Wednesday, June 29, 2022
As we approach the middle of the year it's time for...
A Bus Ride Along The A2022
That's a significantly-numbered road traversing the outer London suburbs with reportage from six bus journeys.
It even starts precisely on the Greenwich Meridian.
It might be the most diamondgeezeresque post ever.
The A2022 runs for 13 miles along the southern edge of London. It starts near West Wickham, ticks off three outer London boroughs and ends in the Surrey town of Epsom. Along the way it passes through Addington, Selsdon, Sanderstead, Purley, Little Woodcote, Banstead and Nork, and skirts that nice field with the lavender for good measure. Almost all of it is doable by London bus, which is unusual, and the remaining gaps I did on foot. All aboard for a two-part journey.
353 - Coney Hall → Addington Village Interchange (1½ miles, 5 minutes)
Welcome to the Coney Hall roundabout, the only roundabout in London to span two hemispheres. The A2022 launches off from the southwest arm with the first bus stop a few metres down at 0°0'2"W. I have two bus routes to choose from so obviously I pick the double decker 353 because the broader the view the better. I'm beaten to the front seat by a flirty couple who've been tweaking bra straps and swilling Coke beside the bus shelter for the last five minutes. The vehicle appears to be making an annoying electronic beeping noise every few seconds, which we all try to ignore, and off we sail past the first set of Nice Outer Suburban Homes. There will be a heck of a lot of NOSH during what follows so I'll try not to go on about them. Instead best focus on the upcoming countryside, a parched cornfield and a shaggy pony grazing on the hillside. On the right is Spring Park, a wooded ridge above a linear meadow and also home to the questionable delights of Enchanted Village Adventure Golf.
Nobody's going to be getting on or off out here, the sole attraction being an isolated pumping station, but someone once added a lonely bus stop else there'd be a whole mile without. We rattle along the foot of a very long field with the uglier edge of New Addington peeping over the hilltop, but we're aiming for the original (and much smaller) village of Addington instead. It has an 11th century church, a Harvester restaurant and a petrol station where a litre of diesel costs 197.9p. The roundabout by the tram interchange is sponsored by Shuttered Up, for 'beautiful plantation shutters', should wider louvres be your thing. And as we pull round into the bus station the flirty couple stop checking each other's phones and I have somehow got two paragraphs out of a five minute bus ride.
Addington Village Interchange is busier than usual because there are no trams. A red-faced resident with gelled hair and a neck tattoo is cursing the strikers just loud enough to make sure everyone else can hear him, then cursing some more. Today of all days a spider map would be really useful but there aren't any anywhere, only diagrams showing which bay the buses leave from and where they terminate, not where they go. The information kiosk is staffed but stocked with wildly out-of-date leaflets, and the shelter for my next bus appears to be the only one without a Countdown display. You can see why the trams caught on.
64 - Addington Village Interchange → Selsdon (1½ miles, 10 minutes)
The driver of the 64 has already done 1½ loops of the bus station and has one more to go before escaping. Look, there's an 11th century church, a Harvester restaurant and a petrol station where a litre of diesel costs 197.9p. We cross the tram tracks without interruption and aim for the next roundabout which has been kindly sponsored by the adjacent funeral directors. Local food options include the Number One Chinese restaurant, Capone's Pizza Parlour and a former pub that's now currytastic Planet Spice. In one of the seats behind me a girl is engaged in a phone conversation with the volume turned up so loud that I can also hear the girl on the other end. "I am literally so close to you it's like the next stop", she says, and it becomes unnervingly clear that an imminent rendezvous is planned. At Featherbed Lane yes, up she bounds, and their conversation continues unabated at an even more irritable level.
Here's John Ruskin College, home to a 'Construction Skills Centre' and other positively-branded vocational courses. Also the diesel here is only 195.9p so if you filled up earlier you probably should have waited. The 64 is traversing the boundary between interwar semis and slopes of postwar townhouses, and all the time slowly climbing, and I wish they'd shut up back there. The approach to Selsdon includes an Aldi, a Coughlans Bakery and 'The Village Club' where private members can play darts, pool and cashpot poker under the auspices of Sharron, the Stewardess, and her Deputy, Donna. Selsdon's retail offer is pretty good for a suburb and remains bedecked with jubilee bunting because it lingers longer out here. Best hop off by the Wetherspoons.
Beyond the crossroads is a massive modern Sainsbury's, coupled with a library, a community hall and a "please come downstairs for the cafe". Outside is a triangular traffic island large enough for trees and grass and a clock where SELSDON replaces the numbers from 9 to 3. My next bus treats this as a roundabout, deviating off course to spin round once and pick up any shopper, or other resident, waiting to depart. Two Jehovah's Witnesses have rocked up with a trolleyful of Watchtowers and are holding them at arm's length along a quieter stretch of path, to no effect, until the clock reaches L o'clock and they pack up to go.
412 - Selsdon → Purley (3 miles, 15 minutes)
The A2022 continues on its steady climb up Addington Road. It's totally NOSH along here, bar one new development that's had to erect signs saying 'beautiful back gardens' because the front looks drab by comparison. At the eventual summit is Sanderstead Plantation, the highest point in the borough of Croydon, and a lovely old 13th century church proudly flying the flag of Ukraine. The contours drop away pretty sharpish in its Lower Churchyard. Meanwhile the rectory by the pond has been fenced off and its land awaits transformation into a 30-strong retirement home because good land is like hens' teeth round here.
Ahead lies a switchback through quintessential NOSH country - houses with names not numbers, copious shrubbery and surplus off-street parking. At one point we sweep down the side of a golden meadow, at another the towers of central Croydon and even the Shard can be spied over the rooftops. I also spy council operatives busy strimming the verge, a church that looks very much like a church hall and the unexpectedly steep alleyway down to Riddlesdown station. The prettiest moment, assuming scenic suburban despoilment is your thing, comes as we swing out onto Downs Court Road and see the white semis of Kenley slotted in multiple rows across multiple hillsides. But the view doesn't last long and at the foot of the slope we filter into traffic on the A22 which duly delivers us to Purley Tesco (where diesel is 199.9p, eek). Three bus journeys down, three to go.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, June 28, 2022UNVISITED LONDON
TQ3867: Park Langley (Bromley)
Park Langley slots into the suburbs between Beckenham and West Wickham, and obviously I've been before. But I'd never been to the off-piste southern half, the avenues beyond the Chinese Garage, because the relevant grid square is skirted by all the nearby main roads and narrowly missed by the railway to Hayes. It's a grid square in three very distinct parts - one residential, one recreational and one very very private. I may not have managed to explore all of them.
Park Langley is a prime garden suburb, begun just before WW1 and laid out with sweeping leafy avenues. Residents know it's special because they've put up signs on the entry roads describing Park Langley as an Area of Special Residential Character, which risks coming over as a bit smug. I spotted no flats, only delectable detached homes and a few affable semis on spacious individual plots. Most homes have parking for at least three cars out front, often full, and still space for a bit of lawn and a splash of shrubbery. It's rare that a house looks like its neighbours, indeed if you were ever trying to score a full house in the I-Spy Book of Gables Park Langley would be a good place to start. The streets are inordinately busy with learner drivers - six drove slowly past me on Elwill Way - and the pavements inordinately quiet. If I had to pick one word to describe it all I'd pick 'comfortable', because 'special' is marginally overdoing things.
Parklangley Golf Club opened in 1910 because the developers thought it'd encourage the right kind of people to move in. They still come for a midweek round, crossing Wickham Way in their harlequin shorts and baseball caps while pushing their bulging trolleys in front of them. Non-members are barred from the course by a multiplicity of signs warning No Public Access and No Walkers Permitted, which is a shame because the course is the only significant chunk of open space hereabouts. Also sealed off are the two sports grounds down St Dunstan's Lane, one of which boasts a lacklustre hospitality chalet called the Lawnmower Shed and the other of which is for Old Boys of a college in Catford. Their rugby club's motto is "where ambition meets fun and tradition", and I think I went off them right there. The other land you can't get onto forms the Langley Park Campus, home to three large modern schools, and I ended up wondering where on earth people walk their dogs round here because the one thing Park Langley doesn't have is a park.
In 1919 the mansion at Langley Court was bought by Henry Wellcome to become the site of his chief pharmaceutical research laboratories. Great works took place until 1995 when Wellcome was taken over by Glaxo who chose to close the campus down. Forty acres were sold off for luxury housing, entire sprawling streets of the stuff, with the first residents arriving just in time for the millennium. The developers called it Langley Park, a nominal switcheroo, and even when I saw the sign saying 'Private Road' I assumed I'd be able to take a look. Not so. I tried both entrances and found both fully gated, not just the inbound and outbound roads but the pavements too. They weren't even gates you push, they slide at the behest of the porter in his all-powerful lodge and he had no intention of sliding for a random pedestrian. The vehicle gates of course continued to flap regularly, both for residents and for deliveries, because it is a very big estate.
I may have visited TQ3867 but there will always be a large chunk of Park Langley that remains unvisited.
🟨=1396, 🟩=48, 🟦=6, 🟥=13
posted 09:00 :
In a world beset by relentlessly bad news, it's always good to have something to cheer. So I'm delighted to report that Midtown is dead.
In 2010 a central London business district got ideas above its station and attempted to rebrand its local area as Midtown. Apparently historic names like Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles weren't good enough, what people needed was an "umbrella term" to pull them together to better appreciate the quality of the area, or so the big cheeses said. They hung Midtown banners from lampposts, they set up a Midtown tourist information centre and they even paid the Evening Standard to include a four page pullout extolling Midtown's central delights.
District bosses said things like "It’s innovative, classic and historic, but also contemporary and techdriven." They wrote things like "Why Midtown is a dream destination for the 'bleisure' seekers mixing work and play". They even claimed "Lots of people are using Midtown now who five years ago just would not have done." But the wider public ignored them, the dreadful name completely failed to catch on and hallelujah they have now given up.
The new name for the former Midtown business district is the Central District Alliance. This is an even worse name, if anything, the very epitome of blandly forgettable. But that's fine because nobody is attempting to forcibly rebrand the area this time, just getting on with their ambassadorial job in a less megalomaniac way. This change was actually made last June but it's taken me a whole year to notice, which just goes to show what an inoffensive name the Central District is.
One catalyst for the name change was the expansion of the business district to include Clerkenwell, which as a separate enclave didn't really fit the Midtown brand. The other was the departure of CEO Tass Mavrogordato, a one-woman tornado who for ten years had a rebranding bee in her bonnet and was never stuck for a quote when the Evening Standard needed one. She's since gone on to form her own business consultancy called Fantasstic Solutions, whose website makes some interesting claims...
"Consultancy services abound, and many sit in the middle ground relying on buzz words, rhetoric and theory to consistently up-sell time and services. In contrast, we are pioneering and progressive and create bespoke solutions that deliver."Her bespoke solution that didn't deliver is not mentioned. But let's not worry ourselves over why it failed, let's just celebrate that all trace of Midtown is now gone. Sometimes the really awful ideas don't win out, so there's some positive news for us all to hang onto.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, June 27, 2022Today sees your very last chance to ride the Emirates Air Line, London's unique cable car experience. To be one of the very last people aboard, get yourself down to one of the terminals by ten o'clock this evening and enjoy your specially slowed-down night flight. I expect there'll be queues.
It's not closing altogether, that would be ridiculous. As London's only cable car it's become a firm tourist favourite, providing the only way to glide high above City Hall and the Silvertown Tunnel construction site. But never again will it fly under the Emirates name because the marketing money's run out, and as yet nobody's stepped in with a better offer.
We've known this day was coming since October 2011.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today announced that global airline Emirates will sponsor London's exciting new cable car river crossing, to be known as the Emirates Air Line, in a ten-year deal worth £36m. The Emirates Air Line will connect north and south London, travelling between two new stations set to be named Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docks.The cablecar finally opened on 28th June 2012, indeed I was one of many who rushed down for an initial dangle. That makes tomorrow the cablecar's 10th birthday, which is plainly an achievement well worth celebrating. But it also means the ten-year deal expires tomorrow and all the Emirates brand collateral is going to have to come down. There is a heck of a lot of it.
The terminals are smothered. There's a big red Emirates sign on top, another underneath and the welcoming sight of a wallful of Emirates air hostesses as you approach the ticket barrier. Also the terminals are called Emirates North Greenwich and Emirates Royal Docks because this was one of the perks when Emirates stumped up their £36m, but after today will have to be known as North Greenwich and Royal Docks respectively. They've already switched names on the tube map and I expect they'll send staff with ladders round overnight to remove the surplus letters above the ticket window.
The roundel out front will need to change because this will no longer be an 'Air Line'. Then there are numerous signs on lampposts, signs on platforms, signs in bus stations and those free-standing signs designed to nudge aimless tourists cablecarward. Royal Victoria DLR station is liberally plastered with adverts for Emirates so those are all going to have to go, as is the branding at the abandoned information desk at the top of the North Greenwich escalator.
Not to mention the adverts at umpteen stations elsewhere across the network, notably Tower Gateway DLR where everything from the escalators to the platforms is smothered with all things Emirates. And don't forget the cabins themselves which all have vinyl wraps promoting different Emirates destinations plus the name of the airline in enormous letters on the underside. All this is going to have be removed now the money's run out because it would set a ghastly precedent if Emirates gained a smidgeon of additional publicity beyond their allocated ten-year span. I expect staff are going to be incredibly busy tonight removing and replacing the lot.
From tomorrow the Emirates Air Line will have a new name which is the London Cable Car.
It's a remarkably dull name but that's fine, it's perfectly descriptive of what this river crossing actually is. The problem with the original name is that it was far too easily confused with the name of the airline itself which caused all sorts of social media issues and leveraged virtually no brand recognition whatsoever. It's why my alternative 'Dangleway' name so readily took off, because the proper title of Emirates Air Line was ill-advisedly non-specific and eminently forgettable.
Expect a press release from TfL tomorrow excitedly announcing the name change. It'll no doubt focus on the cablecar's 10th birthday rather than what's technically an unbranding exercise, indeed I expect it'll include excitable promotional guff like this.
Josh Crompton, TfL's Head of the Cable Car, said: "The London Cable Car is unique to London and provides spectacular views for those wanting to cross the Thames to get to the Royal Docks or Greenwich Peninsula. Since opening ten years ago the fully accessible, unique experience has established itself as one of London's favourite spectacular leisure attractions. By providing a new and spectacular way to cross the river, it has helped encourage new shops, experiences and homes to be built on either side of the Thames. Journeys start from just £5 for adults making it one of London's best value experiences for a unique and spectacular day out."Also expect your preferred London media portal to cut and paste these words to create an uncritical news story because repurposing press releases is easier than thinking for yourself, and that's very much how TfL's press office likes it.
One casualty of the big changeover has been the demise of the Emirates Aviation Experience, the so-called museum alongside the southern terminal which was essentially a walk-through advert they hoped you'd pay extra for. This closed to the public three weeks ago and has since been boarded up, while the cafe nextdoor sits empty with all the chairs and tables stacked to one side and a trolleyful of cleaning products just inside the door.
Also spare a thought for the Emirates Air Line's collection of branded merchandise which becomes instantly obsolete at midnight. Those £8 Glitter Frames, £5 key rings and £5 fridge magnets aren't going to be much use in an unbranded future. But don't worry, management have come up with the cunning wheeze of a special anniversary offer over three midsummer weekends - they're giving away the memorabilia if you pay extra.
London Cable Car’s 10th anniversary (£25 per adult)A normal round trip costs £10 so for an extra £15 you're getting a glass of bubbly and what's essentially a lucky dip into the merchandising brantub. If you're really lucky you might walk away with an Emirates Air Line snow globe to treasure. And if you think that's poor value, don't come in two weeks time because that's 'Wimbledon Weekend' when the champagne is swapped for Pimms and lemonade, it still costs £25 and the memorabilia option is withdrawn. It won't surprise you to hear that these overpriced celebration experiences get pride of place in the updated signage at each terminal, and the fact you can swipe through the barrier with Pay As You Go for £5 is relegated to the smallprint at the bottom.
✓ Fast track entry into your own private 360 cabin.
✓ One glass of champagne or orange juice per ticket
✓ One item of limited edition Emirates Air Line memorabilia per ticket
✓ Special photo opportunities
I know I rarely have a good word to say about the cablecar but it really has become a greedy upselling exercise focused on squeezing every last penny out of the friends and families who come to make a day of it. As the Emirates Air Line morphs into the London Cable Car one thing sadly hasn't changed, it still isn't a useful integrated part of London's transport network, it's just a dangleway to nowhere.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, June 26, 2022170 things I saw on a five mile walk north across the borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Murky creek, former power station still shrouded by sheeting, sign for Chelsea Wharf masquerading as water feature, falconcam, ten just-watered hanging baskets dripping outside a pub, a constant stream of taxis, 241-part steel sculpture by Will Nash, soft furnishings showroom targeted at bottomless pockets, auction house (because it's Lots Road, geddit), the K&C vehicle pound.10
Electric car making artificially-designated electric car noise, Boeing on final approach, lady feeding treats to her corgi, three dogs playing frisbee, mounted bronze soldier (with pike), ten foot high china vase, Worlds End Health Centre, rock crystal chandelier showroom, Aston Martin seeing what speed it can get away with on a residential street, traffic warden ticketing a Range Rover.20
A bespoke collection of 18 apartments with generous proportions and underground parking, woman returning from the Esso garage with a box of choc chip Weetabix, unshaven man waiting on a bench outside the barbers, a puddle of warm dog wee spreading across the pavement, Zipcar bay, stucco balustrades, cast iron balconywork, display of geraniums on windowsill, badly-parked superjeep, street after street of giant houses painted an identical white colour.30
Gates to basement flats, a stapled list of £1m+ estate agent particulars, housekeeper walking a tiny dog, Waitrose delivery, the Royal Thai Embassy, corner property boarded up awaiting transformation into something oligarch-friendly, iron railings replaced in 1981 after being removed to support the war effort, taxi with Union Jack wing mirrors, almond-shaped private/communal gardens.40
Palatial stuccoed Italianate mansions, Kentish ragstone church with Victorian spire, blue plaque for Jenny Lind, young couple on non-matching hire scooters, young couple sharing hire scooter, a whole street where the house numbers are painted onto pillars either side of the front porch, house undergoing urgent renovation by subsidence/crack-stitching specialists, eyesore casino, behemoth flats, Harrods delivery van.50
Two teenage shoppers heading home from the Reiss sale, the A4, blue plaque for Charles Booth, tropical basement gardens, young woman wearing a facemask just to take the rubbish out, two mounted police officers, flowery mews often used as film location, two grandchildren and their dog posing for photo at entrance to aforementioned mews, late-flowering wisteria, street where the pretty two-storey semis sell for £7m.60
Mini with Union Jack roof, Jag, gossiping locals outside an organic/artisan Danish coffee shop, Michelin restaurant, three girls pouting in a selfie with a red pillarbox, big houses which have never needed to be subdivided into flats, blue plaque for T S Eliot, gallery selling fine art, Dad in pink shirt, hidden wealth which should one day spark a revolution.70
Copious redbrick mansion blocks, five flags in one street allowing passers-by to play 'Guess the Embassy', young couple in tight-fitting sportswear hopping out of a Merc at the lights, entrance to Royal Park, multiple tourists touristing, hotel porter in top hat, phonebox advertising New Swedish Model In Town (house calls or hotel visits), middle-aged blondes enjoying afternoon tea aboard a Routemaster, security guard in cabin, entrance to what's officially London's most expensive street.80
Multiple 'No photography' signs, armed police officer scrutinising passers-by, three-storey Queen Anne piles, embassy displaying Star of David and two Pride banners, gaslit streetlights, Abramovich's pad, yellow taxi, ambassadorial cars with numberplates ROM 1 and IND 1 respectively, gateposts labelled In and Out, gateposts topped by eagles.90
24 kmh speed limit signs, hallway ablaze with chandeliers, statue of Queen Maud, transition to Italianate mansions, diplomatic plates, burgeoning desire to take lots of photos, arrow pointing to consular office where you apply for a Nepalese visa, one empty boarded-up property (would suit billionaire or up-and-coming nation), security guard lifting barrier for van with Czech numberplates, security guard jotting down details of Czech van on blue clipboard.100
The cafe that worships Princess Diana, Oxford Tube, boy clutching wooden kit for making model F-15 bomber under his arm, Notting Hill Kebab, Big Issue seller selling Big Issue with cover photo of Prince William selling the Big Issue, much the same big houses as before but noticeably shabbier with peeling paint, garden for keyholders only, student accommodation, Hotpoint engineer on call, highly ill-advised leopardprint fedora.110
Friends roaming on hire bikes, BMW on charge, pathology lab, Victorian water fountain, late Elizabethan public conveniences, a dedicated space for all things interior design (opening soon), shoppers retreating from Portobello Market clutching pre-loved purchases, man wearing Superman baseball cap who plainly isn't Superman, woman whose Saturday treat is an individually boxed Crosstown doughnut, bright red seat on balcony in shape of balloon dog.120
Woman returning from deli with salad poking out of top of brown paper bag, cycleway C44, Roman Catholic church in Gothic revival style, last night's drinks piled on top of litterbin, stone cat, first sight of actual council housing, carpet shop claiming to 'put the floor in flawless', terrace with spectrum of pastel-coloured frontage, People's Sound record shop (Carnival sound system No. 27), luxury bathroom showroom offering wellness options and home spas.130
Conscience Kitchen, alfresco dining on little raised platforms in the street, pub menu kicking off with 'mince on toast', finally a park you don't need a key to enter, 1970s lowrise housing solutions, balcony bedecked with windmills and kitsch statues of buddhas and parrots, bright green Grenfell banner, stencilled/graffitied footbridge, the Hammersmith & City line, dozens of community minibuses parked under the Westway.140
Youth centre, concrete undercroft where hip parents send their kids for skateboarding, three blokes enjoying a backyard beer, 'Found cat' poster, locked door to council cleaner's storeroom, street of homes sporting individual satellite dishes, bin cupboards, locked bike with a front basketful of discarded bottles, Portuguese patisserie, Palestinian cafe.150
Skateboard shop holding closing down sale, railway bridge, billposted ads for Foals and Queercircle, Trellick Tower, beardy Trellick-seeker clutching serious camera, Kensal Library (closed for lunch), the Trellick Lounge cafe (Internet! Pool Tables!), vintage clothing outlet, a wall of council flats featuring three blue-rimmed portholes, a single brown towel flapping on a washing line.160
Sturdily reinforced front door, Emslie Horniman's Pleasance, delivery mopeds with L-plates, tracksuits, dreadlocks, gym promising application of motivational goals, new social housing under construction (as far away from the posh bit of the borough as possible), footbridge spiralling up and over the Grand Union towpath, a roofful of pigeons, shady ducklings.170
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, June 25, 2022According to the Ordnance Survey, who ought to know, there are eight hamlets in Greater London.
These are they.
Eight places large enough to have a name but too small to be classified as villages.
Let's see what we know about them.
Newyears Green (Hillingdon)
Where is it? Strung out along a lane to the west of Ruislip.
How does Hidden London describe it? A scattered collection of small farms and civic amenities situated north of Ickenham and west of Ruislip, and surrounded on all sides by green-belt farmland.
What's here? A few cottages and caravans, a waste transfer station, a composting hub, an ex-farm behind security gates, a lane for flytipping.
Have I blogged about it? Yes, for a New Year post in 2017. I thought it was a miserable dump.
What did you write? This is horse country so the surrounding fields are mostly paddocky rather than intensively farmed. In one I spotted a lone Shetland pony munching what was left of the grass beside an abandoned pushchair. Elsewhere I found two car seats discarded on a woodchip verge, a scattering of drinks cartons and soggy cardboard boxes beside a large concrete block, and another footpath permanently blocked by some nailed-in corrugated steel. If you're familiar with The Archers, Newyears Green is a lot more Grundy than Aldridge.
Can you get here by bus? Not directly. The U9 stops at one end of the lane beside the dogs home.
Nearest station? West Ruislip/Ickenham (1½ mile walk). A Central line station at Harefield Road never materialised because of WW2/Green Belt legislation. HS2 is currently eating up much of the surrounding fields and woodland.
Edgware Bury (Barnet)
Where is it? On a bend in a private road between Elstree and Edgware.
How does Hidden London describe it? Farming country straddling the M1 motorway and the Hertfordshire border north of Edgware.
Have I blogged about it? Yesterday. Pay attention.
Can you get here by bus? No. The nearest stop is ¾ miles away on route 288.
Nearest station? Edgware (1½ mile walk). A Northern line station at Brockley Hill never materialised because of WW2/Green Belt legislation.
Verdict? Private and equine.
Rowley Green (Barnet)
Where is it? East of Borehamwood, close to a junction on the A1. Used to be in Hertfordshire.
How does Hidden London describe it? The north-west corner of Arkley on the border with the Herts borough of Hertsmere. Most of Rowley Green’s properties date from the mid-20th century and are of little architectural merit. The most notable exception is Trinders Lodge, which was built around 1830 and is grade II listed.
What's here? Big houses behind high hedges, a boggy common, a golf course and an amazing concrete water tower.
Have I blogged about it? Tangentially while exploring London's borough summits, Barnet's being Arkley Hill at one end of the green.
What did you write? Blimey, what an architectural find, assuming you're the sort of person who likes concrete on stilts. Arkley Water Tower is an amazing snowflake-like structure constructed from six hexagonal chambers suspended above the ground on a series of tapering columns. It's like some alien craft landed here in the 1970s and is biding its time in obscurity before rising up and firing a death ray from the hilltop, or maybe that's just my imagination.
Can you get here by bus? Not directly. The 107 stops 500m away on Barnet Road.
Nearest station? Elstree & Borehamwood or High Barnet (both a 2 mile walk).
Verdict? Other than the tower, skippable.
That's it for north London.
All the other hamlets are in the London borough of Bromley.
Where is it? Just southwest of Keston in the nomansland east of New Addington.
How does Hidden London describe it? Nash is not in the gazetteer.
Can you get here by bus? No. The nearest stop is ¾ miles away in Keston.
Have I blogged about it? No, but it is on my 'Unvisited London' shortlist.
What's here? Let's wait and see...
Where is it? A narrow country lane north of Downe.
How does Hidden London describe it? A hamlet since Norman times retaining several 19th-century properties including a pair of brick-and-flint houses.
What's here? Houses, fields, pylons.
Have I blogged about it? London Loop section 3 passes along a short uninhabited section of Farthing Street before turning off up Bogey Lane, and it's the only latter that got a mention in my write-up.
Can you get here by bus? Not directly, but the 146 stops hourly at one end of the lane.
Verdict? Dunno, I've not properly been.
Where is it? A lengthy country lane just beyond the Swanley bypass.
How does Hidden London describe it? A farming hamlet situated on the easternmost edge of Bromley, skirted by the A20.
What's here? Contains more houses than the aforementioned hamlets. Also oast house, training centre, nudist camp.
Have I blogged about it? A couple of months ago.
What did I write? The centre of the hamlet might be the triangular patch of grass where the postbox is or it might be a bit further round the corner past the cottages under renovation and the high hedges and the collapsed fence. This is where the big farm and the big house are, not the original manor but a listed weatherboarded 18th century farmhouse, again with twiddly gates and a warning about a dog. Part of the farm is now a Construction Academy where you can accredit digger-related skills and part still has the remains of an oast house and a row of hop-pickers' cabins. I think I met the owner because he asked if I was looking for something in that way you test out strangers, so I swiftly moved on.
Can you get here by bus? No. The 233 stops half a mile's walk away in Kent.
Nearest station? Swanley (1½ mile walk).
Verdict? Disparate and linear.
Where is it? A mile south of Hockenden on the Orpington/Crockenhill road.
How does Hidden London describe it? A rural hamlet with farms, nurseries and old cottages which lacks any amenities for residents or visitors.
What's here? Village sign, scrap of pavement, Georgian house used as wedding venue, low secure hospital.
Have I blogged about it? In the same post as Hockenden.
What did I write? The 'village pub' used to be the Kevington Arms, although it's now a private residence called Blueberry Farm and very much not a farm either. What we have here is a staggered crossroads with a few houses on three of the arms, again nominally cottages but these have a stronger architectural claim. Residents seem less likely to keep horses than those in Hockenden, more likely to lovingly tend their gardens and collectively proud enough to have erected a millennial sundial.
Can you get here by bus? The 477 stops here hourly, but you can't use your Oyster card because it's not a TfL service.
Verdict? Nicest of the eight.
Where is it? An outpost of Maypole, which is an outpost of Chelsfield, which is southeast of Orpington.
How does Hidden London describe it? Bopeep does not merit a separate entry, only Maypole.
What's here? Three sets of cottages and the Bo-Peep restaurant/public house, built in 1548.
Have I blogged about it? Yes, as part of a May Day post in 2017.
What did I write? The pub by the road junction spent four centuries as The White Hart until the landlord changed the name to The Bo-Peep in 1971. According to the sign by the postbox the building dates back to 'Circa 1500', not that you'd guess from the squat dining annexe bolted onto the back. But head round to the front and the former farmhouse looks far more appealing, with a knapped flint wall beneath the chimneystack. Real ale is served inside but the main focus is food, this being the kind of inglenook eatery that'll serve up Haddock, Salmon & Spinach Bake to villagers, or more likely Steak & Stilton Suet Pudding to drivers seeking respite from the M25.
Can you get here by bus? Yes. The R7 stops half-hourly outside the pub, making this the only London hamlet with a direct TfL bus service... but only until July 22nd, after which the Maypole loop is being withdrawn and pub patrons face a ¾ mile walk along entirely unsuitable lanes. Basically hamlets don't get bus services and it's time for Bopeep to join the club.
Nearest station: Knockholt (a highly unpleasant ¾ mile walk).
Verdict: More a name than a place.
For completeness sake, these are the 25 London villages recognised by the Ordnance Survey.
Bexley: Coldblow, North CrayBut there are only eight hamlets.
Bromley: Berry's Green, Chelsfield, Cudham, Downe, Hazelwood, Horns Green, Keston, Leaves Green, Luxted, Maypole, Pratt's Bottom, Ruxley, Single Street, South Street, Upper Ruxley
Enfield: Botany Bay, Crews Hill
Havering: North Ockendon, Wennington
Hillingdon: Harefield, Hill End, South Harefield
Kingston: Malden Rushett
posted 07:00 :
Friday, June 24, 2022Just north of the Broadfields estate lies the hamlet of Edgware Bury.
It's a tiny cluster of farms and bungalows set amid open fields.
It'd be quite normal for the Home Counties but it's utterly abnormal for North London.
And they'd rather you didn't visit.
This is Edgwarebury Lane, an ancient track that still connects Edgware to Elstree. It starts amid the shops on Hale Lane, just up from the station, and heads north across the Edgware bypass. The first mile is full-on suburbia, culminating with the Thirties semis and detached piles of the Broadfields estate (of which we spoke yesterday). Then abruptly the houses cease and the road becomes a narrower lane bounded on one side by hedges and on the other by a Jewish cemetery. At the junction with Clay Lane, a similarly ancient bridleway, are three isolated cottages with rambling non-idyllic gardens and a remarkably high number of occupied parking spaces. And at the point where the streetlighting finally ceases come the red signs... Edgwarebury Farm. Private Road. Private No Parking. Residents Only. No Turning. No Through Road. It must rile the locals that there's also a green sign confirming Public Bridleway to Elstree.
Stepping through into the environs of the farm transports you instantly to the countryside. A chain of telegraph poles leads down the lane to a collection of barns and other indistinct outbuildings. To the left is a low barbed wire fence and beyond that open fields, or rather open paddocks because these 400 acres support a successful sprawling livery stables. The luckier ponies have a lot of room to roam, plus lone trees to shelter under during the heat of the day. Others are tucked away in wooden stable blocks or segregated in their own private enclosures. The customary rural whiff is present.
The farmhouse is 17th century with a weatherboarded upper storey, a later wing with a pitched slate roof and a prominent dovecote. Originally it was called Earlsbury Farm before they dropped the first part to become plain Bury Farm (after which the hamlet of Edgware Bury is named). Dick Turpin once dropped by and robbed the place, back when he was working with the 'Essex Gang' before he broke out solo. I would have taken a photo of the farmhouse to show you here but an important-looking lady in wellies came out to feed a horse and it seemed unwise to try.
Among the outbuildings is a single single-storey prefab called The Bungalow, which looks very much not grade II listed and would be the ideal place to hide away for anyone preferring horses to mod cons. The only other residence in the hamlet is a posher pile which covers the footprint of a former farmhouse, again with a cluster of agri-outbuildings round the back. A sign on the fence reminds non-residents which way the public footpath goes lest anyone be tempted to stray. Another sign urging passers-by Please Do Not Feed The Horse's is on display in both apostrophe'd and non-apostrophe'd versions. Entrepreneurs intend to build a luxury 18 hole golf course across several of the outlying paddocks, alas, the only upside being that planning permission was granted five years ago but they haven't started yet.
Beyond the final bend the road out of Edgware Bury become increasingly less well maintained and starts to climb. The embankment isn't natural, it's spoil from a serious building project close by which so far has only been heard but not seen. The M1 motorway was driven through Bury Farm's fields in the 1960s, but civil engineers kindly veered slightly north in a deep cutting rather than taking what would have been a flatter route through the farmhouse instead. For those on foot it's quite a jolt to reach a bridge and suddenly find a seething six lane highway beneath you with streaming traffic and electronic signage. The elevated crossing allows you to look back across rough greenspace towards an extensive spiky skyline.
The far side of the bridge touches down in Hertfordshire, because the border with Middlesex shifted south after the motorway was built. Here a locked gate blocks the road to prevent the lane becoming a ratrun, although shortly afterwards I had to step to one side to make way for a van driven by someone who clearly had the key. The remainder of Edgwarebury Lane is a steep climb up what can only be described as a bolthole cul-de-sac for extremely wealthy people. The half-timbered Dower House has nine bedrooms and slightly fewer tennis courts. The Manor offers a country club hideaway suitable for dream weddings and appeared in at least three episodes of The Avengers. The Leys has security gates so elaborate they've had to put up eight signs confirming they are not the hotel. I see from the public footpath sign at the end of the lane that Hertfordshire County Council can't spell Edgware either.
Edgwarebury Lane is a walk of extraordinary contrasts... suburban/rural, flat/steep, avenue/lane/motorway, semis/farmhouse/mansion, tabby cats/ponies/guard dogs, public/private/exclusive. It's a medieval lane passing through a hamlet that somehow still exists inside 21st century London. But it would have been brutally wiped away had the proposed Northern line extension to Bushey Heath ever been built, indeed the nearest station was originally going to be called Edgwarebury until bosses plumped for Brockley Hill instead. All these neighbouring scrappy fields and paddocks were due to be suburbanised and the old farmhouse surrounded, but the Green Belt did its job and ended the dream. For a reminder of what much of Middlesex used to look like, come to Edgware Bury.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, June 23, 2022UNVISITED LONDON
TQ1993: Broadfields Estate (Barnet)
I've been to visit another London 1km×1km grid square I'd somehow never visited before. This one's to the north of Edgware, almost in Hertfordshire. You'll have been within 100 metres of this particular square if you've ever stopped off at Scratchwood services on the M1, and within 50 metres if you've ever travelled up the Midland mainline past Mill Hill Broadway. But you won't have visited TQ1993 unless you've deliberately turned off the A41 Edgware bypass and entered the Broadfields Estate, which I'd never had reason to do before (and I suspect that goes for 99% of you).
100 years ago this grid square really was all fields, bar two country lanes with one cottage apiece. Everything changed after the Edgware bypass was built in the mid 1920s and much of the land to either side was sold off for suburbia. Builders John Laing made a start on the Edgware Estate in 1936 and built a substantial number of roads before WW2 and then the Green Belt halted northward progress. The first church opened in 1937, the first school in 1942, the only pub in 1957 and the whole place is now known as the Broadfields Estate. You can even get here by bus.
The estate has a swirly, sprawly Metroland feel, built across sufficient contours to give the place some character. The prewar houses are large, the postwar additions less so, and the street pattern includes a giant set of concentric semicircles as if the architect pressed a fingerprint onto the plans at the design stage. It's very quiet (apart from the street with all the vehicles queuing to get out at the traffic lights), indeed the kind of area that estate agents like to describe as desirable. I made a note of ten things that might help give you a flavour of the place: hanging baskets, porch lanterns, herringbone brick, trimmed shrubbery, halftimbered gables, leaded lights, succulents on doorsteps, burglar alarms, builders' vans, ample parking. A lot of outer London is notionally like this, but generally you can drive out on the other side.
A Broadfields tale: A lady stopped me on Kenilworth Road and asked if I knew where Tesco was, and obviously I didn't know because I'd never been before, but I did have a hunch where the shopping parade was so I suggested it might be down Glengall Road, and she trusted me and thankfully I was right and she was very pleased. I was less pleased when I discovered the Tesco is what the pub turned into.
Marlborough Parade has some decent shops, as well it might because Edgware's a bit of a schlep. I made a note of ten of the shops because they might help give you a flavour of the place: dry cleaners, beauty salon, nailbar, off license, barbers, greengrocer, chemist, another beauty salon, kosher bakery, kosher supermarket. A lot of Edgware is quite Jewish and this estate is no exception, as you can tell from the occasional sported kippah and Hebrew car sticker. And I invariably enjoy a Jewish bakery so I popped into Yossi's and picked out a Danish from the display. It was the size of a sideplate and soft, flaky and full of juicy sultanas. It wasn't cheap but it was lush, indeed Greggs, Pret and Wenzels simply cannot compete.
Two Broadfields vehicles
1) Uncle Doovy's Kosher Ice Cream Van: This wasn't out on the streets feeding hot kids, it was parked in a front garden on Francklyn Gardens. The van sells familiar-shaped ice creams but with subtly different names, like the Milky Crunch, the Volcano, La Frutta and the Shuffle. The characters painted on the side aren't Disney characters, they're bears in aprons. And it exists because some days you want an ice cream you can eat after a meal without mixing dairy with meat.
2) Poppy the Caravan: It seems there's always someone who insists on keeping a poppy on their car all year round. At number 53 they've stuck two poppies in the Hyundai's radiator grille and two on the roofrack, then gone to town on their caravan which has had red flowers painted all over it and is called Poppy. But the petals are entirely the wrong shape to be poppies, because there's always someone.
The road which runs up the west side of the estate is Edgwarebury Lane, one of the originals, and beyond that lies Edgwarebury Park. It's a lovely park mixing formal and recreational with wildflower meadow and a minor stream. I made a note of ten elements that might help you get a flavour of the place: pergola, Golden Jubilee rose garden, tennis courts, granny on a shady bench, buttercups, butterflies, actual unlocked toilets, sensory garden, long-closed kiosk with Wall's branding, chewed tennis ball. I also noted a tall white pole up which a Green Flag would once have been hoisted, but the last Green Flag certificate on the Edgwarebury Park noticeboard is dated 2009/10 and the Events List hasn't been updated since 2009 either, as if the community's essentially given up.
A Broadfields school tale: I wanted to walk up the bridleway beside the school and was initially unnerved to see what looked like half a dozen secondary pupils hanging around the entrance beneath the trees... except it's only a primary school, and it turned out to be staff members (with matching lanyards) who'd sneaked out for a lunchtime smoke.
The bridleway is called Clay Lane and it's the other pre-estate original, indeed it's known to date back to the 16th century. It feels it too, zigzagging out along a thin woodland corridor towards fields and the highest point hereabouts. I made a note of ten things that might help you get a flavour of the place: ancient woodland, oak, field maple, ash, honeysuckle, horse manure, deep ruts, unexpected driveway, birdsong, dogmessbag. At a kilometre long, and an isolated kilometre at that, I bet it forms the basis of a favourite dogwalking loop. As I walked it felt like London was gradually fading away, although from the summit I could see all the way from Harrow's church to Wembley's arch to maybe Hampstead.
And at the end of Clay Lane I found Edgwarebury Cemetery. This is a four-part Jewish cemetery, now 50 years old, and part of a general sequential shift of Jewish burial sites towards the very edge of the capital. It's very much a going concern, well tended and with plenty of room to expand, indeed there was an enormous row locally when they proposed adding an extra field on the other side of Clay Lane. Almost immediately by the entrance I spotted the grave of Sir Simon Milton, former leader of Westminster Council, and over to the left another to Cynthia Levy (1921-2006). More significantly it remembers "her beloved granddaughter Amy Jade Winehouse" whose funeral was held here in 2011, and the gravestone incorporates the singer's bird tattoo as well as the Star of David. The cemetery asks visitors not to take photos so I didn't, but this unexpected find is a shining example of why it's good to visit parts of London you've never visited before.
🟨=1392, 🟩=51, 🟦=6, 🟥=14
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, June 22, 2022Now that Time Out is on permanent hiatus, I wondered if there might be a gap in the market for a fresh pan-London listings presence.
But not doing your typical reviews of events, openings and establishments worth going to, because a multiplicity of online portals are attempting that. Instead how about reporting on places not worth visiting, venues worth skipping and experiences that aren't worth having, in a brand new kind of series called...
Things Not To Do
All too often we only hear upbeat reviews, positive reports and glowing feedback written by someone who was thrilled. Worse we face purple prose pasted from a press release by a propagandist who's been paid to promote the attraction. But all too often when we dutifully turn up we discover it was nothing special, or worse a waste of time and/or effort and/or money, because weasel words suckered us in when really it wasn't for us at all.
How much better to hear the truth before we go, or at least to be warned in advance that perhaps it won't be up our street. Here then is a prime potential example of an ignorable event, a proper Thing Not To Do.
Things Not To Do: Superbloom
(at the Tower of London, 1st June - 18th September 2022)
Those poppies in the moat were fabulous, weren't they, even if you could only look down on the red wave from above. So the good folk at Historic Royal Palaces have decided it might be worth flooding the moat with flowers again but this time to invite us down for a closer look.
Earlier this year they planted over 20 million wildflower seeds around the Tower of London in an attempt to create a beautiful naturalistic landscape primed to attracted pollinators and other biodiverse wildlife. They call it Superbloom.
If you think it's all a bit upbeat so far, rest assured that was just the factual intro. Wait a few more paragraphs and the barbs will really start flying.
In real life a superbloom is a Californian phenomenon, only appearing when the desert bursts into flower after a rare spell of rain. The Tower's display is entirely artificial and has had the benefit of a team of gardeners on site to water it, but has still been very much at the mercy of the British weather. Alas not only was spring 2022 much drier than usual but early April nights proved somewhat chilly, all of which caused the display to emerge weeks later than hoped. Anyone who prebooked a ticket for the first half of June was therefore invited to rebook or come again or even request a refund, because a still-green moat isn't what they paid to see.
It looks a lot better now with waves of colour in reds and yellows and pinks and purples. But it doesn't look amazing. The flowers are bright but not dazzling, the overall ambience is of dense wildflower meadow rather than unique landscape, and the path weaving through has had to be given a few sinuous wiggles to provide more interest. Occasionally the designers have added a sculpted geometric element, a mini-roundabout or a willow pergola, just to give your social media captures a more interesting backdrop. But essentially it looks like a nice walk between some nice flowers around three sides of a moat, and I can't see how that's worth the money.
I hope you're getting a sense of how this works now.
Superbloom is not a cheap attraction. It costs £12 to go round plus an optional 10% donation they preload unless you take it off. That's for a walk they reckon will take you 30 minutes, i.e. 40p a minute, except from what I saw I reckon you'd get round quicker. They've also added a gift shop at the end where they hope you'll fork out £18 on a bag, £13 on a tea towel, £6 on some seed mix or £25 on a water bottle. And there's no end of takers. Many of the moatwalking sessions are fully booked, seemingly by people flooding in from the provinces who've done Chelsea and fancied another horticultural treat. Daily Mail readers got 20% off by prebooking with a voucher code and by the looks of things many took up the offer.
You may also have noticed by now that I didn't actually go round the Superbloom walk myself. That's because this is a report on a Thing Not To Do, so obviously I didn't do it.
The biggest drawback to a paid-for floral display in a moat is that it's quite easy to see from above and anyone can do that for nothing. I found numerous perfectly good vantage points along the approach road to Tower Bridge, as could you, not to mention the lower walkway near the tube station. Indeed I reckon I had a much better overview of Superbloom than the people who'd paid good money to be in the midst of the flowers, not that they'd have realised when they prebooked their tickets.
Admittedly my camera only picked up the individual flowers as a pastel blur which wasn't proper selfie material. Also I never saw the inflatable slide they've included as an optional experience near the start of the walkway, and maybe that's fantastic and justifies the price of admission all by itself. But having seen what I've seen I won't be buying a ticket and I can't recommend you do either.
So here's the main drawback with this feature. I'm attempting to review a thing I didn't do, hence basing my review solely on what I saw from a distance which isn't how someone who did the thing would have experienced it.
Also I'm advising you not to do something purely on the basis that I wouldn't have enjoyed it, whereas perhaps it'd be completely up your street and my subjective viewpoint is thus entirely worthless. It's a bit like me urging you not to go to a cricket match or dine out at a Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant based solely on my own personal prejudice.
Superbloom is designed to evolve over the summer and to peak later in the season, so might be more impressive if you go next month. But at a time of tightened budgets and surging prices I'd say it's a gimmick you can miss, ablaze with blooms but definitely not super.
In my considered opinion this supposed Thing To Do is very much a Thing Not To Do. But if you want to spend your money wandering through a meadow in a moat then that's entirely your prerogative.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, June 21, 2022Today after 54 years of publication the last copy of Time Out magazine hits the streets.
It's unfortunate timing, given today sees the worst rail/tube strike in decades so there'll only be a fraction of the usual audience to pick up a copy. Fortunately it's possible to download the magazine for free these days, should you know where to look, so you can grab yourself a complete souvenir pdf wherever you may be and keep all 88 pages for posterity.
It's a hefty magazine for a freebie and they haven't skimped on content for the final issue, nor let it get too downbeat. The theme of the features near the front of the magazine is the future of London, with an emphasis on people rather than predictions, and after that come all the usual listy bits. If you'd actually seen a copy recently you might have some idea what those usual listy bits are.
The first edition of Time Out (12th Aug - 2nd Sep 1968) was a lo-fi A5 pamphlet with a cover price of one shilling. It kicked off with three buildings worth visiting (The Royal College of Physicians, St Pancras station and the Monument) and very brief lists of book and record shops. It included subject headings that would linger through the years (Jazz, Ballet, Theatre, Cinemas, Exhibitions) but also some wonderfully niche topics that didn't (Lectures, Puppets, Marches, BLUEish films). The first restaurant in the Food category was The Stockpot in Hogarth Place which was offering kidneys in red wine for 4/6d. Groups to see at London gigs included Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Marmalade and Free. The London Museum at Kensington Palace was hosting an exhibition called 100 Years Of Jigsaw Puzzles. The Classic cinema in Stockwell intended to screen three days of Ronald Reagan B Movies. Issue One is a wonderful snapshot of its time, well deserving of nostalgic scrutiny, and you can see the whole thing on the Time Out website.
But times change, so not only does Time Out no longer need to list late night chemists in Bayswater, it no longer needs to exist at all.
The first big stutter came in 2012 when Time Out switched from a paid-for magazine to a skimpier freesheet. People simply weren't stumping up the £3.25 cover price for information they could find online, however good the articles at the front, so it became a handout with a much wider circulation paid for mainly by advertising. A lot of sections were lost or slimmed down in the changeover, and the writing style became chattier with an emphasis on small easy-to-read gobbets rather than full-on listings. The pandemic twice put the magazine on hiatus, lockdown having destroyed its raison d'être, and most recently publication has slipped to fortnightly with the penultimate edition dated June 7-20. Issue Number 2631 is simply labelled 23 June 2022.
They've got the Mayor to be the last guest columnist, which is a smart move because you can actually imagine Sadiq buying a weekly copy back in the day. The final street to be placed under focus is Kingsland Road E8, confirming that Dalston stayed hip and trendy to the end. The big feature on "a fresh generation of activists, artists and partystarters" is fundamentally diverse. A spread on beavers, water voles and rewilding is interleaved with a pair of adverts for Sainsbury's. In the centre, in what might once have been deemed a pull-out section, is a 16 page Summer Ideas special sponsored by a taxi app. The word count remains high enough to fill a journey. And the very final review on the very last page is a thumbs up for a Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant in Leyton, which seems an entirely appropriate way to bow out.
Because I've analysed several copies of Time Out I can bring you this table showing how the magazine's content has evolved over the last 15 years. It includes a 2007 edition I wrote an article for, the two editions either side of the paid for/freebie divide and also the final issue out today.
Section TIME OUT
12 Sep 2007
20 Sep 2012
25 Sep 2012
23 Jun 2022
Intro stuff 19 pages 15 pages 8 pages 15 pages Things To Do 9½ pages 5½ pages 4 pages 5 pages Film 17 pages 12½ pages 4 pages 3 pages Food & Drink 8 pages 3½ pages 2½ pages 3 pages Art 5 pages 4½ pages 3 pages 3 pages Theatre/Dance 12 pages 10½ pages 3 pages 3 pages Music 11 pages 9 pages 4½ pages nil Classical 3 pages 3 pages ½ page nil Clubs/Cabaret 7½ pages 5½ pages 3 pages nil Comedy 3 pages 4½ pages 2 pages nil LGBT 2 pages 1 page 1 page nil Shopping 9½ pages 5 pages 2½ pages nil Time In/TV 18 pages 8 pages 2 pages nil Books 2½ pages 1½ pages nil nil Classified 9 pages 2 pages nil nil Sport/Health 5 pages nil nil nil Travel nil nil nil 4 pages Adverts 55pp (28%) 38pp (31%) 29pp (36%) 32pp (36%)
The ongoing theme here is of decreasing breadth and general thinning out. This was always a likely outcome when the number of pages halved, but the number of separate sections has also imploded over the years. Classified ads and book reviews didn't survive the change to freesheet and neither did TV listings, a cause for which Time Out fought so defiantly in the 1980s. The need for theatre and film listings faded away once we could all find out what was on where without printed assistance, and concerts, clubs and comedy nights have gone much the same way since.
Meanwhile 'Travel' is the one category that's gone in entirely the opposite direction as Time Out has increasingly encouraged us to leave London, often to another city or country they now have a base in. Urging readers to take a sleeper train or fly to Costa Rica brings in a bigger slice of advertising revenue than directing folk to a comedy night in Ealing. I should add that not all of the 'nil' categories are entirely absent, for example this week's Things To Do section includes a full page of Pride events and the summer pullout has two pages on music festivals. But Time Out hasn't been attempting to be definitive for years, merely 'curating' a few things in a few categories in the hope they tickle your fancy.
The writing style's changed too, and not for the better.
You like Time Out? Of course you do. You adore the way we sort the wheat from the London chaff, rising above the noise and hype to recommend and highlight only the tastiest dishes, crispest pints, weirdest (in a good way) exhibitions and, uh, least-boring plays. Our jokes amuse and delight you. Your friends consider you clued up about culture, trends and vibes because you frequently pass off our opinions as your own. And we’re fine with that. Really.Time Out London will continue to generate content after its physical presence expires but you'll need to consume it in different ways. This week sees the launch of a daily Time Out email newsletter which they hope you'll sign up for, allowing them to fire leisure nuggets and sponsored content into your inbox on a regular basis. There's also a full page advert in the final magazine inviting you to look out for 'Time Out's first digital cover' on Instagram next week, although this sounds like a limp excuse to get you to click through onto their website, where of course the dripfeed of events-based news will continue. I note that a lot of the content on Time Out's Instagram account appears to be either froth or clickbait, sometimes both, and I fear this may be the ongoing direction of travel.
As Londoners' time out has changed over the decades, so Time Out has changed too. The latest generation to be out on the town no longer wants a pint, a film and a gig, it wants food, an experience and something shareable, and is perfectly happy to get its stream of leisure ideas onscreen. So as the printed magazine vanishes into a cloud of digital content, best remember how good it used to be and give thanks for all the marvellous things Time Out directed us to over past decades which otherwise we'd have totally missed.
...or read more in my monthly archives
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