwagon with no actual policies, but the best chance of delivering a broken nose. Its simple message ensures it's going to do really well.

Those keen to demonstrate loyalty to the EU face a much harder choice because parties insist on fighting separately. Labour's wishy-washy Brexit position is deterring those who want to send a stronger message. Change UK have achieved very little momentum since their launch and may be a lost cause. The Greens beat the Lib Dems last time but the Lib Dems are doing much better this time, so which to pick? Gina Miller's Remain United website proposes voting Lib Dem across the whole of England as the best chance of beating Nigel. But electorates tend not to vote tactically en masse, so the risk of splitting the Remain vote remains very real.

When the votes are counted next week, the anti-EU party that doesn't want a second referendum is likely to claim that its strong showing is the equivalent of another referendum victory, before disappearing in a puff of logic. There'll be pressure on the two main parties for doing badly, and smiles on the face of smaller parties for doing so well. But the entire procedure likely remains a irrelevance... unless it tips the domino that starts the unstoppable process of leading us towards wherever we're ultimately heading, just like it did in 2014.

London elects 8 MEPs out of the UK's total of 73. Five years ago London chose four Labour MEPs, two Conservatives, one UKIP and one Green. According to latest polling, this time might be very different.

 20142019
Labour37% (4 MEPs)24% (2 MEPs)
Conservative23% (2 MEPs)10% (1 MEP)
UKIP17% (1 MEP)  0% (0 MEPs)
Brexit Party-20% (2 MEPs)
Green9% (1 MEP)14% (1 MEP)
Lib Dem7% (0 MEPs)17% (2 MEPs)
Change UK-  7% (0 MEPs)

Just to remind you how the European Elections work, the UK is divided up into large regional constituencies each of which elects multiple MEPs. Each party puts forward a list of candidates in each constituency and MEPs are elected from the top of each list in approximate proportion* to the number of votes cast. Electors only get to make one cross on the ballot paper, voting for a party rather than for individual candidates, so it's important to know precisely what those candidates stand for. In normal times that's obvious. But these are not normal times.

Green/Lib Dem/Change UKLabour/ConservativeBrexit Party/UKIP
pro-EUmight be pro, might be antianti-EU

If you're thinking of voting either Labour or Conservative, it pays to know what the candidates on each party's list think of Brexit. I've checked that for London. Nobody from the bottom half of a list is going to get elected, so you really only need to canvass the views of the top four.
Labour's London list
1) Claude Moraes: Current MEP. Has been since 1999. REMAIN, but not loudly so.
2) Seb Dance: Current MEP. Has been since 2014. Staunchly REMAIN.
3) Katy Clark: Formerly Jeremy Corbyn's private secretary. Doesn't support a People's Vote.
4) Laura Parker: Momentum-backed candidate. Supports a People's Vote.
5-8) irrelevant
So if Labour gets two London MEPs they'll both be pro-EU. But if Labour reaches three or more, and Katy Clark slips through, the tally will include someone who doesn't want to be part of Europe. Remain voters might be keen for Labour's total to stop at two.
Conservative London list
1) Syed Kamall: Current MEP. Has been since 2005. Subdued LEAVE. Quietly toeing the government line.
2) Charles Tannock: Current MEP. Has been since 1999. REMAIN, and supports a People's Vote.
3) Joy Morrissey: Ealing Councillor. Failed Mayoral nominee. LEAVE supporter.
4) Tim Barnes: Voted REMAIN, but now says Brexit should go ahead.
5-8) irrelevant
The Conservative top four are more mixed, probably deliberately so. If the Tory tally reaches two or more then its MEPs will be on different sides of the debate. As we've discovered at Westminster lately, personal opinion now generally trumps party loyalty.

If public opinion holds from now until polling day then London would end up with...
❁ ❁ 2 Labour MEPs, Claude and Seb, both REMAIN.
❁ ❁ 2 Brexit MEPs, property mogul Ben and salmon-king Lance, both LEAVE.
❁ ❁ 2 Lib Dem MEPs, lawyer Irina and eBooker Dinesh, both REMAIN.
1 Conservative MEP, Syed, dutifully LEAVE.
1 Green MEP, environmentalist Scott, fiercely REMAIN.
That's five REMAINs and three LEAVEs, which'd be London sticking up its fingers at at the rest of the country. It may not make much of a difference to the national result though. We could even end up with another 52%/48% split...

* The European elections don't use strict proportional representation, but rather an algorithm called the D'Hondt method - a process employing highest averages to allocate seats from party lists. It works by giving the first seat to the party with the most votes, then dividing their vote by 2 and looking at the list again. Whoever's top of the list now gains the second seat, then has their vote divided, and so on until all the seats have been allocated. Votes are always divided by "the number of seats you currently have plus one", so get smaller as the process continues.

The D'Hondt method churns out an end result that's roughly proportional to the number of votes cast without over-rewarding a landslide or under-representing minor parties. It's not perfect, but it does the job. If you're interested, here's an online calculator which allows you to play around with various voting combinations. I've had a go and discovered that in a seat like London it's pretty much impossible to gain an MEP on less than 9% of the vote. In constituencies with fewer than eight seats, even double figures can earn you nothing.

If you'd like a worked-through example, here's how the D'Hondt method was used to determine London's MEPs in the 2014 election.

In 2014 the votes cast in London were as follows.
Labour 806,959 (37%)
Conservative 495,639 (23%)
UKIP 371,133 (17%)
Green 196,419 (9%)
Lib Dem 148,013 (7%)
Others 8%
Labour took the first seat, after which their vote was halved (to 403,479) so the Conservatives now headed the list. They took the second seat after which their vote was halved (to 247,819). The list now looked like this.
Labour '403,479'
UKIP 371,133
Conservative '247,819'
Green 196,419
Lib Dem 148,013
Labour took the third seat, demonstrating how far ahead they were in the original poll, after which their initial vote was divided by three (to 268,986). UKIP now topped the list, so took the fourth seat, after which their vote was halved (to 185,566). The list now looked like this.
Labour '268,986' ❁ ❁
Conservative '247,819'
Green 196,419
UKIP '185,566'
Lib Dem 148,013
Labour took the fifth seat, their third, after which their initial vote was divided by four (to 201,739). The Conservatives took the sixth seat, their second, after which their initial vote was divided by three (to 165,213). The list now looked like this.
Labour '201,739' ❁ ❁ ❁
Green 196,419
UKIP '185,566'
Conservative '165,213' ❁ ❁
Lib Dem 148,013
Labour took the seventh seat, their fourth, after which their initial vote was divided by five (to 161,391). The Greens then took the eighth and final seat, at which point all the arithmetical jiggerypokery ceased. If there had been a ninth seat UKIP would have taken it, and the Lib Dems would have had to wait until seat number twelve so earned absolutely nothing. End result as follows.
Labour ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁
Conservative ❁ ❁
UKIP
Green
And this time? Maybe ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁ . But we'll see.

 Thursday, May 16, 2019

Here's an exhibition you'll enjoy because it's about what's under London, and that's very much your kind of thing. Very probably.



Under Ground London is the latest exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives, and is up and running until October. The LMA is the capital's premier county record office, administered by the City of London and located in Islington. It opens weekdays only, except Fridays, but also the first Saturday of the month, which sorry you've just missed. It's primarily an archive so busy with staff and visitors heading for the reading room, but also free for anyone to wander inside and access the staircase to view the exhibition on the first floor landing. They've packed a lot in.

A quick scan of the subterranean categories displayed includes the obvious - sewers, railways, lost rivers - but also the less obvious - public conveniences, caves, conduits and burials. None of these can be done justice in the space provided but that's not the point, which is to showcase some of the relevant gems the LMA has in its A. Should an old document, photo, illustration or map pique your interest, you could always pop into the research room nextdoor and search for several more like it.

I lapped up plans for Southall's nuclear bunker, never used in anger, with air filters and single sex dormitories clearly marked. I queried the old wives' tale about wild hogs in the Hampstead sewers. I gasped at the intricate network of pits dug beneath Alliance Road in Plumstead. I loved Charles Pearson's unrealised plans for the first Underground railway station at one end of Smithfield Market. I stared for ages at the plans which showed precisely where the River Fleet flowed past buildings since replaced by Farringdon station. I was intrigued by the abandoned cobbled street supposedly hidden under Lilley & Skinner in Oxford Street. I watched the 1970s documentary snippet about Mail Rail with a nostalgic smirk. There was a fascinating nugget on every wall, usually several.

The free exhibition guide with colour cover (as only the City of London can provide) made for a scholarly takeaway summary. My congratulations to the curators for digging out such a densely packed and diverse collection relating to life under London. Half an hour should do it, sometime between now and the end of October.

On Tuesday this notice appeared at Bus Stop M. It also appeared at hundreds of other bus stops across London.



A number of bus routes are changing in central London this year. Routes from this stop will be affected. Visit this page on our website for further information.
Problem 1: If you visit that page on the TfL website there is no further information.
Problem 2: The changes don't affect anyone catching a bus from this stop.
PermBusChanges is TfL's online repository of permanent bus changes. It contains details of changes to routes, frequencies and stopping arrangements, usually but not always with maps. There's also TempBusChanges for diversions, disruptions and roadworks, but that's not relevant here.

PermBusChanges comprises a very long list of updates going back 18 months, because nobody chops old changes off the bottom of the list. But it doesn't yet contain details of the Central London Bus Services Review, a major consultation affecting 29 bus routes whose outcomes were confirmed last month. No link, no dates, no information whatsoever. Anyone acting on the advice on the yellow poster at Bus Stop M will discover nothing of relevance.

PermBusChanges also includes a link to TfL's most unreliable document, its fortnightly update of Permanent Bus Changes. The latest version was due out last Friday, then delayed to this Tuesday, then delayed until tonight. It might not even appear then. None of this year's fortnightly updates have been published on the day they were supposed to be. The latest so-called update, over a fortnight ago, actually apologised for not containing any new information. Either nobody at TfL can make their minds up about what buses they're changing, or the team that produces this summary are entirely incompetent.

Only one bus route from Bus Stop M goes to Central London, and that's the 8. But the 8 isn't changing in the latest round of consultations - it was last curtailed to Tottenham Court Road in 2013. Two buses come from Central London, one of which is the 25. But the 25 isn't changing in the latest round of consultations - it was last curtailed to City Thameslink in 2018. The only relevant service is the N205 which serves Bus Stop M between half past one and six o'clock in the morning. The N205 is changing, it'll be skipping Marylebone station, but that's not in the direction of travel and Marylebone station was 40 stops ago.

The yellow poster is irrelevant to anyone waiting at Bus Stop M, especially during daytime hours, but still exhorts all passengers to check a website where there isn't any information.

Even at directly affected stops the yellow poster is a generic splurge providing no specific information whatsoever, slapped up before there was anything to announce. It'll have been cheap to produce, print and distribute. It ticks a box. But it's no help to anyone trying to work out where their bus goes, and that's very much the direction of travel.

 Wednesday, May 15, 2019

If you've ever wondered precisely where the Green Belt is, Alasdair Rae has made a map.



Click through and you can scrutinise all of England's protected rings, not just around London but Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham and Newcastle too, to name but a few. It's fascinating to explore, and full of "well, I never realised"s. Thanks Alasdair.

The Green Belt, you'll remember, is a planning tool designed to check unrestricted sprawl, encourage building on brownfield sites and assist in safeguarding the countryside. Without the Green Belt we'd have more houses but a less green and pleasant country, so it's a fine balancing act.

London's Green Belt covers over a million acres from Bedfordshire to the Sussex border, in some places up to 35 miles from the capital. But it also spills inside the Greater London boundary. By bashing the data I can calculate what proportion of each London borough is Green Belt land.

% of land that is Green Belt
Havering 53%
Bromley 51%
Hillingdon 43%
Enfield 38%
Redbridge 37%
Barnet 27%
Croydon 27%
Hounslow 22%
W Forest 22%
Harrow 22%
Bexley 18%
Kingston 17%
Bark & Dag 15%
Sutton 14%
Ealing 6%
Richmond 2%
Newham 2%
Haringey 2%

Others 0%
Inner London: 0%         Outer London: 28%
Greater London: 22%

Over half the land in Havering and Bromley is Green Belt, a lot of this agricultural. Almost half of Hillingdon is Green Belt too, with Enfield and Redbridge closer to one-third. Ealing, Newham and Haringey have very little Green Belt land, Brent and Merton none, because they don't reach the edge of London. The Green Belt was introduced before Greater London was established, so none of what's now Inner London is Green Belt but 28% of Outer London is. You wouldn't want to build on most of that 28%. You might want to build on some of it.

To explore what the Green Belt means for London I've taken a 15 mile eastbound bus journey across town from Tottenham Hale to Harold Hill (12366174) through unexpectedly many fingers of unbuildable green.

The closest patch of Green Belt to central London is along the River Lea around Tottenham Hale. It includes all of what's now the Walthamstow Wetlands, plus Tottenham Marshes and Markfield Park. It's mostly water so you wouldn't want to build here anyway. Walthamstow Marshes are not included, but land doesn't have to be Green Belt to be safe from development.



To show the power of the Green Belt in action, look alongside the River Lea just north of Tottenham Lock on Ferry Lane. Until a few years ago this splinter of land was a working environment, and would have been designated industrial in the 1950s so dodged Green Belt status. Today it's being redeveloped as a long thin line of unexpectedly tall flats, their footprint unable to extend into the protected zone, and architecturally at odds to the neighbouring cluster closer to the station. This eyesore is to be called Hale Wharf, and the developers have airbrushed a fairground carousel into the artist's impression to try to disguise how ugly it looks. The Green Belt stretches upriver from here all the way to Ware and Bishop's Stortford.



Heading east the next strand of Green Belt hangs down the far side of Walthamstow along the border between Waltham Forest and Redbridge towards Wanstead Flats. There's a very good reason why this strip is protected and that's because it's officially Epping Forest, so belongs to the City of London. But it's not entirely safe from destruction because here the age-old woodland has been despoiled by a mammoth roundabout courtesy of the North Circular, and what looks like a buttercup meadow is really the top of a covered reservoir. The Forest creates a very effective green barrier elsewhere, but the Waterworks Roundabout is a ghastly scar.



And the River Roding's turned out worse. You wouldn't build along its immediate floodplain anyway, but this corridor of undeveloped Green Belt proved irresistible when the M11 was being built and so is now mostly concrete viaducts and dual carriageway. Charlie Brown's Roundabout may sound cute (it's named after a pub landlord, not the Peanuts character), but the motorway and North Circular have devoured this part of the Roding's valley wholly and completely.



I had to switch buses at Gants Hill to reach the next bit of Green Belt, alongside Eastern Avenue beyond Newbury Park. A ridiculously large area of arable fields and scrubland survives to the north of the A12, purely because it hadn't yet been built on when the Green Belt was established so can't be touched. That said, King George Hospital got shoehorned into a tongue of land to the south of the main road at Little Heath in the 1990s, because building hospitals is OK. I'm not a fan of building on the Green Belt but these two square miles of undistinguished flat land, not so far from Crossrail, could safely be sacrificed to build tens of thousands of badly needed homes.



Marks Gate is such a sacrifice, a late Fifties estate built just before legislation would have made it impossible. At the northern tip of Barking and Dagenham it's surrounded on three sides by Green Belt, much of it scrappy scrubby carbooty wastes, entirely unlike the bucolic greenery most people might envisage. The A12 ploughs on through the middle of grassy mounds, golf courses and fields of crops, without a single bus stop for over a mile because there's no point in stopping because there's nothing here. There could be something here, should London's housing problem ever require something of significance, but instead drivers on one arterial road get to see some nice trees for a minute or two and that's about the only benefit.



Switching buses again, this time in Romford, the Green Belt makes its next appearance in Gidea Park. This time it's all about golf courses, one to the north of Eastern Avenue and another to the south providing a green buffer that most local people never use. Further north is pretty parkland and woodland and wildflower meadow and even hills, then glorious rolling Essex, so rightly protected, but mid-city golf courses always feel like such a terrible waste.



And finally, on the outer reaches of Harold Hill, the proper Green Belt boundary kicks in. A canopy of green leaves rises above the rooftops in Dagnam Park Drive, but you can't get to the trees themselves because nobody said the Green Belt had to be accessible. One cul-de-sac ends with a sign saying watch out for deer, then a fence, then a sports ground... then the M25, and then it's Green Belt all the way to Chelmsford. The Harold Hill estate was completed in 1958 and is a vast sprawling example of what happens when there isn't a Green Belt - the countryside is lost forever but tens of thousands of people have a home. It is, by design, where London stops.

 Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I walked across Richmond Park in search of something to blog about. I found ten things. So here are posts about all ten, but only the first 100 words of each...



1) The Tamsin Trail is a 7½ mile all-weather circuit of Richmond Park. It runs around the edge of the park, nearly, apart from missing the foot of the hill beneath King Henry's Mound. You can walk it or you can cycle it, indeed it's the only officially sanctioned mountain biking trail within the park. It's described as almost car-free, which is true and therefore ideal for the less confident who'd rather not bump into anything. Yesterday the men in lycra were more likely to be on the roads rather than the trail, zipping round with helmets bowed and legs pistoning...



2) One of the joys of early spring, I always think, is the spectrum of greens displayed in our trees' foliage. Newly-unfurled leaves are usually a bright, lime green, creating a dazzling canopy that gradually darkens as summer approaches. April's the best month for light greens, indeed by mid-May the shades are usually darker and less vibrant, and by June/July everything's that dark green colour that exemplifies our parks and woodland until the autumn. One reason is that chloroplasts are still developing so leaves tend to be lighter, as well as thinner with fewer waxy layers to darken the green colour...



3) Damned be the oak processionary moth, a non-native species accidentally imported into SW London in 2005 and inexorably spreading. In high numbers the caterpillars cause defoliation of oak trees, and their hairs carry a toxin which can be a threat to human and animal health, causing rashes, eye irritation and respiratory problems. In southern Europe they have natural predators, but here they have none and all 33 London boroughs have now seen infestations. Spraying pesticides helps - the western edge of Richmond Park was done on May 2nd - but long-term this is a battle London is doomed to lose...



4) The Isabella Plantation is London's prettiest enclave, especially so at this time of year. The rhododendrons and azaleas are now at their peak, bursting out in pinks, reds, yellows and oranges across copious interlocked glades. It's very much a magnet for the retired, wandering round in awe of all these plants they haven't grown, and also for Asian tourists who knew it was worth their while crossing London to grab a photo that'll wow everyone at home. I could sense the muted anger when two ducks sent ripples across the Still Pond, destroying reflections folk had come miles to capture...



5) Not quite every minute, but with roaring regularity, Heathrow's planes spew out across Richmond Park. When easterly operations are in place, which is 30% of the time, aircraft heading for the continent make a beeline for the Isabella Plantation as they climb. This is underneath one of six Standard Instrument Departures routes, or SIDs, following corridors set in the 1960s known as Noise Preferential Routes, or NPRs. The northern half of Richmond Park gets away scot free. You could argue it's terrible and unnecessary, or you could argue it's best that noisy Airbuses cross swathes of green where nobody lives...



6) May kicks off the birthing season for the deer in Richmond Park, so keep your distance. And yet anyone can wander freely across the Park, as close as they like, because life in the UK isn't yet a nannying set of directives written by risk averse bureaucrats. This may be because deer don't attack and kill many Britons each year - on average only one. Bees and wasps kill three, dogs four and cattle five, which puts cigarettes, knives and air pollution into some kind of proportion. The UK's top wildlife killer, with ten deaths annually, is of course the...



7) The notices are clear enough, or at least I thought they were. "Dogs must be kept on leads at all times." The area around the perimeter of the Pen Ponds is permanently DMBKOLAAT, whereas the skylark breeding area in the long grass to the east is March to August only. And yet along she breezed, her hound defiantly off-leash, striding past the first sign and along the lakeside as if the rules didn't apply. Admittedly she veered off before she reached the swans nesting with their cygnets, but what use are unpoliced byelaws if they're only going to be ignored...



8) The Alton East and Alton West Estates, constructed along the Roehampton fringe of Richmond Park in the late 1950s, consist of Brutalist slab blocks, point blocks and low-level housing. Some see this as postwar social housing's architectural crowning glory. Wandsworth council, one suspects, are less keen. They've engineered an eight year redevelopment plan to cram in 1100 new homes, based on the idea that the low-level housing could have been higher, and by 2027 additional towers will poke above the park's tree-lined rim. Councils are limited to building on their own land when devising masterplans, so Alton's a no-brainer, and yet...



9) Near Barn Wood Pond I spotted a man flying a drone. That's naughty, I thought, because no-fly zones for drones have recently been extended. But it pays to check. In fact Heathrow's zone stops miles away and Battersea's is closer, but even the heliport's zone doesn't scrape the edge of Richmond Park. But it pays to check again. All eight of London's Royal Parks are officially no-drone zones, so this man was surely being very naughty. Except Richmond Park has a "Designated Flying Field", and that's where he was, so in fact all was fine. Always think before you tut...



10) The RV1 bus won't see out the summer but the RP1 bus is still going strong in Richmond Park, at least until the end of October. An accessible 16-seater minibus circles the Park three times every Wednesday morning, pauses for half an hour while the driver has lunch, then does two more circuits in the afternoon. Each loop takes over an hour so it's not fast, but it is an ideal way for the less mobile to reach the Isabella Plantation from a distant car park, entrance gate or TfL bus stop. I've never seen it in the flesh but...


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