diamond geezer

 Wednesday, May 06, 2015

THE UNLOST RIVERS OF LONDON
Mayes Brook
Chadwell Heath → Barking (4½ miles)
[Mayes Brook → Roding → Thames]


One look at the calendar and it was pretty obvious what this month's first unlost river ought to be. The Mayes Brook runs south through the residential hinterland between Barking and Dagenham, making a direct (and not coincidental) hit on Goodmayes. The first half, alas, is underground, but a glorious unburying took place a few years ago in Mayesbrook Park, reclaiming the river for the 21st century. Elsewhere there's potential, but nothing especially special. Here then is an account of a downstream walk I think I can guarantee you will never follow. [map]

The source of the Mayes Brook isn't especially obvious, nor indeed certain, in the midst of the built-up area of Chadwell Heath. But local contours suggest a pronounced thin dip to the north of St Chad's Park, so my money's on the turning circle of bungalows at the end of Chadville Gardens. The adjacent park is the last surviving remnant of former heathland, with an ornamental sector (gardens/blossom/dogs), a recreational sector (basketball/grass/dogs) and a wildlife conservation sector (well-trimmed undergrowth/dogs). The lie of the land suggests the fledgling brook flowed along the edge of the latter, indeed there's a broken line of lime trees that could very easily have grown up, long ago, along either bank. The boundary between Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham runs precisely here too, which is often a sign of a former river long gone, or at least hidden away in a drain. It's a pretty, if inauspicious, start.



Tracking the next half mile requires walking the streets, specifically Jarrow Road, a speedbump avenue of hedges and hardstanding. On reaching Chadwell Heath Lane there's a dip in the road between the pharmacy and the off licence that's so obvious it could be a textbook example of lost river evidence. But that's the last obvious contour you'll see. From hereon down the river valley is essentially flat, or as near as makes no odds, with just ten metres to descend over the next four miles. A tiny tributary feeds in at the end of Roxy Avenue, this apparently open water but corralled within the confines of an academy and so invisible to non Chadwellites. The main river would have crossed the High Road in the vicinity of a Met Police Traffic Operational Command Unit, rammed with boxy white vehicles, and a Harvester 'Salad and Grill' restaurant. And then it's onwards piped beneath the Norwich-bound railway, spanned by a lengthy green footbridge with views into the rear of a retail park. I do hope I'm not overselling this.

Mayfield School is reconstructing itself into a series of white and green cuboids, one of which is the new Sports hall, another a new classroom block. One of the fresh landscaping features outside is a gabioned trench, which might just be a nod to the Mayes Brook, just as the name of the school most definitely is. The footpath emerges at Brooks' Parade, its apostrophe carved deep into the stone plaque above the accountants, and again located precisely on the boundary between the two boroughs. And now at last we get to see some water. An extensive ornamental lake at the northern end of Goodmayes Park is aligned with the former Mayes Brook, now home to wide range of waterfowl including a squadron of divebombing geese. Redbridge council have barriered off several shallow sets of steps leading down to the waterside, presumably in case some bread-chucking toddler should topple into some potentially toxic algae, which does rather diminish the overall appeal.



The remainder of Goodmayes Park is more sports-oriented, with organised under-5s football and free tennis for all (although a sequence of abandoned, cracked-up tennis courts clearly reveals where the money ran out). There's even an extension to the park across Mayesbrook Road, which is essentially a mown polygon large enough to cram in a dozen football pitches, although at present there's only one. Two vandal-proof pavilions await high season custom, though today more likely the hideaway of a single skulking weed-smoker. And that'll do for Redbridge, the remainder of the course being heartland Barking and Dagenham, which might just explain the huge UKIP poster that wheeled past on the back of a truck when I reached Longbridge Road.

Beyond the municipal gates, Mayesbrook Park is rather splendid. You'd expect as much from a park that's had three quarters of a million pounds pumped into it by the Mayor and the Thames Rivers Restoration Trust, its centrepiece an entire mile of reconstituted river. A mile of concrete channel has been landscaped down the western side of the park, sealed off from prying feet at the top end to create a secluded wildlife reserve. Along the next open section I watched a heron having an aerial battle with a crow, presumably over who had the right to roost in the clear glassy shallows. The crow eventually won, settling in by the discarded burger box, forcing the heron to flap its enormous wings and swoop upstream to lesser pickings. Beyond the sports centre the relandscaping is even more extreme, with gentle meanders snaking across modified wetlands, the plan being to increase residential protection by extending the flood plain, but to do it in an attractive way. It works, on both levels.

Don't look too hard at what happens next, as the original steep-banked concrete channel returns. Instead be distracted by the two vast boating lakes, these of older extraction, on which the Barking and Dagenham Canoe Club exercises every Wednesday evening and Saturday lunchtime. These lap up almost to the District line, beneath which the Mayes Brook dips but no walker can follow. Instead a dull diversion by road is required, passing Upney station and emerging by the Rippleside Burial Ground. Ahead lies the Mayes Brook's second most accessible stretch, this a long broad artificial channel beyond a sluice down the side of an industrial park. It's not beautiful, and it's not a public right of way so doesn't lead anywhere, but it's still a darned sight better to see the river above ground than below.



A metal fence just before the A13 forces the longest diversion of all, through the interwar estates of Barking south. As a bonus this means passing Eastbury Manor House, a Tudor homestead that must have been located here thanks to lush meadows and ready access to running water, and is now a National Trust property with a sideline in stretch limo weddings. Crossing the A13 involves negotiating the Charlton Crescent Subway, part of Barking and Dagenham's millennial Artsline project, strikingly illuminated by a sequence of colourful LED lighting bands. If you only visit two sentences in today's report, make it the last two.

By the subway's southern entrance the Mayes Brook is briefly fully revealed, before vanishing behind a long screen of wooden panels protecting residents of Barking Thames View from the din of the Barking Bypass. And that's almost the lot, bar a low sweep around a business park and a tidal sluice propped up by parallel concrete struts. The Mayes Brook then enters the Roding unseen, enveloped by trading estates and industrial hinterland, immediately opposite the Beckton Sewage Works. It's an ignominious end for a river that struggles for an identity, briefly flourishing in Mayesbrook Park, but essentially unlost and unloved.

 Tuesday, May 05, 2015



Bank holiday postcard: Leake Street Subway
It used to be a dark and forbidding tunnel beneath the platforms at Waterloo, running approximately beneath the front of twelve-car trains. Cars drove through, and pedestrians nipped through if they had to, taking a necessary shortcut between the South Bank and Lower Marsh. When Eurostar moved out the tunnel was made pedestrians only, and the following year Banksy moved in under cover to decorate the walls. His work's long been painted over, but the Leake Street Subway is still a graffiti artists' plaything, appropriated throughout for the urban collective. They're not necessarily the greatest works of art, to be fair, a lot of them (admittedly colourful) tags and scrawl. But some of the current designs have flair, particularly when Star Wars or comicbook superheroes have been appropriated, and the quality's often better the higher up the wall they are (suggesting the use of either ladders or scaffolding). Even first thing on a bank holiday morning there was a beardy bloke on the go with a can, and if you stepped on something cylindrical in the darkness it was more likely an aerosol cap than a can of lager. Departing commuters probably know nothing of the transient gallery beneath the tracks, but freedom of expression has created a modern-day palimpsest in this SE1 netherspace.



Bank holiday postcard: Winkworth Arboretum
In search of bluebells, as is my wont at this time of year, I ventured down to the verdant slopes of southwest Surrey for my bank holiday fix. Winkworth Arboretum lies two miles south of Godalming, none too friendly to reach on foot but I've never let that stop me. The extensive grounds, now owned by the National Trust, were planted by top dermatologist Dr Wilfrid Fox in the 1930s. His passion was trees, and he proceeded to cover the slopes with species that would look particularly stunning in autumn. Later he diversified into spring, and the current outcome is a palette of greens and the occasional red encircling the slopes around a central pool. There are some very steep slopes, the finest of these presently bordered by a riot of azaleas, not that the gradient seemed to put off some of yesterday's more resilient elderly visitors. The place was more popular with young Surrey families, as parents encouraged Milo and Freya to stay on the footpaths, and Inge and Hannibal to sit nicely in the bluebells while Daddy took their photo. Because blimey yes, the place was covered with bluebells, almost wherever you chose to walk. Initially they had a photogenic charm, and my camera spent more time out of my pocket than in. But eventually I become immune to the novelty, and by the end of ninety minutes wandering amongst them they became almost commonplace. If you've not had your annual bluebell fix yet, best get a move on. [5 photos]



Bank holiday postcard: The Vote Now Show
One of the joys of living in London is the ease of nipping along to hear a BBC radio programme being recorded. You have to get hold of a ticket in the first place, which is easier said than done, and you have to turn up early enough to ensure your numbered sticker ranks below the official cutoff. But then you're ushered into the hallowed ranks of the BBC Radio Theatre, and out comes the talent to perform especially for you. Last night's audience came to see The Vote Now Show, an electioneering update of the Radio 4 stalwart, fronted (as it has been since 1998) by Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis. They bounded on stage and were much ruder than they're normally allowed to be, before switching on the professionalism to broadcast a live trailer for the evening show - which is the only time I've ever laughed live on Radio 4. All the expected jokes about royal babies and policy tombstones made the script for the main programme, the majority of which was padded out by the presence of stand-up comedians and a separate guest (Tony Blair's former script writer) doing their thing. We got 45 minutes of material whereas the finished show lasts only 28, unbelievably achieved with no need for retakes, which must be a first. And most impressively the whole thing was trimmed down for broadcast later the same evening, allowing me (and now you) to listen to our handiwork complete with cackles. I hope my Toksvig tickets come through next...

 Monday, May 04, 2015

Before Heathrow, London's main international airport was in Croydon. It grew out of one World War and was pretty much snuffed out by the other, but inbetween it was the luxurious gateway to Europe and the Empire, and was also the birthplace of modern air traffic control. No planes fly here today, but the terminal lives on as the Croydon Airport Visitor Centre which opens to the public one day a month. And that's the first Sunday, sorry, so you've a long time to wait.



After World War One the airfields at Waddon and Beddington combined, forming Croydon Aerodrome, which opened as London's international airport in March 1920. Flights were initially restricted to nearby European cities, notably Paris and Amsterdam, with Berlin added as a destination a few years later. Conditions on the ground were fairly primitive and so the airport soon relocated to new buildings on freshly-opened Purley Way. Airport House, which was officially opened on 2nd May 1928, became the first purpose-built air terminal in the UK. Its interior provided relatively luxurious conditions for those able to fly, and the hop to Paris soon became the busiest international route in the world. As aircraft design improved so more far flung destinations were served, peaking just before World War Two, which wrested the aerodrome back under military control. Grass runways meant that Croydon's civil days were numbered once proper passenger facilities at Heathrow were established, and the final flight (to Rotterdam) left on 30th September 1959.

Airport House is still an imposing sight opposite the out-of-town Colonnades shopping centre, accessed (by those on foot) beneath a full-size restored De Havilland Heron. A lot of people work here now, as the remaining buildings have been utilised as serviced offices and meeting room facilities. But the volunteers who run the Croydon Airport Visitor Centre have full run of the old control tower, and a few other bits and pieces in the main entrance hall. Entrance is free, although donations are appreciated, and a minor army of ladies and bejacketed gentlemen have assembled to show you round. I was really impressed by the volunteers, many of who had connections to the aerodrome when it was in operation, and was shown round by a sparkly gentleman who must have been in his eighties and was a fount of anecdotes and knowledge.



Much of the airport's story can be told by the photographs that line the walls and corridors. But it's upstairs in three small galleries that a variety of artefacts reveal more of the flavour of life at Croydon. Amy Johnson departed from here on her record-breaking solo flight to Australia, and returned here afterwards to begin a triumphant parade through the streets of London. Because after-dark flights were nigh impossible to navigate, a series of lighthouses was set up between Croydon and the Channel coast, with one at Tatsfield crucially important to ensure planes flew high enough above the North Downs. Winston Churchill took flying lessons here, and nearly lost his life in a crash. And stewards sourced all the food for in-flight catering from local shops, and prepared it themselves before take-off.

Passenger flights to Africa and Australia often involved ground-based legs by train, and could take a couple of weeks, hence timetables only listed dates rather than times. Overnight stopovers at hotels or even military bases were required, which made intercontinental travel considerably more of an adventure than it is today. Nevertheless Imperial Airways were keen to ensure that its passengers were always well catered for, and in the 1930s issued the following list of acceptable clothing to fill one's 'wardrobe suitcase'.
Imperial Airways Baggage Allowance (40lb)
Ladies: 1 Lightweight Flannel Suit, 2 Afternoon Dresses, 2 Washing Frocks (Silk), 2 Dinner Dresses, 1 Pullover, 1 Cardigan, 1 Jumper, 2 Silk Skirts, 1 Bathing Costume, 1 Bathing Cap, 2 Scarves, 1 Evening Bag, 3 Pairs Gloves (1 for evening), 1 Sunshade, 1 Dressing Gown, 3 Chemise and Knicker Sets, 2 Pairs Cami-Knickers, 2 Slips, 2 Pairs Knickers, 3 Night Dresses, 6 Pairs Stockings, 2 Belts, 4 Hats, 1 Pair Evening Shoes, 1 Pair Sports Shoes, 1 Pair Beach Shoes, 1 Pair Slippers
Men: 1 Dinner Suit, 1 Lightweight Flannel Suit, 1 Pair Black Town Shoes, 1 Pair Tan Town Shoes, 1 Pair Patent Dress Shoes, 6 Shirts (3 Day, 3 Dress), 2 Soft Dress Shirts, 2 Soft Dress Collars, 2 Dress Ties, 2 Pairs Dress Socks, 6 Pairs Day Socks, 1 Pair Braces, 1 Dozen Handkerchiefs, 3 Lightweight Pyjamas, 1 Lightweight Dressing Gown, 6 Day Ties, 1 Pair Suspenders, 1 Set of Toilet Accessories
At the top of the control tower there's a have-a-go flight simulator, and a chance to practice your triangulation skills via a method of radio-based location-finding that originated here at Croydon. There's also the opportunity to look out of the window towards Croydon and central London, with Wembley's arch and the Shard clearly visible beyond the adjacent trading estate. Meanwhile back in the main hall the volunteers will have books and postcards and magazines to sell, plus small flight-based toys for any younger shoppers. And there's a fine cafe, the Cloud 9 Pantry, which on open days feeds the visitors and during the week caters for all the workers stationed down the many corridors. It's proper history, this, but it's the older generation of volunteers who make it special.

And what happened to the Croydon Airport after it closed down? A large part was built on to create the Roundshaw Estate, whose streets all have aviation-based names and where the primary school is named after Amy Johnson. But a large portion was left as meadowy heath, creating a particularly attractive open space called Roundshaw Park, which is split between the boroughs of Croydon and Sutton. Part of the airport's original tarmac can still be seen in the grass close to the war memorial on Purley Way. And of course there's the Spitfire Business Park, including the former terminal at Airport House. If certain politicians get their wish, maybe London's current international airport will one day end up the same way.

 Sunday, May 03, 2015

Seaside postcard: Ramsgate      (previous visit)      [13 photos]

Ramsgate Tunnels: The story of how Ramsgate's population survived World War Two is a fascinating one, and also eminently visitable, in a year-old underground attraction ably run by volunteers. And the story begins 150 years ago, with a railway. Ramsgate's main station was a mile out of town, wholly inconvenient for daytrippers, so the Kent Coast Railway decided to extend a completely separate line down to the seafront. The underground incline ended at a four platform station by the sands, named Ramsgate Harbour, and was initially remarkably successful at drawing in the crowds. After WW1 the station closed and was replaced by a funfair called Merrie England, which reused the subterranean tracks to run a miniature railway up to Dumpton Park. That's long gone, and in 1998 the amusement park itself was destroyed by fire and is now a building site, awaiting cash to turn it into beachside apartments. But the tunnel mouth has been reopened, and visitors can wander inside (past a half-decent cafe), pay a fiver and don a hard hat to explore further. A line of soot is still clearly visible on the tunnel roof above the up-line, where the engines had to work a lot harder to reach the top and escape towards Broadstairs. And if this were all there was, that'd be interesting but not great. Instead it's the smaller of the Ramsgate Tunnels that's utterly compelling.

Having been plagued by Zeppelins during WW1, the people of Ramsgate were particularly attuned to the risk of aerial bombardment should WW2 take place. The town's engineer drew up groundbreaking plans for a series of shelters beneath the town, dug deep into the chalk, and managed to persuade the mayor and council to fund the scheme. They worked in haste, beginning in March 1939 and completing two and a half miles of tunnels before Christmas the same year. A complex subterranean network was created, with 23 entrance points across the town, the aim being that residents would never be more than five minutes walk from a portal to safety. Initially the project looked foolhardy, but a major air raid at the end of August 1940 proved its worth, with casualties minimised as tens of thousands of residents decamped to the tunnels. And here they returned, and indeed stayed, in a linear underground village filled with bunk beds. Never let it be said that risk mitigation is a pointless exercise.



And now today, in groups of no more 30, you can enter the old railway portal and see the wartime tunnels for yourself. The tour starts with a video, to set the scene, then proceeds a short distance up the aforementioned railway line. And it's then that your guide flicks on the light switch to reveal the narrow side tunnel carved into the chalk. And it goes on and on and on. The tunnels were dug following the line of the town's roads, to avoid potential litigation, wide enough only for a line of beds plus space to file past alongside. Every so often there are small alcoves, which housed the toilets, nothing especially sanitary or private. And less occasionally there are right-angled turn-offs that lead to flights of steps, over 130 in one case, which are the connections to the surface. Whilst the first deep sections are pure head-ducking chalk, the less deep tunnels had to be lined with concrete and are now covered with graffiti after the town's postwar teenagers repeatedly broke in. Expect to walk further than you'd expect too, almost half a mile in, and then the same distance back.

The guide on my tour was excellent. With her lively dramatic delivery I'd lay good money she was once a schoolteacher, and she managed to hold the attention of a group containing restless children and elderly couples. We paused at regular intervals for additional background information and anecdotes, like the time Winston Churchill came down, and how the street signs removed from roads above ground to confuse the enemy were relocated down here. The first section of the tour was lit by electric light, beyond which got to rely on torches and lanterns, eventually turning back after more than 500 metres incursion within. The tour is an absolute bargain for a fiver, lasting an hour and a half in total, and the volunteers who've managed to bring the tunnels back to life deserve commendation. But closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, in case I've tempted you to come down.

Thanet South: All eyes will be on Broadstairs and Ramsgate this week as one of the most important battles of the election reaches its climax. UKIP leader Nigel Farage is standing for the constituency of Thanet South, having judged that its electorate gives him the best chance of being returned to Parliament, and he may just be right. Ramsgate is a relentlessly over-50's kind of place, if not a particularly migrant-packed town, indeed I see more evidence of immigration in five minutes in East London than I saw in an entire day in Thanet. Few UKIP supporters revealed themselves, although a grey-cropped bloke walked past in Ramsgate wearing a particularly frilly purple rosette, and three UKIP flags fluttered from the masts of boats in the marina. At UKIP HQ in King Street a couple of workers milled around behind closed doors, in front of a list of pledges to "Bring back Manston Airport" and "Stop overdevelopment", with a line of St George's flag bunting hanging in the front window. But at the nearby crossroads a one-day Say No to UKIP protest was underway, and getting considerably more attention. A coalition of other activists had grouped together to hand out leaflets and stickers bearing the campaign's name, and to urge voters to mark their cross beside anyone but Nigel. With opposition currently broadly split between Labour and Conservative, such tactical voting may still allow UKIP to nip through the middle. I spotted Labour HQ on the harbourfront, its front door wide open and a larger than life cut-out of their candidate in the window. Meanwhile the candidate for Bez's Reality Party had parked up a double decker bus by the harbour and was cycling up and down broadcasting his policies via megaphone (doing things better than all the other corrupt politicians seemed to be his gist). Of the Green Party I saw one window sticker in an outlying street and a 'Vote Green' request chalked into the clifftop promenade in Ramsgate West. And I started to think I'd never see anything Conservative, until I finally came across a big blue poster on the edge of a large rape-field a couple of miles out of town. All in all, insufficient visual clues to make it clear who might eventually win the day. But the people of Thanet South could slam the door on Nigel Farage's parliamentary career, or lay out the red carpet and welcome him on board. Watch this space. [6 photos]

Pegwell Bay: To the west of Ramsgate, where the cliffs end and the coast curves round towards Deal, lies the broad sweep of Pegwell Bay. When the tide's out the estuary forms an extensive flat expanse of sand and mud, and hence one of the most welcoming spots in East Kent for migratory birds and invading armies. Roman emperor Claudius landed his armies on beaches hereabouts in 43AD, as did Hengist and Horsa in the 5th century and St Augustine's Christian mission in the 6th. The Saxon invasion is commemorated by a replica Viking ship on the shore at Cliffsend, unveiled by the Prince of Denmark in 1949, now fenced off to resist English boarders. It's barely a tourist attraction these days, but provides a focal point for the small dog-friendly cafe and picnic site nextdoor. But follow the steps down to the shoreline and a particularly peculiar location awaits. For this was once the site of the International Hoverport, a futuristic attempt to get Britons across the Channel on air. The terminal was opened in 1969 by a Swedish company, Hoverlloyd, whose fleet of four beskirted vehicles traversed the waves between here and Calais. Alas they survived only until 1982, for the last year merged with their closest rival, before operations at Pegwell Bay were closed down and facilities abandoned. All the buildings were removed, but the concrete deck remained and has been slowly reclaimed by wildlife over the years. It's now possible to walk around this eerie expanse unchallenged, across former car parks to the sloping ramps from which the hovercraft once departed. A few lines of paint remain, and holes into which landing gear must once have plugged, but the desolate site is now little more than a memorial to 1960s aspiration, 1970s glory and 1980s reality. I loved it, obviously, as must the seabirds who now have this unique departure point to themselves. [3 photos]

Seaside postcards: Here's where I've been along the southeast coast so far (plus where I ought to go next)
» Kent: Dartford, Gravesend, Cliffe, Allhallows, Grain, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Sheerness, Faversham, Whitstable, Shivering Sands, Herne Bay, Reculver, Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Sandwich, Deal, St Margaret's, White Cliffs, Dover, Folkestone, Hythe & Dymchurch, Dungeness.
» Sussex: Camber Sands, Rye, Camber Castle, Winchelsea, Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Beachy Head, Seven Sisters, Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Brighton, Hove, Shoreham, Worthing, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, Selsey, Chichester.

 Saturday, May 02, 2015

Canary Wharf Crossrail station opened yesterday, approximately three and a half years ahead of schedule. That might seem rather premature given that the first trains won't be arriving until the end of 2018. But, priorities, the opening of a new linear shopping mall perched on top of the station provides somewhere for potential passengers to eat and drink while they wait.

The shopping mall is Crossrail Place, the latest retail outlet for lunchtime financiers at Canary Wharf. It's to be found on the northern shores of the Docklands complex, previously tumbleweed, now increasingly the place to go. The crowds were out yesterday to explore the new extension to their estate, streaming across the newly opened walkway (in the shape of a squashed hexagonal prism), or exiting the existing subterranean mall to enter at ground level. This being the first weekend you got a leaflet thrust at you as you entered, although quite a posh leaflet in the style of a first class cruise ticket, a picture implying that the long straight station-top shopping mall was in fact an ocean liner. Dream on.



The first weekend is being celebrated with freebies, to make the debut retail offering seem more exciting than it really is. Downstairs the giveaways are a plastic goblet of bucks fizz or some pink candy floss, while upstairs (if the vendor is at his post) the treat is a saucy waffle. There are also a lot of security guards about, not because the bubbly is especially valuable but because this is private land and nobody wants miscreants lowering the tone. One day this'll be the entrance to the Crossrail station, down an escalator or two into the concrete depths, but for now it's simply an echoing circulation space awaiting far off rush hour crowds.

Crossrail Place's first shops are accessed from outside, along a mundane boardwalk that could be in any provincial town centre. A coffee shop, a Japanese fusion restaurant and a Nat West bank face a shallow water feature created from the remnants of the dock the new station has infilled. Only one unit is currently occupied by a proper shop in which you could actually browse, assuming you want some unnecessary designer objects to fill a space in your kitchen or wherever. On the opposite site is a more peaceful non-commercial arcade, with a line of benches backing onto what look like ventilation units, where the Midland Bank's war memorial lurks somewhat unexpectedly.

But you'll be wanting to go upstairs, above the exterior access points, to the equivalent of the ocean liner's upper deck. Here the architects have delivered their communal asset, a linear roof garden. It's partly open to the skies, with various holes having been left in the triangular timber lattice that curves overhead. Various paths weave through the planted beds, the main track quite broad, others narrow enough to be easily blocked by a small group. Apparently the plants at the western end reflect the western hemisphere and those at the eastern end the eastern, but any suggestion that this is because the Greenwich meridian cuts through the site would be geographically inaccurate.



Friday's crowds were greeted by a pop-up bar courtesy of Crossrail Place's anchor restaurant, whose prime roof terrace doesn't open until late summer, so they had to make do with a limited menu including lobster rolls and fries. One member of staff was giving out vouchers for a free drink at the bar, which sounded like a bargain until you saw the huge queue clogging up one end of the garden. At the other end a band were warming up, their speakers loud enough to be clearly heard on Poplar station's platforms across the intervening building site. And if you continued past the lifts and loos to peer round a cul-de-sac barrier, you could see further empty units awaiting fitting out and their transformation into something else luxuriously unnecessary.

I was struck by how many people were carrying food and/or drink, not just that dispensed free, but wrapped stuff they'd deliberately purchased on site. London is increasingly a grazing city, its residents intent on eating and drinking everywhere they go, and the selection of outlets in this new mall reflects that obsession. Indeed I was struck by how quickly the financial community at Canary Wharf had splurged out and embraced Crossrail Place as its own, not just out of novelty but because they'll always have a need for additional after-work social venues. Come enjoy the roof garden while they're not around, I'd say. And try to resist hanging about elsewhere until there are trains to wait for.

My Crossrail Place gallery
There are 18 photos altogether [gallery] [slideshow]
(and ten photos of the site from last September)

 Friday, May 01, 2015

A Freedom of Information request has retrieved daily usage rates for the Emirates Air Line during the financial year 1st April 2014 - 31st March 2015. The spreadsheet is here, if you want to dig around for yourself. Don't you just love FoI requests?

The ten windiest/most disrupted Dangleway days

 DateService
   availability   
 Closure due 
to wind
1stTue 31 Mar 153%Yes
2ndTue 21 Oct 148%Yes
3rdSun 29 Mar 1520%Yes
4thSat 10 Jan 1527%Yes
5thSat 10 May 1438%Yes
6thMon 22 Dec 1445%Yes
7thFri 09 May 1448%Yes
8thFri 09 Jan 1551%Yes
9thMon 12 Jan 1552%Yes
10th  Mon 02 Mar 1556%Yes

The cablecar closed due to wind on 87 days last year, which is 24% of the possible total. Service was closed for more than half the day on only seven occasions, and for more than an hour on only 29 days. The month most affected by wind was January, with 11 days of disruption. March was in second place, followed by December, February and May.

The ten days with the fewest Dangleway passengers

 DatePassengersService
   availability   
 Closure due 
to wind
1stTue 31 Mar 15123%Yes
2ndTue 21 Oct 14208%Yes
3rdSun 29 Mar 1523520%Yes
4thWed 28 Jan 1551195%Yes
5thMon 02 Mar 1568156%Yes
6thTue 02 Dec 1478166%Yes
7thSat 10 May 1479238%Yes
8thSat 10 Jan 15102227%Yes
9thThu 08 Jan 151068100%No
10th  Wed 07 Jan 151092100%No

Yes, it's true, on Tuesday 31st March this year the cablecar had only twelve passengers. This equates to just six passengers in each direction, which is the equivalent of one cabin almost full. Equally minimally, on Tuesday 21st October the cablecar had only 20 passengers. Both of these days suffered from very limited service availability due to high winds (on 31st March, less than half an hour). The lowest number of passengers on a day with calm weather conditions was 1068, on Thursday 8th January. This equates to 1.3 passengers per minute. 15% of days had fewer than 2000 passengers, while 41% of days had fewer than 3000.

The ten days with the most Dangleway passengers

 DatePassengersService
   availability   
 Closure due 
to wind
1stSun 24 Aug 1411351100%No
2ndSat 09 Aug 1411103100%No
3rdSat 12 Apr 1410888100%No
4thSat 14 Feb 1510673100%No
5thSun 25 May 1410593100%No
6thSat 06 Sep 1410526100%No
7thSat 16 Aug 1410435100%No
8thSat 19 Apr 1410298100%No
9thSun 04 May 1410286100%No
10th   Fri 18 Apr 1410159100%No

The greatest number of passengers in one day was 11351 on 24th August, the Sunday before the August bank holiday. This equates to 17 passengers per minute. Only eleven days saw more than 10000 passengers (one of which was Valentine's Day). The 25 busiest days were all Saturdays, Sundays or bank holidays. The highest number of passengers on an ordinary weekday was 8180 on Tuesday 28th October, which was during the school half term holidays.

The average number of passengers by day of the week

MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
3285  3232  3323  3323  3822  7253  6398  

On an average weekday approximately 3500 passengers ride the cablecar, which is fewer than 2000 in each direction. Weekends are roughly twice as busy as weekdays, and Saturdays are busier than Sundays.

The average number of daily passengers by month

AprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecJanFebMar
5243  4463  4242  4990  7029  4484  4485  3617  2963  2936  4118  2998  

The top month by far was August, which is peak tourist season and entirely within the school holidays. April was in second place, again probably thanks to two weeks of school holidays. Other spring/summer months had around 4000 passengers a day. February's average topped 4000 thanks to the special promotion which boosted passenger numbers over the Valentine's Day weekend. The fewest number of passengers rode in December, January and March. I've not counted the seven day maintenance closure in March when calculating these figures.

The total number of passenger journeys in the financial year 2014/5 was 1,544,679. This is 3% above TfL's target of 1½ million passengers. It's also lower/higher than the number of passenger journeys the previous year. Damn, I'm not sure precisely how many passengers the cablecar had in 2013/14. Perhaps someone could put in an FoI request and ask...

 Thursday, April 30, 2015

Outer London Day Out (NE)

And finally, completing my tourist circuit of Outer London, I've reached the northeast corner of town. I'll not linger on Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, as their inner reaches don't fit the geographical criteria, and I'll not be including attractions that offer only food, drink or shopping. But there are still plenty of places in more far flung boroughs that are well worth a sightseeing visit, and hopefully I've listed those below. Do add to my suggestions with choices of your own, be that today or at some point in the future, which I'll add later if I think they fit. And if you're ever at a loss for something to do, and the mainstream media are serving up yet another diet of central venues, simply click back here to April 2015 and take your pick from Outer London.

WALTHAM FOREST
Walthamstow: Top of the heap in E17 is the William Morris Gallery (10am-5pm, closed Monday, Tuesday) [blogged], the great man's childhood home recently transformed into a well-appointed and award-winning museum. With more of an eye on the local borough, the Vestry House Museum (10am-5pm, closed Monday, Tuesday) sits at the heart of Walthamstow Village (which is itself worth a look). Nearer the Lea is the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum (11am-4pm, Sundays only), very recently refurbished (and only just reopened) to display its crammed-in collection of transport and industrial ephemera.
Lea Bridge: A wealth of waterside wandering awaits down the Lea Valley between Walthamstow Marsh and Hackney Marshes. Tucked off Orient Way is the WaterWorks Centre & Middlesex Filter Beds (8am-7pm), a small visitor centre and wildlife reserve with hides for birdwatching.
Chingford: Although most of Epping Forest is over the border in Essex, a long thin tongue stretches all the way down through Highams Park and Whipps Cross to Wanstead Flats. Overlooking Chingford Plain is Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge (10am-5pm) [blogged], essentially a Tudor grandstand, beside a brand new visitor centre.

REDBRIDGE
Ilford: The Redbridge Museum (10am-5pm, closed Sunday, Monday) [blogged] at the town's library is a modern, well-presented affair. But the main historic hub is nearer Gants Hill at Valentines Mansion (11am-3pm, Tuesday, Sunday) [blogged], a restored 17th century mansion set in gorgeous gardens.
Wanstead: All that's left of Wanstead House, one of the largest stately homes in southeast England, is part of its landcsaped estate (now Wanstead Park) and The Temple (noon-5pm, weekends) [blogged] a garden feature that's now a visitor centre.
Fairlop/Hainault: Fairlop Waters Country Park is a large open space surrounding two lakes for sailing and angling, plus a golf course. Just up the road is Hainault Forest Country Park, with hillside trails, a boating lake and Foxburrow Farm/Zoo (9.30am-5pm).

HAVERING
Romford: In the heart of Romford is Havering Museum (£2.50, 11am-5pm, closed Monday, Tuesday) [blogged], while a mile up the road is Romford Greyhound Stadium (Mon free, Wed £4, Fri & Sat £7) for a night at the dogs.
Upminster: At the far end of the District line, Upminster Windmill (2-5pm, 2nd & 4th weekends, April-September) [blogged] is a 200 year old smock mill with regular open days. Meanwhile the Upminster Tithe Barn (2nd & 4th weekends, April-October) is officially called 'The Upminster Tithe Barn Museum of Nostalgia' and contains agricultural and domestic items.
Rainham: Rainham Hall (10am-5pm, from 1st August?) [blogged], a Queen Anne merchant's house overlooking the Thames marshes, reopens this summer after a thorough restoration. Take the London Loop to the waterside to see The Diver, a semi-submersible sculpture beside some dumped WW2 concrete barges.

BARKING & DAGENHAM
Upney: Eastbury Manor House (£4, 10am-4pm Wed & Thu, plus Sunday afternoons) [blogged], a large Elizabethan landowner's house, has a wholly incongruous setting at the centre of an inter-war housing estate. It's one of the National Trust's hidden London treasures.
Becontree: The only surviving manor house in Dagenham, Valence House (10am-4pm, closed Sunday) [blogged] is now the borough's part-moated museum.

NEWHAM
Stratford: London's newest park is a landscaped triumph, although long-term Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is essentially a backdrop to boost adjacent property prices. Walking its planted paths could easily take an afternoon. An ascent of the UK's tallest sculpture, the Orbit (£15, 10am-6pm) [blogged], is good value if you buy your annual pass online and use it to come back more than once. Or try your hand at road/track/BMX/mountain biking at the Lee Valley VeloPark (from £5).
Three Mills: Reputedly the largest tidal mill in the world, the 18th century House Mill is run by volunteers and offers fascinating guided tours (11am - 4pm, Sundays, May-October) [blogged].
Lower Lea Valley: Launching May 23rd, The Line will be a sculpture trail approximately down the meridian between Stratford and Greenwich, and will be free to visit (apart from the two bits where you have to spend £5 on public transport).
Royal Victoria: TfL's contribution to the Outer London tourist experience is the Dangleway (£4.50/£3.30, 7am-9pm) [blogged], London's first cablecar, which'll whisk you high above the Thames to enjoy views of Docklands, the O2 and various Silvertown recycling depots. Near the Royal Docks terminal is The Crystal (£8, 10am-5pm, closed Monday) [blogged], a futuristic sustainability exhibition, once free but now over-priced.

TOWER HAMLETS (outer)
Canary Wharf: The Museum of London Docklands (10am-6pm), an outpost of the Museum of London, fills an old dockside warehouse to tell the story of the capital's maritime past.
Isle of Dogs: Head south beyond Canary Wharf to reach Mudchute Park [blogged], an unlikely 32-acre oasis with its own city farm (9am-5pm) that's free to toddle round.

HACKNEY (outer)
Stoke Newington: A cluster of points of interest hereabouts includes recently-refreshed Clissold Park, the Castle Climbing Centre inside an old Victorian pumping station, and Abney Park Cemetery, one of London's Magnificent Seven.

ISLINGTON (outer)
Highbury: Gooners (and probably only Gooners) will appreciate a self-guided Arsenal Stadium Tour (£20, 9.30am-5pm, not matchdays) which includes a trip to the bijou Arsenal Museum (£8, 10.30am-6pm) [blogged].

If you have any further thoughts on places you'd go out of your way to visit, please add them in the specific comments box. Strictly no food and drink, no shopping and nothing from Zone 1. And I'll add your best choices later.

 Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Outer London Day Out (NW)

For the third part of my Outer London sightseeing catalogue, I'm scouring the boroughs to the north and west of the capital. Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea have nothing for us, being far too Inner, and I'm only allowing the farthest reaches of Camden to scrape in. But there's plenty of life beyond the boundaries of Zone 2, should you ever deign to venture out. Feel free to top-up my suggestion with choices of your own, so long as they're not food-, drink- or shopping-based, and are worth crossing the capital for. And remember I've blogged previously about the interesting stuff in every single London borough as part of my Random Boroughs series, indexed here.

HAMMERSMITH & FULHAM
Hammersmith: A tiny house on the Thames with connections to William Morris, 7 Hammersmith Terrace (£10, three tours each Saturday) boasts the last authentic Arts and Crafts interior in Britain. Closes for two years of renovation in June. Morris lived close by at Kelmscott House (2-5pm, Thursday & Saturday), whose basement and coach house are now a museum.
Fulham: With over 1300 years of history, Fulham Palace (noon-ish to 5pm-ish, closed Friday & Saturday) [blogged] was the riverside home of the Bishop of London. True Blues may prefer a Chelsea Stadium Tour (£17, 9.30am-5pm) at Stamford Bridge.

EALING
Greenford: The London Motorcyle Museum (£5, 10am-4.30pm, Sat & Sun) [blogged] is a converted farm building up a sideroad, packed with an endearing collection of a few hundred two-wheelers.
• Two interesting summits are Horsenden Hill [blogged], a natural hump with fine views, and Northala Fields [blogged], four artificial conical mounds sculpted from Wembley and Westfield's spoil.

HILLINGDON
Ruislip: Officially Ruislip Lido [blogged] is a 200 year-old canal-feeding reservoir. Unofficially it's London's best seaside, with scenic trails and a miniature railway around the perimeter.
Uxbridge: Accessed via a new housing estate on the site of RAF Uxbridge, the Battle of Britain Bunker (weekdays & the 3rd weekend of summer months, pre-booked tours) [blogged] was home to Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain and beyond.
Hayes: There'll be a reason I've never visited the London Motor Museum (£30, 10am-6pm). Ah yes, that'll be it. Slightly cheaper prices are available online.
Harmondsworth: Described by John Betjeman as the 'Cathedral of Middlesex', Harmondsworth Great Barn (10am-5pm, 2nd Sunday of the month, April-October) [blogged] is a Grade I listed medieval treasure, over 60 metres long (and currently undergoing major maintenance).
Heathrow: Few people visit Heathrow Airport for fun but, if plane spotting's your thing, a few less-than-optimal vantage points remain.

HARROW
Harrow: Forget the main town centre and head up the hill to the village atmosphere around St Mary's Church (great views!) and Harrow School [blogged]. No really, go look, it's another world. The school's Old Speech Room Gallery [blogged] is open to the public on term time weekdays (2.30pm-5pm), while the tiny Museum of Harrow Life opens on selected Sunday afternoons.
Stanmore: RAF Bentley Priory, the former headquarters of Fighter Command, is now home to the Bentley Priory Museum (£9, 10am-5pm, Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat) and dozens of newly-built luxury mansions.
Headstone: Headstone Manor, a moated dwelling, is Middlesex's oldest surviving timber framed building [blogged]. It might be open for weekend summer tours while the Great Barn is being done up this year, or it might not, the museum's website is fairly opaque on the subject.

BRENT
Wembley: A Wembley Stadium Tour (£19, 10am-4pm) will take you inside the home of English football. Meanwhile it's free to walk around the outside at podium level, although the surrounding area is becoming increasingly densely-developed.
Neasden: Down the road from IKEA, the exquisite Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is the largest Hindu temple outside India. Two-hour tours are offered daily (9am-6pm) [blogged].

CAMDEN
Hampstead: The Heath is the highpoint, obviously, and must be walked. Don't miss art-filled Kenwood House (10am-5pm) near the summit, and make tracks for the utterly photogenic Hill Garden and Pergola [blogged] on West Heath. Meanwhile the 'village' between the Heath and the tube station is well worth exploring, and includes a cluster of special buildings; specifically Burgh House & Hampstead Museum (noon-5pm, not Monday, Tuesday or Saturday) [blogged], 17th century Fenton House (£6.50, not Monday or Tuesday, March-October), the inspirational Keats House (£5.50, 1-5pm, closed Mondays) [blogged] and Goldfinger's 2 Willow Road (£6, not Monday or Tuesday, 11am-4.30pm, March-October) [blogged].
Highgate: Highgate's cemeteries are must-visits, they're the dead centre of London. Karl Marx is buried in the East Cemetery (£4, 10am-4pm), while the West Cemetery is older and far more atmospheric, and accessed via guided tour only (£12, one tour on weekdays, 11am-3pm at weekends) [blogged].

BARNET
Barnet: An independent survivor, Barnet Museum (2.30-4.30pm & Saturday mornings, closed Monday & Friday) [blogged] continues to showcase the borough's history from an early Georgian house in Chipping Barnet. The nearby village of Monken Hadley and its common are a pleasant spot for a walk.
Colindale: The RAF Museum (10am-6pm) [blogged] at the former Hendon Aerodrome is surely one of Outer London's best days out, with 100 undercover aircraft across several hangars.
Mill Hill: Until Barnet council closes it down, Belmont Farm (£6, 9am-5pm) offers tractor rides, unusual animals and petting opportunities galore for younger Londoners.

HARINGEY
Tottenham: Bruce Castle (1-5pm, closed Monday & Tuesday) [blogged] isn't a real fortress, it's the borough's (relatively minor) museum. Further south by the Lea is the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum (11am-5pm) [blogged], which opens and steams on the second Sunday of the month (and the fourth in Summer).
Alexandra Palace: Even if you don't go inside Alexandra Palace for ice skating, an exhibition or whatever, the view from its hilltop park is brilliant. There'll be more to see once the old theatre, and the world's first television studio, are eventually restored.
Highgate: A particularly fine cluster of outdoor expanses includes Highgate Wood, Queen's Wood and the Parkland Walk, the latter a disused railway line from Finsbury Park.

ENFIELD
Forty Hill/Bulls Cross: I've over-reported on the triple-hit of horticultural/historic highspots to the north of Enfield town centre, but here goes again. Forty Hall (11am-5pm, closed Monday) [blogged] is a 17th century manor house, now a museum on the site of a Tudor palace. Myddelton House Gardens (10am-5pm) [blogged] are an eight acre treat created by botanist Edward Augustus Bowles. And Capel Manor (£5.50, 10am-5.30pm, closed winter weekends) [blogged] is a horticultural college which shows off its students' handiwork to the wider public across 60 crafted gardens.
Crews Hill: For a most unusual collection, try the Whitewebbs Museum of Transport (£4, 10am-4pm, Tuesdays & the last Sunday of the month) [blogged], home each May to the Enfield Pageant of Motoring.

If you have any further thoughts on places you'd go out of your way to visit, please add them in the specific comments box. Strictly no food and drink, no shopping and nothing from Zone 1. And I'll add your best choices later.

 Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Outer London Day Out (SW)

I'm continuing my sweep round Outer London cataloguing the most interesting places to visit, today reaching the southwest quadrant. Thanks for all your suggestions yesterday, not that there were many, which must mean a) I listed all the best places anyway b) you don't live in southeast London, or c) you're not especially interested. Again, any top-ups to today's list of sightseeing suggestions would be very welcome. All attractions are free unless otherwise stated.

WANDSWORTH
Battersea: Battersea Park is a lovely place for a stroll, especially if you find the Pump House Gallery (11am-4pm, closed Monday, Tuesday) in almost-the-middle of the lake.
Tooting: A fascinating hoard of everyday industrial history can be found upstairs on Balham High Road at the London Sewing Machine Museum (2-5pm, first Saturday of the month) [blogged].

MERTON
Wimbledon: There's the tennis of course, its tale told at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum (£13, 10am-5pm). And nearby is the enormous stroll-worthy Wimbledon Common, at the heart of which is the Wimbledon Windmill Museum (£2, Saturday afternoons & Sundays).
Morden/Merton: The National Trust manage the green oasis of Morden Hall Park, with its waterwheel and second hand bookshop. Just across the tramtracks is Deen City Farm (10am-4.30pm, closed Mondays), and a bit further up the Wandle is Merton Abbey Mills [blogged] with its William Morris heritage, arts and crafts, and another waterwheel.
Mitcham: The Wandle Industrial Museum (50p, Wednesday and Sunday afternoons), located in a hut opposite the cricket ground, has possibly the cheapest entrance fee of any London museum.
• For riverside ramblers, the Wandle Trail [blogged] and the Beverley Brook Walk [blogged] are recommended.

SUTTON
Carshalton: Pick the right day, like this Sunday, and here's an unlikely multi-venue day out. The regular-opener is Honeywood Museum (11am-5pm, closed Monday & Tuesday) [blogged] overlooking Carshalton Ponds, a listed building refurbished in 2012. Close by is the Carshalton Water Tower (£2, 2.30pm-5pm, Sundays from April to October) [blogged], with additional tours of the Hermitage for an additional £1 on the first and third Sundays. Meanwhile down in Carshalton Beeches, Little Holland House (1.30-5.30pm, first Sunday of the month & Bank Holiday weekends) [blogged] is a homemade Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts fusion, suburban style.
Cheam: Whitehall (2-5pm - also Saturday mornings - closed Monday & Tuesday) [blogged] is a Tudor timber-framed house (and museum) in the heart of Cheam village.
Little Woodcote: In the last field before Surrey, Mayfield Lavender (approximately June to August) [blogged] is a blaze of purple colour and, if the sun's out, an absolute delight.
(Sutton in 'more interesting than Wandsworth' shocker)

KINGSTON
Kingston: The royal town, on Thames, is home to the small but well-appointed Kingston Museum (10am-5pm, closed Mon, Wed, Sun). About a mile up Coombe Road is Coombe Conduit (2-4pm, 2nd Sunday, April-September) [blogged], a rarely open Tudor pipehouse which once supplied Hampton Court with water.
Chessington: For London's best (indeed only?) rollercoaster experience, plus safari animals, big rides and mortgage-sized admission prices, it has to be Chessington World of Adventures (£46 on the gate, £26 in advance, 10am-5pm).

RICHMOND
Richmond: Richmond - town and borough - boasts an embarrassment of sightseeing riches. Embracing the river helps, along one of the finest stretches of the Thames Path, which is pretty damned great all the way from Hampton Court to Fulham. But equally lovely is Richmond Park, London's largest green expanse, where the views are extensive and the deer run free. At the foot of Petersham Hill, and along the river a bit, you'll find 17th century Ham House (£10, noon-4pm, March-October). And if you can draw yourself away from all that, the Museum of Richmond (11am-5pm, closed Sunday & Monday) is in the Old Town Hall.
Kew: Amongst London's very best attractions is Kew Gardens (£15, 10.30am-5pm) [blogged], an unsurpassed botanical collection and a World Heritage Site to boot. Within its grounds lies royal Kew Palace (April-September), now included within the main ticket price.
Barnes: On a loop in the Thames, the London Wetland Centre (£11.60, 9.30am-6pm) [blogged] is like Heathrow for waterfowl, especially at migratory times.
Twickenham: Twickenham Museum (11am-3pm, Sat & Tue, plus Sunday afternoons) [blogged] is a tiny thing on the riverfront near Eel Pie Island. Close by to the east there's art at the Orleans House Gallery (10am-5pm, closed Mondays) and also the gleaming white Palladian villa of Marble Hill House (£6.20, guided tours at weekends only), while to the west is the newly restored Strawberry Hill House (£10.80, afternoons, closed Thursday & Friday). And then of course there's rugby, specifically the humbly-named World Rugby Museum (£8, 10am-5pm, closed Mondays) (or £20 with stadium tour).
Hampton Court: 500 years old this year, Hampton Court Palace (£19.30, 10am-6pm) [blogged] is the great Tudor survivor with much to see and explore, plus the famous maze. If you have time, extensive Bushy Park (with its deer and gardens) is just across the road.

HOUNSLOW
Chiswick: For a small artist's home by a roundabout, pick Hogarth's House (noon-5pm, closed Sundays) [blogged]. For a grand neo-Palladian mansion in beautiful gardens and parkland, pick Chiswick House (house £6.10, 10am-6pm, closed Thu, Fri, Sat) (gardens free, daily) [blogged].
Brentford: To the west of Kew Bridge, a Victorian pumping station has become the London Museum of Water and Steam (£11.50, 11am-4pm) [blogged], recently rebranded and relaunched, with rotative steaming on certain dates. A few doors down is the Musical Museum (£10. 11am-5pm, Friday to Saturday) [blogged], a collection of self-playing musical instruments, plus demonstrations on the Mighty Wurlitzer. Boston Manor House (noon-5pm, April-October) is a homelier Jacobean affair by the M4, while Syon House is quite the lordly mansion, set in spacious gardens overlooking the Thames (£12, 11am-5pm, Wed & Thu & Sun) (or £7 for just the gardens, daily)
Osterley: Hounslow has far more than its fair share of grand mansions, with Osterley Park (£9.90, 11am-5pm, March-October) [blogged] one of the grandest, located at the centre of a landscaped estate large enough to build a small town.
Hanworth: The world’s largest working triple-expansion steam pumping engine has been restored in an old pumping station at the Kempton Steam Museum (£5, 10.30am-5pm, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and the third weekend of the month) [blogged] and is a breathtaking sight. Also on site, the newly-restored (and very dinky) Hampton and Kempton Waterworks Railway (£2, 10.30am-4pm, Sundays, March-November) [blogged].

If you have any further thoughts on places you'd go out of your way to visit, please add them in the specific comments box. Strictly no food and drink, no shopping and nothing from Zone 1. And I'll add your best choices later.


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