If you've explored all your local area can offer and are in need of exciting new horizons, I'm pleased to say a thrillingly unfamiliar neighbourhood has opened up south of the Thames. It's called Bermondsey (Ber-Mun-Sea... the 'd' is silent) and visitors from North London are not only welcome, they'll find much to inspire and surprise.
Bermondsey has been lurking unseen to the southeast of Tower Bridge for at least the last year, possibly longer. Legend has it that the area has medieval roots and considerable industrial heritage, but today it's the modern aesthetic that really hits home. With so much to explore and engage, Bermondsey makes an ideal day trip for North Londoners nudging out of social hibernation.
The area defined as Bermondsey is somewhat nebulous but easily reached from familiar haunts north of the river. Simply cross Tower Bridge, head down the steps towards Shad Thames and keep going past all those slightly posh restaurants, you'll be there sooner than you think. Some say the dividing line is St Saviour's Dock, the mouth of the former Neckinger river, whose footbridge has an emergency panic button should you ever find yourself trapped after hours.
One of the most exciting things about Bermondsey is that you can see North London from the foreshore, silently suggesting it's been there all this time tantalisingly out of reach. Better still the waterfront at Wapping is perfectly illuminated by direct sunlight whereas looking the other way for the last twelve months has always meant squinting into the glare.
King Edward III liked Bermondsey so much that he built a manor house here, unquestionably one of the top attractions for history buffs hereabouts. There's much to enjoy on site including a large green lawn beside a row of council houses, the vague footprint of three ashlar walls and an information panel outlining everything you can't see here any more. Then when your two minutes exploring the ruins are finished it's simplicity itself to pop into The Angel pub opposite for evocative liquid refreshment (regulations permitting).
If your own local park has become overfamiliar over the last year don't worry, Bermondsey has another. That's Southwark Park, a proper recreational space with ornamental lake, tennis courts and a lot of grass. Take a stroll along promenades overhung by plane trees, bag up after your dog by the flowerbeds or rock up with a set of weights and grunt through a workout in the bandstand.
Bermondsey was once important enough to have its own town hall, an imposing classical building since turned into lovely flats. It was also once trendsetting enough to have its own spa and pleasure gardens based around a spring bursting forth from the aforementioned lost river. Various streets and greenspaces retain the name, including the bright and blossomy Bermondsey Spa Gardens, but healing waters are no longer available.
Food and drink is at the heart of what Bermondsey has to offer, especially the artisan producers who flog their wares from arches underneath the railway viaduct. There's no better climax to a visit than downing a bottle of fruity spirits, grabbing a £4 sweet potato and goats cheese Scotch Egg or swallowing a tiny traybake kneaded by local thumbs. Just be warned that South Londoners already know all about Bermondsey's bijou refreshment cluster, not to mention who does the best noodles, so expect to queue.
Bermondsey High Street is generally acknowledged to be the place to hang out, not least for its art gallery and other cultural capital, but mainly because a lot of places sell a decent coffee. Do not be tempted to divert off to Bermondsey Square, an early 21st century attempt to create a vibrant outdoor destination alongside a boutique cinema, because it's mainly dead and even the icosahedra are peeling.
Bermondsey's iconic industrial heritage has long been celebrated by turning several former factories into premier places to live. The Biscuit Factory where Peek Freans held court is obviously the greatest of these, if nothing else for being the birthplace of the Bourbon and the Garibaldi. Living in the Alaska Factory must be more problematic for residents with a conscience because this is where Victorians used to turn seals into coats.
Making your way to Bermondsey needn't cost an arm and a leg, despite the presence of the River Thames blocking all direct access. The Jubilee line extension introduced a station on buzzing Jamaica Road, ideally connected for daytrippers from Stratford and the Isle of Dogs. Alternatively if you're lucky enough to have a car a tunnel was specially opened in 1908 connecting Limehouse to the eastern fringe. Walking through the tunnel is permitted but ill-advised for choking reasons, which is one reason Bermondsey remains unknown to so many north of the river.
Bermondsey really does have it all, so push your boundaries and make your way to pastures new to enjoy a completely different park, a completely different selection of hot beverages and a whole maze of alternative backstreets to walk around. You may develop a faint sense of déjà vu which makes you think you've been before, back when you went to other places regularly, but right now expect the sense of novelty to prove overwhelming.
Also coming soon, an exciting guide for South Londoners to the exciting neighbourhood they call Stepney.
The first 100 words of eight posts that weren't worth finishing...
Overlooking the A12 is a recent residential development called Lime Quarter. Its 20 storeys additionally overlook the Limehouse Cut which may explain the name, or else it's the lime-coloured glass they added to the exterior. A single thin orange panel also rises the full height of the building and when the sun's in the right place, around breakfast-time, a bright reflective stripe extends across the dual carriageway and all the cars passing through it briefly flash red like they're being scanned by a laser beam. I've only ever seen the phenomenon twice but alas I couldn't capture the moment of
One flank of Robin Hood Gardens, the Brutalist housing icon, remains semi-occupied alongside the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel. The other flank is long gone and re-arising as a greater number of non-concrete flats. But Robin Hood Millennium Green survives inbetween, a large lawn blessed with a mosaic fish and a substantial central mound. I wandered in freely and climbed the unkempt wooden staircase to the summit, revelling in the last vestiges of how Alison and Peter Smithson intended it to look, but the wall of doomed apartments was shielded behind a burst of leaves so I could only imagine
It seemed a good day to hit the beach, if that's what the pebbles at London Wharf on the east side of the Isle of Dogs count as. The tide was far enough out for me scrunch down the humpy slipway through a line of washed-up driftwood and plastic, joining one other soul on the stony expanse. A young family, well-wrapped and probably local, had taken up position at the far end of the bank of steps facing the North Greenwich aggregates terminal. There was space for dozens more but I suspect the off-piste location and the industrial panorama deters
Thames Clippers (I refuse to use their rebranded name) are running boat services again, which is good news because it’s finally possible to walk down their unlocked piers. I walked down the pier at Masthouse Terrace, ignoring the arrows taped to the floor because nobody else was around, and bobbed briefly beside the embarkation point. I couldn't tell if a boat was due because no paper timetable had been provided and the electronic display had no data. Two different fare posters were on display so I assumed it was the more expensive one and no way am I paying £7.70
At Canary Wharf the astroturf piazza where the free crazy golf course was located last summer has been taken over by something much more profitable, namely an outdoor gym. Two large black tents have been erected, the neighbouring skyscraper conveniently shielding everyone from the bitter wind. One contains sweaty cyclists pedalling furiously, optimally spaced, while in the other a man shouts loudly to encourage the wielding of weights. The organisers call it WOD (or workout of the day), please arrive 15 minutes early to be temperature scanned, sorry no toilets, you MUST complete the Health & Safety waiver prior to
You can tell unlockdown has begun because The Breakfast Club has queues again. For the last four months patrons have been content with takeaway but eight outdoor tables make all the difference and suddenly everyone wants a Bacon Butty in close proximity to a friend. A member of staff with a mask and a man-bun deals with walk-up customers, while two slight moped-riders encased in black helmets await receipt of the next pre-booked orders. Getting past is a pain because their chalkboard has been positioned opposite the entrance where everyone's gathering, attention focused on eggs and empty stomachs rather than
There was a right palaver back in June when the statue of slave trader Robert Milligan was removed from its plinth outside the Museum of Docklands. There's been less fuss about its replacement by a Pyramid of Love, a four-faced structure depicting a quartet of imaginary women, each a goddess representing a particular compass point. One's Celtic, one's Yoruban, one's Indigenous and one's dressed as a rabbit. It’s on a year-long loan to the Tower Hamlets chapter of the Canal & River Trust, highlighting post-colonialism and shining a light on those silenced and erased through patriarchal oppression, which is obviously
A measure of collective social deprivation is that friends are willing to clamber into a circular boat and set sail on the West India Dock in temperatures below ten degrees for the sake of a bring-it-yourself picnic. yesterday morning's group were excitable, loud and double-wrapped in hoodies, and had paid £150 for the opportunity. I counted at least nine in the boat, which according to the FAQ is only permitted if the occupants are from two households which this group of giggly teens definitely weren't. Whoever described this as "the most unique outdoor experience in London" is clearly an utter
• "enjoy your new freedoms but be wary" (PM)
• Step 2: non-essential shops reopen
• Step 2: outdoor hospitality reopens
• millions flock to hairdressers, high streets & pubs
• surge testing for SA variant in south London
• "lockdown more effective than vaccines" (PM)
• jabs opened up to 45-49 year-olds
• hospital waiting lists at record length
• Scotland allows travel and outdoor meets
• cases in Canada overtaking US
• OK to give vaccine to pregnant women
• only 30 mourners at Prince Philip's funeral
Worldwide deaths: 2,920,000 → 3,000,000 Worldwide cases: 135,000,000 → 140,000,000 UK deaths: 127,080 → 127,260 UK cases: 4,368,045 → 4,385,938 Vaccinations: 32,010,244 → 32,693,527 FTSE: up 2% (6915 → 7019)
London's six fare zones don't physically exist, they only have meaning at stations. It's not possible to draw a line round the edge of zone 4 in real life, only on a tube map, because no definitive dividing line exists.
But someone had to allocate all the stations in the first place so there is a rationale, evolved over the years, to help define how much your journey ought to cost. And although no official zonal map exists TfL do have a datafile which allocates every neighbourhood in London to one of the six zones. Here's what it looks like if you plot the dots and colour them in.
Note: consider these 'nominal' fare zones based on census output areas. In reality the fare zones used by TfL are defined by certain stations or points along each lines. Therefore official fare zone areas do not exist. However, this is what you get when you use the data.london.gov.uk output areas to fare zones file.
Note that only areas where people live and work are coloured. Parks and woodland remain blank, so for example the enormous white space to the southwest is Richmond Park.
The end result is a squished collection of concentric rings, fairly regular in the centre but increasingly anomalous as they extend towards the boundary because Greater London isn't an ellipse.
Zone 1 covers central London and was formed during the aftermath of the GLC's Fares Fair campaign in the 1980s. It stretches from Notting Hill to Aldgate (west to east) and King's Cross to Vauxhall (north to south). It's about five miles wide and three miles deep. Very little of zone 1 is south of the Thames. The fact it's bean-shaped rather than circular influences all the zones that follow.
Zone 2 was meant to extend three miles from the edge of zone 1. It pretty much does but constricts to two miles around Putney and extends to four towards Lewisham. Mostly by coincidence the northern edge of zone 2 roughly follows the official dividing line between Inner and Outer London. Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets are all (almost exclusively) zone 1/2 boroughs.
Zone 3 notionally extends another three miles beyond zone 2. Its narrowest point is probably around Willesden in Brent and its widest point at Beckton in Newham. Haringey and Newham are almost exclusively zone 3 boroughs. The map does not reflect the eastward nudge introduced in 2016 when Stratford and other stations in the Lower Lea Valley were blurred into an overlapping zone 2/3.
Zone 4 is supposed to extend another three miles beyond zone 3, but the edge is now somewhat irregular. Zone 4 is thinnest to the west of Thornton Heath where zone 3 simply dissolves into zone 5. Zone 4 is thickest along the eastern Central line because the entire Hainault Loop was placed in the same zone in 2007 (for political not geographical reasons), making Redbridge the only proper zone 4 borough. Zone 4 also touches the edge of London at Worcester Park between Kingston and Sutton (this being the closest point on the Greater London boundary to Charing Cross).
Zone 5 is the first zone to look distinctly irregular. It's at its narrowest around Bexleyheath, Norbiton and Cockfosters and at its widest in northwest and southeast London. Harrow, Barking & Dagenham and Sutton are predominantly zone 5 boroughs.
Zone 6 was split off from zone 5 in 1991 so doesn't follow the "three miles further out" rationale. It covers a lot of rural London (as you can see from the lack of dots on the map) as well as large towns like Uxbridge, Orpington and Romford. Hillingdon and Havering are predominantly zone 6 boroughs, being the farthest western and eastern slices of the capital. Zone 6 is a lot thinner across north London than it is across south London.
The irregularity of fare zones matters because some parts of London are getting a much better deal than others. The luckiest souls are those in Redbridge on the Central line - ten miles from zone 1 but only paying zone 4 prices. Towns beyond the Greater London boundary in Essex fare even better. Meanwhile the most unfortunate residents are those in Kingston to the southwest of London where zone 6 bends deliberately inwards forcing everyone to pay more. Note how one side of Richmond Park is in zone 3 and the other is in zone 6, skipping zones 4 and 5 altogether.
It can't be fair that Epping and Kingston are both in zone 6 but one's twice as far away as the other. It can't be fair that zone 6 kicks in quicker if you go south than if you go east or west. It can't be fair that Richmond's closer to central London than Beckton but one's in zone 4 and the other's in zone 3. But it's no good sitting there with your angry hat on because none of this is likely to change.
Zones 4, 5 and 6 can't be nudged outwards in Richmond and Kingston because that'd significantly reduce fare revenue. Likewise zones 4, 5 and 6 can't be tugged inwards in Redbridge because that'd suddenly make commuting a lot more expensive. If the zones weren't right in the first place it's nigh impossible to change them now, however much an armchair expert might disagree. The anomalies on the fare zone map play out every day, but my word don't the rings look pretty.
Boroughs by zone 1: City of London 1/2: Camden, Hackney, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Tower Hamlets, Westminster 1/2/3: Lambeth, Southwark 2: Hammersmith and Fulham 2/3: Wandsworth 2/3/4: Brent, Lewisham 3: Haringey, Newham 3/4: Greenwich, Merton 3/4/5: Barnet, Ealing, Waltham Forest 3/4/5/6: Croydon, Hounslow, Richmond upon Thames 4: Redbridge 4/5: Barking and Dagenham 4/5/6: Bexley, Bromley, Enfield, Harrow, Kingston upon Thames, Sutton 5/6: Hillingdon 6: Havering
I have been playing yetanother numberplate spotting game, and this one's taken months.
Back in September I introduced you to Reverse Chronological Number Plate Spotting, a game using the two-digit age identifiers on current UK registrationplates. The idea was to spot a 70, then a 20, then 19, 68, 18, 67, 17, 66 etc all the way back to 03, 52, 02, 51.
AB 70 ABC
WY 51 WYG
I have played the game several times since. It normally takes a couple of days, but I once completed it in two and half hours round the backstreets of Newham.
I also mentioned an alternative version using the single letter age identifiers issued to vehicles between 1983 and 2001. The idea was to spot a Y, then an X, W, V etc all the way back to C, B, A.
Y 123 ABC
A 789 KLF
I have played the game regularly since. It normally takes just under a week, but I once completed it in three days and another time it took a fortnight.
In November I decided to combine the two games, first spotting all the numbers from 70 back to 51, then all the letters from Y back to A. It took about a week. This meant I had seen all the number plate age identifiers from 2020 back to 1983 in reverse chronological order.
I then made the mistake of carrying on. I've seen all the letters from Y back to A at the start of numberplates, I thought, now I'll try to spot them at the end.
ABC 123 Y
DVL 666 A
And this has taken me five months.
The first problem was that the game involves seriously old vehicles, those first registered between 1963 and 1983, and there aren't many of those left on the road. If I saw four of them on a daily walk I was doing well.
The second problem is that personalised numberplates do not extend back this far. Anyone can buy a single letter prefix so there are a lot more of these on the road than there ought to be, but you cannot buy a single letter suffix so they remain very rare.
This is a game where very little happens. Even if you do spot a rare suffix registration it probably isn't the one you want (probability = 20 to 1 against), so I was only averaging about one success a week.
Sometimes I got lucky, like when I saw W, V and T all parked very close together in Milton Avenue, East Ham. At other times I didn't see the letter I wanted for over a month. K proved particularly frustrating - I saw 9 different Ls while I was waiting to see a K.
But playing the long game also allowed me to speed things up. I knew quite early on there was an M parked in a street near Columbia Road so after spotting N all I had to do was head back. But I had no idea where an H, G or F were, so for those I was reliant on stumbling upon a lucky parking space or a random vintage vehicle driving by.
The letter that lingered longest was B, which took 40 days from when I saw C on a Mini in Mile End in early March. I'd almost given up hope but on Wednesday hey, the redundant Routemasters outside West Ham Garage included seven of them! I then knew there was an A parked outside a vicarage in East Ham (these vehicles tend not to get driven very often) and hey presto, I'd finally completed my list.
But I've still only got back as far as 1963, the year registration letters were first introduced. How much further could I go?
Registration numbers were initially a bit of a free for all, issued locally according to demand. Before 1963 they tended to involve three letters and up to three digits, first in that order and then the reverse.
The very earliest plates had one or two letters followed by up to four digits, then when those ran out they reversed the order so it was numbers followed by digits.
So to continue playing my game I've decided I need to look for the following character patterns.
123 ABC → 12 ABC → 1 ABC → ABC 123 → ABC 12 → ABC 1 → 1234 AB → 123 AB → 12 AB → 1 AB → AB 1234 → AB 123 → AB 12 → AB 1 → 1234 A → 123 A → 12 A → 1 A → A 1234 → A 123 → A 12 → A 1
This isn't perfect Reverse Chronological Number Plate Spotting but it'll have to do. So far I have seen 217 CLT on a bus and I am now looking for two digits followed by three letters. I do not recommend you try this. I may not even bother myself.
More to the point my original game of Reverse Chronological Number Plate Spotting is technically incomplete. I started back in November with a 70, but by the time I finished in April they'd introduced 21 and I never included one of those. The only response is to start again and hope I can finish the sequence before 71 is introduced in September.
21 70 20 69 19 68 18 67 17 66 16 65 15 64 14 63 13 62 12 61 11 60 10 59 09 58 08 57 07 56 06 55 05 54 04 53 03 52 02 51 Y X W V T S R P N M L K J H G F E D C B A Y X W V T S R P N M L K J H G F E D C B A
I started playing again on Wednesday, immediately after spotting my final suffix A, and I'm already looking for prefix V. That means after two days I'm already over halfway through the list... but it'll likely be several more months before I reach the end.
Bless you if you have read this far. Rest assured I am not playing any other unblogged numberplate games, so hopefully that's your lot.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 1
London's beloved Routemaster bus will never again operate in passenger service. The rear-platformed workhorse had a good run but alas TfL have confirmed the heritage service will not be returning. The last surviving route was put on hold last year at the start of the pandemic and now it turns out this suspension is to be made permanent. It's just another victim of the financial cuts that have afflicted London's transport network during lockdown, only in this case we know it's definitely not coming back. Farewell sturdy workhorse of the streets.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 2
The Routemaster's nemesis Ken Livingstone removed them from everyday service in 2005, citing progress and the accessibility agenda, but TfL retained two special heritage routes to help silence the critics. One was route 9 between Strand and the Royal Albert Hall and the other was route 15 between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill. Fully accessible normal buses continued to operate alongside, maintaining full step-free access, so these were very much tourist-facing extras. But the service on route 9H was withdrawn in 2014 and although route 15H lingered until 2019 it won't be coming back.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 3
A TfL spokesperson has confirmed that services on route 15H have been discontinued. Reasons include "falling ridership on the Central London network", they said, and "because it is the only part of the fleet that does not provide step-free access." They also added that "the heritage service on route 15H is not required for capacity purposes and does not provide any unique links", so it wasn't just one single reason which scuppered the service. Running an infrequent shuttle for tourists who aren't here and may not be coming back simply wasn't an option.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 4
The first Routemaster in passenger service, codenamed RM1, made its inaugural journey between Golders Green and Crystal Palace on Wednesday 8th February 1956. The last Routemaster in passenger service, codenamed RM1933, made its final journey between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill on Sunday 29th September 2019. That's 63 years of service on the streets of the capital which is a phenomenal record and unlikely ever to be beaten.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 5
Heritage Routemaster services on route 15 were gradually reduced over time to save money. Initially they operated daily from 9.30am to 6.30pm at 15 minute intervals, but in 2015 this was reduced to every 20 minutes between 10am and 6pm. This enabled the service to be operated with fewer vehicles given that fewer of the fleet were now roadworthy. In 2019 TfL reduced the days of operation to weekends and bank holidays only, and only between March and September. But after one summer season the buses went into hibernation on 29th September 2019 and the pandemic ensured they didn't emerge as planned on 28th March 2020... and never will again.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 6
The last full year of heritage Routemaster services cost TfL £1,293,270. In 2019 the cost was reduced to £808,258 when the contract was cut to six months, weekends only. Had route 15H operated last year it would have cost £808,258 but TfL saved that money, plus they've also now saved 2021's £825,243 and a lot more six-figure sums going forward. It's all a drop in the ocean compared to the shortfall created by fewer passengers, but it has "made the best use of resources" and helped TfL "make our core network services financially sustainable for the future".
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 7
Hey, TfL may have removed the last red Routemasters from our streets but that doesn't mean you'll never ride one again. Numerous afternoon tea merchants employ Routemasters to ship cupcakes and prosecco around the capital so you can always pay to ride one of those, or maybe next time you're off to a wedding the best man will have hired Routemasters all round. Several private tour companies also exist, even if they want you to spend £24 rather than the £1.50 it used to cost because that's lack of subsidies for you. So don't lose heart, the private sector has saved the day, ding ding.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 8
The fleet of Routemasters which used to operate heritage route 15 have been based at Stagecoach's West Ham Garage since 2009. If you stand on the bend in Stephenson Street you can see all ten buses lined upagainst the fence. Many show 15 Out Of Service on their blinds, one still thinks it's on route 8 and one displays the message Happy Retirement. The oldest of the ten is parked separately and looks like it's been cannibalised for spares to keep the rest on the road. It's not clear what the bus company will do with these vehicles, but they may now be available for special events and private hire.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 9
I looked through the fence and the ten redundant Routemasters are (from left to right) RM324 (WLT 324) [born 1960], RM2050 (ALM 50B) [born 1964], RM871 (WLT 871) [born 1962], RM652 (WLT 652) [born 1962], RM2060 (ALM 60B) [born 1964], RM2071 (ALM 71B) [born 1964], RM1933 (ALD 933B) [born 1964], RM2089 (ALM 89B) [born 1964], RM1941 (ALD 941B) [born 1964], RM1968 (ALD 968B) [born 1964]. Anyone with a spotters notebook could tick the whole lot off, but the fence is not good for photography so don't rush down with your camera.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 10
I announced that Routemasters had been discontinued last Thursday, but only because Twitter user @goldenarrw
alerted me to it. Tim Dunn announced that Routemasters had been discontinued on Monday, but only because Cliff emailed him about it. The Guardian announced that Routemasters had been discontinued on Tuesday, but only because they'd seen Tim's tweet. The Evening Standard and Time Out announced the news yesterday and the BBC ran a two-part report on the local news last night, but like the rest of us only because they were nudged. The lapdog media haven't announced the news because they only regurgitate TfL's press releases and TfL have no intention of officially announcing this. The original confirmation in fact emerged on Wednesday last week as the result of an FoI request, otherwise we'd all be none the wiser, so many thanks to Larry for asking the question in the first place.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 11
To the list of things the pandemic has killed off we can now add the humble Routemaster. Like Debenhams they were nice to have but fundamentally unnecessary, so have been unceremoniously withdrawn earlier than they might have been. In normal times we'd have kicked up a fuss, maybe even sent a rude reply to a public consultation, but there was no consultation just a bald economic decision in the early days of lockdown that's turned out to be permanent. We've grown to accept the death of public services because we recognise finances are tight and hard decisions need to be made, but we need to be careful not to throw out everything that makes society special.
The last Routemasters have run in passenger service 12
London's classic red Routemaster bowed out eighteen months ago without anybody noticing because nobody knew a virus was going to kill it off. The enthusiasts taking videos on the day the buses went into winter hibernation unwittingly scored footage of a veteran leaving the stage for the very last time, not with a bang but with a whimper. It's sad if not entirely unexpected, as an icon of the road turns out to have vanished with inappropriately minimal fuss. So don't head to Tower Hill in the hope of hopping on a rear platform this weekend because all you'll find are normal buses that don't look quite so impressive on a postcard.
London has seven strategic walking routes, namely the Capital Ring, London Loop, Thames Path, Lea Valley Walk, Green Chain, Jubilee Walkway and Jubilee Greenway, ideal for exploring the capital and encouraging healthy exercise. But why stop at seven?
Which is why the London Ramblers have come up with six new walking routes and would like to persuade the next Mayor to make them a reality. Not only do they connect disparate green spaces but they're also intended to link up with the previous routes to create a more joined-up network. All would need proper signage and some also would need additional infrastructure so they can't just be magicked into existence. But if only we knew where all six were we could go out now and shadow them prematurely. Thankfully there's a map.
In west London there's the Forgotten Rivers Walk and Counter's Creek (which is also a forgotten river), and in southeast London the Southern Rivers Link. Then in my neck of the woods there's the Five Boroughs Link, Great Eastern Parks and the Romford Greenway. They're a motley six but they do create new radial links and could well be enticing, if only we could tell precisely where they go. Thankfully there's a better map.
The better map is also available as a 5MB pdf and is something of a cartographical treasure trove. Not only does it include the original seven and proposed six, but also numerous other walking trails like the Celandine Route, Dollis Valley Green Walk, Vanguard Way and Epping Forest Centenary Walk. I had to look up a couple I'd never heard of before. The map confirms that the new routes generally start and finish at an existing route, although not necessarily anywhere near a station. And although you can zoom in a lot to see excellent detail, it's still not clear enough to be able to follow the routes on the ground. So I tried making my own map.
Mine's not a good map. It's nowhere near as accurate as the Ramblers map which is full of intricate wiggles, but that's because they know exactly where the new routes go and I've had to guess. I'm almost convinced I've got the three East London routes very roughly right, but the further in you zoom the less good it gets, and the other three routes include wildly approximate speculation. Trust none of it because I'm not in on the facts, but it might give you a rough idea of what's being proposed.
Forgotten Rivers "A route that reveals rivers obscured by years of development. The River Fleet route connects Hampstead Heath with the Thames Path, while the Silk Stream trail links the Heath to the London LOOP at High Barnet, exploring the greener outskirts of London, past St Pancras Old Church and alongside the Regents Canal and across the Capital Ring through modern redevelopment of Brent Cross."
A walking route that follows the Fleet valley from the Thames to Hampstead Heath is a great idea, even if it repeatedly deviates from the lost river in favour of more appropriate walking territory. It looks like it might then tick off the hidden pergola on the West Heath before, ah, crossing North Cricklewood and Brent Cross (which may be nicer in a few years but is utterly miserable now). This is all to reach the Silk Stream river through Burnt Oak before a perverse break for the remote valleys beyond Mill Hill. Getting public transport home from the end point on the London Loop may prove difficult.
Counter’s Creek "Follows the path of a hidden river along the boundary between Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea to take in 2 of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries at Kensal Green and Brompton and linking up with the Thames Path, Putney and Wimbledon Commons, the Capital Ring and the London Loop."
I've walked Counter's Creek before and it's mostly railway so this may not be the most enticing of strolls. But the route depicted on the map goes a lot further than the river, bolting on a hike through Willesden and Neasden to the north and a much lengthier hike south of the Thames. I can see the merits of crossing Putney Heath and Wimbledon but I am far less convinced by a lengthy extension across Merton to Old Malden just to meet up with the London Loop. This may of course be because I have not yet managed to work out precisely where it goes. But it's still a poor choice of name.
Great Eastern Parks "A west-east trail following the line of the Great Eastern Railway from the eastern edge of City of London to the Lea Valley and beyond, linking up existing parks and incorporating new green space to be created as part of the redevelopment of the old Bishopsgate Goodsyard."
In my experience walking routes with multiple starting points are far less satisfying than those which are linear. One arm of 'Great Eastern Parks' heads from Shoreditch to Mile End and relies heavily on the Bishopsgate Goodsyard being developed, which is years off. The other western arm is essentially just Mile End Park, which at least is green. Victoria Park and the Olympic Park form the central link, which I'm blasé about because it's so local but they're a cracking choice. Where things get strange is out east. One arm follows the Leaway which, as I've repeatedly blogged, has the scuzziest of detours between Cody Dock and Canning Town. If I read the map correctly it's then forced to deviate wildly round Bow Creek because that DLR footbridge I moaned about last week isn't open. And I cannot make head nor tail of the eastern arm which appears to meander across a park-free slice of Newham before terminating nowhere green just short of the Thames. It'd be a pretty miserable end.
Five Boroughs Link "A wander through Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Waltham Forest, from the Thames to hills and marshes through Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, parks, squares, historic streets, past medieval churches, cathedrals and museums."
This one sounds like they ran out of names, or any underlying rationale for the entire route. The two words in the description which most baffle me are "hills" (really?) and "cathedrals" (plural?). The western end covers Farringdon and Clerkenwell, which would be the teensiest bit of Westminster and Camden. The route then makes a deliberate attempt to shadow the Regent's Canal without ever following it. A central wiggle is needed to tick off Hackney Downs after London Fields. Then it's east to the Lea and a majestic sweep round Walthamstow Marshes, past the reservoirs, and somehow across Walthamstow past the villagey bit. The end is baffling, stopping at a quiet bit of the Epping Forest Centenary Walk which isn't even a waymarked route. The 5BL lacks cohesion.
Romford Greenway "A route that links parks and nature reserves near areas of green deprivation, connecting to the Olympic Park, Capital Ring and London Loop, roughly shadowing the line of CrossRail development in some places and journeying along the London Greenway in others, with attendant opportunities for new infrastructure and greening."
It's not the most appealing of names, especially for a route that doesn't actually go to Romford. Heading east the first target is Wanstead Flats, although there's a lot of road-walking to get there. Next it's lovely Wanstead Park and a fair chunk of the Roding Valley, not all of which is yet open. I think the route then ticks off Barking Park, Goodmayes Rec, Valence Park and the bonanza of open space in the Beam valley beyond Becontree, before following the Ravensbourne through Hornchurch to Harold Wood. These are green treasures I suspect most Londoners have never even heard of, let alone experienced. Of the six routes it's the walk I'd be most satisfied to complete.
Southern Rivers "Crossing Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley, this route links the Thames with the River Quaggy and the River Shuttle – crossing the Ravensbourne by way of the old Surrey Canal."
OK, here's what I reckon. Vauxhall Bridge, Kennington Park, Burgess Park... strong start. Surrey Canal Linear Park, excellent. Nunhead and Ladywell, maybe via the cemeteries. Prolonged pavement slog from Catford to Eltham. Several miles of the River Shuttle (whose Riverway path has long deserved a promotion). Nicely augments the Green Chain without repeating stuff. Eastern end possibly a bit remote. Useful addition to the strategic walk portfolio.
Again let me say that I don't really know what I'm talking about as the Ramblers' maps are vague and mine are worse, but it sounds like there's much here to look forward to. Just remember that you can already go out walking wherever you like, whenever you like, you don't need to wait for someone to tell you where to do it.
My 14th random ward was once the smallest - little more than the Guildhall and one street behind it. Recently it's spread further west, away from Basinghall Street, and also nudged north to the edge of the Barbican. The peculiar name comes from the Basing family who lived locally in the 13th century and filled the position of Lord Mayor of London twice. And I'm pleased to say that, unlike many other wards, Bassishaw merits a proper poke-around. [pdf map][8 photos]
Almost all of the Guildhall complex lies within Bassishaw, apart from the medieval hall and most of Guildhall Yard which are in Cheap. Unfortunately the yard continues to be commandeered for Covid testing so I had to skip the impressive side of the building and focus on the rear. The eastern flank on Basinghall Street has a reconstructed Gothic vibe and incorporates the Old Library and Art Gallery (whose basement Roman Amphitheatre is very much out of bounds at present). Elsewhere two more modern administrative blocks have been bolted on, the West Wing (concrete and glass) more recently than the North Wing (mostly brick).
The piazza out back, known as Three Nun Court, is less familiar. It includes a strikingly abstractglass fountain, currently drained, topped by what might be a slice of moon or a crab's claw. It's also where the church of St Michael Bassishaw used to be, at least until 1900 when the crypt was found to be unstable and the whole thing was demolished. The most impactful building rises up behind, its roof of scalloped concrete vaulting originally built to cover a subterranean exhibition hall. And because it was designed in the late 1960s it incorporates that most utopian of City features, an elevated 'highwalk', indeed Bassishaw is a properly pedwaytastic ward.
Bassishaw Highwalk climbs to cross Basinghall Street and then enters a raised garden between two office blocks. Its granite benches look better suited to a quick sandwich or a shifty cigarette rather than protracted relaxation, and one or two of its exits turn out to be dead ends. But three years ago it earned an additional lease of life with the construction of a jaunty metal highwalk slicing across London Wall, and from there a web of modern pedways links conveniently to the old. One even has a wiggle so it can dodge round the remains of St Alphage's church, or at least its tower, since converted into a low-level seating area. I've blogged all this before in glowing terms, but the Australian cafe alongside is new.
The dominant building to the north is Salters Hall, designed by Basil Spence (of Coventry Cathedral fame) and resembles a chunky salt crystal. It's worth dropping down to street level to explore its revamped environs which include a pristine terraced sunken garden, a reflective pool and a set of iron gates. The garden is laid out across what used to be a ditch just beyond the City wall, a fair stretch of which survives along one side, although most of it's a medieval repair job rather than the Roman original. As for the iron gates these spent 40 years in Watford after the Blitz prettifying a row of almshouses, and could only be cajoled back to Salters Hall once the council had been promised a replica.
The Salters aren't the only livery company with their livery hall in Bassishaw, although since the Haberdashers moved to Smithfield they are now the most senior. Pewterers Hall can be found in Oat Lane and somewhat resembles a postwar telephone exchange. Girdlers Hall is over on Basinghall Avenue, paid for out of the fortune that centuries of belt-making delivered, and looks similarly out of place. Brewers Hall on Aldermanbury Square is currently surrounded by scaffolding so that three new floors of revenue-boosting offices can be built on top. Be aware that all four of these halls are post-Blitz rebuilds of post-Fire rebuilds because the local area has burned repeatedly over the years. Indeed an inscription chiselled into the wall on Fore Street marks the spot where the first bomb to hit the City in the early hours of 25th August 1940.
Churches also suffered, to the point where Bassishaw no longer has a standing place of worship, only ruins and footprints. Most have been transformed into gardens, including St John Zachary, St Mary Staining, St Olave Silver Street and St Mary Aldermanbury. William Shakespeare was briefly a parishioner at St Olave's although it's St Mary Aldermanbury (in whose parish his Globe Theatre partners lived) that boasts a bust of the bard as its centrepiece. The largest surviving church remnant is the tower of St Alban's in Wood Street, a Wren original, subsequently transformed into a very thin private dwelling on an island in the centre of the road.
Whoever lives in the tower had better behave themselves because across the street is the current headquarters of the City of London Police - a micro-force watching over a small population but a large amount of financial activity. Vanfuls of oddly-helmeted coppers arrive and depart, off-duty officers gather in gardens for an off-site fag and a large van labelled Police Horses is the only clue that the mounted division has stables within. But I see plans are afoot to move everybody out to a fresh site off Fleet Street, the City's new Justice Quarter, where state-of-the art facilities and eighteen courtrooms would allow the force to rationalise its existing properties by using an adjacent commercial development to help pay for it all.
It's quiet enough around Bassishaw already, especially on a Sunday morning mid-pandemic. The foyers of multiple corporate bulwarks are ominously silent. Covid Marshals outside Guildhall Yard await non-existent throat-swabbers. Nobody's littered any churchyard benches with over-social leftovers. The Chartered Insurance Institute doesn't do weekends. Empty escalators rise towards long-decanted restaurants fronting Alban Gate. A man on pink rollerblades takes full advantage of the lack of footfall on Bastion Highwalk to film himself looping round in circles. It's a great time to come exploring if all you want to see is the neighbourhood, not the people.
It's finally here, the day we can all go back to pubs and restaurants and raise a glass outdoors with friends! After a long miserable winter of takeaways and sobriety it'll be great to meet up and make merry again.
But if you forgot to plan ahead you'll likely find that everything's already fully booked because everyone else had the same idea and space is limited. How gutting to be stuck at home today while all your mates are wide-eyed with alcoholic glee and uploading group selfies to social media.
That's where the brand new Cafe Bus Stop M comes into its own, welcoming lucky patrons to a cosmopolitan beer garden amid the glamour of roadside Bow. Top quality food and beverages will be available at extremely reasonable prices, served at dainty tables in the shadow of a medieval church, and best of all tickets aren't yet in short supply.
Pop-up bus stop cafes are the perfect response to the pandemic, conveniently located for the local population and easily accessible by public transport. And Bus Stop M is more perfect than most, cut adrift on an island behind a cycle superhighway so safely segregated from any heavy breathing pedestrians on the pavement.
Better still Bus Stop M has an exceptionallyelongated footprint, ideal for laying out a lengthy string of distanced chairs and tables. Chefs and bartenders will operate from the ventilated shelter at one end while punters quaff their ales and enjoy their snacks at the other. The experience will literally be street-food-tastic.
Food can be selected from a wide range of burgers, chicken dishes and potato-based sides. Salads and spicy veggie wraps will also be available, along with our signature hot apple pie for afters. Just tell us what you fancy when you arrive, or preorder using the bespoke Cafe M app and we'll have it ready.
If the menu looks familiar that's because we're sourcing our hot food from the nearby McDonalds drive-through. Installing a kitchen beside the A12 proved too challenging so instead a crack team on mopeds will collect your selection and ride it 200 metres up the pavement, safe in the knowledge that all our tables face the other way so you'll never see them doing it.
As for liquid refreshment all kinds of sparkling soft drinks will be available as well as the very finest siphoned tapwater. We have alas been unable to obtain a licence to serve alcohol, but have stashed a case of Becks under the bench in the shelter so will be pleased to slip you a surreptitious bottle on request.
Cafe Bus Stop M is just one of a number of TfL-funded temporary hospitality venues across the capital. Also opening today are the Roding Valley Restaurant, Trattoria Emerson Park and the New Addington Beer Terrace, all taking advantage of underused outdoor space and recouping valuable commercial income for a beleaguered public organisation.
Londoners can also enjoy a bottomless brunch on Blackfriars Pier, a Goblin-themed cocktail bar on platform 3 at Gospel Oak and an alfresco pizzeria in North Greenwich on the cablecar's upstairs terrace. Demand for the cordon bleu restaurant at the as-yet unopened Custom House Crossrail station is expected to be high.
But the capital's premier outdoor refreshment location this week is undoubtedly Cafe Bus Stop M, whose dozen tables are sure to attract the most influential diners. Book now to reserve your seat and don't forget to bring your foodie friends. Just remember not to arrive by bus as regrettably services will be non-stopping for the duration.
Why waste your first day of freedom by getting a haircut or visiting a freshly-opened non-essential shop? Make your way instead to Cafe Bus Stop M and don't be deterred by a forecast maximum of nine degrees and the threat of snow. Wrap up warm, bring your vaccine passport and head to Bow Road for the unlockdown experience of a lifetime.
Few events are as well planned for as the death of a major royal. However unexpected the timing, what happens in the hours and days after the announcement is strictly determined. It's no good moaning if you don't approve, it's going to happen anyway.
The Duke of Edinburgh's meticulous plan was given the codename Operation Forth Bridge. The pandemic has messed up the physical aspects, restricting the laying of floral tributes and the funeral procession, but the media response was textbook, right down to the TV newsreader donning ever-ready black clothing before informing the nation. In this case the palace sent out the news at noon and by ten past all normal programming had been suspended for the day.
BBC1/BBC2 Friday 9th April 2021
before 12.09 - normal programming
12.09 Announcement of death
12.10 National Anthem
12.11 Rolling news coverage
18.00 News at Six
19.00 Local News
19.30 Tribute programme 1
21.00 Tribute programme 2
22.00 News At Ten
22.45 Local News
23.00 The Papers
23.30 Tribute programme 2 (rpt)
BBC TV channels promptly combined (using a rarely seen brand ident) and then spent hours repeating the news that a 99 year-old man had died. Many of the inserts and documentaries will have been on the shelf, suitably updated, for many years. ITV also went full-on Philip for the rest of the day, whereas C4 and C5 were quicker to return to normal programming and minor Freeview channels continued as normal. Meanwhile the BBC's radio stations combined for a lengthy deferential news broadcast before unchallenging downbeat music was allowed to resume shortly after five o'clock.
All sorts of people complained. Where is my normal programming, they said. This is not want I want to watch and hear. I know the Prince is dead, I do not want to learn about his life again, even The One Show would be an improvement. Thankfully a wealth of catch-up and streaming was available, providing an escape that simply wouldn't have been available had Prince Philip died aged 89 instead, but grumpy people still felt culturally limited anyway.
In good news this really doesn't happen very often (as the appearance of Prince Albert in the following list confirms).
The last 10 deaths of British monarchs or consorts
2021: Prince Philip 2002: Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother 1972: King Edward VIII 1953: Queen Mary 1952: King George VI 1936: King George V 1925: Queen Alexandra 1910: King Edward VII 1901: Queen Victoria 1861: Prince Albert
The only other royal consort to die during the last six decades was the Queen Mother, and in her case relatively normal programming returned a few hours after the announcement. Princess Diana's death jolted the national psyche (and impacted broadcasting schedules) considerably more, but she'd left the royal family by then so never had a top level mourning plan. An event of Friday's magnitude occurs on average twice a generation, so take a breath and it'll all be over soon.
And all this is merely a rehearsal for the big one, the eventual death of Queen Elizabeth, which'll be nationally disruptive on a scale most alive today cannot imagine. Her plan is called Operation London Bridge, intricately detailed in this acclaimed Guardian article, and that's due to interrupt normality for nine historic days. Brace yourself for a long-planned volley of reverential retrospectives, whether you'd have done it differently or not. When the state broadcaster pauses to mourn the passing of the head of state, or her husband, best not be surprised.
• spectator-free Boat Race in Ely
• Covid passports to be trialled
• rapid tests offered twice-weekly to all
• lockdown to ease next week as planned
• traffic light system for foreign travel
• Australia & NZ to form travel bubble
• Wales gets first Moderna jabs
• Oxford jab will not be given to under-30s
• delays to vaccine rollout in Africa
• Wales to unlock earlier than planned
• tests for foreign travel 'too expensive'
• UK infection rate down to 0.3%
Worldwide deaths: 2,840,000 → 2,920,000 Worldwide cases: 130,000,000 → 135,000,000 UK deaths: 126,826 → 127,080 UK cases: 4,357,091 → 4,368,045 Vaccinations: 31,425,682 → 32,010,244 FTSE: up 3% (6737 → 6915)
London's Bus Termini(a continuing series) Route 263 - Highbury Barn
Well this is a big improvement on East Beckton Sainsbury's for the 262. Here we are at Highbury Barn by Highbury Clocktower at the top of Highbury Fields. Few bus termini are quite so quintessentially middle class as this.
Back in the 14th century, long before the invention of omnibuses, this high ground was the site of Highbury manor house. Built by the Knights Hospitallers, a crusading military order, it was later burnt to the ground during the Peasants Revolt by thousands of infuriated Kentish men. The attached farm lingered, now known as Highbury Barn, and by the 18th century its tea and ale house was attracting Londoners out of town for a merry day out. In the mid 19th century the site became a full-on pleasure gardens, the kind of place capable of hosting dinner for 3000 people with fireworks, but lost its licence in 1870 after descending into bawdier entertainment. Waiting for a bus here is less fun.
Simultaneously the fields of Highbury were being rapidly replanted with grand villas, and only a concerted effort saved Highbury Fields from development in 1885. This greensward sweeps down from the bus terminus towards the railway station, neatly segmented with low railings and at present lightly daffodilled. Fine terraces surround on all sides, a super little cafe dispenses treats and a council operative weaves back and forth on a ride-on mower. I've been more used to walking London Fields than Highbury Fields over lockdown, and the Hackney incarnation is scrappier, less structured and a few notches less genteel.
The 263's drivers rest up inbetween a clock tower and a place of worship. Christchurch was erected first, when Highbury's population was small but had the money to build big. In normal times anyone can pop inside the cruciform Gothic building and view a touchscreen Highbury Heritage display, should the interval between buses permit. The clock tower in the centre of the turning circle is made from pink polished granite and commemorates Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, as you can tell from from the portraits of Her Majesty emblazoned halfway up the column. The clock still works, for which we can thank a refurb English Heritage did for the centenary, although I doubt it's used for official service regulation purposes.
The clocktower stands at one end of Highbury Hill, the urbane avenue that eventually bends north towards Arsenal's former stadium. Route 263 doesn't go that way, indeed no tube station in London is a longer walk from a bus stop than Arsenal is. Instead the 263's first stop is on Highbury Grove, one of an abundance of streets hereabouts called Highbury Something. Here we find the actual Highbury Barn, a tavern which opened in 1885 as scant replacement for the former pleasure gardens, now a free house bedecked with rows of flowering plants. Don't come looking for bottomless brunch with unlimited prosecco, that's on hold, but reservations are available from 17th May.
And what a shopping parade Highbury Grove delivers. It doesn't have a scuzzy minimarket with bowls of veg outside, it has Mrs Lovell's Greengrocer. It doesn't have a mobile phone bazaar where someone'll tweak your SIM, it has a proper hardware store. It doesn't have a Tesco Express, it has a butcher, a fishmonger, a fromagerie and (plural) delicatessens. Admittedly it does also have a Greggs and a launderette, because Londoners of all incomes lurk under the radar in Highbury, but foodies will find much to delight their palates as they prepare to board the bus to Barnet Hospital.
No, I'm not doing a long-running series reporting back from London bus termini, obviously I'm not. It'd be a ridiculous amount of work, I can't get to all the termini at present and some of them are dull as ditchwater. But suppose I was, and that for each route from 1 upwards I had to write about either one terminus or the other. How far could I get before I was forced to repeat myself?
The first seven London bus routes are all distinct, they all start or finish somewhere different. The first repeat comes with route 8 which shares its Tottenham Court Road terminus with route 1. But that's fine because I could write about route 8's starting point instead, which is Bus Stop M, and you'd like that.
The next fifty-or-so are all fine too, there'd always be one end of the route I'd not have written about before. The first route with repeats at both termini is the 68, where the 2 has already ticked off West Norwood and the 18's already ticked off Euston. But that needn't be a problem either because I could have written about Marylebone for 2 or Sudbury for 18 instead. If I'd planned carefully enough ahead, I could avoid being stymied later.
Issues arise where routes collectively coincide. The 111 and 285 have identical termini, namely Heathrow Central bus station and Cromwell Road bus station in Kingston, but that'd be OK because I could pick one for one and one for the other. The 132 and 486 have similar issues with North Greenwich and Bexleyheath, but this time I genuinely would be stuck because the 401 and 472 start in those same places and both head to Thamesmead. Four routes into three termini just doesn't go.
So it can't be done, so why bother starting? Only the 263 starts at Highbury Barn, let's leave it there.
One of the most headline-grabbing commitments in Sadiq Khan's manifesto is that he plans to rename the Overground lines. He could have done this at any point in his 5-year mayoralty, as could Boris before him, but instead it's been thrown into the brantub of election goodies.
When the London Overground was first introduced in 2007 it made some sense to brand the whole thing under one name. A single orange loop with tentacles flailing out towards Watford, Richmond, Croydon, Stratford and Barking was visually comprehensible, if much less so when service updates needed to be communicated. What really broke things was the takeover of lines out of Liverpool Street, making northeast London a mess of tangled spaghetti and piling on the confusion over what 'minor delays' might actually mean. Splitting up the six lines makes enormously good sense.
But what to call them?
They do already have official names (based on their termini) but they're a bit of a mouthful. They're listed in TfL's Editorial style guide, both what they used to be and what they are now (although I note the list hasn't been updated since Chingford & Co arrived in 2015).
• North London line is now Overground Richmond/Clapham Junction - Stratford
• West London line is now Overground Willesden Junction - Clapham Junction
• DC line/Watford Euston DC is now Overground Watford Junction - Euston
• Gospel Oak to Barking (GOB) is now Overground Gospel Oak - Barking
• East London line is now Overground Dalston/Highbury & Islington - West Croydon/Crystal Palace/New Cross
That last one in particular is an abhorrence.
Going back to North London line and East London line sounds like a good idea (with 'West London line' redundant now that trains from Clapham Junction continue to Stratford). DC line is too much of a geeky throwback, so not that. After many unofficial years it'd be great to officially name the Gospel Oak to Barking line the Goblin. Lea Valley would work for the lines out of Liverpool Street. And nobody really cares what we call the runty shuttle from Romford to Upminster unless they live in intermediate Emerson Park.
The geographical idea starts off well but gets ambiguously complex. Combining termini ends up sounding contrived (and doesn't work on lines that branch). Letters and numbers work perfectly well in Paris but might be too bland for London. This isn't as easy as it sounds.
Also, it's important to read what Sadiq actually said rather than relying on tweeted summaries.
This isn't TfL coming up with a list of names and imposing them, this is some kind of consultation or public outreach within a specific remit. Given how well 'Elizabeth' went down for Crossrail, the opportunities for disappointment, anger and fury are great.
We could be asked to come up with a theme, like animals, birds, colours or fruit.
But my suspicion is that Sadiq may use this to further his diversity agenda, specifically his Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm. This intends to focus on "increasing representation among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, women, the LGBTQ+ community and disability groups", so imagine the cultural uptick if you could pick six names that cover the entire spectrum.