diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Let me explain what this map is about.

The Index of Multiple Deprivation is a government statistic calculated by the Office of National Statistics every few years.

The whole of England is divided up into 32844 areas, each containing about 1500 residents. Each area is given a deprivation score based on factors including income, employment, health, education and crime. All 32844 areas are then ranked. Jaywick in Essex comes out top because it's the most deprived area in the country, and part of Great Missenden in Bucks comes bottom. That ordered list is then divided into 10 equal groups (or deciles), each containing about 3280 areas. 1 is the most deprived decile and 10 is the least. Not everyone who lives in decile 1 is poor, and not everyone who lives in decile 10 is rich, but that's how their area averages out.

Here's a map of North Westminster with areas coloured according to decile. The dark red areas like Westbourne Green are the most deprived, and the dark green areas like Maida Vale are the least deprived. Few corners of London are quite so mixed as this.

The full map is hosted by the Consumer Data Research Centre (using underlying data from DataShine and OpenStreetMap), and allows you to zoom in and check the decile for any area of England. It's probably worth checking which decile you live in before we proceed. I live in a 4, but grew up in a 9.

Across England there are an equal number of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s and 10s, because that's how deciles work.


But across London the spread is somewhat different.


Deciles 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 occur in proportions very close to the national average. But London has more 2s, 3s and 4s than expected (that's the not-particularly well off). It also has fewer 10s and a lot fewer 1s (because the extremes aren't over-abundant).

Overall London averages out as a 5. But the mode (the decile that comes up the most) is only 3. London, on average, is more deprived than the rest of the country.

Where this gets especially interesting is if you break the numbers down borough by borough.

This is Barking & Dagenham.


Half of B&D's residents live in a 2, the next-to-poorest category. No other London borough is so dominated by a particular decile. Almost 80% of B&D is in decile 2 or 3. Nowhere in B&D is a 7, 8, 9 or 10. The only bit of B&D to reach 6 (and be in the least deprived half of the country) is a few streets off Upney Lane. For balance, only a few areas are in the most deprived decile (notably on the Thames View estate or opposite Dagenham Heathway station).

This is Richmond.


Richmond's most common decile is a well-to-do 9. Two thirds of Richmond residents live in a 9 or a 10. No other London borough has quite so many 9s, or quite so many 10s. Very few Richmond residents live in a deprived area. The most deprived part of Richmond is an estate at the Hanworth end of Hampton.

Barking & Dagenham and Richmond are the bookends of London's deprivation index.

Barking & Dagenham's mode is 2 and Richmond's is 9. Here are the modes for all the other London boroughs. This is also what the map at the start of the post was showing.
2: Barking & Dagenham, Camden, Enfield, Greenwich, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Tower Hamlets
3: Croydon, Hackney, Hillingdon, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark
4: Brent, Ealing, Hounslow, Waltham Forest
6: Redbridge, Wandsworth
7: Harrow
8: Barnet, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster
9: Bexley, Bromley, Havering, Kingston, Richmond
10: Merton, Sutton
Seven mostly inner London boroughs have more 2s than any other decile. Roughly half of London's boroughs have a mode of 2 or 3. No borough peaks at 5, but Redbridge and Wandsworth peak at 6, so they're pretty average for England. All the 9s and 10s are outer London boroughs. Merton and Sutton are probably the surprises here, each with 18% of residents living in a 10.

Be careful not to read too much into all this, because the mode can hide a multitude of irregularities. Hillingdon peaks at 2, but 9 is in second place. Camden peaks at 2, but nearly peaks at 6, and also has a fair few 8s, 9s and 10s. Hammersmith & Fulham peaks at 2 because of Hammersmith, not because of Fulham. Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster may peak at 8 but also contain several 1s and 2s. Sutton could have ended up a 7, 8, 9 or 10 - the totals are all very close. And I've missed out the City of London because it only has four areas and they're all different, a 3, a 5, a 9 and a 10.

If you'd like to see the individual percentages for each borough, here's a graphic snapped from my spreadsheet.

Finally, here are a few other facts to be gleaned from London's deciles of deprivation.

Boroughs with no 1s (i.e. no really deprived areas): Bexley, Camden, Harrow, Hillingdon, Kingston, Lambeth, Merton, Redbridge, Richmond, Wandsworth
Boroughs with no 10s (i.e. no really well-to-do areas): Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea (honest), Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Waltham Forest

Boroughs with the most 1s: Hackney, Haringey, Enfield, Brent, Kensington & Chelsea
Boroughs with the most 10s: Bromley, Richmond, Sutton, Merton, Kingston, Bexley

Boroughs with nothing above a 5: Newham
Boroughs with nothing above a 6: Barking & Dagenham, Hackney
Boroughs with nothing above a 7: Islington
Boroughs with nothing above an 8: Brent, Lewisham

Boroughs with every decile from 1 to 10: Barnet, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Havering, Hounslow, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Westminster

 Monday, October 21, 2019

If you didn't walk from Wimbledon to Richmond yesterday, I went on your behalf.

Wimbledon Common (Southside)

Most of Wimbledon Common is sprawling heathland, but the southeast corner is open, grassy and surrounded by roads, making it ever so convenient for residents of Wimbledon Village to drop by. This they have done in large numbers. From my vantage point on the bench by Rushmere Pond I manage to count over 100 folk enjoying a quick constitutional while the sun briefly makes its presence felt. Most visitors have brought with them either a small child or a dog, often both, sometimes several. The wise have also brought something to throw, be that a ball or a cheap plastic spinny thing, because this is one of the simplest ways to keep a child/dog occupied for the necessary number of minutes before it's time to go home. The birds on the lake are glad of the distraction.

Cannizaro Park

Only those in the know tend to visit Canizzaro Park because they know where the path up the side of the hotel leads. The hotel used to be Cannizaro House and the park was its walled grounds, which explains much of the luxuriant planting within. I pick up a copy of the Autumn Trail from the rack by the entrance, although trying to locate the twelve trees on the map proves a challenging orienteering course because none of them are labelled. Beneath one particularly large tree a group of children are playing outdoor games Enid Blyton would have approved of. Along the Maple Avenue I pass a family wearing entirely unnecessary wellies. The Rose Garden is still able to offer red, pink and yellow blooms, but can't hold a candle to the multi-coloured Gouldian finches in the Aviary. Well worth an exploration.

Wimbledon Common (Gravelly Ride)

The further you walk onto the Common, the quieter it becomes. Closer to the main road are folk in padded jackets with pushchairs, plus children wielding a new favourite stick. Further on are retired couples with terriers, family groups weaving through the bracken and pairs of colour-coordinated joggers. Eventually you get to dodge the golfers, each wearing the official pillarbox red collared tops the Conservators demand. And then the rutted bridleway bears off towards the bottom of the valley and only the occasional dogwalker intrudes. I descend past mottled oaks and browning ferns, past brief patches of pink autumn groundcover, past drainage ditches clogged with beechmast, past holly rich with red berries, to a secret showjumping arena hidden in a clearing. Always walk that little bit further, it pays dividends.

Wimbledon Common (Beverley Brook)

The Common's western boundary is marked by the Beverley Brook, halfway through its journey to the Thames and running in deep semi-artificial channel. The riverbed looks like a tornado has whipped through, with thick branches toppled everywhere, but it turns out this is deliberate - the Environment Agency are trying to de-canalise the river with the aid of 'woody material'. As for the riverside footpath, with its squelchy narrowings and muddy puddles, this is the first time on my walk that I've been relieved to be wearing boots instead of trainers. I've also accidentally matched my pace with a woolly-hatted dogwalker whose two charges are thoroughly enjoying themselves running amok through the undergrowth. I enjoy it less when one stops directly in front of me and shakes themself dry.

Robin Hood Roundabout (A3)

I'd hate you to think that my hike was all natural idyll, so I'm inserting this photo of the point where I had to spend almost two minutes crossing a busy trunk road.

Richmond Park

Thousands have had the same idea as me and flooded to Richmond Park to see the autumn colours. We're all a bit early, the primary colour of foliage still being green, but various branches look like they'll be triggering soon. One lone oak to the north of the Isabella Plantation has gone full-on yellowy-orange and is the focus of much camera action. I end up following a long sandy trail, occasionally crisscrossed by walkers on their own personal tangents. One family has brought a picnic but decided against sitting down on the tartan cloth they've laid out. A cyclist in Goretex is preoccupied mending a puncture on his upturned bicycle. Three gentlemen with buttonholes head towards a private event on the terrace at Pembroke Lodge. If the weather holds, the skyline should look increasingly impressive by next weekend.

Richmond Park (deer)

October is one of the months the Royal Parks warn you about on their notices, being the end of the mating season, so stay well back and do not approach. Many pay scant heed. They gather on the paths around tracts of bracken where the animals graze, indeed the easiest way to track down a group of deer is to seek out a cluster of photographers. Branching off the beaten track can unintentionally bring you into closer contact, and on one occasion I decide a five minute detour is preferable to walking past a potential rut. Not all are so careful. Below Spankers Hill a tiny dog suddenly bolts towards a group of does, followed ineffectually by its owner, who then spends the next minute and a half chasing round in circles as the deer retreat and scatter. Nobody's hurt, but I sure as hell hope someone's embarrassed.

Richmond Hill

For those without the time or inclination to explore the park, a quick constitutional up Richmond Hill suffices. It has glorious views across Thameside meadows that poets praised, and beyond, in fact I think those towers on the horizon might be Woking. I take a seat on Averil's bench, one of dozens and dozens facing riverward, and enjoy the scene. Each gust of wind sends a random shower of leaves groundwards. Planes can be seen almost up to the point they land at Heathrow. The good people of Richmond parade by in pristine trainers, new season scarves and in one case a snood. It's almost as important to have a photo of yourself in front of the view as it is to grab the view itself. And here at last the treetops on the Twickenham bank are the motley assorted shades that only autumn delivers, so don't come too soon but don't leave it too long.

 Sunday, October 20, 2019

Some tube stations don't have ticket barriers.

Originally none of them did, but barriers were added over the years to help ensure everyone pays the correct fare. However there remain a handful of tube station entrances where the hassle of installing barriers has never been deemed financially worthwhile. These are they.

Stations with no ticket barriers

Roding Valley
The tube's least used station has never merited barriers. This may be because the station has exits from both platforms, upgrading one being technically pointless and upgrading both being excessively expensive. It may be because nipping across the footbridge is an important feature of local life and must not be blocked. It may be because this was one of the first staffless stations and there'd be no point in having barriers if they always had to be left open. It may be because this is a step-free station and barriers would only get in the way. Or it may just be because it's the tube's least used station, and a few faredodgers amongst the 500 passengers a day will never dent TfL's finances.

South Kenton
South Kenton was built as a railway station, not a tube station, so lacks some of the infrastructure which might have made barriering easier. Its island platform is isolated in the middle of the West Coast mainline, so can only be accessed up a staircase from a subway beneath the tracks. This subway is crucial to pedestrian connectivity hereabouts, so cannot be barriered, and the foot of the staircase is much too close to the subway for a row of ticket gates to have been installed. There's definitely room up top, but never the will to add any, so passengers at the Bakerloo's least used station have to be trusted to touch in.

Mill Hill East
Mill Hill East is the least used station on the Northern line, as befits the sole outpost on a stumpy spur line. Its problem is narrow access throughout - a very small ticket hall leading directly to a narrow staircase up to the platform. Adding a couple of ticket gates isn't practical without a partial rebuild, and that's never been on anybody's agenda. Intriguingly this sets up the possibility of a barrier-free journey to the next station down the line...

Stations with one un-barriered entrance

Finchley Central
Finchley Central station has two entrances, one to Station Road and one to Chaville Way, linked by a single covered footbridge across the tracks. Intriguingly the main entrance is on the Chavllle Way side, which is fully staffed and barriered, whereas the Station Road entrance has nothing. It was due for a Charles Holden upgrade as part of the Northern Heights plan, but WW2 scuppered that and no station building has ever appeared. Instead passengers funnel down a ramp to the mouth of the footbridge where two Oyster pads await, plus a notice warning that this entrance is for "ticket holders and disabled access only". Well used, and possibly well abused.

Woodside Park
Two stops towards High Barnet, Woodside Park station has an extra ungated entrance on the northbound platform for the convenience of local residents.

The northbound platform has an ungated side entrance leading to the car park and down into Chorleywood's main shopping street. A couple of card readers have replaced the Unpaid fares honesty box.

Chalfont & Latimer
The northbound platform has an extra entrance from Station Approach through a gate in a metal fence. It's labelled Ticket Holders only.

West Harrow
West Harrow's two platforms are accessed separately from the street on either side of the railway viaduct. The main building, such as it is, has barriers which lead to the eastbound platform. Access to the westbound looks more like an alleyway than a station entrance. A card reader is positioned halfway up the stairs.

Finsbury Park
Finsbury Park tube station finally got ticket barriers a few years ago, with one line near the Arsenal shop and another at the beginning of the subway from Seven Sisters Road. Both are a lot narrower than the optimal row of ticket barriers would be. But the National Rail entrance remains defiantly ungated, and if you head in that way it's still possible to get down to the tube platforms via (either of) the old spiral staircases, or via the newly-installed step-free lifts.

Stations with more than one un-barriered entrance

Both Waterloo & City line platforms at Waterloo are ungated, with stairs and long ramps leading into the wider warren of the mainline station. This is how it's always been, reflecting priorities long before London Underground took over. But barriers are present at the other end of the line, at Bank, should you have plans on exiting there.

Buckhurst Hill
Until 1982 Buckhurst Hill station had extra entrances at the southern end of each platform, after which they were sealed off for fare-collecting reasons. Last year they were reopened, with connecting ramps, to create the tube's 74th step-free station. Other than extra card readers, it's very much a cut-price solution.

Stations with one un-barriered entrance some of the time

At the far end of Pinner's northbound platform is the Cecil Park exit. It's only open on weekday mornings from 7-10am and on weekday evenings from 4.30-9pm. The rest of the time the gate across the top of the steps is locked shut, so best not touch your card on the pads alongside.

West Finchley
A gate at the end of the southbound platform, connecting to Wentworth Avenue, is unlocked for two hours (7.30-9.30am) during the morning peak. Those with a RADAR key can pass through at any other time.

You tell me that the Hillcrest Way entrance/exit is open from 4pm-8pm Monday to Friday.

You tell me that a side entrance for northbound trains is open during the evening rush hour from about 4.30pm.

Stations with a temporary un-barriered entrance

Moorgate's big Crossrail entrance isn't fully open yet, but the Circle line platforms already have an extra exit leading out to Moorfields. It's somewhat makeshift so far, and leads out to a bit of a building site, but is jolly useful for disgorging city workers. It's also closed after 7.30pm and all day at the weekends, so I wasn't able to use it yesterday, but last time it only had card readers and if that's changed I'm sure you'll tell me.

 Saturday, October 19, 2019

As a distraction from it all, here's what a sewer pipe over the river Lea looks like in autumn.

Once upon a time, in a village far far away, a shepherd girl lived on a hillside with a flock of sheep. The shepherd girl looked after the sheep on behalf of the villagers, and the villagers got on with their busy lives.

One day the shepherd girl rushed down into the village and cried out in the market place "A wolf is coming! A wolf is coming on 29th March! "Take heed and get ready for the arrival of the wolf!"

The villagers made tentative plans for 29th March. They cut down trees to build a stronger fence around the sheepfold. They told all the foreign shepherds to go home because they wouldn't be needed any more. They bought ships to import new sheep from companies who didn't actually own any ships. And they agreed to mint a celebratory coin with "Wolf - 29th March" engraved on it, because the thought of a special coin gave them a fuzzy warm feeling inside.

But just before the wolf was due to arrive, the shepherd girl returned to the village with fresh news. "I've managed to delay the arrival of the wolf," she said. "We all needed longer to make our preparations so I've arranged for the wolf to arrive at a later date. Do not waste this additional time!"

The villagers were very angry that the wolf had not arrived. They gave the shepherd girl a good telling off and sent her to bed without any supper, then set about looking for a replacement.

In the middle of the summer the shepherd girl was replaced by a shepherd boy with hair the colour of golden wheat. "Our new shepherd boy will protect us," said the villagers, and got on with their busy lives.

One day the shepherd boy rushed down into the village and cried out in the market place "A wolf is coming! A wolf is coming on 31st October, do or die! "Take heed and get ready for the arrival of the wolf!"

The villagers made tentative plans for 31st October. They ran a £100m advertising campaign on poster sites around the market square. They introduced new paperwork for the future transference of sheep-related products. They set aside a large clearing in the woods for queues of sheep awaiting customs clearance. They tried to work out how the local herbologist would dispense her medicines in a post-wolf scenario. And they stockpiled jars of mint sauce in preparation for the famine to come.

But just before the wolf was due to arrive, the shepherd boy returned to the village with fresh news. "I've managed to broker a new deal with the wolf," he said. "Either you sign up to a transition period today or the wolf will arrive overnight and gobble up all your sheep."

The villagers were very pleased that the wolf had not yet arrived. They gave the shepherd boy a big cheer and voted him in as the chief magistrate for the next five years.

"Of course the wolf is coming eventually," said the former shepherd boy, "and he will eat your sheep as sure as night is day. But you're all so weary that you don't care, you simply want the wolf to arrive to get the nightmare over and done with. Fear not, for I will take back control and lead you to that promised land."

And verily the wolf did arrive, and the villagers discovered that all the laws which might have protected them had been watered down, and suddenly there were no more sheep. "Our friends across the hills are no longer willing to trade with us," they cried. "If only we'd made better plans when we had the opportunity."

And the wolves lived happily ever after.

 Friday, October 18, 2019

9 miles from central London

Let's visit the locations that lie nine miles north, east, south and west from the statue of Charles I in Trafalgar Square. I'm definitely stopping at ten.

[1 mile], [2 miles], [3 miles], [4 miles], [5 miles], [6 miles], [7 miles], [8 miles], [map]

NINE MILES NORTH: Chase Road, Southgate N14
(near the junction with Chelmsford Road)

If only a mile were slightly shorter I'd be reporting from Charles Holden's magnificent Southgate station, but instead we've overshot and started to climb the hill beyond. This was once the southern edge of the royal hunting forest of Enfield Chase, hence the name South Gate, and it's also why the road we're on is called Chase Road. One side has a short burst of Victorian terrace, but the majority of housing hereabouts consists of large Thirties semis built after the arrival of the Piccadilly line. The gradient from the pavement up to the front door provides householders with a landscape challenge which some address with a ramp, others with steps and a few with terraced shrubbery. Workmen are busy paving over one front garden... smoothing the soil, lugging a hod, splitting bricks and tessellating furiously.

Those waiting patiently on the oversized traffic island can pass the time gazing down towards the minor towers of Southgate. An ambulance has turned up to collect a patient, her fold-up wheelchair abandoned by the side of the kerb. Someone's cat pads through a hedge, then pauses to inspect some spiral topiary. A chain of red buckets emerges from a loft extension and opens its mouth above a skip in the street. A handful of roses and sunflowers are holding out into autumn. Everyone's bin has had a tag attached explaining how the council is ending free garden waste collections at the end of the month (pay your £65 now to get 17 months for the price of 12). A handyman pushes a reappropriated supermarket trolley up the hill, his stepladder balanced on top, his brushes wrapped in plastic bags within. The bus from Eight Miles North to Ten Miles North occasionally overtakes.

NINE MILES EAST: Gallions Reach, River Thames
(between Royal Albert Wharf and Thamesmead)

This is the third time a Miles East waypoint has landed in the middle of the Thames. This time it feels properly estuarine, the landscape flat, the banks only partially developed. One bank is on the underconnected edge of Newham, at the mouth of the Royal Docks, and the other's in that corner of Thamesmead nobody's ever got round to doing anything with. One day a Gallions Reach bridge may span the Thames here, and I'd have a way to reach the midpoint, but for now all that crosses the water are low-flying planes seconds out from City Airport. Because I'm a glutton for punishment I visited both sides of the river, and wasted a lot of time travelling inbetween.

To see the Nine Mile point from the western side, take the DLR to Gallions Reach and keep walking past the newly-erupted flats towards the river. If you've ever followed the last section of the Capital Ring you will have done this, and perhaps wondered what godforsaken wasteland you were entering. A few benches overlook the flood barrier by the former gas works, while the riverside follows an increasingly overgrown path behind a towering radar mast. Intermittent laddered steps lead up and over the concrete wall. It is not a spot to linger. But behind the grey railings a sequenced transformation is taking place as a wall of flats erupts to form phase 2 of so-called Royal Albert Wharf. One block is externally complete, its neighbour is getting its balconies added, its neighbour is getting its windows fitted and its neighbour is still a scaffolded brick shell. Once residents are fully on board this riverfront zone will be opened up with textbook boardwalks, mini-playgrounds and prim rows of trees - you know the score - but for now an edge of character remains.

Over on the eastern bank any intention of building flats is many many years away. The last vestiges of West Thamesmead splutter out after a cul-de-sac named Defence Close, beyond which the developers have bequeathed a strip of park hardly anyone uses, beyond which the Thames Path continues alone. Inland are high fences shielding a vast brownfield site despoiled in the days when the Plumstead Marshes were for explosive use. The riverbank by contrast is wooded and occasionally open, should you fancy picking your way through long grass and thick brambles. At one point Greenwich council have provided the most vandalproof bench they could think of, a solid concrete slab, and here the foreshore has been littered with dozens of discarded bottles and cans. Just offshore is the very spot where in 1878 the paddle steamer SS Princess Alice collided with a coal ship and sank, flinging over 600 passengers into sewage-churned waters. It remains Britain's deadliest inshore shipwreck, an unimaginable end to a jolly day out, commemorated by a now-illegible information panel beside the navigation light at Tripcock Ness. Should you choose to proceed further, the next escape point is almost one mile distant.

NINE MILES SOUTH: Beddington Industrial Area, CR0
(junction of Marlowe Way and Beddington Farm Road)

This isn't pleasant either. We're on the site of Beddington Sewage Works, since relocated to the other side of Beddington Lane to leave space for a huge wodge of industrial estate. The closest landmark is Croydon's IKEA, but that and the remainder of the Valley Park Retail and Leisure Complex is deliberately segregated from the Beddington Industrial Area resource management hub, which is very much Sutton's grubbiest quarter. I trekked in dodging trucks and vans, and a one-off pony and trap, heading for the line of pylons crossing Marlowe Way. At the end of the road is the backside of a very big Asda, and across the road a major distribution centre for another supermarket, namely Sainsbury's. Most of it is lorry park, and several of the dozen bays have Eddie Stobart containers poking out.

The Nine Mile point is occupied by the Beddington Conference Centre, reputedly "the ideal place for organising business meetings, conferences or a complete solution for events and receptions ideal for corporate clients". I hope the interior's something special because from the outside my first thought was provincial motel. A rim of barbed wire and a security guard with a barrier combine to ensure nobody gets to wander in off-spec. Also within this perimeter is the HQ of Fruitful Office, a company who deliver baskets of fruit to offices because that's a thing now. Their chief selling point is that they split the bunches of bananas and grapes in advance to stop employees taking too many, but they must be doing well because I counted 20 delivery vans outside. If your company needs a regular wellbeing perk, never ever tell your staff that their plums arrive via a former sewage works.

NINE MILES WEST: Maunder Road, Hanwell, W7
(off Boston Road)

Hanwell's a lot older than it looks, and used to be important until Ealing overwhelmed it. At its heart is the Uxbridge Road, and off that a triangular one-way system, and off that the brief dogleg of Maunder Road. It's been here since Victorian times when it ran down to some fields, whereas now it merely dodges the back of Lidl. One of its corner shops is occupied by a beauty bar, which is smart by local standards, although looking around that isn't hard because the gentrification whirlwind has yet to hit. The other corner shop belongs to some solicitors, while across the road is a shuttered unit called LookingForBargain.com, a website which probably never existed (and probably never should).

Maunder Road is "Unsuitable For H.G.V.S." according to its street sign, partly because parked cars make it too narrow but mainly because of the sharp bend at the end. Twenty terraced houses have been squeezed in along its length, each with barely any garden front or back but still boasting a half-million price tag. Only proper hanging baskets grace their frontage, there'll be none of those cheap topiary globes here. Most of the houses have a single attic skylight in the centre of the roof, but number 7 has had the builders in to give their extra bedroom some decent width. Only one resident has a Garage In Constant Use, and only one a Driveway In Constant use, neither of which I saw being used. It's all delightfully ordinary, and ever so convenient for Crossrail.

 Thursday, October 17, 2019

I've been out visiting several places across London over the last couple of days. Before I write about them properly, here are some of the other things I saw along the journey.

1) I see Autumn is happening.

2) I see a lot of these artificial topiary globes hanging outside front doors. They seem to be the exterior flourish of choice for homeowners who can't be bothered with the hassle of hanging baskets. I wondered why they were so popular, but I see Argos sell them for £15 a pair so I guess garden centres flog them on the cheap too. I have a theory that the proportion of houses with topiary balls in any particular street tells you a lot about the economic standing of its residents. Enfield barely scraped 1%. BestMate's cul-de-sac hits 15%.

3) Charles Holden designed, or had a hand in the design of, over 40 tube stations. I sometimes think it's a shame I don't live near enough to use one on a regular basis.

4) Who knew there was a corner of London called Frog's Bottom? I stumbled across it thanks to a noticeboard outside the Jolly Farmers near Enfield, referring to the point where Slades Hill dips to cross the Salmon's Brook. The microsuburb alongside is sometimes known as World's End, but the pub goes heavy on the Frog's Bottom location for branding purposes.

5) The piazza outside Woolwich's Crossrail station has finally been opened up, apart from a low hoarding across the front of the main entrance. I thought those might be fishy designs scraped into the concrete, but they have tails at both ends so it must just be some kind of repeating pattern. For those of you who fret about these things, the station name - Woolwich - has been written in lower case rather than being entirely capitals.

6) At a Travellers site in Croydon I spotted a man in a blue hoodie coaxing a horse, plus half a dozen unattached carts scattered across the pavement. A few minutes later his pony and trap combo was speeding off up the street behind a stream of cars and a delivery lorry. Nighttime revels on this industrial estate must be somewhat epic.

7) This phoenix was part of the coat of arms of the former Hanwell Urban District Council, which was absorbed by the Municipal Borough of Ealing in 1926. Always check the pavement, because it might have a modern reminder of local heritage embedded in it.

8) I had ten minutes to wait for my tram so acquainted myself with the full complexity of when to tap in and/or out. Always touch in on the platform before boarding, especially at Wimbledon or Elmers End even if you've only just touched in through the ticket barriers, otherwise you might be walloped with a maximum fare. "Please retain your card for inspection when you alight." Never touch out after alighting, except at Wimbledon where you should touch out at the barriers if exiting the station, touch the card reader on platform 9 if changing to National Rail or touch the card reader on platforms 1-4 if changing to the tube. Simple.

 Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The date that the date will be announced for the switch-on of the Oxford Street Christmas lights has been announced.

The Christmas lights on Oxford Street are always special, indeed we can all remember the first time we saw them. But seeing them is no longer enough, what's important is to be present at the precise moment when they suddenly appear. And that's why knowing the date of the switch-on has become so critical, which is why knowing the date of the announcement about the switch-on has become paramount in all our lives.

Nothing says Christmas like the announcement of the date for the Oxford Street Christmas lights switch on. A frosty pop-up gingerbread igloo might get your festive spirits fizzing, and a spicy mulled wine from a temporary market chalet might gladden Santa's soul, but the season of goodwill has only truly arrived when the switch-on date for the Oxford Street Christmas lights has been announced.

That date has not yet been announced, but it will be announced soon, and we're smugly chuffed to say we know when that announcement will be.

The year essentially divides into two parts, the long lonely months when nobody knows when the announcement about the Oxford Street Christmas lights switch on will be made, and the rosy glow as the nights draw in after the crucial information has been imparted. Well rest easy folks, because the most wonderful time of the year is almost imminent.

The whole of London always turns out for the great Oxford Street Christmas lights switch-on, thronging the roadway outside Selfridges with joyful anticipation. But we all know how agonising not knowing the precise timing of this great event can be, because this makes it impossible to book any other social events in the first week of November for fear of missing out.

So diaries at the ready because, thanks to us, you're about to be able to fill in the date when you'll discover what the big date is.

The Oxford Street lights are usually the first to be switched on in the capital each year. But the announcement about the date of that switch-on can lag several days behind the announcement about other lesser switch-ons on other less significant streets, and we always make sure to announce those too.

The date for the switch-on of the Covent Garden Christmas lights was announced on Wednesday 9th October. The name of the VIP performing the switch-on was not announced but the date was, along with several cut-and-pastable phrases, so we really went to town with our illustrated news collateral.

The date for the switch-on of the Trafalgar Square Christmas lights was announced on Monday 14th October. We learned the date from a press release you didn't get, which is why we were the first to bring you the happy news along with all the other media platforms who received the same email.

The date for the switch-on of the Regent Street Christmas lights was also announced on Monday 14th October. Not only do we now know when that date is, we also know what form those lights will take, but these words needed to be exciting so we won't be letting on that they're exactly the same lights as last year.

The date for the switch-on of the Carnaby Street Christmas lights was announced on Tuesday 15th October. We were right in there on social media with news of the announcement, but without ever revealing the precise date until you clicked through to our monetised platform.

The date for the switch-on of the Oxford Street Christmas lights has not yet been announced, but expect us to write hundreds of words about the scheduling of the event in an unnecessarily bubbly way. Be sure to subscribe today to be able to find out where to click to discover what that date is and how exciting everything will be.

Which Heart DJ will host the grand switch-on extravaganza? Which former X Factor finalists will be giggling behind the microphone before miming to their new single? None of this crucial information is yet known, but the date on which it will be known is getting closer, and we now know for definite just how much closer it is.

The shops on Oxford Street will be going all out to celebrate the event, with in-store gigs and pop-up performances taking place on the night (full details to be announced), plus shopping and dining special offers. We'll be there, because we have to say that, and we know you'll be there too, even though you won't.

What we've sussed is that there's money to be made in knowing things before you do. We know you have no intention whatsoever of standing in a cold street for an hour watching some non-entities flick a switch, but we know you can't resist knowing when it'll happen. You are therefore guaranteed to engage with our collateral to find out more, and your click's micropayment helps keep us in the black, which is why we keep serving up teasers without revealing anything of substance.

The date that the date will be announced for the switch-on of the Oxford Street Christmas lights has been announced. Expect more of this pointless clickbait fluff from us forever going forward.

 Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Bakerloo line reached Elephant and Castle in 1906 and stopped. Numerous plans for an extension have been proposed but never taken forward, leaving southeast London underconnected through lack of vision and/or money. But Boris introduced fresh proposals in 2014, Sadiq updated them in 2017, and now a further consultation has been launched to seek views on stations, worksites and tunnel alignment. There are even serious proposals for a further extension beyond Lewisham, but no dates, indeed you might well be dead before the Bakerloo line ever gets to Hayes.

Let's follow the Bakernew along its prospective route...

Elephant and Castle

If you've used the Bakerloo line platforms at Elephant & Castle you'll know that the tunnels overrun at the end, so you might have assumed the new extension would continue beyond. Not so. Instead a completely new pair of Bakerloo line platforms will be built, on a totally different alignment, and the current platforms will no longer be used. Two reasons. Firstly the existing E&C station is a logistical mess with two entrances and inefficient passenger connections underground between the Bakerloo and Northern lines. Some step-free rationalisation would be a great idea. And secondly, it'll be cheaper.

At present the Bakerloo line runs from Lambeth North to Elephant & Castle on an indirect route via St George's Circus. These bends restrict maximum speeds and, more importantly, trains arrive at the terminus pointing the wrong way for the new extension. By digging a completely new tunnel underneath St George's Road trains will run straighter, hence faster, and arrive on an alignment that avoids the foundations of all the tall buildings hereabouts. A single station entrance could then be built amid the rebirth of whatever the Elephant & Castle shopping centre turns into, offering much smoother interchange, and the existing platforms could be kept open longer while work continues digging the new ones. TfL have not yet decided what to do with 1km of redundant tunnel and two mothballed platforms.

Old Kent Road 1

At the last consultation TfL weren't sure whether this first new station would be built under the big Tesco or next to it, and now they've confirmed the supermarket is a goner. Ultimately the station building will only fill the space closest to the Old Kent Road, but the entire block (including store and car park) needs to be adopted as a worksite to ensure tunnel boring machines can be despatched from here towards Lambeth North. Residents of the local area will therefore find themselves without their largest supermarket for a number of years, and there's no guarantee it'll return after all the works are finished.

The other big question is what this new station might be called. The public was asked to offer their suggestions during the last consultation and it seems these have been narrowed down to either Old Kent Road or Burgess Park. According to the consultation documents "stations on the Tube network have a history of naming based on the local park they serve," which might be a heavy nudge towards the latter.

Old Kent Road 2

The two names potentially shortlisted for station number 2 are Old Kent Road and Asylum. If the latter sounds wildly inappropriate it's because the chosen location is on the corner of Asylum Road, and the former Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum is the big Georgian building across the street. The site is currently occupied by the shell of a Toys R Us store and its car park, so is already pencilled in for redevelopment, and pushing ahead with this consultation is one way for TfL to try to ensure it remains vacant.

New Cross Gate

This station already exists as a National Rail/Overground hub, so the plan is to slot the Bakerloo line station nextdoor. Sainsbury's filling station, TK Maxx, Harveys and Dreams are directly in the way, but a much larger worksite is required which would swallow up the whole of the existing Sainsbury's and its car park. Another major supermarket bites the dust. New Cross Gate is also the preferred location for the Primary Tunnelling Works, the main location from which tunnel boring machines would be launched, and also where large amounts of spoil would be processed before being transported away by train.

TfL have identified two other potential sites for this large but crucial facility, one within the Hither Green railway sidings and the other combining Catford Hill Retail Park with part of Jubilee Grounds playing fields. Both are appalling alternatives, both for environmental reasons and because an extra two miles of tunnel would be required to reach them, so I suspect they've only been included to make New Cross Gate's destruction look better.


The last station on the Bakerloo line extension would be Lewisham, again shoehorned into land beside the existing station rather than burrowed underneath. The surface building would be on land behind Sports Direct and Matalan, neither of which would need to be demolished to build it. Instead TfL have got lucky because the existing site is their own property - it's currently the bus stand for several terminating routes, so all they have to do is work out where to park dozens of buses instead. Lewisham station would suddenly get a direct connection to the West End, and a graphic within the consultation documentation shows reduced journey times to almost all of central London (apart from London Bridge).

Wearside Road Council Fleet Depot

The new tunnels need to continue beyond Lewisham for operational reasons, so TfL intend to appropriate a triangular site in Ladywell for this purpose. It's currently a council works depot, hemmed in on two sides by railway viaducts and on the third by a river, leaving Lewisham council with the headache of where to move equipment and employees instead. After the construction phase the plan is to use the site to stable trains during everyday operations, with the main facility at basement level. The site's location is also perfect to safeguard the next stage of proceedings, should an extension to the extension ever get the go ahead.

Extension to Hayes and Beckenham Junction

It's five years since TfL last consulted on which way a Bakerloo line to Lewisham might go next. All sorts of possible extensions have been considered for strategic importance and feasibility, including pushing on to Canary Wharf, Slade Green or Bromley North. The strongest performer was the long-standing favourite of taking over the National Rail line to Hayes, with a short spur out to Beckenham Junction. The Hayes line is entirely self-contained, which'd make operations easier, and also requires an absolute minimum of extra tunnelling. Residents at the Bromley end might not be pleased at losing their direct connection to the City, but they would instead be getting greater capacity, step-free stations and a much more frequent service. Just not any time soon.

How much might this cost? Funding for the extension to Lewisham, based on the current designs, is estimated at between £5bn and £8bn. None of this money is yet on the table, but there are several development areas along the line so TfL are hopeful that government might help by coughing up.

When might this happen? Subject to funding, TfL hope to apply for a Transport and Works Act Order by 2023. No further dates are given within the consultation. However the project would need the permission of the Secretary of State to proceed, and they'd likely appoint an independent Inspector to conduct a public inquiry which could take months. Assuming that was successful the next stages would be to acquire the sites, then to complete enabling works, then to construct the tunnels and stations, then to prepare the infrastructure for operational use, then to integrate the new extension with the existing line and finally a testing phase to ensure safe operation. We all know from Crossrail that this could take a heck of a lot longer than expected. If Bakerloo line trains reach Lewisham by 2030 I'll be amazed, and reaching Hayes is even more pie in the sky than that.

Where can I read more? The consultation webpage is impressively detailed, with a comprehensive range of maps and documents to download should you be so inclined. The best overview is the 59 page Background report, or you could explore tunnelling or the Hayes extension in greater detail, or look at six pages of maps showing the precise route, or dip into a dozen simpler summary factsheets. If you prefer face-to-face, 11 public exhibitions are taking place with venues including Lewisham shopping centre this Saturday and Elephant and Castle shopping centre next. Just don't forget to respond to the consultation by 22nd December, otherwise the extension might not be to your liking even if you do live long enough to use it.

 Monday, October 14, 2019

Four London-based nursery rhymes
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.
Origin: London's most famous bridge has never fallen down, although it has been replaced several times over several centuries. The rhyme's first recorded UK usage is in the 1740s, but its roots are in several older bridge-collapsing songs across Europe, so the English version's not original. In early drafts the bridge is "broken down", rather than falling, and the fair lady is "The Lady Lee". Best not read too much history into it.

Today: The latest London Bridge is of 1973 vintage, as the plaque the Queen unveiled in the centre of the walkway confirms. Its predecessor, famously shipped off to the Arizona desert, had been there since 1831 when it replaced 'Old' London Bridge, the medieval one with the houses down it. And intriguingly that wasn't quite where London Bridge is today but 50 yards downstream. On the southern bank it landed amid the office block No 1 London Bridge, where a small information panel on the riverside walkway marks the spot. And on the northern bank, well, if you've ever wondered why the Monument feels off-centre and Gracechurch Street terminates with an awkward curve, it's because this used to be the original alignment of the former bridge.

In particular the northern roadway used to pass the west door of St Magnus the Martyr, a church which for six centuries was the spiritual guardian of this crucial bridgehead. It was one of the first churches to be destroyed in the Great Fire of London so what now occupies the site is Wren's magnificent replacement. Its clock once projected out above the roadway, and when traffic increased a pedestrian walkway had to be cut through the bottom of the tower. St Magnus's importance vanished when the bridge shifted, and its churchyard is now a flagstoned dead end, barely trodden, with a small flowerbed at one end. It's still worth a visit, though, to see two chunky stones from the Old London Bridge which were relocated here in 1921.

Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane?
Origin: Drury Lane is named after Drury House, built here during the reign of Henry VII by a Suffolk knight called Sir Robert Drury. By the time the rhyme was published, circa 1820, Drury Lane was a notorious gin-riddled slum with a very famous theatre at the Aldwych end. Muffins were a favourite fast food at the time, a small, round, bready snack delivered to ovenless homes by tray-carrying hawkers. They did not in any way resemble cupcakes.

Today: I attempted to buy a muffin on Drury Lane and failed. At the southern end the pre-theatre teas were more of an Apple Tarte Tatin experience, and at the busier northern end non-British non-baked goods had swept the board. The closest I came was a plant-powered cafe offering bagels with breakfast toppings, a pub doing baguettes and a cafe serving paninis. It's ironic because Drury Lane was the site of the very first Sainsbury's store, where John and Mary first sold butter, milk and eggs to a discerning clientele in 1869, but their grocery store at number 173 is lost beneath a modern office block.

Of course the nursery rhyme never claimed that muffins were sold on Drury Lane, only that the muffin man lived there. And although the rookeries have long been swept away, a surprisingly high proportion of this inner London street is lined by relatively lowly mansion blocks. One flank is formed by a wall of Peabody housing, the Wild Street Estate, though which no doors or gates open out onto Drury Lane other than the stores where the bins are kept. Perhaps the muffin man is buried in Drury Lane Gardens opposite, a former graveyard converted in 1877 into one of central London's very first public open spaces. The swings and slide are very much not original.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.
Origin: Pop Goes The Weasel is the youngest of these four nursery rhymes, originating in 1852. It started out as a novelty dance, the Agadoo of its day, with everyone joining together to sing 'Pop Goes The Weasel' at the end of each verse. The remainder of the rhyme is thought to reference slang terms for money. As for the Eagle Tavern, this was an inn roughly halfway along City Road at the corner of Shepherdess Walk. It gained a theatre out back in 1841, which then expanded into a renowned 4000-seater music hall, which eventually went bust. The current Eagle pub was built on the site in 1901.

Today: City Road extends from the edge of Finsbury Square to the Angel Islington, a major artery of greatly varying character. The southern end is mostly commercial, then beyond the Old Street Roundabout someone let the architects loose and a series of wild residential towers has erupted. The Islington end is lined by well-to-do Georgian terraces, but in the middle is a recognisably poorer slot of council flats. I did some consumer research in the local supermarket and can confirm that half a pound of rice no longer costs tuppence - Sainsbury's 250g microwaveable sachets start at 60p. Meanwhile Lyle's Treacle only comes in one pound tins and that's £1.50. Just don't try your luck in the Sun Star Express corner shop else your money really will go pop.

These days the Eagle pub is set back from City Road behind the iconic Shepherdess Cafe. It has a pleasingly Gothic air, with sharp brick gables and a cupola with a gold eagle perched on top. The key verse from the nursery rhyme has been painted on a prominent panel outside, whereas reality within is the Rugby World Cup on a big screen and Sunday roasts with a red wine jus. A separate plaque courtesy of the London borough of Hackney remembers the site's music hall heritage, specifically how Marie Lloyd's first performance was right here... or perhaps within the police station immediately behind.

Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's.
You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St Martin's.
When will you pay me? say the bells at Old Bailey.
When I grow rich, say the bells at Shoreditch.
When will that be? say the bells of Stepney.
I do not know, says the great bell at Bow.
Origin: This rhyme first appeared in print in the same book as London Bridge Is Falling Down, but may have been sung long before that. A variety of City churches have appeared in the rhyme over the years, including couplets about St Giles', St John's, St Helen's and St Catherine's. The final couplet about a chopper coming to chop off your head is a later addition, not a gruesome throwback.

Today: It's possible that the first two churches in the rhyme were St Clement Danes and St Martin-in-the Fields, but tradition has it they're the far more minor St Clement Eastcheap and St Martin Orgar, barely 50 yards apart across Cannon Street. Wren only rebuilt one of them, St Martin's being duly absorbed into the parish of St Clements, and its churchyard has become a private garden. Church number three is St Sepulchre without Newgate, four is St Leonard's, five is St Dunstan's and six is St Mary-le-Bow on Cheapside and definitely not St Mary's in Bow where I live. I would tell you more, but Oranges and Lemons was the first historically themed week on this blog fifteen years ago so I already have.

 Sunday, October 13, 2019

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