diamond geezer

 Saturday, October 14, 2023

Lambeth North

...by which I mean the northernmost point in the borough of Lambeth. Which is here in the middle of Waterloo Bridge.

Officially it's quarter of a mile downstream in the middle of the River Thames, but you can't stand there. The furthest north you can go in Lambeth without resorting to a boat is halfway across Waterloo Bridge, specifically the pavement on the northern side, so pedestrians get closer than buses and bikes. This isn't an especially historic bridge, being a 1930s replacement for a Georgian granite number completed during wartime by a mostly female workforce. But it has one of the best views in London, the bend providing postcard-perfect panoramas in both directions, be that Westminster and the Eye or Blackfriars and the City. You know that, you've almost certainly been. So for completeness' sake I also wanted to track down Lambeth's northernmost point on land... which turns out to be halfway between here and Blackfriars Bridge.

The Lambeth/Southwark borough boundary crosses the river wall immediately alongside the Oxo Tower along a stretch of promenade known as the Queen's Walk. But because of the curve of the river you can get slightly further north a little further along, past Gabriel's Wharf and the studios where they no longer film This Morning, on an artificial octagonal viewpoint. It has benches and pigeons, and on a sunny day flocks of people, and on a damp day a queueless silver caravan hoping to sell Nutella churros to hardly anyone. But it's possible to get marginally further north if you backtrack and follow a narrow modern jetty to its very tip, which I did, and that's where this next photograph was taken.

And if the tide's out it's possible to get even further north by heading down onto the South Bank's best beach. It's been nicknamed Ernie's Beach after local resident John Hearn who used to walk his dog on the foreshore in the 1960s and 70s, and who successfully campaigned against its reclamation when the GLC built the adjacent Coin Street housing estate. Thanks to him it's still possible to climb down onto the sand at the top of the beach - just nine steps - and then down onto the foreshore proper. The mud here has been stabilised by stones, pebbles and chunks of brick, also dotted with fragments of tile and rounded shards of glass, and only occasionally scattered with weed and litter because the tide washes all that away twice daily. I dodged an exercising collie who was busy catching a driftwood stick, and stepped carefully to the water's edge where the Thames lapped brown against the shoreline. That's Lambeth North.

Lambeth West

...by which I mean the westernmost point in the borough of Lambeth. Which is here on Wix's Lane in Battersea.

This historic back passage climbs gently towards Clapham Common, bearing off Lavender Hill between a hair salon and the Lavender Launderette. Initially it's all in Wandsworth, as hinted by a lofty street sign referring back to the 'Borough of Battersea'. But after fifty steps the Victorian brick wall on the left makes way for a scrappier wooden fence - not especially vertical - and this switchover marks the westernmost point in the borough of Lambeth. A row of particularly large detached houses once stood on the other side of the fence but they've been replaced by a wall of 1980s flats with a defensive approach to public access, notably electronic gates and private parking notices out front on Cedars Road. So alas you can't enter this westernmost stripe of Lambeth, not unless you live here or are buzzed in to deliver pizza.

The westernmost accessible point in Lambeth is a minutes' walk south where Wix's Lane opens out onto a brief wedge of lawn. Check the grass carefully and you can step across to a separate pavement where a grubby lamppost leans at an alarming angle. The Lambeth side of the lane is overlooked by further undistinguished flats, finally walk-through-able, in sharp contrast to the desirable Victorian terraces backing down from the Wandsworth flank. Crammed in where a car park used to be are two recently-completed houses, technically semi-detached, in a bricky-blocky style designed to echo the contrasting architecture on both sides. Its residents use the car park's former ramp to descend into their garages and basement levels, again fortified so standing out front is as close as you're going to get. That's Lambeth West.

Lambeth South

...by which I mean the southernmost point in the borough of Lambeth. Which is here off Hassocks Road in Streatham, four miles south of the previous location.

It's not the street corner, which is in Merton, nor the end house, nor the green space behind the railings. It's actually a boundary point within the treeline in the background, which if you squint you can just about see to the left of the telegraph pole. This is the dividing line between two primary school playing fields, namely Woodmansterne (in Lambeth) and Stanford (in Merton), both of which were thankfully devoid of organised sporting activity when I walked past. Stanford opened in 1973 and used to be a middle school whereas Woodmansterne is rather older and expanded into an all-through secondary in 2017. Sorry, an indistinguishable line of trees between two educational establishments isn't especially blogworthy.

The southernmost accessible point in Lambeth is a couple of minutes' walk west at the foot of Stockport Road. The two boroughs switch where the houses begin, these being chains of what would be semi-detached homes if only they weren't joined together in groups of four or more. On the Merton side is a laminated planning notice on a lamppost saying the council wants to turn it into an electric charging point, plus a plugged-in Nissan confirming they already have. On the Lambeth side drivers are welcomed with a 20mph limit and speed bumps, plus an LTN that only activates at the start and end of the school day because most of the time these backstreets are quiet enough. That's Lambeth South.

Lambeth East

...by which I mean the easternmost point in the borough of Lambeth. Which is here on Crystal Palace Parade opposite the bus station.

Four parishes once met at the Vicar's Oak at the top of Anerley Hill, but that fine remnant of the Great North Wood was lopped in the 17th century and what's here now is a busy semi-gyratorial crossroads. It's still the only place in London where four boroughs nearly meet, this quartet walkable in just over a minute (as previously blogged). And one of these boroughs is Lambeth, somehow six miles from the northernmost point by the Thames - beyond Brockwell Park, beyond West Norwood and up a bank of scenically steep residential streets. The building on the corner is Westow House, a gastropub and boutique hotel which is offering a Harry Potter-themed quiz in a couple of weeks so may or may not be your cup of tea. The estate agents nextdoor has a blue plaque confirming that the painter Camille Pissaro lived here while taking refuge from the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, but only for a few months. Compasspointwise we can beat both of those.

The seven shops on Crystal Palace Parade are all slightly further east, starting with what used to be the iconic Doris Florist. It's now an Italian restaurant, Saporo Vero, which to add insult to injury has threaded its terrace with a chain of plainly-artificial flowers. All but one of the other units also sell food, either packaged or hot, the sole exception being a very slim minicab office. The public conveniences under the pavement closed some time back and now host a most unusual subterranean flat. And the business on the end, just before we cross a sideroad into Southwark, is Cafe Paradou - purveyors of cappuccino, Cajun chicken and chips. Take a seat on the outdoor deck, pass Sam your order and revel in your paramount peripheral location. That's Lambeth East.

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