Posts Tagged ‘Brompton’

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich: I was back in London’s docklands on 16th May 2004, a week after I had led a small workshop there, this time on my own, and rather than walking I had gone with my Brompton folding bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

The Brompton is an ideal way to cover larger distances when taking photographs. It can be folded to go on public transport and is very easy to get on and off and park in little or no space. It folds and unfolds in seconds. It’s a lively ride with a short wheelbase and good for riding in traffic, though for longer rides I prefer my road bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

The Brompton has some minor problems. They are not cheap – which delayed me buying one for years. It’s not built for off-road use and mine has mudguards that can clog and stop the wheel turning on muddy ground. And now I’m a bit older it is just a little heavy to carry for any distance in stations. But my main problem is that it is a thief magnet, dangerous to leave anywhere for any length of time even if you have a good lock. No bike lock can defy the well-equipped thief for more than around half a minute and it slips easily into a car boot and fetches a good price.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

I’d hoped to get the Jubilee Line to Canning Town, but trains were only running as far as North Greenwich, so instead I got off at Canary Wharf before the train went under the Thames again. It was no problem as I had the bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

I took a few pictures around Canary Wharf, then rode off to the east past Blackwall Basin and on to the East India Docks probably the most boring of all the redeveloped docks.

From there I went up on the Lower Lea Crossing, taking pictures of Pura Foods to the north and the view south across Trinity Buoy Wharf and the Thames towards the Millenium Dome.

I photographed the Dome again from Silvertown Way, as well as the works taking place for the DLR extension to London City Airport.

A big advantage of being on a bike is that you can wander around, and I went down to the Royal Victoria Dock, then back to Silvertown Way and Lyle Park, then back to Victoria Dock again.

I couldn’t resist going onto the high level bridge across the dock, though the lift wasn’t working and I was cursing the weight of the bike and cameras by the time I reached the top of the stairs.

Eventually after making rather a large number of pictures I forced myself to come down and continued my ride along the North Woolwich Road to the futuristic Barrier Point, its west front like some space city.

In Thames Barrier Park I went down to the riverside to photograph the barrier before continuing on to Silvertown, stopping a few times for more pictures. Near North Woolwich I sloweed to photograph two boys on a scooter being towed by a woman on a bicycle. I stopped take more pictures but later I met them in North Woolwich and they told me she had soon given up.

I took some more pictures in North Woolwich and then rode on to Beckton Retail Park, then turned around and went down Woolwich Manor Way across the Royal Albert and King George Docks.

Back in 2004 flights from London City Airport were fairly infrequent and I had quite a long rest waiting to photograph a plane going overhead.

I rode on to North Woolwich ferry pier where I had a wait for the ferry and took some more pictures. In 2004 I wrote that the Woolwich Ferry is “London’s best-value river trip. I wonder how much longer this free ferry will operate?” It was upgraded in 2018 with new, modern, low-emission boats which proved rather a disaster. Services had been severely reduced, working with only one of the two new boats.

But Transport for London a week ago in May 2024 restored the two-boat service and expanded operating hours. They say the service will continue as long as there is demand. A short ride took me to Woolwich Arsenal Station where I folded the Brompton for the journey home.

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Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison – 2017

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison: Saturday 13th May 2017 was the 11th protest outside Yarl’s Wood in the Movement for Justice campaign to shut down this and other immigration detention centres.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

For once the weather was fine and there was little or no mud in the field facing the prison. And for some reason – perhaps the windows had been cleaned – we could see the detainees more clearly than on some previous occasions. And I seem to have written rather more clearly than on some occasions about the day – so here I’ll just reproduce the text from My London Diary, with a few of the pictures.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

I’d caught the train from St Pancras to Bedford as usual, but instead of waiting for the MfJ bus had brought my Brompton, so could just jump on it and cycle towards Yarlswood. It was a ride of around 6 miles, mainly along side roads or on cycle paths beside busier roads, and it was a pleasant enough ride, though Yarl’s Wood is on a former airfield on a plateau rather higher than the city, and so it was uphill quite a lot of the way. And the climb up from the nearest village, Milton Ernest, was rather long and steep, though at least I didn’t have to bother about traffic, as the police had closed the road. But I was a little out of breath and tired as I arrived.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

But Yarl’s Wood really is in the middle of nowhere, making those inside feel very isolated, and visits to them by anyone without a car are tedious and expensive for those on low income. So events like this are important in reminding those inside that they have not been forgotten.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

There were several hundreds of people already at the roadside – and a long row of coaches that had brought them there, and there were speeches and chanting while they waited for others to arrive.

Most of the detainees are women, but there are men in a family section of the prison

From the road there is still a long walk along field edges following a public footpath, around three-quarters of a mile. Parts of this were heavy going on the Brompton, not designed for off-road use, and I did have to walk part of the way, as well as occasionally stopping to photograph the marchers, now around a thousand strong.

When the protesters arrived at the field in front of the tall fence around the centre, they were welcomed by shouts and waving from those imprisoned inside who held up messages calling for justice in the narrow slits the windows open. Only those who could get to the upper windows on the block facing the fence could see the protest, but others inside could certainly hear it.

There were speeches from former detainees, including several women who had been held at Yarl’s Wood, including Mabel Gawanas who was recently released a few days short of 3 years inside, and other former immigration detainees. People kicked on the fence to make a terrific racket and held up banners, posters and placards to show the detainees in what the protesters describe as as ‘racist, sexist hell-hole’ they have not been forgotten. Some inside spoke to the protest by mobile phone.

Some of the protesters climbed ladders to hold banners and placards above the first solid 10 feet of the 20 foot fence, while others had long poles or lit flares to make the protest more visible. A few yards back from the fence where the ground slopes up we could see those at the windows and photograph them through the mesh fence, though it wasn’t easy.

I left as the protest began to draw to a close, cycling back along the footpath to the road and then enjoying the long downhill stretch to the village and the main road. But I had to pay for this, as a short uphill modern stretch of road off stretched me almost to exhaustion. 40 metres doesn’t sound a lot, but feels in on a bike. And while the road up from Milton Ernest does the climb at a fairly sensible rate, Oakley Hill up from the A6 is at least twice as steep. I should have got off and walked, but pride doesn’t allow it unless it becomes really impossible. For some reason my three-speed gear had decided to be a two speed gear, but probably it wouldn’t have helped here as I think it was only the top gear I was missing – and I needed something considerably lower. But after than it was downhill most of the way to Bedford and a train probably an hour earlier than had I been on the bus.

More pictures at Shut down Yarl’s Wood Prison,

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Christmas Displays – 2003

Tuesday, December 26th, 2023

Christmas Displays – Back in December 2003 I walked and cycled over much of the outer areas of London to photograph the Christmas displays that people had put on the outside of their houses, sometimes collecting large amounts for charities. Twenty years ago I was of course 20 years younger and considerably fitter – and had been told by my doctor to get a lot of exercise after a rather minor heart op at the start of the year.

Christmas Displays

Christmas Displays

My heart attack had coincided with a couple of other important events in my life at the end of 2002, the start of my change to digital photography with the purchase of a Nikon D100, one of the first affordable digital SLR cameras capable of professional quality, and of a folding bicycle. This camera and the Brompton were both essential to this project, as was the Internet, where I appealed for details of where the more interesting displays could be found.

Christmas Displays

Cameras have improved considerably over that 20 years and photographically it would be much easier to take pictures like this now, with cameras having a greater dynamic range and also many incorporating easy to use HDR modes. This was one of the few projects I’ve carried out where the use of a tripod – a sturdy Manfrotto – was essential, and for some images I was able to combine two different exposures.

Christmas Displays

Here with minor corrections is what I wrote about these pictures 20 years ago:

Christmas is on its way, and houses all over Britain are beginning to display the signs, some more tastefully than others. Some I’ve found are rather impressive, others I find amusing, but your opinions may well differ.

Christmas has almost completely lost the connection it had to the nativity, and the ‘Christmas Story’ is now one of cash registers and a Santa Claus who owes as much to advertising as to Saint Nicholas. Originally of course this was a pagan festival, from over 4000 years ago, the feast of the goddess of nature, an occasion for drinking, gluttony and gifts, so perhaps we really are getting down to our roots for once.

Many celebrations, especially those for Yule (the ‘wheel’ or sun) were on the winter solstice – the shortest daylight, usually on Dec 21 or 22, when the rebirth of the sun was celebrated. Pope julius I decided it would be a good idea for Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Dec 25th back in 350AD, so that Christians could go on celebrating Yule and not feel bad about it, celebrating the birth of the son while others were celebrating the birth of the sun.

Christmas as we know it only came in around the 1500s in Germany, many of its customs only arriving here when Victoria married Albert. Our modern picture of Santa developed in the USA in the mid nineteenth century, particularly in the drawings of Thomas Nast for ‘Harpers’, and the jovial fat bearded man in red and white was well-established before Haddon Sundbloom annexed him for his fantastically successful coke adverts. Although Coca-Cola didn’t invent Santa, it was largely the power of their advertising that sold him around the world.

These decorated houses, often an attempt to go one better than the Joneses, have become an urban folk art; one of the glories of folk art is that it is seldom polite or tasteful, sometimes incredibly kitsch and over the top. Despite my misgivings on grounds of religion, ecology, upbringing and reserve I love them. At the very least they add a little colour to our lives.

My London Diary

Some of the better pictures are on the page linked above, which also has some more about my travels around London in search of them, but others are rather scattered around on other pages from the month.

Now I’m out to get a little exercise, with a five mile walk to a meal with relatives which has become a tradition with us on Boxing Days. Last year I wrote a little about this on >Re:Photo in the post Boxing Day Walks (and Rides) with pictures from 2005.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Thames Estuary – Benfleet, Leigh and Canvey – 2005

Sunday, October 15th, 2023

Thames Estuary – Benfleet, Leigh and Canvey. I’ve photographed the Thames east of London on many occasions and found much of interest, but I’ve relatively seldom ventured right out to the real Thames Estaury, though there is no real consensus where that begins as the Wikipedia entry discuses. For some purposes it includes virtually all of the river in London, the tidal Thames which begins at Teddington, and extends all the way east, at least to the Isle of Grain.

Thames Estuary - Benfleet, Leigh and Canvey

In my own own working definition I think of the estuary as meaning the river to the east of Greater London, the shores of Essex and Kent, perhaps as far as Southend to the north and Grain on the south. But by any definition this day of cycling out from Benfleet in Essex was definitely around the estuary.

Thames Estuary - Benfleet, Leigh and Canvey

Back in May 2023 I published here a piece here on the exhibition Estuary held ten years earlier to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Museum of London Docklands in 2013 when I was delighted the show included ten of my panoramas along with work by eleven artists, some of them rather well-known. But none of the pictures in the Museum collection were taken on this ride, where I made only a few panoramas, none of which are yet on-line.

Thames Estuary - Benfleet, Leigh and Canvey

On Saturday 15 October 2005 I took my Brompton on the train to London, then on the tube to West Ham where I changed to a train to Benfleet station in South Benfleet. The road leads down from here towards Canvey Island, but a track leads off to the east just before the bridge running alongside Benfleet Creek. The public footpath I could cycle along leads all the way beside the Creek and then between Hadleigh Marshes and Two Tree Island and on to a bridge over the railway close to Leigh-on-Sea Station.

Thames Estuary - Benfleet, Leigh and Canvey

From there I had to cycle along the road, rather less pleasant as there was quite a lot of traffic and even in October quite a few people who had come to enjoy the seaside. Leigh has pubs, tea rooms, fishing boats and more, but I’d soon had enough and turned around to ride back.

This time I took the road and bridge across to Two Tree Island. There is a crossing to the island you can take at low water but I didn’t take my bike across although I saw others doing so. There are rather more than two trees, but only one road, though with several car parks and it ends at a jetty where I could look across Hadleigh Ray to Canvey Island but go no further.

I turned around, cycled back over the bridge and along the footpath back to the bridge to Canvey Island which I then spent some time exploring and photographing. I think I had last been here in 1982 did recognise some of the places I’d photographed back then, but also found quite a lot more to photograph. I don’t think any of those earlier images are on-line as by the time I scanned them the images had deteriorated badly.

Too soon it was time to get back on my Brompton again and ride back to Benfleet for the train back to London.

See many more pictures from my ride on My London Diary.

On My Brompton in Essex – 2004

Saturday, August 26th, 2023

On My Brompton in Essex: On Thursday 26th August 2004 I went for a ride on my Brompton in Essex on the north bank of the Thames, in an area sometimes known as the Thames Gateway. If anyone doesn’t know, the Brompton is one of the best folding bikes around, with 16 inch wheels, folding quickly to a fairly small package which can be carried onto trains and buses. I don’t ride it so much now, as I find it rather heavy to carry, particularly when loaded with my camera gear.

On My Brompton in Essex
Chafford Hundred, Grays, Essex

I bought the Brompton at the end of 2002, and spent a lot of time riding it for exercise on doctor’s orders during recovery from a minor heart problem at the start of 2003. It coincided with the purchase of my first digital camera capable of professional results, the 6.1Mp Nikon D100 DSLR.

On My Brompton in Essex
Royal Victoria Dock

For a year or two I worked with both digital and film, particularly because at the start I had only one Nikon lens, a 24-85mm zoom, giving an equivalent on the DX format camera to 36-128mm on full-frame, but I used a range of wider lenses on film. By 2004 I had added the remarkable Sigma 12-24mm (18-36mm equiv) to my bag, and many of the pictures I made that day were taken with that lens. I think it was the first affordable ultra-wide zoom, and certainly the results on DX format were very usable.

On My Brompton in Essex
Channel Tunnel Rail link under construction at Purfleet

As well as the Nikon I also had a film camera, a Russian Horizon 202 swing lens panoramic camera. You can see some of the pictures I made with this among those on the Thames Gateway (Essex) section on the Urban Landscapes site.

On My Brompton in Essex
Dartford Bridge and Channel Tunnel rail link, Thurrock

I began taking pictures that day at Victoria Dock in Canning Town, having taken the Brompton on the train to Waterloo and then the Jubilee Line there, before cycling to West Ham station to catch the C2C rail service to Rainham, all on a Travelcard. It’s something of a blow that TfL now intends to discontinue the Travelcard, which provided relatively cheap and simple travel for most of my photography.

Here is what I wrote about the day back in August 2004 – with minor corrections, particularly changing to normal capitalisation.

I like to make good use of my Travelcards, so Rainham, the last station out of Fenchurch St in zone 6 is a good destination. I pointed the Brompton first to Purfleet, to take a look at the state of play on the high-speed rail link, and also a new development in the old chalkpits, then on towards the Dartford bridge.

The Bridge Act obliges the operators to transport cycles and pedestrians across free of charge, and I cycled up the path towards it to claim this right, before changing my mind and deciding i didn’t want to go to the other side. Instead I took the new road through the West Thurrock Marshes industrial area and on to St Clements church, now a nature sanctuary, in the middle of a detergent factory.

It’s a quiet and pleasant place to eat sandwiches, though the smell of the perfuming agent is pervasive. There I planned a route largely along side roads, cycle paths and footpaths to Upminster, taking in Chafford Hundred, South Ockenden and Belhus Park and woods. It made a pleasant ride, though I had to make a few detours, and the B isn’t too stable on slimy mud, so some paths made for interesting riding, with the added pleasures of bramble thorns and nettles.

My London Diary

All of the pictures on this post were taken on the Nikon D100. There are a quite a lot more on My London Diary.

Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison – 2017

Saturday, May 13th, 2023

On Saturday 13th May 2017 I put my Brompton folding bike on the train and made my way to Bedford Station via St Pancras. I was on my way the the 11th protest outside the immigration detention centre at Yarl’s Wood in the campaign led by Movement for Justice to shut down this and other immigration prisons.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

This was the first time I’d taken a bike to get to Yarl’s Wood, although I’d been to most of the previous protests they had organised there. Before I’d ridden from the station on a coach organised by the event organisers which hadn’t always been ideal, meaning I sometimes arrived late – especially once when the driver got lost – and had to leave when the coach was leaving, sometimes before the end of the protest and sometimes when I would have liked to leave earlier. On the bike I was free to arrive when I wanted and leave when I liked.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

Yarl’s Wood is sited in an area remote for the southern parts of England, on the site of a former wartime airfield, probably chosen as somewhere people could be locked away out of sight and out of mind, on the hills around 5 miles north of Bedford. Motorists would take the A6 to Milton Ernest, the closest village, and then a mile or more uphill to the meeting point outside the Twinwoods Business Park. But I took a slightly more sensible cycle route, mainly along side roads or cycle paths, with just a short section beside the A6 into the village.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

Most of the route was uphill, climbing slowly towards the hills, then wasting the energy I’d expended in climbing with short downhill sections. But the final section from Milton Ernest was uphill all the way, long and steep, though I didn’t need to worry about traffic on it as the police had helpfully closed the road.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

My Brompton has a 3-speed hub gear and isn’t really good on hills, with the lowest of the three still being rather high when things get steep, but I managed to struggle up without having to get off and walk, though I was tired and seriously panting by the time I reached the top.

There I locked the bike to a fence and joined the thousand or so protesters who had travelled from around the country in a long line of coaches parked along the road. There were speeches and chanting for some time as we waited for others to arrive.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

The gates of the business centre were locked and protesters are prevented from taking the shortest route to the prison (there is also a more direct private road from the south closed to the public.) But a public footpath runs beside the 20ft fence around it. To reach it the campaigners first march a few hundred yards along the road, then turn down one footpath to reach a bridleway before going a few hundred yards along this to the path leading to the prison.

Its not a great distance, a little over three-quarters of a mile, but much of the way is on paths often muddy and full of puddles, and the Brompton is not happy off-road. I ended up pushing it much of the time, occasionally carrying it along with my camera bag, though some of the protesters did give me a hand so I could take some photographs.

Outside the prison the protesters marched into a field on the north side where a small hill rises to give a limited view over the solid lower half of the 20 foot metal prison fence. Their shouts and noise were greeted by those inside the centre who had managed to get to the windows on that side.

The prison windows have very limited opening, but enough for some of the women inside to get their arms through and wave, often holding items of clothing, or sheets of A4 paper with messages calling for freedom and for justice. Our view of them from the hill was only through the wire mesh of the upper 10 feet of the 20 foot fence which made taking pictures difficult.

From most places we could only see the two upper floors of the building, but at the very highest point the upper part of some ground floor windows was also visible. These rooms are used to house families being detained and although Yarl’s Wood was mainly used to detain women there were a few men here as well.

Most of the protesters stood up on the hill holding banners and placards but others were at the bottom, some banging or kicking the metal fence which resonates to make a terrific racket. Others wrote slogans on the fence, though these were only visible to us outside. People climbed up on ladders or other people’s shoulders or used long poles to hold banners, posters and placards in front of the upper mesh where the detainees could see them.

Movement for Justice had brought a public address system and there were speeches, mainly from former detainees, including several women who had been held at Yarl’s Wood. One who spoke was Mabel Gawanas who had been recently released a after a few days short of 3 years inside. A few detainees were also able to speak from inside over mobile phones, amplified by the PA system.

The protests at Yarl’s Wood have been important in gaining publicity for the terrible way in which the UK treats asylum seekers, particularly women who are locked up in this ‘racist, sexist hell-hole’ which has been exposed by various reports. They have an enormous morale-boosting affect on the prisoners who feel isolated and forgotten inside.

But the government’s response has been to re-purpose Yarl’s Wood as a short-term holding facility for men arriving in the UK by boat in December 2021 and to set up a new immigration detention centre for women in an even more remote location in County Durham, where it is much harder for the women to organise and argue their cases. Almost certainly a part of this decision was to try to avoid further protests such as this one.

More recently the Home Office has started indefinitely detaining women at Yarl’s Wood again, although the numbers are much smaller. No official announcement was made of this reversion.

Much more at Shut down Yarl’s Wood Prison on My London Diary.

An East London Ride – 2010

Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Salmon Lane Locki, Regents Canal

It’s perhaps misleading to call this a ride, since I spent most of the day on Wednesday 3rd February 2010 actually off my bike, parking it neatly to take photographs. Although a bicycle has been my main personal transport now for over 70 years (when I’m not using public transport or walking) I’m not really a cyclist. Or at least just a pragmatic cyclist, using a bike just to get from A to B (and on this day to C,D and most of the letters of the alphabet.)

An East London Ride - 2010
Memorial to firewatchers of Stepney Gas Works

And just very occasionally for a bit of exercise. I have used exercise bikes and always thought why bother when you could use the real thing, though I suppose when its pouring with rain or below zero there might be some point in them. And though one wouldn’t help me to take photographs I would be less likely to be killed by careless or dangerous drivers.

An East London Ride - 2010
Bromley-by-Bow gasholders, Twelvetrees Bridge

Back at the end of 2002 I bought myself a Brompton folding bike, and a year or three later when I was undergoing a Q & A interview for an amateur photography magazine it became my answer to ‘What is your most useful photographic accessory’. It had replaced the answer to a similar question from another such magazine which was ‘a good pair of shoes’.

Eternal flame, West Ham Memorial Gardens

Once you have practised a few times the Brompton folds (and unfolds) in a few seconds into a fairly compact package, which has the advantage you can take it at any time onto our trains and underground system. It’s too heavy for me to comfortably carry any distance, but I added the tiny wheels which mean you can pull it rather like a suitcase, only actually lifting it when necessary. And I bought the bag which fits on in front of the handlebars which was about the right size for my camera gear and essentials like a bottle of water or a flask of coffee and sandwiches.

The end of the ‘Fatwalk’

I can’t know remember exactly how I got to the start of my ride, though I think I probably rode from Waterloo to Fenchurch Street for a train to Limehouse station, crossing the Thames on Southwark Bridge. But from there on the pictures make my route fairly clear.

Bow Creek and Bow Locks

I cycled roughly along the Regents Canal up to the former Stepney Gas Works site north of Ben Johnson Road. There had been a fight to save more elements of the former gas works including gas holders which were some of the oldest surviving in the world; although some were said by English Heritage to be of national importance an attempt to get one of them listed failed. Eventually the area was redeveloped by Bellway Homes with only token ‘public art’ residues of the works.

From there I headed east to the bridge at Twelvetrees Crescent across Bow Creek and the Lea Navigation to visit another gas works site, the West Ham Memorial Gardens where war memorials, a permanent flame and a statue of Sir Corbett Woodhall are in a small wooded area close to the remarkable group of gas holders for the former Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works.

Three Mills

From there I went down to the recently opened path beside Bow Creek, part of a planned riverside walk which had been landed with the ridiculous name of The Fatwalk. As I commented then, most of the walk, meant to lead from Three Mills all the way to the Thames was still closed (and is still closed 13 years later) and by the time they were open the “nincompoop who thought that ‘The Fatwalk’ was a good name for this route will probably have retired or died or moved to another job for which he (or she) is equally incapable and common sense will prevail as we walk or cycle along the Bow Creek Trail.”

New Lock, Prescott Channel

The walk still only goes as far south as Cody Dock, now a thriving community resource and hub with events and exhibitions and worth a visit, but in 2010 still undeveloped. The silly name has gone and this path is now also a part of London’s sculpture trail, The Line, making its way from the Greenwich Peninsula to Stratford.

Three Mills Wall River

At the end of the Fatwalk, I had to turn around and go back to the Twelvetrees Crescent bridge, where I once again photographed the locks from the Lea Navigation to Bow Creek. Now there are new steps leading down from this bridge to the towpath, but then I had to go across and join the fast-moving traffic on the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach to make my way to Three Mills.

Stratford High St

Three Mills is home to one of Newhams only four Grade I listed buildings and the House Mill, a tide mill, was built in 1776, though there had been tide mills here at least since the Domesday book.

Olympic stadium

The film studios here were converted from a gin factory where Chaim Weizmann developed a new biochemical process to produce acetone needed for explosive production in the First World War – which led to the Balfour Declaration and later to Weizmann becoming the first president of Israel.

Bridge over City Mill River

Past the studios I visited the new lock on the Prescott Channel, opened in 2009. Supposedly this was to be used by barges to carry away waste and bring in material for the development of the Olympic site instead of lorries, but was in practice only used for photo-opportunities. The Prescott Channel was built in the 1930s, part of a large flood relief programme, that was also largely to provide jobs at the height of the depression.

I get interviewed for a student film

Finally I cycled up to the Olympic site, a building site with little or no public access, but parts of the ‘Greenway’ – the path on the Northern Sewage Outfall – were still open and gave extensive views. The reason I was in London on this particular day, when the weather wasn’t at its best was to be interviewed and filmed by a group of students at the View tube on the Greenway. I can’t remember ever seeing the video. After the interview I made my way to Stratford to fold the Brompton and start my journey home on the Jubilee Line.

Bow Creek – right click to open at a viewable size in a new tab

As well as taking single images I also produced a number of panoramas, taking a series of pictures from the same position to be stitched together. These include some 360 degree views, produced by software from 6 or 8 individual images. The pictures were taken on a Nikon D700 and are each 12Mp, but the combined files are huge. It isn’t easy to display these on the web, and they fit even less well on this blog. I’ll post one here on a rather smaller scale and invite you to double click on it to see it larger, though still much reduced. You can find more online here.

Olympic Site Revisited
Three Mills
Bow and The Fatwalk

Stanford-le-Hope and Mucking

Sunday, December 4th, 2022

Stanford-le-Hope and Mucking

December 2004 was not a great month for weather and it shows in the pictures than I took along the Thames estuary in Essex on Saturday 4th December. But perhaps they are appropriate for the landscape although were I to go back to the RAW files I took – using the Nikon D100 and mainly the then groundbreaking Sigma 12-24mm wideangle zoom – and reprocess them with more recent conversion software they might be a little less drab.

Stanford-le-Hope and Mucking

I took my folding Brompton with me on the train, although much of the route I took was on footpaths. Bromptons are not great off-road bikes and I was probably wheeling it quite a lot of the time, but it carried the weight of my gear in its front bag and let me go quickly along some of the less interesting parts of my route.

I’m not sure if it was on this ride or on another in this part of Essex where the chain came off thanks to an excessive amount of mud and became somehow locked out of place between the frame and some other part, locking the rear wheel completely. I struggled for perhaps 10 minutes to free it without success and had almost become resigned to having to carry it some miles to the nearest station, a rather daunting prospect as together with cameras etc it was a rather unwieldy 40lbs or so.

Stanford-le-Hope and Mucking

Fortunately I was saved by a stranger who came along the path and rather stronger than me managed to pull the trapped link free – though getting his hands covered in oil and mud to do so. I was extremely grateful, thankful and rather embarrassed at the mess he was in, though handing him my oily bike rag to wipe the worst off. It’s great that some people at least will go out of they way to come to the aid of others.

As well as some of the pictures as I posted them at the time, I’ll also put on the text I wrote then on My London Diary, where you can see more pictures. I’ve edited the text slightly, mainly to restore normal capitalisation which makes it rather easier to read.

December started a drab month, with little light, but the forecast for Saturday 4th suggested the mist and cloud would clear, so I set off for Stanford-le-Hope. Single or return asked the ticket seller, I wouldn’t want to stay there I told him.

From the station I turned left and then south towards Mucking and the river. Disappointingly the church in Mucking is now a private house, and the churchyard only open by arrangement. The footpath led through a nature reserve, the largest bog of its type in England, and then turned past a large complex of unfilled gravel pits towards Mucking Creek.

Names on maps can have a fascination, and Mucking Marshes, Mucking Flats, Mucking and Mucking Creek were places I needed to see. In good light they would have been great, but on a dull grey day they lacked sparkle.

The footpath led along the riverside towards Corringham and Shell, but disappointingly the bridge across a small creek had disappeared. There was an unmarked detour along the goods line, but not the same. I returned to Stanford-le-Hope splashing through huge puddles in the rutted lane. One of its few claims to fame is as the home of writer Joseph Conrad, but the cottage in which he lived is surrounded by a high fence and there is little to see.

My London Diary – December 2004

Brompton around Swanscombe 2015

Monday, June 6th, 2022

Brompton around Swanscombe 2015 – Late in 2002 I bought a Brompton folding bicycle, something I’d been considering for years, but the cost had put me off. I can’t remember exactly what it cost me then, but with a few essential bits and pieces it was around £700 – allowing for inflation now equivalent to around £1200. Bromptons (hereafter just B’s) now start at £850, even better value. In an interview a year or two later with a photographic magazine I was asked “What is your favourite photographic accessory?” and my answer, “My B” wasn’t what was expected.

I wasn’t new to cycling – I’d got my first two-wheeler back in 1951 and had owned and used bikes since then, but this was my first folding bike and was bought as a photographic accessory to enable me to explore areas in outer London and the outskirts where public transport was often in scarce supply.

I’d hoped also it would be a convenient way to get around when photographing various events in the centre of London, but soon gave up on that idea as finding safe places to leave it appeared impossible. Bs are idea for bike thieves. Relatively high value and much in demand, they can be stowed away in a car boot in seconds. And even the sturdiest bike lock can only hold up the well-equipped criminal for less than a minute.

Locking and leaving isn’t really an option unless you can keep it in sight or in a secure place. Office workers can keep them in cloakrooms or under their desks, but when your place of work is the street you have a problem.

For cycling close to home I still had the full-size Cinelli that my eldest brother had given me as a birthday present back in 1958, and despite being dirty, dilapidated and having suffered much downgraded with more robust and heavier wheels and tyres still rolling well. But the huge advantage of the B was that it could be folded and taken on trains, underground and even buses at any time, enabling me to make rides from places which were too far away for me to cycle to.

I made my first such journey back in January 2003, taking the train to Erith, a little over 30 miles away, and then spent a few hours cycling “around the town and along the Thames, Darent and Cray before braving the Dartford bypass and striking off along Joyce Green Lane before returning to catch the train home from Slade Green.” Much of that cycling was along footpaths and other poor surfaces and tiring enough – and at one point I almost collapsed trying to lift the B over a stile. I couldn’t understand why, as even with my photographic gear in the front bag it was probably less than 15kg. A week or two later I found out the reason, having a relatively mild heart attack at home which required some minor surgery to put a stent into a blocked artery.

As soon as I could walk, my doctor told me I had to exercise, and soon I was taking a series of rides from home on the B over much of the nearby country. It was much easier to mount and dismount than a normal men’s bike, having no crossbar. Scattered through My London Diary are pictures from a number of bike rides, mainly made on the B. On a bike you can stop almost anywhere and don’t need a place to park, and the ease of getting on and off makes a B ideal. At times I’ve also used it, parked against a wall to stand on, one foot on the saddle and the other on the handlebars, but it can roll away and leave you unsupported.

My trip around Swanscombe on Saturday 6th June was one such ride, taken while the area was under threat from development as the Paramount London theme park (and it still is though this now seems less likely.) It was an area I’d photographed on a number of occasions since the 1980s and knew reasonably well. In the 1970s, together with neighbouring Stone, Greenhithe, Swanscombe and Northfleet was the largest cement producing area in Europe, mainly run by Blue Circle. But by the time I first visited that production was centred at Northfleet, and the works at the other sites had largely disappeared or were very run down, and the Swanscombe works had ceased production although the site only finally closed in 1990. Northfleet continued for some years into this century, but nothing now remains – except of course the huge quarry areas with their chalk cliffs.

The post Swanscombe on My London Diary gives more of the history of the area, and also includes a fairly complete description of the route I took on Saturday 6th June 2015, so I won’t repeat that information here. The B isn’t a great off-road bike – and impossible in muddy conditions – but is fine on reasonable footpaths but I might had had to get off an push in some places. One of the paths I mention, Lovers Lane, is now a wide road beside a new housing estate but otherwise the area is much the same as it was in 2015 except there are now notices that some of the areas are private property.

The area is also well described in the many pictures, many of which were made with a very wide horizontal and vertical angle of view. Although not panoramic in format they are panoramic in their scope.


Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell.
Protests in London on 14th April 2018 calling for Land Justice, against Turkey’s support of Assad in Syria and ten months after the Grenfell fire.

The Landlords’ Game – Mayfair, Belgravia & Brompton

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

I photographed a tour of London’s wealthiest areas led by the Land Justice Network which reminded us that land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world, both in rural areas and in cities.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

This unequal ownership of land is the basis of our class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

The tour began in Mayfair, where the land is largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, along with much more of the London borough, although the family’s Grosvenor Group Limited has diversified and according to Wikipedia also owns properties in other parts of Britain and Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, the Asia Pacific region and parts of Europe.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell
British Virgin Islands is an offshore tax haven where 23,000 properties in England and Wales are registered as a tax scam

From a rally at its meeting point in Brown Hart Gardens where there were songs and speeches by the Land Justice Network, the Landworkers Alliance, the tour including activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group marched to Grosvenor Square where we listed to a surprisingly lucid account of the anti-Vietnam war protest there on 27th October 1968. I think I was there too, but other than a vague recollection of wildly charging police horses and panic can remember little – and in those days I didn’t even have a camera that worked.

We moved off, stopping briefly at a house known to have been left empty for around 15 years, one of many such empty properties in a city with a huge housing shortage to call for councils to be able to levy truly punitive council tax or requisition long-term empty properties.

A short distance along the road we stopped at ‘Grouse House’ owned by Odey Asset Management whose owner Crispin Odey formed ‘You Forgot the Birds’ to oppose RSPB who want to stop the killing of birds for what is wrongly called sport.

There was a speech by Private Eye journalist Richard Brooks who with his colleague Christian Eriksson set about untangling the great offshore corporate web that covers the country – and you can download his report Tax Havens – Selling England By The Offshore Pound from the Private Eye web site.

Kat from the RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) also spoke, reminding us that the CIty of London is a huge3 tax haven and the money laundering capital of the world.

The tour continue to Park Lane, where there was a short protest outside estate agent Foxtons which sells and rents some of the most expensive property in London, and Class War were prominent in pointing out that both the Tory government and the Labour local authorities have relied on estate agents to direct their housing strategies.

The tour stopped again on Park Lane outside the Grosvenor House Hotel, the venue for the notorious annual Property Developers Awards before crossing into Hyde Park, open to the public since 1637, but where we were reminded of the battles to make many other parks public, and how now many have only been saved by the growth of groups of volunteer ‘Friends’. We also heard a plea for more free public toilets. Many were closed in the 1980s because of a ‘gay scare’ and others such as those at Hyde Park Corner now charge for use – 50p a visit here.

Across Knightsbridge we walked along one of the most expensive streets in Britain, Grosvenor Crescent to a statue of the first Marquess of Westminster on the corner of Belgrave Square, which has a plaque stating the family came here with William the Conqueror. He divided out the conquered land and many great estates date from then, though the Grosvenor Estate holdings in London came to them when 3rd Baronet Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Mary Davies, the heiress to the 500 acre Manor of Ebury in 1677. He was 21 at the time, but she was only 12. The estate, then largely swamps later became Mayfair, Park Lane and Belgravia.

A left the tour here for a few minutes to photograph the Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest outside the Turkish Embassy, but rejoined it later at the final rally in Cadogan Square, part of the 93 acres of the Cadogan Estate which includes the wealthiest parts of Kensington & Chelsea. Much of the money which enabled Sir Hans Sloane to buy the Manor of Chelsea came from African slave labour on sugar estates in Jamaica. His daughter Elizabeth Sloane married Charles Cadogan in 1712.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey – Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain, Sunni Muslims who call for the restoration of the Muslim caliphate which whose armies conquered much of the Middle East in 632-661CE, were protesting against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad in accordance with colonial interests and calling for Muslims to support the brave people of Palestine who “are raising their voices to speak out and protest against the illegal occupation, as they are mercilessly killed by the Zionist regime.”

Women were strictly segregated from men at the protest and some stewards were unhappy for me to photograph them.

Their criticism of Turkey goes back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they accuse President Erdogan of strengthening Turkish military and economic ties with Israel. They claim the Turkish state is a secular state “whose role is to protect the colonialist’s interests in our lands, defending and strengthening our enemies who murder us in Syria and Palestine” and call on “Muslims to join us to STAND, STRUGGLE AND SACRIFICE FOR PALESTINE.”

Grenfell – 10 months on – Kensington Town Hall

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

A large crowd was assembling at Kensington Town Hall for the monthly silent walk marking 10 months since the disaster. They hold Kensington and Chelsea Council responsible for the tragedy and for failing to deal effectively with is aftermath, with many survivors still not properly rehoused.

Five years later a public inquiry is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, and there have been no prosecutions of those responsible for approving and installing the highly dangerous cladding on the tower block, for cutting costs, for failing to install the cladding properly, for governments cutting out essential safety regulations which their friends in the building industry thought were ‘red tape’ hampering profits and it looks unlikely if there will ever be justice. Instead we have seen politicians trying to blame the residents for not leaving the building and almost entirely unjustified criticism of the fire service.

There were some speeches, poetry and music before the silent march began, and then a very noisy protest by bikers from the Ace Cafe including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Ace Cafe on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then coming to Kensington Town Hall.

The long silent walk towards Grenfell Tower began immediately after the bikers left, and I followed it for a short distance before turning away and leaving to make my way home.

More at:
Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game