Saturday, May 27, 2023
Visit It: Fulham Palace
Location: Bishop's Avenue, Fulham SW6 6EA [map]
Socials: [Facebook] [Twitter] [Instagram] [YouTube]
Five word summary: historic bishop's base
Time to allow: maybe an hour
Tucked away by the Thames near Putney Bridge, shrouded by trees, is the longstanding home of the Bishop of London. It was once used as his country retreat, somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, which just goes to show how longstanding it is. But 50 years ago the new Bishop decided to live elsewhere and now it's owned by a trust who oversee management of the estate and allow the public in for a general lookaround. There's quite a lot to see.
It's an impressive-looking building, as befits a Tudor shell. Step through the arch into the main courtyard to enjoy one of the best views of what it might have looked like to Reformation bishops, complete with wiggly brickwork and an off-centre fountain. What you're supposed to do is enter on the left past the information desk into the museum, but I was beguiled by the door under the clocktower and found myself in a less coherent set of corridors instead.
The Great Hall promises much, indeed royalty once feasted here, but most of its historic ambience has been lost in subsequent upgrades by domestic owners. Bishop's Howley's Room was blank bar some unannounced audio-visual presentation. Bishop Sherlock's Room was hosting a slightly forced presentation on diversity. Bishop Terrick's Rooms were empty and looked like spaces for hiring out, which I suspect they often are. At least the chapel impressed.
It's the fourth on the site and originally Victorian, although the current aesthetic owes more to postwar rejuvenation following bomb damage. The murals are especially Fifties, including blond-haired stone-hurlers and a kneeling couple who might be Liz and Philip. I also liked Bishop Porteus's Library, well stocked with diverse if not always ecclesiastical books, where the guide broke off her historical chat to reveal a secret panel and a hidden trapdoor.
The museum is more a collection of corridors than a sequence of galleries. It focuses primarily on archaeology carried out on site, so I was inordinately excited that one of the displays contained three iconic crisp packets - sausage & tomato Golden Wonder, pickled onion Outer Spacers and cheese & onion Smiths. For real food you want the cafe out back in Bishop Howley's dining room, a popular local choice, although a bacon roll will set you back six quid.
For many the finest part of the palace is its extensive garden, including a 500 year-old oak tree, multiple labelled beds and a recently restored walled garden. Alas this is temporarily sealed off for the setting-up of stages, indeed the whole palace is closed this weekend so that Groove Armada and Ministry of Sound can host a demure dance festival. So best ignore today's recommendation to visit until they've taken it all down, but don't forget Fulham Palace is here.
posted 08:00 :
Way back in 2017 when everyone thought Crossrail was imminent, TfL launched a massive consultation on bus changes to support the new service. Many of those changes occurred long before any purple through-trains ran, but two are only happening today.
Here's what the TfL bus changes webpage has to say.
Changes will be made to the route taken by buses on routes 95 and E5 in the Dormer's Wells area from Saturday 27 May. This is to improve reliability and provide more direct journeys into Southall Town Centre and station.But there's no map to explain the changes because of course there isn't. A map would make this splurge of words much easier to understand but maps remain outside TfL's level of competence, or at least beyond the limit of business cases and management priorities.
Route 95 will be rerouted from Somerset Road direct to Lady Margaret Road in both directions. It will no longer serve Cornwall Avenue, Allenby Road, Dormer's Wells Lane, Burns Avenue and Carlyle Avenue. Route 105 will continue to provide a 24-hour service over this section of route no longer served by the 95.
Route E5 will be rerouted from Telford Road via Burns Avenue and Carlyle Avenue to Lady Margaret Road in both directions. It will no longer serve stops on Dormer's Wells Lane or the hail and ride section on North Road, Thurston Road, Allendale Avenue, Dormer's Avenue or Denbigh Road. Passengers should use routes 95 or 120 from Lady Margaret Road, route 105 from Dormer's Wells Lane or routes 105 or E5 from Burns Avenue or Carlyle Avenue which are a short walk away.
n.b. maps were produced for the consultation in 2017, but everything pre-2019 was deleted when TfL upgraded their consultation platform in 2021, which has proved particularly short-sighted given how long it's taken this particular change to come to fruition.
So I thought I'd knock up my own before and after map (based on the quadrant maps TfL used to produce). I hope this makes things clearer.
• The 95 is being sent on a much more direct route.
• The 105 is continuing to follow the wigglier route through Dormer's Wells.
• The E5 is being diverted to follow some of the 95's previous meander, leaving the existing Hail and Ride section unserved.
The streamlined 95 will speed passengers to and from Southall much quicker, but will still terminate two stops short of the Crossrail station. This seems somewhat perverse amid a set of changes designed to improve purple interchange, but that's because another change to the 95 has yet to be introduced. Eventually it'll be extended to serve the massive regenerated Southall Gasworks site but the roads aren't ready yet, nor indeed the flats, so only the Dormer's Wells tweak has been introduced so far.
Crossrail may now be complete, but implementing its bus changes has taken even longer.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, May 26, 202340 years ago today...
Thursday, May 26, 1983
6.45 Bedside radio switches on.
7.00 It's Mike Read with the Radio 1 breakfast show.
7.10 Crawl out of bed and stumble into the bathroom. It still smelt of cigarette smoke even though our French lutist had left on Monday.
7.30 Breakfast in the kitchen. Mmm, Coco Pops. I'd opened a new packet of Coco Pops earlier in the week and moaned in my diary that the new offer on the back of the packet was really dull. You had to cut out four tokens and send them off to get a card-based memory game by return, and I wrote "Why aren't there any nice plastic figures in there any more, eh?". Those were the days, I still have my chunky blue Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, my Munch Bunch pencil toppers and my Weetabix Dr Who cards, but even 40 years ago those days were sadly gone.
7.55 Grab briefcase and set off on the walk to school.
8.20 Arrive at school, just like normal. But it's not normal. It's the day before A Level study leave. The last day of timetabled learning. The very last day of lessons at school.
8.25 Hello classmates. Well this is strange isn't it? Shall we pick our pieces for the board game at lunchtime? What we should have been talking about this morning was the premiere of Return of the Jedi which had taken place last night. We'd all seen the first two films. But entertainment news didn't flash across the world in those days, plus the film wasn't out in the UK until next week, so conversation was usually rather insular instead. That said, Phil had come in on Monday and told us all about the plot of Friday 13th 3 in full gory detail; "This machete, right...".
8.35 No assembly this morning because our last one was yesterday. Instead our form teacher settles us down and hands out our very last school report. All it says in my diary is that mine was "a goody", and I fear that was an understatement.
9.00 Double free period. Our very last opportunity to learn something from a teacher but instead the timetable delivers us a free. Phil uses the opportunity to hassle the librarian by talking and whistling, because it's the last day so what can they do? Then he walks out early. I probably read the paper and the school's copy of Punch, or at least flicked through the cartoons.
10.10 A general election is imminent and almost all of us in the class can vote. I've made a Tory manifesto, a satirical one, and this is my chance to hand it round and try and get some laughs. I had tried making three manifestos, one for each party, but only the Conservative one was funny. With no computers in those days I drew it all out on a sheet of folded A4 paper and traced an image of Maggie onto the front. I even get a smile from the classmate whose councillor dad is about to become Tory Mayor of Watford this afternoon. Sadly I don't still have it because Bill took it home with him and I never saw it again.
10.30 My very last lesson in <Subject 1>. We go through a short answer paper and Mr K gives us some helpful exam tips. That was it for me and <Subject 1>, and probably good riddance.
11.45 My last lesson in <Subject 2>. Mr F is also leaving and he unexpectedly spends the first period telling us about his life. I think he's trying to be inspirational. Then the headteacher pops in to say good luck (which was a relief, because on Tuesday he was supposed to be teaching us in the chemistry lab but instead we all hid in the cloakroom and he assumed he'd come to the wrong room and walked off and we got a free period instead)
1.00 A quick last trip to the sixth form common room while I still can. If it had been Tuesday I'd have hung on every word of the new Top 40, but it was Thursday.
1.10 Back to our form room to spend the very last lunchtime playing board games. Our favourite board game at the time was called Cosmic Encounter. It was a bit strategy, a bit sci-fi, a bit geeky. But hell, we were geeky sixth formers so we never noticed that we should have been talking about football and breasts instead. We play two games. Dave wins the first with a particularly good combination of powers, and I'm doing well in the second when the bell goes. And that was pretty much it for me and communal board games, there never was a spare hour and a ready audience again.
2.15 Final registration. Yes we're all here.
2.25 My very last lesson is my very last lesson in <Subject 3>. We do some actual revision of an important topic and then Mr G tosses us a potential essay question ("Discuss") and gets us to debate it. My pair debates it best. I could have done <Subject 3> at university but I was better at <Subject 2> so there was never any question I'd be doing that instead. But you get a lot more of <Subject 3> than <Subject 2> in this blog, so I'm glad it turned out to be useful in the end.
3.40 The bell rings and school's out. The class victim whoops. Sometimes I feel ashamed that we still had a class victim. This was the sixth form for heaven's sake, and you'd think we'd have matured past that. Other times I'm mighty glad that somebody else was there to be class victim instead of me. That's it, I thought, nobody at school's ever going to try and teach me anything again.
3.41 Collect all my textbooks from my locker so I can lug them home and use them for revision. But not tonight, I'm having tonight off, my first exam isn't until after the General Election for heaven's sake.
3.45 Walk round to Station Approach so Mum can drive me home. Normally on a Thursday there was an orchestra rehearsal after school but we'd had a big concert the previous evening and that was it for the rest of the year. I don't think I ever played that instrument again.
4.15 Uniform in the wash already.
4.45 Cup of squash and Countdown on Channel 4. Still new, still fresh.
5.40 News. There's been a big earthquake off the coast of Japan.
6.00 Roast pork for tea.
6.55 Tonight's Top of the Pops is hosted by Peter Powell and Pat Sharp and features Big Country, The Style Council, Hot Chocolate and The Police, plus New Edition as the new Number One. But it's only 20 minutes long because of...
7.15 The FA Cup Replay between Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion. A bit of a thrashing for the Seagulls, it turned out. I probably slunk off to my bedroom to listen to David Jensen on Radio 1 instead.
9.00 The Young Ones S1 E3 - Boring (repeat) "Although there are all sorts of interesting things going on around them, the gang are feeling incredibly bored so they decide to go to the pub."
11.30 To bed to write my diary (you never know, it might be useful later)
I still had eight more days at school, seven of which were to sit exams and the eighth was to hand everything back in and say goodbye. I've already blogged about that final day back in 2008 (when the title was "25 years ago today" because time moves on relentlessly). But 26th May 1983 was the last day of normality - lessons and classmates and teachers and lunchtimes - all extinguished with a few turns of the clock. I see none of those classmates any more, indeed I couldn't tell you what more than a handful of them are doing, but they were once essential companions day after day. You don't know what you've lost until it's gone.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, May 25, 2023Peripheral Postcodes: SM7
SM is the postcode for Sutton, specifically Sutton and Morden. I don't know why they didn't go with the more obvious SU but I do know ST, SO and SN were already taken. Six of its seven postcode districts are entirely (or almost entirely) in London but the seventh is virtually all in Surrey. My task was to visit the non-Surrey bits as part of my quest to visit every postcode district in Greater London this year. There are two distinct chunks so I did both for good measure, aided and abetted this time by London Loop section 6. I've blogged about these outlying spots several times before, sorry, so my task today is to try and say something different. [map]
Woodmansterne is a commuter village sprawled across chalk downland on the northern edge of Surrey. It has some seriously hilly avenues, a church that would have been medieval if only the Victorians hadn't rebuilt it, a couple of shops and a village sign carved into a fallen tree trunk. But if you walk up Carshalton Road past the village hall, the scout hut and the primary school, then just a tad past the sports ground, Woodmansterne's last two cottages are accidentally in London. They have pointy gabled roofs, carriage lamps and trees bursting with pink blossom, plus the locally-unusual opportunity to vote in next year's Mayoral election. Just opposite is a stile into a hayfield alive with wildflowers where a couple of horses have an unexpectedly good view of the Shard above the treeline. And crossing two more stiles in quick succession brings you to somewhere that might just be familiar...
This is Mayfield Lavender Farm, the purple people pleaser, which is about to be lauded across excitable media as the best selfie-backdrop in the capital. Right now we're still slightly too early in the season for any colour to be apparent, peak season being July and August, indeed the farm doesn't open to the public until Saturday 10th June. But it's still possible to get up close and see row upon row of low spiky bushes thanks to a longstanding public footpath which cuts across the middle of the site. Mayfield Lavender must hate that it exists, given they charge for entry at the main gate, hence the sign by the stile which they urge ramblers to read. They could have been passive aggressive but in fact they've been more than polite - don't stray off the path, no picnics, no drones, no commercial photography and absolutely no picking the purple stuff.
My stroll was alas visually premature with only a few stalks poking up from the resolutely green rows of bushes. But I still got to savour the unmistakeable smell of lavender throughout, a low sweet note like opening up your nan's wardrobe and taking a sniff. A man on mini-tractor zigzagged up and down the field keeping the edges of the rows in check, slowing down briefly as he passed through the pergola. Over in the newer-planted sections two staff stooped over the smaller bushes doing proper horticulture by hand. In the lower field the lone red telephone box awaited its purple cloak and the hordes with their cameras that'll surely follow. Down by the gate the temporary tents that'll house the shop and cafe have yet to be erected. And if you want to explore further that'll be £5, up from £4.50 last summer and £2 five years ago because the cost of living crisis also affects blooming lovely fields. [SM7 3JA]
Across the road is one of Sutton's nicest parks, which is a shame because hardly anyone in Sutton lives anywhere near it. Oaks Park is on the site of The Oaks, a large 18th century country house once owned by the 12th Earl of Derby. It was while he was living here that the two most famous races at nearby Epsom got their name, 'The Oaks' in honour of his villa and 'The Derby' allegedly on the toss of a coin. Carshalton Council bought the estate in 1933 and fully intended to turn most of it into a golf course and housing but WW2 intervened, after which the Green Belt won out and the once grand house was in such a poor state it had to be demolished. Standing in Oaks Park today you can still see that its trees are a bit too good for a municipal project (and if you pick up a copy of the Oaks Park Tree Trail in the cafe you can discover what many of them are).
The formal garden is recognisably lordly too, focused on a grotto that was once the centrepiece of an ornamental glasshouse. At present the wisteria is wonderful, but even after that fades the palm trees still exude an air of exclusivity. Much of the lower end of the park is chalk grassland and is almost entirely frequented by dog walkers, as far as I could tell, delighted to have somewhere this large to exercise their rumbustious charges. The free car parks are extremely important in this respect because otherwise I suspect the place'd be nigh empty. The other key attraction is the aforementioned cafe, which must be doing well because a single storey extension and a veranda are currently being added. Amongst its customers this week were a lot of retired couples, several very patient hounds and a group of four police officers on a break enjoying an al fresco beverage. [SM7 3BA]
The other slice of SM7 within Sutton is a good 45 minute walk away... 'good' in that you can walk to it by following London Loop section 6. This perhaps-familiar route takes you into the Earl of Derby's woods, round the back of some livery stables, up an ancient rutted lane, along the side of a closed category women's prison, across the chalky delights of Banstead Common, over a single track railway line and through the middle of a golf course. Crossing the subsequent dual carriageway is the low point and is followed closely by Banstead station, a gloomy bunker unhelpfully located on the outskirts of town. But it's brilliantly located if you live in Cuddington, an isolated anomaly of 300 homes adrift within a golf course and connected to the rest of Greater London only via a private road.
I wrote about Cuddington in 2020 so I won't rake over the details again. But it's got the right postcode so here we are, plus I think one of its three roads meets the criterion we explored last November - it could be London's longest unbroken street. Let's check it out.
This is Higher Drive, a sweeping crescent of prime detached houses that's three quarters of a mile in length. It bears off by the clubhouse, curves along the Surrey border and joins back onto Banstead Road by the five-bar gates. Normally you'd expect a connecting road in the middle, or even a footpath, but here that's impossible because three of the holes at Cuddington Golf Course get in the way. This means that if you want to walk round the block - and I saw a resident dogwalker doing exactly that - you face a circuit that's a minimum of a mile and a half. Recognising this the Post Office have kindly installed a pillar box halfway down, but otherwise London suburbia doesn't get any more cut-off than SM7 1PW.
Every house is different because the estate's architects recognised the appeal of individuality. Every house is detached because next-door neighbours are for losers. Every plot is broad, indeed there are only just over 100 houses along the entire street. And yet it's not snobby, despite the million-pound price-tags, thanks to the cosy interwar design and the openness of the front gardens. Nobody down Higher Drive has installed security gates and an entryphone, for example, whereas plenty of cheaper streets elsewhere include a paranoid empire builder or two. But plenty of homeowners here have the builders in at present, judging by the amount of vans and scaffolding in evidence, collectively occupied in extending upwards and outwards as planning permission permits.
All that stops Higher Drive (1200m) definitely being the longest unbroken street in London is a short cul-de-sac at the western end. It doesn't have a separate name because the half dozen houses round the loop are still part of Higher Drive, but a perfectionist might deem this T-junction to be unacceptable. If that's the case then the unbroken crown perhaps still rests with Wickham Chase in West Wickham (1100m) or, if intermediate footpaths also disqualify, with Elgin Road in Seven Kings (710m). Whatever, if you lived in the middle of Higher Drive you'd certainly know it was a long way out, indeed anywhere in London feels a long way away from this disjoint patch of SM7.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, May 23, 2023100 things you need to know about Betstyle Circus
1) It's not a circus.
2) It's not a gambling company.
3) It's a roundabout.
4) It's in north London.
5) It's due north of Buckingham Palace.
6) Its nearest station is New Southgate.
7) Its second-nearest station is Arnos Grove.
8) It's in zone 4.
9) It's in N11.
10) It's in the London Borough of Enfield.
11) It's on the very edge of the London borough of Enfield.
12) It's also on the very edge of the London borough of Barnet.
13) It's always been a boundary-type place.
14) It used to be where Friern Barnet Urban District met East Barnet Urban District met the Municipal Borough of Southgate.
15) Until 1965 it was the southeasternmost point in the county of Hertfordshire, which blows my mind, but the boundary between Middlesex and Hertfordshire was always a bit wacky in these parts.
16) The precise point was marked by a boundary post round the back of the BP garage.
17) Betstyle Circus has a BP Garage.
18) The garage has an M&S Simply Food and a Wild Bean Cafe.
19) The roundabout used to be a six-way road junction.
20) Technically it used to be a crossroads adjacent to two T-junctions.
21) This is why the roundabout has a funny shape.
22) The roundabout is mostly round but also has a sticky-out loop where one of the T-junctions used to be.
23) The main circular part of the roundabout contains trees and shrubbery.
24) The small tearshape part of the roundabout is all grass.
25) The main part of the roundabout is sponsored by Demetriou & English, a funeral directors from Bowes Park.
26) The small part of the roundabout is sponsored by Schmidt Kitchen and Interior Solutions of Palmers Green.
27) Enfield Council planted a raingarden around the northern rim of the main roundabout in 2018.
28) The roundabout used to be a hamlet.
29) It was a hamlet where several roads met.
30) The hamlet was called Betstile.
31) Now it all starts to make sense.
32) One of the first buildings by the crossroads was called Betstile Lodge.
33) Later came Betstile House.
34) Later still Betstile Lodge became Betstile Farm.
35) Two of the arms of the crossroads were called Betstile Road.
36) Another was called Betstile Lane.
37) Everything changed when the railways came in 1850. Cottages were built for railway workers. A huge asylum opened on the far side of the station - this was Colney Hatch Pauper Lunatic Asylum. A shabby genteel suburb grew up on this side of the station.
38) The station was initially called Colney Hatch & Southgate, then Southgate and Colney Hatch (1855), then New Southgate and Colney Hatch (1876), then New Southgate for Colney Hatch (1883), then New Southgate and Friern Barnet (1923) and finally New Southgate (1971).
39) Victorian developers tried to call the new suburb Colney Hatch Park but the asylum had a very bad press so an alternative name won out.
40) With all of this growth the name Betstile was totally lost and the area became known as New Southgate instead.
41) In the 1860s other buildings in sight of the crossroads included a waterworks, a Baptist Church, a school, railwaymen's cottages and the Clock and Watchmakers Asylum.
42) In the 1880s Betstile House was replaced by a row of cottages.
43) By 1900 the Middlesex side was substantially developed but the Hertfordshire side was still fields.
44) By 1910 the yard of A K Lander, Monumental Mason, was located on the western side of the crossroads.
45) Around this time the area became known locally as Lander's Corner.
46) In the early 1930s suburbia exploded across the Arnos Grove estate and the road junction became more significant.
47) In the mid 1970s the road junction became a large roundabout.
48) Planners named it Betstyle Circus as a nod to the past.
49) That was the really important fact, in case you hadn't noticed.
50) Betstyle Circus is still a key local road junction.
51) Friern Barnet Road leads to Friern Barnet. It's the A1003.
52) Oakleigh Road South leads to Oakleigh Park. It's the A109.
53) Brunswick Park Road leads to Brunswick Park. It's unclassified.
54) Waterfall Road leads to Southgate. It's the A1003.
55) Bowes Road leads to Bowes Park. It's the A1110.
56) High Road no longer leads anywhere. It used to be the A109.
57) Oakleigh Road South, Brunswick Park Road and the BP garage are in Barnet.
58) Everything else around the roundabout is in Enfield.
59) The Enfield side is in a Drinking Control Area where a police constable can require you not to consume alcohol in the area else face confiscation or a fine.
60) The North Circular is a short distance to the south.
61) Betstyle Circus is therefore just outside the ULEZ.
62) But not for long.
63) There are four bus stops called Betstyle Circus. Their letters are D, E, G and P.
64) You can catch seven buses here - 34, 184, 232, 251, 298, 382 and N91.
65) You can catch a bus to Edgware, Potters Bar, Walthamstow or (at night) Trafalgar Square.
66) There are also two bus stops named Betstyle Road (a local residential street).
67) Last month Jack made a video of buses at Betstyle Circus.
68) The roundabout doesn't have traffic signals.
69) Each arm of the roundabout has a pair of zebra crossings.
70) Walking round the roundabout once involves crossing eight zebra crossings.
71) Betstyle Circus therefore has 16 belisha beacons...
72) ...and a heck of a lot of zig-zag road markings.
73) Between Bowes Road and Friern Barnet Road is a council estate.
74) Between Friern Barnet Road and Oakleigh Road South is a curved modern five-storey block of flats.
75) Between Oakleigh Road South and Brunswick Park Road is the BP garage and Boundary Court.
76) Between Brunswick Park Road and Waterfall Road are three blocks of flats.
77) Between Waterfall Road and Bowes Road is a shopping parade and that's where all the interest is.
78) The parade starts with the Penridge Suite, a 300 seater wedding venue that looks like three shops.
79) Nextdoor is Arnos Grove post office, who also do Oyster top-ups and ID-approved photos.
80) Nextdoor is Firstline Motorcycles, primarily Honda, who buy bikes for cash.
81) Nextdoor is the International Food Centre, a very typical local grocery shop.
82) Nextdoor is Despina's Food Store, a Greek-Cypriot-run delicatessen, adjoined to Despina's Barbecue Supplies.
83) Originally these would have been 11 shops but there's been a lot of knock-through.
84) The shopping parade has free parking outside because this is outer London.
85) You can park for up to an hour.
86) The noticeboard at the Post Office contains ads for tai chi, a mobile locksmith, St Paul's Church Food Bank and a Real Men Empowerment Conference this Saturday at Shield of Faith Ministries.
87) Despina's sell Caprice Crispy Wafer Sticks.
88) Security cameras look down on Betstyle Circus.
89) The MPs for Betstyle Circus are Theresa Villiers (Con) and Bambos Charalambous (Lab).
90) Traffic circulates clockwise round Betstyle Circus.
91) You can buy Percy Pigs at Betstyle Circus.
92) Betstyle Circus has a pillarbox but no litter bins.
93) Betstyle Circus is built on London Clay.
94) Boris Johnson has been to a party at Betstyle Circus.
95) Daisies are the predominant flower at Betstyle Circus.
96) The Olympic torch passed through Betstyle Circus on 25 July 2012.
97) Betstyle Circus is an anagram of Secretly Cubist.
98) Betstyle Circus is 58m above sea level.
99) Technically you didn't need to know any of these things, but you've probably worked that out by now.
100) To summarise, Betstyle Circus is a roundabout on the site of the hamlet of Betstile.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, May 22, 2023Visit It: Hunterian Museum
Location: Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC2A 3PE [map]
Open: 10am-5pm (closed Sunday and Monday)
Socials: [Facebook] [Twitter] [Instagram]
Five word summary: surgical stuff and pickle jars
Time to allow: a good hour
London's had a Hunterian Museum for over 200 years, initially (and mainly) for the benefit of medical professionals. It grew out of the enormous collection of John Hunter, a Scottish surgeon who ran an anatomy school in Leicester Square during the second half of the 18th century. He believed medicine worked best when based on empirical observation, i.e. think before you hack, and over his career amassed more than 10,000 specimens of humans and other animals. After his death these were acquired by the Royal College of Surgeons as the basis of a museum within their classical HQ off Lincoln's Inn fields. It's been revamped many times, closing most recently in 2017 for a major refit and reopening just last week in a smaller, smarter format. If you're not squeamish prepare to come face to face with a lot of flesh in jars.
The building is so imposing you could easily think you're not allowed in, despite the poster on the front wall saying 'free entry'. The lobby looks every inch the home of an age-old professional body but trust your instincts, follow proffered directions and you'll find the entrance to the museum just behind reception. If you've been before you'll soon spot that the museum space is a lot smaller (and darker) than it used to be, indeed the entire upper level must now be offices, but when most of your exhibits are bodypart-sized there's still plenty of room to cram thousands in.
We start off in the world of early medicine with primitive implements including a Roman rectal speculum and a dental clamp from Pompeii. On the wall are 17th century wooden boards depicting (lifesize) blood circulation, and plenty of reminders that surgery was once dangerous, painful and liable only to make matters worse. A colourful interactive projection table takes centre stage, and I would love to have found out more about 14th century dentistry but no matter how much I jiggled my hand over and around the sensor ("Are you still there?") nothing happened.
John Hunter merits a gallery or two, where we discover that he learnt his trade at his elder brother's anatomy school, kept a menagerie of exotic animals at his London home and accumulated many of his specimens by what we would now consider dubious means. One of these was the body of Charles Byrne, a 7½-footer known as the Irish Giant, despite his deathbed plea to be buried at sea instead. Byrne's skeleton remained on display in the museum right up to the latest refit, since when they've decided it'd be more moral to keep it behind the scenes.
Then comes the best bit, the room with the jars. It's not usually this empty, I just got in at the very start of the day. Within these capsules of sparkling formaldehyde are body parts aplenty, perhaps most hauntingly a set of human foetuses with a range of ages from recently conceived to almost born. Animals are well represented too, for example the oesophagus of a giant tortoise, not to mention a yearsworth of house sparrows caught by John to demonstrate that their testicles increase in size during the breeding season. One end of the gallery focuses on anatomy and physiology, i.e. normality, whereas the pathology end depicts disease and deformity in all its forms. Yes that's how bad a toe with corns can get, yes that's what syphilis can do to your nether regions and yes that's a 4kg salivary tumour successfully removed from a rigger's neck.
The museum continues beyond Hunter's collection into subsequent surgical casework and innovations. Anaesthetic transformed the profession, for example, but initially led to even more patients dying from bacterial infection. Also I would beg to claim it's not every museum that contains Winston Churchill's dentures, the Bishop of Durham's rectum and the left hemisphere of Charles Babbage's brain. The penultimate room is a jolt into the 20th century and the last features big screen footage of ankle surgery plus a selection of interviews with modern surgeons and their patients. Even if you can't get to the museum you can watch all of these in the Digital Hunterian online - I found Liz's breast surgery turnabout very affecting.
And yes after Room 10 you exit via the gift shop, although it's a very small collection including a lot of copies of not many books. Due to poor labelling I suspect the cashier spends most of their time explaining which button to press to open the final door and return to the main lobby. Expect to walk out seeing certain things differently, having learnt (just as John Hunter's students did) that our bodies are complex and fantastical things.
posted 08:00 :
A new tube map launched yesterday, in stations and online.
It's hardly changed since the last one, which is all you really need to know.
Obviously there's a new cover design - we covered that last week.
It has a light pink background so it's quite easy to spot in the racks.
• The map is no longer sponsored by IKEA (or indeed anybody) so all the blue IKEAs have disappeared from the map.
• The normal TfL roundel has been replaced by the special 160th birthday heart-shaped roundel.
• Kentish Town has a dagger because it'll be "closed from Monday 26 June 2023 until summer 2024".
Kentish Town's interesting because TfL normally cross out closed stations, rather than daggering them which is a lot less obvious. Maybe this is because the Thameslink station at Kentish Town remains open throughout, although the text fails to mention this.
Normally when a new tube map comes out there's at least one new step-free station with a changed blob, but not this time because the pipeline is nigh empty. Knightsbridge will be next, but not yet.
Also not on the map yet is Brent Cross West station, between Cricklewood and Hendon, which is now due to open in 'Autumn 2023'.
Everything else you don't like about the tube map was there last time, so there is nothing new to moan about.
posted 06:00 :
Sunday, May 21, 2023Time was when you could wander into the gardens of Hampton Court Palace for nothing, or at least some of the gardens. Not any more.
Can I still visit The Wilderness, The Tiltyard Café, The Rose Garden and The Kitchen Garden free of charge?But six weekends a year, essentially as a post-pandemic thankyou to the local community, the palace hosts Open Days and all the gardens are free to visit. These weekends fall in the odd-numbered months, allowing full exposure to the seasons, and one of them just happens to be this weekend. There's no need to pre-book, nor even to be local, you just walk round to the Rose Garden and a lady with a clicker counts you rather than charging you a small fortune.
All of these parts of the gardens are now within the pay boundary and a palace admission ticket must be purchased to access these areas.
And they are glorious gardens, acres and acres of them, both formal and informal. What's more they were being made good use of yesterday with all sorts of family groups and couples wandering round, some inspecting the flowerbeds, some playing hide and seek behind the urns, some whipping out their watercolours, some having an impromptu game of cricket on the formal lawns, some settling down on the grass and unwrapping cheese rolls from tinfoil, others just enjoying a gossip as they strolled round. It was great to reacquaint myself with these regal surroundings, and also to smile at all those emerging from the rear of the palace who'd paid full price to see the interior and the gardens.
Rose Garden: The only way in and out on an Open Day. It's a little early for the roses but some of the pink ones were out, and it is a lovely place for a picnic.
Kitchen Garden: Again too early for much more than leaves, but the asparagus patch had a "please do not pick" notice and a lot of contented OAPs were wandering between the plots looking appreciatively at the soil.
Magic Garden: This historical-themed children's playground was definitely not free but you could hear the shrieks of delight over the wall.
The Tiltyard: No jousting, not any more, but yes to wicker knights and the obligatory cafe.
The Wilderness: In olden days this was where courtiers would slink off for trysts in the woods, and these days it's a sylvan meadowy patch with dandelions. It also contains the best bit of the grounds...
Hampton Court Maze: The cashier's booth was closed so hell yes, I nipped in to tackle England's quintessential labyrinthine challenge. It still threw me, I still walked down all the wrong pathways even though I know how it's supposed to work because once you're inside all logic fails. I passed the odd lumbering child and a mother exhorting her offspring to keep left, twice, but most of the freeloaders hadn't realised it was open so when I finally reached the fabled centre I had it all to myself. The photo frame and the Jerome K Jerome quote have changed format since I last middled. With its pristine yew hedges and its genius design, it remains Hampton's perfect patch.
Great Fountain Garden: This is the main formal garden, an enormous semicircle on the east side of the palace with avenues of trees radiating out from a central focus. And what trees. These sculpted yews have been topiaried to within an inch of their ancient lives and resemble verdant ghosts or rippling jellies, because this is landscape gardening on a massive scale. The Long Water panning out on the far side is vast, disappearing into the Home Park where the non-paying plebs can picnic any time, whereas over here impressionable tourists are being driven around in carriages behind shaggy white horses and palace crew in black bowler hats.
Royal Tennis Court: William and Mary's indoor smash-room was being used for an actual game by two ruddy men who could have been extras from The Crown.
The Privy Garden: This long symmetrical 17th-century-style garden leads down to some seriously gilded gates beside the Thames Path (locked, obv). Please keep to the paths when taking family portraits with a fabulous backdrop.
Knot Garden/Lower Orangery Garden/Pond Gardens: ...and on, and on.
The Great Vine: And finally it's the world's largest grapevine, now 255 summers old, which produces quarter of a ton of grapes every year. They keep a separate patch of earth outside the greenhouse for the exclusive use of its roots. And on the wall alongside is The Great Wisteria, which admittedly is only great for two weeks every May but hurrah, the Open Days fell during the right fortnight.
At this point you have to backtrack and walk all the way back round to the Rose Garden to exit, but that's no hardship because it's value for money all the way. After today the next Open Days are 4-9 July, 16-17 September and 18-19 November if you too would like to save £26.10.
posted 08:00 :
Today's the day the Crossrail project completes.
The day trains from Shenfield finally reach Heathrow.
(not very many trains, just two an hour but that's it, it's finished)
It's also the day those annoying waits outside Paddington are ironed out.
And from tomorrow the central core gets 24 trains an hour at peak times, up from 22.
Amazingly they've not made any fuss about it at all.
No press releases, no big publicity campaigns, no excitable tweeting from the Mayor.
The big media splurge was for the introduction of stage 5b on 6th November last year.
Today we finally hit stage 5c... and there is no 5d or 6 so we're done.
Pa LS Re 4 8 Sh 6 10← →16 8 He AW
Originally the plan was to complete the service on 15th December 2019.
Instead it's happening today, the day of the spring 2023 timetable change, 1253 days later.
The new timetable was released in March so I've already blogged about it.
Here's my report on what goes where and how frequently.
For a much deeper dive, London Reconnections has that all sewn up.
The first Shenfield → Heathrow train leaves Shenfield at 0726 (arriving T4 at 0856).
The first Heathrow → Shenfield train leaves T4 at 0803 (arriving 0930).
And then we're done.
Don't expect balloons.
posted 05:12 :
Saturday, May 20, 2023Victorian passengers waiting for trains at Peckham Rye luxuriated in a huge room above the ticket hall, which eventually fell out of favour and became a billiard hall, which eventually fell out of favour and was closed. Now 60 years later The Waiting Room has been restored and reopened, in this case as a venue for one of Artangel's larger pieces, allowing the general public to get back inside for free. Access is via a separate staircase to the left of the main entrance, which after two curling flights delivers you to a "sculptural environment" devised by New York artist Sarah Sze.
What you see is the skeleton of a large globe upon which multiple fragments of video are being projected, plus additional images progressing round the walls. Take a seat and watch as the hypnotic performance plays out, ideally from somewhere in the front row. Fragments of video you might spot include a pool of bubbling lava, an industrial vat of dough and someone manhandling a deck of playing cards, plus the occasional break for a full-on flock of birds or a sweep across the night sky. Just don't worry about trying to understand what you're seeing, even if you picked up the leaflet, because the room is dark and you won't be able to read it.
Sarah says her inspiration was the 'extreme hurricane' brought on by the introduction of the railways, mirrored by her focus on the modern advance of social media. Sarah says her installation "offers a model of time and space in our volatile world", that her globe's fragility alludes to "the thin membrane of life on the surface of our planet" and that the flickering videos "explore the tenuous threshold between the digital and the analogue". She also says a lot about cultivating the value of a concrete experience in space, and maybe it's for the best that the lights are off and you can make of it what you will.
Eventually you'll go for a wander round the back of the central sculpture - it's encouraged - and engage with the walls and the additional imagery being projected on them. Unfortunately the twirling video projectors will repeatedly strike you in the face, destroying any hope of attaining optimum night vision, and you may deduce that the chairs were the better option after all. I confess my chief thought was "but they went to all that effort to restore this marvellous chamber and then they invite you to visit it in the dark", so I was pleased I'd come in daylight for 2017's Open House. Nevertheless The Waiting Room remains quite the experience and you have until 17th September to see it (or not see it) for yourself.
posted 10:00 :
The wall opposite platform 3 at Gloucester Road station is often used to display Art on the Underground.
As of this week, and for the next year, it looks like this.
The display kicks off with five disc-shaped sculptures, each four metres across, populated with beetles, dragonfly larvae, tadpoles and tortoises. At one end is a lizard of some kind holding something like a toadstool. It's a bit bonkers. And you're probably not going to guess the meaning unless you read the blurb.
The disc creatures, it turns out, are constructing sections of the Crystal Palace. Sculpture number 2 gives you the best chance of confirming this unlikely scenario. And the upright creature is a salamander holding an Amazonian lily pad as a parasol, because such is the imagination of the artist Monster Chetwynd.
She really is called Monster Chetwynd, she changed her name in 2018, having previously been known as Spartacus Chetwynd and also (when nominated for the Turner Prize) Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. Her commission for an artwork at Gloucester Road led her to note that the surrounding area contains Albertopolis, the Victorian museum quarter, and that this was funded by the success of the Great Exhibition in 1851, at which the central structure had been a huge glasshouse designed by Joseph Paxton, who had based this temporary marvel on the successful design of his Lily House at Chatsworth, which had a glass roof inspired by the veined structure of the recently-discovered waterlily, a natural wonder now ripe with themes of colonial appropriation. The end result, artistically-speaking, is Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily.
If you're at the station the basic gist is explained in posters stuck to pillars, specifically on platforms 2 and 3 where you get the best close-up view. There's also a link to a 25 minute explanatory video, accessed via QR code, which "uses humour to subvert broadcasting norms and open up the political implications of the story". If the thought of a pink witch on a broomstick discussing the spoils of Empire while hovering behind Adam Hart-Davis offends your narrow mind, perhaps don't press play. More usefully dozens of copies of a full colour leaflet are available upstairs in the ticket hall, complete with full and excellent historical background and details of a detective challenge in the local area. I gave that a go.
The Fact Hungry Witch's word hunt is inspired by the book 'Masquerade' by Kit Williams. Seven artworks have been created with appropriate text around the edge and some of these letters have been highlighted. Your task is to unscramble the yellow letters to make the name of something depicted in each poster, then use a numerical clue to select one letter from each puzzle and create one final seven-letter anagram. This word "will point you to a masterpiece hidden in plain sight inside the Natural History Museum, not far from the entrance", and also allegedly unlocks additional information via a separate QR code. If you have a curious child with the ability to spell, it might make an interesting half term challenge.
The artworks aren't at Gloucester Road, they're spaced out along the South Kensington pedestrian tunnel. They won't be hard to locate, but I imagine pausing to scrutinise each and write down the yellow letters might peeve the passing throng of museumgoers at busy times. Unscrambling the seven words is relatively straight-forward, given the pictorial clues, but the ultimate anagram is unexpectedly hard and might require parental intervention. Getting into the Natural History Museum might also prove a challenge at busy times, especially now that non-ticket-holders have been relegated to the slow queue. I can confirm that the final location is indeed "a masterpiece hidden in plain sight" (and relevant to the overall theme), but the hunt's grand finale can only be fully appreciated if you reach the QR-protected page on the Art on the Underground website.
And the QR code doesn't work, it leads to an error page. They've gone to all this effort to create an intricate arty puzzle and then been let down at the end by printing thousands of leaflets with an incorrect QR code. I think the issue is the use of dots to abbreviate the URL, indeed I think I've been able to work out what the correct address should be, but if you're standing in the Hintze Hall you'll never reach it. This may actually be for the best, because the webpage kicks off with a full list of answers which means you could have jumped straight from picking up the leaflet to landing upon the solution. I won't link to it because I don't think anyone deserves to get there with no effort, but it does go to show the importance of getting the delivery right.
Monster's got it right, delivering an artwork that can be interpreted as a multi-layered commentary on the politics of architecture or as a startling tableau outside your tube carriage window. Just don't trust the technology to get you to the ultimate conclusion.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, May 19, 2023n.b. This is not a genuine TfL press release.
But the underlying facts are true.
New Jubilee line timetable will mean fewer trains and longer gaps from Monday
On Monday 22nd May the introduction of a temporary Jubilee line timetable will see the withdrawal of five trains from weekday service. With fewer trains available, gaps between services will become longer at certain times of day and overall capacity will be reduced.
"We were hoping not to mention this," said Gavin Henderson, TfL's Head of Awkward News. "But hands up, yes it's true and we apologise to our customers."
The amended temporary timetable has been made necessary by long term train cancellations. The withdrawn assets comprise three trains which operate throughout the traffic day and two trains which operate in peak service only. With five sets of rolling stock sitting in the depot all day, general resilience of service will be improved.
"Normally we operate 57 Jubilee line trains during peak periods," said Marie Humboldt, TfL's Head of Jubilee Operations. "But from Monday the peak total will be just 52 trains, a 9% reduction, not quite enough for customers to realise something's up but just enough to provide a worse customer experience for thousands of passengers daily."
Between the peaks the reduction will be from 44 trains in service to 41, again a 9% reduction, so that's not good. But services on Saturdays and Sundays are not affected so at least that's something positive.
These temporary changes will apply until further notice, which could be weeks or months or even longer, nobody knows.
"Ideally we would have recast the entire timetable to optimise the service provided by a reduced number of trains," said Barry Nzuma, TfL's Head of Temporal Manipulation. "But recasting an entire timetable is a complex, lengthy and time-consuming process and quite frankly we didn't have the time. So instead what we've done is take the existing Working Timetable and crossed out five trains wherever they appear. We know this is not ideal."
For example 'Train 351' normally rumbles out of Stratford Market Depot at 0616 each weekday morning and rumbles back into the depot at 0001. Between these hours it runs from Stratford to Stanmore, back to Stratford, back to Wembley Park, back to North Greenwich, back to Willesden Green, back to Stratford, back to West Hampstead, back to Stratford, back to Willesden Green, back to Stratford, back to West Hampstead, back to Stratford, back to Stanmore, back to Stratford, back to West Hampstead, back to North Greenwich, back to Stanmore, back to Stratford, back to Stanmore and back to West Ham. None of these journeys will now run.
Passengers who would normally have caught Train 351 will now have to wait until the next timetabled service arrives. For example, at Stratford station between 1pm and 2pm a Jubilee line train currently departs at least every 2½ minutes. But from Monday when Train 351 disappears a five minute gap will open up around quarter past one, so bad luck if that's the time window you turn up during.
The full list of trains to be withdrawn is as follows.
• Train 140: operates 0626 to 1124To get a feel for the new timetable you could simply download existing Working Timetable 18 and cross these services out. But because that's a right faff, the main way you'll experience the change is by turning up at an inopportune time and waiting longer for your train.
• Train 336: operates 0516 to 1920
• Train 350: operates 0611 to 2356
• Train 351: operates 0616 to 0001
• Train 362: operates 1611 to 0056
The effects are all a bit random. For example, passengers departing Stanmore at the height of the morning peak will now see two trains withdrawn in close proximity. Currently they enjoy southbound departures at 0724, 0728, 0731, 0734 and 0737. From Monday the 0728 and 0734 will disappear, changing an 'every 3 or 4 minutes' service to an 'every 6 or 7'. But passengers turning up at any other time between 0645 and 0800 will experience no difference because none of the other trains during this period are being withdrawn.
A particularly bad time to catch a Jubilee line train from Stratford will be around half past three on a weekday afternoon. The 1529 and 1537 trains are both being withdrawn, creating a 6 minute gap and later a 7 minute gap where previously the gap was never worse than 4. Expect the rear carriage of the 1532 and 1541 trains to become packed with passengers who daren't walk up the platform, and consequent grumbles as the train keeps filling up rather than departing.
"We have the best interests of the customer at heart," said Rizwana Adelio, TfL's Head of Internal Mitigation. "Existing trains have been rescheduled to minimise the impact of wide intervals that have opened up from the cancelled train paths. However some wider than usual intervals will remain in certain parts of the timetable, due to pathing constraints. Intervals are to be regulated and services adjusted where necessary."
Only minor attempts at mitigation have taken place. For example there could have been a really bad spell at Stratford around twenty past four when two consecutive trains were being withdrawn. A trainless gap from 1615 to 1623 would have made for a disastrous start to the evening peak. Instead surviving Train 312 is being nudged back by a couple of minutes to create two consecutive 6 minute gaps - still damned poor but not as bad a full eight-minuter.
Ultimately either the issue with long term train cancellations will be solved or a brand new Jubilee line Working Timetable will be drawn up, whichever happens quicker. In the meantime the outright removal of five scheduled trains has been deemed the simplest solution to a pressing problem, because perfection can't be conjured up overnight.
"We don't normally go into this level of intricate detail in a press release," said Polly Hopkins, TfL's Head of Brand Froth. "We like to keep it positive, upbeat and mention nothing negative whatsoever 👀😍. But sometimes we do have bad news and perhaps it's better to admit it rather than pretending everything's sailing ahead as normal."
A worse weekday service with longer gaps starts on the Jubilee line on Monday and continues until further notice. You may never notice, but should you turn up at the wrong moment and find yourself waiting a few minutes longer for a busier train, this is likely why.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, May 18, 2023Peripheral Postcodes: CR3 and CR6
CR3 and CR6 are the postcode districts for Caterham and Warlingham respectively, i.e. northeast Surrey, but two tiny fragments of each stray into Greater London. These splinters aren't connected by anything as useful as public transport but three of them are linked via the best section of the London Loop, so I walked that again instead. Not only was it glorious but it also passed two Regionally Important Geological Sites, so what follows is threaded from three distinct blogging strands. Pay attention and buckle down. [map]
London Loop [section 5]
Coulsdon South to Hamsey Green (6 miles)
I love this walk, which ventures south almost as far as Greater London goes, but I'd never walked it in this direction before. It meant starting with the best bit rather than having it to look forward to as the finale, but the chalky downland of Farthing Downs never disappoints.
Starting from the City of London cattle grid, pace yourself for a steady contoured climb onto the ridgetop. To either side are grassy drops scattered with buttercups, speedwell and half-blown dandelion clocks. Pass the millennium cairn, pass the four-way fingerpost, pass the overgrown Saxon burial mounds and pass a section of grass fenced off to allow skylarks to nest safely. And blimey it's worked, actual skylarks were rising into the sky to sing sweetly from above as I walked by, which was proper magic! From the chalk ridge you may spy the distant towers of Croydon, at least two water towers, fluffy fair weather cumulus, long chains of tiny semis, fields of horses, fields of yellow rape, the more distant towers of the City and the even more distant towers of Docklands. Then stride on to the pay and display at the far end where this glorious open uplift sadly ends, and drop down into...
GLA 17: Happy Valley (Old Coulsdon)
Current geological designation: RIGS
I had thought Farthing Downs would be an official site of geological interest but no, its long chalk finger is amazing for London but fairly standard regionally. Instead the nod of geological approval goes to its adjacent inverse, the long woody depression that is Happy Valley [pdf]. This is a pristine example of a dry valley, the water once capable of carving this deep notch, but because chalk is permeable all the rainwater now percolates down out of sight. You can still hear it burbling beneath the odd drain cover, and occasional channels mid-footpath remind us that when it rains hard all that water has to flow somewhere, but essentially what we have here is a river valley with no river. A heck of a lot of south London is streamless, and chalk is why.
The Loop takes the gentle path down through the woods but I dropped straight down to the valley floor instead, a sharp descent to a broad stripe of grass between tumbling trees. It would be easily wide enough for a road but they never built one - Chaldon Way stops dead after number 244 - the Green Belt having saved this valley from development in the late 1930s. Instead expect superlative natural habitat, diverse wildlife and a background of birdsong, plus the largest British colony of the nationally rare greater yellow-rattle (though it's still a bit early for that to be in flower). Eventually the valley opens out to a large curved meadow, this the favoured crossing point for most of those rambling or dogwalking, because we're now just a short hike from the car park...
London's southernmost pub boasts a CR3 postcode, as do two short streets and a football club. You'll find them all amid Coulsdon Common, a City-of-London-owned chunk of, yet again, ancient woodland and rare chalk grassland. But this time it's mostly flat and this time it has a road, so this is the first point in the walk where traffic, lampposts and a regular bus service briefly intrude. The pub is The Fox, a village hostelry with 300 years of history, a dog-friendly door policy and a decent outdoor space when the weather merits. I can confirm they do a decent pint of cider and a perfectly adequate ham and cheddar melt, best enjoyed when walking Loop 5 in the opposite direction.
The Fox is within staggering distance of two contrasting streets with the somewhat obvious names of Fox Lane and Old Fox Close. The former briefly links the main road to the pub and is lined by detached piles with names like Cedar Shingles. The latter is a slightly longer curl lined by identikit pebbledash semis which were added postwar on the site of an army barracks, and it's either a very patriotic cul-de-sac or else they haven't taken down their Coronation flags yet. The only other CR3 addresses belong to three mid-common cottages (one listed) and the home ground of youth side Caterham Pumas (who play in all sorts of Surrey leagues despite their seven pitches being marginally in London).
Loop 5 (contd): Continue down the lane with the mega-bungalows, admire the front garden fountain, yes they do have delivery bikes even out here, nip up the alley by the postbox, ignore the scary CCTV notices at Cornwall Farm, skirt the observatory, cross the paddocks and enter Betts Mead Rec...
..or maybe don't, because I've oft been disappointed that the designers of the Loop somehow managed to miss all the interesting places at the foot of Old Lodge Lane. They missed the Wattenden Arms pub, they missed the village pond and most importantly they missed Kenley Airfield, so I always walk via those instead. The airfield was key during both world wars and is still operational, as the windsock and occasional soaring glider confirm. The public is then restricted to an arc round the apron, securely fenced, but that's more than sufficient for exercise purposes, plus it also provides opportunities to explore the footprints of 'blast pens' used by Spitfires.
With an eye to postcodes I then deviated fully from the Loop's passage across Kenley Common and instead took an eastern path down towards Whyteleafe. And on the brow of the last rise, joined only by skittering starlings, I soaked in a marvellous view across the next dry valley. This photo of rooftops and a cliff face contains major spoilers for what follows.
The other overlap between CR3 and London is a slice of prime 30s suburbia on the Kenley/Whyteleafe border. Spacious gabled semis line a trio of roads layered down the hillside, with Mosslea Road near the bottom, Beverley Road in the middle and Hilltop Road at the top. They snuck in an even higher cul-de-sac later, where the best views are balanced out by the most tiring climbs. Everyone gets a garden on a slope, some sheerer than others, but only Hilltop Road will be in the ULEZ because the boundary is cruel. The other side of Caterham Valley is where all the action is - the shops and Surrey - whereas this side's a severed stripe with a Hail & Ride, a postbox and a couple of footbridges for pedestrian escape. Cross New Barn Lane and you enter CR8, but best not because New Barn Lane is one of the steeper climbs on Loop section 5, which means we're back on track again.
Loop 5 (contd): Assuming you can dash safely across the A22, let's enter Riddlesdown. This is a bit like Farthing Down in that it's made of chalk and the City of London owns it, except it has just the one slope. It is a magnificent slope though, particularly at this time of year with a lush carpet of wild flowers stretching almost a mile. An ancient cartway starts the climb, then just beyond a second railway line you have to watch for the right gap in the trees to start your assault on the upper ridge. I heard no skylarks in Skylark Field, alas, but I did see a woodpecker swooping low across Woodpecker Field so that was a win. And throughout this paragraph we've been skirting a giant hole in the ground, 200m square, and that'll be our second Regionally Important Geological Site. [pdf]
GLA 26: Riddlesdown Quarry (Kenley)
Current geological designation: RIGS
This is geological royalty on the very edge of the capital, a large abandoned chalk quarry with a whopping 50m cliff face. The site was in use from the late 1700s until 1967, came complete with its own narrow gauge railway and was purchased by the City of London in 1996 as a Riddlesdown adjunct. They occasionally open it up for interested groups - here's a report from an Open University field trip - but otherwise it's extremely well fenced off because a tumble from the top would kill you. They're happy to let goats in though, which is why I saw four through the railings at the very top nibbling away on the edge of a precipice to keep the undergrowth in check.
What makes Riddlesdown special is the of exposure of chalk lithology on the quarried face, from Glynde marls to the Lewes Nodular Chalk Formation, complete with conspicuous flint bands, orthogonal joints and associated faults. Like Gilbert's Pit it's often used to show tunnelling engineers what they're about to be boring into, assuming anyone ever has sufficient money to tunnel under London and needs to know what a fractured chalk succession looks like. One of the best views is from the entrance to Jewson's car park on the Godstone Road, or from across the valley on Kenley Common (where I took my earlier photo), you'll see nothing from the top. But there is an intriguingly precipitous public footpath along the southern rim where closer vistas open up intermittently through the railings, though best wait until winter for a clearer glimpse through the trees.
CR6: Hamsey Green
And finally on this supremely box-ticking walk, another postcode district that barely grazes London. Tithepit Shaw Lane is the last street on Loop section 5 and impressively borderline - the London/Surrey border runs down the middle of the road so opposite houses have entirely different bins. But when the Post Office were divvying up post towns they bundled the whole street in with Warlingham because that was more efficient, with CR2 not kicking in until the street behind. Residents on the London side have to put up with pupils bundling out of the Surrey secondary school opposite, noisy scaffolders dumping unwanted skips in their front gardens and the boarded-up eyesore at the end of the street where Lidl demolished a pub in 2012 but never quite got round to building a supermarket.
The boundary continues to divide on the other side of the main road where Kingswood Lane has a similar CR6 split. The first houses are cosy interwar infill, then comes a motley mix of more modern homes and finally the lane makes a break for regimented oak woodland and goes private, but that's Loop section 4 so we've no need to go that far. I will say that one of the bungalows has an impressively lacklustre garden sale spread across its paved area and walls out front, so maybe just give a donation to the MS charity rather than taking home the £5 imitation leather handbag, the Bear Grylls DVD collection or the warped box of Junior Cluedo. Also Hamsey Green pond on the corner is entirely without water, but like I said, that's living on chalk bedrock for you.
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