Wednesday, July 28, 2021
The most unsettling thing about no longer having an annual z1-3 Travelcard is discovering how much journeys actually cost. I used to be able go anywhere in inner London or hop on any bus 'for nothing', but now every jaunt costs in real time. Three stops to Liverpool Street, £2.50. Four stops on the bus, £1.55. Peak train to Streatham, £5.50. I know I was paying a lot up front to be able to make these journeys appear free, but suddenly paying full price (like a normal person) is quite disconcerting.
Which is why I've started taking an interest in getting around town for as little money as necessary. Usually that's meant walking, but I'm also now a connoisseur of TfL's cheapest fare, courtesy of a Mayoral anomaly introduced at the last fare increase. It used to be that bus rides and off-peak z2-6 tube journeys each cost £1.50, but in March they all got bumped up except for journeys within a single zone.
"By keeping some fares - including Tube, DLR and rail fares set by TfL within a single fare zone – at the same level it will support the wider economic recovery of London, including tourism, as those visiting the capital and travelling exclusively within zone 1 will not see any fare rises. This will also support Londoners who need to travel to high streets and town centres locally, particularly those travelling on London Overground or in outer London, and help ensure that the post-pandemic recovery is not car-led."Stay within a single zone and you still only pay £1.50 off-peak, which is somehow 5p cheaper than the bus. And blimey, if you pick your routes right you can go a heck of a long way for the minimum possible fare.
This map shows all the stations I can get to from Bow for £1.50 - an amazing choice of 150 destinations.
(click for a larger version)
I live by the yellow dot where I have four stations within easy walking distance - Bow Road (z2), Bow Church (z2), Bromley-by-Bow (z2/3) and Pudding Mill Lane (z2/3). Living on a zone boundary is really useful because I can choose to make journeys all within zone 2 or all within zone 3. Living near Stratford is really useful because that's also in both zones and has some great connections. And living near the Overground is the key to the whole thing because the entire Stratford-Whitechapel loop is in zone 2 so I can go round either way.
For a start I can go everywhere on the DLR except Bank, Tower Gateway and Woolwich, so that's good, and even gets me across the river. I can also take the Jubilee line as far as Bermondsey, or short distances on the District and Central line (although these are also places I can reach by walking so I tend not to). What I absolutely cannot do is enter zone 1 because that bumps up the fare by £1, so for further flung destinations deft use of pink Oyster readers is required.
A single pink flash at Whitechapel or Stratford gets me a long way, confirming to TfL that I've travelled via the slow orbital route rather than nipping through the centre of town. But I've had to learn to use the Single Fare Finder webpage to confirm which routes are bargain basement and which touches are absolutely necessary. For example if heading to Clapham Common slapping pink at Whitechapel is essential... but there's no need if heading to Clapham High Street because the fares software always assumes you've taken the Overground... but sometimes it assumes you've gone direct whatever, for example Bow Road to any z2 station between Paddington and Hammersmith is always £2.50.
Some of the more contrived £1.50 z2 routes are...
• Bow Road → Hoxton: via Stratford and Dalston Junction
• Bow Road → Mornington Crescent: via Stratford and Camden Road/Camden Town (or Kentish Town/Kentish Town West)
• Bow Road → Notting Hill Gate: via Stratford, Willesden Junction and Shepherd's Bush
• Bow Church → Putney Bridge: via Stratford, Willesden Junction and West Brompton
• Pudding Mill Lane → Turnham Green: via Stratford, Willesden Junction, West Brompton (or Kensington (Olympia)) and Earl's Court
It's not worth doing if you value time more than money. Bow Road to Hoxton takes three times longer via the cheap route, for example, and Bow Road to Notting Hill Gate about an hour extra, all to save a quid.
Most of my map shows zone-2-only journeys, but a cluster of zone-3-onlys exists top right. The trick to reaching Tottenham is to switch to the Goblin by walking between stations in Leyton or Leytonstone, ensuring the software knows you haven't ventured into zone 2. Even better is to catch a line that's not on the tube map but is charged at TfL rates, the Lea Valley line from Stratford to Tottenham Hale, and then continue from there. For completeness, the two additional National Rail stations I can reach for £1.50 are Lea Bridge and Northumberland Park.
The furthest north I can get for £1.50 is White Hart Lane, the furthest west is North Acton. the furthest south is Clapham South and the furthest east is Gallions Reach. East is the direction I can get least far in, thanks to travel zones being thin loops rather than long sausages. Meanwhile I'm reliably informed that the longest possible £1.50 journey is Canning Town to North Acton, an amazing 11½ miles entirely within zone 2.
I've calculated I can get to half the boroughs in London for £1.50, which is excellent news for exploration purposes. Another eight boroughs require an extra zone, which'd be £1.60, and four more (Croydon, Havering, Harrow and Hillingdon) require two extra which is £1.70. The only boroughs I can't get to off-peak for less than £2 are the City of London (£2.50 because it's all in z1) and Kingston and Sutton (which have no lines operating TfL fares, so £2.70).
At some point when future circumstances look more certain I'll dive in and buy a Travelcard again, eventually an annual one with Gold Card discount, and stop worrying about how much petty individual journeys cost. In the meantime I'd like to apologise to TfL for only giving them £34 in the last twelve months, whereas normally it'd've been more like £1800, and I fear this helps explain some of their current financial difficulties.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, July 27, 2021Today it's nine years since the opening ceremony of London 2012. Nine years is usually an overlookable anniversary but the delayed 2020 Games are currently playing out in Tokyo, and it's the first time the Olympics have ever taken place in an odd-numbered year, so you're going to get a post about the Olympic Park anyway.
More pertinently it's ten years since the Olympic Park Legacy Company chose the names of the five future residential neighbourhoods, two of which were nominated by readers of this blog (hi Ollie, hi Dave). I've been round to see how they're developing, from the one that's almost finished to the two they still haven't started yet.
This is the big slice to the north of the Athletes Village, stretching from the Velodrome to Temple Mills Lane, and is the only neighbourhood they've almost finished. Phases 1 and 2 are already being lived in, across a grid of backstreets including all the usual flats but also several attractive three storey townhouses. This means not many people get to live down Coopers Lane, Millers Row or Keirin Road, each a low density aberration unlikely to be repeated elsewhere across the Park, but well done if you snapped one up. A central spine of parklets with pocket playgrounds breaks up the development, though seemingly little used, and a couple of corner commercial units remain very much to let ('All Uses Considered').
Phase 3 overlooking the mountain bike wilderness is nearing completion, rather flattier, and all sold out. I'm pleased to say that the dead-looking History Tree at the eastern gateway has been replaced, but less pleased to add that after one growing season its replacement already looks almost as dead. Phase 4 faces the Waterglades and is substantially complete, if architecturally less distinguished with its pastel balconies in lieu of brickwork. I note that a new 1 bed apartment here is currently selling for £470,000, that bedroom being almost 3m wide, so average Londoners need not apply.
Homes built: 550 Homes to be built: 850
This is the neighbourhood between the Lea and the northern park, already home to Here East and a primary school, and which has finally burst forth as a residential quarter this year. The barriers are down around a small nucleus of flats crammed just north of the Copper Box, some of which are still very much under construction and others already inhabited. These backstreets are designed to be car-free, hence the blocks have considerable cycle parking underneath, and the architects take pride that no building is the same. For some reason the streets are named after famous people born in Clapton, Maryland and Forest Gate rather than properly local, one of whom is film actress Jessica Tandy and another a Victorian anti-vivisectionist.
A new corner cafe called the Clarnico Club opened earlier this year, initially echoingly empty but recently picking up trade despite the presence of two other coffee shops within a two minute walk. It faces the grassy edge of the Olympic Park that's due to be built on next, once contractors have got round to digging up most of the trees and replanting them somewhere else. East Wick still has a lot more residential expansion to go. Meanwhile a substantial chunk of Here East is being remodelled as the V&A East Storehouse, "a new immersive experience providing unprecedented public access to V&A collections", which should be a magnificent facility to live beside when it opens in 2024.
Homes built: 100 Homes to be built: 850
Still by the canal, but south of the Overground, is the district named after a long-defunct confectionery factory. So far you can go to school here but not live here, nor buy anything off plan because no attempt at residential construction has begun. Instead the priority has been building new roads not envisaged when the Olympic masterplan was drawn up, in what's probably been the biggest tweak to Park infrastructure over the last twelve months. Even then the new road bridge over to Fish Island still isn't finished, two years after the original footbridge was removed, although the latest gossip says pedestrians and cyclists should be allowed across early next month. Construction of Sweetwater's final phase isn't due to start until (blimey) 2031.
Homes built: 0 Homes to be built: 650
This is the odd one out, the only Olympic neighbourhood whose 2011 name appears to have been entirely dropped. Most of it is now known as Stratford Waterfront, a much more literal name and I suspect more financially prestigious. The big development here has yet another name which is East Bank, which'll become the Park's new cultural quarter when it starts opening up in 2023. From left to right the current line-up of liftshafts and unclad concrete will become...
• A new museum, V&A East (eventually resembling some kind of squatting bug)
• UAL's London College of Fashion (the tallest and most substantially complete)
• BBC Music studios (essentially the new Maida Vale, allowing that to be sold off)
• Sadler's Wells (a 550-seat theatre, dance centre and, er, hip hop academy)
(a few proper residential towers will be built too, to help pay for the above, but no sign yet)
The other arm of what used to be called Marshgate Wharf stretches from just south of the Aquatics Centre to just south of the Stadium. The last twelve months have seen two new buildings shoot up here - Marshgate and Pool Street West - forming the hub of University College London's new campus. The chunkier block will contain laboratories, research space, teaching facilities and (at ground level) accessible public spaces, while the taller 20-storey block will be predominantly student accommodation but with more communal stuff lower down. The campus is due to start opening next September, and should be fully ready for the next academic intake after that.
Homes built: 0 Homes to be built: 600
The final QEOP neighbourhood is another where, even nine years after the Games, nobody lives. Everything that London 2012 used for back of house remains as acres of hardstanding, occasionally used for car parking or for storage of stadium seats whenever athletics takes place. A preposterous temporary theatre is currently being constructed, its hexagonal ribcage now mostly in place, but as yet not a single home. The absence of infrastructure probably contributed to Sunday's unworldly flood outside the DLR station, but the only local residents inconvenienced would have been those staying in the adjacent container hotel. Only a smattering of mud remained yesterday morning, you'll be pleased to hear.
Homes built: 0 Homes to be built: 1500
It's a measure of the long game being played here that somehow nine years after London 2012 barely 500 homes have yet been built on the Park. Thousands have gone up close by, as the the Games continue to act as a massive catalyst for change, but it'll be TWENTY years before QEOP's full residential potential is realised. Housing shortage? What housing shortage?
posted 07:00 :
Monday, July 26, 2021Last week, when the temperature was in the thirties and your chances of being struck by lightning were zero, the place to be was in a swimming pool 35 metres above the ground.
This is the Sky Pool at Embassy Gardens, part of the luxury highrise cluster at Nine Elms. It consists of 50 tons of acrylic filled with 150 tons of water, strung out between two neighbouring buildings because neither had the roofspace to support it alone. It can only be used by residents who paid full whack for their apartments, and their guests, and for safety reasons no more than 19 at a time. If your head for heights is less secure, or you'd rather not display your swimming cozzie from underneath, a parallel opaque footbridge can be used to access the rooftop bar on one side from the sunloungers on the other.
I wandered in freely round the back of the American Embassy and stood directly underneath in a deep residential canyon where the sun doesn't shine. Of the ten visible undercarriages nobody was swimming, some appeared to be treading water and the rest were simply standing there cooling off and chatting with their friends. I was reassured that they weren't looking down on me because I'd positioned myself in the one place where I couldn't be seen.
At the nearby ground floor oyster bar all the outside tables were occupied by smart diners enjoying the kind of lunchtime menu that majors on whipped feta, monkfish fillet and tonka bean gelato. But by stepping a little further into as-yet-unfinished corners of the site the streets were instead filled with sweaty workmen, dozens and dozens of them, tucking into lunches of something cheaper and more practical. One day Embassy Gardens will only be for the elite, but during its construction phase it has a much broader socio-economic mix.
What you can't yet do is slip through the railway viaduct to the brand new tube station that'll make living here worthwhile. Arch 42 isn't quite ready to connect, but Nine Elms station on the other side is coming along nicely and already presents a visually strong presence, especially the blue nameplates above the entrances to the ticket hall.
As yet Battersea Power Station station isn't as impressive, at least not from the roadside, but maybe you'll be able to come down in a couple of months and check for yourself. Just don't bother bringing a towel and your trunks.
posted 09:00 :
In "a bit special" local art news, Bromley-by-Bow has gained a set of Tracey Emin sculptures.
The work's called A Moment Without You and comprises five sculpted bronze birds perched atop of a series of high poles. They're so high that the individual birds are quite hard to see but that's all part of Tracey's plan to create "something which would appear and disappear and not dominate". It's also not an original commission - the birds have already appeared in Regent's Park and Hong Kong and an identical flock is currently flying high beside the Delaware in Philadelphia - but it is quite a coup for the E3 postcode.
The feathered quintet has been positioned beside the towpath at Three Mills as part of East London art walk The Line, a project that's upped its game of late. Also new here is a juniper tree weathervane on the roof of the House Mill, deftly evoking the site's gin-distilling past, and arguably even harder to spot. If a cormorant lands on the roof while you're here, that's a bonus.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, July 25, 2021: Sometime this evening, just before seven o'clock, diamond geezer will receive its ten millionth visitor. More accurately it'll be the ten millionth time that an archaic stats package has registered a unique visit, which very much isn't the same thing, but I think still very much worth celebrating.
Ten million visits is an astonishing total - the equivalent of everyone in Portugal reading my blog once. But viewed another way it's not much - on average two busy tube trains of readers a day (or several busy tube trains under current circumstances).
What I do know is that my audience is coming faster. The first million took five and a half years. The last million's taken thirteen months.
0 Sept 2002 1000000 April 2008 5½ years 2000000 Jan 2011 2¾ years 3000000 Oct 2012 1¾ years 4000000 Apr 2014 1½ years 5000000 Aug 2015 1⅓ years 6000000 Dec 2016 1¼ years 7000000 Feb 2018 1⅕ years 8000000 Apr 2019 1⅙ years 9000000 Jun 2020 1⅙ years 10000000 Jul 2021 1⅛ years
I can also do that as a graph.
For the first decade and a half the graph was a curve because my readership was (gradually) growing, with the fastest spurt in the pre-Olympic heyday of 2011/2012. But since 2016 it's become much more of a straight line because my readership's levelled out, with each successive million taking about 60 weeks.
That's good because it means I'm not haemorrhaging readers, but also bad because I'm no longer gaining a wider audience like I used to. What I seem to have is a long-standing core readership, cheers, with a few new regulars who somehow stumble here balanced by others drifting away. In a resolutely post-blog era it could be a lot lot worse.
Each time one of these millionaire milestones rolls by I like to look back and analyse which sites my readers have arrived from. In particular I like to draw up a league table of top linking blogs, ordered by volume of visitors clicking here from there. This used to be hugely important, back in the era when blogs thrived solely because other blogs linked to them, but times change.
Blogs no longer have a fraction of the traction they enjoyed a decade ago now that social media is king, because the ability to drive traffic has shifted away from those who generate their own content towards those who merely digest the content of others. But here's the latest update of my Top 10 linking blogs (2002-2021) anyway...
What's striking is that this list hasn't changed much since five million, just shuffled around a bit.
2) Girl with a one track mind
3) London Reconnections
4) Ian Visits
5) Random acts of reality
8) Blue Witch
9) London Daily Photo
Londonist takes the top spot thanks to a decade and a half of capital content which sometimes linked here, although not so much of late as the site's currently on a very low simmer. But they have finally dislodged the all-conquering Girl With A One Track Mind which was massive in the mid-2000s, ditto Tom's defunct Random acts of reality and Gunner-tastic Arseblog. Other blogging phenomena which faded away were London Daily Photo (2005-2013) and Alistair's award-winning Scaryduck, although that still gets the occasional update.
Ian Visits is the only blog in the ascendant of late, thanks to his weekly railway news which kindly links here every few editions. Former behemoth London Reconnections rarely posts much more than a list of recommended links these days, but I sometimes squeeze in if I've posted something particularly transport-tastic. Blue Witch is the sole surviving old-school blog in the top 10, currently documenting the ultimate house move, and 853 is Darryl's excellent citizen journalism site for north-ish Greenwich. Thank you all.
But all ten of these linkers have been seriously outgunned by three major social media platforms.
@diamondgzrblog automatically tweets each new blog post to a small daily audience and that's helped rack up the clicks. Reddit hasn't been anywhere near as excitable of late, now that most of its tube geeks have been siphoned off into a minor subreddit, so its second place is mostly a reflection of past supernovae. And I still don't understand how Facebook is sending so many people here, but that's mainly because I'm not on it.
My five most clicked-through posts since 9 millionBefore you get the wrong idea I should say the vast majority of my last million readers didn't click in from anywhere, they rely on force of habit. I've hit ten million by being reliable rather than clickable, because there'll almost certainly be a new post to read every morning which hopefully you'll want to read. As far as I can tell at least 90% of you currently arrive off your own bat, not because something elsewhere directed you here... although that's probably how you ended up at diamond geezer in the first place.
1) London fire brigade animal rescues
2) Why is there a cluster of tall buildings in the City?
3) Why do so many flats in London have balconies?
4) Shaun Bailey campaigns in Watford
5) The Percy Ingle bakery chain has closed
Also I know that a lot of you read the blog without actually visiting it, courtesy of my RSS feed, which makes a mockery of attempting to count visitor numbers anyway. I probably passed ten million several months ago, maybe even years back, but just didn't realise.
So I don't mind where my ten million came from, nor that I can't count you all, I'm just well chuffed that you still bother turning up. Thanks to all of you, and here's to millions more...
posted 07:00 :
12 things that happened this week #coronavirus
• PM & Chancellor won't self-isolate (ah, yes they will)
• Step 4: all social distancing restrictions lifted
• Scotland moves to Level 0
• nightclub entry will require double vaccination
• USA advises against travel to the UK
• PM delayed lockdown as it was 'only' killing over-80s
• green & amber arrivals 'are not being checked'
• Keir Starmer self-isolates after child tests +ve
• 1% of population pinged by app last week
• key workers exempted from self-isolation
• Tokyo Olympics begin a year late & spectator-free
• half of Australians back in lockdown
Worldwide deaths: 4,080,000 → 4,140,000
Worldwide cases: 190,000,000 → 193,000,000
UK deaths: 128,623 → 129,130
UK cases: 5,386,340 → 5,669,260
1st vaccinations: 46,227,101 → 46,519,998 (88%)
2nd vaccinations: 35,732,297 → 36,953,691 (70%)
FTSE: up ¼% (7008 → 7027)
posted 01:00 :
Saturday, July 24, 2021VICTORIA @50
50 years ago, on Friday 23rd July 1971, the Victoria line finally extended to Brixton. Trains had been operating as far as Victoria since March 1969 but plans for an extension were only granted in 1965 so construction south of the river took a while to catch up. Pimlico station still wasn't open, which means I still have to come back and blog that next September, but in the meantime let's tick off the end of the line.
Opened: 23 July 1971
Interchange with: Commuter services to Bromley and Orpington, not that you probably would because those trains have come from Victoria anyway, and they're not very frequent, and the station's a fair walk away on a viaduct, and my word the Victoria line was a step up for this part of town.
Originally opened: 25 August 1862
Why did the line terminate here? Various early plans considered sending the Victoria line to Wimbledon, Morden or more likely Croydon, but financial constraints halted it much closer to central London. The GLC had concurrent plans to drive an urban motorway through Brixton town centre, in which case this could have been a convenient park and ride dropoff, but thankfully only the tube line got built.
Who opened the extension? Not the Queen because she'd officially opened the line down to Victoria. Instead Princess Alexandra got the job and turned up at Brixton at 11.15am in a jaunty hat. She performed the official ceremony at the foot of the main stairs, then pressed a button to start the escalators, then inspected the ticket office, then glided serenely downwards for a further ceremony in the driver's cab... where she pressed another button to start the first journey north. This terminated at Pimlico where further presentations took place, and then the royal party stepped into the rear carriage of a second train which took them back to Brixton. Here the princess inspected the station operations room, unveiled a commemorative plaque and headed off for lunch at Lambeth Town Hall. London Transport staff were instead treated to luncheon boxes delivered from the depot aboard an empty train. The extension was opened to public service at 3pm. (contemporary typewritten report)
Tile pattern: A visual pun... it's a ton of bricks, by Hans Unger.
Five things I saw outside: 1) The largest roundel on the Underground, emblazoned across the glass above the station entrance. 2) A woman attempting to hand out Bible tracts. 3) Blue tape sealing off the site of a stabbing the previous evening. 4) Lots of police officers. 5) A distinct absence of weedpushers (because of 4).
Above the steps down: The 'Brixton Header Wall' is regularly used for enormous art commissions. The current painting is Things Held Fast by Helen Johnson and depicts a group of figures at work in a community garden, with underlying echoes of local protest movements and the Mutiny on The Bounty, because art.
Ticket hall: A large grey space to trudge through, with an operations room in one corner and a rather nice tropical plant potted alongside. The 'Ticket Shop' doesn't sell tickets but does stock Private Eye and chewing gum (left), The Spectator and chocolate bars (centre), Black Beauty and mints (right) and the Beano (lowest shelf).
Descent: Unless you're taking the lift, the way down is via a bank of three escalators. These can be thronged... pre-pandemic Brixton was the tube's 20th busiest station.
Station layout: 3D diagram here.
Lower concourse: This being the end of the line, all an arriving passenger really needs to know is "Left-hand or right-hand platform?" A lightbox used to indicate this by means of an illuminated arrow, but that's been switched off in favour of a smaller generic modern display. This lists the next five departing trains (usually five Walthamstow Centrals), and how long until they leave, and from which platform, and a tiny harder-to-see arrow, and someone must've thought this information overload was a genuine improvement.
Platforms: This being the end of the line both platforms are equally used, and pretty much identical. Normally only one end is busy because regular travellers know to arrive near the front of the train for a quick exit. At the far end, directly under the station entrance, is the room where drivers hide away while waiting their turn to hop into the cab at the back of an arriving train. This speeds up turnaround times. Passengers don't normally see the far walls because a stationary train blocks line of sight, so what would have been a row of adverts is instead a gallery of empty grey tiled rectangles.
Special roundels: One per platform saying GOING OUT OUT instead of BRIXTON, as part of the Mayor's #LetsDoLondon campaign.
Factnugget: The tunnels continue to the southeast, not because of a potential extension but just far enough to leave space to stable two trains overnight ready for morning service.
All the photos: Eight, here.
Full trip along the line: Walthamstow → Highbury & Islington → Warren Street → Victoria → Brixton
(and a gallery of 118 photos here)
posted 00:50 :
Friday, July 23, 2021VICTORIA @50
50 years ago today, on Friday 23rd July 1971, the final section of the Victoria line slipped into service. The first section from Walthamstow Central to Highbury & Islington had opened in September 1968, extending to Warren Street in December and Victoria in March 1969. But it took two more years to finally reach the southern terminus at Brixton, and even then Pimlico got skipped because it wasn't ready yet.
So today I'm continuing my journey down the line, station by station, to see how this cutting-edge forward-thinking initiative is looking fifty years on. If nothing else, it'll be a useful reminder that major transport projects delivered way behind schedule are nothing new, and generally come good in the end.
Opened: 23 July 1971
Originally opened: 11 July 1848
Previously known as: Vauxhall Bridge Station (until 1868)
Interchange with: South Western Railway trains to Clapham Junction and beyond, including Windsor, Weybridge and Woking. Eight platforms are available to whisk you away, atop a viaduct entirely separate from the tube station.
Tile pattern: Every Victoria line station has its own bespoke mural in the alcoves on the platforms above the benches. Vauxhall's design is a representation of Vauxhall Gardens (London's first and most significant Pleasure Gardens, where Georgian society enjoyed arboreal promenades, outdoor culture and later a tad of debauchery) and was designed by George Smith.
Entrances: The main entrance is at the tip of the iconic forked bus station beneath the information window. Four other subways feed in, including one outside the National Rail station and another on the approach to Vauxhall Bridge. The ramp down from Wandsworth Road has two rather nice enamel nameplates embedded in the brickwork.
Architecture: Nothing above ground... the 2004-vintage bus station is doing all the heavy lifting.
Nearby development: Riverside Vauxhall shot upwards early courtesy of Saint George Wharf, and continues to suffer from a virulent plague of residential skyscrapers of assorted giddying heights, mostly to the southwest. The latest masterplan is to replace the bus station and associated triangle of waste ground with a Zaha Hadid concoction called Vauxhall Cross Island, bookended by a 42 storey tower beside the station and a 53 storey tower to the south, and to remove the gyratory, and to make the bus station less focused, and basically to squeeze every last commercial dollar out of a vastly under-realised site.
Nearest station: Is Pimlico. Will be Nine Elms, a ten minute walk down the road.
Station layout: 3D diagram here.
Ticket hall: Efficient rather than appealing. A grey-tiled concourse for funnelling down and funnelling up, plus a gaggle of barrier staff, plus a little shop for the purchase of travel comestibles. I would have taken a photo but it was swarming with transport police yesterday morning so this seemed unwise.
Lower concourse: At the foot of the escalators are two colourful mostly-blue panels called Design Work Leisure, designed by Giles Round in 2017. The passageway beyond looks a lot more 1970s, and bends a bit. Veer right for Brixton and left for central London.
Platforms: Even though these were built two years after those further up the line they look very familiar. Grey tiles with recessed benches, again, joined by interconnecting passageways should you suddenly want to switch between northbound and southbound. Some hoops of the roof covering are currently missing. The northbound platform has a pride roundel and a trans roundel. Trains arrive with impressive regularity.
Step-free access: A lift from the ticket hall to the platforms opened in 2016, emerging into a crosspassage that's much wider than anyone would have bothered to build in the 1970s. Inconveniently it's at the end of the platform but the raised hump with level access to the trains is in the centre.
Factnugget: The clock at the end of the northbound platform is working but the southbound clock is stuck at 7.24.
Some photos: Eight, here.
Opened: 23 July 1971
Originally opened: 4 November 1890
Originally terminus of: The City and South London Railway, London's first deep-level tube.
Interchange with: Northern line, at south London's most useful tube switchover.
Tile pattern: This is the one everybody likes once they've worked out (or been told) what it is. Abram Games' blue and white zigzag conceals a swan with an orange beak, in honour of The Swan public house opposite the station. There's been a Swan on this street corner for at least 400 years, and for the last 40 it's been a full-on Irish venue with late-night craic (even music pumping out on a Friday morning, to be sure).
Also nearby: a) One of eight deep-level air-raid shelters, brightly-painted (since 1942). b) The inimitable Stockwell bus garage (since 1952). c) A British Transport Police Station (since 1987).
Immediately outside: A memorial to Jean Charles de Menezes, shot by an undercover police officer on a Northern line train after being mistaken for a terrorist during an appallingly-bungled operation during the heady days of July 2005.
Architecture: Undistinguished mid 20th century brick box.
Nearby development: Mostly resistant so far.
Station layout: 3D diagram here.
Ticket hall: A bit like Vauxhall but at ground level so brighter, and part-blocked by two big pillars. Retail opportunities include a Costa, a keycutting/watchrepair hideaway and good old reliable Station News, which still sells newspapers.
Station layout: A bit complex, as befits a Northern/Victoria hybrid. From the ticket hall you take the left hand escalator to the northbound platforms and the right hand staircase to the southbound platforms (though there is an escalator back up again). A separate subterranean trek connects the two. To optimise interchange the new platforms were added alongside the old, with short interconnecting passageways southbound and a bigger intermediate concourse northbound. The downside of the arrangement is that the Victoria line had to follow an indirect S-shaped route between Vauxhall to Brixton to align properly at Stockwell, lengthening journeys.
Uniformity: The Northern line platforms were also given a grey-tiled Victoria-style makeover in 1971, but without the recessed tiled benches.
Special instructions: Those heading for the northbound Victoria line pass several signs saying 'Please pass along the platform'. This is despite most passengers one stop up the line at Brixton also boarding at the rear of the train, leaving more seats at the front. The message is somewhat rammed home, however, using extra big text on the new posters in the concourse and with the final exhortation just three adverts from the far end of the platform.
Factnugget: Until 1923 the Northern line had a single island platform, slightly to the north, accessed down a staircase where Costa Coffee is now.
Some photos: Ten, here.
Full trip along the line: Walthamstow → Highbury & Islington → Warren Street → Victoria → Brixton (finishing off tomorrow)
(and a gallery of 110 photos here)
posted 00:50 :
Thursday, July 22, 2021The Hundred is cricket's newest competition, a bold and innovative attempt to attract people to the game who aren't currently fans. That's very much me, having had to sit stupefied through many a test match in my childhood, so I wondered if the new dynamic format might win me round.
What makes The Hundred special is that it features men and women equally (but ah, in separate matches). What makes The Hundred special is that teams only face 100 balls (so it doesn't drag on interminably like a typical match). What makes The Hundred special is that bowlers can change after five balls rather than six (because 100 wouldn't be divisible otherwise). What makes The Hundred special is that the teams have been picked from a pool of diverse global players (but more a secret tombola than rigorous selection). And what makes The Hundred especially special is that there are eight brand new teams (but with no backstory, desperate branding and a crisp logo on their shirts).
The eight teams
» Birmingham Phoenix @Edgbaston (Butterkist)
» London Spirit @Lord's (Tyrells)
» Manchester Originals @OldTrafford (McCoy's)
» Northern Superchargers @Headingley (Popchips)
» Oval Invincibles @The Oval (KP)
» Southern Brave @Southampton (Pom-Bear)
» Trent Rockets @TrentBridge (Skips)
» Welsh Fire @SophiaGardens (Hula Hoops)
The teams are geographically spread, so I think the idea is that you support your local one. Londoners have two to choose from, one north of the river and one south, although I live nearer the wrong one so I'm conflicted. You could also pick the team with the best name, or perhaps the least worst name because these are ghastly contrivances. When Rugby League did similar at least they picked fierce creatures, whereas these choices are more like personal qualities you might find on an appraisal form.
The crisps though, the crisps are cringeworthy. I know cricket needs sponsors, and at least they're not the usual betting companies, but how embarrassing must it be to walk out with Butterkist on your chest? Juxtapose it with the team name and it looks even worse - Hula Hoops fire, Skips rocket and Pom-Bears brave. Mainly this is because the target audience for The Hundred is families with hungry kids, not app-enabled gamblers, but still seriously sheesh.
I thought I'd watch the opening match, KP versus McCoy's, as cricket made a triumphant return to free-to-air telly.
6.00 The BBC's theme tune is an urban rap, because Soul Limbo is for old-timers.
6.03 What I've gathered from Greg James' intro is that "it's like cricket, but shorter"
6.05 There's been a very big emphasis on the opening match being women's cricket, not men's.
6.10 The Originals win the toss, and I've already forgotten if they're the London team or not.
6.16 The Oval does not look at all full, but let's say that's due to social distancing.
6.21 The crowd is semi-diverse - maybe a bit Clapham - with a lot of young children.
6.29 I missed the firework display because I was off chopping a carrot.
6.30 The first ball is a wide, which may not be a good omen.
6.32 The third and fourth balls are mishandled near-boundaries.
6.34 Ball 7 is a wicket after some technical appeal jiggerypokery.
6.38 At the end of the first 'ten' we get a close up on Abi the DJ.
6.45 Mild confusion because it's no free hit, or something.
6.52 The lime green/magenta colour scheme reminds me of the 2012 Olympics.
6.48 We've had a lot of 'duckballs' so far, apparently.
7.02 I have switched over to The Archers, which is not a good sign.
7.16 I've missed two wickets (although I'm not sure what the point of wickets is).
7.30 There's just been a Timeout for team talk, and the flow of the game has been lost.
7.36 10 BALLS LEFT... because this has to be a thing now.
7.42 Spotted a man in the crowd in an official £50 Hula Hoops shirt.
7.43 So the first half is just a run chase with no tension (but that's cricket for you).
7.44 This is also being shown on Sky, so BBC2 has to pad out the bit where the adverts go.
7.48 Becky Hill sings her latest single. I don't think Johnners would have approved.
7.52 Being the very first match, nobody knows if 135 is a good score or not.
7.55 The on-screen graphics have changed to "runs needed" and "balls left".
8.00 I'm quite tempted to switch to The Repair Shop, even if that's slower.
8.01 After three balls we've had two wickets, so that's all the thrills.
8.08 The graphics show a "Win Predictor", not the run rate needed.
8.19 The cameras cut to a section of the crowd staring at their phones.
8.20 South London is looking pretty tonight though.
8.30 A football match would have finished by now. Still 50 balls left.
8.34 The chief sponsor has their name written twelve times on each wicket.
8.38 The latest boundary is celebrated with a blast of dance music from the pavilion.
8.45 A fumbled catch and a failed run out have awakened the crowd.
8.49 London need 35 runs from 20 balls, so the Win Predictor's up from 7% to 35%.
8.56 It's taken 2½ hours, and targets closing, to finally install a bit of tension.
9.01 A six at just the right moment means eight runs are needed off eight balls.
9.05 Just as the sun sets on the Oval, the home team wins with two balls to spare.
9.06 The crowd erupts, the music gets louder and the teams wander off to the tunnel.
9.09 Still 20 minutes to fill with post-match analysis... "What a game it's been".
9.25 It's been refreshing to see women's cricket treated with equal respect to men's.
9.28 But enough now, I did not want to relive the last 150 minutes all over again.
So it's not for me. Despite the brouhaha and pizazz it's just artificial cricket between artificial teams playing to artificial rules, and with an excessive emphasis on totals rather than wickets. My problem is that I don't have sport empathy, the ability to pick a side, engage and urge them on, so I don't care who wins. But I suspect a lot of new fans will, given the hype and the theatre, and expect purveyors of maize-, potato-, and corn-based snacks to do well out of it too.
posted 01:00 :
Wednesday, July 21, 2021The London postcode area that stretches to the coast
Do you share your postcode with the seaside? Some Londoners do, but how can this possibly be?
And that's proper seaside, not some miserable stretch of the Thames Estuary which is the best Becontree (RM) or Sidcup (DA) can manage. We're talking sunshine coast with beaches, piers, pavilions and cliff lifts, plus the waves of the English Channel lapping against the pebbles. Could this be where you live?
The Queen's SW postcode only reaches Wimbledon. Wembley's HA postcode barely scrapes Hertfordshire. My E postcode at least makes it into Essex. But there is a part of the capital that shares its postcode with the actual coast of actual Sussex and also actual Kent, and that is actually astonishing.
Where you need to live is Bromley, which is interesting because Bromley has its own postcode area which is BR but it turns out not all of the London borough of Bromley is covered by the Bromley postcode.
Is Crystal Palace the special place we seek? No it is not. Could it be Chislehurst? No it's not there either. Perhaps it's Orpington, but let me stop you there and tell you it isn't. We need to look deeper south than that, almost down on the border with Kent but not quite. There's even an airport.
The postcode area in question is much bigger than you might expect it to be. It crosses the London boundary and the M25, then the environs of Sevenoaks and the High Weald as far as Bodiam Castle, Ashford International and Dungeness power station. These are not addresses you want get muddled with a house in the capital, but the Royal Mail makes this potentially possible.
A lot of Kent is covered by the Medway (ME) and Canterbury (CT) postcodes. These do not reach London so Folkestone, Margate and Sheerness cannot be within the postcode area we seek. Instead we're talking about the southwestern part of the county and even quite a bit of East Sussex because that's how big it is.
The southeast edge of London is very rural, including back lanes that get hardly any bus services or none at all. This is where we find the special postcode dribbling over the border and a few cottages getting their mail delivered from a sorting office outside London rather than within.
One such residence belongs to Nigel Farage whose bolthole on Single Street is just the right side of the dividing line, whereas slightly further up the lane in Luxted and Downe would be BR6. Our Nige may be properly peeved to live within the fiefdom of mayor Sadiq Khan but at least he shares his postcode with the Kent coast.
Another lucky location is Cudham - less a village, more a linear hamlet - whose residents also have this seaside postcode. The furthest north it goes is probably Snag Farm in Hazelwood, an even less significant settlement but somehow an amazing 40 miles from the opposite edge alongside the English Channel.
The massive postcode area in question is in fact the TN postcode area, which sounds like it ought to be named after Tonbridge but is in fact centred on Royal Tunbridge Wells. This spa town serves a relatively small part of Kent but its postal hinterland is inexplicably vast, from TN1 all the way up to TN40 for Bexhill-on-Sea.
The postcode districts that scrape the edge of London are in the low teens. One is TN14 which is officially Sevenoaks but reaches out to Knockholt, Shoreham and Otford in Kent plus the aforementioned Cudham. The other is TN16, officially Westerham, which amazingly even includes a bit of Surrey which'd be the village of Tatsfield.
Your best chance of being a Londoner with a seaside postcode comes if you live in Biggin Hill, as ten thousand people do. Its steep residential avenues all come under the TN16 remit, as does the Waitrose on Main Road and of course the whole of the airport complex. Fly from Biggin Hill to London Ashford Airport on Romney Marsh and it's TN all the way.
So there you have it, a sprawling postcode area that somehow contains Biggin Hill and Bexhill, Cudham and Camber Sands, and Hazelwood and Hastings. You might even be one of the Londoners who live in it, the mighty TN... the postcode that stretches from the capital to the coast.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, July 20, 2021Random City of London ward (21): Dowgate
My 21st random ward is essentially Cannon Street station and a few blocks either side. It's where the Walbrook once flowed into the Thames, duly defended by a barrier called the Dowgate, "dou" being the Anglo-Saxon word for water. The ward's small, slopes down to the river and the upper bits are generally more interesting than the lower. [pdf map]
Cannon Street is one of the largest stations in the City, a terminus to feed southeastern commuters into the Square Mile and not its finest architectural moment. The most recent addition is the monolithic crossbeamed office block above the station entrance, a replacement for John Poulson's controversial 1960s development. The gloomy concourse beyond is because the air rights were sold in the 1980s to make way for two office blocks above the platforms (and a sports club underneath), more with an eye to BR's bottom line than to customer experience. A Wetherspoons and a lonely WH Smiths are amongst the non-delights to be found up the steps before the barriers, and the platforms stretch all the way across Upper Thames Street as far as the water's edge.
The most interesting thing about Cannon Street station is what it used to be, which was an Anglo-German medieval trading complex. The Steelyard was a walled community built by the Hanseatic League in 1475 to smooth the export of wool and cloth between England and Cologne, and contained a chapel, weighing houses, a guildhall, wine cellars and residential quarters. Queen Elizabeth I eventually stunted their influence, but it wasn't until 1852 that the Germans sold the land to the South Eastern Railway allowing them to gain a toehold in the City. The dark riverside passage under the end of the platforms, the one that always smells of chlorine emanating from the adjacent health club pool, has been named Steelyard Passage in its honour.
At the foot of one of Cannon Street's twin brick towers, beside the Banker pub, a set of steps provides the City's best pedestrian access to the Thames foreshore. It's not the original set Samuel Pepys ran up to warn the Mayor of London about the Great Fire, more a modern safety-conscious replacement, and descends into lapping water if you turn up either side of high tide. My timing was unfortunate so instead of further sentences describing mudlarktastic exploration I can only draw your attention to a post I wrote in 2015.
The rest of Thames-side Dowgate is a textbook example of how modern development eradicates the historic street pattern. Red Bull Yard, George Alley and Old Swan Lane used to run down to a set of waterfront wharves but have since been swallowed by the footprint of two enormous office blocks, 1 Angel Lane and Riverbank House. The former replaced BT mega-switchroom Mondial House a few years ago and is home to Barclaycard and Japanese bank Nomura (who were proud enough to invite Open House-rs to their 1 acre roof terrace in 2017). The pedestrianised boulevard separating the two used to be an alley called Angel Passage but is now a stripe of sanitised public realm with benches that hardly see any direct sunlight.
If you've ever wondered where the City of London's fire station is it's here, squished inbetween Nomura and Cannon Street platform 1.
An underused timber-clad footbridge provides a shortcut for Nomura employees trying to cross Upper Thames Street. It lands within a Bath stone colonnade on the northern side under a squarish office block called Governor's House (although I turned up while it was being jetwashed so wasn't allowed out). Londinium's governor lived here in what would have then been a prime riverside location, and Prudential's current HQ had to be built cautiously to avoid disturbing the foundations of the Roman palace underneath. The whorl of cobbled lanes nearby has a Georgian feel, courtesy of a few finely-decorated townhouses and a lamplit alley between two burial grounds. This is Laurance Pountney Hill, today more a ramp than any kind of contoured challenge, and belonged to yet another church that didn't survive 1666.
The District line runs just to the north under Cannon Street in a cut and cover tunnel, then swings beneath the mainline station and exits under Cloak Lane. Here in 1879 it encountered the graveyard of another Great Fire casualty, the church of St John the Baptist upon Walbrook, necessitating the collection of all the mortal remains in the railway's line of travel. Five years later they were reinterred in a vault topped with a classical monument, duly inscribed, which now finds itself in a grimy recess forming the tube station's fire exit. The view's not great but stand here for a few minutes and the sound of trains can clearly be heard not so very far below.
This part of the City is particularly densely populated with livery halls. At the top of Dowgate Hill is Tallow Chandlers Hall, home to the medieval livery company devoted to fat-based illumination, who've since reinvented themselves by embracing BP and other oil companies. Nextdoor is Skinners Hall, whose money originally came from treating skins and hides, and whose doorpost announces that the Worshipful Companies of Turners, Fuellers and Fanmakers are also based inside. Nextdoor to them is Dyers Hall, the bunch who now take responsibility for Swan Upping, and across College Street is Innholders Hall, which was originally for hostellers rather than publicans. Of these the Tallow Chandlers have the best decorated entrance, the Innholders have the best sign and the Skinners have by far the best address, which is 8½ Dowgate Hill.
Dowgate's last church standing is St Michael Paternoster Royal at the foot of College Hill, rebuilt by Wren (and again after a V1 strike). Its most famous parishioner was Richard Whittington, the panto-friendly four-time Mayor of London who the local blue plaques refuse to describe as Dick. He lived a few doors up the lane and was buried beside the altar, although last time the tomb was opened they didn't find his body, only that of a mummified cat. The parklet alongside the church, opened on a neglected bomb site in 1960, unsurprisingly bears the name Whittington Garden. This hosts a strange pair of identical statues donated by the Italian government, allegedly depicting a rider on horseback, plus a bubbling fountain... perhaps evoking when this used to be the Roman riverbank.
(and just four wards to go)
posted 07:00 :
Monday, July 19, 2021100 ways to boost your herd immunity on Freedom Day
(because if only 1% of the population has Covid, then 99 of these are totally safe)
1) Lick a pensioner.
2) Attend a children's party.
3) Leave the car at home and cram onto public transport this morning.
4) Ceremonially burn the face covering you haven't been wearing for the last few months anyway.
5) Unpin that "actually I'm exempt" badge from your jacket.
6) Uninstall the Test & Trace app because it's finally working properly.
7) Book a foreign holiday safe in the knowledge that quarantine can't be reimposed soon.
8) Throw all your lateral flow tests in the recycling.
9) Go to the cinema and sit immediately behind someone who looks nervous.
10) Ignore that niggling shortness of breath because it's not an official symptom.
11) Find a nightclub that opens at midnight and get yourself on the floor.
12) Reacquaint yourself with the delights of bar service.
13) Stop getting tested, because if nobody tests there won't be any cases.
14) Sit down next to a fellow rail passenger with a satisfying plop.
15) Organise an end-of-term school trip to a local care home.
16) Finally gather the entire family together for roast turkey and all the trimmings.
17) Be sure to rip down any lingering "stay 2m apart" signs you find while out and about.
18) Jog to your local supermarket, then pant a lot by the entrance.
19) Reinstall Tinder so you can get back out there and spread yourself.
20) Head into the office rather than cowering in safety in your spare room.
21) Join the mourners at a nearby funeral and elbow your way into the second row.
22) Go round and shut all the windows upstairs on the bus.
23) Assume the "please wear a mask" sign by the shop door can now be ignored.
24) Head to Chequers and jeer over the security fence.
25) Buy advance tickets for a gig repeatedly postponed since March 2020.
26) You feel really safe now, so why not spend prolonged time with a vulnerable individual?
27) Remember it's your civic duty to support local businesses now the Chancellor isn't.
28) Stop feeling so nervous about everything, you big wimp.
29) Meet all your friends indoors rather than outside in the nice sunny park.
30) Sneeze over an elderly relative so they can get sick while the hospitals are less busy.
31) Don't get vaccinated yet because the government might increase the incentives later.
32) Think how cool it would be to be patient zero for a brand new variant.
33) Stop washing your hands because that was ridiculous nanny state behaviour.
34) Remember, the economy needs you to think you're invincible.
35) Say 'yes' to everything, life's too short.
36) Support inner city hospitality because they've been waiting 16 months for you to come back.
37) Uninstall Zoom because meetings are always much more productive in person.
38) Remember you can't catch it twice, even though this in unproven.
39) Sit on the bus proudly announcing you haven't been vaccinated, even if you have.
40) Throw caution to the wind because surely things can't get any worse.
41) You're still alive, so the disease's fatality rate must have been exaggerated.
42) Let's laugh at all the hypochondriacs overseas still behaving cautiously.
43) If your chin feels empty now you're not wearing a mask, grow a beard.
44) Now we've proved Covid was a hoax, why not join the Flat Earth Society?
45) We're all going to have to lock down again in September, so get out and party now.
46) Stop worrying that everyone else might be infected because only some of them are.
47) Pledge to cheer all the big Olympic finals down the pub.
48) You must be sick of the UK by now so get on a plane out as soon as you can.
49) A trip to the cinema is a good way to find out if you really are 'extremely vulnerable'.
50) Relaxation is irreversible so book your Xmas party now.
51) If the PM can do what the hell he likes, why shouldn't you?
52) It's about time we prioritised the impatient over the incautious.
53) Freedom to overburden the NHS is at the heart of what it means to be British.
54) We can save more jobs if you stop jogging and go back to the gym.
55) When the next election comes round, remember Labour wouldn't have freed you so soon.
56) Killing off the rest of the elderly should solve the UK's social care crisis.
57) Let's put QR codes back in the Dark Ages where they belong.
58) Ending all regulations can't possibly be worse than what's gone before.
59) Lots of these people will just die of flu this winter, so why not a few months early?
60) It's much safer abroad, so protect yourself by booking a holiday there.
61) Reacquaint yourself with the thrills and smells of peak-time commuting.
62) If they haven't been vaccinated it's their own fault.
63) Follow the Health Secretary's lead by lowering your guard and attending face to face meetings.
64) We just need to learn to live with it, or die trying.
65) If herd immunity's a myth, we can only prove that by embracing it.
66) If you get pinged, claim you're on a special trial and carry on regardless.
67) Now's a great time to join a choir, the larger the better.
68) A 'request' to wear a face covering is even more easily ignored.
69) Thousands more deaths are a small price to pay for going to festivals again.
70) Make it a challenge to see how many people you can sit next to in a day.
71) They'll cut your local bus service if you don't start using it again.
72) So long as everyone else continues to exercise caution, you don't need to.
73) The risk from poor ventilation indoors must be at its lowest during a heatwave.
74) It's been too long since you interacted with 100s of random strangers daily.
75) If we all infect each other and force another lockdown, Boris will surely have to resign.
76) Best go back to the office even if you feel unwell or they'll think you're workshy.
77) What we really need is some good old-fashioned British recklessness.
78) There's no point holding big events again if nobody's going to go.
79) Long Covid is an illusion so long as it happens to someone else.
80) This country never got to be great without taking the occasional risk.
81) If we're lucky it might last long enough for us to go watch the new Bond film.
82) It's not proper freedom until you've broken a few rules.
83) Hospitalisations are still rising, so best unlock now before they reach their peak.
84) Assume you had it months ago without realising and then act accordingly.
85) The most important thing is to ease the future tax burden as quickly as possible.
86) It was only ever guidance, and now it's not even that.
87) Technically the risk from climate change is much greater, so refocus your angst.
88) The most important freedom is that the government can do whatever it likes.
89) Rip off your mask and return to the joys of shopping unmuzzled.
90) The only danger at a big wedding reception is that your suit no longer fits.
91) It is safe out there - the Prime Minister's out of circulation for a week.
92) It's finally OK to stop tutting about mask non-compliance.
93) The rabid unlockers only need a few weeks of freedom to see the folly of their ways.
94) The government didn't cause what happens next, you just weren't careful enough.
95) Everyone needs to spend every night this week down the pub.
96) If we play our cards right we could infect the entire country in a week.
97) Celebrate Freedom Day by hugging a stranger, preferably several.
98) We can't expect people to follow rules forever.
99) Use personal judgement.
100) Exercise common sense.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, July 18, 2021Some tube stations really stand out.
This is Blackhorse Road on the outer reaches of the Victoria line. A few years ago you'd have been hard pushed to spot it from a distance, but a cluster of highrise housing has arisen alongside and now you can't miss it. Availability of post-industrial land provided the ideal opportunity to cram in thousands of homes, and all within easy commuting distance of central London, so up it's shot.
The key to explosive upward development is a well-connected station serving an unfulfilled catchment. Here it's because only one side of Blackhorse Road has terraced streets and the other's reservoirs, playing fields and industrial units, with a paucity of residents that's helped make this the least used station on the Victoria line. But in the 21st century that's an opportunity rather than a setback, so come live in Blackhorse Mills, Blackhorse Yard or Blackhorse Point and hey presto, the skyline erupts.
It's happening near me at Bromley-by-Bow, another station stunted by the River Lea with previous development on one side only. But in the 21st century even a small brownfield footprint is a valuable thing, so a strip of land between the river and the A12 is exchanging scrappy businesses for residential accommodation. The old hospital site overlooking platform 1 was first to gain a lofty tower, creating a landmark visible from afar, and a lot more are currently going up across the road.
There ought to be a name for this kind of thing, like Station Focused Development, Highrise Transit Hubs or Modal Landmark Clusters. But where are the best examples in London? I'm thinking particularly of isolated suburban residential peaks that stand out on the horizon, where recent turbo-charged residential development is solely because they have a station at their heart. You can already spot Blackhorse Road and Bromley-by-Bow stations from afar, so where else?
Canning Town definitely qualifies. This is another backwater Lea Valley station dragged screaming into estate agent heaven when the Jubilee line arrived and opened up all that lovely brownfield alongside. It now boasts three separate residential monsters - Hallsville Quarter overlooking the A13, City Island on a bend in Bow Creek and the latest curtain wall alongside Silvertown Way branded the Brunel Street Works. Every available scrap of space matters because excellent connectivity breeds maximum massing, and it's all very obvious from a distance.
Colindale very much counts, a zone 4 outpost that's increasingly reimagined itself as a highrise neighbourhood. This image is from a TfL consultation document for a new station building, and clearly shows a sea of older housing surrounding an island of modern flats. Developers have merrily knocked down loads of old buildings to create a residential peak focused on a Northern line station, I'd say with miserably little character, but it certainly stands out.
North Acton is another candidate, possibly the most demoralising cluster of upward real estate that can be blamed on proximity to a tube station. A grim canyon of flats now greets those alighting from the Central line, some of whom call a small elevated box home. The only bright spot was The Castle pub, which is now to be demolished and replaced by further student towers. The image below shows One West Point, a twin-pronged aberration currently under construction whose tallest building will have 54 storeys and exceed the height of Wembley's arch. Not all Station Focused Development is positive.
Tottenham Hale must be on the list, with an ever growing forest of flats on the Lea-ward flank of the station. Pontoon Dock DLR might also count, its car park recently transformed into taller than average towers. Stratford's sort of got it, although the cluster of mega-towers by the station is diluted somewhat by mega-towers elsewhere. Elephant & Castle's not suburban enough to be a proper example, and I won't be counting Nine Elms either. But Lewisham is very much heading this way, Ilford's trying and Abbey Wood might just tip over.
A century ago in Metro-land swathes of residential avenues were a deliberate consequence of station-building. Today we're filling in the gaps by building upwards where stations have yet to meet their full potential. If you can see it from a distance, the developers have already triumphed.
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