diamond geezer

 Tuesday, August 31, 2021

31 unblogged things I did in August

Sun 1: Apparently the Stepney Mini Store on Stepney Way sells 'Diary products', and I am sorely tempted to go inside and ask for a 2022 Page-a-day.



Mon 2: Shopping update: My local big Tesco appears to have stopped selling Becks (other than the pointless alcohol-free version). A few weeks ago I put it down to them running out during the Euros, but no, it appears they've completely stopped stocking it. I left bereft.
Tue 3: To solve my headphone woes I finally took the plunge and bought a bluetooth set. I didn't buy the super-expensive Apple earbuds, I got something much more generic from Argos (and didn't pay a penny because I found a very old Nectar card and exhausted the balance on that).
Wed 4: I'm now getting used to my new headphones. On the plus side - woo, no long cables getting in the way. On the minus side - years of faff making sure they're charged and connected, rather than just plugging something in.
Thu 5: Two gladioli stalks about to burst into flower on my balcony, both of which (from previous experience) will topple and snap if left unsupported. Hopefully the forked twig I found in the Olympic Park will do the trick. [update: it did, and I had a glorious fortnight of sequential blooms]
Fri 6: The four food kiosks down the spine of the Olympic Park now have separate branding - Taverna in the Park (specialising in Greek souvlaki wraps), Viva Vegan, Dessert Ice Cream Club and All Stars Kitchen (American style diner meals). I have yet to see all four open simultaneously.
Sat 7: Sorting through boxes in the spare room I threw away an eight-inch pile of paperwork from Job 2, back when everything needed to be written and then photocopied because those were the days before digital sharing of information. Job 3 generated far less stashed trash.
Sun 8: My local bus garage keeps sending out an open-topped sightseeing bus labelled 'Official Tour of Cambridge' on the back ('19 stops including Botanic Garden'). I found it on London Bridge.



Mon 9: Now that the Olympics are over the 'normal' TV schedule feels quite odd. I shall probably skip Breakfast TV for the next three years.
Tue 10: Got a text from my mobile phone provider saying they'd "freshened up their SIM plans" so I had to choose a new contract, which I suspect is just a ruse to force me to sign something without free roaming included.
Wed 11: Shopping update: My local big Tesco had no milk this morning, not even a rogue bottle of organic skimmed, just an entirely empty half-aisle where normally several trolleysworth would be stacked. I left bereft.
Thu 12: I do not like the new Twitter font, chiefly because it's smaller than the previous one so harder to read. I miss the days when you could read more than one and a half tweets on a laptop screen without scrolling down.
Fri 13: The cashier in Argos looked pretty frosty when I wanted to buy a kettle on the spot rather than online or using the machine, but she walked over to the till and professionally went through her script, and no I did not want to buy insurance thanks.
Sat 14: I unexpectedly bumped into one of the bloggers in my blogroll during a Parkrun (they were, I wasn't). I have now randomly bumped into three blogrolled bloggers since lockdown started last year, on each occasion on the 'wrong' side of the Thames to where they live, and each time I have been inordinately surprised.
Sun 15: The fuchsias outside my doctors' surgery are splendid at the moment.



Mon 16: A friend posted back something small I'd lent them, which ought to have been straight-forward. Unfortunately they packed it in a padded envelope along with two freebies, thereby exceeding 3cm in thickness so it didn't fit in my letterbox so I had to go and collect it. Also unfortunately they'd used a comedy name in the address so I needed to employ some top-level banter to persuade the postal clerk to hand it over. Also unfortunately I have no current need for the two freebies they sent, so a thin envelope would've done. Always think twice before lending something.
Tue 17: Birdwatching update: After a four month gap I've finally seen a kingfisher again, and not in the Olympic Park but a bit further south. It was darting up the centre of the Lea with something in its beak, and it was magnificent, and also the closest to home I've ever seen one. [map of sightings]
Wed 18: My favourite Radio 4 documentary series this month has been The Ghost Kingdoms of England in which Ian Hislop explores the Anglo-Saxon history and modern legacies of East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. All still available.
Thu 19: Animals I spotted on today's walk - a squirrel on a hopscotch court, a rat emerging from a fountain and two Shetland ponies on a pedestrian crossing.
Fri 20: My brother and sister-in-law sent me a pack of eight chocolatey treats for Christmas, so I've been opening one a month and eating one piece per day. June's strawberry Quality Streets lasted longest, whereas last month's Toblerone barely managed 10 days. This month I unwrapped the final Chocolate Orange and today I guzzled the last segment. Roll on next Christmas.
Sat 21: In my change today I got a 'Diversity Built Britain' 50p, which I wasn't aware was a thing. I've stashed it alongside my Brexit 50p (less 50/50, more 52/48).



Sun 22: Dave Gahan's younger brother messaged me on Twitter to say I'd blogged the wrong house when I went to Basildon in search of Depeche Mode's childhood homes. "We were never in number 54, we were in number 56". Thankfully I had a photo of the semi nextdoor so I've updated the post. Sorry Phil.
Mon 23: Confirming that things are finally getting back to normal, the signs around the Olympic Park saying "Next event 15th March" have finally been updated (after 17 months) to say "Next event 23rd August".
Tue 24: St Swithin's Day was dry this year (it occurred at the start of summer's peak week), but 40 days later my annual folklore check confirms that only 20 of the subsequent days were dry, so dead 9th century bishops know nothing.
Wed 25: I found another £10 note lying on the ground! Last time I mentioned I'd found one you strongly recommended taking it, but I found this one beside the cemetery gates during a funeral so again I left it.
Thu 26: I happened to be walking round Royal Wharf while some contractors were replacing all the private parking regulation signs, and by comparing before and after I was able to work out that all the parking fees had suddenly gone up by 30-40%, but I bet nobody living there's noticed.
Fri 27: The All Points East festival is taking place in Victoria Park, and even though it's three-quarters of a mile away the bassline and sometimes the vocals are broadly audible (but not enough to work out who's actually performing).
Sat 28: I managed to finish the bank holiday special themed jigsaw crossword on day of publication, so am now sad they no longer do 'prize' crosswords.



Sun 29: If you're getting your groceries delivered by Weezy in the Shadwell area, it's all coming out of a dingy unmarked arch containing a few numbered shelves, some refrigerated units, a stack of spare bikes, a whiteboard and three women coordinating everything off laptops at a side table.
Mon 30: In personalised-numberplate-spotting news, today I spotted 'X16' on a black Merc haring down the A12 which means I've finally finished spotting all 420 opening combinations from A1 to Y20. I've only had X16 left to spot since mid-July, because the end of the challenge is a lot lot slower than the beginning. I started on 1st March so it's taken almost exactly six months to complete, during which time I've walked over 1800 miles, but that's infrequent random processes for you.
Tue 31: Having waited 182 days to see my first X16, today I saw another one in the Olympic Park. This is why numberplate-spotting games can be so incredibly frustrating. Now all I have to do is spot a 71 reg tomorrow...

 Monday, August 30, 2021

Disney Time quiz
The last Disney Time was broadcast on August Bank Holiday Monday in 1998.
Here are anagrams of 20 Disney animated films that might have featured.
How many can you identify?

  1) bum do
  2) did anal
  3) no liking
  4) fat Asian
  5) paper net
  6) iconic hop
  7) lid cleaner
  8) indoor hob
  9) racist oats
10) lob gun joke     
11) oat ponchos
12) parsnip yomp
13) treadmill time
14) eyeing up tables
15) shrewdest notion
16) hoaxed fond hunt
17) partly damned hat
18) drowned in alliance
19) be a hasty debutante
20) bathroom fan unchecked

n.b. Includes part-animated films
n.b. All films released before 1998
n.b. If the film starts with 'The', I've removed it
n.b. All answers now in the comments box

It's almost September but never fear, London's putting on a last flurry of events and activities and happenings before the nights draw in and we're all invited. Here's my weekend-by-weekend guide to free September delights.

All month
» Totally Thames (Sep 1-30): Once again we're presented with a whole month of river-focused events, many of them ticketed, ranging from art to walks to virtual talks to boat trips to a few exhibition boards dumped in a park. The website's events section is easier to scroll through this year, but I'm still not sure I've managed to spot all the one-off treats.
» Lambeth Heritage Festival (Sep 1-30): Dozens of talks, guided walks and openings across the borough (plus a proper week-by-week events list to flick through, bliss).

Weekend 1: September 4/5
» Open House London (this weekend and next): The grand-daddy of architectural festivals, with hundreds of weird and wonderful buildings throwing open their doors across the capital, this year for two weekends. The online list currently includes 629 properties (5 in Harrow but 55 in Westminster) and as ever the outer boroughs have some of the proper treasures. A list of the 140 buildings requiring pre-booking can be found here, although you may already be too late for a slot. As ever there's far too much to choose from, but if you need inspiration here are my reports from 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Be there, or regret it for the subsequent 51 weeks.
» Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (27 Aug - 11 Sep): This significant splurge of spectacular performances is normally a midsummer fixture but this year has been shifted back. These days not much of the festival is north of the river. This weekend sees Canary Wharf's annual day of dance, and GDIF ends next weekend with a dusky firefest in Woolwich (and North Woolwich).
» Lambeth Local History Fair (Sat, from 10.00): A coming-together of local societies, heritage organisations, friends groups and local history publishers.
» St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival (Sat, Sun): Annual gathering of small boats near Tower Bridge. Includes paddleboarding and a visit by the Thames Youth Jazz Orchestra.
» Angel Canal Festival (Sun, 11-5): Waterside gaiety beside City Road Lock, now in its fourth decade. Expect the Mayor of Islington to arrive by narrowboat.
» Soho Village Fete (Sun, noon-6pm): Head to St Anne's churchyard for a Waiters' Race, spaghetti eating competition, snail racing and dog show.

Weekend 2: September 11/12
» Open House London: Weekend two
» Heritage Open Days (Thu-Sun): Once again this year, TWO weekends when hundreds of buildings that aren't usually open are open. Most are outside London but 34 are in the capital, including the newly-accessible Willesden Jewish Cemetery, E3's House Mill and tours of Dulwich's British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum.
» Scadbury Open Weekend (Sat, Sun, 2-4.30): Archaeological excavations, and refreshments, at the moated medieval manor house near the Sidcup bypass.
» Mitcham Heritage Day (Sat, 10-4.30): Several buildings around the conservation area will be open including The Canons and the parish church belltower (but alas not the cricket pavilion). I went in 2018, so can recommend. Part of Wandle Fortnight (11th-26th).
» St Margaret's Fair (Sat): The 42nd annual fete, delayed by two months, in Moormead Park TW1.
» Thames Tidefest (Sun, 9.30-5.30): River-based activities scattered between Brentford and Chiswick, with a particular marquee-focus at Strand-on-the-Green, W4.
» Hackney Carnival (Sun): Not of Notting Hill proportions, and playing safe this year by streaming live from the stage of the Hackney Empire.

Weekend 3: September 18/19
» Heritage Open Days Weekend two
» London Design Festival (continues next weekend): Hundreds of design-er events (including several landmark projects) are taking place across ten on-trend clusters including the new Design District at North Greenwich. The programme's so vast you'll have to look hard for the best bits.
» West End Live (Sat, Sun, 11-5): Free (but ticketed) cavalcade of dramatic snippets and swinging numbers from stage musicals hosted in Trafalgar Square.
» Bermondsey Street Festival (Sat, 11-7): A designery "village fête", plus the obligatory dog show, plus poetry takeaways, plus food and stalls.
» Thames Barrier Closure (Sun, 6.25-4.25): Annual all-day maintenance closure (peaking around high tide at 1pm). Come and see water piled up on one side only (while it's only a practice).

Weekend 4: September 25/26
» Woolmen’s Sheep Drive and Wool Fair (Sun, 10-5): Amanda Owen (the Yorkshire Shepherdess) is the celeb leading this year's first tranche over London Bridge. Come too for wool-related trade stalls, lamb burgers and a bar on a bus.
» Chiswick House Dog Show (Sun, 11-4.15): Celebrity judges give the hounds of W4 the runaround.
» Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival (Sun, 2pm): Cockney royalty gathers outside (then inside) St Mary-le-Bow.

If you're thinking it's been a lousy summer, this may be because a) you live in southeast England b) you're over-remembering the last few weeks. Overall it's been 1°C warmer than average across the country, and drier and sunnier than usual up north.

In London, however, it's been a bit meh. We had two good spells, namely the first half of June and the third week of July, but the rest has been rather poor. A couple of July days were exceptionally wet.

1st half of Junewarmdrysunny
 mid-June - mid-July averagewetdull
3rd week of Julyhotdrysunny
mid-July - mid-Augaveragewetdull
2nd half of Augcooldrydull

If I define a 'proper' summer's day as
    i) reaching 25°C
    ii) no rain
    iii) at least 7 hours of sunshine
then we only had 12 of those this summer, the last on 22nd July.

If I set the bar lower and define a 'reasonable' summer's day as
    i) reaching 20°C
    ii) less than 1mm of rain
    iii) at least 4 hours of sunshine
then we only had 35 of those, and that's not even 40% of the summer. Three-quarters of summer days met condition 1 and three-quarters met condition 2, so condition 3 has proved the problematic one. Only eight days in August passed the 'reasonable' threshold, mainly due to lack of sun, so maybe that's why it feels like the summer has been so poor.

Maybe September'll be better. Or there's always 2022.

 Sunday, August 29, 2021

It's that time of year when it gets noticeable that the nights are drawing in. Here in London the sun sets about two minutes earlier every evening between the middle of August and the end of October (and a little slower at other times of year). That's about an hour a month, hence the inexorable creep towards winter darkness.

And this is why your local park closes at different times throughout the year.

This are the opening times for West Ham Park.



Opening the park is simple, someone comes round and opens up at 7.30am every morning (even in December when the sun's not quite up yet). But closing times vary considerably, with three winter months when closing time is 4.30pm and three summer months when closing time is 9.30pm. Someone in the Parks Department likes 'half past' because all the closing times are 'something thirty', which isn't necessarily a given.

 Month Sunset during monthPark closes
Jan16:02 → 16:4816:30
Feb16:50 → 17:3917:30
Mar17:41 → 18:3218:30
Apr19:32 → 20:2220:30
May20:23 → 21:0721:30
Jun21:08 → 21:2021:30
Jul21:20 → 20:4921:30
Aug20:47 → 19:4720:30
Sep19:45 → 18:3919:30
Oct18:36 → 17:3618:30
Nov16:32 → 15:5416:30
Dec15:54 → 16:0016:30

To keep things simple I've assumed that the clocks change at the very end of March and October, even though they don't quite.

The January closing time is roughly equivalent to the sunset time in the middle of the month, which might seem to make sense. But in most of the other months it's more towards the later end of the range, and in April, May, June, July and December the park always closes after sunset. The West Ham Park Parks Department are fairly generous with their locking-up times, well aware that it doesn't get properly dark for some time after the sun dips below the horizon. At least they've kept it simple.

This is Thames Barrier Park, and they're more premature.



This time opening up is always at 7.00am, even around Christmas when that's over an hour before sunrise. Closing time is a lot more complicated because they've only rounded to the quarter hour, and they've thrown BST into the mix for good measure.
Also they've made me wag my finger in pedantic disapproval because you do not write PM with a 24-hour time, it's either 16:45 or 4.45PM, not both.

The Thames Barrier Park Parks Department are much better at aligning closing time to the sunset time in the middle of the month, as if that's how they used their almanac to determine when the gates should shut. November and December are the exceptions, with locking up taking place after sunset all month, but at the darkest time of year that temporal generosity is probably for the best.

The walkway alongside the Royal Albert Dock plays the game differently.



Unlocking is again at 7am but locking up occurs earlier than either of the two parks in every month of the year. Indeed it turns out that the Royal Albert Dock walkway always closes exactly half an hour earlier than Thames Barrier Park, as if the two have been precisely aligned.
Also they've made me wag my finger in genuine disapproval because they've used asterisks showing BST continuing into November and December, which is just sloppy, and they've described BST as British Standard Time, which is it not. A poor show, Royal Docks.

 Month Royal DocksThames BarrierWest Ham
Jan16:1516:4516:30
Feb17:0017:3017:30
Mar18:0018:3018:30
Apr19:3020:0020:30
May20:1520:4521:30
Jun20:4521:4521:30
Jul20:3021:0021:30
Aug20:0020:3020:30
Sep18:4519:1519:30
Oct17:4518:1518:30
Nov16:1516:4516:30
Dec16:0016:3016:30

Very roughly speaking Royal Albert Dock closing times generally align to the earliest sunset in a month, Thames Barrier Park closing times generally align to the average sunset in a month and West Ham Park closing times generally align to the latest sunset in a month. Given that twilight lingers after sunset I'd say West Ham Park has the most realistic closing times... and whoever knocked up the Royal Albert Dock list probably looked up sunset times online and didn't consider how light it actually is.

All of which proves very little other than that sunset-related closing times are quite subjective, perhaps much more so than you realised. And yes, sorry, they'll be locking up at least an hour earlier from Wednesday onwards.

10 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• δ variant now spreading in NZ
• travel test providers warned on misleading prices
• UK orders 35m Pfizer jabs for the end of 2022
• Cornwall urges tourists to stay away
• Scottish Covid inquiry to start later this year
• study shows protection fades months after jabs
• cases increase as Scottish schools go back
• plans made to vaccinate 12-15 year-olds
• infection rates rising across the UK
• Canada, Denmark & Switzerland → green list

Worldwide deaths: 4,420,000 → 4,490,000
Worldwide cases: 211,000,000 → 216,000,000
UK deaths: 131,591 → 132,376
UK cases: 6,460,930 → 6,698,486
1st vaccinations: 47,573,794 → 47,958,928
2nd vaccinations: 41,496,576 → 42,507,601
FTSE: up 1% (7087 → 7148)

 Saturday, August 28, 2021

London bus route update   (official list)

last weekend
Continuing the current trend for getting rid of gyratories, the eastern end of the Strand (past Somerset House) has been just been pedestrianised. All traffic now goes round the semi-circle of Aldwych instead, which has become two-way, and the de-vehicled stretch will be properly landscaped later. One necessary consequence is that the westbound bus stops have been shifted from outside King's College to outside Bush House, but Bus Stop R is still for buses heading down the Strand (11 15 91 N11 N15 N21 N89 N91 N199 N550 N551) and Bus Stop S is still for routes heading over Waterloo Bridge (1 26 59 68 76 168 172 188 243 341 521 X68 N1 N26 N68). Meanwhile seven routes which start here at Aldwych (6 9 87 N9 N44 N87 N155) now depart from a new Bus Stop H instead, which means R and S are no longer among the top 10 most-served bus stops in London (a list still topped by the three Strand stops between here and Trafalgar Square).



yesterday
Yesterday you could ride a bus from Romford to Epping and Harlow, but from today you can't. Route 575 (not a TfL service) has just been withdrawn because hardly anyone wanted to ride it because the service was so poor because hardly anyone wanted to ride it. For much of the 20th century you could have caught regular bus 250, and for a time Green Line 724, and later the 500, keeping these Essex towns connected. But when the 500 was withdrawn in 2008 TfL only reinstated a bus as far as the M25, and attempts to run a skeleton service over the full corridor have repeatedly faltered. The 575 was the last throw of the dice, initially running twice a day and more recently just the once - south from Harlow in the morning and back from Romford in the afternoon. But a change of operator means no spare vehicle is available, and passenger numbers don't justify continuation, so the 575's just been scrapped. Roger took a final ride this week which you can read about here, along with copious backstory, and there's more historical information here. The extraordinary consequence is that you can no longer get any form of public transport north out of Romford into Essex, other than the dead end 375 which turns back before making any useful connections. This'll be why so many people outside London drive everywhere.

today
By contrast, today's the day TfL extend one of their existing bus routes beyond the Greater London boundary into Hertfordshire. Admittedly it's not very far into Hertfordshire, barely 200m from the border, but it is most unusual for TfL to be improving services outside the capital. The lucky bus is the 324 which until yesterday meandered between Brent Cross and Stanmore but has now been extended to the Centennial Park business park near Elstree which, crucially, lies just beyond the M1. The 107 already runs past the entrance but the 324 will veer inside down the spine road, turn back at the roundabout and terminate outside the Spire Pathology Services building. Bus nerds should note that Centennial Park used to be the site of Aldenham Bus Works, the enormous London Transport bus overhaul site (1956-1986) (as seen at the start of Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday). Tube nerds should note that this would have been the location of Elstree South station had the Northern Heights extension been built in the 1940s, so I like the fact that TfL have finally got round to providing a service to the site.



The 324's extension is two miles long so requires an extra vehicle, which some might think a peculiar use of funds. But along its additional journey it passes the gates of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, a 220-bed very-specialist facility, which means patients here now have a quick connection to the tube at Stanmore. It's all part of TfL's recent mission to improve bus services to hospitals, a social priority which also explains their newest bus route in nearby Enfield. It's therefore not entirely deliberate that the Home Counties now have a new Oyster-enabled bus service, but it does give me a good excuse to update my definitive list of London Buses That Exit London.

Harrow
142, 258 → Watford    
Barnet
107, 292 → Borehamwood
324 → Centennial Park
Waltham Forest
215 → Lee Valley Campsite
Hillingdon
331 → Denham
81 → Slough
203 → Staines
Enfield
298, 313 → Potters Bar
217, 279, N279, 317,
  327, 491 → Waltham Cross    
Redbridge
20, 397 → Debden
167, 549 → Loughton
150, 462 → Hainault
275 → Woodford Bridge
Hounslow
117, 290 → Staines
116 → Ashford
235 → Sunbury
London buses
that exit
London
Havering
375 → Passingford Bridge
498 → Brentwood
347 → Ockendon
370, 372 → Lakeside
Richmond
216 → Staines
411 → West Molesey
R68 → Hampton Ct Stn 
Sutton
293, 470 → Epsom
S1 → Banstead
80 → Belmont
Bexley
96, 428, 492 → Bluewater
B12 → Joydens Wood
233 → Swanley
Kingston
K3 → Esher
465 → Dorking
406, 418, 467 → Epsom
Croydon
166 → Epsom
405 → Redhill
404, 407, 466 → Caterham 
434 → Whyteleafe South
403 → Warlingham
Bromley
R5, R10 → Knockholt
246 → Westerham/Chartwell
464 → Tatsfield

today
Meanwhile in the centre of town, TfL's quest to remove buses from Oxford Street continues unabated. They've already cut the number of routes dramatically over the last five years, and today two more are extinguished. Between Selfridges and Oxford Circus we're now down from thirteen routes to just five.

 Selfridges to
Oxford Circus
Oxford Circus to
Tottenham Court Road
Dec 2016 6, 7, 10, 13, 23, 73, 94, 98, 137, 139, 159, 189, 39010, 25, 55, 73, 98, 390
Dec 2018 7, 94, 98, 113, 139, 159, 39055, 73, 98, 390
Sep 2021 7, 94, 98, 139, 39055, 73, 98, 390

One of the casualties is route 113, a lengthy route connecting Edgware to the West End. Back in April 2017 it was extended from Marble Arch to Oxford Circus to make up for the removal of route 13, but today it's being cut back to Marble Arch again. The other affected service is the 159 which has run between Streatham and Marble Arch since 1999 but is now being trimmed back to Oxford Circus. Switching termini is an easy way to shorten routes without running out of stand space, and will remove about 40 vehicles an hour from Oxford Street.

TfL are also taking the opportunity to reduce the frequency of route 113 from eight buses an hour to seven, while another Oxford Street service, route 7, has its daytime frequency culled from every eight minutes to every twelve. A number of significant frequency reductions are taking place this weekend and next weekend affecting routes 2, 9, 16, 27, 30, 43, 49, 148, 253, 254, 507, 521 and N9. The two five-hundred-and-something cuts are because a lot of office commuters still haven't come back to their desks, and the N9 cut (from every 20 minutes to every 30) suggests that the late night airport run hasn't revived either. As things stand, reduced frequencies may become more commonplace in central London over the coming months.

 Friday, August 27, 2021

It starts by the zebra stripes
It fits all Beckton stereotypes
This leafy straight off-piste backalley
I've come for a gawk
To Mavis Walk



No car can follow it
But people live on it
One house has vibrant spiral topiary
CCTV points like a hawk
Down Mavis Walk

The dogwalker tugs his hound
No mess is left upon the ground
A squirrel hops along the picket fence
Other alleyways fork
Off Mavis Walk

The paving has odd bumps in it
One brick wall has a nasty split
That hanging basket needed more watering
It's easy to baulk
At Mavis Walk



An abandoned plastic stroller
Discarded wrapper, can of cola
Two teenage girls rendezvous on a doorstep
They've come to talk
On Mavis Walk

Cables hang across the sky
We're between two pylons, that's why
It's tranquil and shady but no property hotspot
Not by a long chalk
Is Mavis Walk

Comments (14)
I've read better poems.
Andy 8/27/2021 07:06am
It doesn't even scan.
Charles Baker 8/27/2021 07:07am
15 Of London’s Most Drool-Worthy, Food Coma-Inducing Burgers
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What fresh hell is this?
Babs of Sussex 8/27/2021 07:13am
I used to live in Kestrel Avenue. We backed onto Mavis Walk. I had a Morris Minor and bin collection day was Wednesday.
becktonman 8/27/2021 07:14am
It looks like the comments have upgraded to some modern fancy mobile-friendly template and I hate it.
JPM 8/27/2021 07:18am
Crome London: The Capital Gets Its First French Toast Cafe
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Of course technically this wasn't Greater London until 1965, although the houses are more recent than that.
Dave Mason 8/27/2021 07:20am
All fascinating stuff, as ever...
ziggerzagger 8/27/2021 07:28am
Normally I'd say thanks for going so we don't have to, but in this case I don't think any thanks are appropriate.
Ursula 8/27/2021 07:29am
The world’s first tequila taproom is coming to London
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Surely it's the third and fifth lines of a quintain that rhyme?
Pete Menzies 8/27/2021 07:33am
Thank you, I have added this to my list of must-visits next time I'm in London.
the robster 8/27/2021 07:38am
Personally I prefer the ambience of the parallel Chetwood Walk.
E6 resident 8/27/2021 07:41am

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This is a step too far. I will not be back.
One Of The Johns 8/27/2021 07:44am
How do I change the suggestions so I get ads for heritage train videos instead?
Gregor 8/27/2021 07:56am
I really don't think poetry is your strong point.
William W 8/27/2021 07:57am
Comment:

 Thursday, August 26, 2021

There are two Victorian cemeteries on Cemetery Road, E7.
One's open daily and the other's always closed.
Except yesterday the gate was open.
So I went in.



1) West Ham Jewish Cemetery

There's been a Jewish Cemetery in Forest Gate since 1857 when space got tight in Whitechapel. The New Synagogue and the Great Synagogue got together to buy land on the northern edge of West Ham's built-up area, north of the railway, just before the area was swamped with housing. Initially it covered five acres up to the edge of the borough but was later extended to 11, and Newham's boundary has since been diverted to include the lot. But there have been no burials here since the 1970s so the cemetery's long been 'closed' to protect it from vandalism, its perimeter defended by spikes, barbed wire and anti-climb paint. A lot of Jewish cemeteries in east London linger on behind locked doors.

So seeing the side gate open was most unexpected. I wandered in past two signs inviting me to take care, and ahead surveyed a long thin space with one central footway, packed to either side with graves and memorials in various states of repair. The ground was generally covered in gravel, which'd save on mowing, but someone was clearly visiting regularly enough to keep the worst of the weeds at bay. Most of the surviving gravestones had inscriptions in Hebrew and English in loving tribute to Esther, Mordecai, David or whoever, whose years of death were sometimes given in Hebrew (5679), more often not (1918) and sometimes in both styles. I wondered how far I could explore.



A white van had been parked just inside the entrance, its front seat empty, and I assumed this must be the gardener's. It wasn't because I soon met the driver walking back from the far end, somewhat surprised to encounter another visitor. He told me it's very rare the cemetery is unlocked but it is open on request, and somebody had done just that and I'd happen to come by at precisely the right time, so I was free to look around as long I was back out within half an hour. I worry now that if I hadn't seen him he might have eventually locked me in, and the walls looked as if they'd be just as hard to climb over getting out as getting in.

Deviating from the central spine seemed both unwise and unrespectable, so I stuck to what I could see from the path. I noted that most of the legible dates were over 100 years old. I passed a pristine war grave commemorating Hellmuth Frank, a musketier in the German Army during World War One (a Jew who wouldn't have been welcome in the second). I walked alongside a line of burials squeezed in along the path in 1972, which were the latest I found anywhere on site. And ahead was the rotunda of what's very much the cemetery's focal point, the Rothschild Mausoleum, where Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild buried his wife Evelina after she died in childbirth in 1866. The banker/MP/art collector/owner of Waddesdon Manor is said to have caught a cold while visiting her tomb in 1898, and all too soon was laid to rest beside her.



The Mausoleum was attacked by vandals in June 2005, its doors smashed open by iron bars and several gravestones smashed or toppled. The perpetrators sprayed their swastikas round the wrong way so were as stupid as they were anti-Semitic, but have never been caught so you can understand why the cemetery's long been locked away.

The central path then branches off to one side, close to the back of houses on Gough Road, through a less dense area where the mortuary chapel used to be. It's here that the cemetery opens out to double width because this is the 1880s extension, so graves and non-vertical monuments now spread out in all directions. But paths are few in number because in 1960 most of these were filled in by long lines of tombstones moved here from Hoxton Cemetery, which had been closed for decades until housing pressures finally wiped it from the map. Never assume your final resting place will be final.



It felt inordinately special to be here, deep inside a 'closed' cemetery, sharing the space with a fox, several butterflies and another visitor I still hadn't seen yet. And yet all around were terraced Victorian houses whose back gardens looked out across this inaccessible view every day, a juxtaposition which must add a certain awkward frisson to any outdoor entertaining their residents convene. It was a five minute hike back to the entrance where I thanked the driver and checked out, allowing him to reverse the van through the gates and lock the place securely again. So then I went nextdoor.

2) West Ham Cemetery

This also opened in 1857 and is twice the size, and still in use so its gates are unlocked daily. It's a much more inviting space with shady pathways, freshly-mown grass, summer flowers and a wide variety of stone and marble memorials. Here the deceased might be named as Michael (Micky) or Nora Doreen (Chookie), an inscription might read 'Alan, love you to the moon and back' and two gardeners might be sitting on a bench enjoying a fag break. Again the cemetery stretches way back with no other entrances, forming a significant barrier to local perambulation, but within it's very much still a place to linger and remember. According to a laminated sheet pinned up outside the cemetery office a total of 180,483 interments had taken place here up until the end of 2009, which is approximately half the current population of Newham, so that made me stop and think.



I was also the unintended witness to a large West Indian funeral. The hearse processed in slowly and made its way to a central glade, followed by a crowd of about 100 in mostly muted clothing. They clustered around the grave while the priest conducted the service, accompanied by the buzzing of lawnmowers on the other side of the cemetery because work must go on. I kept a respectable distance and wandered over instead to the wall adjoining the Jewish Cemetery, where a slight difference in height permitted an excellent view of somewhere you absolutely can't get into. Not unless you're really really lucky (or unless you ask).

 Wednesday, August 25, 2021

It's 20 years ago since I became a Londoner, whatever that means, if indeed that is the date.

I'd agreed to take the flat in Bow a fortnight earlier, and this was the day I came down to pick up the keys. I turned up at the letting agents to sign the paperwork and to pay the deposit, which I did by cheque because 2001 was a very different era. I was surprised to be given a bottle of champagne for my trouble... which I still have because opportunities for sharing a bottle have been thin on the ground, so I should probably open it today to celebrate the 20th anniversary, although I suspect it went flat years ago.

I caught the bus to my new front door, which just shows what a newbie I was because I could easily have walked it instead. First I emptied the letterbox, which was rammed with flyers, free papers and all sorts of mail the previous tenant hadn't redirected. And then I unlocked my new front door with my new keys, and maybe that's when I became a Londoner.

It might not be because I didn't stay long. I opened the cupboards to see what I'd been left, threw some limescale tablets in the toilet bowl because it was a disgrace and nipped out to Tesco to buy some grocery staples. I wrote myself an inventory because the letting agent hadn't... which one day they're going to be very embarrassed about not doing. But I didn't stay overnight because I hadn't moved my stuff down yet, so I wasn't a proper Londoner at that point.

The next day I moved half my stuff down in a white van. Two sweaty men helped me lug it all inside, and also helped swap over the double bed to the other bedroom where I'd decided I wanted it. Once they'd gone I did a lot of unpacking, reshelving and cleaning of sticky surfaces. I discovered that TV reception was appalling and that BT hadn't connected my phone yet, which was more of a communications disaster then than it would be today. I also went out for a bus ride and more importantly I stayed in my new flat overnight, so maybe that's when I became a Londoner.

It might not be because I still had four weeks of my old job left, so after the bank holiday weekend I went back and started using my new London pad for weekends only. I see my first council tax bill was dated 5th September 2001 so maybe that's when I became a Londoner, but more likely it was mid-September when I finally vanned the other half of my belongings down to Bow and abandoned my former life altogether. Whatever the precise date, it's 20 years since I first got a foothold in the capital and I've been a Londoner ever since.

I was born within 400 yards of a tube station, which could be the modern version of being born within the sound of Bow Bells, but doesn't count because it was 10 miles outside London at the time. When I was three weeks old Greater London was invented, but I still grew up two miles beyond its boundary so am very much a product of Hertfordshire rather than the capital. I can therefore only claim to have been a Londoner for 20 years, which is great, but nowhere near as good as it could have been.
I know lots of you can beat 20 years, indeed 20 years is easy. But if you can beat 40 years as a Londoner I'm interested - that's uninterrupted from at least 1981 until today - and if it's 50 or 60 years all the better. When we did a survey back in 2017 only 6% of you said you'd lived in London all your lives, but I wonder who can claim the longest continuous residence. comments
And how long does it take to be accepted as a Londoner anyway?

When my parents moved from Hertfordshire to a small Norfolk village in 1991, we joked about the fact they wouldn't be accepted as 'proper' villagers for years. But they threw themselves into the community, rather than just being 'those outsiders from Watford', and managed to get accepted much earlier than we initially expected. 30 years later my Dad is very much one of the village mainstays, indeed he can hardly walk up to the shop without being stopped for a chat on multiple occasions, and the latest arrivals would only ever see him as one of the old guard. It can be done, it just takes a while.

But London is a very different kind of community. With 8 million neighbours it's all too easy to blend in with the rest, and to walk down even a local street without being addressed by anyone you know. We don't have the same level of social organisation as a village, nor a network of societies everyone belongs to, nor a single shop you can't avoid using. I couldn't even tell you how many people live nextdoor to me, let alone what their names are, because in London it's so much easier to be anonymous.

London also has a lot of subdivisions so you might better identify with one of those, like being from Harrow or Waltham Forest or Erith or Kew. In some parts of town you can get noticed by going to the best coffee shops, attending the local parkruns or sending your offspring to the right school, and that's when people start nodding as you go by. Alternatively you can simply get on with living here and enjoying everything the capital has to offer, or your preferred selection from it, without ever feeling an overarching need to belong.

One of the best things about being a Londoner is that it's your choice, nobody else judges you for it. Anyone can be a Londoner, you just have to live here, which diverse people at all levels of society manage to do. It makes you one among many, with all the collective strength that brings, perhaps in frustration but more likely with pride. There are no acceptance criteria, unspoken or otherwise, so if I choose I can indeed claim to have become a Londoner the day I picked up my keys.

20 years, and still counting.

 Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Underground now has 85 step-free stations. Ickenham was number 84 back in June, with the relatively straight-forward addition of two liftshafts on its lightly-used platforms. Whitechapel on the other hand, which yesterday became number 85, required a complete rebuild and has taken 5½ years. If all you remember is the squashed ticket hall and the narrow overbridge with the ancient lightbox, it's almost unrecognisable.



The first tweak came in 2011 when two of the four Underground platforms were closed to create a giant island platform, but things got serious in January 2016 when the station entrance facing Whitechapel Road was closed. A temporary entrance opened off Court Street while a period of major reengineering took place, which we were reassured would be finished by "late 2018". Instead it took until mid-2021 and the revamped entrance only reopened first thing yesterday morning. Everyone's delighted... except the traders on Court Street whose 2000 days of phenomenal footfall has been brutally extinguished overnight.



The new entrance swiftly opens out into a passageway wide enough to cope with a football crowd. TfL could have crammed in a coffee shop or two but there are enough of those outside so instead the emphasis is on space. The stash of free newspapers is over to the right, as is the entrance to the first of six lifts, or take the extra-broad staircase up to ticket hall level. Above your head is the start of a ribbed wooden swoosh that crosses the entire station - up and over - following the alignment of the Overground underneath. And yes, blimey, isn't it capacious up here compared to the cramped passageways we suffered before?



The aesthetic is fairly minimalist (and as yet advertising-free) so as not to distract you from heading whichever way you might need to be going next. You might easily miss the five Next Train panels over to one side, of which only the Underground rectangle was operational yesterday morning. The station has just one (wide) gateline dividing the ticket hall in two, beyond which it's decision time - left for Underground or straight on for Overground. Most people seem to be turning left. They face a 29-step staircase down to the District and Hammersmith & City lines, or alternatively one of a pair of lifts, because if you were expecting a multi-million pound upgrade to bring the luxury of escalators best think again.



Now that the central hoardings have been taken down there's a lot of width down here. Most of it's unnecessary, although when a busy train arrives it'll allow passengers to swarm towards the foot of the staircase from all directions. Alternatively they might head off towards the Overground, an interchange which retains some familiarity, indeed if you were changing trains down here you might never realise the amazing transformation that'd been wrought above. As yet the two Overground platforms still have plenty more finishing off work to do (which should be complete next year).



The real 'wow' is the metal and glass passageway linking the ticket hall direct to the Overground, which has been dropped in just above the tracks. This means more steps, or yet another lift, descending to a walkway with that ribbed wooden swoosh landing overhead. Only at the far end are there steps down to the Overground, or yet more lifts... and try not to make the mistake of walking into the dead end lift lobby rather than the staircase. Even though you entered the station beyond one end of the Overground platforms, you can't get down there until you've walked all the way to the other.



A bonus for local residents is a new entrance round the back of the station for anyone arriving via Durward Street. It's quite narrow and takes you all the way to the middle of the station before allowing you in through the gateline, but the good news is that anyone can use it as a shortcut through to Whitechapel Road without having to swipe anything. My favourite New Whitechapel fact is that the site of Jack the Ripper's first murder is located immediately outside the Durward Street entrance, somewhere in the fresh trio of parking spaces alongside, which I know because I've been keeping a close eye on this spot as the transformation has progressed.



It is an inordinately impressive transformation, and the welcome introduction of step-free access is of course merely a byproduct of the real reason it's happened which is Crossrail. Those platforms lurk as yet unused several metres below, linked by some seriously long escalators that reach the surface not in the middle of the station but at the far end. At present they're blocked off and you'd only spot them through the railings if you walked slightly too far from the ticket hall towards the Overground. The reason the low-slung walkway is so wide is that it'll be the chief thoroughfare for everyone transferring between Crossrail and the Underground or Crossrail and the street. Alight at the wrong end of a purple train and it's going to be a bloody long walk (or three lifts and a lot of wheeling) before you can escape the station. At least you should enjoy the architecture along the way. [25 photos, yes 25]



Current state of Crossrail station entrances
Paddington: extensive terrace recently opened alongside platform 1, but doesn't provide access to the tube, so closed
Bond Street: hahahahaha (still not even close)
Tottenham Court Road (W): very ready but doesn't provide access to the tube, so closed
Tottenham Court Road (E): upgraded entrance open since 2015
Farringdon: top escalators now providing access to National Rail platforms
Barbican: very ready but doesn't provide useful access to the tube, so closed
Moorgate: new massive gateline open (and very quiet, so over-staffed)
Liverpool Street: escalator portal outside the mainline station ready, but no point opening it yet
Whitechapel: new joint entrance opened 23rd August 2021
Canary Wharf: still not ready (and doesn't provide useful access to the tube or DLR), so closed
Custom House: very ready but doesn't provide access to the DLR, so closed
Woolwich: the only new Crossrail-only station, so closed
Abbey Wood: upgraded entrance open since 2017

 Monday, August 23, 2021

Unsung London suburbs: LOXFORD

Where is it? The southern tip of Redbridge.
More specifically: Part of the residential buffer between Ilford and Barking.
More specifically: If you know Barking Park, Loxford is the other side of the long ornamental lake along the northern edge.
Not to be confused with: Boxford (West Berks), Coxford (Norfolk), Doxford (Northumberland), Foxford (Coventry), Oxford (Oxon), Roxford (Herts) or Yoxford (Suffolk).



What was here at the end of the 19th century? A manor house called Loxford Hall, a cottage on Ilford Lane called Loxford Cottage, a small stream called Loxford Water, a bridge called Loxford Bridge, a lot of fields and a country lane leading to a sewage works. [map]
What came next? The Loxford estate spread rapidly south from Ilford as far as Loxford Park, with further interwar development closer to the river.
And today? Quite modern on one side of the allotments; a dense grid of terraced streets on the other.



What's significant about Loxford Water? It marks the modern boundary between Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham.
Can you walk along it? Not easily. One bank is hemmed in behind the aforementioned ornamental lake, and can only be followed along an increasingly thin footpath which eventually peters out in a burst of nettles (a good place to hide away in a small tent and live rough.) On the Loxford side it abuts the Buttsbury Estate, where a few postwar terraces have the dubious honour of looking out across a deep litter-strewn channel. It probably looked better in the architects' plans, but I did disturb a little egret wading in the weeds so living here's not entirely without promise. I walked the full length of the river in 2019.



Take us for walk along Loxford Lane instead: Sure. I'll start at the eastern end by the river and work my way back towards Ilford Lane.
What happened to the sewage works? A school was built on the site fifty years ago, since replaced by a massive all-through primary-secondary built in the 2000s when the Labour government had money to throw at major educational infrastructure. It looks more like a minor corporate HQ, shielded by high fences and numerous CCTV cameras on poles, although the Hungry Hippo litter bins provide a minor nod towards childhood. Outside is what's believed to be the London bus stop with the longest name - Loxford School of Science & Technology - but only because TfL have never changed it back to the academy's current title which is plain old Loxford School.
Which bus is it? It's the 366, the only bus to weave its way properly through the backstreets of Loxford.



Keep going... Opposite the school are the Loxford Lane allotments, really quite a lot of them, forming a productive green barrier between new Loxford and the older grid of streets. The allotments have been here since 1926 and look incredibly well tended, as if anyone who slacks off doesn't last long. The sunflowers are particularly impressive at present, but the most popular crop here is a tall bean grown in dense clusters and topped with bright purple flowers. These are hyacinth beans, much lauded in South Asia for their use in a variety of curries, but only if repeatedly boiled otherwise the cyanide tends to be toxic.



There must be a park hereabouts: Indeed there is, thanks to Ilford Urban District Council's foresight in buying up a field in 1899, and that's Loxford Park. These days the pool is a playground, what must have been a gorgeous sunken garden has been deflowered to become a cheap skatepark with occasional benches, and the bowling green has been converted into a beach volleyball court using Olympic sand retrieved from Horseguards Parade. Sadly I was a day too late to enjoy the Loxford Community Day event at which the UK's national beach soccer team played a demonstration match and the Mayor of Redbridge unveiled a new mural by the pavilion (since locked away).
Where can I buy a loaf of bread and a Health Lottery ticket? For that you'll be wanting Loxford General Stores, a dark cubbyhole slotted under a very 80s block of flats. A sign outside invites shoppers to buy a copy of the Ilford and Redbridge Post, although that's long been subsumed into the Archant-lite Ilford Recorder.



What happened to Loxford Hall? The 1830s manor house is still there, somewhat unexpectedly, opposite the main entrance to the park. It survived the 20th century by being repurposed as a clinic, but building works have just started to convert the building into four flats with a pair of maisonettes bolted onto the side. The area's health needs are now catered for by Loxford Polyclinic, the first in England, which rears up over the far end of the lane. What with a BSF school at the other end, the last Labour government was exceptionally generous to Loxford Lane.



How much further does Loxford extend? Good question. The council ward crosses Ilford Lane and runs up a ladder of streets by the Roding, although technically that's the Uphall estate. Ilford Lane, which you might well have driven or bussed along, has a much stronger 'Ilford Lane' identity. The grid of streets to the north is more potentially south Ilford, and it's all essentially IG1 anyway, and all this is probably why Loxford isn't a wider-known place-name.
Thanks for going so that I don't have to: Never say this. Even the unsung suburbs are worth a visit.

 Sunday, August 22, 2021

The UK has 15 National Parks - ten in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland. The first ten were designated in the 1950s. The Norfolk Broads got the nod in 1989. Scotland's two and the south coast pair joined them in the 2000s. Nothing's been added since.



They're not especially well spread out. This is mainly for geographical reasons, the majority of National Parks being in hilly or mountainous areas, which is why none of the original ten lay south of a line joining Exeter to Hull. Various lucky places in the north have several close by, whereas before 1989 there were no National Parks within 125 miles of London.

The latest additions help considerably, so for example the South Downs National Park is only 35 miles from central London. But there is still a whopping Park-less gap in the south Midlands, a heck of a long drive from any of the designated fifteen. I thought I'd have a go at working out where the most distant point was so I made a map and drew some lines and I reckon it's the village of Pertenhall in North Bedfordshire, very close to the border with Cambridgeshire. This is at least 75 miles from any of the UK's National Parks. If you live between Kettering, Huntingdon and Bedford you have very much been recreationally short-changed.

The next tier below National Parks is Areas of Outstanding Beauty, or AONBs for short. England has 35 of these, Wales four, and the Wye Valley straddles the two.



AONBs have a better geographical spread, especially in southern England. The biggest five are the Cotswolds, North Pennines, North Wessex Downs, High Weald and Dorset. One of them (the Kent Downs) nudges fractionally into Greater London, indeed AONBs are much more accessible from the capital. But again there's a substantial AONB desert in the East Midlands, very much overlapping with the National Park desert, so I got my map out again to try to identify the location furthest from a National Park or AONB. This time I reckon it's on the outskirts of Oakham in Rutland, a full 45 miles from the Peak District, Cannock Chase, Lincolnshire Wolds and Norfolk Coast. Rutland's hardly scenically desolate, but if you fancy a day out to a government-recognised scenic landscape you face quite a journey.

Now let's bring things up-to-date. Yesterday's Daily Telegraph featured the front page story "Chilterns and Cotswolds to be National Parks", which is just the kind of thing to jolt its readership awake. That'd be a bold and exciting move, unless you lived in either of them and were hoping to install UPVC windows or build a large out of town estate. It'd also help plug the southern gap, introducing a National Park two miles from the Greater London boundary and even accessible by tube. I've recalculated the point furthest from a National Park if the Chilterns and Cotswolds were introduced, and I reckon it'd be near Boston in Lincolnshire, still 65 miles distant. But I'm running away with all this much too fast, because I strongly suspect the Telegraph's story is unfounded over-speculation.

What the government's actually done is respond to a report on the future of National Landscapes which was published way back in July 2019. It's not even a new response, it was made back in June, and it doesn't mention the Cotswolds at all. It does propose introducing two new AONBs (the Yorkshire Wolds and the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge) and extending two existing AONBs (the Surrey Hills and Chilterns), but no suggestion is made of introducing new National Parks. It may be that the Telegraph has a source aware of higher intentions but the article reads like a gross misunderstanding of what Natural England actually said, indeed it even muddles the fiction of 'National Park Cities' into the mix.

Still, enlarging the Chilterns AONB would be intriguing enough, even if fast-tracking it to National Parkdom must be years off. Alas nobody's yet confirmed what those enlarged boundaries would be. All we have so far is the Chiltern Conservation Board's suggestion that it should be enlarged to cover the whole of the chalk landscape.



This map shows the existing Chilterns AONB in dark green and the semi-proposed extension in light green. It'd surround Luton and Hemel Hempstead and edge considerably closer to Reading, Maidenhead and Watford. But calm yourselves, the light green area is actually nothing more than National Character Area 110.

England has 159 National Character Areas - subdivisions based on a combination of landscape, biodiversity, geodiversity and economic factors, following natural rather than administrative boundaries. London for example includes the wider areas of 81 Greater Thames Estuary, 111 Northern Thames Basin, 112 Inner London, 114 Thames Basin Lowlands and 115 Thames Valley. Each of these NCAs has its own impressively-detailed profile published as 90-page pdf, and all are freely downloadable. If you have nothing else to do today I highly recommend reading the NCA report on where you live, which you can obtain via a set of maps and listings here.



In the Chilterns report, for example, we learn...
• The extensively wooded and farmed landscape is underlain by chalk bedrock that rises up from the London Basin to form a north-west facing escarpment offering long views over the adjacent vales.
• Valleys without watercourses, known as dry valleys or ‘coombes’, are periglacial landforms created during the last ice age when frozen ground prevented water percolating into the chalk.
• Woodland cover accounts for 14% of the NCA and makes the Chilterns one of the most wooded lowland landscapes in the country.
• Species strongly associated with the Chilterns include the red kite, pasque flower, stag beetle, Chiltern gentian, shepherd’s needle, chalkhill blue butterfly and native box.
• Timber-frame was the traditional material for most buildings until the 18th century when brick began to be widely used. Brick was often made locally, giving rise to variations of colour and quality.
Don't expect Luton to be fast-tracked into a new National Park any time soon, only an eventual upgrade to certain National Landscapes and how they're managed. But even if you're not lucky enough to have a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on your doorstep, your local area is likely to be scenically fascinating enough.


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the diamond geezer index
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2005 2004 2003 2002

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

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
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
lotto
118
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