diamond geezer

 Saturday, October 10, 2020

Is this London's least attractive viewpoint?

[It probably isn't. Sorry, that was a lazy journalistic introduction to get your attention. Finding one thing that's not especially attractive doesn't automatically make it the worst in London. Attractiveness is a wholly subjective criterion anyway, so confirming one specific viewpoint as London's worst can't be valid. But technically I didn't make a statement of fact, I only asked a question, and the answer to that question could be either yes or no so I cannot be incorrect. If nothing else I do now have your attention, which is useful given I'm about to describe something dull you'll probably never go and see.]

This is the junction of Ruckholt Road and Orient Way. You may also know it as the turn off for the big Asda. If you scroll down to my last post the spot we're talking about is beyond the bus shelter at the foot of the tower block in the distance. You can perhaps see it isn't looking promising.

A stainless steel viewpoint sign has been installed on the pavement facing west, picking out features such as the Olympic Velodrome, New Spitalfields Market and the Auckland Road allotments. Its sightline takes advantage of a slight drop in the land towards the railway, because the southern end of Waltham Forest isn't renowned for its contours and you have to make do with what you can get. It is not somewhere you'd normally think to stop and admire the skyline.

The only interesting thing in the immediate vicinity is the Leyton sign consisting of six letter-shaped birdboxes perched atop a line of metal poles. This was installed in 2012 as an exercise in placemaking because it was believed thousands of Olympic spectators would pour out of Leyton station on their way to venues in the north of the park. They didn't, but by that time all the money had been spent anyway.

The viewpoint sign was also installed in 2012. The biggest clue is that one of the sights depicted is the Basketball Arena (Temporary) which was deconstructed the following year. Another is the meagre selection of City skyscrapers peeking above the horizon, just the four of them, namely the Gherkin, Tower 42 and the Heron and Broadgate Towers. They're rather harder to distinguish, individually, today.

A more practical problem with this particular viewpoint, however, is that the vegetation behind it has grown up in the intervening years. One particular small bush is now a tree, so that's New Spitalfields Market pretty much gone, and a further row of foliage screens the Eurostar Engineering Centre from view. What you used to look down over was a balancing pond on the Dagenham Brook, but the foreground is now more crash barrier, junction box and shrubbery.

Stand a bit further to the left and you can still see the tip of One Canada Square in Docklands, which to be fair I might not have noticed had the sign not pointed it out. But the overall impression, alas, is of a fume-ridden street corner penned in by foliage and infrastructure, not a dazzling vista of glittering sights.

It may not be London's least attractive viewpoint, but it's got to be a contender.

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