diamond geezer

 Saturday, October 31, 2020

Hallowe'en quiz

Here are the names of 30 horror films with the letters H, A, L, O, W, E and N removed.
How many can you name?

  1)
  2) CRRI
  3) DFTDD
  4) DR CU
  5) FRIG TIGT
  6) FRKSTI
  7) GTUT
  8) IGT MRMS TRT     
  9) II
10) MR ICRFID
11) PTR GIST
12) RISR
13) RSRD
14) SCRM
15) SCRS
16) SC RYMVI
17) SFRTU
18) TBI RITCP RJCT     
19) TBM IBDRP IBS
20) TCBI ITDS
21) TDDZ
22) TICK RM
23) TM
24) TRIG
25) TSIIG
26) TSTBYS
27) TTRIGTI
28) TV IDD
29) TXR CIST
30) USFX

All answers now in the comments box, thanks.

At the end of October 2000 my Dad and I caught the train and came up to London for the day. It being the Millennium there were several new things to see, so we tried to visit a few like the tourists we were. I don't have any photos, sorry, because those I took haven't survived the intervening twenty years.



Tate Modern had opened five months previously in the former Bankside power station. We were blown away by the scale of the building and the sleek lines of the refurb, not to mention the giant spider crouched on Level 2. This had been sculpted by Louise Bourgeois, the first artist to get the Turbine Hall commission, and was accompanied by a trio of thin steel towers topped by giant circular mirrors. We queued patiently to be allowed to climb to the top of one of them via a vertiginous spiral staircase, then enjoyed our brief period on the upper platform before it was time to politely pass on the opportunity to another visitor.

We then did something I've never done since, because I don't think you can, which is to have lunch in the cafe on the 7th floor. We didn't push the boat out, we had a cup of tea and a tuna sandwich, and enjoyed the really rather excellent view. Then it was time to explore two floors of modern art, which back then were hung chronologically and all the better for it. We ticked off Warhol, Lichtenstein, Riley, Picasso and Mondrian at a suitably reverential pace, not to mention some famous waterlilies, several neon tubes and the infamous pile of bricks. My Dad enjoyed the collection enough to buy two postcards on the way out, which now feels terribly 20th century.

Our next stop was the Millennium Bridge immediately outside. This had opened four months previously, and closed the same day due to dodgy harmonics, so we could only appreciate its slender form rather than its infamous bounce. By the time it opened properly in 2002 I'd be living in the capital, a thought which wasn't anywhere on my radar at the time. Next we walked west along the Victoria Embankment so that I could point out the spot where I'd been standing to see in the Millennium, bang opposite the freshly iconic London Eye, and yes that's Portcullis House, that's brand new too. Fancy a trip on the year-old Jubilee line extension?



It being 2000 we felt we had to go and see the Millennium Dome at North Greenwich. Our original plan was to stare from outside, but in the souvenir shop we discovered there was a special "only £10 after 4pm" offer and this appealed to our collective sense of tightwaddedness so in we went. Just how much could we cram into three and a half hours flat?

Queues for the famous Body Zone were ridiculously long because the Dome wasn't the tumbleweed attraction many have since assumed. But there were no queues for Learning (sponsored by Tesco) or Work (sponsored by Manpower), likely because magical orchards and table football didn't have the same appeal as climbing someone's oesophagus. Home Planet (sponsored by British Airways) was the only immersive ride, permitting a virtual voyage with an airline plug at the end. The Faith zone was mostly empty space, which I think was the point.

Despite rumbling stomachs we had to break off at 6 to go and watch the aerial spectacle in the central arena. The Millennium Show was the Dome's must-see, a three act love story with abseiling acrobats, giant stilts and a soundtrack by Peter Gabriel. When the central tower ascended in the finale amid ribbons and whirling wheels we were duly impressed. But it did go on a bit, so we had to speed up our tour of the Dome's innards before closing time at 8.

Ford's transport cavalcade of mostly cars, tick. Marks & Spencer's vacuous spiral of selfies, tick. Camelot's improbable talking sofa, tick. The City of London's temple to money, tick. We saw the latter a week before thieves broke in and tried to steal its diamonds so we did well there. Unfortunately it was raining heavily so we didn't risk going outside to see the actual meridian bit, which I still regret. And the queue for the Body was still too long, dammit, so all we could do was filter out through the gift shop (where the mugs and playing cards were already marked down for clearance). I'm so glad we went, but I wish now we'd been long enough to see it all.

 Friday, October 30, 2020

When the Mayoral election finally comes round, hopefully in six months time, all the betting is that Sadiq Khan will trounce his Conservative challenger by a landslide.

Shaun Bailey's campaign has been an angry one characterised by bold accusations against the incumbent, many of questionable veracity. He's been particularly keen of late to accuse Sadiq of bankrupting TfL (whereas the pandemic delivered the killer blow) and of unfairly raising the congestion charge (despite the fact central government demanded it). Nuanced argument is not Shaun's style.

But the prize for chutzpah and rank stupidity has to go to something Shaun tweeted on Wednesday about... I can't believe I'm typing this... the Metropolitan Line extension.



London isn’t just Westminster and the square mile, but Watford very much isn't in London. The Metropolitan Line extension, long promised but never delivered, would have run entirely outside the capital and became part of the mayor's portfolio solely because it's on the tube. @BorisJohnson merely promised to fund it whatever the cost (immediately before a General Election), and @SadiqKhan mothballed it (extremely quietly) because those costs spiralled out of control. London Reconnections has the entire sorry story here, and I've covered it a fair few times too.

And we could perhaps have left things there if only Shaun hadn't gone to Watford, stood outside the station and recorded a minute-long video. You can watch it in his tweet, or you can read the entire speech below, perhaps open-mouthed. Why is this man attempting to reopen a dead can of worms?
I've just been hosted by Dean Russell, who's the MP for Watford.
I wonder if Shaun realises Watford is outside London. We may find out later.
He and his constituents are very worried about the closure of Watford station which you see just behind me.
Hang on what? There are no plans to close Watford station. Local constituents are not, in any way, worried. Had the Metropolitan Line extension gone ahead then the station would have closed, severed by the diversion to Watford Junction. But as things stand 'Watford Met' is perfectly safe... unless the extension Shaun appears to be supporting goes ahead.
When Boris Johnson was the Mayor he left the money behind to make sure this station, and the extension, actually happened so that Watford and London would be closely linked as lots of people commute.
Where to begin? Boris did indeed negotiate a £284m funding package, but when TfL took control of the project they calculated it'd need at least £50m more and weren't willing to take the risk. All sorts of people got annoyed by this, including local residents and the DfT, but nothing Boris did ensured the extension "actually happened".

Watford station doesn't need to "actually happen" either because it's been open for 95 years. Watford and London are already closely linked by train, both here and at the much-better-used Watford Junction, so commuters are hardly missing out. It's increasingly evident that Shaun has blundered into a project he knows pitifully little about.
But under Sadiq Khan's poor management of TfL's finances this station is now under threat.
Quite the opposite. Sadiq's funding concerns in fact removed the threat hanging over Watford station by cancelling the extension. Shaun is so intent on bashing the Mayor's poor financial management that any old backdrop will do, justified or fictional, in the hope that voters will simply nod along in anger.
It's just another example of how Sadiq Khan has failed to deliver transport across London and the wider region.
The chief project Sadiq has failed to deliver is Crossrail, a limping behemoth nobody who'd been in power for the last four years could have forced through. Governance of Crossrail has been the mayor's responsibility for precisely four weeks. Meanwhile Shaun's website is able to promise "I’ll deliver much-needed improvements, like Crossrail" because whoever's in power during the next Mayoral term will claim this prize, just as Boris claimed hire bikes and Sadiq claimed the Night Tube.

Also note that Shaun is lambasting Sadiq for not delivering transport improvements beyond the Greater London boundary. This is of course not the Mayor's responsibility, even though he continues to gift the Home Counties step-free stations and has repeatedly attempted to wrest control of Southeastern Metro services.
We've had 21 of 26 major infrastructure projects cancelled, and this was before COVID, not since.
This has taken some tracking down, but I believe I've found the 26 projects Shaun is talking about. In January this year a report from the London Assembly's Budget and Performance Committee reviewed 26 commitments from the 2016 TfL Business Plan. Only five of these remained on schedule according to 2016 timelines whereas 21 had slipped. But of these 21 slippages only four projects had been paused or cancelled (e.g. the removal of the Vauxhall gyratory and the Piccadilly line signalling upgrade) and the other 17 were still in progress.

A correct reading of the report would be "4 of 26 major infrastructure projects paused or cancelled", or "21 of 26 major infrastructure projects delayed". A world of difference exists between 'cancelled' and 'delayed', but Shaun seems happy to use the two interchangeably without any respect for the truth.
And I just want to say to everybody, I have a plan to fix transport in London...
I wondered what Shaun's plan was, so I checked his website. His transport plan is entitled Make London Move and this is the full extent of it.
TfL is bankrupt. Crossrail is delayed yet again. The congestion charge has gone up. We need a transport network fit for a global city. So I’ll work with the government to secure investment in TfL and fix its finances. I’ll deliver much-needed improvements, like Crossrail and an electric bus fleet. And I’ll reverse the congestion charge increase on day one.
There's the bankrupt claim again, and the Crossrail open goal, and the congestion charge zinger. But the heart of Shaun's policy seems to be that transport is more likely to receive funding if London elects a Mayor from the same political party as the government. Relatively speaking, that's probably true. But Shaun's certainty that he can reverse the congestion charge increase on day one, an increase the government conveniently imposed on his predecessor, looks increasingly like a stitch-up.
...and stations like this will be rescued wherever possible.
To repeat, Watford station does not need rescuing, it is safe. No other existing stations are in need of rescue either, nor under any kind of threat.
But I want to make a challenge to Sadiq Khan - it's time to stop blaming the government...
In 2015 Boris and George Osborne engineered a huge reduction in TfL's grant from central government. No other European metro system receives a smaller subsidy. Sadiq's fares freeze is about a quarter of that magnitude. It is quite easy to blame the government in such circumstances.
... and deliver transport for London and the wider southeast.
Shaun is pitching to too wide an audience here. Inhabitants of Dartford and Reading have no vote on TfL services they may or may not receive, and venturing out to Watford has been a misguided waste of time.

There are all sorts of reasons to despise an incumbent Mayor, indeed they usually do things millions disagree with. Shaun must be hoping that a desire for change will propel him into office. But to elect a fool with no grasp of policy... well, we've done that before and look where the country is now.

 Thursday, October 29, 2020

Walking round the City at the weekend I was surprised to see this 'Borough of Shoreditch' street sign above Costa Coffee on Eldon Street.



This sign can't have been replaced since 1965 when Shoreditch was one of the three boroughs merged to form Hackney. These leftovers happen. But the peculiar thing is that Eldon Street's not in Hackney. The entire street is part of the City of London as are all the buildings along it (and the whole of Finsbury Avenue alongside). Why is a Hackney street sign adrift in the City?

The answer is because the boundaries of the City of London have changed, in this case substantially, thanks to a boundary review conducted in the 1990s. And Eldon Street's shift, unlikely as it may seem, is the result of a suggestion from a single member of the public.

In the 1980s the Boundary Commission were tasked with undertaking a mandatory review of non-Metropolitan Counties, Metropolitan Districts and London Boroughs. They reached London in 1987 and worked their way round the boundaries of all the boroughs looking for sensible tweaks. In total they published 74 reports, all typewritten of course, to summarise their extensive deliberations. I'm delighted to say that the Commission have scanned these reports and made them available to download, so it's possible to look back and see what your local recommendations were. I dived straight for Report No. 636 - City of London.



The committee of five recognised the City's historic significance ("logic has its limits, and the position of the City lies outside them") and strove to avoid contentious boundary changes wherever possible. In particular they disregarded calls from certain adjacent boroughs that the City be abolished, because that was beyond their remit, but also ignored an initial plea from the City that its historic boundaries remain intact. Only 22 submissions were received in response to the Commission's draft proposals, of which just seven were from members of the public. 1991 was very much a different age.

Seven boroughs adjoin the City of London, but I'm going to focus on Hackney because this'll explain the Eldon Street anomaly. Leave the boundary alone, said the City. Abolish the City altogether, said Hackney, without presenting any specific proposals for changes to their boundary. Looking back this may have been a strategic error. A single member of the public, however, "suggested realigning the boundary to reflect the pattern of development in the Broadgate area, on the grounds that this would be in the interests of administrative efficiency." The Boundary Commission duly leapt.

The City's boundary had previously made good sense, extending north to encompass Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations. But the recently-built Broadgate development straddled this dividing line, with several new buildings administratively split, so the Boundary Commission proposed realigning the boundary to reunite Broadgate within the City. Wilson Street... Sun Street... Appold Street... Worship Street... simple.

Hackney strongly opposed this proposal saying that the transfer of land was excessive, and instead proposed a change which would retain the final stages of the Broadgate development within its jurisdiction. OK let's do that, said the Boundary Commission. Not so fast, said the City. You've only been paying attention at ground level whereas Broadgate has a basement service concourse and your proposed alignment defaces that. Ah, said the Boundary Commission, we hadn't thought of that... and retreated to their original "all of it in the City" proposal.



The Commission's final report includes eight detailed maps which show how the City's boundary was to be redefined. I've bolted two of them together to create the map above which shows the realignment across Bishopsgate ward. The City's original boundary is the solid line and the new one, introduced in April 1994, is thickly dashed. Parcels of land to be transferred are identified by letter. 'Area D' is an irregular 15 acre chunk with a thin central neck, which when removed from Hackney gifted the entire Broadgate development to the City. It also contains the Costa in my original photograph, which explains why Eldon Street originally had a Shoreditch street sign.

The map additionally shows the results of discussions between the City and Tower Hamlets. 'Area E' was taken from the City so that the whole of Spitalfields would be in Tower Hamlets, because the City didn't get their way on everything. Meanwhile the smaller 'Area F' was transferred the other way so that the new boundary followed the modern street pattern rather than some historical alignment long since built over.



This map, taken from The City and London Borough Boundaries Order 1993, shows the land which ended up being transferred one way or the other. 1990s legislation was a solely black and white affair so the use of colour is all mine, with yellow showing land transferred to the City and green showing land taken away. The four largest transfers of land are all yellow, specifically a) east of Chancery Lane, b) the Golden Lane estate, c) the Broadgate development and d) south of Aldgate.

Note how uneven the boundary used to be and how the changes served to smooth things out. Note how only three significant stretches of the City boundary remained unchanged, one skirting the Temple, one along the Thames and the third along Middlesex Street (in Whitechapel). Note how the City ended up gaining more land than it lost, as well as an estimated 1200 additional population. And note how Westminster, Camden, Islington and Tower Hamlets all gained and lost land, whereas Hackney only lost.

Indeed the 15 acres lost by Hackney was the largest transfer of all, which just goes to show why it's always worth replying constructively to a consultation. History does not name the 'member of the general public' who encouraged Broadgate to be given to the City, but their discreet nudge must have lost Hackney council millions of pounds over the last quarter of a century.

 Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Random City of London ward (2): Bishopsgate



My second random ward is one of the largest and a jarring hybrid of old and new. Essentially it's the area around Liverpool Street station. It was named after one of the gates in the City's walls, the portal through which Ermine Street once headed northwards. For centuries it was two wards - Bishopsgate Within and Bishopsgate Without - but changes in 2003 saw most of Within gifted to other wards so the remainder is almost all Without. It took a lot longer to walk around than Candlewick, and generated some very different sights. [9 photos]



Bishopsgate is the new name for Ermine Street hereabouts and remains a major thoroughfare. Only the northern half now falls within Bishopsgate ward, the section from St Helen's Place to Norton Folgate, not that those bustling past would ever notice. The original site of the Bishop's Gate was just to the north of the junction with Wormwood Street, and is marked on one side of the road by a stone mitre in the wall above Boots the chemist. You won't find anything historic on the other side because that's the foot of the City's second tallest building, Heron Tower, or as brandingwhores would prefer us to call it 'Salesforce Tower, 110 Bishopsgate'. It'd only be the third tallest if you lopped its mast off.



Another whopper stands opposite at 100 Bishopsgate, completed last year to provide office space for little known banks and brokers. At its foot is one of the most soulless areas of public space I've ever wandered through, a blank piazza sprung from an architect's out-tray surrounded by a cliff-face of pillars and windows. This small area is the only scrap of Bishopsgate Within to have been retained in the administrative restructure of 2003, mainly because it also contains the HQ of the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers and a rare medieval church. St Ethelburga's survived the Great Fire, then mostly survived the Blitz, but in 1993 took the full force of an IRA bomb parked outside in a truck. It's since been rebuilt not as a place of worship but as a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, "building community resilience for times of ecological and social emergency", so I'd expect them to be rather busy at present.



Bishopsgate's chief church is St Botolph's, another rebuilt Fire survivor and once the first building beyond the city wall. Its churchyard has since been repurposed as a cut-through/garden dotted with chunks of modern sculpture, and very pleasantly at that. Buildings to look out for on the way through include a classical redbrick church hall (once home to the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers), an overdecorated Victorian Turkish bath (now a subterranean events venue) and the City Garden outpost of restaurant The Ivy (ideal for any provincial dining party keen to spend £14.50 on egg and chips while straining their necks to spot non-existent celebrities). The lesser alleyway to the north of St Botolph's is Alderman's Walk, which I'm indebted to Ian Visits for writing about on Monday because it means I don't have to today.



Which brings us to Liverpool Street (yes, there is one) and to Liverpool Street station. This was built on a site previously occupied by Bethlem Royal Hospital, or 'Bedlam', who scarpered to Lambeth when the new terminus arrived. Its ornate Gothic trainshed has thankfully been retained and restored, but more modern development now encroaches on every side. The very latest addition is an upper storey to the Octagon Arcade, above Smiths and Boots, where several brands targeting bankers' disposable income will shortly be installed. Posh watches, designer clothes and spur-of-the-moment fragrances are on their way, Westfield-style, should their inbound Essex clientele ever return. The Victorian arcade across the street lingers on in hollowed-out gloom.



Purple update: Crossrail's new 'glass wedge' entrance is almost ready at the western end of Liverpool Street. Crossrail's offices in the building opposite, however, have served their time and are being boarded up.

But the biggest development hereabouts is Broadgate, a Thatcherite business neighbourhood built between 1985 and 1991 across the footprint of the former Broad Street station. This brash maze of office blocks and oddly-shaped piazzas is the City's largest pedestrianised neighbourhood and is still very much privately overseen (as security notices at every entrance affirm). At its heart is Broadgate Circle, in summer an alfresco refreshment deck and in winter an ice rink, except in 2020. Contractors are taking advantage of social tumbleweed in Exchange Square by cutting down all the trees to make way for a water feature, amphitheatre seating and additional retail space. The best view across Liverpool Street's platforms is from back here (although it was even better before an intermediate plastic screen was deemed necessary).



A fun game to play around Broadgate is to follow a passageway and see where it ends up. Sun Street Passage starts off outside the bus station but ends up beneath an office block beside the station's goods lift. Exchange Arcade crosses a delivery ramp - please look both ways. Exchange Place drops you on the edge of Hackney. The oddest is probably Great Eastern Walkway whose hidden escalators deliver you to a service corridor above the full length of platform 11 with a real "are you sure I'm allowed to be here?" vibe. Or duck beneath Exchange House to reach a glass atrium crossed by thick steel beams supporting the weight of the Bishopsgate Tower - the third skyscraper within Broadgate ward to make the City's Top 10.



For contrast the ward additionally includes a slice of older buildings on the eastern side of Bishopsgate (if you know the area it's between Spitalfields Market and Houndsditch). Follow a narrow passageway here and it's likely to lead somewhere very different, for example to a row of police cars or the back entrance to Dirty Dick's. The bleakest path is the double dogleg of Catherine Wheel Alley, named after a former coaching inn, which emerges into a pissy dead end at the top of Cock Hill. But I still prefer that to Devonshire Square, a sprawling business campus based around former warehouses which might feel more "vibrant" were its anchor tenant not failed real-estate hoarders WeWork.



It's broadly varied is Bishopsgate, within and without.

 Tuesday, October 27, 2020

At this time of the year, with the trees on the turn, it's hard to beat a walk in the woods.



So long as there are any woods nearby, that is.

In England only 18% of the population live within 500m of accessible woodland. This varies a lot according to where you live, for example from 8% in Suffolk to 26% in Surrey, or from 4% in Portsmouth to 62% in Southampton. Greater London manages a lower-than-average 14%.

But 68% of England's population live within 4km of a larger area of woodland (specifically at least two hectares - the size of three football pitches). Again this varies according to where you live, for example from 2% in East Yorkshire to 82% in East Sussex, or from 6% in Leicester to 100% in Sheffield. Greater London manages an above-average 75%.

In Tower Hamlets, alas, woodland is very thin on the ground. The council are only able to give four examples.
» Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park: This is fabulous to have on your doorstep, a Victorian cemetery last used in 1966 and since repurposed as a nature reserve. It now resembles natural woodland with towering sycamores, winding muddy paths and bluebells in the spring, although a large amount of gravestones and funerary monuments are scattered almost everywhere. It's definitely the nearest thing Tower Hamlets has to woodland, but hard to escape the notion that you're really in a cemetery.
» Mudchute Park and Farm: According to the council this "contains wooded areas and woodland trails", and these are very pleasant, but nowhere's extensively planted enough that you could describe it as a proper wood.
» Mile End Park: This has hundreds of trees and a couple of small areas described as woodland walks, but these both have gravelly paths bounded by chunks of treetrunk and are of very limited extent, so they're not woods.
» Weavers Field: This has a woodland trail, which is essentially a thin strip of trees planted along one side of a park. It's just wide enough that you could take poorly-travelled children there and say "this is what a wood looks like", but it's not a wood.
Newham nextdoor doesn't fare much better. Again I can think of several parks with trees, long stripped paths through Beckton and a decently wooded churchyard nature reserve in East Ham. But proper woods, I'd argue, should have an air of natural development about them, and parks and cycleways and cemeteries don't quite cut it. They should also be accessible to the public, at least two hectares in size and allow you to wander off piste beneath a canopy of branches. Essentially if you're not sure if somewhere is proper woodland, it probably isn't.

But some boroughs have woods aplenty, particularly in outer London, and their lucky residents get to enjoy the autumn colours in their natural habitat.

So I thought I'd have a go at compiling The Best Wood In Each London Borough.

In some boroughs it's really easy to pick the best woods, and in others much harder. Some boroughs are hard because there are too many good woods (e.g. Bromley and Croydon) and others are hard because there aren't enough (e.g. Kingston and Ealing). You may disagree.

Bromley: Petts Wood
Croydon: Selsdon Wood
Hillingdon: Ruislip Woods
Havering: Thames Chase Community Forest
Waltham Forest: Epping Forest
Richmond: Ham Common Woods
Merton: Wimbledon Common
Redbridge: Hainault Forest Country Park
Wandsworth: Putney Heath
Greenwich: Oxleas Wood
Bexley: Lesnes Abbey Woods
Brent: Barn Hill Wood
Camden: Hampstead Heath
Barnet: Monken Hadley Common
Enfield: Trent Country Park
Southwark: Sydenham Hill Wood
Haringey: Queen's Wood
Hackney: Wick Woodland
Lewisham: Beckenham Place Park
Harrow: Stanmore Common
Ealing: Horsenden Hill?
Hounslow: Donkey Wood
Lambeth: Streatham Common
Hammersmith and Fulham: Wormwood Scrubs
Kingston: Coombe Hill Wood
Sutton: Big Wood

Islington: Barnsbury Wood??
Kensington and Chelsea: Holland Park??
Barking and Dagenham: Ripple Nature Reserve??
Tower Hamlets: Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park??

Newham: no woodland?
Westminster: no woodland?
City of London: no woodland

 Monday, October 26, 2020

I like to go out for a long walk every day, and I like to keep it varied.
Last week I see I walked in a different direction each day.

Mon 19
Fri 23
Tue 20

Sun 25

Wed 21

Thu 22
 
Sat 24
 

Monday 19th (northwest)



This is Clapton Pond, E5. It's been here since the 17th century, back when all this was hay fields, fed by a natural spring from which farmers would bring their animals to drink. The Victorians ornamentalised it, splitting it in two and adding a footbridge, flower beds and a gravel path. Today it remains an oasis of watery green amid Clapton's choked bustle. Normally I'd expect to see ducks and loafing youth, probably smoking something, and these boxes were indeed ticked. What I've never seen before is a heron, in this case perched atop an ivy-strangled treetrunk and scanning the area for prey. Finer hunting grounds could be found a short distance up the Lea Bridge Road, but Clapton's ponds are still stocked with fish so it may not have been an entirely wasted stakeout.

Tuesday 20th (northeast)



This is Forest Gate, E7. Specifically it's three wayfinding signs along Woodgrange Road pointing the way from Wanstead Park station (Overground) to Forest Gate station (TfL Rail). For some reason no similar wayfinding signs have been provided pointing the other way. But what really baffled me were the distances on the three signs which have been given to an unusual degree of accuracy. Normally you'd expect distances to the nearest 50m, maybe 10m, maybe even 5m. The final sign could have been rounded to any of these, but 242m and 159m plainly haven't. I did some checking to see if the trio might potentially be rounded Imperial distances but no, they equate to 265 yards, 174 yards and 55 yards respectively. Presumably then the given measurements are the actual distances to the station entrance which some signmaker has accidentally let out into the wild without the usual arithmetical blurring.

Wednesday 21st
Rained all day. Admitted defeat. Stayed in.

Thursday 22nd (east)



This is Hadleigh Walk in Beckton, E6. The residential streets of Beckton are entirely atypical for Newham, and indeed for most of inner London, having been built as late as the 1980s. Houses rather than flats are slotted in along quiet branching streets, always with parking out front, and invariably a back garden because space wasn't at a premium back then. Mini-cul-de-sacs are everywhere, not quite unkempt but past their prime, now overlooked and outshone by some resplendent trees. Hadleigh Walk is a lengthy back alley which planners must have hoped would bring neighbours together, but because they only drive it mostly keeps them apart. Walking for several minutes between its shady fences reminded me somehow of Milton Keynes.

Friday 23rd (north)



This is Hackney Bridge, E20, which finally opened this week. Picture a collection of temporary sheds on a future development plot, officially targeting small businesses and creative workers but with dreams of becoming a cultural canalside destination. So far the only useful presence appears to be a bespoke skateboard workshop (and some toilets), but a nail bar, perfumery and tuck shop won't be far behind. The architects have been to town with big bold colours, chunky wooden seating and painted stripes on the boardwalk, all the better to generate some necessary Insta-appreciation. Were this not 2020 it ought to do well, providing somewhere new for Hackney Wick's youthful incomers to collectively experience, but its best hope for the next few months may be woolly-gloved beer. It's here until 2032, so need to rush just yet.

Saturday 24th (south)



This is Mudchute Farm, E14. It's London's largest city farm, at 32 acres, covering an expanse unsurprisingly once used for the dumping of dredged mud. Today it smells more of manure, with over 100 cute animals and rare breeds kept in enclosures at the heart of the Isle of Dogs, and is freely accessible to the public. My visit was enlivened by two particularly frisky donkeys, which made up for the fact that the sheep were all sitting placidly by a fence so weren't in position for the classic Canary Wharf backdrop photo. Wandering deeper into the site is prohibited at present, but horse-riding lessons continue unabated, the cut-through to Asda is still open and small children never fail to get overly excited.

Sunday 25th (west)



This is Petticoat Lane Market, E1, a Sunday East End staple. It spreads along Middlesex Street and Wentworth Street, there being no Petticoat Lane as such, and is the place to come for cut price fashion "as sold in stores" honest guv. I thought I'd grab a photograph of the buzzing commercial scene, and was taken aback when an officious gentleman with a clipboard strode over and asked me if I'd taken his picture. Not deliberately, I said, but you're probably in the frame somewhere. He insisted I delete it, then stood grudgingly at a social distance while I pretended to do so, then grumbled off. I've pixelated out his face because I'm not unreasonable, not that you'd ever have noticed him anyway.

 Sunday, October 25, 2020

London's Ultra Low Emission Zone is due to expand in exactly one year's time.



Currently it covers the same area as the Congestion Charge zone but the plan is to extend it as far as the North and South Circular Roads. That's a huge increase... from 1.3% of the capital by area to 24%, and encompassing 40% of its population. [booklet (pdf)]

The expanded ULEZ is targeted at users of high polluting vehicles in an attempt to reduce particulates and improve air quality. A lot more of North London will be included than South London, which might sound unfair but is a fairly decent match to where the worst pollution is.



Inside: Camden, City of London, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Tower Hamlets, Westminster
Almost entirely inside: Newham, Southwark
Roughly half and half: Brent, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, Waltham Forest
Mostly outside: Barnet, Ealing, Enfield, Hounslow, Redbridge, Richmond, Wandsworth
Outside: Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Kingston, Merton, Sutton


A daily charge will be applied for driving inside the zone, and diesels bear the brunt.
Roughly speaking, you have to pay if your vehicle was registered...
   • before 2005: cars with petrol engines (Euro 4)
   • before 2006: vans with petrol engines (Euro 4)
   • before 2007: motorbikes (Euro 3)
   • before 2014: lorries, coaches and larger vehicles (Euro VI)
   • before September 2015: cars with diesel engines (Euro 6)
   • before September 2016: vans with diesel engines (Euro 6)
A 13 year-old petrol-driven car pays nothing, but a 5 year-old diesel-driven van pays full whack.
(best check online to confirm whether your vehicle is or isn't affected)
For cars, vans and motorbikes the daily charge is £12.50.
For lorries, coaches and larger vehicles it's a whopping £100.
Importantly there won't be a resident's discount, so the charge for driving within the ULEZ applies whether you live in the zone or not. Quick trip to the shops... £12.50. Driving either side of midnight... £25. Commuting to work five days a week and a visit to gran's at the weekend... £75.

Driving round the North and South Circulars remains free, which'll be great if you're trying to cross the river via the Woolwich Ferry but potentially expensive if you want to use the Blackwall Tunnel. Extra cameras are already going up around the boundary, and plenty more cameras exist to keep tabs on those inside.

Residents of Barking, Balham and Brentford marginally escape, but those in Bowes Park, Beckton, Barnes and Blackheath are going to have to stump up or change their cars. This is of course the intention, or better still to nudge people to switch to walking, car clubs and public transport.

This map shows the percentage of households with at least one car.
(some smaller boroughs, conveniently, have the same proportion as the borough nextdoor)



The lowest levels of car ownership are in inner London, dropping as low as three in ten households in Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. This proportion increases dramatically the further out you go, almost reaching the national average of 78% in the outer boroughs. The new ULEZ boundary, intriguingly, approximates to the dividing line between "most households have a car" and "most don't".

To put all this into perspective, City Hall's estimate is that four out of five cars in London already meet the ULEZ emissions standards so won't incur charges. But for the less well-off with a second-hand diesel parked out front, and only 12 months to make a difference, it could be a whopping financial shock.

Had everything gone to plan the 2020 Mayoral election would have been safely out of the way long before the ULEZ extension kicked in. But the delay until May 2021 brings the launch date much closer, which Sadiq's opponents will undoubtedly conspire to make an important issue. Never underestimate the fury of a driver who bought their vehicle in good faith ("but everyone was telling me to get a diesel!") only to be told they now need a new one.

And things could be much worse. One of the conditions the government is considering imposing on TfL in return for a bailout is the extension of the Congestion Charge zone to cover the same area as the extended ULEZ. This would be a double whammy for owners of high-polluting vehicles inside the zone who'd suddenly be charged £27.50 for driving anywhere. But it'd also drag owners of the 80% of less-polluting vehicles into the fray, and that's a heck of a lot of voters.

At present the Congestion Charge extension is only a proposal, which the Mayor intends to fight, rather than an imposition. It's also unclear if and how a resident's discount might be applied, the technicalities of which might have all sorts of additional consequences. Meanwhile who knows where public transport capacity might be by this time next year, potentially still unable to cope with an influx of bankrupted drivers.

Whatever, 25th October 2021 looks like being a good day not to own a car... which is of course essentially the point.

 Saturday, October 24, 2020

20 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• police allowed access to test and trace data
• Manchester still refusing to join tier 3
• Italy tightens the rules
2½ week "firebreak" lockdown in Wales
• high level restrictions for 6 weeks in Ireland
• 'tsunami' of new infections in Belgium
• Heathrow - tests for those flying to Hong Kong
• tier 3 imposed on Greater Manchester
• ..."a game of poker with people's lives”
• Melania Trump still has lingering cough
• South Yorkshire is next into tier 3
• Chancellor offers extra aid for tier 2
• Scots told to prepare for 'digital Christmas'
• Stoke, Coventry and Slough → tier 2
• Test and Trace needs to improve (PM)
• Scotland to introduce 5-tier system
• PM hopes families can celebrate Xmas together
• Warrington → tier 3
• Polish president tests positive
• yet another (small) anti-lockdown protest

Worldwide deaths: 1,110,000 → 1,150,000
Worldwide cases: 39,500,000 → 42,400,000
UK deaths: 43,579 → 44,745
UK cases: 705,428 → 854,010
FTSE: down 1% (5919 → 5860)

Which English county has the longest coastline?



A correct answer exists, which is good because this is a very ambiguous question.

The big problem is that the length of a coastline can't be precisely calculated. Whatever scale of map you choose to use, zoom in further and the length of the coastline inexorably increases. What looks like a bay may include several coves, and they in turn may have rocks jutting out into the sea with complex irregular surfaces, and just what height did you think the tide was at anyway? Indeed when mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot wanted to popularise the concept of fractals in the 1960s he chose to call his paper "How long is the coast of Britain?"
"Seacoast shapes are examples of highly involved curves with the property that - in a statistical sense - each portion can be considered a reduced-scale image of the whole. The concept of ‘length’ is usually meaningless for geographical curves."
It all comes down to how many points you choose to measure between. For example if your map of the British coastline has 2282 vertices then its length would be 3876 miles, but if you increase the number of vertices to 2,282,000 then the length shoots up to 11,023 miles. Alasdair Rae's written an excellent post explaining how the calculations work, with diminishing gifs, if this piques your interest.

But to find the longest coastline only requires putting the English counties in order, not calculating absolute values, so I only need to be consistent in my measurements. Here's what happened when I tried measuring the coastline of (ceremonial) English counties using Google Maps.

1Cornwall   410 km
2Devon340 km
3Kent270 km
4Essex260 km
   5   Cumbria220 km

By my calculations the longest coastlines belong to Cornwall and Devon, two southwestern counties with the sea on both sides. Kent is surrounded on three sides, but is a smaller county, while Essex's high showing is due to its high number of creeks and estuaries. But don't read too much into these rankings because I was only using Google Maps level 9, and zooming into level 11 changes the order somewhat.

1Cornwall   460 km
2Devon390 km
3Essex320 km
4Kent280 km
   5   Cumbria230 km

Cornwall, Devon and Essex have each put on about 50km, or 15%, because zooming in has revealed a lot more coastal contortions. Meanwhile Kent and Cumbria are only up by 10km, or 5%, because their coastlines are less indented. Bays and cliffs don't increase in length as you zoom in as much as creeks and estuaries... and this has allowed Essex to leapfrog Kent.

I could zoom in further and calculate again, but that's not a great use of my time. Instead let me switch to a potentially more accurate measurement courtesy of GB circumnavigator Quintin Lake. He's just finished five years of walking round the British coast, sticking as close to it as possible and taking some glorious photographs along the way. He's also kept very careful record of kilometres travelled and produced a summary map, which has allowed me to compile this Top 10 of County Coastlines.

1Cornwall   724 km
2Essex526 km
3Devon509 km
4Cumbria352 km
5Kent321 km
6Lincs238 km
7Suffolk234 km
8Norfolk232 km
9Dorset222 km
  10  Sussex219 km

This won't be perfect either because rights of way don't always follow the coast, but because it's micro-level data it's likely much more accurate than my blunt Google Maps estimate. Notice that the distances are a lot higher than before, as you'd expect from finer detail, with Cornwall and Essex receiving a particular boost. Quintin found walking around Essex somewhat tortuous, forever following another sea wall up another inlet, which has leapfrogged this unassuming county into second place. Even better, this turns out to be correct....

Three years ago the Ordnance Survey bashed the figures by measuring the length of the High Water mark on a 1:10,000 map. They only published a top three, annoyingly, but as the ultimate arbiters of all things map-based their top three ought to be correct.

1Cornwall   1086 km
2Essex905 km
   3   Devon819 km

Devon is confirmed in third place thanks to its twin shores, and Essex's estuarine wiggles place it comfortably in second. But the English county with the longest coastline is definitely Cornwall, because it turns out you can answer the question even when you can't measure the data.

 Friday, October 23, 2020

Gadabout: TELFORD

Telford is a new town in Shropshire, and a very large one at that, located roughly midway between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton. It grew up in the '60s and '70s to house families relocated from Birmingham and swiftly enveloped the existing towns of Wellington, Oakengates, Dawley and Madeley. The industrial crucible of Ironbridge lies on its southern edge, which is where I was heading a year ago today. And although I blogged at length about how excellent Ironbridge was I never blogged about Telford, so today I'm planning to put that right...
...assuming I can remember much about the place, that is. Problem one is that I was only passing through, crossing between the railway station and the bus station (and later back again). Problem two is that I gave the place short shrift in my diary, focusing instead on the attractions in the gorge. And problem three is that, looking back, I see I only took nine photographs. I'll do my best.


Telford's town centre is a soulless place, having been nowhere of significance before the new town arrived. Let's build a huge shopping centre here, they said, then surround it with car parks and maybe the odd office block. It has a very open feel as a result, at least until you venture inside the shopping centre at which point you could be absolutely anywhere. And because Telford was built with the motor car in mind it turns out that the bus station is on one side and the railway station further away on the other, which isn't ideal for anyone with interchange in mind.



The railway station was added late, in 1986, so the path across to the town centre feels very much like an afterthought. A very new footbridge carries you high above two dual carriageways, one of which is nominally the A5, before dumping you amidst an administrative backlot. The path then wends in a minor manner via an inconvenient set of steps towards a separate footbridge above the innermost ring road, after which it trails between a car park and the edge of Aldi. At least at this time of year the trees are stunning.



The shopping centre is a giant grey box, highly irregular in shape, and almost all at ground floor level because there was never any need to save space. It covers 25 acres and runs to well over 150 shops in total, which means a lengthy trek from Debenhams on one side to House of Fraser on the other. M&S and Primark have the other two flagship stores, which is all bases covered, but you'll also find a Zara, a Krispy Kreme and a Betfred. The Queen came to open the mall in 1981, and has only been back to Telford once since.



The best reason to visit the shopping centre, assuming you have no intention of buying anything, is to view the Frog Clock. Officially it's called the Telford Time Machine, but the big green frog is what strikes any shopper who pauses awhile in Sherwood Square. It sits atop a starry clockface looking out across a long metal track strung high above HSBC. Every half hour the contraption springs to life as a gold ball is wheeled from one end of the track to the other where it passes through the frog and drops gently down a set of metal prongs. I only caught the denouement, alas, as the red wheel headed back towards Boots.



The clock's creator was none other than famous Masquerade hare-hider Kit Williams, who also produced a very similar timepiece for Milton Keynes Shopping Centre and a Wishing Fish for Cheltenham's Regent Arcade. Telford's version was installed in 1995. Originally the frog blew a stream of bubbles and a burst of jolly music played, which must have been impressive, but sadly these features were switched off some years ago.



A town centre that's mostly shopping mall is a rotten place for nightlife, so in 2014 councillors opened the Southwater retail park nextdoor. They got a new civic library out of it, and residents of Telford got an 11-screen IMAX cinema, an ice rink, tenpin bowling and a dozen restaurants. But I'd been disoriented by the mall so failed to find it, indeed I spent much of my time in Telford bemoaning the lack of decent pedestrian signage. As a result I missed seeing the "Zen-like" water fountain recently installed in Southwater Square, not to mention the recreational glories of Town Park beyond.



But what I did do, on my way to and from Ironbridge, was ride a couple of single deckers between the town centre and the outskirts. We followed tree-lined arterials to carefully-segregated industrial estates. We looped round a seemingly endless chain of spacious but nondescript housing estates. We weaved between open greenspace and patches of preserved woodland. And we stopped off amid the remnants of a Victorian town centre as confirmation that this urban maze is nothing but an imposed modern construct. The fine detail may have faded, one year on, but I'm pleased to have experienced the real Telford.

 Thursday, October 22, 2020


Dear Sadiq,

Thank you for your letter requesting additional funds for Transport for London.

We recognise that TfL cannot continue to provide a comprehensive transport system during this unprecedented pandemic, and are revelling in the position of strategic dominance your weakness provides.

Thank you also for your continued intransigence. This enables us to impose increasingly punitive conditions on the capital thereby furthering the government's stranglehold over local democracy.

As you know my special adviser Andrew Gilligan used to contribute to Mayoral transport policy so is an unrivalled expert. Additionally the Prime Minister spent eight years chairing the TfL Board and you've barely managed four. Consequently we are convinced that central government is considerably better placed to make strategic decisions than a mere directly-elected representative.

As part of our latest funding settlement we require you to:
» increase fares by more than inflation
» end free travel for the under 16s and over 60s
» roll back over-generous pension payouts to TfL staff
» obtain future funding through a precept on council tax
» extend the Congestion Charge to the North and South Circular Roads
Centralised control will allow us to impose all the transport policies Boris didn't dare introduce when he was in office, safe in the knowledge that your administration will now get the blame.

We therefore intend to impose additional legislative conditions as payback for a further series of short-term funding settlements going forward.
November
• taxi drivers to be given unlimited access to bus lanes
• Waterloo & City line permanently closed to fund pothole repairs
• Westminster station to be renamed 'Sir Winston Churchill'
• unaccompanied children to be banned from buses
• deregulated introduction of e-scooters

December
• a fresh coat of paint on all London's cycle lanes
• new cablecar to replace Hammersmith Bridge
• touching-in to be enforced on rail replacement buses
• branches of IKEA to appear on the tube map
• Oyster card phased out in favour of contactless only

January
• free parking for French lorries in all non-Royal parks
• Piccadilly line to be renamed after highest bidder
• DLR temporarily suspended to save money
• half-price bus fares on all New Routemasters
• work to restart on the excellent Garden Bridge

February
• vouchers issued for one free Uber journey per household
• Zone 6 to be seceded to the neighbouring Home Counties
• step-free access must be added at all stations
• full steam ahead on London's Estuary Airport
• bus fares to match those in The North

March
• trams withdrawn because most Londoners never use them
• Congestion Charge extended to all Labour-controlled boroughs
• free travel for partners of TfL staff to be repaid retrospectively
• start building above Overground tracks to provide new housing
• London to pay for Metropolitan Line Extension in Hertfordshire

April
• all bus routes ending in '9' withdrawn to save money
• Bakerloo line to be extended non-stop to Bromley
• TfL employees to be rehired on new zero hour contracts
• £2bn penalty clause if Crossrail not open yet
• HS2 to be funded from London council tax

May
• Shaun Bailey appointed Chair of TfL
These conditions will be applied sequentially and cumulatively in return for funding barely adequate to keep the capital moving.

Your fares freeze has bankrupted TfL, or so everybody will assume, because we intend to point the finger squarely in your direction.

Please confirm your acquiescence to our future domination forthwith.

Love and kisses,

Grant Shapps

Secretary of State for Transport

 Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The News from Maryland - [an exercise in micro-local journalism]

Maryland is a geographically ambiguous district just northeast of Stratford.
Lots is happening in Maryland.
Here are seven 100-word news reports.
n.b. to avoid haemorrhaging readers, some of the local stories have a wider appeal.




The location of the Twisty Clock has changed



Work on digging up the road outside Maryland station for "Crossrail complementary measures, public realm and interchange improvements" continues, seemingly endlessly. The mini-roundabout has been replaced by a T-junction, with the former Time Spiral artwork relocated alongside the new traffic signals. Its refurbished clock mechanism will be installed within the next few weeks, along with additional street furniture and several planters. Final resurfacing will take place at the end of November. The junction now has paving and pseudo-cobbles, as well as raised kerbs to try to persuade people to use the proper crossings. Good luck with that. And about time.



Reduced ticket office hours at Maryland station



The tube may now be ticketofficeless but insignificant Maryland still boasts staff behind a window to sell you an off-peak return. Normal hours used to be until 1.15pm on weekdays and 1.45pm on Saturdays, then everything closed down because of the virus, and the new hours are now until 10.10am and 10.40am respectively. One day you'll be able to buy a ticket to Maidenhead and catch a train straight there, allegedly at the beginning of 2022 according to TfL's Transport Commissioner yesterday, but we can only wait to see if such generous ticket office hours remain available at the time.



Bow Street has been blocked by two planters



In August Newham and Waltham Forest launched a joint Low Traffic Network across the Maryland/Forest Gate/South Leytonstone fringe. 22 modal filters have been introduced, dividing up the wider neighbourhood into twelve distinct disconnected chunks. One of the modal filters is at the western end of Bow Street, forcing all motor vehicles requiring access to Maryland Square to enter via Forest Lane. It's also helped make Bow Street a school street for safer term-time dropoffs. Many local residents with cars are not happy, but local resident Derrick was very busy last month watering the Bow Street planters and planting spring bulbs.



The Cart and Horses looks like it's closed



As every heavy metal fan knows, Iron Maiden first performed at Maryland's Cart and Horses pub (as did the two bands they formed out of, Gypsies Kiss and Smiler). Iron Maiden emerged as a covers band in 1975 earning £10 a gig, although only bassist Steve Harris survives from that time. Their final gig at the Cart was on 7th April 1978. It's still a rocking pub but all boarded up at present, which looks potentially terminal but the good news is they're only closed for refurbishments and should reopen in March. The perfect time to go into hibernation really.



The Stratford Bollock is progressing



Officially it's the MSG Sphere, the 100m high auditorium due to crashland between the platforms of Stratford station, but the Bollock deserves a more hateful name. Laminated posters went up around Maryland last week announcing the receipt of additional planning documentation, including further details of the advertising lightshow the promoters want to emblazon across its surface. Apparently this will have a "moderate beneficial effect" on the local townscape by providing "a distinctly new visual experience", although they do now promise to lower the brightness between midnight and six. Balls to that. I hope 2020's collapsing entertainment sector kills it off.



Leaves in Maryland are changing colour



Reports are coming in that the leaves on many of the trees in the Maryland area are no longer as green as they used to be. Some have turned yellow, others are a bright shade of red and several are more shrivelled and brown. What's more this change of colour appears to be accompanied by reduced adherence between leaf and branch, with the slightest gust of wind causing the affected foliage to fall to the ground (as here at West Ham Cemetery). Scientists have however confirmed that this is a regular seasonal phenomenon and not a marketing campaign by Instagram.



Cat spotted on top of bin in Albert Square



A cat has been spotted on top of a bin in Albert Square. This was an actual black and white cat on an actual refuse bin, but not the actual Albert Square (of EastEnders fame) because this is a residential street in Maryland (i.e. E15 rather than E20). The cat was sitting on the hinged end of the bin and facing north. The bin looked a lot scruffier than the newer bins in nextdoor's garden. The cat is no longer believed to be in an identical position, but is expected to return to the bin top in the near future.

 Tuesday, October 20, 2020

22% of London is covered with trees. This is according to aerial survey company Bluesky International who've been bashing the statistics to calculate tree cover across the country. This is quite a subjective thing to measure, because exactly how much land does a tree cover anyway, but the data does allow some intriguing comparisons. The BBC News website ran a decent report at the weekend, with maps.

Across England and Wales the eight local authority districts with the highest proportion of tree cover are all in Surrey or Berkshire, with Surrey Heath topping the list at 41%. Both Camden and Croydon make the top 20 with coverage at 30%, which is damned good for a supposed built-up area. Meanwhile the three lowest concentrations of trees are in Lincolnshire and the Fens, at around 5%, with further poor performance across parts of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. An avenue with gardens has a lot more trees than a field.

The capital's chief treeless district, fifth from the bottom of the list, is the City of London. That's unsurprising given that the City is a commercial powerhouse with vast numbers of office blocks and no substantial greenspace, indeed it's easy to stand somewhere within the Square Mile and see no trees whatsoever. But several fine arboreal specimens exist, especially in former churchyards and other undevelopable corners, which is why in 2013 the City of London Tree Trail was published. I downloaded the pdf at the weekend and went in search of the eleven featured trees.

City of London Tree Trail



1) Sweet gum, St Paul's Churchyard
"Found on the south side of St Paul’s, this is the largest Sweet Gum in the City at 25m high"

There aren't too many trees on the south side of St Paul's Cathedral, and this is by far the prettiest. Its branches twist upwards, its leaves are on the turn and immediately alongside is a horizontal statue of Thomas a Becket. That's the tree I took photographs of anyway, even though it didn't strike me as being 25m high, because the directions in the leaflet were somewhat vague. But on getting home and researching further I discovered that the sweet gum was actually in the background (far right) swooping up beside the south transept, and what had impressed me was probably a strawberry tree. Poor start, sorry.



2) London plane, junction of Cheapside and Wood Street
"Originally purchased for sixpence over 250 years ago, this is believed to be the oldest plane tree in the City"

I couldn't miss this one, a vast tree planted in what used to be St Peter's churchyard, and which completely dominates its Cheapside street corner. The London plane is an American/Oriental hybrid which has proven unusually resilient to the capital's air pollution, and featuring it at Tree 2 is a masterstroke because you shouldn't now be confusing it with any of Trees 3 to 11.

3) Judas tree, Aldermanbury
"Beautiful dark pink flowers combined with heart-shaped leaves create a stunning tree during Spring and Summer"

Alas it's Autumn, and I struggled to find this one too. "Opposite St Mary Aldermanbury Gardens" doesn't help when St Mary Aldermanbury Garden is singular and isn't signed from the street. I'm fairly certain I found it against the rear of the Guildhall, like a woody shelter made of foliage, but after my sweet gum debacle I'm not entirely sure.

4) Foxglove, Barber Surgeons' Hall
"Its beautiful flower-spikes look like the foxglove plant (hence its name) and bear small egg-shaped fruits"

I went to the wrong side of Barber Surgeon's Hall to start with, and searched in vain in its manicured central garden. I now believe the foxglove is on the other side, probably, though the scrap of photo in the leaflet was insufficient to help me identify it. Still, a secret garden with chunks of Roman wall, brutalist Barbican pillars and waterlilies is as good a place to waste your time as any.



5) Handkerchief tree, Postman's Park
"Particularly stunning in late May when covered in white bracts that resemble handkerchiefs"

Less stunning in October when it completely fails to stand out among all the other trees in Postman's Park. A tiny photo in the trail leaflet means I think I deduced which of the deciduous trees along the longest wall it was.

6) Fig tree, West Smithfield Rotunda Garden
"Interesting species within the lovely Rotunda gardens include two Caucasian Walnuts and a very impressive mature Fig Tree"

If you know Smithfield, this circular garden lies within the sweep of the meat market's vehicle ramp. I assumed the ultra-gnarly tree with small roundish fruits underneath was the fig, but if so there are two of them, and now I'm concerned I actually got excited about the Caucasian Walnuts.

7) Tulip Tree, North end of Old Bailey
"This is an example of new tree planting and landscaping within the City and creates a vital living legacy for future generations to enjoy"

I only spotted two trees in the location suggested, so assumed these were my target, but closer inspection confirmed they were both London planes. I now understand the tulip tree was further back, outside the Magpie & Stump, but it appears to have withered since the trail was published in 2013. Another fail.



8) Maidenhair Tree, Sermon Lane
"Ginkgo trees, native to China, can be traced back 270 million years when dinosaurs walked the planet"

These are splendid at present, dropping copious yellow leaves onto the steps above the walkway leading down from St Paul's towards the Millennium Bridge. Indeed, even though I'd been hoping for a splendid autumnal display by making the walk in mid-October, only these ginkgos truly delivered.



9) Elms, Queen Victoria Street
"The New Horizon elm species is significant as it was developed to resist the damaging Dutch Elm disease"

Forget Nine Elms, here are seven, all lined up in a row near Salvation Army HQ. They're also the only trees on the entire trail to have their own plaque, confirming that the Lord Mayor planted them in 2004, so the only trees you can be 100% certain of identifying correctly.

10) Swamp Cypress, Cleary Garden
"A native of North America, and one of the few deciduous conifers to be found in the UK"

It was most likely the big conifer in the centre of the garden... but what a garden. I'd always assumed the Cleary Garden was merely a row of benches but no, another terrace lurks behind and then further steps down to a lower pergola. A delightful mini-space to explore, making the entire Tree Trail worthwhile, thanks.

11) Silver Lime, Festival Garden
"An impressive hedge of pleached lime trees surround the Festival Garden developed on the site of bomb-damaged land"

It's that tall silver-barked tree, I thought, the one that isn't a silver birch. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the road, it seems, and should instead have been looking at a rectangularised hedge. That's a final total of three City trees definitely identified, four probably correct and four complete misses. At least it was a nice walk.



» City of London Tree Trail
» London Tree Map


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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
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

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
boredom
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
iceland

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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
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
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