diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Walking Overground South

I'm walking the London Overground extension from Surrey Quays towards Clapham Junction, all eight miles of it. A slowly-increasing number of photos appear here.

Queens Road Peckham
British Rail rebuilt the station in 1977, wiping away the timber platforms and replacing them with a single island platform. Now deemed "of no historic or architectural merit."

» The Cossall Estate nestles up against the curve of the South London Line, mainly because nothing else really wants to be here. It's not a bad estate as these things go, mostly long low-rise blocks, although a bit of a maze to negotiate. If you find the right path you can follow the Kirkwood Nature Reserve along the foot of the embankment, a linear woodland created on the site of a row of terraced houses. I missed that, and got to listen to some child playing Happy Birthday on the recorder (out-of tune) instead. Ducking beneath lofty arches leads to almost the centre of Peckham, where the Hand Car Wash in Copeland Road already has its Christmas tree up. Rye Lane is the main shopping street round here, a deep Victorian canyon filled by buses midweek, blessedly free on Sundays. Most of the stores near the station are small non-chain outlets, ideal for fruit and veg and getting your hair done (but with no sign of Del Boy or Desmond's).

Peckham Rye
Opened: 1 December 1865
This is a fine station, architecturally, designed by Charles Henry Driver (who's also responsible for Abbey Mills Pumping Station, the London Bridge trainshed and Estação da Luz railway terminus in Sao Paulo). He plumped for a three-storey edifice in French Renaissance style, which would look marvellous from the street had not a 1930s shopping arcade been dumped in front of it in the 1930s. There are tentative plans to reclaim the station forecourt as a town square for Peckham, and to reopen the grand waiting room on the first floor as a meeting space or restaurant. Grade II listed, obviously, deservedly.

» And then the landscape changes. This railside walk's been all commercial and housing estates so far, but here it switches to desirable residential. Holly Grove is charming - a period terrace opposite well-kept gardens, and even the occasional topiary peacock. You'll find no fried chicken outlets on the corner with Bellenden Road, only a single understated Indian restaurant. Next along is Warwick Gardens - a triangular park where tiny dogs frolic while their owners cluster round and smile and chatter. If there is such a thing as a 'class' map of London, several contours have just been crossed.

There are genuine contours here too, as the land rises up on a spur between the former Peck and Earl's Sluice rivers. There would have been excellent views from here down across the Thames basin, now all but obscured apart from the occasional glimpse down arrow-straight avenues. By now the railway is in cutting, even dipping into tunnel beyond Camberwell Grove. Gorgeous street, this, but alas not in this section. The Overground's next station lies ahead, overshadowed by a building that's a cross between a cathedral and a water tower. This is William Booth College, the nerve centre of the Salvation Army's training operation. Access to the top is via one of the oldest lifts in London, then a series of increasingly tiny spiral staircases (an Open House treat only, but the view is fantastic).

Denmark Hill
Opened: 1865
Unquestionably the new Overground's finest station, described by English Heritage as "a rare and unusually complete example of a Victorian suburban station". Part of this is an illusion - the station was part-destroyed by fire in 1980 and then restored. But the rebuild was meticulous, and the polychromatic brickwork still looks a treat. OK, so the former ticket hall is now a pub, with entrance to the platforms through a lesser vestibule. And OK, so an accessible footbridge being installed, so much of the exterior is currently sheathed in ugly scaffolding. But if you're ever riding the new line in search of something to admire, this is the station at which to alight.

» If you're interested in the age of the station buildings on the Overground network, this unusual map will be of interest
» If you'd like to know much more about the architecture on the South London extension, try this detailed 42 page pdf
» Lengthy heritage audits for the remainder of the Overground are also available...
    Stratford → Richmond, Gospel Oak → Barking
    London Euston → Watford Junction, Willesden Junction → Clapham Junction
    Dalston Junction → New Cross/New Cross Gate
     New Cross Gate → Crystal Palace/West Croydon

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