diamond geezer

 Friday, February 12, 2021

This is one of those posts where I go for a long walk, take photos and write about them, but this time not at regular intervals and it's only Newham. But stay tuned and there will eventually be a dead bus stop, a giant footbridge and the site of a famous 80s music video.



This is Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge, that's the River Lea down below and we are only a couple of snowy metres into Newham. This double span was built in the 1870s to carry road traffic into Bromley Gas Works while coal arrived by barge down below. The bridge is also Grade II listed for its prime Victorian ironwork, which includes wrought-iron plates and ribs and cast-iron balustrades and gas lamp holders. It spent most of last year being renovated under immense amounts of scaffolding, from which peculiar smells often emanated, and has since emerged in pristine condition repainted a bland shade of white. All you can see in the photo is the handrail, sorry, because I've contrived to take it from the least revealing angle. The adjacent chunky pipes carry gas, I assume, and aim directly for the multiple gasometers on the far side. I won't go on about it, I've overblogged this spot over the years, but it is lovely to have this industrial heritage cluster on my doorstep.



Sorry, this one's for blogging about next week.



This is City Hall, or will be now that the Mayor's given notice on the current building near Tower Bridge. Thus far there's no sign of any work having been done to prepare this empty building for the arrival of local democracy, so the doors remain locked, reception appears unstaffed and the housing exhibition in the main gallery lingers. A sign in the window suggests you to try to spot The Crystal's plain clothes security guards patrolling the perimeter, but I have never yet dared approach an attentive-looking passer-by to claim my prize. My photo was taken through a shrubbery and also shows one of the beleaguered directional signs erected to show the walking route between Canning Town station and the ExCeL JabHub. As you can see it's fallen off its relevant lamppost, then blown across the road and must have been here some time because it's covered with snow. Given that these signs have repeatedly proved themselves to be flimsy and hugely unreliable, perhaps it's time for TfL to stop promoting this pointless hike.



This is the Thames Barrier, but you already knew that. I was drawn to take a photo of it because one of its gates was raised out of the water - just one - and that gate was still liberally sprinkled with snow. To help you identify which gate it is I've arranged for a giant green arrow to point towards it. To be fair the green arrow is really a navigational 'daymark' - one of a series of geometric shapes on poles used to guide maritime passage, and generally painted red or green to indicate port or starboard. I don't think this one's genuine, it's not weatherworn enough, plus the riverside here forms part of a recently built housing estate so it wouldn't surprise me if the architects had it bolted on for faux heritage reasons. The green arrow also points towards the new wall of flats on the Woolwich waterfront but I think it's probably just as well you can't enlarge the photo and see those up close.



This is Dockside Road bus stop near Royal Albert DLR station... where you will never catch a bus. There are two main reasons for this. One is that no current London bus route uses it, and the other is that the only bus route which ever used it stopped running at 11pm on Wednesday 13th May 2020. That bus route was staff shuttle 3 for the Nightingale Hospital, back when that was actually operational which was a period of barely five weeks. Staff slept here in an outpost of boxy hotels facing one end of Royal Albert Dock and commuted in by bus. I like that the bus stop has a letter on top (despite the fact there are no other lettered bus stops anywhere nearby to confuse it with) and a proper shelter (which might have been useful on the two days at the end of April when it actually rained). Nobody's come along to remove stop or shelter since, presumably just in case, but that possibility is looking increasingly infinitesimal.



This is Prince Regent junction on the A13, as referenced in yesterday's post. Its slip roads stay at ground level to join up with Prince Regent Lane while the main flow of traffic, indifferent to the allure of Plaistow and Beckton, dips down into a cutting. The junction also boasts a footbridge which I realised I'd never walked across before, I think because there's a considerably more direct route across the chasm via two pedestrian crossings. These are the evil kind of pedestrian crossing where the traffic stops but the green man never appears unless you press the button, which afflict the A13 hereabouts, so maybe it's good there's an alternative route across. I passed a lot of windblown litter on the way up but the prize was a fine view from a height that's generally unavailable across the flat, estuarine borough of Newham. This is a really long footbridge too, crossing six lanes of dual carriageway, five lanes of sliproad and two cycle lanes, which got me wondering where London's longest footbridges are, but best save that for a future post.



These are First, Second and Third Avenues, just off the Greenway in Plaistow. Specifically First Avenue is the run of houses on the left, Second Avenue is in the background on the right and Third Avenue is the road linking the two. These dull modern houses have an unlikely musical claim to fame which is that in 1983 the video for the Human League's single (Keep Feeling) Fascination was filmed here. Director Steve Barron turned up a few months before the former slum terraces were due to be demolished and painted everything within a 10 metres radius orange, including the house on the corner, the surrounding tarmac and an Austin 1800 parked outside. The resultant orange dot is viewed from above at the start and end of the video, along with a local map, before the camera pans down into 1 First Avenue where the band are seen playing. It pans back out at the end, and also in the middle where an orange boy is seen kicking an orange ball in the orange street. The front garden of the new number 1 has a large triangular void where the old number 1 used to be, so nowhere to hang a plaque, indeed it's incredibly hard to picture how the area used to look. We're extremely fortunate to have a video record of the old Victorian streets... in colour.

Comment from a reader: Number 1 First Avenue was my grandparents' house, built by my grandfather. The building was originally planned to be a pub, but he decided to keep the building to live in and the triangle behind was in former times their builder's yard, in later years garages including a repair shop operated by my uncle. The house was empty when my Dad was approached to allow its use for the video. The interior of the downstairs was painted out for it as well.


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