diamond geezer

 Monday, November 29, 2021

It's possible to visit four London boroughs on foot in 1 minute 10 seconds.
Bromley → Croydon → Lambeth → Southwark (report from Crystal Palace here)

It's possible to visit five London boroughs on foot in less than 10 minutes.
Bromley → Croydon → Lambeth → Southwark → Lewisham (same report here)

For my latest challenge I've tried walking the maximum possible in an hour, which turns out to be eight.
Tower Hamlets → Hackney → City of London → Islington → Camden → Westminster → Southwark → Lambeth



This can only be done in the centre of town where administrative boundaries lie very close together, so what follows is essentially a walk around the City of London and the seven immediately adjacent boroughs.

I started at Norton Folgate, just north of Spitalfields Market and Liverpool Street station. This is one of the former liberties of the City, most recently desecrated by British Land as the site of a dense office pile, and also the point where Tower Hamlets, Hackney and the City of London meet. That was three boroughs ticked off instantaneously, or would have been had I been able to stand safely in the very centre of the road at the junction with Worship Street.



By my calculations there are 50 points in Greater London where three boroughs meet, not that you can physically stand at all of them without trespassing or drowning, but ticking off three boroughs very very quickly is not a tough challenge.

Follow Worship Street west and four minutes later you magically enter Islington... or at least on any normal day you do. Alas when I turned up yesterday the last section of the road was blocked for filming, with a heck of a lot of vans and lights and cameras stashed in readiness and a security guard intent on keeping pedestrians out of shot. I have no idea what they were filming, only that it required a lot more vehicles than you normally see, and it wasn't a problem because I simply walked one block south and entered Islington via Christopher Street instead.
4 boroughs - four minutes



That was the low-hanging fruit taken. The next nearest unvisited borough was Camden on the other side of the City so what came next was a walk of just over a mile to get there. In good news that walk was mostly along the B100, a road I blogged in its entirety earlier this month so don't need to describe again. Think Chiswell Street, the Beech Street tunnel and Smithfield market, eventually ending up on Farringdon Street.

I could have reached Camden quicker but instead I targeted the triple point where Camden, Westminster and the City meet. This is roughly in the middle of Chancery Lane (between King's College and the Law Society) and deftly raised my borough total to six. What's more I'd walked it in half an hour flat, which I think is the quickest it's possible to hit half a dozen.
6 boroughs - thirty minutes



Two other London boroughs were now less than half a mile away but on the other side of the Thames. Had the Garden Bridge ever been built it would have been easier to get there via a more direct route, but thankfully it wasn't. Instead my choice was whether to head upstream to Waterloo Bridge or downstream to Blackfriars Bridge, and crossing the latter turned out to be quicker.

Blackfriars Bridge is one of two that lie entirely within the City of London so I didn't enter Southwark halfway across, I had to wait until I got to the other side.
7 boroughs - forty-four minutes

Finally it was a short walk west along the South Bank below Sea Containers House. This was by far the most congested part of the route, especially the narrow stretch beside the Oxo Tower where some careful sidestepping was required. But immediately beyond this I crossed into Bernie Spain Gardens and entered my eighth borough, which was Lambeth, so I could stop the clock.
8 boroughs - forty-eight minutes



A slightly more streamlined route at a slightly faster pace might have allowed me to hit 45 minutes, but eight different boroughs in under an hour cannot be beaten.

Because I'd been walking around the innermost part of the city it would then have been a bit of a hike to reach a ninth. The nearest was Wandsworth at Nine Elms and that's a couple of miles distant (so, notionally, walking nine boroughs would take an hour and a half).

As for Kensington & Chelsea that would have required getting to the north side of Chelsea Bridge (meaning ten boroughs is just doable in two hours). Hammersmith & Fulham would have added another half hour, and had I felt the need to add Richmond, Hounslow and Ealing at least one hour more. That would have been 14 boroughs in 3½ hours, but I had no interest in schlepping that far so stopped at eight.

Minimum time to walk to a number of London boroughs
1234567891011121314
0
min
0
min
0
min
1
min
10
min
30
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44
min
48
min

hrs
2
hrs

hrs

hrs

hrs

hrs

It's important not to get too carried away with this. The question of how long it would take to walk to all 33 London boroughs sounds tempting to tackle, but because it would involve dropping in on Hillingdon, Havering and Crystal Palace is an entirely impractical activity. My walking challenge was essentially linear, but once you end up in two dimensions everything quickly gets much too complicated.

I have previously visited all 33 boroughs by train in 7 hours 13 minutes, because I do love ticking things off, and earlier this year made a special effort to walk through four English counties in one hour flat. I need to remember that you will never do this because you have either common sense or a life. But eight boroughs in quick succession is almost fun, should you ever have an hour to spare.

 Sunday, November 28, 2021

Walking Britain's B Roads: the B106
Alexandra Park Road/Albert Road/Durnsford Road/Brownlow Road
[Haringey/Enfield]
[1.6 miles]

This is my most far-flung B Road yet, indeed all of the next fifteen are a lot closer to home. That said we're still only in Haringey, specifically cutting across the northwest of the borough from Muswell Hill to the North Circular.

n.b. This isn't the original B106, a designation initially applied to the short road past Stamford Hill station. But when that was reclassified as an extension to the A107, sometime in the 1920s, the B Road number became free and so was reused for a new suburban connection which hadn't existed at the start of the decade.

It's a pleasant road in a desirable area and with a lot more ups and downs than any of my preceding B Road reports. Stay tuned for Purity by Beatrice, an African freedom fighter, a listed station and another pre-Worboys road sign.




I'm starting my walk in Muswell Hill, not quite at the bijou summit but a bit further north on Colney Hatch Lane (a road classified as the B550 because it begins on the other side of the A1). The B106 kicks off at the traffic lights by the Shell garage, which naturally boasts a Little Waitrose because it's fairly well-to-do round here. The flats on the first street corner aren't typical of what's to come, but that's because they were built on the site of a large Victorian Methodist church whose congregation fled in the 1980s when its upkeep became too expensive. The nice houses start just round the first bend, both along the B106 and up a series of elegant avenues to either side.



The second bend is where Hornsey borough once crossed into Wood Green, but that's been administratively irrelevant ever since both were merged into Haringey. Here we find St Andrew's, a larger-than-necessary parish church who'd love to see you for their saint's day Mass on Tuesday evening (followed by "cakes and fizz"). It's also where the road starts to properly descend with an impressive view framed between the gabled villas to either side. The extensive flat valley beyond is that of the River Lea, those tiny tower blocks to one side might be the quartet at Ponders End and the green hills in the background are (checks map) ooh that's Epping Forest. Lovely.



This is Alexandra Park Road and we're entering the suburb of Alexandra Park, an Edwardian development laid out to the north of Alexandra Palace. It's so called because the much-loved hilltop park used to be much larger, including an additional northwestern flank with landscaped attractions including a chain of lakes, a tree-lined avenue and a circus ring, but all of that was swiftly swept away for housing. You can tell it's desirable housing by the content of the parade of shops at the foot of the hill in which consecutive units are taken by an organic grocers, an independent bakery, a gift boutique, a proper wool shop and a ceramics workshop (Don't Miss Our Christmas Firing Deadline!). Elsewhere calling your beauty salon Purity by Beatrice might raise eyebrows, but here it merely lifts them.



Alexandra Park Road bears off after the library, having been trumped B-road-wise by the newer Albert Road which forks left. Time was when the only building round here was Tottenham Wood Farm, the centre of a 450 acre agribusiness, but all that remains of the farmhouse is an isolated portico in the playground of Rhodes Avenue Primary School. A more obvious legacy is the park alongside where residents gather to play tennis, kick a ball or hide away in the pavilion cafe. It had always been the Albert Road Recreation Ground but in February was renamed O R Tambo Recreation Ground after anti-apartheid campaigner Oliver Tambo who lived in exile just up the road for over 20 years. A statue of the great man wielding a metal charter, gifted by the South African High Commission, now greets those entering by the south gate.



Albert Road bears off after the football pitches, having been trumped B-road-wise by the newer Durnsford Road which forks left. The most significant building here is the Sunshine Garden Centre, whose large car park confirms a significant number of large gardens in the vicinity. It's just slipped into Christmas-tree selling mode (which is how the business started in 1989), but in the summer months the giant red barbecue out front summons would-be grillers from far and wide. The road is now climbing again with woody banks on one side and a gap in the relentless houses on the other. This is because the B106 is now passing over the East Coast Main Line, immediately above the portal where the tracks enter the Wood Green Tunnel (between Alexandra Palace and New Southgate). Those not in cars can enjoy the landscaped half-mile of Tunnel Gardens, an undeveloped strip which passes along the top.



When the houses restart they're almost cottagey, as befits later interwar development, and crouched behind a row of well-trimmed boxy hedges. The road is now descending again having crossed a watershed into the valley of the Pymmes Brook. I ought to mention the buses that ply this way (102, 184, 299) because this helps some of you visualise where we are, and because someone's again numbered them in a way that runs counter to the classification of the road. You may remember that the bus which ran the full length of the B105 was the 106, alas, and now here we are on the B106 and it's the 102. The road regains its transport mojo at the next crossroads which is dominated by the octagonal frontage of Bounds Green station (the last architectural triumph on the Cockfosters extension to be grade-something-listed).



The final stretch of the B106, Brownlow Road, is also the oldest. It starts with a shopping parade with split personality - one side bookmakers, fried chicken and minicabs, the other a cafe called Hot Milk and a bakery called White Fig. Come on the right day of the week and you'll easily identify the seemingly random point where the road passes from Haringey into Enfield because it's where the blue binbags start. The houses beyond are a bit more characterful, some with verandas and wooden balustrades. Expect a long queue of traffic before the final lights - I counted 50 - because all the adjacent backstreets have been dead-ended to prevent ratrunning. Outside the Palmers Green and Southgate District Synagogue is the pre-1963 road sign I promised you, although worse for wear ever since the bottom panel pointing to Edmonton and Woodford disappeared.



And hey presto we've reached the A406, better known as the North Circular, where the B106 dissipates into congested vehicular flow.

That's six B Roads down and a total of six miles walked. In good news there isn't a B107 because that number was extinguished ages ago, but all you're missing out on is a five minute walk past Waitrose in Wapping so you're not missing much. Do come back for the much longer B108.

 Saturday, November 27, 2021

10 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• protests across Europe over Covid curbs
• NZ to reopen to vaccinated visitors
• Europe faces 700,000 more deaths (WHO)
• NI workers urged to work from home again
• new South African variant causes concern
• red list reintroduced for S African countries
• schools asked to test on-site after Christmas
• WHO names variant of concern "omicron"
• 2 cases of new ο variant found in UK
• all UK arrivals must take PCR test & self-isolate

Worldwide deaths: 5,140,000 → 5,190,000
Worldwide cases: 257,000,000 → 261,000,000
UK deaths: 143,866 → 144,724
UK cases: 9,806,034 → 10,110,408
1st/2nd/3rd vaccinations: 50.9m/46.3m/17.1m
FTSE: down 2½% (7223 → 7044)

Towns a long way from National Rail stations
The nearest town to London that's more than 5 miles from a station: Ongar, Essex
The nearest town to London that's more than 10 miles from a station: Haverhill, Suffolk
The nearest town to London that's more than 15 miles from a station: Fakenham, Norfolk
The nearest town to London that's more than 20 miles from a station: Minehead*, Somerset
* technically 15 miles from Barry, South Wales

30 posts you may have missed this week on London's four top blogs
🎄 Boiler & Co To Open In Southwark
🎄 Nuno Mendes To Open Lisboeta In Fitzrovia
🎄 43 Ways To Annoy A Londoner In Five Words Or Less
🎄 Kensington Dollshouse Festival Christmas Show returns!
🎄 Opulent Cocktails Are On Glenfiddich This Weekend Only
🎄 A Free Light Festival That Will Tempt You To Thamesmead
🎄 You’re Only A True Londoner If You’ve Done These 23 Things
🎄 Anniversary Special: Chanel No.5 Spaceship Lands at Heathrow
🎄 There’s A Festive Fiesta Going On Over At Barrio This December
🎄 A Pair Of Floating Restaurants Will Open In Canary Wharf This Year
🎄 London Could Receive A Dusting Of Snow As Soon As This Weekend
🎄 St. Pancras International’s Magical Christmas Tree Has Been Unveiled
🎄 The Dockside Brunch Spot With The Seriously Extra Espresso Martinis
🎄 Santa's Back! London's Charming Christmas Instagram Account Returns
🎄 The Immersive London Bar That Transports You To The South Of France
🎄 A Light Display Inspired By ‘Love Actually’ Is Coming To London This Week
🎄 Bang & Olufsen’s Epic Free Pop-Up In Shoreditch Is A Music Lover’s Paradise
🎄 This Traditional, Twinkling Christmas Market By The Thames Is Back For 2021
🎄 The Ivy Chelsea Garden Has Had A Whoville Makeover For the Festive Season
🎄 Wembley Park’s Magical Winter Light Festival Has Returned For Christmas 2021
🎄 This Drive-In Car Park Panto Is A Christmas Must For Fans Of Horrible Histories
🎄 Choo-Choo-Choose This London Underground Train Set For Christmas This Year
🎄 Dogs Are Allowed Into Church For Battersea's Ulti-Mutt Christmas Carol Service
🎄 Enjoy ‘Money Heist’ Themed Cocktails At London’s Hottest Immersive Experience
🎄 Christmas In Soho: Cult Brands, Incredible Cuisine, And Sparkling Christmas Lights
🎄 Enjoy Enchanting Christmas Performances At The Royal Albert Hall This Festive Season
🎄 Perfect Your Hosting Skills With Tanqueray Gin At This Festive Cocktail Party Masterclass
🎄 Head To Westfield This Black Friday Weekend For Exclusive Deals At Your Favourite Shops
🎄 This London Christmas Market Has Been Named The Second Most Instagrammable In Europe
🎄 These Soho Christmas Lights Were Designed By Schoolchildren And The Results Are Heartwarming

Twenty prices that first class stamps have never been
4p, 5p, 6p, 8p, 11p, 13p, 21p, 29p, 35p, 40p, 50-something pence

Chocolate box selections
Black Magic: Almond Crunch, Caramel Heart, Coffee Crescent, Dreamy Fudge, Hazelnut Swirl, Midnight Truffle, Orange Sensation, Pure Black Magic, Raspberry Heaven
Dairy Box: Caramel Heart, Chocolate Velvet, Cookies & Crème, Hazel Smooth, Orange Surprise, Salted Toffee, Strawberry Kiss, Vanilla Cup
Milk Tray: Apple Crunch, Caramel Softy, Fudge Duet, Hazelnut Swirl, Orange Truffle, Perfect Praline, Salted Caramel Charm, Strawberry Temptation, Surprise Parcel, Truffle Heart
Quality Street: Caramel Swirl, Coconut Eclair, Fudge, Milk Choc Block, Orange Creme, Orange Crunch, Strawberry Delight, Toffee Penny, Toffee Finger, The Green Triangle, The Purple One
Thorntons Classic Collection: Creamy Fudge, Crunchy Praline, Gooey Caramel, Honeycomb Baton, Nutty Caramel, Orange Blush, Salted Butterscotch, Strawberries and Cream, Tempting Toffee, Triple Chocolate

Ordnance survey maps I own
Landranger (1:50,000) - 95, 144, 153, 155, 156, 168, 169, 176, 177, 187, 201
Explorer (1:25,000) - 161, 162, 172, 173, 174, 195, 196, 197, 208, 211, 455, OL40

London cycleways (current designation)
C1, CS1, C2, CS3, C4, CS5, C6, CS7, C8, CS8, C10, C14, C17, C20, C23, C28, C29, C30, C31, C34, C35, C38, C39, C44, Q1, Q2, Q3, Q5, Q6, Q8, Q11, Q13, Q14, Q15, Q16, Q22

Grange Hill character nicknames
Pupils: Tucker, Pogo, Stewpot, Gripper, Jonah, Zammo, Woody, Banksie, Hollo, Robbie, Ronnie, Calley, Ant, Ziggy, Mauler, Tegs, Chrissie, Locko, Jacko, Becky, Ray, Grimbo, Spanner, Techno, Dill, Arnie, Cracker, Ozzie, Baz, Mooey, Togger, Tigger
Staff: Frosty, Tweety Bird, Grumpy, Bullet, Sooty, Hoppy, The Midget, Sexy Lexi, Scruffy, Bronco, Selina, Marilyn, Grizzly, Hard, Wally, Maccy-D

Greek letters not yet used for variants of concern or interest
ν ξ π ρ σ τ υ ϕ χ ψ ω

Postcode areas I've been to this month
E1, E2, E3, E5, E6, E7, E8, E9, E10, E11, E12, E13, E14, E15, E16, E17, E20, EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4, N1, N4, N5, N6, N8, N10, N11, N16, N22, NR26, NR27, SE1, SE17, SS0, SS1, SS2, SS3, SS9, WC1, WC2

The Number 1 hit with the shortest name, year by year
1950s: Here In My Heart, Cara Mia, Dreamboat, I'll Be Home, Diana, When, Roulette
1960s: Why, Sailor, Telstar, I Like It, Diane, Help!, Get Away, Release Me, Fire, Dizzy
1970s: Back Home, Grandad, Clair, Get Down, She, If, Mamma Mia/No Charge, Free, Figaro, Cars
1980s: Geno, Woman, Fame, True, Relax/Hello, 19, True Blue, La Bamba, Heart, Let's Party
1990s: Vogue, Dizzy, Stay, Pray/Babe, Doop/Sure, Dreamer, Flava/Words, Mmmbop, Frozen, Maria
2000s: Rise/Stan, Angel, Hero, Slow, Yeah/Burn, Lyla/Dare, Sorry/Crazy/Smile, Ruby, Run, Mama Do
2010s: OMG, Louder, RIP, Burn/Roar, Sing/Rude, King, Closer, Feels, Solo, River
2020s: Wap, Body

 Friday, November 26, 2021

During your life, if you're very lucky, you may get to visit some iconic but nigh impossible places to visit.

Sometimes that's because they've been opened up to the public as a one-off, but I don't mean those. I mean visits you only made because of someone you knew, a company you worked for or an organisation you belonged to, and that magic ticket meant gaining access to somewhere others can only dream of.

I've tried to come up with a list of places I've only seen because a friend, family member, school teacher or work commitment took me there, and which I now look back on and go "wow, I actually did that". They may not be in chronological order. Also I reserve the right not to divulge full details of precisely how I managed to wheedle my way inside, indeed in one or two cases that would be unwise.



Mail Rail
We're having a meet-up in London on Monday evening, they said. We've organised a trip to see the Post Office Railway, would you like to come? I did very much want to come, obviously, and my Dad was only too willing to take me. We started the trip to London with a lift ride to the 18th floor of a now-demolished office block, then went to Dayvilles for one of 32 flavors of ice cream, then went to meet everyone else outside the sorting office on Rathbone Place. It all felt like a perfectly normal thing to be doing at the time. First they showed us the sorting area with the bags and the little labelled cubbyholes, then they showed us the big space with the vans, but the best bit was when they took us down in the lift to see the railway. I remember a long brightly lit platform space with tracks but no platform, and miniature driverless trains emerging from the tunnels at regular intervals laden with letters and parcels, and uniformed postmen stepping up to keep the whole process moving. We stood to one side to watch the whole thing play out, and then we got stuck in the lift on the way out. And yes these days you can go to the Postal Museum and see the trains and even ride on one, which is excellent, but somehow I actually visited when the whole thing was properly operational and wow I actually did that.

Maida Vale Studios
Some of the biggest names in music have recorded at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios, and so have I. My choir was invited to take part in auditions for an annual competition called Let The People Sing, an amateur choral knockout, for which we had to get a coach down to W9. We arrived in the early evening and were ushered through the doors into one of the fabled studios, which I remember being unexpectedly large. I don't remember what we sang, only that our choirmaster would have made us rehearse it much too often, but I do remember being allowed to go to the canteen for subsidised refreshments halfway through. I still have the BBC paper cup I smuggled out, having ignored the instruction Please Deposit This Cup In The Receptacle Provided, and I keep special things in it. Now I look back and wonder who else had recorded in that same studio, and whether any bands were doing a John Peel session at the time I was there, and which corridor the Radiophonic Workshop was down. But most of all, now the BBC is closing the place down, I just think wow I actually did that.

Bekonscot Model Village
The first time I went to Bekonscot I was very small, not much more than rooftop height, and bowled over by the tiny buildings, the evocative tableaux and the miniature railway. I watched the trains repeatedly weaving their way around the site, occasionally disappearing under the full-sized signal box beside Maryloo station and then coming out the other side. Imagine my delight on a later visit when I was permitted access to that signal box so got to peer through the glass in the opposite direction. From here I could keep an eye on the electronic board that showed where all the trains were, admire the lever frames (lifted from Purley and Ruislip) and even see where the trains went during the gap when they were invisible from outside. Best of all I got to pull some of the levers and make the trains go where I wanted, just for a bit, and without crashing or derailing any. Six year-old me would never have believed it was possible, but wow I actually did that.

BBC Television Centre
I've been inside TV Centre in White City several times, almost always in ways you could have done too. I've been inside the Top of the Pops studio on a paid-for BBC Tour, I've sat in the audience and laughed at a TV sitcom and I've stood in the Blue Peter Garden as part of an Open House visit. But on one occasion, because I knew somebody who worked there, I got a guest pass and slipped in past security to see the proper working side of the facility. I got to peer into the newsroom and passed John Simpson in the corridor outside, even though I didn't recognise him at the time. I looked down from the viewing gallery on preparations for the Strictly Come Dancing final. I ventured into the gents on the sixth floor where the top brass had their offices and availed myself of the facilities. And at the end of the visit I went to the BBC Club where employees relaxed and I had two bottle of Becks plus burger and chips and watched the corporation at play. I failed to spot any well known faces imbibing nearby but it was still a remarkable insight into the heart of a much-loved institution, and wow I actually did that.

Then there was
that time I went behind the scenes in an ice cream laboratory,
and that time I went to a gallery opening with the Home Secretary,
and that time I went backstage in the Royal Albert Hall,
and that time I had an English lesson on a film set,
and that time a global company director came for tea,
and that time Radio 2 broadcast from my living room,
and that time I had a beer on the private members' terrace,
and the time I went to that meeting where they actually decide that thing,
and that time I went to the 18th floor of a now-demolished tower block,
but they're not quite the same thing.

But wow, the other things, wow, I actually did that.

 Thursday, November 25, 2021

Anorak Corner [National Rail edition]

It's time once again for the annual splurge of passenger data from across Britain's railway network, this batch covering the period April 2020 to March 2021. That's pretty much an exact match for the most atypical twelve months of railway usage ever, thanks to the pandemic, so expect entirely unrepresentative freakish outcomes. City centre commuting collapsed, trains often ran almost empty and various outlying lines were temporarily mothballed so there might even be some zeroes.

None of what follows is either normal or consequential, so best read nothing definitive into any of it.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations (2020/21) (with changes since 2019/20)
  1) ↑6 Stratford (14.0m)
  2) -- Victoria (13.79m)
  3) ↑1 London Bridge (13.76m)
  4) ↓3 Waterloo (12m)
  5) ↓2 Liverpool Street (11m)
  6) ↑5 Highbury & Islington (9m)
  7) ↑6 Clapham Junction (8m)
  8) ↑13 Barking (6.8m)
  9) ↑4 East Croydon (6.7m)
10) ↓4 Euston (6.6m)

For the first time in living memory, Britain's busiest railway station isn't a central London terminus. They've all slumped in usage due to millions of commuters working from home, which leaves Stratford in East London to take the crown. It benefited from being a major interchange in a residential area so was still well used by key workers, and was also the most used station on the tube network last year. Victoria and London Bridge nearly beat it - both were only a couple of hundred thousand passengers behind. Four other non-terminus stations make the top 10, the biggest upward leaper being Barking, again in East London.

The UK Top 10 looks exactly the same as this but with Birmingham New Street in eighth place (it's more usually a couple of places higher).

London's ten busiest central London termini (2020/21)
  1) Victoria (14m) ↓60m
  2) London Bridge (14m) ↓49m
  3) Waterloo (12m) ↓75m
  4) Liverpool Street (11m) ↓55m
  5) Euston (7m) ↓38m
  6) Paddington (6.4m) ↓38m
  7) St Pancras (6.3m) ↓30m
  8) Charing Cross (5.4m) ↓24m
  9) King's Cross (4.7m) ↓28m
10) Fenchurch Street (3.2m) ↓15m

How the mighty have fallen. London Victoria would normally have 60 million more passengers than it had in the first year of the pandemic, and London Waterloo an additional 75 million! With these diminished figures none of London's rail termini would have made last year's Top 30.

London's ten least busy Overground/Crossrail stations (2020/21)
  1) Emerson Park (94,000) ↓71%
  2)
Acton Main Line (126,000) ↓64%
  3)
South Hampstead (165,000) ↓60%
  4)
Headstone Lane (173,000) ↓59%
  5)
Hanwell (182,000) ↓60%
  6)
South Kenton (214,000) ↓61%
  7)
Hatch End (215,000) ↓68%
  7)
Penge West (218,000) ↓67%
  9)
Stamford Hill (218,100) ↓58%
10)
Cambridge Heath (252,000) ↓67%

Emerson Park on the runty Romford-Upminster line remains at the bottom of the heap, while Acton Main line is still London's least attractive Crossrail station. All of these stations lost about two-thirds of their usual passengers last year.

London's ten least busy National Rail stations (2020/21)
  1) * Heathrow T4 (162)
  2) ↑2 Sudbury & Harrow Road (6300)
  3) -- Drayton Green (7100)
  4) ↓2 South Greenford (8800)
  5) -- Sudbury Hill Harrow (14600)
  6) -- Castle Bar Park (26800)
  7) -- Morden South (37900)
  8) ↑2 Birkbeck (33900)
  9) ↑9 Reedham (36300)
10) ↑13 Woodmansterne (37700)

Heathrow Terminal 4 is London's new least used station, by some distance, because all flights from Terminal 4 ceased in May and so the station was closed, resulting in a paltry 162 annual passengers. The next six stations in the list are exactly the same six as last year, confirming that little-used stations remain little-used even in a pandemic. The Greenford branch makes its usual pitiful appearance.

Last year's least used station, Angel Road, has since been replaced by a new station at Meridian Water a short distance to the south. This attracted a creditable 80,000 passengers in the last year, so we probably won't be seeing it in the least used list again.

But enough of London.

The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't in London (2020/21)
  1) -- Birmingham New Street (7.4m)
  2) ↑2 Leeds (5.9m)
  3) ↓1 Glasgow Central (5.3m)
  4) ↓1 Manchester Piccadilly (5.2m)
  5) ↑2 Brighton (4.1m)
  6) ↑4 Liverpool Central (3.6m)
  7) ↑4 Liverpool Lime Street (3.5m)
  8) -- Reading (2.9m)
  9) ↓4 Edinburgh (2.9m)
10) ↑4 Cambridge (2.3m)

Passenger totals were also well down outside London (with decreases generally in the order of 80%). Birmingham New Street retains top position beyond the capital, with Leeds leapfrogging Glasgow Central and Manchester Piccadilly into second. Although most of the Top 10 are the same as last year but in a different order, the big loser was Gatwick Airport which slumped from 6th to 18th place due to lack of flyers. Only 50 provincial stations saw over a million passengers during 2020/21, whereas during the previous year 350 stations managed that.

Six National Rail stations with NO passengers in 2020/21
0) Stanlow & Thornton [last year 82]
0) Sugar Loaf [last year 156]
0) Sampford Courtenay [last year 240]
0) Beasdale [last year 324]
0) Abererch [last year 2148]
0) Llanbedr [last year 11716]

This too is astonishing. Some stations usually manage miserably low passenger totals but it's never normally zero. All are for pandemic-related reasons as stations (and in the case of Stanlow & Thornton entire lines) were closed to passenger traffic. At the three Welsh stations - Sugar Loaf, Abererch and Llanbedr - the platform is so short that social distancing between passengers and the guard was deemed impossible so trains didn't stop. As for Sampford Courtenay this usually only saw trains on summer Sundays but didn't get any last summer... and has since been permanently closed (to enable this week's reopening of the line to Okehampton).

The UK's ten least busy (open) National Rail stations (2020/21)
  1) Teesside Aiport (2) [last year 338]
  2) Tygwyn (4) [last year 1062]
  3) Okehampton (6) [last year 6434]
  4) Llandanwg (8) [last year 3884]
  5) Kirton Lindsey (10) [last year 272]
  6) Elton & Orston (12) [last year 68]
  6) Denton (12) [last year 92]
  8) Kildonan (16) [last year 214]
  8) Cilmeri (16) [last year 1214]
10) Reddish South (18) [last year 158]
10) Scotscalder (18) [last year 232]
10) Ince & Elton (18) [last year 740]

Several of these are the usual suspects, but passenger numbers are still abnormally titchier than usual. None of these averaged more than one passenger a fortnight (or if you consider return journeys, more than one a month). Teesside Airport only has one train a week and even this was suspended for much of the survey period (a reader claims that the entire annual complement of two passengers was down to him). Denton and Reddish South also suffered from weekly service/suspension issues.

Okehampton is a mystery given it saw no scheduled trains between September 2019 and November 2021. The official database admits "There is uncertainty around the estimated entries and exits at this station" and "Possible over-estimate", but that hasn't stopped them going ahead and publishing an entirely implausible passenger total of 6. Tygwyn's 4 is also described as a "Possible over-estimate", so is quite possibly another zero, but maybe someone got off there before social distancing closed the station in June.

Meanwhile last year's least used station, Berney Arms, has piled on the passengers and is no longer in the Bottom 100. This has made a lot of people very excited, whereas really it's because last year's figures were entirely uncharacteristic thanks to the station being closed for 47 weeks due to signalling upgrade works. Open it for 52 weeks, even during a pandemic, and passenger numbers rocket from 42 to 348. Remember this in 2022 because you should never read too much into what happens the year after something wholly abnormal, which is precisely what next year will be.

» Rail passenger data here (total annual entry and exit frequencies)
» Previous updates: 19/20, 18/19, 17/18 16/17, 15/16 14/15, 13/14, 12/13, 11/12, 10/11, 09/10, 08/09, 07/08, 06/07, 05/06

» Anorak Corner [tube edition]
» Anorak Corner [bus edition]

 Wednesday, November 24, 2021

diamond geezer is now available in bespoke local editions.

We have determined that your local area is



diamond geezer Haringey West



How many of us, when shopping on Muswell Hill Broadway, realise that we are passing the former home of one of the world's finest crystallographers? This pioneering scientist was William Barlow and his former home is now Sweaty Betty, the women's activewear shop at the top of Hillfield Park. Back in 1875 Mr Barlow was freed to dabble in science after inheriting great wealth from his father's building company, so focused his Victorian intellect on the geometrical enumeration of crystal structures. At the time it was widely believed there were only 65 spatially distinct crystal packing structures, but Barlow visualised three further enantiomorphous duplications increasing the total to 230 distinct space-groups. Two other European scientists published very similar results around the same time, and to be frank their proofs were more rigorous, but this did not stop Barlow being elected President of the Mineralogical Society in 1915.



It's hard to believe that Barlow first postulated the body-centred cubic arrangement of calcium chloride from the top of this street, even if he was applying it to sodium chloride at the time. We have the Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association to thank for bringing his eminent life to our attention by means of a plaque, this being the very first unveiled by the chairman of the association back in 2007. Today we can only wonder whether William's spatial insight was partly inspired by his view across Stoke Newington and the Lea Valley, even if the towers of post-Olympic Stratford weren't part of his vista at the time. So next time you're charging your electric vehicle outside a windowful of snoods and dappled leggings, consider the local hero who helped unravel crystal physics with his insights into pseudosymmetry right here in the heart of N10.



Have you tried the Russian soul food at the Queen's Wood Cafe yet? Every Tuesday the organic and veggie dishes at the dog-friendly chalet are supplemented by the Rosehip & Rye pop-up, bring 'New East' cuisine to a shady corner of the upper woodland. Karina and Katrina are from Moscow and Estonia respectively and one of them used to review restaurants for Time Out so they very much know what they're doing. Yesterday it was dumplings, and this Saturday there's a special Nutcracker Immersive Supper Club, but mostly it's just Tuesdays. Admittedly I only walked past and read the chalkboard so my review is very much substandard to one of Katrina's, but I reckon you'll already know if you're vaguely interested or not.



One of the biggest problems in Haringey West has always been how to walk from one half of the Parkland Walk to the other. The northern and southern halves are separated by approximately one mile, as befits separate sections of a disused railway, so it can by somewhat dispiriting making the trek inbetween. Thankfully the Friends of the Parkland Walk have come to our aid with a laminated map showing not one but three possible connections so we can now make the selection for ourselves. The most direct route almost follows Muswell Hill Road but takes a parallel track through Highgate Wood instead. A more scenic route follows the Capital Ring through Queen's Wood, thereby avoiding most of the dull road-walking past Highgate station. The third option loops lengthily round the far side of Highgate Wood following the line of the original railway, near enough, but only go this way if you have plenty of time and don't want dumplings. Take your pick.



Highgate Wood In Autumn by dg, aged 11 and 183 quarters

The sky is blue
The leaves are brown
Long shadows cross the scrunchy oaken carpet
It does not look like this in summer
But at least it is not muddy yet
Here come the dogs!



The Muswell Hill Christmas tree is up! It appeared last weekend and is now brightening the corner between St James's and the Everyman Cinema with its lights and silver baubles. In 2018 there was considerable local embarrassment when local traders erected an eight foot specimen, their puny spruce downsized after insurance costs swallowed up much of the available cash. But this season's fundraiser smashed its £4000 goal and the Mayor of Haringey duly turned up to switch it on this Saturday, ably backed by a group of Victorian carol singers in ribboned bonnets. Perhaps even better, respected news service My London has described 2021's tree as 'giant', so that's Muswell Hill's festive reputation rightly restored.



Plans are afoot to change the bus service in Haringey West. TfL are now consulting on a proposal to completely withdraw route 271 and sort-of replace it with routes 21, 143 and 263. These days they hide maps inside separate pdfs rather than posting a coherent explanation on a single page, which is less than optimal, and they only do before and after maps so the mess above is my attempt at a joint summary. The plan is for the dead 271 to be replaced by a redirected 21 between Hoxton and Holloway Road, by the 263 between Highbury & Islington and Archway and by swapping over the 143 and 263 in Highgate. The 43 runs most of this road too, but mentioning this is beyond the remit of TfL's cartographers. The good news for local folk is that the 271's ugly bus stand at Pond Square will no longer be needed, and the good news for TfL is that they can take 13 vehicles off the streets.

Readers in Islington can discover more about changes to route 21 in their bespoke local edition, while readers in Southwark and Camden can learn of a completely separate proposed merger of routes 1 and 168 in theirs. Please reset your location to view this alternative content.

 Tuesday, November 23, 2021

In good news, Crossrail has finally entered the final phase of preparations.

→  Dynamic
Testing
  →  Trial
Running
  →  Trial
Operations
  →  Revenue
Service
 Jan 2019 May 2021 Nov 2021 ?

In bad news that final phase has been split in two, which risks delaying things further.

→  Dynamic
Testing
  →  Trial
Running
  →  Trial
Ops 1
  →  Trial
Ops 2
  →  Revenue
Service
     Nov 2021 Jan 2022 ?

Not that you'd necessarily guess this from yesterday's upbeat press release.
Trial Operations underway ahead of Elizabeth line opening next year

Delivery of the Elizabeth line has reached its next significant milestone with the Trial Operations stage now underway. This marks the final phase of the programme before the Elizabeth line opens for passenger services between Paddington and Abbey Wood in the first half of 2022.

Trial Operations involves operational exercises to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway for public use and to fully test the timetables. More than 150 scenarios will be carried out over the coming months to ensure the readiness of the railway for passenger service.
A less glossy summary appears in papers prepared for an Elizabeth Line committee meeting taking place this Thursday. These still suggest the railway should open in the first half of next year but also list a number of issues which continue to cause problems, hence the need to push back some of the safety-critical aspects of Trial Operations into the new year.
"The Trial Operations plan has been split into two phases to enable Phase One to start late November 2021 with the lower risk trials using staff only and Phase Two to commence in January 2022 following the completion of a number of critical activities December 2021. This enables mass evacuations using large numbers of public volunteers to be carried out."
The most significant problem isn't the rolling stock or the infrastructure, it's the software that operates them.
"Reliability has been lower than what is to be expected in revenue service mainly due to known software defects, much of which are anticipated to be fixed by revenue service as part of the ongoing software releases plan."
Train operating software has been a problem for at least two years, requiring repeated iterations to try to fix a large number of issues, and yet another version is due next month. The 9-car units operating on TfL Rail West have proved particularly susceptible.
"The current train control software is not delivering the expected reliability, but defects are generally rectified by a system reset and containment measures put in place by the operator which has limited the impact to passenger service. Testing is complete on a reliability-focussed software version for delivery by train manufacturer Alstom in December 2021, which is forecast to deliver a significant reliability improvement as it is loaded onto the fleet in January 2022."
A railway that still relies on occasionally turning it off and on again is not ready for passenger service.

But it's not just trains where software is causing problems, it's also the tunnel ventilation sysytem. This has to be right so that smoke can be controlled should an incident occur, hence passenger trials can't start until it's sorted out.
"Before the end of the year there will be further changes to the tunnel ventilation system to complete the outstanding functionality of the system software for passenger service. There will also be a smaller scale software update (ELR110) that will sweep up any new issues identified during Trial Running. These final fixes are expected to be small in number but are important in the final completion of the railway for revenue service."
It's this need to fix the train operating software and tunnel ventilation system that's forced TfL to split Trial Operations into a Phase 1 and a Phase 2, delaying key safety checks until later. It's not even certain that Phase 2 will start in January, because everything relies on the upgrades being successful.
"A ‘gate’ has been scheduled for December 2021 to provide the conditional Go/No Go for Phase 2 subject to the successful completion of the TVS works. Once approved, this will allow us to carry out planned volunteer evacuation exercises in January 2022 including the emergency services."
Meanwhile station construction is no longer the critical issue it used to be. Eight out of 10 central stations have been fully handed over so will be ready whenever, and Canary Wharf is due to join their ranks before Christmas. Even scandalously-late Bond Street has now reached the stage where it could support passenger evacuation, which is one reason why Trial Operations can now go ahead.
"Bond Street station achieved its readiness to support Trial Operations on 8 October 2021. This is a significant milestone for the station and for the wider programme."
This pair of observations from the project sponsor is especially troublesome.
• overall reliability remains low and improvement relies upon major software upgrades to signalling, trains, tunnel ventilation and communications systems, which extend into early 2022
• deferring train evacuation exercises to early 2022 threatens Trial Operations completion, Stage 3 Passenger Service start, and reduces the reliability growth opportunity before Stages 5B and C
Not only is there still a lot to do, but splitting Trial Operations into two parts risks delaying all that follows. That includes 'Stage 3 Passenger Service start' (the first day of public service) which could be shunted much later in the "first half of 2022" window... or even beyond. This is not news a cash-strapped TfL wants to hear. A delayed start would also reduce the time before through services to Reading and Heathrow begin, meaning the final service might not be as reliable as everyone would like.

I popped down to Custom House to see what Trial Operations looks like. It looks like this.



It looks like two staff on the platform, one with a clip board, and trains flooding through every five minutes. This is also what Trial Running looked like last week, indeed last month, because on the face of it not much has changed. What we won't be seeing until next year is volunteer passengers on the platforms testing out the trains because that's Trial Operations Phase 2 and a lot more has to happen before that's allowed.

I'll leave the last word to the risk managers.
"We consider the risk to be adequately controlled, with probability of delay to the scheduled opening in the first half of 2022 low with the current modelling results. However, we recognise further delays to opening of the railway would significantly adversely impact our customers, finances and the confidence of stakeholders. As such, despite the available controls and actions identified, the target assessment remains outside of tolerance."
There is still very much a possibility that Crossrail will not open in the first half of next year. Crossrail remains "outside of tolerance", as perhaps do those waiting for it to open.

 Monday, November 22, 2021

Walking Britain's B Roads: the B105
Manor Road/Lordship Park/Brownswood Road
[Hackney]
[1.3 miles]

The downside of a sequential blogging challenge is that you have no choice over what comes next. In this case what comes after the really-quite-interesting B104 is the not-especially-thrilling B105, but I have to blog it anyway otherwise I can't progress to later B Roads.

I had high hopes because we're barely quarter of a mile from the B104, so still in a Stoke Newington-y part of town, but the B105 merely proved quite pleasant with few distinguishing features. Join me anyway, because I have to get through this if we're ever going to reach the B9178.




The B105 begins on Stamford Hill immediately opposite Stoke Newington station, which is not a classic station but is technically on the A10 so can be disregarded here. On the proper street corner stands Hugh Gaitskell House, a stern 10-storey block of flats opened by the Labour leader's widow in 1964, as a plaque by the roadside attests. Shielding the railway from view is Manor Parade, a sad collection of shuttered businesses which once contained a cake shop, a minicab hire office and a kosher grocers, plus the excellently named Bismillah Kebab House. Of more genuine interest is the pre-Worboys road sign on the pavement confirming Dalston is 1½ miles away and Shoreditch 3. These blue and white signs are normally a rare sight in the capital, but coincidentally the B106 will be blessed with one too.

A few potentially functioning businesses follow, including a dry cleaners, a wine shop and a nail salon, before the parade fades away and Manor Road proper begins. I only gave the brick facade at number 18 a cursory look, long enough to admire faded letters which I think said T Something and underneath Depositories. I should have paid a lot more attention because this furniture warehouse turns out to be properly famous. It was the original home of the Dragon's Den, back in 2005, when its huge timber-ceilinged 1st floor contained five scary chairs facing entrepreneurs attempting to flog umbrella-vending machines. Acoustic issues forced the crew out after one series, but the real winner is the building's owner who recently put it on the market for £3¼m. You get none of this sense of TV history from standing outside.



The B105 is mostly houses from here on. They're really nice houses - large and desirably Victorian - but you don't want to hear me wittering on about well-trimmed hedges, bin stores and occasionally-tiled doorsteps. Look at the photo, you'll get the idea. A utilitarian housing block called St Anne's intrudes just before the first crossroads, which turns out to be a care home for the elderly run by a group of nuns. They're known as the Little Sisters of the Poor and have been based here on Manor Road since 1876, but the current building is a 2009 rebuild and again you get no idea of the backstory simply by walking past its electronic gates.

We do get a proper church further up but it's only United Reformed and in the school-gymnasium style. On the opposite corner is St Mary's Lodge, built in 1843 and thus one of the oldest buildings on the street. Alas it was gutted by fire in 2005, soon after Hackney council sold it off, and the shell is currently scaffolded awaiting conversion to a Jewish Orthodox boys' school. A local resident has created a webpage outlining the building's troubled history, and the fact it encourages you to get in touch via a netscape.net email address should give some idea of how long the redevelopment saga has been going on. The really nice houses return after that, some three-storey and some two-.



We're now in a conservation area because the really nice houses have got even nicer, and the street name has quietly changed to Lordship Park. Hackney's classic Clissold Park is really close, but alas has to be added to the long list of nearby things I cannot write about. Instead let me mention that a lot of the turnings off Manor Road have big yellow signs warning 'Access Only', because Low Traffic Neighbourhoods surround us on all sides, but the B105 runs clear. It's also the route of a London bus but annoyingly that bus is the 106 whereas it'd be much more appropriate, B-Road-wise, were the number one fewer. What the B105 does get numerically correct is that immediately ahead it crosses the A105, a road much better known as Green Lanes.



Here I can offer you brief descriptive respite from "oh look, a lot more houses" in the form of the pub on the corner. It's called The Brownswood (because Brownswood Road is the name of the street straight ahead), serves its beer from brass taps and is also a guesthouse for those who fancy a boutique room. But after that yes, it's more nice houses on one side of the street and a lot of flats on the other, because the Luftwaffe didn't miss everything round here. I almost smiled when I saw an actual shop because it might help get me through that difficult sixth paragraph, but it was only a Costcutter and even its neatly-arranged fruit stall out front didn't deliver any narrative joy.

The last hurrah of the B105 is a repeated wiggle to weave through some even nicer streets, one of which is called Finsbury Park Road, to give you a clue as to where we nearly are. A VW repair garage intrudes, with a sign that looks really old and says Kelvin Motor Wagons so sounds really old too. And half an hour after kicking off in Stoke Newington we've reached a) Blackstock Road b) the London borough of Islington c) the end of the road. This is prime Arsenal supporter territory, home to pubs and fish bars that pack 'em in after a match, the nearest being the trad-style King's Head. Sorry it's not been a vintage trek, but now I've ticked it off I can at least continue to the next in the series.



Before I blog any more B Roads, let me show you on a map those I've walked already.



Notice how they're all east of the A1, because had they been west they'd start with a 5. Notice how they all slot into the gap between the A1 and the A10, because that's where the '10-something' numbers went when roads were first classified in 1922. And notice how the B Road numbers increase sequentially as you head north, because there was a proper rationale to this back then.

But there's been a considerable amount of rejigging since, so for example the B103 no longer exists which leaves a bit of a gap. And there's a reason I've included the map today, after the B105, which is that the B106 no longer fits the model. It did originally but was then upgraded and the number's been relocated somewhere completely different - still in the A1/A10 slice but further out. The most important thing to know about road classification is that if you think there's a pattern you're probably wrong.

 Sunday, November 21, 2021

A lot of UK radio statistics
(using Q3 2021 RAJAR data)

Quarterly reach (% of the adult population)
All radio: 89%
All commercial radio: 66%
All BBC radio: 62%
BBC national radio: 57%
National commercial radio: 44%
Local commercial radio: 44%
BBC local radio: 16%

Nine out of ten adult Britons listen to the radio - not all of the time but at least some of the time - which is damned impressive given that so many alternative media are now available. Overall 66% of us listen to some form of commercial radio and 62% to the BBC (which means 40% of Britons listen to both, while approximately 25% stick to either one or the other). The BBC's national stations are much more popular than their local offering, whereas national and local commercial stations have roughly similar listenership.

Most listened-to commercial groups (by reach)
  1) Heart (18%) G
  2) Hits Radio (16%) B
  3) Capital (14%) G
  4) Smooth (11%) G
  5) Absolute (9%) B
  5) Classic (9%) G
  5) Kiss (9%) B
  8) Magic (7%) B
  9) LBC (5%) G
10) Virgin (4%)

Heart's adult contemporary playlist comes top, ahead of the Hits/Greatest Hits combo and the poppier Capital. Most of these stations were once local and independent but have been inexorably amalgamated into national services in recent years. Easy listening, classical and urban genres trail some way behind. The two big players in the commercial radio market are Global and Bauer (labelled above as G and B), who now own pretty much everything. Note that music stations are a lot more popular than speech (indeed only 5% of Britons sometimes listen to LBC, while talkRadio and Times Radio lag way behind at 1%).

The most played records over the last 10 years

Radio 1Radio 2Radio 6 Music
1) MK - 17
2) Disciples - On My Mind
3) Martin Solveig - Places
4) Panic! at the Disco - High Hopes
5) Sigma - Nobody to Love
6) French Montana - Unforgettable
7) Secondcity - I Wanna Feel
8) Martin Jensen - Solo Dance
9) Route 94 - My Love
10) M-22 - First Time
1) Pharrell Williams - Happy
2) Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
3) The Human League - Don't You Want Me
4) Candi Staton - Young Hearts Run Free
5) The Killers - Human
6) OutKast - Hey Ya!
7) George Ezra - Shotgun
8) Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
9) Daft Punk - Get Lucky
10) Elbow - One Day Like This
1) Donna Summer - I Feel Love
2) Grimes - Genesis
3) Gloria Jones - Tainted Love
4) Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up
5) Marlena Shaw - California Soul
6) Althea & Donna - Uptown Top Ranking
7) Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
8) CSS - Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above
9) A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray
10) The Black Keys - Lonely Boy

These are very very different lists. I've been able to compile them via Last FM, a Noughties music service which tallied every track you listened to and which the BBC have been dutifully feeding ever since. Data is from 20th November 2011 - 20th November 2021.

All of Radio 1's most-played tunes are modern and I have to confess I don't recognise any of them. Radio 2's top 10 are much better-known singalong hits, and also relatively recent, indeed the only representatives of the 20th century are the Human League and Candi Staton. Radio 6 Music's most-played songs stretch much further back and are considerably more diverse. It's a measure of how much I've been listening to 6 Music recently that I knew Uptown Top Ranking would be in the top 10 even before I compiled the list.

BBC National Radio stations (by UK audience share)
  1) Radio 2 (16.2%)
  2) Radio 4 (12.1%)
  3) Radio 1 (5.3%)
  4) Radio 5 Live (3.5%)
  5) Radio 6 Music (2.7%)
  6) Radio 3 (1.6%)
  7) Radio 4 Extra (1.5%)
  8) Radio 5 Live sports extra (0.6%)
  9) Radio 1 Xtra (0.3%)
10) Asian Network (0.2%)

Radio 2 is comfortably the BBC's most popular station. Its audience share of 16% means that, on average, of all those listening to the radio in the UK one in six is tuned to Radio 2. Radio 4 also does really well with one in eight listeners, so is far ahead of those listening to any other speech-based station. Radio 1 has slumped somewhat since it was deliberately targeted at younger listeners, whereas 6 Music's listenership is up 50% on where it was just seven years ago. Radio 3 is easily outgunned by less highbrow classical stations, notably Classic FM which has three times the audience share.

BBC Local radio stations (by local audience share)

Highest shareLowest share
Ulster (19.9%)
Cornwall (16.0%)
Guernsey (16.0%)
Jersey (14.0%)
Shropshire (11.3%)
Devon (10.1%)
Derby (9.9%)
Merseyside (8.8%)
Cumbria (8.6%)
London (1.3%)
CWR (1.8%)
Wiltshire/Swindon (2.6%)
Kent (3.3%)
Cymru (3.3%)
Tees (3.4%)
WM (3.5%)
Manchester (3.5%)
York (3.7%)
Sussex/Surrey (3.9%)

Regionally speaking BBC Radio Ulster is the BBC's most successful local radio station, averaging 20% of the entire Northern Island listenership. Captive audiences in the Channel Islands are also very loyal. Of county-based stations Cornwall is the most impressive local success, followed up by Shropshire, Devon and Derby. BBC local radio tends to do less well in heavily urbanised areas with greater choice, indeed Radio London makes the least impression on its local audience (attracting just 1 in 80 of them). Birmingham and Manchester also appear in the lowest share list, whereas BBC Radio Merseyside bucks the trend (which suggests it's either really well targeted or else the competition in Liverpool isn't particularly strong).

Commercial radio stations (by local audience share)

Highest in BritainHighest in England
Island FM (34.1%)
Channel 103 (33.1%)
Radio Borders (30.3%)
Moray Firth Radio (27.8%)
West Sound (20.9%)
Manx Radio (19.8%)
Northsound 1 (17.8%)
Forth 1 (17.5%)
Clyde 1 (16.2%)
Greatest Hits Yorkshire Coast (15.9%)
Greatest Hits Yorkshire Coast (15.9%)
Heart 4 Counties Northants (12.6%)
Lincs FM (12.5%)
Isle of Wight Radio (11.7%)
Greatest Hits Dorset (11.7%)
Heart North Lancs & Cumbria (11.0%)
Greatest Hits West Sussex (11.0%)
Sun FM (10.2%)
Signal One (10.1%)
Hallam (10.0%)

Commercial radio's strongholds are island nations and Scotland. The two Channel Island commercial stations take a whopping one-third of the audience, as befits a world apart. Commercial stations based in Inverness, Ayr, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Borders also perform at least twice as well as BBC Scotland (whose overall reach is more like 7%).

The best performing English commercial station is based around Scarborough and Whitby (perhaps thanks to lingering loyalty to its properly-local station which was subsumed under the Greatest Hits banner last year). Northants and Lincolnshire are also more partial than most to their local commercial station, along with the more disparate counties of Dorset, West Sussex and Staffordshire. The bland umbrella services of Heart and Greatest Hits Radio haven't won out across the board just yet.

10 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• booster to be offered to all over-40s
• 2nd doses to be offered to 16/17 year-olds
• "storm clouds"/"new wave" gathering over Europe (PM)
• Ireland reintroduces working from home
• 4th wave hitting Germany "with full force" (Merkel)
• booster to be added to NHS Covid pass
• Netherlands may extend school Xmas holidays
• inflation tops 4%
• Austria to introduce compulsory vaccination
• Austria to go into full lockdown

Worldwide deaths: 5,090,000 → 5,140,000
Worldwide cases: 253,000,000 → 257,000,000
UK deaths: 142,835 → 143,866
UK cases: 9,524,971 → 9,806,034
1st/2nd/3rd vaccinations: 50.7m/46.1m/14.6m
FTSE: down 2% (7347 → 7223)

 Saturday, November 20, 2021

Rather than write the usual travelogue about the Norfolk resort of Sheringham, allow me to show you a selection of interesting signs spotted around the town.

Signs of Sheringham



The phrase 'twixt sea and pine' has been emblazoned in large blue letters across the sea wall below the east cliff. This is an inaccurate translation of the town's motto mare ditat pinusque decorat which really means "the sea enriches and the pine adorns", referencing both the North Sea and the coniferous woods inland. Sheringham is the only town in the UK with pine cones and a lobster in its coat of arms.

The Mo turns out to be Sheringham's museum which is housed on the seafront above a storm overflow tank. It's named after Morag Pigott, the old lady who originally lived in the house on this site (but which the military destroyed for training purposes during WW2). Lifeboats are big draw at the museum, as you'd expect, but it also contains a nationally-significant collection of 40 fishermen's sweaters. Connoisseurs of salty knitwear should note that the galleries and observation tower are out of bounds at present while The Mo is closed for the winter.

At Sheringham station, where the buffers ought to be, a panoply of stop signs warns Greater Anglia trains to proceed no further. This is because the track continues across the taxi rank, over the main street, through a small parklet and underneath a level crossing gate... where it enters the domain of the North Norfolk Railway, a popular steam-driven concern enabled by Dr Beeching, and continues all the way to Holt. Festive passengers are currently being carried aboard the Norfolk Lights Express, an illuminated service running (almost) nightly until January, and which Olivia Colman was spotted riding earlier this week.



According to a plaque at the end of Whitehall Yard, the first bomb to be dropped on Britain landed in Sheringham on a Tuesday evening in January 1915. It was dropped from a Zeppelin by a German pilot who'd got a bit lost on the way from Hamburg to Hull, an easy mistake to make on a stormy night, and the payload failed to explode. Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn were not so lucky. Alas the plaque is incorrect, at least with regard to Sheringham being first, because a German plane had already dropped a bomb on a back garden in Dover on Christmas Eve 1914.

You probably can't read the blue plaque on this photo of The Old Smoke House, but don't worry, you don't need to. It says "This building was formerly used as a smoke house", which may just be the most pointless blue plaque of all time.

No mammoths have been uncovered in Sheringham thus far, but follow the arrow to discover a stretch of sea wall where a local painter has celebrated the West Runton find. David Barber's Neolithic Mural includes sabre-tooth cats and rhinos as well as tusky mammoths, plus dung beetles if you know where to look, but is already looking a little worse for wear after five years of tidal splashes.



Those with king-sized continental quilts may wish to know that the Sheringham Launderette on Beeston Road has the largest duvet machine in North Norfolk. Those with standard-sized bedding may be still be interested to know, via another blue plaque, that it was built on the site of the town's 18th century paper mill.

Many seaside high streets contain unusual shops, but I don't think I've ever seen one specifically devoted to bargain books and jigsaws. The puzzles at The Discount Books & Jigsaw Co Ltd didn't seem especially cheap (it was £9.99 for a 500 piece festive scene of small dogs playing by a Christmas tree) but they do offer a decent price for a Woodcraft Construction Kit of the RMS Titanic.

Of course Sheringham has beach huts, and of course they have supposedly amusing names. Sandy Groyne is one of the better ones, and Seas The Day just about tolerable, but whoever called one of them Wine & Wives should be ashamed of themselves.



It's time for Richard Crabtree to retire and so Major Dunn Revival, the bric a brac shop on Church Street, is shutting its doors. The shop is named after a Sheringham antiques shop called Major Dunn which Richard remembers visiting in the 1940s, and which was a high street staple for many years. Alas everything has its time and a prolonged closing down sale at Richard's store has been underway since April. Anyone needing a military helmet, grandfather clock or ceramic owl should head down fairly swiftly.

Up a quiet sidestreet, Margaret's Hairstylists has instead slipped quietly away. A sign on the door warns that the salon will be closing on 28th June due to retirement and thanks customers for their patronage over the last 57 years, a length of time longer than I've been alive, which sounds like the kind of achievement the local paper should have celebrated but sadly didn't. Most touchingly the sign rounds off with an apology - Sorry For Any Inconvenience - and I truly hope Margaret has her feet up somewhere having a well-earned rest.

Rumours about the complete closure of Peter's Bookshop should be ignored, according to one of a multiplicity of signs blu-tacked to its front door. Another confirms that War books are always needed, two scream that purchases must be made in cash only and another misspells the word "traitional". Most tellingly we learn that "the owner of this shop will not insist that faces must be covered" - a statement which aligns with current UK laws - before concluding that "we must learn to live with the virus not allow it to continue ruling our lives". I might stick with the jigsaw shop in the High Street.



There can be few shops with a more grammatically questionable name than Mr. Tea's, Coffees & Cakes. The only way its central comma could be correct is if this were a three-part list, but that can't plausibly be the case because of the apostrophe in the word beforehand (and its absence in the words that follow). This grammatical tussle overshadows the additional mysteries of who Mr. Tea might be and why his coffees are plural, indeed it would instantly put me off grabbing a cuppa within, but rarely has a combination of punctuation marks been used to such devastating contrary effect.

The Our Price store, which sadly doesn't sell vinyl records, has paired its products in such a way as to suggest it sells Pet Stationery. A quick look at the shelves inside confirms that they don't stock Basildon Bond for dogs, fountain pens for cats or anything similar. On the bright side they have at least spelt Stationery correctly... but then wrecked their credentials by getting Confectionary wrong on the next panel.

The cafe with the roundel outside isn't called Pie Stop, it's called Norfolk's Pie Man, and sells familiar meat-based dishes to daytrippers with no sense of culinary adventure. I don't think Transport for London would be very pleased to see their brand collateral used in this way but thankfully the chance of their legal team ever venturing 120 miles north of Cockfosters is vanishingly small.


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