diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 26, 2024

Seaside postcard: Littlehampton

Littlehampton is a seaside town, I hesitate to say resort, midway along the coast of West Sussex. It has a Heatherwick cafe, a sort-of lighthouse, Britain's longest bench and a lot of crabs. I visited yesterday. [Visit Littlehampton] [12 photos]



Littlehampton started out as a small fishing community then became a minor port, which does at least give the town more history than Bognor Regis a few miles to the west. In the early 19th century it started attracting cultured seaside visitors, then in 1863 trains arrived and it's now a suburban retirement bolthole. Its station is not interesting.

The high street is called the High Street. Its chief feature is what looks like an old wooden clocktower, except it was actually built for the Millennium using a clockface which had been in storage since the 1920s. The largest plaque on the high street commemorates David and Betty Jones who founded a sports shop at number 7 in 1946.



Littlehampton Museum is based in the 18th century Manor House on Church Street and free to enter. Unfortunately on Saturdays it opens at 10.30am and I got there too early. The current special exhibition is Menagerie - Animals from the Archives. If you have a really good idea about the future of the museum you could win £100 in supermarket vouchers.

The town has more than its fair share of Armed Forces veterans. One of them will let you sit on his poppy-encrusted flag-bedecked multi-headlamped scooter outside Bonmarché in return for a donation to a veterans charity. The beacon on the seafront will be lit next week to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.



Littlehampton was in receipt of the very first Blue Peter lifeboat, although you won't see it if you look round the station because it was retired in 2016. Opposite is the Look & Sea Heritage Exhibition with its riverside observation tower, which looked like it'd have a great view but it turns out it closed in 2018.

The river here is the Arun, which starts near Horsham and by the time it enters the sea is a deep wide channel a-brim with yachts and cruisers. A passenger ferry used to operate from the town across to the Boat Club and West Beach Nature Reserve but they threw in the towel after the cash-strapped council ended their grant last year.



The big thing to do alongside the Arun is to go crabbing, especially if you're a child. Lines (for dangling) and buckets (for filling) are sold at the Harbour Park amusement park. The sculptural plaques displayed along the harbourside all display fishy recipes, for example for Baked Stuffed Bass and Pollock Fish Cakes.

Littlehampton's East Pier is more a short jetty at the mouth of the river, in fact a brief breakwater. The so-called lighthouse is actually a replacement postwar light tower. It looks like a cotton reel on top of a dart flight, but all in white and with a slot up high for looking out of. Sadly the webcam at the top no longer functions.



The town's lifeguards are very active and have a big quad bike for rumbling over the shingle. Sand appears at lower tides. Littlehampton won Levelling Up cash to rejuvenate its seafront which should deliver a new WC block by the Windmill pub and water play by the Harvester. Currently Union Jacks fly above the shellfish, burger and ice cream kiosks.

The land train operates between the Beach Office and Norfolk Gardens, where you can switch to a proper train on the Littlehampton Miniature Railway. Both charge £3 for a return trip. The LMR opened over the Whitsun weekend in 1948 and is the oldest of the world's six 12¼” gauge railways.



Britain's longest bench faces the promenade and was opened in 2010. It has colourful wooden slats and can seat over 300 people. It's also a bit of a cheat because it intermittently ducks behind litter bins and dips into the tarmac. Also at each end it swirls round manically inside a metal shelter, so perhaps it's more photogenic than practical.

The most striking building in Littlehampton is the East Beach Cafe, designed in 2005 by an upcoming Thomas Heatherwick. It was made by assembling steel ribbons and is meant to resemble a piece of driftwood, although you could also mistake it for a giant rippled turd. If you don't fancy beer battered fish or shredded brisket puff pastry pie then a kiosk at the far end serves simpler fare.



I coupled my visit to Littlehampton with a 13 mile walk so I'm a bit knackered which is why I've only had time to write some words, not add lots of links and photos. If you can see more than one link and more than one photo then I've had a good sleep and come back to finish off the post properly.

 Saturday, May 25, 2024

There are seven pedestrian crossings at the Bow Roundabout.
All of them have buttons, but only three are worth pressing.

This one's worthwhile.



This is the crossing at the entrance to Bow Road. I took this photo coming home from the supermarket yesterday. You have to press the button or the traffic feeding off the roundabout never stops. Sometimes the traffic's quiet enough that you can dash across but if you want to play it safe the button is essential. It always stops the traffic at the same point in the cycle, just as the northbound A12 sliproad gets the green light, and the button always works.

However this one's useless.



This is the crossing at the exit from Bow Road alongside the McDonald's drive-through. I took this photo coming home from the supermarket yesterday. It has a button but there is absolutely no point in pressing it - the traffic stops anyway and it doesn't speed things up.

This one's useless too.



This is the crossing underneath the Bow Flyover leading to the centre of the roundabout. It has a button but there is absolutely no point in pressing it - the traffic stops anyway and it doesn't speed things up.

And what's interesting is that people generally don't realise this and press the buttons anyway. Parents heading to the shops press the buttons. Worshippers off to the mosque press the buttons. Children on their way to school press the buttons. This is despite the fact that many of these people use the crossings regularly and the buttons have been pointless for almost ten years.

These are the seven crossings, shown in yellow.
The three with useful buttons have a ✔.
The four with useless buttons have a ✘.



The difference is all down to whether the pedestrian crossings are at traffic lights or not. The four ✘s are at lights which control traffic on the roundabout. Cars and vehicles stop here anyway, and pedestrians simply cross the road while traffic's being held at red. The three ✔s are at additional crossings which had to be added to ensure pedestrian flow across the interchange was possible. Cars and vehicles only stop here if pedestrians request it, potentially slowing traffic in the vicinity of the roundabout.

And pedestrians generally don't realise any of this, why would they? I know because it's my local roundabout and I've used these crossings many hundreds of times since 2015. I know because the phasing of the lights at the Bow Roundabout never varies - the cycle's always 64 seconds long and a mere pedestrian cannot speed things up. I know because I'm observant and I like analysing systems. I know not to press the four duff buttons, only the three useful ones, but I am very much in the minority.

London contains many types of button-operated pedestrian crossing but they all boil down to one of two types - those where the button stops the traffic and those where the traffic was always going to stop anyway. The Bow Roundabout has both.
DON'T PRESS - TRAFFIC WON'T STOP
DON'T PRESS - TRAFFIC STOPS ANYWAY
In the latter case what the button often does is speed up how quickly the traffic stops, which effectively creates a third category.
DON'T PRESS - TRAFFIC WON'T STOP
PRESS - TRAFFIC MIGHT STOP QUICKER
PRESS - MAKES NO DIFFERENCE
London is full of type 1 and type 2 crossings, those where pressing the button matters. These include pretty much every standalone pedestrian crossing and also those at the majority of traffic lights. But sprinkled inbetween are the pointless buttons, the ones you never needed to press but doing so probably made you feel more in control.

I've also found a really annoying type 3 variant, where the traffic stops anyway but the green man doesn't light up.



This is the junction of Prince Regent Lane with the A13 in Canning Town. There are multiple pedestrian crossings here, as befits a junction on a major arterial dual carriageway, but whoever programmed these lights did something particularly sly. The red man displays permanently, even while traffic is safely stopped at a red light, and you'll never see it turn green unless someone presses the button.

I timed the lights and it turns out traffic waits patiently here for a full minute waiting to exit Prince Regent Lane. But if a pedestrian turns up at any time during that minute they'll see a red man, not green, which is very much not what happens at any normal crossing. They could cross safely but won't discover this unless they press the button, and even then it doesn't change to green immediately by which time they could have been on the far side.

Not only is this wasting people's time unnecessarily it's also potentially dangerous. A lot of pedestrians use the change from green man to red man as a signal that they ought to hurry up and get across. If that change never happens and you decide to dash across on red, perhaps because the traffic hasn't moved in ages, you could all too easily be surprised when a car starts accelerating towards you. Other junctions on the A13 in Newham are like this too, as if the area's had its traffic lights programmed by sadists.

So keep an eye out if you're walking around town and attempting to cross a busy road at a pedestrian crossing. Sometimes that button has absolutely no effect, and other times you'll never see the green man unless you press it. Just occasionally we pedestrians are being played for fools.

 Friday, May 24, 2024

I was in Arnos Park yesterday, a large and pleasant park in Enfield just to the north of Arnos Grove station. It has two prominent physical features, one of which is the Pymmes Brook which was flowing fairly strongly after all that rain we've had. The other is the Arnos Park Viaduct, a long brick structure which was built in 1932 to carry the Piccadilly line across the valley of the aforementioned river.



The viaduct is over a quarter of a mile long and supported by 34 arches, and if you get it at the right angle can be very photogenic. It's a particularly appealing structure because you can actually walk underneath it, stepping through the arches via separate arch-shaped openings and looking ahead through a curve of corresponding gaps. Other splendid brick arches like this exist elsewhere in London, for example the Dollis Brook Viaduct on the Mill Hill East spur of the Northern line and the Wharncliffe Viaduct over the river Brent in Ealing. But I think the Arnos Park Viaduct is the longest you can actually walk properly underneath as opposed to just under, certainly anywhere on the tube network.

And that got me wondering...

What's the longest distance you can walk underneath something in London?

The longest walk under the tube: Arnos Park Viaduct (160m)

Most of the Underground runs either underground or on the surface, with bridges and viaducts very much the exception. Being able to walk underneath those viaducts is rare, at least other than via a normal pavement or subway, which is why I think Arnos Park offers the longest walk of the lot. It's not the full 34-arches-worth because the ends of the viaduct are either too low or too filled-in, plus the Pymmes Brook itself creates an obstacle that can't be crossed on foot.



By my calculations the section of viaduct to the north of the river creates a covered space about 70m in length whereas the southern section is a much longer 160m, this before a few of the arches start to be filled in for use as backrooms, lockups or somewhere for the Friends of Arnos Park to store their litter-picking facilities. But 160m is a pretty good length to be walking underneath a working railway, intermittently hearing the tiny tube trains rattling across the top.

The longest walk under the DLR: North Woolwich Road (1300m)



The DLR spends a lot more of its time in the air, indeed it's the most viaducty of all London's railways, hence the excellent views you get while whizzing across Limehouse, Deptford or Docklands. But the longest section you can actually walk underneath is on the Woolwich branch as it runs through Silvertown, immediately alongside North Woolwich Road, and covers a substantial stretch of the pavement. Start by the Silvertown Viaduct and you can stay immediately underneath the viaduct by following the pillars all the way to the Connaught Road junction, passing directly beneath West Silvertown and Pontoon Dock stations along the way. Admittedly there is one spot near Barrier Point Road where a safety barrier nudges you out fractionally and another near West Silvertown where a future building site marginally intervenes, but amazingly this under-railway jaunt is well over a kilometre long.

The longest walk under a railway: erm

If we broaden our scope to non-TfL rail lines in London, these more often run at height so there should be a good chance of finding a walking route directly underneath. But again a lot of under-viaducts are inaccessible to the public, their arches hired out for use by very small businesses, or only duck-under-able along a very short stretch. So where in the capital might be the longest covered walk beneath a stretch of railway tracks? I'm not exactly sure. I considered the shop-lined hike between London Bridge tube station and London Bridge railway station, but I don't think that goes much above 150m. I considered The Sidings, the half-dead shopping Centre underneath Waterloo's former Eurostar platforms which might be 170m all told. I considered the 200m passageway connecting both sides of Clapham Junction station which probably qualifies but isn't really what I meant. But I couldn't think of an actual bridge or viaduct that beats these, and wondered if you might be able to help me out because I bet I've overlooked something obvious.

The longest walk under a motorway: Boston Manor Viaduct (450m)



London's not overblessed with actual motorways, we only have the M1, M4, M11 plus the M25 around some of the edge. But in terms of being able to walk underneath them I think we have a clear winner which is the M4 viaduct north of Brentford. When engineers came to plot the course of the motorway across the river Brent they chose to drive it through the grounds of Boston Manor House, creating a 17-span concrete centipede that despoils the far end of the park. The mix of nature and slab blocks is very much unlike anywhere else in London, and hardly any of the drivers speeding across the top realise it's here. Arguably the elevated section just to the east is a mile longer, but most of the pavement there isn't actually underneath the motorway proper.

The longest walk under a road: erm

My best guess here is the Westway through North Kensington, another 1960s viaduct but this time carving through a more residential area. The older Harrow Road passes directly underneath, like an exhaust fume sandwich, with actual pavements that local air-breathers can choose to risk. I'm not sure quite how long the walkable section underneath the A40 is, maybe 1000m, maybe more like 400m, and next time I exit Royal Oak station I should probably go and check. But there might well be a longer stretch of road you can properly walk under, somewhere in the region of a few hundred metres, and again I seek your suggestions for what I might have missed.

The longest walk under a river: Woolwich Foot Tunnel (450m)



This is easier to ascertain. The widest river in the capital is the Thames and the longest foot tunnel underneath it is at Woolwich, has been since 1912. The tunnel itself is 504m long but some of that is needed to extend as far as the access stairs to either side, so the length that's actually underneath the river at high tide is more like 450m. It always feels longer.

The longest walk under the ground: Rotherhithe Tunnel (1000m)



Some subterranean Crossrail platforms are really long, as indeed are Crossrail subways, but we can beat those. The Rotherhithe Tunnel dips below the ground for a considerable length, which if you measure it comes to nigh exactly one kilometre from the northern portal in Limehouse to the southern portal in Rotherhithe. And it's officially walkable too, indeed I risked it for the centenary in 2008, not that I recommend any of you should follow in my footsteps. I can't think of anywhere else in the capital where you could spend a full twelve minutes at walking pace beneath the surface of the earth, not that's publicly accessible anyway, the mysterious secret Holborn tunnels being both off-piste and unquantifiable. If you know better, feel free to tell where me I'm going wrong.

 Thursday, May 23, 2024

It's Where in London? time again.

Can anyone identify where these photos were taken?
They're each from a different 'quadrant' of London.
A path, a parade, a clump of birches and a meander.



You can see the photos individually here: NW NE SW SE

You may need to work collectively.
No more than four guesses each.

Answers
NW: Vanbrough Crescent, Lime Tree Park, Northolt UB5
NE: Stansgate Road shops, Dagenham RM10
SW: Heatherlea Grove, The Hamptons, Worcester Park KT4
SE: The Beck, High Broom Wood, West Wickham BR4

For the avoidance of doubt, I will not be writing a full alphabetical series of posts called London Countries.

It sounded like a good idea, didn't it? Cosmpolitan, cultured and comprehensive, fully reflecting the world we live in across the most diverse of capital cities. Where in London do the Colombians hang out, where's the best place for Cuban food and why is the Cambodian embassy in a detached house in Willesden?



But think more deeply and it's actually a terrible idea, at least in its entirety, which is why it won't be happening.

Episode number 2 would have been Albania and I'd be starting to scrape the barrel. The embassy's in Pimlico ("Look, a building in Pimlico") and its Wikipedia article consists of just two sentences, one of which is generic. There are no streets called Albania Road, Tirana Avenue or anything, not just in London but anywhere in the UK. I could take you to an Albanian restaurant in Palmers Green, attempt to find the HQ of the Anglo-Albanian Association or tell you which West London schools Dua Lipa and Rita Ora used to go to, but it wouldn't be interesting, it'd be forced.

And look how the sequence continues...
Wednesday 5th June: Algeria
Wednesday 12th June: Andorra
Wednesday 19th June: Angola
Wednesday 26th June: Antigua and Barbuda

This sequence of intermittent mediocrity would continue until January 2028 - that's 1 in 7 blogging days for the next 3½ years - to the detriment of me posting anything enlightening instead. Yes I could skip several countries but how would I decide which, and it wouldn't then be a complete feature, and it'd still be remarkably repetitive even if I cut the list by three-quarters.

In short you might well want to read it but I am not going to write it because it's not the good idea you initially thought it was. A one-off post about Afghanistan will do nicely.

10 things that happened yesterday #generalelection

• Definitely in the 2nd half of the year, says Rishi
• Lord Cameron flies home early from visit to Albania
• Cabinet holds 4pm meeting
• Rishi announces election date in Downing Street
• GENERAL ELECTION TO BE HELD ON JULY 4TH
• Rishi ends his speech drenched by rain
• 'Things Can Only Get Better' blares in background
• Labour: "Let's change the country for the better"
• Lib Dems: "Kick Rishi Sunak out of office"
• John Curtice: "An enormous gamble"

Data 2019 → 2024
Interest rates: 0.75% → 5.25%
Inflation: 1.3% → 2.3% (via 11.1%)
Energy cap: £1179 → £1690 (via £4059)
Unemployment: 3.8% → 4.3%
Covid deaths: 0 → 230,000
FTSE: 7353 → 8367 (up 14%)
Opinion polls: 11% CON lead → 21% LAB lead

 Wednesday, May 22, 2024

London Countries (an A-Z)

1. Afghanistan 🇦🇫

In this new series I'll be visiting all the countries in the world but without leaving London. Their people, their geography, their history, their culture, their cuisine, that kind of thing. I'm kicking off with Afghanistan because it's the first country in alphabetical order, and by country I mean a sovereign state that's a member of the UN in its own right. Starting at the embassy...

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in London (31 Princes Gate, SW7)

You'll find the Afghan embassy in Princes Gate on the south side of Hyde Park, a diplomatic cluster that's widely known because the Iranian embassy interrupted the snooker finals in 1980. These very splendid five-storey houses were built in 1847 by C.J. Freake, an adherent of Italianate 'stucco classic' style, and you may know more than usual about their interiors thanks to any SAS documentaries you've consumed. These days the terrace is set back from Kensington Road behind a smart line of shrubbery and armed police patrol the limo-parking area out front, just in case. The other two embassies here belong to Thailand and Ethiopia, their flags draped prominently out front, but you won't see Afghanistan's flappy dangler unless you walk around the corner into Exhibition Road because they're based in the building on the end.



The great and good, like His Excellency Dr Zalmai Rassoul (Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary), enter through the posh doors with the twiddly ironwork. Lesser souls, like those in search of Passport, Visa, Tazkera, Power of Attorney & Other Consular Services are directed towards a minor staircase leading down into the basement which I guess was once the servants' entrance. There would have been servants once, back when this was a private house before it was purchased by the Royal State of Afghanistan in 1925. They then added a stucco annexe on the side in 1955, which currently houses their consulate section and also includes a secure garage for the parking of diplomatic cars. As the first country in alphabetical order Afghanistan has the honour of the premier 101 diplomatic registration, so for example the tinted vehicles I saw outside were [101 D 216] for the Range Rover and [101 D 217] for the Merc.

Geography & History

The word Afghan was first recorded in the 3rd century and might mean horsebreeders, whereas the name Afghanistan is a 19th century colonial designation. London has just one street named after the country which is Afghan Road SW11. It's located in a corner of Battersea just to the north of Clapham Junction, an enclave of smart 2-bed terraces built in the early 1880s by property developer Alfred Heaver. If you don't want much of a garden and have three quarters of a million to spare, they make ideal boltholes for a minimal commute. The estate was originally called Falcon Park and, as was the Victorian way, all its streets were named after key locations in recent overseas victories, in this case the Anglo-Zulu War and the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The latter was Britain's attempt to create a buffer zone between Russian territory and the Indian empire, and inevitably ended badly for those with the misfortune to live inbetween.



As well as Afghan Road, adjacent streets include...
Cabul Road: Better known these days as Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan is named after a river which flows down from the Hindu Kush. Retaken by the Taliban in August 2021 in a disastrously poor example of Western withdrawal, its female residents now live under a stiflingly strict religious regime. By contrast residents of Cabul Road can go for a walk in Christchurch Gardens whenever they like wearing whatever they choose.
Candahar Road: Better known these days as Kandahar, this southern city is one of the oldest known human settlements but has been subject to repeated international military interference over the centuries. Recent attempts at peacekeeping didn't ultimately make things better. By contrast the Lutfwaffe appear to have missed Candahar Road so property values remain high.
Khyber Road: The Khyber Pass is an exceptionally strategic trade route through the White Mountains on the border with what's now Pakistan and was once part of the Silk Road. By contrast Khyber Road is level throughout, kicks off with a Tesco Express and offers both mobile-based and machine-based payment options for on-street parking.



Estate agents know this area as 'Little India', which just goes to show how little geography and history estate agents understand.

Culture and cuisine

The Afghan diaspora in London includes many thousands who came by choice and many thousands more who fled war, poverty and religious persecution. There'd be many more if Boris Johnson had prioritised an effective airlift over saving a few cats and dogs but that's by the by. According to pre-Taliban data in 2021 the boroughs with the most Afghan-born residents are Ealing (7000), Hounslow (6400), Hillingdon (6300), and Harrow (4800). I alas aimed for none of these, having Googled for a convenient location with both an Afghan cultural centre and an Afghan bakery on opposite sides of the same street so went to Brent.



Church Road in Willesden is a busy residential street which suddenly goes all downbeat and off-piste at its northern end. Here we find net-curtained cafeterias, grill-based takeaways, Hajj-friendly travel agents, boarded-up internet cafes and absolutely no well-known chains whatsoever. The large building site on one side really isn't helping either. In 1988 three former retail units were taken over by the Afghan Islamic Cultural Centre and fronted with austere green shutters, the keyword being practical rather than attractive, and concealed behind these is a very large room which serves as a mosque for up to 1000 locals. As for the Dunya AFG Bakery across the road this better resembled a tiny workplace kitchen rather than a commercial carb dispensary. All I spied were a handful of loaves on a scant number of racks, a sign in English promoting mass catering services and another warning Beware Of Slippery Floor. I got no taste of Afghanistan from my trip to Willesden.



I tried again up the road in Neasden where Google promised me the Madina Food Centre on Neasden Lane had a fresh Afghan bakery. But it was more of an ethnic supermarket with narrow aisles crowded with provisions, perhaps with an oven at the back, and even though I walked in as far as the halal counter I spotted nothing. I realise now that I should probably have gone to Harrow instead, where the Afghan Association of London has had a base since 1995 and where the Harrow Afghan Bakery on Station Road sells what look like the sweetest flakiest powdery creme rolls, and I apologise for not doing better research before I left home.

Museum artefacts

If you're hunting for cultural items from a foreign country the V&A often comes up trumps. I headed to the South Asian wing and the Jameel Gallery, the big room with the huge Islamic carpet they illuminate twice an hour. But the drapes, sculptures and ceramics here were almost all from Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and the sole nod to Afghanistan seemed to be a temporary case showcasing modern but still traditional costumes. A bridal veil in celebratory purple, a velvet dress with metal threads, an embroidered panel in satin, a lavish prayer pouch and a hat... all representative of the stitching skills of the Hazara minority. If nothing else they were enjoying far greater scrutiny by visitors than the other artefacts designed for the wealthy, perhaps because (as it turned out) I'd fortuitously turned up on the display's first day.



I was then going to head to the National Army Museum because I remembered they had a display about the war in Afghanistan, or at least they used to, but that was when the rain started and suddenly I went off the idea. Or was that the Imperial War Museum...? Whatever, that was also too long a walk from a tube station so I went home instead. I did at least get to see an embassy, some roads and a gorgeous hat so my Afghani quest wasn't a complete letdown, but hopefully I'll do better with Albania.

One country down, 192 to go. If I keep this up every Wednesday then I should finally reach Zimbabwe in January 2028.

 Tuesday, May 21, 2024

100 tuts and a sigh

Who left that McDonalds carton beside the litter bin? Why is your basket on wheels completely blocking the aisle? Why did you set the ringer on your phone to maximum volume? Who rotated the Cyclists Beware sign so traffic can't read it? Why has nobody rotated the sign back to where it ought to be? Why is the central reservation covered in litter? Why didn't you just install non-combustible insulation in the first place? Why does it still say New Road Layout Ahead when that layout changed six years ago? What idiot allowed a car manufacturer to sponsor a cycling event? Why did they remove half the ticket machines and replace them with adverts?

Oh god not the annual 'Please carry water' campaign again? Why is the typeface on the map on platform 6 completely wrong? Why are you wearing a lanyard with your name and place of work fully visible are you an ignorant sheep or something? Why does the sign in the staff operations room have an apostrophe in the word radio's? Why did it say the next train was in 1 minute but then it took 4 minutes to arrive? Why did someone discard their Metro on top of the ventilation unit rather than putting it in the bin? Why is the track noise so incredibly loud, so loud in fact that the woman over there is having trouble telling her friend how loud the track noise is? What does London's most immersive festival even mean? Why is the display still flashing **MIND THE DOORS** even after the train has left the platform? How can we live in a so-called civilised society and yet a homeless person is asleep on that cardboard sheeting under a filthy quilt?

Why are you standing in the middle of the passageway with your arm sticking out on one side and a large bag on the other so I can't possibly walk past you, and all while walking really slowly? Why are there still six Keep 2m Apart stickers along the length of the bus shelter? Who left two newspapers and a tobacco pouch on the seat and a used paper hankie on the floor underneath? Call that a segregated bike lane? Why is there still a banner on that fence advertising a theatre show which ended last month? Which idiot left a bag of donations outside the charity shop despite the very obvious sign saying Leave No Donations? Why did that selfish driver whizz all the way down the queue of traffic and then expect to be let in at the front? Why did that fool actually let them in? Why is the handrail filthy? Why are you still displaying the March 2024 apology poster when there's a May 2024 apology poster with more up to date information?

Why are you wearing a warm winter jacket with the hood up in this weather, what are you hiding? Why is there a massively-disruptive set of 4-way temporary traffic lights just so that someone who's parked their van on the skew can hose down a stretch of gutter? How did an architect get away with creating that horrible apartment block? If an Iceland own-brand lasagne costs £1 how awful must it be? Why is your slogan Save 24/7 when in fact your shop closes every evening at 6pm? On that official fostering banner why isn't there an apostrophe in the word Childs, are the council employing illiterates these days? How have we reached the stage where a second class stamp is over five times dearer than a greetings card? Why has that driver stopped in the yellow box when he's trying to turn left? What kind of moron tags a road sign? Which self-important vigilante sprayed paint across that ULEZ boundary camera?



A poignant reminder on a Hainault street corner that three weeks ago a boy set off for school and was cut down by the irrational cruelty of man.

Why isn't this alleyway on OpenStreetMap? Which council jobsworth decided to put a No Ball Games sign on that tiny lawn when the only ball game you could play is Playing Catch Across The Rose Bushes? Why do people drop their used vapes on the ground? Why is the spider map still that horrible discredited 2017 design? Why are you letting me on the bus before you, do I look old or something? OK who smells of weed? Why is that Dad ignoring his son while he watches some pointless Star Wars video on his phone? Why has he given his child a sandwich and then told him to keep his mouth closed while he eats it? Why is a grown man willingly walking around advertising a car manufacturer in big letters on his football shirt? Why is there a sign saying Turn Around You Missed Us but it's for a cemetery?

Why is that youngster off to play golf when he should be at work? Oh for goodness sake your walking stick has fallen into the door-opening mechanism and now it won't open, how am I supposed to get off this bus are you stupid or something? Which official made the decision all those years ago to stop using ¼s and ¾s on road signs? Who left that empty cardboard box beside a lamppost? Why do people buy big electric fans anyway? OK I get why you don't want people breaking into your yard but isn't warning people that the guard dogs might "gnaw you" a bit much? Which trader parked their white van on the pavement forcing me to step out into the road? Why has so much litter been hurled along this stretch of pavement? What useful work could these two ladies be doing if the council weren't employing them to pick up litter that's been hurled along this pavement? Why is your hellhound off his leash and padding along the pavement behind you, balls swinging?

Why is there a poster on that lamppost for a dance event in another country? Why is it that if I scan the QR code on the shelter which promises Next bus information I end up on a holding page with a weather forecast which then links to the TfL Journey Planner rather than to any next bus information? Why is the aircon on this bus so incredibly loud all the time? Why are you sitting on someone's front wall shamelessly swigging lager? What is the actual point of a shop called £1 Plus? Why is that sign supposedly pointing towards the High Road Walking time 22 minutes pointing in entirely the wrong direction, does nobody check these things? How many chemicals must they have put in that waterfall to make it that unnatural blue colour? Why didn't enough people go drinking in that pub to save it from being boarded up? Why does everyone insist on crossing this busy road to get to Sainsbury's when there's a perfectly good set of traffic lights less than a minute down the road? Why don't the council add a crossing at the desire line point where people actually want it?

Why do we bother educating teenagers these days, why don't we just train them to become moped drivers because that's all they seem to end up as? Who chose the horrible highlight colour for those horrible flats? Why would I top up my Oyster card at a newsagent that can't spell Lottry? If you're going to run to try and catch the bus why for heaven's sake why are you doing it at a snail's pace in the middle of the road? Why is Tesco's clocktower five minutes slow? Does nobody care that this new block of flats has blotted out the daylight for the row of houses across the road? Why are all the platform signs still in blue rather than purple? Why has the church not yet taken down its sign claiming next Sunday is Pentecost? Why has nobody twisted the countdown signals back so that crossing pedestrians can actually read them? In what universe do Starbucks think a "crème brulée inspired cream cold foam" is something they can charge extra for?

How can we live in a civilised society if a Community Grocery food bank has to exist? That department store closed six years ago so why is there still a prominent sign pointing towards it? I know I moan about apostrophes a lot but did nobody think of checking Come and Celebrate Eid's in April and June before they printed it? Why is that excellent shop now owned by someone who can't even spell Off License? If you insist on leaving your phone sticking out of your back pocket don't you know someone's going to nick it mate? Why are there no recycling bins anywhere? Do you realise how uncomfortable 078 7036 6111 makes me feel? Whatever your sign says you don't really show All Live Sport do you? What do they do with all the leftover Metros, they must pulp tens of thousands every day? Doesn't smothering a platform with Samaritans signs just encourage sad thoughts?

Oh god you've not washed under your arms recently so why have you chosen to hold onto the grabpole immediately adjacent to my seat? Be fair, the next two trains can't both be 1 min away can they? For goodness sake why don't you wait until I've got off before you swarm on? Do you really think you can successfully give out baseless religious propaganda while wearing a 'Thug Life' cap? When did it become impossible to go on a school trip without kitting everyone out in hi-vis jackets? What is the point of having the school name and phone number on the back of those hi-vis jackets if everyone's wearing rucksacks? Why do West Ham fans think we want to read their stupid stickers everywhere? Why are you muppets paying a fortune to your gym instructors just so they can send you on a 10 minute jog round the local streets? If you think your distillery tours run on Thursday's and Saturday's why on earth would I want to come to your quiz night tonight? Why do people insist on tutting about things entirely outside their control thereby adding a relentless sheen of negativity to everything?

 Monday, May 20, 2024

THE UNLOST RIVERS OF LONDON
River Wogebourne
Shooters Hill → East Wickham → Abbey Wood → Thamesmead (5 miles)
[Wogebourne → Thames]


The Wogebourne is a five mile tributary of the River Thames in the southeast London boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley, that flows generally in a northeasterly direction, from its source in Oxleas Wood in Shooter's Hill, to Thamesmead where it joins the Thames. The Wogebourne has appeared in records since at least the fourteenth century, and has been known by other names including Woghbourne, Plumstead River, and Wickham Valley Watercourse.

...and if you're thinking "What?!" so was I. How can there be a five mile river in southeast London hardly anyone's heard of, because if you'd seen a name like Wogebourne you'd think you'd remember it. And yet it clearly exists, it has a surprisingly detailed Wikipedia page, indeed my first paragraph was cut and pasted from the first paragraph there. It also exists as an annotated blue line on OpenStreetMap, also as an unnamed wiggle on an Ordnance Survey map, so I went out and walked it...



The Wogebourne rises on the slopes of Oxleas Wood high on Shooters Hill. If you know the hilltop cafe it starts a bit east of there, deep in the woods, indeed there are multiple potential sources because all sorts of boggy trenches arise and merge across the southeastern slopes. The map says it starts by a junction of footpaths, one you might know because it's part of the first section of the Capital Ring, although I found some fairly convincing furrows further up. The first sight of a water-filled channel comes beside the big green fingerpost in the middle of the woods, where half a dozen planks also form a very minor footbridge, but these channels turn out to be two tributaries and the Wogebourne plunges on down.



This feels properly rivery. A muddy notch weaves through the trees to the left of the main path, not exactly flowing at this point but that's May for you. The separate track alongside is an offbeat treat, at one point blessed with rope swings and four separate planks for adventurous youthful crossing. A fence at the end suggests the Woodland Working Party didn't really want me coming this way but hey, these mossy banks and shady clearings are well worth the incursion. Further on are additional treetrunks laid to aid crossing and also muddier stripes which made me glad I decided to wear boots. I see why they added a footbridge here.



On the far side of the woods the brooklet turns north to follow the fences along the back of Oxleas Close, but still not really carrying any water. For the next mile the Wogebourne will be marking the boundary between Greenwich and Bexley, indeed for most of the 20th century it defined the dividing line between London and Kent, which is pretty impressive for an otherwise insignificant stream. Near the foot of the slope a final mini-bridge allows dogwalkers to enter Eastcote Gardens, perhaps Welling's least known open space, and then the muddy trench heads towards an overgrown grille and disappears from view. We've reached the bottom of Shooters Hill so there's a busy road to cross, which the Wogebourne does in a pipe which is why you've never seen it.



To try to see where it emerges look for the footpath to the left of the We Anchor in Hope pub and the BP garage, just before the Welcome to Bexley sign. Unfortunately the path is sealed off by a fence, barbed wire and railings with a sign saying DANGER Please do not distract Operatives working on ELECTRICTY which is a lie because no such operatives exist. Alas the Green Chain has been blocked here since 2007 when Woodlands Farm started locking the gates at either end of their land claiming vandalism was an issue, and despite a shedload of campaigning by the Inner London Ramblers they still refuse all access. Not only does this force a mile long diversion but it means everyone gets to miss out on a streamside walk through a haymeadow which I remember being lovely. These days you can only glimpse the buttercup slopes of the Wogebourne valley through a security fence along the edge of Footpath 245, which is scant reward, and next time you see a sign saying Permissive Footpath remember that the bastards do sometimes actually close it.



You won't see the river at the far end of the diversion, by the goats, because it runs behind the back gardens of the houses on Keats Road. Nor will you see it by the obvious dip in the road outside the Glenmore Arms, a large former pub which has inevitably become nine not very large flats. Often as a minor river crosses the suburbs you'll spot a concrete culvert behind a parapet or a narrow space between two houses where it must have passed, but not here because the Wogebourne has been summarily demoted to a pipe. That's particularly baffling up ahead because we're about to enter East Wickham Open Space, a splendid expanse of undulating heath where half a mile of stream would be entirely fitting, but alas it's all been buried.



To cross East Wickham Open Space I followed the wiggly blue line depicted on OpenStreetMap. It seemed perfect as it headed off into a long thin line of greenery labelled Bourne Spring Wood where a stream might well once have run. However I grew less convinced as I started walking gently uphill, the contours increasingly suggesting the natural path would have been off to the left much closer to the cemetery. By the time I reached the final summit the cartographic wiggles were getting sillier, almost requiring some kind of waterfall, because the former stream had patently flowed along the notch in the valley some way below. I checked later on an old OS map and the blue line on OpenStreetMap had indeed gone totally the wrong way, neither was Bourne Spring Wood originally where the map said it was. It turned out that the route of the Wogebourne, and indeed Bourne Spring Wood, had all been added to OpenStreetMap by a user called carlwev four months ago and it seems they got a fair chunk of it wrong.



But on the far side, on Wickham Lane, was a dead cert indication. A stink pipe beside the road isn't always a marker for the passage of a buried river but couple it up with a borough boundary sign AND a street called Bournewood Road AND a street called Woodbrook Road and there must be flowing water hereabouts. I even saw that water just around the bend on Woodbrook Road, but not as clearly a I'd have liked because the culvert was very overgrown and because the resident of the house alongside had just come out to tinker with his white van. But this was my first sighting for a mile and a half so that was a win.



According to a reliable map the Wogebourne is joined by a short tributary flowing down from Bostall Woods somewhere round the back of Waterdale Road, and carlwev's blue line agrees. But you can easily confirm that a river once flowed here if you just stand back, survey your surroundings and imagine. Immediately to the west the land rises rapidly to the high ground around Plumstead Common, immediately to the east is the lumpen hilltop of Bostall Woods and the only thing which could have carved this narrow gash in the sandy ridge is a relentlessly erosive river. Even if you didn't know its name, the Wogebourne must have created the contours of this suburban landscape.



Many of the sideroads to the east of Wickham Lane have a distinct dip, and at the bottom of Gatling Road is a very very tall stink pipe in precisely the right location. The Wogebourne would have crossed Bostall Hill by the Jet garage - again the dip confirms it - and must still lurk in a pipe round the backs of the houses on Woodhurst Road. Its presence is signalled on Bracondale Road by a short section where they didn't build any houses, only a much less heavy row of garages. And we know that it then crosses the railway because Crossrail had to deal with it, half a mile to the west of Abbey Wood station, reburying Culvert 615 after they'd finished.



Everything between the train tracks and the Thames was once Plumstead Marshes, so any river would have braided out across all sorts of drainage channels making further route-tracing very difficult. Wikipedia says it now feeds the canals of what's now Thamesmead, a dense and attractive network, and also the big lakes like Birchmere (pictured below). Specifically it says "the Wogebourne completes its course through a man-made lake called Southmere and a purpose-built channel named Crossway Canal which empties into the Thames at Crossness". And again I thought hang on, if a proper river flowed out into the Thames wouldn't this fact be better known, so I checked the Wogebourne's Wikipedia page and it turns out it was all written four months ago by a user called carlwev. Aha, I thought.



The reason I've never blogged about the Wogebourne before, it turns out, is that it wasn't on Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap until the start of this year. That it now appears is all down to a single individual, I hesitate to say obsessive, who chose to document it online in what seems to be over-accurate detail. The gist is right, the Wogebourne flows pretty much as described, but carlwev's cartographic certainty is unfounded and his 700 words describing the river's course undoubtedly overconfident. Moderators don't always nip in, ask questions or tone things down, and that's how I found myself following a five mile river that exists mostly unseen not quite where anyone thought it was.

 Sunday, May 19, 2024

  Arsenal title-chasing live blog
16:00 Could still win it.
16:05 Bugger.
16:23 Sigh.
16:43 Aagh.
16:45 Oooh.
 
17:22 Bugger.
17:53 Ooooooh!
17:54 Sigh.
17:59 Could still win it.
18:00 Didn't.

Every year on May 15th the people of Cheam hold a charter fair.
They have to hold it on the right day or permission lapses.
It dates back to a market charter granted by Henry III in 1259.

Also much of the above may not be true.



Firstly there is no evidence that Henry III granted a charter to Cheam in 1259 or in any other year. Tradition says he did but no historical records exist to confirm this, so it's all hand-me-down hearsay. There is thus no legal obligation to hold the fair on the right day but they still do.

Secondly there's no evidence that the fair has been held every year. Tradition says it has, indeed local figures have often gone out of their way to hold some kind of celebration even when no large event took place. During one particularly lacklustre 19th century year a resident called Granny Sloper met the terms by sticking a table of produce outside her house, during WW2 villagers set up an ice cream stall with a dartboard next to it and during the pandemic they got some children to play hopscotch in the street. But nobody knows for sure if the fair has ever failed to take place, and over 7½ centuries that possibility seems rather likely.

Thirdly the fair is no longer held on the correct day. In 2011 councillors suggested a weekend would be better for footfall reasons and since then the main fair's been transferred to the subsequent Saturday. But tradition holds strong so something always takes place on May 15th - this year it was a game of badminton outside the Red Lion in which a small group of children took on the fair's sponsor, a local mortgage broker.


I went along yesterday.



I missed the procession. This takes place at the ridiculously early hour of 9am and I was still on the wrong side of London at the time. What happens is that pupils from St Dunstan's school dress in Tudor outfits and are led through the streets by the Mayor of Sutton in his red robes. I didn't feel like I'd particularly missed out by skipping this.

Cheam Charter Fair takes place in Park Road, a historic dogleg behind The Broadway. It pretty much fills the street too, with 80-odd stalls strung out along its length and a very decent crowd of locals milling through. What I most liked was how traditional and rooted in the community it was, from the Rotary Club's Splat The Rat sideshow to the Trefoil Guild's tombola. I can't claim that the prizes in the shoe shop's lucky dip were amazing, nor that anyone genuinely needs a £1.50 'Paint your own Shortbread Biscuit' kit, but the tat level was a lot lower than your average contemporary streetfair.

And sure the usual array of home-baking entrepreneurs had turned up attempting to sell gift-wrapped slabs of Rocky Road, but they weren't winning out because the best cakes were selling out fastest from the clingfilmed trays on the Mothers Union table. And OK multiple Etsy-style craft ladies had turned up attempting to flog things they'd been sewing all winter, but the crowd was actually larger round the Hook-A-Boat paddling pool where a 50p dip could win you a Swizzels fruit lolly. And admittedly a local heating company had dressed up a Worcester boiler in a cape and was claiming it as a mascot, but the good people of Cheam were sensibly giving their table of sponsored gonks a wide berth. The two constables sent to police the event looked like they were having the best day.

Best of all, the Lumley Chapel was open.



St Dunstan's church was founded just over 1000 years ago, and mostly demolished in the 1870s when burgeoning Cheam needed a less dilapidated place of worship. But the Duke of Bedford refused permission to demolish his private chapel so they kept the end section and filled it with all the old memorials and plaques from the remainder of the church. The Lumley Chapel now stands alone in the churchyard beside its Gothic replacement and since 2002 has been entrusted to the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. For Charter Fair day it was unlocked and the local populace came for a look inside, regularly entertained by historian Andrew Skelton giving a quick explanatory tour.



The major monuments are those of Tudor courtier John Lumley and his two wives, he the lucky sod who inherited Henry VIII's nearby palace of Nonsuch through marriage. The most ornate memorial is that of his first wife Jane, the front of which depicts their three children in alabaster standing in front of a recognisably palatial backdrop. The Lumley vault is a steep shallow space just down there, said John, pointing to the ringed flagstone one of us was standing on. Most of the other commemorative clutter is from later well-to-do families, and John went on to point out how many of them had been referenced in a local street name. The only part of the chapel that's properly pre-Norman are the windowy remnants in the flinty exterior, since-filled in, but that's enough to make this the oldest building in the entire borough of Sutton.

If you want to look inside the Lumley Chapel you don't have to wait until Charter Fair day, the key is kept at Cheam Library nextdoor. Unfortunately Sutton council are increasingly skint so the majority of its libraries have just been switched to a Self-Access model which means you can no longer walk in off the street without a library card (or app) and PIN. Staff are now only provided on Wednesdays, Thursdays and alternate Saturdays, and without someone behind the desk you'll never get the key because this is the miserable cheapskate future austerity has delivered.

In better news a key is also available at the next building I visited, although that's recently had its Saturday opening hours cut thanks to the same cultural budget squeeze imposed last month, damn you Eric Pickles.


I finished off my visit in Whitehall.



That's Whitehall the 520-year-old timber-framed house, one of the cluster of wooden Tudor buildings in Cheam along The Broadway. You can tell it's special just by looking at it, and if it's open you can also see how a recent splash of lottery money has improved the offering within. First up is a little gift shop offering Cheamy publications and a foursome of Cheamy badges, then you're free to head off and explore across two storeys and a spacious attic. A few relics from Nonsuch survive downstairs, displayed alongside a rather splendid model of the very splendid palace. A lot of rooms however display little but information panels, for example a Cheam Discovery Trail you could follow or a look at the former agricultural bounty hereabouts - specifically lavender, peppermint and watercress.

Upstairs the interior decoration gets a bit more thematic and focuses on former residents, which I think is why the largest attic room is full of maritime ephemera and makes seashore noises. I would have like to read more about the actual building itself, for example the marvellously steep and twisty attic staircase, but maybe I missed that part. When you're done there's also a decent sized garden which contains a 20 foot deep well, suitably railinged off, and perhaps a cafe too if council accountants have deemed it worthy of keeping open. And all this is free to visit (it was £1.60 last time I came in 2009) but perhaps that's a condition of the lottery funding. Hurrah anyway.



Cheam might look very 1930s, but at its heart are Saxon and Tudor treasures and a medieval Charter Fair, making it unlike almost anywhere else in London.

If charter fairs are your thing a reminder that Pinner's is coming up in 10 days time, although that's more high street fairground and a mere 14th century youngster.

 Saturday, May 18, 2024

As science evolves, so does the Science Museum.

But to open new galleries they have to close old ones, and next for the chop is The Secret Life of the Home.



This much-loved corner of the basement, where the life of the domestic appliance is quirkily celebrated, closes forever on Sunday 2nd June. I went for a last look round with a wall-to-wall smile, and if you want to do the same you have three weekends left.

The basement has long been a child-friendly part of the museum, somewhere that button-pushing and lever-pulling has always been encouraged. The first Children's Gallery opened in 1931, revamped in 1969 with more interactive exhibits including a Van de Graaf generator, multiple pulleys and a small gold ball you could never grab. In 1986 this was augmented by a more wideranging and resilient attraction upstairs (Launchpad, now Wonderlab, entrance fee £12) before finally being replaced by the gallery we're mourning today.



The Secret Life of the Home opened in 1995 as an evolution of the former domestic appliance gallery. The mastermind behind the transformation was the cartoonist/engineer Tim Hunkin, he of the amazing arcade machines under Southwold Pier and at Novelty Automation. He'd recently made a series 'The Secret Life of Machines' for Channel 4 so the Science Museum took him on to refurbish the old gallery and then extend it along a corridor, preferably as cheaply as possible. Tim wanted to get away from nebulous themed displays and rediscover the joys of glass cases overstuffed with objects and cryptic labels, and built up the new interactive gallery one case at a time over the course of a two year period. You can read a fascinating 10,000 word account of how he did it, battling conservation guidelines, fire regulations and over-energetic foreign students, here on Tim's reassuringly old-school website.



The first case you see on entering is full of toilets, which is quite the curtain raiser. One's sliced in half so you can see how the cistern works, and it was once possible to spin a wheel and send a model turd around the U-bend. Close by is the Home Security room with its passive infra-red alarm system to defeat, and alongside is the red Automatic Door that's been delighting children at the museum since 1933. A photo shows its 13½ millionth opening in 1967, and I added two more before it closes for good. The all-pervading electronic beeps you can hear are from a game of Pong, the original two-bat video game from 1978 which astonishingly is still the most popular exhibit in the gallery - every passing child wants to stop and twiddle. A Commodore Vic 20, a Victorian Singer sewing machine, a yellow Hoover upright, a modern Bosch power drill, a wide-ranging selection of light switches and a set of five motorised hot water bottles... they're all here.

Turn right and it's mostly kitchen appliances and boilers.



Cooking: Enjoy a complete wallful from iron ranges to microwave ovens, the latter fully documented because they were cutting edge in 1995. I particularly liked the evolution of toasters, the dollop of baked beans on a postwar electric hob and the modern plastic kettle some jobsworth's had to stick an 'Unsafe' sticker on.
Tea & Coffee: Many thanks to Mr and Mrs Davey of Warminster for donating their 1966 Goblin Teasmade.
Food Preparation: Oh gosh, we had a Kenwood foodmixer exactly like that when I was a child, just not sliced in half so you could see its innards.
Irons: A particularly Tim Hunkin touch is that one of the irons is a half-melted gooey mess, this to demonstrate the importance of not removing the safety thermal link.
Refrigerators: I confess I wasn't so much looking at the fridges, more at the 1990s packaging inside... four McCain Deep Crust Pizza Slices, four Iceland Chargrilled Quarter Pounders, two Heinz Weight Watchers low fat Dessert Bombes and a pack of twelve St Ivel Shape fruit yoghurts.
Washing: Gasp at the size of a labour-saving blanket bath, or turn the four wheels in the right order to see how the mechanics of a washing machine do their thing.
Heating: Where else in London are you going to see a comprehensive display of Imitation Coal Effects, or indeed an advert asserting that 'Modern Folk use Hard Coke for comfort in the home'?

Or turn left up the home entertainment corridor.



TV: Follow the evolution of screen size from pre-war miniature to still-not-enormous Sony Trinitron. There's also a functioning cathode ray tube to twiddle with.
Radio: As expected, huge wooden cabinets with Hilversum on the display, handbag sized transistor radios and something tiny Sinclair once sold.
Hi-Fi: "Mummy, why does the old Grammo phone have a brass trumpet, why is there an entire case of reel-to-reels and why do I need to know how a CD player works?"
On The Move: Before the Walkman and the Handycam there was the solid state Super 8 automotive tape player.
Valves: This cabinet also includes a record press, stereo cartridges, crystal pickups and a selection of gramophone needles. Look carefully and there's a label in the corner which is the best label in any museum anywhere, not just the basement of the Science Museum...



Tim's gallery is marvellous stuff, playfully displayed, and intensely nostalgic for anyone over 40. But what was once cutting edge is now wildly out of date and entire chapters are missing, the youngest appliances now being three decades old. The Secret Life of the Home is alas no longer How Things Work but more How Things Worked, so you can see why the Science Museum might be mothballing it. They promise to add the items to their online collection, for what it's worth, but will then despatch the entire exhibit to the museum's Science and Innovation Park for storage. This amazing warehouse will finally be opening for public tours later this year, but even if you can be arsed to go to a field south of Swindon don't expect the opportunity to play with all of The Secret Life of The Home ever again.



We don't yet know what'll fill the space left by this basement gallery, only that its long-term future is still "being considered by teams across the museum". But you don't have to go far around the museum to find multiple examples of something modern replacing something old. I found a 2013 map of the Science Museum online and used it to walk round and see what's disappeared over the last decade. It's a lot.
5th floor: Medicine (entire floor closed to the public in 2015)
4th floor: Medicine (entire floor closed to the public in 2015)
3rd floor: Flight, Science in the 18th century (became Wonderlab in 2016)
2nd floor: Shipping (became The Information Age in 2014), Mathematics and Computing (became Mathematics in 2016), Energy (replaced by the Clockmakers Museum in 2015), Public History (became Science City 1550-1800 in 2019)
1st floor: Cosmos & Culture, Time, Agriculture (all became Medicine in 2019), Materials (became Engineers/Technicians in 2023)
Ground floor: Energy Hall, Exploring Space, Making The Modern World
Much of this makes perfect sense. It's quite frankly astonishing that the Agriculture gallery with its tractory dioramas lingered until 2017, and the Computing gallery didn't really need an intricate explanation of how punched cards worked. But a lot of really fabulous exhibits disappeared from view when these old galleries closed, their replacements much sparser in content and increasingly focused on 'themes'. We're not yet at the stage where screens and images outnumber actual physical artefacts, but the direction of travel seems inexorably towards displays you could instead experience sitting at home online.

And which gallery's closing next? Amazingly it's this one.



The Exploring Space gallery, the long dark room with the dangling Soyuz rockets, is scheduled to be emptied and replaced by the Horizons Gallery, "the Science Museum’s new landmark gallery exploring how today's scientific discoveries are shaping our future". We're told "it will be the destination for our audiences to discover and learn about the most exciting and impactful science stories transforming lives today and extending what we know about ourselves, our planet and our universe", indeed we were first told this a year ago today so don't act surprised. Expect permanent displays of iconic objects and a programme of regularly changing exhibits telling stories through innovative digital displays and other media, with a particular focus on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. It should be better than it sounds.

And don't worry, space travel will be finding a new home in the West Hall of the millennial Wellcome Wing, most likely on the ground floor where the Covid vaccine story is currently being cleared out. But I bet there'll be less of it, the rest pensioned off to a shed in Wiltshire you'll likely never visit, as the museum looks more to the future than the past. If you like stuff, especially household appliances in cases with quirky labels, come sooner rather than later.


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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
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