Do join me on the aimless ramble I took yesterday.
I took a snapshot every 20 minutes.
This is the Greenway, specifically the stretch between the Jubilee and District lines near West Ham station. Up here you can see for miles across London, which is one of the prime benefits of a permissive footpath built on top of a mega-sewer. Canary Wharf appears to the southwest, shrouded in cloud. Other than the tiny windows in adjacent loft extensions the only nearby building exceeding our height is the Victorian multi-storey primary school in Corporation Street. This section of the Greenway has been upgraded in recent years with regular streetlamps and CCTV sentinels to deter muggers and encourage use as a 24 hour cycle artery. The usual crowd of joggers, striders and padding dogs are here too. A damp blue sweatshirt hangs from a branch. The sun is faintly visible through rolling grey cloud. No virgin surface goes untagged. And in my first 20 minutes I've managed to walk a mile and a bit, confirming my speed as 4mph rather than 3, which is why I've chosen to snapshot today's post by time and not by distance.
This is still the Greenway, specifically the stretch in Plaistow beside Newham University Hospital. A new footpath has been constructed allowing direct access to the hospital car park for the first time, but it remains barriered off despite having looked ready to open for several months. An armless concrete signpost has been added at the junction-to-be. Passing traffic includes a man on a motorised skateboard, a group of friends dawdling three abreast and a woman shouting in Portuguese into her phone. I fear that's what passes as her normal voice. The strip of grass behind the railings has been christened Greenway Orchard by a group of community volunteers who come down weekly to prune, weed and plant things, thankfully in beds raised above the organic nutrient flowing beneath. A chorus of sparrows sings from the railings, having mistaken a brief mild spell for spring. I hasten my pace because there's a genuine risk I'll still be on the Greenway in 20 minutes time and that'd be narratively tedious.
This is the A13, specifically the Beckton Alps Interchange, because I got a move on and exited the Greenway just before an hour was up. A complex road junction complete with flyover has been built where Essex arterial meets sewage pipeline. One of the directional signs before the traffic lights points towards 'Roman Road', not because the area has ancient history but because that's the name of the next residential street. The pedestrian signals here never change to green unless you press the button, even if the traffic on the sliproad will be stationary for the next minute - an evil software setting which seemingly applies to all the A13 interchanges in Newham. A smattering of East Ham residents cross anyway, trudging to or from shops they don't have on their side of the divide. The artificial peak of Beckton Alp looms to the southeast, with the row of left-over ski-run panels at its summit casting shadows like some mystical henge.
1 hour 20 minutes
This is Gallions Reach, specifically the DLR station, not the nearby stretch of the Thames estuary. If you've not been down recently yes, people live here now in undistinguished brick-clad blocks and towers. Open a station and 25 years later they will come. Even better, they now have a Co-Op. Not everyone wants to trek to Beckton's giant Asda, nor indeed any Asda, so the availability of half price PG Tips and Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes is very welcome. Even the in-store bakery is up and running by the smell of it. Hardhatted workers from the building site across the road drop in regularly as a break from labouring on the latest vertical housing project. I'd quite like to rewrite the Gallions Point sales brochure to reference the isolation, the nearby sewage works and the City Airport flightpath, rather than being "the heart of East London's most up-and-coming district", but that's a post for another day.
1 hour 40 minutes
This is Royal Albert Dock, specifically the white elephant Chinese-funded business neighbourhood rather than the body of water alongside. Two streets of office space have been built adjacent to a DLR station in anticipation international uptake, but so far only one company has taken the bait and they haven't yet turned up. All the units are numbered, and empty, and even the Marketing Suite is being used for nothing more than storing rolls of insulation. On the lawn where Phase 2 is meant to arise a German Shepherd is being taught to sit and stay. A family walk by, the son preoccupied with bouncing a basketball against every available surface. Across the dock London City Airport is in hibernation between the 9am to Amsterdam and the 4.35pm to Belfast, unless perhaps some private jet has reason to take off. If I keep walking, perhaps you can guess where I'll be in 20 minutes time...
This is ExCeL, specifically the end that's been taken over as a Vaccination Centre, not the end with the underused Nightingale facility. You might expect it to be busy, given all the hoo-ha about Britain's successful immunisation programme, but nobody is queuing outside, nobody is being checked in at reception and nobody with an appointment is approaching from any direction. One woman of pensionable age exits clutching a treasured confirmation letter which she folds up and places in her handbag, but she's the sole evidence that anything's afoot. Having been past a number of times since the place opened, two jabbees is the maximum I've ever seen.
2 hours 20 minutes
This is Canning Town, specifically the new bit opposite the station branded Hallsville Quarter. The council estate I've just crossed would have been more interesting to write about, but I've instead I've ended up here in a characterless highrise wind tunnel. The piazza outside Morrisons has become a gathering place for just-finished shoppers, perhaps overwhelmed by the offer of a £3 Stir Fry Meal Deal or maybe just waiting for the rush in Superdrug to die down. Around the corner by the shisha cafe an influencer wearing a Burberry hat is setting up a tripod so that they can broadcast their thoughts to persons unseen. And who's that walking up behind? Blimey it's BestMate, just arrived in search of pork ribs and entirely coincidentally bumping into me. We haven't seen each other in six weeks, let alone spoken face to face, so a lengthy catch-up conversation ensues. Hang on while I pause my stopwatch.
2 hours 40 minutes
This is Cody Dock, specifically the semi-public footpath through the middle of the Leaside community project. Head honcho Simon is on site to supervise deliveries, unlock bollards and keep the Thames Water volunteers topped up with hot drinks. Roofs are being fixed and joists hoisted, because a community facility doesn't build itself. The dockside is littered with tents, metal containers, giant sculptures and daffodils in raised planters. Today is not the day to feed the rabbits or sit on the bench beside the sliced phone-box. Down by the creekside the river is low, the reeds are thick and a flock of seagulls is paddling in the mud. Alongside at the Sainsbury's distribution hub the car park is nigh empty because all the vans are out delivering your groceries. I'm hoping the rain holds off until I get home.