Tag Archives: River Ravensbourne

A View From The Point

Time series of images make for interesting viewing – it is a technique that many have used, such as the Chilean-born photographer Camilo José Vergara who recorded changes in particular buildings over 40 years and fellow blogger Bobby Seal who recorded the same view at the same time of day over a year and created a video.

On Twitter, the Barnsley Bard, Ian McMillan, creates 140 character poetic ‘images’ of his (very) ‘Early Stroll’ of around 40 minutes, that includes a visit to the paper shop – it is one of the joys of twitter .

The Point is perhaps my favourite view of London, it was the starting point for my first post on Running Past  – there is an uninterrupted vista over the city in an arc from around Battersea in the south west to glimpses of Orbit in the Olympic Park to the north east.

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Oddly, it isn’t a well-known panorama, often I am the only one admiring; it doesn’t have the impressive Inigo Jones foreground of the view a little further around the escarpment in front of the Observatory which draws in the tourists.

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It is a place of solitude, despite the proximity of the often pollution laden A2, frequently the only sounds are the birds in the quite dense shrubbery that flanks the viewpoint along with the more distant rumble of the DLR.

In places, the horizon is truncated by the hilly landmasses of north London – Hampstead Heath and Highgate along with their relatively near neighbour which Alexandra Palace sits atop.  All the tall London landmarks are visible – St Pauls, Telecom Tower, the ‘Cheese Grater’, the ‘Walkie-Talkie’, the ‘Shard’, the ‘Eye’, and the tops of the Canary Wharf towers – the number of stories depending on the level of pruning.

On a clear day the Wembley arch is visible in a way that the Towers never were – it sometimes glints in the sun – it is about 10 miles away as the crow flies; on a really clear day there are views beyond to what appear to be the tiny undulations of to what must be the Chilterns to the south and Harrow on the Hill to the north of it.

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I first discovered the view from The Point on a run in the mid-1990s and have been frequently drawn back, although only started taking photographs a couple of years ago.   The camera can never pick the level of detail of an eye scanning the horizon – the clarity of the view on a frosty autumn morning or after a summer afternoon downpour are hard to replicate, particularly with a smart phone camera with no optical zoom.

Some of the changes would need a much longer time series of photographs to become apparent – most of the larger landmarks of the cities of London and Westminster have appeared in the time that I have been viewing – it is a gradual evolution of the view, almost imperceptible from visit to visit.  Over longer time periods the view has changed more – I bought a 1940s photograph of the view (taken slightly lower down the hill), while fascinating, its slightly blurry image is almost unrecognisable compared with those 70 years later, with considerable bomb damage around Deptford Creek.  Only St Pauls Deptford seems constant – its steeple particularly clear.

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The middle distance has evolved considerably – the Pepys Estate and other ‘regeneration’ schemes that have brought high specification private housing, but little genuinely affordable social housing, to the riverside and in the process have driven traditional Thames-side activities away from the waterfront.  Deptford Creek, the mouth of the Ravensbourne, around a mile away, is much altered – it is no longer visible but now seems lined with glass and steel, including the  impressive Laban Centre.  The changes are even greater to the north – when I first ‘discovered’ the view, 1 Canada Square was there but little else on the Isle of Dogs, the Barkantine Estate towers on the east of the ’Island’ were still fairly dominant, they are now dwarfed by everything around them.

There are lots of other changes too, which it is easy to forget.   Helpfully the viewpoint has a guide to the view provided by the old Greater London Council, which predated many of the now landmark buildings that dominate the skyline, less helpfully , most of the time those in charge of the grounds maintenance have allowed shrubs to block the view it described although an early January pruning has restored the view.

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Other changes are more obvious – seasons, weather, cloud cover, pollution levels, times of day and foliage growth.  The seasons make a surprising difference – the winter sun with its much lower angle casts a very different light to its midsummer counterpart – the former is clearer, brighter and crisper but the contrast is greater. My visits are often on a Sunday morning, more recently I have frequently laced up my running shoes in the afternoon. In the summer, I sometimes eschew the Wednesday evening ‘club run’ for a run nearer home – decisions that are often based around the timing of the sunset or the weather.

I only tend to visit in daylight, it is uneven under foot and ill lit at night, although there are exceptions, and rarely when it rains, although where there is a choice I would tend to avoid running in the rain and the phone stays firmly in the pocket.

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But perhaps that is the key point, I am one of the variables, perhaps the single biggest influence on the series of pictures – it depends on me being there to be captured – it isn’t just the wet days, I may ‘skip’ the loop to The Point if I know the visibility is poor – the clarity of the view towards the spire of Our Ladye Star of the Sea on Crooms Hill from my emergence onto the Heath– is often the bellwether of adjustments to my run.  I also decide on the angle of the photograph, the amount of zoom, while my eye is drawn more towards the horizon, the lens is drawn west-north-west towards the City, towards the glimpses of the River.

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The Sounds of Running

And the wind blustered …

Molly is called

Molly ignores

She continues to gently sniff and snuffle

 

And the wind blustered …

A woodpecker’s taps echo through the copse

The 8:08 from Catford brakes on its approach,

The bridge sighs and rattles

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And the wind blustered …

The confluential rumble of the merging of Pool and Ravensbourne

‘The Hipster’ misjudges his approach to the footbridge,

Mutters an apology

 

And the wind blustered …

‘Brompton Woman’ smiles and greets

A cackling-like call from moorhens scurrying across the path

The soft purr of a well maintained Giant’s Shimano

 

And the wind blustered …

The Pool gurgles and splashes under Boris’ bridge

The gentle pad of trainer on tarmac

Water caresses and gently shifts stones from the island of the now lost country seat

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And the wind blustered …

The ferrous acceleration of the fast train just past Lower Sydenham

A cacophony of internal combustion

Bell Green

 

Today is an odd anniversary, 365 days since my neck was broken by a car travelling at around 35 mph that failed to stop on the pedestrian phase of a pelican crossing; I survived and recovered thanks to the National Health Service, a fantastic physiotherapist and a lot of hard work.  I wanted to mark the anniversary in some way, but I thought it better to use it to draw a line and move on rather than reflect on the year gone – I did that to a large extent anyway a few weeks ago in my Review of 2015.

For reasons I cannot fathom, one of the changes in me is that I have become much more aware of sounds. So it seemed appropriate to recognise and embrace that change and also to try something new here. The piece above is a series of sounds turned into words that I noticed along part of one morning’s run to work, along a path sandwiched between a railway and the River Pool that I share with cyclists and dog walkers – many of whom I know by sight, and several of whom I have ‘named.’  The overwhelming sound that morning was wind (other days it is birdsong and on return journeys often children) … until I got to Bell Green….

Reflections on the Rivers Ravensbourne & Pool

As I recover from an accident, I am still a while off running but my urban wanderings always seem to draw me back to my regular running routes.  

This week my still (slightly) short days at work have left me with time to follow the Rivers Pool and Ravensbourne from Sydenham back towards Lewisham.  It seemed slightly odd not running, but it gave a rather different perspective.  

Monday’s leaden skies saw me focus on the both the mural under the bridge near Bell Green – which was painted a couple of years ago, but I have never stopped and looked at – plus the more industrial and metallic elements of the route.  





Friday morning should have seen a partial eclipse and, given the juxtaposition of it with the vernal equinox, meteor showers and the aurora borealis being visible in parts of Britain, it would have had our ancestors heading for the henges and hills.  Sadly it was just 50 shades of grey in London (photo by @weareblackheath).  



The afternoon though was almost perfect spring weather – clear, mild and sunny.  I niddle-noddled along paths alongside the river, which I don’t usually use – tending to stick to the smooth tarmac – to save time on my run to work and to make intervals or tempo runs safer on the run home; it made a wonderful change.



I also spotted several reflections, which at a faster pace I would have undoubtedly missed.



Any wanderings of a fluvial flâneur would not be complete without the sight of a semi-submerged, upturned shopping trolley, one was spotted in the reflection of the Riverside Building of Lewisham Hospital – an odd cocktail of drugs on a past stay there left me convinced of the presence of dayglo squirrels in the adjacent Ladywell Fields. 



Sadly only grey squirrels were visible this week, and alongside the rivers a green woodpecker, a heron and the iridescent blur of a kingfisher was seen a couple of times.  It was two spottings of different wildlife that oddly pleased me more – Lewisham Natureman stags – one by the Ravensbourne under the road bridge in Catford, the other shyly hiding in the corner of the former Ladywell Leisure Centre site as I went from the Ravensbourne to the Quaggy catchment.



The Four Spectres of the Victorian Poor

In 19th century London the four spectres of old age, accident, sickness and unemployment haunted the poor, for it led, almost inevitably, to applications for the Poor Law, and in many areas this meant the workhouse. While many have disappeared under bulldozers, often to make way for new hospitals a few of the old buildings remain.

There are two within a few hundred metres at opposite sides of Ladywell Fields on my regular runs along Waterlink Way. The Poor Law Unions that ran them were Lewisham and Bermondsey (St Olave) were unusual in that they provided mainly ‘outdoor’ relief – money, food, clothing or goods, given to alleviate poverty without the requirement that the recipient enter an institution.

On the western side of the Ravensbourne are the remains of the workhouse infirmary of the St Olave’s (Bermondsey) Union Board of Guardians.

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Opened in 1900 it had 812 beds for the elderly poor and infirm. It was later to have a variety of uses – a WW1 military hospital and what seems to have been a quite large scale children’s home.

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Much of the site has been cleared for housing, but the gatehouse, admin blocks (which are used by Lewisham Council) and magnificent water tower all remain.

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The Running Dogs of Catford

Work may at last be starting on redeveloping the old Catford Greyhound Stadium, there was certainly some activity on the fringes of the site this morning. I pass a couple of times most weeks on my regular runs alongside the Ravensbourne through Ladywell Fields towards the Pool and Waterlink Way. The rivers are about as full as I have ever seen them in 15 years running along the route.

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The stadium had its first meeting on 30 July 1932 with perhaps the most famous greyhound of all, Mick the Miller, being paraded around the track. It enjoyed three decades of success but its death knell, along with that for many other greyhound tracks, came in 1961 with the legalisation of betting shops. The decline was slow but the stadium finally closed its doors in 2003.

While there was some talk of listing parts of it, the stadium was partly destroyed by fire in 2005 and subsequently demolished. All that remains is the large metal sign and turnstiles and a vague outline of where the track once was.

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There are some great photos of the stadium prior to the fire on the excellent Derelict London website

Barratt homes are meant to be developing 589 homes plus a community centre and a few shops near the stations starting this year with the final home going up in 2017. There were plans to start work but the post 2008 economic downturn seems to have put plans on hold.

The other aspect of the racing that has disappeared from the area are the greyhounds – whilst the stadium was open there were always a few dogs owned by local people or taken on as pets when their bibs were hung up; they were a common sight in Ladywell Fields – but one spied on Waterlink Way between Christmas and New Year was the first I have seen for ages.