The music on this video is by Glass Boy
Been meaning to do this walk for a while – heading south in a straight line from Leytonstone across Stratford and Abbey Marshes bound for the Plaistow Levels beside the river Thames.
“Local history is the cradle of true patriotism, and local patriotism is the best stimulant to efficiency and progress”
Fifty Years A Borough 1886-1936 – The Story of West Ham by Donald McDougall, 1936
“There seems to be no doubt that the name comes from the Saxon, indicating the Street by the ford, or Stratford”.
“It is quite likely that the area was a centre of communal life of the (pre-Roman) period and that it saw Druid ceremonial at its best”
East Ham and West Ham were simply known as Hamme at the time of Edward the Confessor.
Alfred the Great is said to be responsible for the creation of some of the watercourses around Stratford such as the Channelsea River which he created to drain water from the Danish ships moored in the River Lea.
|Channelsea River 2|
“These streams had for many years been deteriorating, silting up, and at times giving off very offensive smells.”
|the marsh monster|
“But before there were small clustered villages, and before the unassailable fortress stood sentinel on the bank of the river, what people lived in the forests and marshy lands? What did they do in the struggle to live?
The first great work of these unrecorded hands was to build a wall of earth all along the north bank of the river so tha a great belt of swampy land was made fertile and flourished into meadows and pastures.”
The Story of Tower Hamlets, 1967
West Ham Abbey “stood on the banks of the Channelsea River, one of the waterways created by Alfred the Great, in a very low-lying area now almost entirely covered by factories, warehouse and gasometers.”
Fifty Years a Borough
Last Sunday evening my old friend Andy Ross came over to Leytonstone to make a video previewing his debut album Almost People, which was produced by ex-Stereolab drummer Andy Ramsay at Press Play Studios in South London.
Andy was my room-mate in a terraced house in Forest Gate when I arrived in London from the Chilterns back in 1989. We had both rocked up carrying guitars that we could barely play but that didn’t stop us spending the next 3 years writing songs and forming a band with the rest of our dubious bunch of housemates who had little more musical apptitude than us. We were a parody of a late Thatcher student band with songs like ‘Block of Concrete Flats’, ‘Brian Walden’ and others too cringe-worthy to set down here.We carried on writing music for a bit after leaving Poly, recording songs on borrowed four-track machines, but I wandered off on my travels (buying a guitar on the way) and that ended our musical collaboration.
But Andy has perservered and honed his craft over the ensuing 20 years and he’s now made a really beautiful album. It was a genuine treat for me to be able to rekindle the collaboration in some form but this time with some proper songs that don’t have titles that sound like they had come from the pen of Rick from The Young Ones
We went up to The Hollow Ponds to catch the last hour of light which I seem to have slightly miscalculated meaning that we were chasing the sunset around the edge of the water. Being a Sunday we ambled round the grounds of the parish church and I grabbed a few images of Andy on the church steps before, out of the gloom, the vicar started shouting angrily at us about the Churchyard being private property and that we should ask permission to enter – no wonder church numbers are dwindling.
Oddly one of Andy’s songs I remember most from Poly days was called Vicar in his Chapel – perhaps it was a prophecy.
Headed out this afternoon up past the Hollow Ponds through Epping Forest to Loughton.
I didn’t consult my copy of Buxton as much as I should have to glean the names of the specific parts of the forest – such as Gilbert’s Slade that runs beside Forest School and is a muddy bog for most of the year; and also Rushey Plain that I passed at some point.
Here are few images from the walk
Last night I had been filming Bob and Roberta Smith reading from his journals at Tate Britain and decided to walk along Millbank to Westminster to get the tube home. As I reached College Green, outside the the Houses of Parliament I came across the encampment of news crews still trying to untangle the mess of the General Election. It was 8.30pm, and there were only a few teams still broadcasting.
The was a strange feeling of tranquility hanging in the Westminster air, it was all very calm and quiet. Inside nearby rooms men, educated at the most expensive private schools in the country were working out who was going to be in charge. Earlier Bob and Roberta Smith had shown the audience at Tate a postcard from his recent show called ‘I Should Be In Charge’ – his painting of this declaration is on display in the windows of the Hayward Gallery just over the river from Westminster. Bob would make a brilliant Prime Minister
I contemplated whether I should get my camera out and film, and it was then that I recalled the scene in Patrick Keiller’s brilliant film, London, shot on the day after the election of the Conservation government in 1992. I have none of Keiller’s finesse nor a 16mm Bolex but felt I had had a duty to run off a couple of minutes of tape as an homage to Keiller’s opus.
Over to Wanstead Flats for a walk in the last hour or two of daylight as I have been doing semi-regularly since late Spring, but have neglected of late. There were large pools of water, yet to soak down through the gravel and tertiary clays, gathering round the rushes, marsh grasses and varieties of vetch. Rooks peck the ground looking for grubs. My father recently quoted me something he’d read in his youth, “a rook on its own is a crow”. The parliament of rooks was in full session out on the Flats today.
Through the bare trees where in summer we sheltered from the blistering sun. The moon is high over Aldersbrook whilst the setting sun drops into the Lea. Spring-fed Alexandra Lake is splattered black and white with Geese and Gulls; in the frozen shade Coots slide across the ice. I plod back through the rising mist towards the High Road and home.