diamond geezer

 Friday, May 31, 2013

» Ten line facts
» Down the line: Cockfosters → Osterley
» Ten stations starting with H: Hounslow East → Heathrow → Hounslow East
» Battle of Britain Bunker: RAF Uxbridge
» Disused station: Park Royal & Twyford Abbey
» Harringay (St Ann's Road): Manor House → Turnpike Lane
» The tiles: Earl's Court → Finsbury Park
» Anagram quiz: Acidic Crispy Cull → Unhooks Nettings
» All of the above on one page

...and several posts I wrote years ago, so didn't write again this time
» Stately Hounslow: Osterley and Boston Manor
» The first tube escalator: Earl's Court
» Disused station: Brompton Road
» Disused station: Down Street
» London's shortest tube journey: Leicester Square → Covent Garden
» Disused station: Aldwych
» Disused station: York Road
» Suburban stroll: Arnos Grove → Southgate

PICCADILLY - Sudbury Town
Before we leave the royal blue line, let me take you to one of my favourite stations. That's Sudbury Town on the Uxbridge branch of the Piccadilly line, on the border between Brent and Ealing. Although the station's now 100 years old, the station building's a replacement octogenarian. It was designed by Charles Holden, who did so much to amaze on the outer extremities of the Piccadilly. He created what's essentially a brick block, rising tall at the end of a broad cul-de-sac, with clerestory windows below a flat concrete slab roof. The interior of the ticket hall contains smoothly curving kiosks and a minimalist modernist waiting area. High on the wall are a smart blue clock and a barometer, because Holden credited the station's passengers with a bit of nous. And if you think the signage looks a bit odd, a bit spiky, you'd be right. Sudbury Town's lettering is a variation on the standard London Underground Johnston typeface with slightly curvier corners, a 'petit-serif' font developed by Percy Delf Smith. This alternative lettering also crept out at Arnos Grove and Cockfosters but wasn't deemed a success, so Sudbury Town is its last hurrah. I took a few photos of the station that I'm not proud of, so instead I've curated a Flickr gallery of other people's shots for you to enjoy virtually. Do step inside and admire.

PICCADILLY: Ten line facts
The Piccadilly line was created from plans for two other railway projects - the Great Northern & Strand Railway and the Brompton & Piccadilly Circus Railway, joined by a extra bit of tunnel between Piccadilly Circus and Holborn.
Construction of the Piccadilly line took place in three stages: a) the original section from Hammersmith to Finsbury Park in 1906 b) extensions to Cockfosters, Uxbridge and Hounslow in 1932/33 c) nudges out to Heathrow in 1975, 1977, 1984 and 2008.
Not that such a word exists, but the Piccadilly is probably London's unstraightest tube line (other than the Circle line, obviously)
The Piccadilly line has seven non-consecutive disused stations, at York Road, Aldwych, Down Street, Brompton Road, Park Royal & Twyford Abbey, Osterley & Spring Grove and Hounslow Town. (You can hunt them down on Dylan's splendid map of Disused London Tube Stations)
Off-peak, travelling east, over 85% of trains go all the way to Cockfosters rather than terminating at Arnos Grove. Travelling west, twice as many trains go to Heathrow as head up towards Rayners Lane.
The voice of the Piccadilly line ("alight here for Buckingham Palace") is Julie Berry. (She's also the voice of Southern and Southeastern trains, Merseyrail and various other rail lines)
The Piccadilly line's official colour is Pantone 072
Piccadilly line trains have only six carriages. Each contains 38 seats plus extra luggage space, and is about 17½m long.
During World War II the Aldwych branch's eastern tunnel was used to hold valuables from the British Museum, while the western tunnel was used as an air-raid shelter.
The Piccadilly line has 35 listed stations - more than any other line. Of these, Oakwood, Southgate, Arnos Grove and Sudbury Town are Grade II* listed - that's twice as many as any other line.
[full line history here]

 Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's not often you can celebrate the birthday of a cultural icon. Usually people become famous after their birth so, unless you're a future King or a Beckham offspring, your first day goes unchecked. But today we can all raise a glass to a much loved television star, born May 30th 2013. Because today is Parker's birthday.

If you're of a certain age you'll have watched Thunderbirds as a kid, partly because it was excellent but mostly because there was nothing else on. International Rescue were based on a fantastical tropical island with retractable swimming pool, backed up by a posh lady with a pink Rolls Royce and her butler. You know this already.

Only 32 episodes were ever made, although it feels like more because they were shown year after year after year. The first was shown in 1965, with the action set 100 years into the future in 2065. That seemed impossibly far away then, but we're already nearly halfway there, and a lot of the foretold technology has already appeared.

Gerry Anderson wanted his series to have a proper foundation, so all the characters were given full back stories including a notional day of birth. Most of the Tracy brothers were to be in their early 20s so their birthdays were in the 2040s. Lady Penelope was to be mid 20s, so her birthday was in 2039. And Parker was to be 52 (which surprises me because I always thought he was older), so his birthday was scheduled for 2013. For May 30th 2013. For today.
Born on May 30th 2013, Aloysius Parker is the last of a long line of faithful Cockney retainers who have served the English aristocracy for centuries. However, unable to follow in the family tradition and find employment as a butler, he fell in with various villains in the London underworld who taught him the tricks of the trade. A quick student, Parker soon gained a reputation for himself as one of the world's finest safe-crackers and cat burglars, a reputation that also landed him in prison for a spell. After his release, he attempted to make an honest living only soon fell back into his old habits and was caught by Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward while he was helping himself to the contents of an oil tycoon's safe. Penelope had heard of Parker's superior talents and offered him a working partnership in her espionage activities, as well as employment as both butler at Creighton-Ward Mansion and chauffeur of her car FAB 1. Now 52 years old, he remains a loyal and indispensable assistant to Lady Penelope during her dangerous assignments for International Rescue.
I found this nugget of information lurking on a Thunderbirds DVD when I bought the entire series a while back, on a whim. I've never got round to rewatching all the episodes but I have flicked through the extras, where I discovered a phenomenally retro 'F.A.B. Factfile', whose presentation makes even Ceefax look cool. A dozen pages give background details of the characters' profiles, including Parker's mini-biography reproduced above. It seems I missed Jeff Tracy's birthday - he's currently four years old and living on a wheat farm in Kansas. But I'm not too late to wish many happy returns to Aloysius 'Nosey' Parker, whose parents are probably checking into the Royal London Hospital as we speak.
Born 2 January 2009: Jeff Tracy
Born 30 May 2013: Aloysius Parker
Born 4 April 2039: Scott Tracy
Born 24 December 2039: Penelope Creighton-Ward
Born 8 October 2040: John Tracy
Born 14 November 2040: Brains
Born 15 August 2041: Virgil Tracy
Born 14 February 2043: Gordon Tracy
Born 20 June 2043: Tin-Tin Kyrano
Born 12 March 2044: Alan Tracy
In other biographical discoveries I learned that...
• Jeff Tracy abandoned his space career to raise his five sons after the tragic early death of his wife.
• Gordon Tracy is one of the world's fastest freestyle swimmers and is a past Olympic champion at the butterfly stroke.
• John Tracy is an electronics expert with a degree in laser communication and has published four astronomy text books.
• Lady Penelope works from her stately home at Foxleyheath in rural Southern England.
• Tin-Tin graduated with degrees in higher mathematics, advanced technical theory and engineering and is a qualified pilot. Outside work her main interests include water-skiing, swimming and designing her own clothes.
• Brains was orphaned when a hurricane struck his Michigan home. His idea of off-duty relaxation includes studying trigonometry and thermodynamics. To protect his identity in the outside world, Brains goes by the alias Hiram Hackenbacker. His real name is unknown.

Parker appears in precisely half of the 32 Thunderbirds episodes. In the first he races The Hood down the M1 from London International Airport firing the pink Rolls Royce's built-in machine gun to earn Milady's approval. In the last he distracts hotel guests from solar meltdown by organising a game of breakfast bingo in a Mediterranean town. I'm not sure that's the career trajectory Aloysius would have hoped for, but it's still quite a life. And it all begins today, somewhere East End local, so listen out later for the first yells of a superstar.

For a most appropriate birthday tribute, may I recommend listening to Parker - Well Done. This was the B side to the 1965 single release of the Thunderbirds theme tune, and features Sylvia Anderson sort-of singing the role of Lady Penelope. The four minute adventure has all the catchphrases you could hope for, plus what sounds like a couple of tracks from BBC Sound Effects Album 8. Now, Milady? Now, Parker.

 Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Three weeks ago, in the early hours of the morning, I heard the scream of brakes and a loud crash from somewhere outside. I feared there might have been a nasty accident on the A12, but visual evidence in the morning revealed the problem to be closer to home. A car had smashed into the pedestrian crossing by Bow Church, destroying one set of traffic lights and making a mess of a BT switchbox. Not to worry, workmen arrived swiftly enough to repair the lights, and the crossing was soon up and running again. Except the new pedestrian crossing doesn't seem to like pedestrians.

Pressing the button at the revamped pedestrian crossing doesn't appear to make anything happen. You stand there and wait, like you'd expect, until eventually you get the feeling that the lights should have changed by now. But they don't. Traffic rushes down from the Bow flyover, and perhaps you might dash across if you're lucky enough to see a gap. But at certain times of day the stream is relentless, so dashing's not advised, especially if you're one of the dear ladies pictured here. More people gather by the roadside as time passes, waiting expectantly for the signal to cross. It doesn't come. Then people start getting restless. They stare up at the traffic lights to check they really are still green, because we have puffin crossings round here now and they're notoriously hard to watch. They stare down at the button to confirm that it really is lit, then they press it again to make sure. Still nothing, still priority to the cars and trucks and vans and buses rushing by.

About 100 yards further up the road is a junction with another set of traffic lights, and these have probably turned red by now. Has our pedestrian crossing noticed? Has it hell. This would be the ideal time to flick to red and allow those of us on foot to cross, it would inconvenience nobody, but no. There appears to be no coordination whatsoever between the pedestrian crossing and the next set of lights, more's the pity, and so we wait. By now the younger folk on the pavement have probably made the decision to cross anyway, dicing with death between the vehicles or grabbing an opportunity the sensors haven't spotted. Until eventually, somewhere between a minute and a half and two minutes, the green man signal on the pedestrian crossing finally, begrudgingly, lights.

100+ seconds might not sound like long to wait, but it feels interminable compared to how long the wait was before. I thought puffin crossings were supposed to be intelligent, spotting gaps in the traffic or deducing when people are waiting. Not ours. It appears to have been tweaked to better smooth the traffic flow, by giving drivers a bit longer at green and pedestrians rather longer to wait. That might be accidental, or it might be bad programming, or it might be a deliberate attempt to give traffic the priority. Whatever, whoever it was installed this new system is slowly wasting my life away, and the collective minutes of my neighbours. Please come back and stop us seeing red.

• If you've walked the Capital Ring and completed the London Loop then you might be up for a bigger challenge. How about the London Green Belt Way, which orbits the Green Belt for 220 miles at approximately M25 distance. You'll not find it signposted on the ground, this isn't yet an official project, but it has been around since 1995. [a relay race runs the course each year, so stick 17th/18th May 2014 in your diary now]
• It's rare to see a map of London's surface, that's elevation and waterways, because usually this level of detail is stripped away. David Fisher has put together a map of both, that's contours and rivers, even including those elusive lost rivers. Apparently he's based their courses on my research, which may not be 100% kosher, but it's instructive to see how the Fleet, Westbourne etc fit together. See the full size map here. [If you live in the floodable low bits of town, maybe you should move to Hampstead or Crystal Palace]
• Riding a bike is always risky, be that in London or beyond. Adrian, the author of icycleliverpool, has assembled a UK-wide map of Cyclist Fatalities 1985 – 2013 with one pin for each sad statistic over that time. Zoom in to identify the blackspots near you. [red pins for male casualties, blue for female]
• Do you love hanging out with friends on Hampstead Heath, but find it very difficult to locate each other over the vast expanse of land? If so, Vivienne may have come up with the answer. She's devised an overlay map of coded squares, called Park Grid, so that “instead of saying ‘I am just past the dog pond on the east side of the park’ you can just say ‘I’m in J9′”. Vivienne hopes that Park Grid will make meeting up on the Heath that much easier, "so you can spend more time enjoying and less time finding." [I suspect there's more than one target audience for this]
• For an at-a-glance look at where in the UK trains aren't running properly, try the Realtime trains Heatmap. Coloured contours glow wherever trains aren't running to time, with red areas indicating the worst delays. [that's National Rail trains only, not the Underground]
• One of the more useful apps I've stuck on my young smartphone is Maps With Me. That's the free version, obviously, not the expensive upgrade. Download maps of anywhere in the world - I picked the whole of England - then store these on your phone for when there's no network signal. Admittedly 'Maps With Me Lite' doesn't allow you to search or create bookmarks, but who needs those when you can whizz around the map manually? [terribly useful when I was out of range on the Kent coast earlier this week]
• Meanwhile, I'm still convinced that the very finest London transport app is Citymapper. Live info on buses, including what's going where from which stop when. Live info on trains, including tubes and National Rail, even which platform each service is going from. Plus journey planning, plus disruptions, plus how precisely to walk to the nearest station and how long it'll take, plus how many spaces there are at the cycle hire stand down the road. Citymapper's saved me hours of unnecessary waiting around. [and somehow it's still free to download]

 Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Seaside postcard: Deal
You'll find Deal on the east coast of Kent - it's the next big town round from Dover. Deal was once the busiest port in England, which might seem odd given that the town doesn't have a harbour, but it is strategically placed at the mouth of the English Channel. Ships anchored offshore while waiting for the wind to turn, giving sailors the chance to nip ashore for ale, smuggling and loose women. These sheltered waters in the lee of the Goodwin Sands were called the Downs, and you'll hear about them in every museum and marine attraction in the area. Repeatedly. A great Deal.

The old town is linear, following the line of the coast. Picture three parallel streets, one hugging the beach, then a wiggly road called Middle Street. Inland is the High Street where the shops run from M&S to cosy boutiques, and where the tourist information centre is housed in an old twin-spired church. As a leafletoholic I was terribly impressed by their takeaway collection, and would have told the lady behind the counter so if only she hadn't been away on a 15 minute break. The beach is pebbly throughout, so not somewhere for spade and bucket. At the northern end I spotted several topless retired gentlemen with bronze-tanned paunches, revelling in the bank holiday sun, while further to the south were a lot more families and chip-eating daytrippers. They clustered mostly around the Royal Hotel and the pierhead, breaking off occasionally to wander out to sea along the wooden promenade. Deal boasts the only public pleasure pier in Kent, not that it's enormously long or anything, but the view back towards the lowrise Victorian seafront is charming. I liked it a lot. A good Deal.

Deal Timeball Tower: A little to the south of the pier is a most unusual museum with a ball on a stick on its roof. The Timeball Tower started out in 1821 as a semaphore tower for the sending of messages from Deal to the Admiralty, via a chain of similar towers all the way to London. The electric telegraph superseded that system, so in 1855 the tower was requisitioned for use as a timepiece visible to ships out in the Downs. Every day at 12.55pm the ball was raised to the top of the mast, then at exactly 1pm it fell back down allowing navigators to synchronise chronometers. If you've ever been to Greenwich Observatory you'll know the story, and if you've ever been at lunchtime you'll have seen the action.

Since 1984 the Timeball Tower has been open to the public as a museum. It takes 'time' as its theme, and contains all sorts of clocks, both pendulum-based and electronic. Do ask to watch the video in the first floor gallery. It was filmed in 1988 by "Kent Educational Television" and is presented by a woman who looks like she recently left the Human League. The opening titles feature the late eighties intro from the BBC One O'Clock News, two jobbing actors perform ill-advised historical sketches, and the explanation of latitude tests the very limits of contemporary graphics. Climb to the top and there are two telescopes trained on the skyline, perhaps allowing you to see the wind farm off the Isle of Thanet, or maybe even the Goodwin Sands. I accidentally visited Deal at high tide so, alas, saw no treacherous yellowness creeping above the waves. I was also the only visitor to the Timeball Museum, which was nice, but also sad. All those daytrippers wandering by and not one tempted within, nor even to the fundraising table of jumble outside. But you, dear reader, are exactly the kind of visitor they're looking for. For just three quid. A square Deal.

Deal Castle: Don't think traditional castle, because this one's Tudor not medieval. Henry VIII built three along this stretch of coast, low and squat, to keep invading Catholics at bay. Deal Castle is the largest of the three, resembling a six-petalled flower if viewed from above. It's not pretty, and would be even uglier were it not for the crenellations added as decoration in the 18th century. Take the audio tour and you can wander the interior discovering more about its history whilst clutching a small black box to your ear. Ideally try to visit when the inner chambers aren't full of running shouty toddlers, and after the large French schoolparty has just left.

The view out is better than the decor within, but that's only to be expected in a soldiers' garrison. Information boards are scarce and sparse, hence the need for the audio guide. But the grimmest part of the castle is the best of all, the 'Rounds' in the basement, which in this case are at moat level. A dark passage slinks round the perimeter past a succession of gun emplacements, though it's part flooded at the moment and I didn't dare wade my trainers through the gloomy puddles. But not bad for a fiver. Big Deal.

Walmer Castle: Don't bother walking north to Sandown Castle, there's nothing left apart from a bit of basement embedded in the sea wall. But absolutely do walk half an hour south to Walmer Castle, past the memorial bandstand, past the paddling pool, past the derelict crazy golf. Walmer's a four-tower version of Deal, but it's had a very different history. In 1708 Walmer Castle became the seat of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and since then it's evolved into an increasingly luxurious abode. William Pitt the Younger lived here for a bit, while the Duke of Wellington died in a chair in his bedroom on the upper floor, which you can still see. And his uniform. And his cocked hat. And his wellies.

It makes quite an entertainment space, the interior of a Tudor castle. Utilitarian surfaces have been softened, rooms have been knocked together, and a weatherboard extension has been added to one side. Ideal when Victoria and Albert came to stay, which they did for three weeks in 1842, which is the cue to show you another bedroom. Step out from the upper corridor onto the gun terrace to sip cocktails amid the cannons, then step out across the moat to enjoy the gardens. These are lovely, and surprisingly extensive. Winston Churchill suggested the unusual contouring of the gnarled yew hedge - he was the Warden from 1941. The Queen Mother introduced a classically symmetrical garden - she was the Warden from 1978. At the moment the pink and white tulips are amazing, in a variety of terraced locations. Rest assured it was Walmer Castle drawing the crowds, not Deal Castle, for that ideal middle class day out. Not such a raw Deal.

» 12 blueskytastic photos of Deal and Walmer
» 3 favourites: pretty, composed, minimalist

Seaside postcards: Here's where I've been along the southeast coast so far (plus where I ought to go next)
» Kent: Dartford, Gravesend, Allhallows, Grain, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Sheerness, Whitstable, Shivering Sands, Herne Bay, Reculver, Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Sandwich, Deal, St Margaret's, White Cliffs, Dover, Folkestone, Hythe & Dymchurch, Dungeness.
» Sussex: Camber Sands, Rye, Camber Castle, Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Beachy Head, Seven Sisters, Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Brighton, Hove, Shoreham, Worthing, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, Selsey, Chichester.

 Monday, May 27, 2013

If you like houses and gardens, but especially gardens, there's a road in Enfield with a lot of what you like. It starts as Forty Hill, dips down to the Turkey Brook and then rises up the other side as Bull's Cross. Within a mile there's an early 17th century house (and garden), a late Victorian garden (and Georgian house), and a horticultural further education college (rammed with gardens). You'd probably drive here, but you can take the bus sort-of close-ish. I took the W10, which is one of London's least frequent services, and I think I was the only passenger without a Freedom Pass. Forty Hill starts with some delightful old cottages and a house with thin chimneys, plus a wholefood store to cater for the better-to-do who live nearby. Cut up through a footpath past Goat Lane and there's Forty Hall...

Yes, that's Forty Hall on Forty Hill, which is a bit confusing. This manor house is coming up on 400 years old, and still looks much as it did when Sir Nicholas Raynton moved in. He was a Lincolnshire haberdasher made good, who rose to the top of his City Guild to become Lord Mayor of London. That was in 1632, the year he moved to Enfield - ideal because it was the furthest a man could ride from London without changing horses. Henry VIII had thought the same, and he'd built Elsyng Palace a little closer to the river. Perfect as a base for hunting, he thought, and as somewhere for his children to stay. Indeed Prince Edward was here when he was told his father was dead and that he was now King. Queen Elizabeth popped by a few times, but by the 17th century the place was falling into disrepair, so the Rayntons bought the site to extend their estate. There's no sign of Elsyng today, just an avenue of limes running down through meadows to the historic site. But Forty Hall's still standing, and Enfield council would love you to visit.

Following major renovation work, Forty Hall reopened to the public last June refreshed and renewed. I remember a fairly drab interior when I last visited in 2004, but things are very different today. A volunteer welcomes you in the entrance hall than sends you on your way round the building. Alternatively you can turn up for one of three themed tours, each run monthly... although I turned up at the appropriate time on Saturday and there was absolutely no special tour at all. The restoration is impressive, however, especially on a council budget. Rooms have been given a decent slap of paint, stylish information panels have been added, and even the occasional audio presentation rings out as you walk around. The house's history gets a good airing, and much is made of Sir Nicholas's Mayoral term to try to make him sound important. If you're an adult there's plenty to take in, and if you're a child there's a foam elephant's head to put on. Honest.

Exit is via the gift shop, a surprising intervention, but thoughtfully stocked. This barn-like gallery doubles up as an exhibition space... currently for a series of floral-inspired contemporary works from the Crafts Council, most interesting. And exit is then via the cafe - officially the Courtyard Cafe - which if anything was a little busier than the house. Apologies, but I walked on to get a lemon ice cornet from the van in the car park, which was damned good value for money, but no guarantees it'll be here for your visit. Lots of Enfielders had driven in to enjoy the house and grounds, many with dogs to exercise, others as somewhere to take the kids. The cedar tree on the front lawn is one of the oldest in England, vast, and almost as old as the house. And the ornamental gardens round the back are currently at their spring finest, with flower beds blazing with colour and a wisteria walkway in gently blooming blue. Step one on our walk up Forty Hill, and it's a winner.

The road winds round to Maiden Bridge, where one of the previous tenants of Forty Hall built a church because his son couldn't be bothered to walk to Enfield. This used to be the main road to Waltham Cross, which can't have been easy before they added the single-flow traffic lights. The London Loop crosses here, following the Turkey Brook downstream to the Lea. And on the opposite bank is Myddelton House, which I told you all about yesterday, and which I can now spell. Drop in there and adore the gardens, before proceeding north into the hamlet of Bull's Cross. This is one of those "are you sure we're still in London?" places, which we are but only just, preserved thanks to the Green Belt hereabouts. Turn right at the Pied Bull pub to reach destination number three, the largest of the lot, Capel Manor Gardens...

At Capel Manor College they teach 3500 students how to do gardening. They call it horticulture, because that always looks better on a certificate, but gardening is the essence of it. The college has vast grounds, which the students toil in, and their end results are thrown open to the public. Think of Capel Manor not as North London's Kew Gardens but as Enfield's Chelsea Flower Show, open all year round, with a variety of micro-gardens squished artfully together. Indeed many medal-winning gardens from Chelsea can now be found here, yours to see for £5.50 rather than whatever extortionate price the real thing demands of its visitors these days.

I was unnerved on entering Capel Manor Gardens to discover an area called Sunflower Street, notionally sponsored by The Sun newspaper, replete with sponsored gardens. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Garden, a Mr Fothergill's garden, even a low allergen garden sponsored by some company that sells low allergen stuff. Thankfully that doesn't continue around the entire site, but often you'll spot a sign saying "turf provided by Rolawn" or "this lawn has been cut using a Hayter lawnmower". And that's fine, because most visitors are here to gather inspiration on what to do in their gardens back home, so it's very useful to know where the constituent parts come from. Gardening Which have their testbeds down beside the M25, currently checking on best value tulips and bergenias for publication in next year's magazine.

Elsewhere the end results of the students' handiwork are impressive, be that an Australian garden or a Victorian garden or a garden with raised beds ideal for the disabled. I enjoyed dashing round the hedge maze, built on the site of a 300 year old copper beech destroyed in the Great Storm, with a fine view from the central tower when I succeeded in reaching the middle. I did feel a bit on the young side walking around - not for nothing is the entire site wheelchair friendly. But not as young as David and Rachael who'd picked a glorious day to hold their wedding here... with the ceremony based in a ruined folly designed to look like a tumbledown abbey. Apparently it's made of stone, although I thought it looked like characterless fibreglass, so if you want to waste £6295 on a Gothic folly for your back garden then go ahead.

If you have a garden, and are proud of its contents, you'll no doubt find much at Capel Manor to inspire. Alternatively watch out for the weekends when they host some other event here, like next weekend's Heavy Horse Show, or July's Scooterfest. I got to enjoy the Lea Valley Cactus & Succulent Show, which isn't quite in the same league, but which continues today if you're interested. And while you're here, maybe drive up Whitewebbs Lane to Crews Hill which has the greatest concentration of garden centres anywhere in London. That's North Enfield for you, the unexpectedly horticulturaltastic destination.

 Sunday, May 26, 2013

You'd expect the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to be based in the Lee Valley. Somewhere near one of their major venues, like the Ice Centre, the Athletics Centre or the Olympic white water course. But no, instead they're based beside a river that doesn't have a valley, a couple of miles to the west. That river is the New River, an artificial channel which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year. And their HQ is at Myddelton House, which I'm now going to try to persuade you to visit.

If I tell you Myddelton House is in Bulls Cross, that may not help. If I say the nearest station is Turkey Street, that may not help either. Instead think a couple of miles north of Enfield, almost but not quite at the M25. One of Henry VIII's royal palaces used to be nearby, on the other side of the Turkey Brook, and Myddelton House is built on the site of his bowling green. Appropriate, then, that the name of its first owner was Henry Bowles. He was a map maker from the City of London, and moved out to the edge of Middlesex 200 years ago. The house was named Myddelton House in honour of Sir Hugh Myddelton, chief engineer of the New River, which originally ran around the edge of the property. A few generations later, in 1865, a child was born who was to transform Myddelton House into something special. His name was Edward Bowles, a self-taught horticulturist who spent most of his waking hours planting and grafting in the garden. He wrote books on the subject, he had numerous plants named after him, he rose high in the RHS, and even he became known as The Crocus King.

The gardens have had a less dignified history since Edward's death, but the decline was arrested when the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority moved in. In particular a half million pound Heritage lottery grant has been used to great effect to restore the site, and there was a grand reopening a couple of years back. The Duchess of Cornwall turned up, as did her former husband Andrew Parker Bowles - he's Edward's great nephew, and the chairman of the E. A. Bowles Society. Now you can take a look round for free, and you should, because it's lovely.

What you can't do is look round the house, that's full of LVRPA types and their desks and filing cabinets. Thankfully they've opened a Visitors Centre in an old building with a clocktower, with an extension that conveniently blocks out sight of the car park behind. Part of the carriage shed has been turned into a museum, very small but sufficient to tell the tale with clarity. See Edward's spade, and his books, and the two lead ostriches which used to stand guard beside the Wisteria Bridge. Alongside is the tea room, with a particularly good selection of cakes and pastries I thought. If you pick up a Lea Valley Regional Park map from the display by the shop there's a voucher inside which allows you 2 hot drinks for the price of one (but only if used before 11am on a Monday or Tuesday morning, so that's virtually useless).

It's the gardens you should be here for, and they're glorious at the moment. It may not have been the warmest of Mays, but late blossom now mixes with spring flowers and lush foliage. The bluebells are out, adding depth to the undergrowth, while verdant leaves unfurl from every bed. I loved the rock garden, which was EA's first creation, where some flower I can't name rises tall on vertical stalks sheathed in gossamer fibre. Elsewhere there's a sharp box hedge, and a bank of hostas, and a pergola garden containing Enfield's Market Cross. Edward rescued this from the town centre as it was about to be discarded, and now it has pride of place amid a sea of blooms. Another monument nearby commemorates William of Orange and George III, the latter inexplicably dated 29th February 1789 (seriously, eighty-nine?!?).

One of the main foci is EA's pond, stocked with big fish who gape up to the surface if you hurl a cupful of food onto the surface. There are various benches around the perimeter, ideal for a sit down, as many of the expected age group of visitors will want to do. The other water feature Edward would have recognised - the New River - no longer flows past the Tulip Terrace. His segment was an abandoned meander, and a decision was made in the 1960s to fill it in using spoil from the newly-tunnelled Victoria line. Now a curving lawn follows the original path, with only the two footbridges at either end retained as garden features. One of these is the aforementioned Wisteria Bridge, which ought to be festooned with blue flowers at the moment, except that Myddelton House seems to have the only wisteria in Enfield not currently in bloom.

There are some lovely paths to follow, nothing too rigid, nothing too formal. The kitchen garden contains bright white glasshouses and six chickens. In the alpine meadow on the edge of the site you may spot a cluster of beehives. Each area of the garden is labelled and explained in excellent detail on boards around the site so that even a horticultural inadequate can follow. But you'll probably get more out of the visit if you're the sort of person who likes to point at borders and say "Oh, I've got one of those" or "Ooh, that would look lovely next to my pelargoniums". That's Myddelton House Gardens, open daily from 9.30am on the far northern edge of the capital.

(Before you come rushing, be aware that there are two other house/garden attractions within half a mile, and you should probably think of adding at least one of these to your itinerary. I added both. More tomorrow)

 Saturday, May 25, 2013

 PICCADILLY: anagram quiz

Here are anagrams of 40 Piccadilly line stations.
How many can you identify?

  1) Acidic Crispy Cull
  2) Ah Enormous
  3) Alien Throng
  4) As Governor
  5) Bird Eggs Think
  6) Carbon Tours
  7) Castle Equerries
  8) Corrugated Sole
  9) Craven Tonged
10) Dark Creepy Horn
11) Dully Hubris
12) Eel Story
13) Ego Wonder
14) Fondle Shirt
15) Forces Stock
16) Gasoline Hut
17) German Hunter
18) Hack Mine
19) Hallo Doorway
20) Hog Statue
21) Ibex Drug
22) Internal Puke
23) Math Shimmer
24) Mini Parlours
25) Monsoon Brat
26) Nearly Snare
27) Nil Holding
28) Nocturnal Wholes
29) Noel's Washout
30) Nonstick Grass Scraps
31) North Coasts
32) Oncoming Male
33) Port Lane
34) Rare Locust
35) Red Anaconda Oil
36) Squealers Slur
37) Two Cannot
38) Two Tenders
39) Unborn Edges
40) Unhooks Nettings

(Answers in the comments box)
(And, please, no more than TWO guesses each)

 Friday, May 24, 2013

PICCADILLY: the tiles

Doug loves them. He's got a website about the tiles down the Piccadilly line (and down the other lines designed in the Edwardian era). Doug's even written a book, of the lavishly-illustrated £50 type, which could probably be described as definitive. We have three more north London stations to visit.

Skip King's Cross St Pancras, it's been entirely modernised. And you won't spot York Road, that's long closed.

Caledonian Road is a below-ground tiling extravaganza. The ox-blood façade at street level is mighty fine too, but there are plenty of these around London, and downstairs ticks different boxes. The chosen colour here is mauve, in two closely coordinated shades, rippling in zigzags down the wall. Compared to some of the other stations we've visited the effect is quite muted, definitely less polished. There's been no recent wholesale restoration here - indeed close-up investigation reveals a few long-term imperfections. Let's call it character.

If you're looking for the way out, Cally Road offers a choice of signage. The usual modern enamel panels are here, all terribly pristine and normal, but also much more ornate WAY OUT panels tiled beside the exits. The words appear inside a design that could be a ticket window, but is more correctly a free-standing picture frame - the correct term is 'aedicular'. Other exits are marked NO EXIT, similarly framed and glazed. You'll find these aedicular signs at all the other stations I've highlighted, but some of those here are unreconstituted Leslie Green originals.

Head to the far end of the northbound platform to see an original all-red roundel, almost hidden, beyond a staff telephone near the signals. There's another at Covent Garden if you don't want to trek this far out, but again beyond the passenger barrier so best seen from a passing train.

Holloway Road is best seen just after a train has left, with the cylindrical platform empty and brown hoops overhead. That's assuming you like brown. Leslie Green chose two shades of brown as his Holloway Road colours, one richer and darker, the other verging on orange. The lighter hue is used on the platforms to create a bold diagonal design, broken by a broad vertical dark strip. This polychromatic branding continues along the exit passages, even up the steps to the spiral staircase... but not all the way to the top.

A most well preserved station, this, both above and below, and the second in a row with a Grade II listing. It's the attention to detail, the small things, that make the difference. Take the interconnecting passage, for example. Today it's only useful to anyone changing between northbound and southbound trains, which should be nobody, but in its day this was an entrance at the foot of the stairs. Which way to go? The tiling tells you, left To The Trains Hammersmith, right To The Trains Finsbury Park. And all in brown, of course, lovely brown.

Tottenham fans should look away now.

It made perfect sense in 1906 to call Arsenal station Gillespie Road. A fairly minor road, admittedly, but entirely descriptive of the ticket hall's location. It's nowhere near the platforms, though. A long gentle ramp slopes down from the entrance, and down, and down, before reaching a cavity dug out beneath the East Coast mainline. Arsenal football team didn't move in nearby until 1913, and the station name didn't change until 1932. Today the ramp down to the platforms is part barriered-off to provide a protected contraflow system on matchdays, but look behind the metal bars and Leslie Green's striped tiles remain.

Strange colours, though. Purple and green don't really go together, especially when the purple's a wishywashy mauve and the green's dark emerald. You'd expect red and white because those are Arsenal's colours but, like I said, the tiles predated the team's arrival. And the old station name survives on the platforms, with GILLESPIE ROAD written in large flowing capitals at each end. Who cares if that's not what it's called any more, rejoice that it's still here. A century on, the Piccadilly's tiling vision endures.

Finsbury Park rounds off the original line, but has no original tiling. The station's platforms were radically reworked in the 1960s to allow cross-platform interchange between the new Victoria line and the Piccadilly. Instead you can enjoy the sight of six hot air balloons, created in mosaic by artist Annabel Grey, bobbing curvaceously along the length of the platform.

I've now downloaded 28 Piccadilly tiling photos to Flickr. According to Flickr's cavalier new interface almost none of you have looked at them, but the stats lie because you clearly have.

 Thursday, May 23, 2013

PICCADILLY: the tiles

Dylan loves them. He's the Piccadilly line driver you might have seen on The Tube documentary on BBC2 last week, and he loves the tiles down the Piccadilly line. That's the original tiles on the original platforms, added to give each station a visual identity for the benefit of the illiterate. As Dylan says, here, "what more simpler method could you use?"

To find these tiling patterns you need to travel on the original section of the Piccadilly line, designed by Leslie Green, that's between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park. There's no point looking on the overground section of the line, obviously, so the first point of call at the western end should be Earl's Court. Except no. The underground station's been part-modernised over the years, so there's not so much of the original decoration left. Bands of mauve tiles still loop overhead, and there's a row of toothpaste green along the top of the platform wall. But the signature patterns along the full length are long gone, replaced by white, so best not to start your architectural safari here.

Gloucester Road, on the other hand, oh yes. Here the tiles are a deep rich green, be that in rings overhead or in parallel stripes along the platform. The station name appears in big bold lettering, another key part of the waymarking strategy from 1906, because the London Underground roundel hadn't yet been invented. By modern standards it uses the wrong font, but hurrah for that - there's no forcible requirement to upgrade our heritage.

Gloucester Road doesn't boast the most exciting of the patterns down the line, but the design is bold. Only one colour has been used - there's no additional accent hue as elsewhere. And the design does have a pleasing symmetry, created as you can see by inserting fractional tiles in each row. This wasn't just thrown together, you know.

We're not stopping at South Kensington, because that's had a Natural History Museum makeover. And we're not stopping at Knightsbridge because that's gone 21st century silver.

But we are stopping at Hyde Park Corner. This is a lovely station, entirely below ground, with escalators leading passengers down to a circulation lobby between the two platforms. The connecting passages contain tiled signs directing passengers 'To the trains', either 'To Finsbury Park' or 'To Hammersmith'. Most endearing. The key colour on the platforms is brown, the sort of brown that DIY paint manufacturers might brand as chocolate or mahogany. Notice the colons which appear between each word of Hyde:Park:Corner - either a grammatical aberration or a fine decorative touch.

At this station the additional colour is yellow, a little wishy-washy perhaps, but in complete contrast to the dark green at Gloucester Road. The tiles cluster in groups of four, there's no need for fractions here. But not all of the pattern is visible. Advertising posters cover much of the platform wall, including most of the yellow pattern, but also (sad face) one of the station names.

Best ride past Green Park and Leicester Square, there are no Edwardian tiles down here. Inbetween is Piccadilly Circus, again new, but which has the best modern take on bright tiling simplicity.

Covent Garden is the heritage-tiled station that most visitors to London will have seen. As they pour off to visit the market above, they'll see stripes and hoops coloured caramel and custard. Delightful. But look closer and it's clear this isn't the original tiling, it's not even old. This is a 2008 makeover, completed to strict like-for-like guidelines, but almost too perfect. The lettering's the thing, it's got a computer-generatedness that the originals don't have, so the font is too sharp and a touch too thin. And where did the colon go?

At least the custardy yellow is brighter than at Hyde Park Corner. I like the pattern here too, it's a little more intricate than elsewhere, and with a greater expanse of blank space inbetween. Again the adverts get in the way a bit, so Dylan's view as he speeds through the platform isn't what it could be, but needs must.

Holborn's not tiled any more. But it does have two chipolata penises on the northbound platform, if you look carefully.

To Russell Square, with the most in-your-face of the surviving designs. This utilises a relatively complex chain-like pattern, laid out in a dark shade that might even be black. Surrounding this is a turquoise border, and then an intermediate stripe underlining below. These aren't the pastel shades we see at Leslie Green's other Piccadilly line stations, so is Russell Square the odd one out, or have all the other bold designs been replaced over the last century?

The turquoise stripes also continue up the stairs and round the passageway to the foot of the lift shaft. It's detail like this that helps make the London Underground the design triumph we know and love today. Even the sign pointing the way "To The Lifts & Stairs" is glazed inside a blue surround, with a comet-like arrow beneath and the flourish of an ampersand within. Next time you're waiting at a slightly lesser station, wish you were here.

If you can cope with the ill-advised presentational update that Flickr has inflicted on its users this week, you'll find 14 Piccadilly tile photos here. We'll continue north tomorrow.

 Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Museum in Docklands is ten years old this week. The actual anniversary is on Friday, this being one decade since the opening party "with live bands, treasure hunts, costumed actors and a prize for the best-dressed pirate!" I missed that, but I've been back several times since, and it's one of my favourite London museums. There's so much of interest on show that, even though I've seen it all before, I never mind seeing it all again. The history of London's river is well told, from early Roman days to the dawn of Docklands, via whale tusks and Tommy the Tortoise. I still can't physically work out how all the floors and galleries fit together, so twisty is the path from one end to the other, but that never matters. I love that partway round you end up walking through smelly mocked-up dockside streets. I'm amazed that there's an entire Sainsbury archive hidden in the middle. I appreciate being reminded by the Sugar & Slavery gallery that my city's riches are founded on misery and exploitation. But I usually give the ground floor a miss because it's rammed with small kids and their parents making the most of interactive hands-on malarkey.

There don't appear to be any special 10th birthday events this weekend, or at least there are none I can see listed on the museum's website. But there is a special anniversary exhibition which opened last weekend and runs until October. It's called Estuary, and presents visitors with a dozen contemporary artists' views of the outer reaches of the Thames. You might have seen Estuary advertised on the tube, with big yellow letters on a black and white photo depicting a string of Maunsell sea forts. I love the seaforts, having been out to see them on a boat trip once, so stick those on a poster and I'm absolutely going to turn up.

I turned up a few days ago. The bloke on the front desk stopped me to tell me where to begin, but I've been before so I already knew to ascend to the third floor. I was expecting to be greeted by Tony Robinson doing his introductory video, but no, here was a boat and a big yellow cyclorama labelled ESTUARY. Excellent, I thought. Let's start by watching the film.

Behind the yellow wall was a curve of comfy cushioned seats, all focused on a large screen. Entering mid-film I thought that looked like the gangway of the Tilbury Ferry, and indeed it was, which is about as estuarine as you can get. This flipped into an aerial shot of the Thames by the Dome, with a gorgeous dusky sky illuminating the City skyline, and a helicopter buzzing oh so slowly towards the camera. Lovely. Enter bargemaster Tom Cook lolling lugubriously in an armchair, scratching his thick beard, telling the story of his ridiculously jam-packed maritime life. And he's only 27. I could have listened to his recollections all day, which was fortunate because they did go on a bit, twice. Those aerial river shots came round again too, sometimes from the top of the Shard, sometimes tracking shots from lower down. A rope was spliced (ah, so that's how you do it). A boat was launched. The series of short films went on and on.

Being a completist I wanted to stay to the end, so I stayed watching. Nobody else did. It was intriguing to see how long most people lasted - generally no more than five minutes, in some cases barely one. A few couples made it to ten minutes, but only I made it to fifteen. There's quite a lot of Gravesend in these films, isn't there? Twenty-five. Ooh, the Tilbury Ferry, that must mean we're coming back to the start... ah no, false alarm. Thirty-five. Hi, it's beardy Tom again. Forty-five. Seriously, how long is this going to go on? Fifty-five. Oh thank goodness, there goes the ferry's gangplank again, so I can leave. The film's fascinating, but it's more likely a dipping in-and-out thing rather than an endurance test.

But where was the rest of the exhibition? Not here. I'd seen a list of artworks listed in a leaflet, so I was expecting a blown-up photo of Southend, and a performance by the Bow Gamelan Ensemble, and of course those seaforts. Nothing. I wandered round the main exhibition space, wondering whether bits might pop up throughout, but no. I eventually reached the final room where many a temporary exhibition has been held, but no, that contained an East End version of Monopoly and a splendid concentric circle E-postcode map. So where in the building was the rest of the exhibition? I checked the leaflet - no clues - and wandered back to the main entrance. I could have asked someone on the desk I guess, but that's not me, so instead I left empty-headed.

I had the same sort of problem again later in the day. I went to Waterstones in Piccadilly specifically to see the London-based Lego they've got on show there. I found the book that the display is promoting, stacked up on the ground floor in an awkward spot blocking the aisles. And then I wandered the building, from the ground to the fourth, popping into all the crannies where hardbacks and paperbacks are shelved. Not a dimpled plastic brick in sight. I ended up buying two completely different books, but I never found the colourful scale model of St Pancras. Again I could have asked, but instead I assumed the display had moved on, and then left.

I'd made two pointless journeys, at least in terms of the main reasons I'd visited. I thought I knew each building well, but instead I completely missed what I came to see because the location wasn't clear enough. I think I've now worked out where the Estuary exhibition is, but only because I've ploughed through all 30+ minutes of last week's Londonist podcast (they're official media partners, don't you know). The exhibition's somewhere on the ground floor near the cafe, probably, perhaps. There might be more clues in these two YouTube films released by the Museum to promote the exhibition. Whatever, I'm going to have to go back again, and hopefully the location of the Estuary will be blatantly obvious this time.

6pm update: So it turns out the main body of the exhibition is on the ground floor near the cafe. There's also a huge yellow sign with an arrow on it hanging from the ceiling behind the reception desk, but I must have missed that, or else I thought it was pointing towards the lifts. Lo and behold, there's an entire room through there I've never noticed before, inside which are the remaining eleven artworks (on a fairly grand scale). Some are paintings, others are series of atmospheric photographs, but many are films so expect to spend some time here. I spent an hour, all told. 'Thames Film' is a marvellous collection of riverside scenes compiled from archive material, including shots of dockside workers and holidays on Canvey Island. Strangely it was the seaforts piece I couldn't cope with because the text moved by too slowly and I got bored. But in the final area I was delighted to rediscover an 18 minute delight I'd last seen in Margate. Horizon, by John Smith, is a looping sequence of shots from the shoreline, with the top half of the screen always sky and the bottom half always sea. I found it rhythmic and hypnotic, but you might find it boring as hell (in which case we'd probably never get on). So, yes, Estuary is a substantial collection of work, and you have until October to catch up.

 Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are you a schoolteacher in the London area? Are you looking for an exciting venue for a class trip? Well, the Transport for London Safety & Citizenship team may have the answer.
The Emirates Air Line schools scheme is a brand new initiative aimed at London schools. The scheme allows you to admire the breathtaking views of the capital while bringing most subjects to life.
Riding the cablecar is going to be the school trip of choice, and no mistake.
Pupils will only be charged £1 for a return flight on the Emirates Air Line and accompanying adults will travel for free (adult to child ratio 1:9 at KS2 and above and 1:5 at KS1).
What an innovative idea to boost passenger numbers during the less busy midweek period.
The fare for children is £1 each for a single journey, a return journey or a ‘360 Tour’. Accompanying teachers/guardians will travel free up to the mandatory minimum ratios of adults to children. Additional adults will be charged the appropriate Oyster fare for their journey.
A bargain, I hope you'll agree.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said: 'What better way to learn about our city's fascinating history than by travelling at 90 metres above the Thames on the Emirates Air Line, marvelling at its sleek design, whilst our fine Capital unfolds underneath?
What better way indeed. Apart from maybe going to South Kensington and looking round some proper museums.
'I am delighted that with the introduction of this special rate even more children can now enjoy one of London's transporting triumphs!'
If you're not yet convinced that this is the school trip for you, TfL have a webpage packed with useful background information to persuade you. There's even a detailed FAQ.
How long does a journey on the Emirates Air Line last? A single crossing takes approximately 10 minutes out of peak hours, and a 360 journey takes approximately 20 minutes at that time.
£1 for a 20 minute trip? That's not bad going... apart from the additional cost of actually getting to the cablecar in the first place.
Are bags allowed on the Air Line? You may bring personal luggage that you are able to carry yourself provided it is not dangerous or likely to injure or obstruct anyone and is not more than 2 metres in length.
Sorry, you may have to disappoint any students hoping to bring a sword or a flagpole with them.
Are there toilets? Neither terminal has toilet facilities. Toilet facilities are available at North Greenwich Underground station.
No toilets? Suddenly this is sounding like a less good venue for a school trip.
Can pregnant women travel on the Emirates Air Line? Pregnant women can travel on the Emirates Air Line. The Emirates Air Line reaches heights of 90 metres. Travelling is at our customers’ own discretion.
What a relief that pregnant members of the party, be they teachers or pupils, will still be able to take part.
How many people need to be in a group? There is no set minimum group size but there is a maximum group size of 400.
Hell yeah, why not bring the entire school?
Is there a “fast track” lane for booked school groups? Pre-booked school parties will be met upon arrival and escorted through to the platform level. They will be treated as a private party.
Take that as a friendly warning to other users of the cablecar. Come at the wrong time (that's between 9.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday) and you might get stuck behind a school party.
How long before my boarding time shall I arrive? Bookings are taken to fall within one hour timeslots. You should arrive within the timeslot booked.
You could get a class of 30 on board in under two minutes. A party of 400 is going to take rather longer.
Where do we collect our group tickets? It is simpler to collect Group tickets on arrival at the planned terminal, where a record of your booking is held.
Sorry? Simpler than what?
What happens if I lose or forget my tickets? The Emirates Air Line operator maintains a record of any Groups which have pre-booked flights. Upon presentation at the agreed terminal, the group leader, with appropriate personal identification will be met and the booking will be respected.
That is, seriously, truly excellent.
What if there are adverse weather conditions? The Emirates Air Line cable car system is designed to operate throughout the year and in most weather conditions. However, cable cars are not designed to operate in extreme weather conditions and, for comfort and safety reasons, the service may close due to:
o Threat of lightning and thunder - this may impact the service for a short time. The cable car system may close for less than 20 minutes, before the storm passes and service resumes.
o Very strong winds - this is likely to lead to a longer period of 'No Service' as wind speed tends to reduce at a gradual rate.
Be warned, you're booking a school trip that might be cancelled in the event of adverse weather conditions. There is the option for a refund, or to rebook, but essentially that's your day out ruined.
Is there a commentary on the Emirates Air Line? There are welcome messages on the Emirates Air Line, but no commentary. Many passengers enjoy the quietness of the journey at 90 metres above ground level. If you have any questions on any particular landmark you have seen, please ask our staff at either terminal – who will be happy to assist.
Passengers are unlikely to be enjoying the quietness of the journey when there's a school party aloft.
What will I see from the Emirates Air Line? Rising to a height of 90 metres the Emirates Air Line is a unique travel experience, giving spectacular views across the city and its river, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. In the foreground you will see The O2, Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier and the Crystal Building.
You could offer a very special prize, say ten house merit points, to any child who can actually spot St Paul's Cathedral from that distance.
Are pets allowed on the Emirates Air Line? With the exception of assistance dogs, animals must be carried at all times. Some animals may not be permitted. Please check with a member of staff before you purchase your boarding pass.
Don't even think of bringing the class guinea pig, because it won't be allowed on board.

As a bonus to teachers, TfL have carried out your Risk Assessment for you. Rest assured that a trip on the cablecar meets all the requirements of UK/European Standards BS EN 12929-1 Cableway General Requirements Guidance on Safe Practices HSG65.
Slips/ Trips/ Falls - The following hazards should be noted: steps and stairs, slowly moving cabin when boarding, wet flooring.
There is of course no risk of "falling from the cabin into the Thames", so long as you don't allow little Tyrone to fiddle with the doors.
Whilst there are no high level areas per se, those who suffer from vertigo may find the experience uncomfortable.
There are high level areas, obviously. Just not per se.
Guests are enclosed in the cabin for between four and ten minutes and whilst the cabin is airy and able to accommodate the number of people who have been boarded by our Air Line teams, some individuals may feel confined. However the cabin cannot be defined as a confined space.
According to the legal definition a small cabin dangling 90m above the Thames is not a confined space. Tell that to your eight year-old having a panic attack mid-crossing.

If all this has inspired you, you might want to print out this colourful poster and stick it on your staffroom wall.
Inspiring journeys at the Emirates Air Line
Feed your imagination with a breathtaking flight over London. Watch geography, science and creative writing come to life!
And it's not only these three subjects which can benefit.
The Emirates Air Line schools scheme offers many educational benefits. The design and construction phases of Emirates Air Line involved many departments. As a consequence, a journey on the Emirates Air Line should be a cross-curricular experience.
I have to say, the last time I was on the cablecar that's exactly what I was thinking.

There's especially good news if you're a KS4 Geography teacher, because the kind folk at TfL have put together a lesson plan on the theme of "Urban Regeneration: The Docklands". It includes the following observational suggestions.
Students need to be split into different groups and collect evidence on the day:
Group A: London Docklands pre-1960s and the River Thames - Students to look around and to collect evidence of the pre-1960 era (derelict buildings, Tate & Lyle factory, Beckton Gas Works holder structure – all visible from the Emirates Air Line)
Group B: Regeneration in East London - Students to look around and to collect evidence of private-sector investment (Canary Wharf, O2 Arena, The Crystal – all visible from the Emirate Air Line).
Group C: Transport Infrastructure - Students to look around and to collect evidence of different modes of transport in the Docklands area.
Group C would be ideal for all your special needs students, by the sound of it.
Flights must be booked in advance through Emirates Air Line Schools Groups booking line or email address. (School Group Fare does not apply where no advance booking has been made).
You do actually have to be a proper school. Don't think you can just turn up in North Greenwich with a group of nine children and expect to take them across for a pound each.
Bookings are subject to availability.
Better hurry, then, before all the best timeslots go.

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the diamond geezer index
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my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards