Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Urban Wandering: Paddington to Marylebone High Street

I had a break from urban wandering last week, thanks to a much needed holiday where we went skiing in France. I had hoped during my week off that I would find time to continue my reading, but unfortunately I only managed a few chapters on the plane. I am still reading Brendon Chase and thoroughly enjoying it, and whilst I never ran away to the woods as a kid, the childhood memories are coming flooding back, the ones where the school summer holidays seemed to last for ever and were always hot and sunny. I'm also dipping into Iain Sinclair's Lights Out for the Territory but have to be alert and awake when I read that one as, for me anyway, it requires considerably more concentration.

I've restarted my adventures this week, although the weather is not exactly inspiring me to go too far afield. I can't wait until the days get warmer and the evenings lighter, when I can get a better chance to explore further afield after work rather than sticking to my regular lunchtime haunts. I've built quite a list of places to visit.

My stroll this week took me across from Paddington to Marylebone High Street. This is a route I have walked many times, usually paying a visit to the excellent Daunt bookshop, or the Oxfam book shop, and Marylebone High Street and its surrounding streets is probably one of the first places that alerted me to a different London many years ago.

My loose purpose for this wander however was to see if I could find a small mews that contained a couple of car showrooms. I first discovered this walking back in the dark one evening, and despite making a mental note I can't quite pinpoint where it was. I am familiar with the one in Radley Mews, and stare longinly in the windows each time I pass, often imagining myself as Steed or Mrs. Peel in one of their e-type Jaguars, but this new one continues to allude me and I was not successful on this trip either. I did however come across a small mews-like road that I'd not seen before ... Durweston Street. Excuse the greyness of the pictures but the weather was not on my side that day.

 Durweston Street, London W1

 Durweston Street, London W1

I'm hoping to get another chance later this week for some more urban exploring, but again the weather forecast doesn't suggest I'll be able to get any decent pictures. Watch this space ...

    

Friday, 15 February 2013

Urban Wandering: the Great Wall of Marylebone

Despite being somewhat disappointed today that after a clear blue morning, lunchtime was overcast, I decided to venture out regardless for a bit more urban exploration. My wanderings today took me across from Paddington towards the area adjacent to Marylebone station. Whilst of course Marylebone station looks rather grand from the front, what I've always liked about it is the perimeter wall to the east of the station, that flanks the rail lines as they head on up through West Hampstead, Buckinghamshire and further afield.

The eastern perimeter wall of Marylebone Station, Boston Place, London.
The eastern perimeter wall of Marylebone Station, Boston Place, London.
 
Ghost street sign, Boston Place, Marylebone, London.
Ghost street sign, Boston Place, Marylebone, London.

I wonder if these muse style houses in Boston Place opposite the great wall were perhaps railway worker's houses at one time.

Old houses in Boston Place, Marylebone, London.
Old houses in Boston Place, Marylebone, London.

Alleyway off Huntsworth Mews, Marylebone, London.

Still with a great thirst for my rekindled passion, I have now finished Merlin Coverley's Psychogeography. I won't say I found it an easy read, but it was full of information that I can see myself returning to as I get deeper into the subject. I've now moved on to my next psychogeography related books, and following some sound advice have decided to read them simultaneously as one requires a bit more concentration than the other. The first of the two books is Brendon Chase, by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, which is children's story written way back in 1944, and referenced in Edgelands which I have also recently finished reading. As you might imagine, written back in 1944 it's not particularly politically correct by today's standards, but so far it's been a great read and almost makes me wish that all the passive entertainment of games consoles, mobile phones and DVD's were not so readily available, and kids had to go out and explore more. My second book, the one requiring more concentration, is Lights Out for the Territory, by Iain Sinclair. I have only read the first few pages of this, and was tired at the time, so this is definitely one to read with my morning cup of tea, as opposed to my bed time cocoa.

    

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Urban Wandering: London Docklands

I'm always a bit nervous about writing a blog post that features no pictures to break up my writing. However, the weather during my Urban Wandering today was too grey for taking decent pictures, and far too cold to take my gloves off. I have actually cheated a bit as you'll see as you read down through the article. My wandering today was half-planned, and half-forced upon me but some minor tube closures at Paddington. My original intention was to travel as far as Whitechapel by tube and then walk down to Canary Wharf from there, but I ended up taking a far more circuitous route because of the tube situation. Instead I caught a bus over to Bank, another to Shoreditch High Street, and then the Overground to Shadwell from where I then started my wander down to Canary Wharf.

If I'm honest the walk between Shadwell and Limehouse wasn't particularly inspiring. Maybe this was the route I found myself following, which was along a busy, main road. Fortunately, despite the fog, I could see my destination towering above the low rise flats, so there was no need to get my phone out for navigation purposes. Once I arrived at the westerly end of Narrow Street, the wander became more interesting, passing old pubs and wharves, after which I dropped down on to the Thames path and made my way along to Westferry Circus before heading up to Canary Wharf. I still know relatively little about this whole area, so it's another place to revisit, but when the weather is better! Also, having looked across the Thames quite frequently over the past few weeks, I've become curious about what's on the other side of the Thames and am tempted to take the ferry crossing to visit what I assume is the Rotherhithe, Bermondsey and Deptford area.

My journey home was a bit shorter as I had to get home in time for my Shrove Tuesday pancakes, but I did manage to walk from Canary Wharf to Westferry. This short walk took me through parts of the London docklands I'd not visited before, and right past the London Docklands Museum, which is already on my to visit list. Whilst I like to docklands, there doesn't seem to be much of the original docklands left, so I'm hoping that when I do manage to find time to visit the museum then I'll get a better glimpse of what it was like in its hey-day, before becoming run-down, and then recreated as a glass and steel banker's theme park.

As time was running short I caught the DLR at Westferry back to Tower Gateway. For the urban explorer, this is a great route to take, especially on a cold day. The majority of the journey is above ground, and all sorts of glimpses of disused London can be clearly seen from the train. One site that was particularly evocative was a fox on the curve of a disused railway track bed that peeled away to the north west just before the train pulled into Tower Gateway. I had no idea where this track would have led, but a quick check in my 1928 London guide book showed that it led to a goods station just south of Aldgate East.

Map of part of East London and London Docklands from 1928 guide book
Map of part of East London and London Docklands from 1928 guide book

And also a couple of vintage postcards that help give a better impression of what the approach to the docks was once like.

vintage postcard of tower bridge, london

vintage postcard of the pool of london

I've always had a passion for exploring London, but this passion has been renewed over the past few weeks, through two of my recent reads Edgelands and Psychogeography.

    

Friday, 8 February 2013

Urban Wandering: Paddington to Ladbroke Grove

Being fortunate enough this week to have a decent length lunch break, I ventured out for a cold and crisp urban wander out towards Ladbroke Grove. Although I've walked some of these streets many times before, I was still surprised, as always, to come across a small alleyway or cul-de-sac mews that was new to me. Heading west from Paddington along the Westbourne Grove is always a great walk with so much contrast in all of the residential and commercial buildings, from old mews to relatively new housing estates, from Victorian shop fronts, to garish, more recent additions. But the real jewels were to be found off the main road.

The first two pictures are of Bridstow Place. Although the sky was blue and the sun was shining for much of my walk, it was decidedly overcast at this point so unfortunately the photo does not do the location justice. The houses along this road are simply beautiful, and could almost be in a Cornish fishing village if it wasn't for the constant hum of traffic on the main roads which run to the north and south.

Looking north along Bridstow Place, London W11
Looking north along Bridstow Place, London W11

Looking south along Bridstow Place, London W11
Looking south along Bridstow Place, London W11

The next picture shows some unidentified mews at the southern end of Bridstow Place, which I stumbled across after having been through a couple of narrow alleyways. I'm pretty sure I would never have found them if I was coming from the other direction. Unlike many of the mews I have seen previously, what struck me about these ones was the uniformity of the design, and the uniformity of the (presumably) restored features. Whereas many other mews houses have converted their garages into living accommodation, or have potted shrubs outside the house, these ones seem remarkably untainted.

Unidentified Mews, near Bridstow Place, London W11
Unidentified Mews, near Bridstow Place, London W11
 
By complete contrast, this picture of the houses in Lancaster Road was taken only a few minutes apart from the pictures above, and as you can see the sky was a magnificent blue, making the vibrant colours of the houses even more appealing. Normally seeing brick painted over in this fashion makes me shudder, but here it seems to work well.
Lancaster Road, London W11
Lancaster Road, London W11

By the time I got to St. Luke's Mews below, I was almost out of time and aware that I needed to get back to the office, so I only had the shortest of opportunities to take a quick photo before heading off. Definitely one to return to when I have more time as I'm curious to know what lies down the far end.

St. Lukes Mews, London W11
  St. Lukes Mews, London W11

Although the next picture was taken in a mews, the mews itself was not especially remarkable, whereas the old advertisement painted on to the wall was of more interest. It's quite difficult to decypher what's written, but I think it says "Boundary Warehouse, Bottling Stores, Packing Warehouse, Office". The name of the company is written above this but even harder to read ... it could be "Llyerell & Fry", but internet searches don't help much here. Maybe one of my more sleuth-like readers can shed some light on this? And sure enough, I have been contacted by someone who has confirmed the name to be "Leverett and Frye" who were a firm of grocers.
Powis Mews, London W11
Powis Mews, London W11

So, as the evenings get lighter, I am hoping to undertake even more urban wandering after work. On the London list so far is Shoreditch, Bermondsey and Camberwell, and on the Edgelands list is my very own Edgelands, Ruislip Gardens, Rusilip and Ruislip Manor, where I spent the early years of my life. Almost each chapter in the Edgelands book brought back memories of my childhood and I'm curious to see if those places are still there.

On the subject of Edgelands, I have now finished Paul Farley and Michael Symmons' excellent book, and have now moved on to a more reference based account of Psychogeography, in Merlin Coverley's Psychogeography. For me personally it's a much harder read than Edgelands, but is acting as an excellent introduction and reference to the wider field of Psychogeography. From completing Edgelands and from only just starting Psychogeography, I now have an even longer list of places to visit and books to read now. However, top of my books to read list has to be Brendon Chase, which is referred to in Edgelands. I'll say no more about that for now but will give a more thorough account once I've read it.

    

Friday, 1 February 2013

Urban Wandering: Limehouse to Canary Wharf

I was delighted this week to have found some time for space and unusually it was on my way to work. I found myself with about half an hour before I needed to get to Canary Wharf where I had a meeting for the day. Firstly I decided to take the Docklands Light Railway as it's much more enjoyable being above ground, and this particular DLR route offers views of some great Edgelands, and secondly with time to spare I alighted at Limehouse and walked the 30 minutes or so to Canary Wharf. The morning was clear and a little cold, so I was hoping to get some half-decent photos. If I say so myself, those I did manage to take are rather striking.

View across moored boats to residential area near Limehouse

 Looking eastwards along the River Thames, not long after sun rise

Residential buildings now flank the sides of a huge dock

  Looking west along the River Thames towards the Shard

Approaching Canary Wharf

In other news I am now about half-way through Edgelands and thoroughly enjoying it. Each chapter covers a different aspect of Edgelands, and having grown up on the outskirts of London, essentially between the city and the countryside, the childhood memories are flooding back. I really cannot recommend this book enough. I also bought Psychogeography of which the content of Edgelands could probably be considered a sub-topic. I've yet to start this one but curiously it has been picked up by my wife who has been inspired by it in relation to an art project she has just undertaken.

    
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