Sunday, July 24, 2016
Croydon's an atypical town, with ambitions to be a city, and a slew of buildings to prove it.
Opening paragraph about how the council championed major redevelopment in the 1960s, including several lofty concrete office blocks.
How the National Trust surprised us all by organising architectural tours of Croydon over the last week, under the title Edge City.
Description of the start of the tour, and the view from the 11th floor of AMP House overlooking East Croydon station.
Observations from the walking part of the tour, a 40 minute whistlestop through part of mini-Manhattan.
Praise for the behind-the-scenes tour of the Fairfield Halls, which has just closed for a two-year re-fit.
Nostalgic look-back to that time Open House did visits to Croydon Council's 19th floor planning eyrie, now demolished.
Regret that the new buildings going up don't look as impressive, but that's what people have always said about Croydon.
Conclusion that Croydon's actually incredibly interesting, architecturally, but only if you like this kind of thing.
Confession that uploading 40 photographs of Croydon is a lot easier than writing about them.
My Croydon gallery
There are 40 photos altogether [slideshow]
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, July 23, 2016Night Tube timetables (EXCLUSIVE)
Only four weekends remain before the Night Tube begins, on two lines at least.
If you're intending to stay out late and ride the Victoria or Central lines, here's my exclusive look at the overnight service to be provided.
I say exclusive, but all I've done is dig around inside the Journey Planner which contains data up to one month hence, and anyone could have done that. I've had to search dozens of journeys at dozens of times to try to work out what's going on underneath, but I think I've worked out the timetables the trains will operate.
Basically, whatever the last train is at the moment, that stays, and then the Night Tube kicks in immediately afterwards. Trains will run every ten minutes through the early hours of Saturday and Sunday morning, and then the normal daytime service picks up immediately after that. Approximately speaking.
Here's how the Night Tube will be filling the gap on a Saturday morning, beginning on Saturday 20th August.
Night Tube timetable - Victoria line (southbound)
Walthamstow C 0020 0030 0040 0050 0100 0110 and
0500 Seven Sisters 0026 0036 0046 0056 0106 0116 0506 King's Cross 0035 0045 0055 0105 0115 0125 0515 Oxford Circus 0039 0049 0059 0109 0119 0129 0519 Victoria 0043 0053 0103 0113 0123 0133 0523 Brixton 0051 0101 0111 0121 0131 0141 0531
Don't worry, the trains will be stopping at every station, I've simply shown a selection of stations to keep this manageable. But expect trains every ten minutes along the entire line... simple!
Night Tube timetable - Victoria line (northbound)
Brixton 0034 0040 0049 0058 0108 0118 and
0518 Victoria 0041 0048 0056 0105 0115 0125 0525 Oxford Circus 0045 0051 0100 0109 0119 0129 0529 King's Cross 0050 0056 0105 0114 0124 0134 0534 Seven Sisters 0059 0106 0114 0123 0133 0143 0543 Walthamstow C 0104 0112 0119 0128 0138 0148 0548
Northbound trains take a while to slip into a pattern, running slightly more frequently as the Night Tube service kicks in. But then it's every ten minutes all the way through to half past five, just like on the southbound.
Night Tube timetable - Central line (eastbound)
Ealing Broadway 0015 0035 0055 and
0515 White City 0025 0035 0045 0055 0105 0115 0515 0525 Oxford Circus 0039 0049 0059 0109 0119 0129 0529 0539 Mile End 0055 0105 0115 0125 0135 0145 0545 0555 Leytonstone 0103 0113 0123 0133 0143 0153 0553 0603 Hainault 0119 ↓ 0139 ↓ 0159 ↓ ↓ 0619 Loughton 0125 0145 0205 0605
The Central line is a bit more complicated. Trains will run alternately from Ealing Broadway to Hainault, and from White City to Loughton, every twenty minutes. Over the central section from White City to Leytonstone there'll be a train every ten minutes, the same frequency as on the Victoria line. There'll be no extra Night Tube services on the West Ruislip branch, nor beyond Loughton, nor between Woodford and Hainault.
Night Tube timetable - Central line (westbound)
Loughton 0003 0023 0043 and
0503 Hainault ↓ 0010 ↓ 0030 ↓ 0050 0450 ↓ Leytonstone 0015 0025 0035 0045 0055 0105 0505 0515 Mile End 0025 0035 0045 0055 0105 0115 0515 0525 Oxford Circus 0040 0050 0100 0110 0120 0130 0530 0540 White City 0054 0104 0114 0124 0134 0144 0544 0554 Ealing Broadway 0105 0125 0145 0555 0605
Again there are two overlapping twenty minute services, with a ten minute frequency between White City and Leytonstone. But notice this time that the endpoints are different - it's Loughton that links with Ealing Broadway, and Hainault that links with White City. Perhaps this is to give the drivers a bit of variety, or to shuffle the trains around over the course of the night.
Don't expect to see these timetables in a leaflet or on a wall in your local station. TfL prefer to hide their timetables these days, preferring that passengers use the Journey Planner to search current operating conditions, or simply turn up and wait. But Night Tube timetables do still exist, and understanding their structure might help you to better interpret the new 'ten minute' service when it begins.
In the meantime there's already a launch-friendly Night Tube map, showing just the relevant sections of the Victoria and Central lines, with three other lines due to join them later in the year. So bring on the night!
posted 00:03 :
Friday, July 22, 2016Some TV programmes are works of art, each camera angle honed to perfection, with an eye on digital posterity. Other shows are churned out to fill airtime, week in week out, in the hope that a decent-sized audience will tune in. Pointless is in the latter category, a conveyor belt of a quiz churned out to fill the teatime slot on BBC1, and rightly popular too. More than 800 episodes have been screened since the show started in 2009, and 210 more are currently in production. And that means a lot of seats in the audience to fill, which seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.
Yes of course you can come, said the email from the agency, here's your free e-ticket for next week. Recording takes place at Elstree Studios, beside the cavern where they film Strictly and just up the drive from the Big Brother House. It doesn't take long to get to from St Pancras, plus a sharp walk down Borehamwood High Street, past the Tesco car park where George Lucas filmed Star Wars. They always over-ticket TV shows in case not everyone turns up, so it's important to arrive early enough to get a place but not so early as to drain your life. Ten minutes early would have done in this case, but half an hour early turned out to have a bonus later.
Once the cheery queue staff have done their stuff it's time to thread in past security, no patdowns required, and queue up outside the toilets. You are advised to 'go' at this point, which is better news if you're a man than a woman, purely in terms of available space and potential length of wait. After a suitable pause the crocodile is led on down a narrow covered walkway between two of the older studio buildings. It's not at all glamorous back here - much of the gap is stacked with portakabins - but it doesn't need to be because this side of the enterprise won't ever be appearing on TV.
Pointless is filmed on Stage 8, a slight comedown from the days of Television Centre, but a large enough (and importantly air-conditioned) space shrouded in black drapes. And OMG there's the actual set, or rather a swirl of hanging tubes and fabric above a cluster of podia, not especially impressive in real life but readily transformed into a glittering backdrop via the magic of TV. Rising in the centre is the giant accumulator tower, or whatever name you'd give to an electronic cylinder that flashes downwards. And there's Alexander's lectern, and ooh there's Richard's desk, plus a complete crew standing all around to make things work.
Only the first half of the audience gets to sit in the swoosh of plastic chairs on the studio floor, while those who arrived slightly later join some more ordinary seats stacked a few rows behind. End up on the back of the front section and you'll appear in several overview shots, especially when the boom camera swings rapidly overhead, so watch out for the back of my head on TV when the latest round of filming is aired. It's mobiles off and no photos please, for copyright reasons, unless apparently you're the slightly whiffy man to my right who grabbed a trio of snaps while nobody important was looking and has presumably already uploaded them to Facebook.
It's not long before the warm-up man comes out, his job to keep you awake and perky during the breaks in the three hour shooting schedule. He's not bad, indeed you'd hope not by now because he's had almost 150 shows to hone his technique. We practice the mounting "oooh" of excitement as the scoretower drops, and various appropriate levels of applause, before performing for the approval of the floor manager. During recording he'll be standing at the back and clapping when we're supposed to clap, while a handful of camera crew stand poised to pan, zoom and focus. And yes, there's an autocue, with lettering so large it's barely possible to read four words beyond what you're reading out, which must be hard.
Before long out walk the day's first set of contestants, that's four sets of two, familiarising themselves with the layout of the lecterns. They stand patiently while the make-up team lock-spray their hair into position, or alternatively pat down their bald heads to avoid undue shine, before eventually Xander and Richard emerge to unprompted applause. Yes Mr Osman is indeed as tall as they say, as is evident when the pair go over to meet the contestants a few minutes before they'll pretend never to have met them before. Positions taken, spotlights set, and the umpteenth recording of the month gets underway.
Alexander beats with his hand while the theme tune plays, while Richard taps his fingers, none of which you'll see on screen because graphics are swirling in their place. But then the script is up and running, delivered as if the experience were fresh rather than utterly formulaic, and mixed with off-the-cuff banter that's sometimes very clever indeed. And this chemistry between the two lead players is why Pointless still works after seven years, this and the fact we can all shout out answers at home - something we've obviously been forbidden from doing in the audience.
The first question has clues that are a bit of a mouthful, so a number of quick repeats are needed to ensure that all the dialogue has been recorded properly. Somewhow it's a lot tougher to come up with the answer in the studio, even though we're not the ones being grilled.... I know the second one down, it used to be on Channel 4 in the late 90s, what is it what is it? The contestants have a tough baptism after this question has been displayed because they have to talk about themselves for a minute (or two) before being asked for an answer, diverted onto jobs and hobbies when they'd much rather be mulling over potential answers. One duff offering with a thoughtlessly high score and your screentime will be minimal.
Between rounds the stage hands come out to whittle down the podia one by one, with appropriate electrical skills to ensure the wires still work in their adjusted location. The most awkward juncture is before the head-to-head where blue and yellow surrounds have to be added, which gives the warm-up man slightly longer to tell his jokes. This must be pretty distracting for the contestants too, because they're not the target audience of his japery but have to listen all the same. Still, the "What's My Sandwich?" game goes down well, indeed the floor manager and our two hosts also chip in with a guess, before lambasting the selected audience member for his M&S lunch deal choice.
We'll be in the studio for twice as long as today's two episodes will appear on screen, so quite a lot of what we're watching will get cut out. Unscripted chats last longer than you'd expect so that only the wittiest segues need be kept, plus some of the remaining filler if the show looks like running short. I note that contestants get to think for as long as they need, in the early rounds at least, their unhurried bluster to be edited out later. And you know that bit in the final round where the last pair give three answers and these appear typed up on screen almost instantly? In real life it takes 30 seconds, this to ensure that each film actor or capital city has been spelt properly, which is another piece of magic ruined.
During our recording all the stock phrases are trotted out - will the next contestant step up to the podium please, and by 'country' we mean a sovereign state that's a member of the UN in its own right, but you have at least won a Pointless trophy. A reference is made to the 2016 party leadership elections, and to one of Richard's recent tweets, which may look quite out-of-date by January when these episodes are due to be transmitted. And between episodes the sound engineers have a sense of humour and play music relevant to the questions that have just been asked, hence a nice dash of 1998 Britpop, and a Eurovision favourite, and the theme tune from that movie one couple knew inside out.
It doesn't take long before you think you know some of the contestants quite well, especially those that come back for their second chance in the second half of the recording. That Essex couple couldn't have been from anywhere else, and the Northants pair let fly a risqué anecdote whose unspoken conclusion has us all a-titter. There is a point in proceedings where Alexander and Richard sign books that fans in the audience have brought in, or in one case a CD, so do bring yours if you're keen and coming. But Londoners are in a minority in the public seating, with most couples and groups driven in specially from rather further afield, perhaps as a birthday treat, or even flown in from as far as Northern Ireland or Australia.
We're delighted when the session ends with the Holy Grail, a final round with three Pointless answers! This time the applause is entirely authentic - they won't need the cut we pre-recorded earlier - and a foreign holiday can now be taken. We file out into reality again and switch our phones back on, passing the next audience already queued up by the railings for the next recording marathon. It's been a pleasure to spend three hours in the presence of professionals, but they've still got three more to go, and most of next week (and most of September) to get this latest batch of quizzery in the can. If you fancy watching for yourself then tickets are still available, and it's a nice way to get a smidgeon of your licence fee back whilst being pointlessly entertained.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Art on the Underground is a truly excellent project bringing art to passengers across the tube network.
"Art on the Underground is a pioneer in commissioning contemporary artworks that enrich the journeys of millions on the Tube every day. From large-scale commissions at Gloucester Road station to the pocket Tube map cover commissions, Art on the Underground has gathered a roll-call of the best artists over 15 years, maintaining art as a central element of Transport for London’s identity and engaging passengers and staff in a sense of shared ownership."To celebrate a decade and a half of this wide-reaching project, TfL has just launched Art for Everyone, Everyday - a joyous backslap to help remind us all of the good stuff past, and enthuse us for the good stuff yet to come.
Events and activities include...
• A poster at every station
• Art for Everyone, Everyday artworks at Stratford, Bethnal Green, Notting Hill and Gloucester Road stations (don't rush)
• Three 90 minute tube tours are taking place this Sunday, taking in five different Zone 1 artworks (free, but you had to email for a place, and they're all 'sold out')
• A talk this evening at the London Transport Museum where three of the project's artists are in conversation (starts 6.30pm, free, no need to book... which suggests they're not expecting to fill the theatre)
• An Art Map has been produced, not just a weedy fold-out thing but a proper full colour 24 page booklet highlighting 16 different artworks, and with a map showing their locations (now available in Zone 1 stations, and excellent, so you should grab one... or, second best, download it here)
• A beautifully-produced card-covered 28 page booklet including full colour photos of a selection of projects plus a list of all the artists who've taken part over the years (free, I found mine at Holborn, look out for the days of the week and a Labyrinth on the front cover)
But in a bit of an own goal, two of the 16 artworks named on the Art Map are no longer on show because they've been replaced by artworks celebrating this new project. So don't go to Stratford to see The Palace That Joan Built, because that was replaced last week by less interesting Art for Everyone, Everyday panels. Ditto don't go to Gloucester Road to enjoy An English Landscape (American Surveillance Base near Harrogate, Yorkshire), because that was also replaced last week. But the other 14 remain in situ, so why not take time to enjoy the enamel wrapper at Edgware Road, the tiling patterns on the Victoria line, the 'lost' segments at King's Cross St Pancras, the Shying Horse at Blackhorse Road and The Archer at East Finchley?
As for that 28 page booklet, it contains this intriguing claim.
"With artworks in all 33 boroughs and in every one of London's 270 Tube stations, Art on the Underground provides an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to have their lives made richer and more enjoyable through art."I don't understand how there can be an Art on the Underground artwork in every London borough, when the Underground doesn't cover the capital. Every tube station has a Labyrinth, so that's 27 boroughs covered. The Art on the Underground project also stretches to the Overground and DLR, as evidenced by the Art Map's mention of porcelain tiles at Hampstead Heath and ceramics at Woolwich Arsenal. But where are the Art on the Underground artworks in tube-free Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Lewisham and Sutton? If you have any ideas, please leave them in this special comments box. artwork comments
To assist the public in tracking down current Art on the Underground artworks, an interactive map of Current Art Projects has been created. It's well hidden, appearing only as a pop-up on the second tab of the Visiting information page, and also not entirely accurate. If you click on Notting Hill Gate you get information about Old Street, while the blob that should be at Bethnal Green has been misplaced at Mile End. Not every project that's on the Art Map appears on the interactive map, perhaps because they're not deemed current, but the end result looks rather sparse.
The Visiting Information page also lists 33 stations at which "permanent artworks and temporary exhibitions" are displayed. This is a completely different list again, suggesting (for example) the presence of artworks at Covent Garden, Fulham Broadway and Waterloo but giving no clue what these might be. Each station is clickable, but this simply brings up a phenomenally detailed list of access information and nothing whatsoever about art. It's hard to judge whether this information is aimed at tube novices or the disabled - I suspect the latter, given that the advice includes "In the station the light is artificial", "Some seats have no arm rests", and "The only showers are in the Virgin first class lounge".
I'd also hesitate a guess that the 33 individual Visiting Information pages have been uploaded to the internet without due care, attention and oversight. Here are 184 proofing errors I've found, in case anyone at TfL would like to employ me to help them out next time.
» "This document has been designed to assist accessibility to and from our exhibition space at Westminster Underground station" - at a station which is not Westminster (×11)I think that's the sloppiest set of documents I've ever seen TfL publish.
» "This document has been designed to assist accessibility to and from our exhibition space at Baker Street Underground station" - at a station which is not Baker Street (×2)
» Weblink for Current Project Map leads instead to list of artists (×32)
» Weblink for Travelling by Tube leads to non-existent page on website withdrawn 2 years ago, and does not redirect (×32)
» Weblink for Accessible Tube maps leads to non-existent page on website withdrawn 2 years ago, and does not redirect (×32)
» No accessibility information, only the name of an artwork (Edgware Road)
» Address and map are accidentally those for Warren Street (Euston)
» Address and map are accidentally those those for Piccadilly Circus (Green Park)
» Address and map are accidentally those those for Ealing Broadway (Hanger Lane)
» Pin on map for station placed 150m up the road (Highbury and Islington)
» Pin on map for station placed 300m up the road (Greenford)
» Pin on map for station placed 1000m up the road (Tottenham Court Road)
» Several incorrect over-optimistic claims about seating (e.g. "Each platform on all lines has seating within every 2-3 metres along the platform" at Baker Street)
» Statement that "There is no seating at this station" when in fact there is (several stations, especially on the Victoria line)
» "Piccadilli line" (King's Cross St Pancras)
» "Jubelee line" (London Bridge, Waterloo, Westminster)
» "Hammersmith&City" written without spaces (Baker Street)
» Blackhorse Road written as "Black Horse Road" and "Black Horse road" (Blackhorse Road)
» Bishopsgate written as "Bishop Gate" and "Bishopgate" (Liverpool Street)
» Shaftesbury Avenue written as "Shaftsbury Avenue" (Piccadilly Circus)
» Chiltern Street Masterpark written as "Children Street Master park" (Baker Street)
» Eastbound written as "East Bound" (Gloucester Road)
» "Notting Hill station" and "Nottinghill Gate" instead of Notting Hill Gate (Notting Hill Gate)
» "London overground" missing a capital letter (Highbury & Islington)
» "Walthamstow central" missing a capital letter (Walthamstow Central)
» "Bethnal Green road" missing a capital letter (Bethnal Green)
» Missing capital letters for "Charing Cross road", "Great Russell street" and "Tottenham court road" (Tottenham Court Road)
» Missing capital letters for "Midland road", "York way", "Pancras road" and "St. Pancras road" - also the latter does not exist (King's Cross St Pancras)
» "It may be easier to processed past the station before dropping off" - should be "proceed" (Brixton)
» "Please be aware stations can get very buys" (×7)
» "Please be aware stations can get very buys during rush hour and is located by a main road" - spelling error and switch from plural to singular (×2)
» "Any safety messages will be voiced over the tannoy system. Please follow any instructions give" - last consonant missing (×3)
» "Dominio Theatre" instead of Dominion Theatre (Tottenham Court Road)
» "The ticket office is located in the mail ticket hall" - should be "main" (Tottenham Court Road)
» "The work can be viewed... on the accent to the ticket hall" - should be "ascent" (Gloucester Road)
» "There are bust stops located at street level outside the station" - should be "bus stops" (Green Park)
» "Please see sing posts or ask a member of staff for directions" - should be "sign posts" (Green Park)
» "There is an area for storing bicycles which is shelterd" - should be "sheltered" (Walthamstow Central)
» "In this station there are two ticket offices, then firs one is located in the main ticket hall" - should be "the first one" (Waterloo)
» "The nearest Toilets are located in the rail station" - unnecessary capital letter (Waterloo)
» "The Toilets are located on the basement, near the exit 6" - presumably should be "in the basement", not that there is a basement (Westminster)
» Toilets described as the "women facilities" and the "men facilities" (Baker Street)
» "There is no signage on street level to indicate the existence of the artwork" - should be "at" instead of "on" (Leicester Square)
» "The approach to the station is quite busy with two bus stops , a crossing and a flower stand very close to the station" - unnecessary space in front of comma (Brixton)
» No mention in the accessibility information that the station is currently closed (Holland Park)
» "navigation is always difficult because Westminster is a touristic site" - should be "tourist", also the station is not in Westminster (King's Cross St Pancras)
» "The access to the trains has allowed by sliding doors" - badly phrased, also not true (King's Cross St Pancras)
» "The nearest toilets are located in King’s Cross St. Pancras National Rail station and the service is free" - there is no such station, and only the toilets at St Pancras are free (King's Cross St Pancras)
» "The Kinder Statue inside the station by the entrance of the ticket hall is a designated meeting spot" - the Kindertransport statue is actually outside the station (Liverpool Street)
» "A taxi rank is situated in Parliament Street, but it's easy to catch a cab everywhere around the station" - except the station is nowhere near Parliament (Oxford Circus)
» "On weekdays the station can stay busy from 10:00 am until 19:00 pm" - incorrect use of 24 hour clock (×3, Piccadilly Circus)
» "All persons who wish to see the exhibition must possess a valid travelling ticket, or purchase a ‘platform ticket’ from the ticket office. Platform tickets will allow access to the station and exhibition space for a short period of time, but will not allow train journeys to be made" - there is no ticket office (Tottenham Hale)
Or perhaps it's just meant to be art.
Afternoon update: The Visiting Information webpage and its 33 individual station subpages have been removed.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, July 20, 2016The warmest place in Britain is never where they say it is. The hotspot could be anywhere, whereas the Met Office only takes temperature readings at certain predefined locations. Each approved site has a Stevenson screen, a louvred wooden box which protects from direct sunlight, positioned precisely 125cm above the ground. Thousands of these exist across the country, many in the hands of willing amateurs, but the Met Office only collects observations in real time from around 270 synoptic stations [map], seven of which are in Greater London. Where are they? And what was the maximum temperature there yesterday?
» Heathrow (weather station 03772, altitude 25m) 33.2°C
The hottest place in London yesterday, or at least the place with the highest officially-recorded temperature, was Heathrow Airport. You might not be surprised by this, given that aeroplanes have enormous jet engines pumping out heat, but rest assured this is of minimal influence compared to the blazing rays of the sun. Heathrow is a good spot for a weather station for two reasons, the first historical. A large proportion of official weather stations are at properties once owned by the Air Ministry, an up-to-date knowledge of current meteorological conditions being essential for flight, hence there are three airfields in London's list, each with detailed records going back decades. Secondly a weather station needs to be located at a suitable distance from anything that might interfere with readings, hence an open space without trees, buildings or bodies of water is ideal.
Heathrow Airport has an area of five square miles, most of it empty, so it may be a surprise to learn that the weather station is right up against the edge beside a busy road. Specifically it's in the middle of the northern edge, alongside the Northern Perimeter Road, very close to where the vehicle tunnel plunges underneath the runways. Intriguingly it's very close to General Roy's Cannon, one end of the baseline which kickstarted the triangulation work of the Ordnance Survey, and a completely different fascinating tale to boot. These days you drive in from the roundabout on Nene Road, or walk in if you dare - this peripheral freeway isn't designed for those on foot. Although there's a pavement on the airport side a succession of red KEEP OUT signs is affixed to the razorwire fence, and the police drive by just often enough that poking a camera through feels somewhat unwise. But the wind vane is easily seen from the bus shelter across the road, and there's the excuse of waiting for a Heathrow-bound service to explain why you're hanging around.
The UK's warmest ever July day was recorded right here at Heathrow, last year, that's 36.7C. The record-breaking weather station is screened off within a rectangular compound, barely 100 yards from the main north runway, from this angle with the main terminal buildings on the horizon immediately behind. The passage of planes depends on which directional mode the airport's in, but while I watched only the very largest aircraft made it far enough down the runway to pass by. All the whining and braking took place almost out of sight, with British Airways and Etihad A380s eventually lumbering past. More easily seen is a squat concrete building beside the fence which now belongs to a fire and security company, but used to belong to the Met Office, confirming the former importance of this key airside location.
» Northolt (weather station 03672, altitude 37m) 32.5°C
Another weather station, another airfield. Northolt opened in 1915 as home to No. 4 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron, and has developed over the last century into the airport of choice for the armed services and certain private jets. Its weather station is in the centre of the southern perimeter fence, which runs immediately alongside the A40 dual carriageway. Walking this way is not recommended, I tried it once and it took half an hour of verge-scrambling beneath half-height lampposts, but rest assured that the location is ideally situated within a large circle of non-built-up area.
» St James's Park (weather station 03770, altitude 5m) 32.3°C
The Met Office's only regularly-reporting climatic station in Central London is in St James's Park. Specifically it's in the northeast corner, close to the point where Horseguards Parade meets The Mall, immediately alongside a brightly bordered tarmac path. A small square of grass, about five metres long, has been railinged off to prevent public access, with the Stevenson screen towards one corner and the open funnel of a rain gauge in the other. A bank of trees shields the site from the early morning sun, but sightlines are rather more open from breakfast onwards, which makes this a popular spot for sprawling when the weather's good. Yesterday afternoon a touchy-feely couple were frying nicely on a towel by the fence, while a de-flip-flopped cyclist lay head-deep in a book beside a Brompton while his back slowly bronzed.
» Kew Gardens (altitude 8m) 32.0°C
You can see this one for £15, it lies within the Botanical Gardens, alongside the Broad Walk close to the Orangery restaurant.
» Hampton Waterworks (altitude 30m) 31.6°C
You can't see this one, it's within the Thames Water Treatment Works off the Upper Sunbury Road, and very nearly in Surrey.
» Hampstead (weather station temporarily closed, altitude 175m)
This station near the summit at Whitestone Pond holds a peculiar weather record - the UK's highest 155-minute rainfall total. On 14th August 1975 an astonishing 169mm of rain, that's more than six inches, fell in less than three hours during a cloudburst over the Heath. The weather station is on Lower Terrace, sharing the top of an underground reservoir with Hampstead Observatory, although both are currently closed and out of action (until at least March) while Thames Water install a waterproof membrane across the site.
» Kenley (weather station 03781, altitude 170m) 29.4°C
This is the third and final airfield on the list, on the Downs to the south of Purley, and again very nearly in Surrey. To show the difference that a few miles (and a change in altitude) can make, this station recorded a temperature four degrees cooler than Heathrow yesterday, indeed Kenley's often the London site to watch in winter rather than at the height of summer.
One site that's not in this list of Met Office weather stations, but used to be, is the roof of the London Weather Centre. This has moved around in its time, including a spell in South Kensington, but spent the majority of its existence in and around the Holborn area. In 1919 readings were taken on the Air Ministry Roof in Kingsway, before shifting to nearby Victory House in 1938 and Princes House in 1959. In 1965 it moved to Penderel House on High Holborn, where an under-exposed roof led to measurements eventually moving to the top of State House across the road. A single snowflake here meant a White Christmas, a target which in 1992 moved to the western end of the Clerkenwell Road. By now renamed Met Office London, the service was closed for good on 12th September 2006, and that's why you never hear about the London Weather Centre any more. For a full detailed history, read this.And finally here are two other sites to the east of London famous for their high temperatures:
• Gravesend/Broadness 31.8°C: At the tip of the Swanscombe peninsula, this remote estuarine site holds the record for the UK's highest October temperature (29.9°C in 2011). [I've been, and it's damned remote]
• Faversham/Brogdale: The UK's highest ever temperature was recorded here amid the National Fruit Collection, somewhat controversially (38.5°C on 10th August 2003). This week's heatwave is a walk in the park by comparison. [I've been, and it's ace]
Oh, and if you'd ever like to keep an eye on the actual temperature at various sites around the country, the Met Office has a live map with a 24 hour slider. Here it is focused on London, but you can recentre and rescale to wherever. It won't be quite so shirt-drippingly hot today.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, July 19, 2016PR Masterclass
TfL teams up with <Drinks company> to hand out free bottles of <brand of bottled water> to Tube passengersIf this year's heatwave is imminent, then it must be time for TfL's annual bottled water promotion.
18 July 2016
Transport for London (TfL) has teamed up with <Drinks company>, for the third year in a row, to hand out free bottles of <brand> natural mineral water to commuters, helping to encourage customers to carry water while travelling on the Underground during the summer.Remember, if it's hot then you may become ill, and if you fall ill while on a train it'll have to stop, and that could cause significant disruption, and it'll all be your fault. If we all carried a bottle of water with us, then these dehydration-related delays could become a thing of the past.
But conversely, you probably won't fall ill on a train as a result of overheating, only a handful of the millions of passengers on the tube each day ever do. Individually, carrying a bottle of water every time you travel is a complete waste of money. But collectively, from TfL's point of view, if we all wasted our money on bottled water twice daily then Londoners would get around more easily. So you can see why they ask.
<Drinks company> has provided London Underground with 250,000 bottles of <brand> water, which will be given out for free from tomorrow at some of London's Tube stations in support of TfL's ongoing Travel Better London campaign.Around four million passengers travel by tube each day, so these free bottles will reach barely 7% of the target audience. Also notice that they're not all being given out today, which is a pity, because the more bottles you can give out on the hottest day of the year the better.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of how passengers can help to reduce delays and improve journeys for everyone by making small changes to travel habits such as by carrying water while travelling, which can prevent people being taken ill on trains.I don't know about you, but carrying water with me every time I travel by tube wouldn't be a small change to my travel habits. I'd have to buy a bottle every time I travel, which would delay my journey by having to visit a shop, or else I'd have to stock up at home and then carry the bottle around with me all day, either weighing me down or getting in the way.
The giveaway supports London Underground's ongoing efforts to cool the network and marks the third summer in a three year partnership between <brand> and TfL in which water is distributed across the Tube network.Or of course TfL could give away empty refillable bottles which we could all use again and again using tapwater. That'd be a brilliant way to drive the campaign home, and much more eco-friendly. But this'll never happen because it'd cost money, which TfL doesn't have. Or alternatively the bottles could be sponsored, except no bottled water company is ever going to sign up for that, obviously.
To date a number of measures have been introduced through a Cooling the Tube programme including; air conditioned trains on the Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith and City and District lines, upgraded station ventilation and portable fans installed in ticket and concourse areas.There are also air-cooled trains on the Overground, but these must not be mentioned because this is a tube announcement, and organisational divisions must not be breached.
Mark Evers, Director Customer Experience, London Underground, said: 'Through our partnership with <Drinks company> we want to encourage customers to carry water when they travel during the summer, which can help prevent people being taken ill on trains and reduce delays.'Interestingly <Drinks company> is not the same drinks company which paid for a sponsored makeover of Canada Water station last year. TfL don't genuinely believe that one brand of bottled water is better than another, they simply take the money off anyone who's willing.
'This partnership complements our ongoing investment in cooling the Tube, which includes improving ventilation systems at our stations and introducing new air conditioned trains, which will serve 40 per cent of the Underground network by the end of this year.'Hang on a second. Thanks to a major programme of investment, almost complete, air-conditioned trains already form the great majority of rolling stock on 40% of the Underground network. If your journey today is on the Metropolitan, Circle or Hammersmith and City lines you don't need a bottle of water to cool you down, and if you're on the District line you probably don't. Bottles of water are only of potential use in preventing alarm-pull delays on the deep level tube, where yes, conditions today may be pretty bad. But TfL's advice covers all tube journeys, because the organisation believes in simplicity, rather than 'confusing' the travelling public with something more specific.
Bryan Martins, <brand> Marketing Director, said: `We are delighted to have the chance to help commuters keep cool this summer once again and deliver some much needed 'Live Young' refreshment.'And this, this is the point of the entire exercise. Bryan's team has come up with a meaningless 'Live Young' slogan, and now they get to shoehorn it into a press release in the hope that media outlets no longer staffed by journalists will cut and paste their words and regurgitate the slogan in front of a vast target audience. There wouldn't be any free bottles, nor any press release, if Bryan's brand didn't have a campaign to promote.
• If you feel unwell please get off at the next stop and seek help from our staff as help can be more easily obtained on a platform.But this is bloody excellent advice. Don't be an idiot and slow down an entire tube line by staying on the tube if you're unwell. The staff at the next station might even have some water to perk you up, and see you on your way.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, July 18, 2016Have you ever wondered what happens if you enter a station and then leave it again without travelling anywhere? Do you end up paying, or does the system work out you haven't made a journey?
Officially this is called a same station exit, and some quite complicated rules apply depending on how many minutes you take between touching in and touching out.
"A same station exit is recorded when you touch your contactless payment card on a yellow reader when you enter a station, but then touch out to exit at the same station within a set time. This can happen when you change your journey plan, for example, because of service disruption."Assuming your double swipe occurs somewhere within zones 1 to 9, here's what happens.
Time between touching in and out What you pay Between 0 and 2 minutes A maximum fare
i.e. £7.70 (peak)
i.e. £5.30 (off-peak)
BUT if you then re-enter the same (or a different) station within 45 minutes, the maximum fare will be refunded and a new journey started UNLESS you take a bus or tram before re-entering Between 2 and 30 minutes The minimum pay as you go fare from that station
e.g. £2.40 (zone 1)
e.g. £1.50 (off-peak, Z2-6)
BUT if you then re-enter the same (or a different) station within 45 minutes, the minimum fare will be refunded and a new journey started UNLESS you take a bus or tram before re-entering More than 30 minutes Two maximum fares
i.e. £15.40 (peak)
i.e. £10.60 (off-peak)
BECAUSE the system will assume that two separate journeys have been made, both incomplete
BUT you'll receive an automatic refund for a same station exit provided you have not had one in the previous seven days (OR you can apply for a refund by signing into your TfL online account)
SO BASICALLY it's fine if you re-enter the system within 45 minutes without taking a bus inbetween BUT otherwise it could be very expensive SO try not to do it too often.
posted 07:00 :
20 tube and rail milestones (from TfL's latest board papers)
12 Sep 2016: Metropolitan line extension - Start of works on site
15 Sep 2016: Tottenham Court Road - New passenger facilities open including new entrances to the station and new ticket hall
24 Oct 2016: District line - Roll-out of new air-conditioned trains complete
19 Dec 2016: Victoria - North ticket hall complete
22 Dec 2016: Launch of Phase 1 of new mobile ticketing app
07 Feb 2017: Northern line extension - Battersea station box retaining walls, piles and plunged columns all complete
16 Feb 2017: Metropolitan line extension - Station construction starts
11 Apr 2017: Bond Street - Station upgrade complete including a new station entrance and step-free access to all platforms
24 Apr 2017: Crossrail - Reduced length unit eight-car trains available for Stage 1 Crossrail services
25 Apr 2017: Victoria line Completion of signalling works required to support 36tph for the 90 minute peak
22 Dec 2017: Availability of weekly capping for Oyster customers
31 Dec 2017: Bank - Bloomberg Place entrance brought into use
30 Mar 2018: Overground extension - Commencement of delivery on site
16 Apr 2018: S Stock - First use of Automatic Train Control in revenue service (Hammersmith to Latimer Road)
18 Dec 2018: Metropolitan line extension - Watford Vicarage Road station complete
30 Jan 2020: Metropolitan line extension - Trial running of trains
13 Dec 2020: Metropolitan line extension - Commencement of passenger services to Watford Junction
31 Dec 2020: Northern line extension - Commencement of passenger services to Battersea Power Station
31 Mar 2021: Overground extension - Commencement of passenger services to Barking Riverside
31 Dec 2021: Bank - Works to relieve station congestion on the Northern line complete
(n.b. These are current forecasts of dates by which milestones will have been met, so not necessarily start dates, and liable to slippage)
And, although no specific dates have been given, we're also very much expecting the following...
May 2018: Crossrail - in service from Heathrow to Paddington
Dec 2018: Crossrail - in service from Abbey Wood to Paddington
May 2019: Crossrail - in service from Shenfield to Paddington
Dec 2019: Crossrail - full service operating including Reading
posted 01:00 :
Sunday, July 17, 2016In a few short years, Parkrun has become a phenomenon. Every Saturday morning at 9am hundreds of thousands of amateur joggers head to their local park for a 5km run, scanned at the finish to take their place on a digital scoreboard. The whole thing's run by volunteers, and free to enter, and about as good an example of a healthy grassroots project as you could hope to find.
What's less well known, however, is its sister project Parkwalk. This less physical event takes place every Sunday morning, again at 9am, and invites participants to walk their way around the identical course. The emphasis is very much on inclusivity, the idea being that anyone who can't run the distance can walk it (or use appropriate mobility aids to complete). And walking's very much more my kind of thing, so last Sunday I headed down to Mile End Park to join the fun.
The 5km course in Mile End kicks off at the southern end of the linear park, outside the stadium, where a much higher level of sporting activity takes place. From here it follows the meandering path up the centre to cross the legendary Green Bridge over Mile End Road, before looping round the Art Pavilion and heading back again. Do this twice and you've walked 5K, achievement unlocked. How hard can it be?
I arrive a few minutes early, but there's nobody else around. This is perhaps not surprising given it's nine o'clock - almost doable on a Saturday but beyond the call of duty 24 hours later. One lady is jogging on the spot, which goes very much against the nature of the event, but she then disappears inside the leisure centre so that's all fine. Also present by the gates of St George's Field are a father and son in pushchair, and they're off to feed the ducks by the canal. Looks like just me then.
At the appointed time I set off past the 'Start' sign on the grass, setting off the stopwatch function on my phone, and begin my bout of exercise for the day. One of the joys of Parkwalk is that it's not a race so no official timings are taken, but I fancy keeping track to see how I compare. Five kilometres should take about an hour, but I might be able to manage it in a smidgeon over fifty minutes, the undulations on the course being none too challenging.
The main path is split in two, ideal for busy Saturdays when two-way jogging is the order of the day. A few early risers are out on the tarmac with me, one even has a suitcase, but they can't be taking part because they're walking the other way. It'd be nice to have someone else to walk alongside, after all the camaraderie of Parkrun makes a considerable contribution to its success, but instead I continue deep in my own thoughts, keen to break the back of the course ahead.
Across the South Park comes the first mild ascent on the Mile End course, climbing gently beside the Terrace Garden where nobody is (as yet) on the lager. The Green Bridge used to provide a lofty panorama over the A11, and should be a highlight of the circuit, but sadly major re-landscaping has replaced the verges with thick vegetation and now you could be anywhere. Again I can imagine the rush on Saturdays as athletes flood across from one side to the other, but today I am the only participant present.
Never mind, I know the course, which is the great thing about a crowd-sourced internet-facing operating system. A curl round the base of the artificial hill follows, then bends back to approach the sunken Art Pavilion. There is a much more interesting path which rises up across the top of the banana-shaped mound behind a line of concrete ribs, allowing views down across the ornamental lake, but I mustn't be diverted that way. Instead I follow the official path at ground level, significantly duller but crucial in ensuring that each circuit is precisely 2.5km rather then two point four.
The return stretch starts alongside the canal, which can't be easy on a Saturday with crowds of Parkrun joggers clashing with other joggers, dogwalkers and especially those on bikes. Today however it's a breeze, there being just me, so it's easy to step out of the way when a man in a grey jacket approaches. And then it's back to the mound and the green bridge and the sweep of the South Park, exactly as before but in reverse, with only a small off-lead scottie dog for variation. One circuit down, and I'm halfway.
The second circuit passes without great excitement, indeed a feeling of déjà vu. Doing a second lap's not too troubling on a Parkrun where speed is of the essence, but on a Parkwalk it's simply a repeat - easier in company but, as we've discussed, that's not what happened here. Indeed I'm already querying the attraction of coming back week in week out to walk the same route twice, without perhaps a level of tedium setting in. But I swiftly cast that doubt aside, the main aim is of course fresh air and exercise, and I'm sure there'll be more people to sustain me next Sunday.
My final time is fifty-three minutes and twenty-six seconds, which I'm particularly proud of, even though this emphasis on pace goes against the true Parkwalk ethos. I scan my official barcode against the sign at the finish, which I assume uploads my presence, and that's my participation at the event complete. I might have enjoyed it more if I'd felt the local community were supporting me more, but all these things have to start somewhere and I know I'm providing a strong nucleus around which further participation can grow.
So that's Parkwalk, a fantastic extension to the existing Parkrun family, potentially taking place in a park near you this morning. If you're reading this too late to take part, there's always next week, I'm sure the event takes place come rain or shine. My thanks to the unseen volunteers who make each Sunday morning event possible, inspiring us all to walk three miles rather than slobbing around in bed. And if you're out there in Mile End this morning, maybe see you on the course, or more likely maybe not.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, July 16, 2016WALK LONDON
The London Loop [section 21]
Havering-atte Bower to Harold Wood (4½ miles)
This hike across the top right corner of the capital is a two phase affair, first remote undulating farmland and then a trek through a Havering housing estate. The good news is that the first part almost makes up for the second. And if you don't want to see another human being for an hour, Section 21 is the way to go. [map] [6 photos]
One of the joys of visiting Havering-atte-Bower, aside from the village itself, is arriving via one of London's least frequent buses. On my journey the 375 is reassuringly busy, riding up the hill with a cargo including ten passengers, a suitcase, three gym bags and a bouquet of sunflowers. The sunflowers turn out to be important. On arrival I wander over to the stocks in the corner of the village green, and look back to see the flower-carrier standing alone in front of the church with a red heart-shaped helium balloon bobbing in her hand. She holds it for a minute or two, spinning round to look at the sky, before eventually letting go. The wind picks up the balloon and carries it over the village sign, above the stocks, and over the edge of the ridge, rising higher and higher until it's barely visible below the clouds. Her tribute ascended, she picks up the sunflowers and takes her bouquet into the churchyard, where a significant anniversary is to be commemorated. It's been an emotional launch.
This section of the walk starts at the Royal Oak, where a tactile map of the route now hangs somewhat inaccessibly behind a border of pebbles in the pub's beer garden. A brief path between two cottages leads out back into horse country, at first somewhat sparsely populated, meandering amiably alongside a fenced-off ditch. Close by in the trees is the Round House, a three-storey oddity once owned by a famous rosegrower, whereas the tall circular building easily spotted across the hedge is actually a water tower built to resemble a Norman turret. Across the intermediate field I espy a nucleus of equine folk standing chatting outside a barn, nothing especially conspicuous, but they're to be my last human contact for the next couple of miles.
An overgrown slatted footbridge leads through a brief tunnel of nettles, which makes me glad I've not worn shorts, before depositing me in a delightful hayfield. The footpath tramples across the middle, up and over a gentle rise between butterflies, heading for an isolated tree. You're supposed to walk past it, not wrongly assume that the waymark sign is pointing along the edge of the field, which is how I end up on an accidental ten minute detour. TfL's official new-style map's not especially helpful amid this fieldscape, showing nothing but two different shades of green for a couple of miles, leaving walkers reliant on a sequence of written instructions to find the way. Thankfully I've brought my 2005 London Loop leaflet with me, whose pictorial cartography helps guide me back on track.
An iron gatepost confirms the right route, this all that remains of the royal palace of Pyrgo where Henry VIII's daughters spent a lot of time growing up, and which only Londoners who've ever walked the Loop have ever heard of. The path rises along the edge of a ripening wheatfield crossed by tractor tracks, before entering an enclosed paddock full of horses. Don't worry they won't bite, they barely even move, giving you the chance to enjoy the view from the ridgetop while they graze. This improves further once you're through the next gate, a rusty swinger which looks like it might be attached to the electric fence but thankfully isn't. Downslope the suburbs of Havering, the QE2 bridge and the Swanscombe pylons are easily seen, with the sweep of the North Downs beyond, at least 20 miles distant. That white water tower still sticks up above the woods to the west, while the surrounding arable fields hint confirm the unexpectedly rural nature of this corner of the capital.
Technically there's a direct public footpath to our next target but the Loop clings to the edge of the fields, because that's easier to sign, although the next fingerpost is now semi-enveloped by trees and very hard to spot. A dodgy-looking footbridge with missing planks leads across to the final field, a scrappy affair, now barely 100 metres away from the Greater London boundary. The road beyond the hedge is in Essex, although that's not quite true of the lane you're about to step into, a residential cul-de-sac lined by modern cottages, more a linear hideaway than a community. One resident is out on his ride-on mower, others have Beware of the Dog displayed prominently, and the farm gates at the far end resemble wooden barricades. Hop over a stile to follow a most unusual downhill path - I've never walked anything like it - crossing bubbles of tarmac and tarmac chunks for several hundred yards. And at the far end are the identikit chalets of the Lakeview Caravan Park, at last signalling a return to built-up area.
You could end the walk here, to be honest, indeed I can recommend combining Loop section 20 with the first half of 21 if you fancy nine miles of almost unbroken pastoral. Two buses conveniently terminate at this peripheral outpost, and The Bear's offer of flame-grilled food and Sky Sports attracts several locals, even if perhaps not you.
It's a jolt to be back on residential avenues, passing fake Tudor houses (the perfectly symmetrical timbers are the giveaway) and large St George flags. On Priory Road one angry resident has pinned a notice reading "The Council Are Going To Build Here If We Don't Stop Them" to a tree, along with a planning application number, in a brief gap between properties. I'm more surprised when what looks like a normal patch of suburban greenspace has a dozen deer clustered in the middle of it, jostling playfully, which must be the sort of thing that happens in the outer reaches of Harold Hill. And I very nearly miss the Loop sign directing me into the undergrowth, a thin sliver of woodland amid the housing estate which at its heart conceals Carter's' Brook. For a few hundred utterly atypical yards the path clings to the meandering banks of a very minor stream, ducking over or under fallen trunks as necessary, before disappearing out through a cloud of nettles. Ah, that was fun.
Enough of nature. From here onwards the Loop follows the culverted brook at a safe distance, cutting through Harold Hill along a narrow landscaped flood plain (which last overtopped in storms on Referendum Day). Central Park is quite pleasant, though nowhere near Manhattan standard, and features by its entrance an exceptionally long history of the area (which ends up apologising that absolutely nothing survives). By the playground are three wafer-thin statues of locally-relevant characters, specifically Henry VIII, the founder of the Romford Drum and Trumpet Corps and a Bank of England designer, a truly eclectic threesome. Then follows further estate-edge walking, overlooked by vestless householders, more flags and the occasional windowcleaner, on a less than inspiring hike down to the A12. The official risk-averse advice is to walk 500m up the Romford Road to a pedestrian crossing and 500m back again, whereas there is a unsignalled path straight across the central reservation, and I crossed both carriageways without even having to pause.
The final riverside strip again has no view of the riverside, but it does have the Havering Dog Training Centre, a hut whose presence explains the four leapy collies being exercised outside. It's not possible to follow Carter's Brook down to its confluence with the Ingrebourne because an industrial estate gets in the way, formerly a brickworks, and then the Liverpool Street mainline intrudes. And that's the signal for wholesale suburban retreat, heading to the crossing point by the station down some very ordinary residential streets, past the library and a final pub. This being Harold Wood the pub is the King Harold, overseen by a suit of armour in a white tunic on the first floor balcony. The ensuing parade of shops is pitch-perfect ex-East-End, with bakery, chippy and funeral directors in close sequence, and the great news IT'S A BOY stuck to the window of the hair salon. Crossrail arrives here soon, which may shake the area up somewhat, but even now Havering-Atte-Bower it most definitely ain't.
» London Loop section 21: official webpage; map and directions; map
» Who else has walked it? Tetramesh, Stephen, Stefan, Andrew, Mark, Oatsy, Richard, Maureen, Derick, Tim
» See also sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
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