diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 12, 2023

The news from Barking and Dagenham

Or maybe not actual 'news'.
Today's post is an exercise in memory and speculation.

I zipped round the borough yesterday and saw things and took photos. But I haven't done any research into what I saw, I'm relying solely on direct personal experience and what I remember, not facts and hard truths. No search engines have been used in what follows, nor have any Wikipedia pages been studied, so these 'news' items are likely inaccurate in part or in significant portion. But it should at least be quicker to write than a normal post so I win even if you don't.

Barking will soon be visible from a distance

This is the River Roding flowing through Barking, a bit to the south of the town centre, down by the barrage and weir. It's almost pretty along here, almost, but increasingly the preserve of newbuild flats built by speculative developers. That's Fresh Wharf on the left with the contrasting bricky blocks and that's more of the same in the background. But won't you look at the height of the lift shafts rising behind, they're both enormous! That development is called Abbey Something because it's close to the ruins of the historic 7th century abbey, but that hasn't stopped planners from whacking up monstrosities which will change the town's skyline forever. You can't really see Barking from a distance at the moment, not in the same way that Ilford stands out with its slanty towers, so these monsters are going to become an unmissable beacon within a year or two.

Barking Riverside town centre is taking shape

The burgeoning settlement of Barking Riverside continues to sprawl across the spoil heaps of the former power station. More and more flats are being completed up on Landfill Hill, but still a fair walk from the burgeoning town centre down by the station. A new piazza has recently opened up with shrubbery, suspended lighting and trees that will one day shade weary shoppers resting over a coffee. As yet however the nearest shop is half a mile away, the only close-ish building is a school and there's bugger all reason to sit on one of the benches unless you're a massive people-hating introvert. Hardly anyone is using the temporary bus stops to interchange with the Overground, the path to the river pier is empty and when an orange train pulled in yesterday only three passengers alighted. The Barking Riverside extension will one day be invaluable and the surrounding area unrecognisable, but for now this ghost town centre is merely a drain on the transport budget.

Footpath 47 now has a mystery infographic

When in Barking Riverside it's imperative to walk at least part of Footpath 47, not least because it's the only bit of riverside Barking has. It's still broad and open with estuarine views of incinerators and mud, even an innate feeling of remoteness, mainly because the flatbuilders remain some distance away from the fence. But a new sign has appeared overlooking the reedy edge, or rather it's covered over a previous sign saying 'Uber Boats are coming' because they have now come. The sign is totally black with just three graphics - an arrow, a walking man and a wavy duck thing. The first two are presumably a reference to footpath 47 because yes you can indeed walk along the shoreline (and get out the other end). The third might be a warning about divebombing geese and microwave energy but I suspect is meant to symbolise birdwatching, an activity which could in fact be carried out right here by the sign without the need to go for a walk. Who knows, because such are the perils of communicating without words.

Beam Park continues to take shape

A massive linear housing estate called Beam Park is being built between Dagenham and Rainham on land formerly occupied by the Ford Motor Works. The Dagenham end is mostly a flat earthy scar awaiting construction but further east the first streets are in, and occupied, complete with sales office for the flogging of newly-completed hutches. The estate runs alongside the c2c railway and it would be desperately helpful if someone were to build a station to plug the two mile gap hereabouts, indeed this was always the plan ever since initial planning permission went in. But the government hasn't played ball and funding has never appeared, peeving constructors, council and early residents alike. Instead it looks like Beam Park station will never be built, either in a shortsighted move designed to appease red wall voters or because there genuinely isn't any money for anything useful any more, and what the hell best buy a car.

Sheep may thwart the City's market plans

This is the former site of Barking Power Station, a derelict expanse on an industrial estate not far from the A13 viaduct. The City of London plan to move all their markets here - Smithfield, Billingsgate and the fruit and veg one - simultaneously making a tidy sum disposing of the three former sites. It ought to be an uncontroversial move but Havering council has kicked up a fuss and is using a medieval statute to throw a spanner in the works. According to ancient rules no new market is allowed to open within a sheep's drive of Romford, that being approximately six miles, and the new site in Dagenham falls comfortably inside that range. If you've been to Romford Market Hall you'll know its vape stores and cafes are unlikely to be affected by a distant wholesale fishmonger, but the council's worry is that the new market will permit sales to the general public and thereby undermine salt of the earth greengrocer types. It's all very stupid, but so much about local politics often is.

Dagenham's Hollywood is taking shape

These sheds beside the District line are part of Eastbrook Studios - or so it says on the hoardings. One day they'll be sound stages and other film production facilities in what might be London's largest studio complex, indeed Oscar-winning actors may eventually be seen tapping through Dagenham East station on their way to make another blockbuster. Not soon, I'd say, judging by the state of the metal skeletons thus far constructed. But you can stay overnight in a Travelodge, even get yourself a Costa coffee, because such important facilities always go in first. I have nothing else to say about Eastbrook Studios which is the main problem with not doing any research.

Becontree householder innovates with bin numbers

Normally when you have multiple bins you write your house number on each to make sure they return to your driveway after collection. But this householder on Becontree Avenue has taken a wholly new approach using one digit on each bin, thereby saving themselves a few pounds on buying surplus numbers. In a time of austerity it makes total sense. This cunning plan of course only works because none of the neighbours have done the same thing which means there's no danger of any of the single digits going back to the wrong driveway. However there is an issue here. You've likely assumed these bins can be found at 380 Becontree Avenue but this is in fact number 308 because the refuse collectors, or perhaps the homeowner themselves, have returned the bins in the wrong order. Careless and sloppy work.

Wonky racetrack baffles and bemuses

What the hell is this? It looks like a racetrack but the lanes are of variable width and some wiggle uncontrollably and some just peter out and several get really really thin and one just disappears into a small tree and two actually cross over down at the far end. This is a broad alleyway between a nursery and a new block of flats so it might well be something small-child related, but as this is a public right of way (linking Becontree Avenue to whatever road it is at the far end) the lane markings are especially baffling. Running is perhaps anticipated because staggered barriers have been added at each end to prevent anyone charging into the traffic. It could be art, it could just be a bit of fun, but I fear Comic Sans has been used for the lane markings so the overall effect merely unsettles.

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