Last Sunday (10th), feeling ill and leggy, I set off for a walk across Wanstead Flats just before sunset for a wander through Wanstead Park.
The video includes extracts from the audiobook of This Other London.
A lunchtime diversion round Ironmonger Row Baths took me past Burnhill House, Islington where the residents have draped banners on the balconies in protest against Islington Council’s redevelopment plans for the St. Luke’s area. Early proposals threaten to cast St. Luke’s Gardens and Burnhill House into permanent shadow it seems. London is annotated with hundreds of such conflicts.
You can read more here
And there’s a petition on Change.org
A Sunday afternoon (last week) wander in Epping Forest, basking in those precious last hours of daylight.
The Tube to Loughton and up Forest Road to where the Loughton Brook meanders along the forest floor.
The ground around Debden Slade was still frozen white, encrusted mud ridges to be traversed like miniature mountain ranges.
I ascended, skirting through the trees – Shelley’s Hill, Kate’s Cellar, Broome Hill and crossed Epping New Road.
The winter light was nourishing. Distance wasn’t an objective. It was about just being in the forest.
I took a late lunch of a generously loaded bacon bap in the carpark of the King’s Oak as the bikers examined each other’s machines, revved the engines and talked of petrol stations on the A12. I got chatting to a couple who watch my YouTube videos and we discussed the great walks heading north of the forest to hills above Waltham Abbey and beyond.
As the sun started to dip below the tree line, I turned back downhill through fronds of frozen ferns, retracing my steps as the gloom became darkness and the lights of Loughton twinkled in the near distance.
This is an interview I shot in December with Library worker Alan Wylie about the importance of Libraries and the threats they face due to government cuts.
References used in the video and further information Library cuts:
“Public libraries promote positive reading experiences from the cradle to the grave” – The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2014/mar/06/world-book-day-libraries-lifeline-literacy-love-books
“Librarians stand for free and equal access to information for all.” from Voices for the Library http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/the-story-so-far/ethics/
“Librarians will work to fight censorship, bias, and false reporting” http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/the-story-so-far/ethics/
BBC article on cuts to Library Services https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35707956
Lewisham Libraries Cuts https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-36350323
Alan Wylie twitter.com/wylie_alan
This walk to the Youngsbury Burial Mounds had been on my itinerary since the summer of 2015 when I’d marked the tumuli and earthworks of the Upper Lea Valley and the Hertfordshire plateau on an old Ordnance Survery map. But somehow I’d never managed to get out there. A few days before Christmas seemed like the perfect time, the day after the winter solstice, when the white light slices through the bare tree trunks.
The Youngsbury Mounds had been excavated in 1890 by County archaeologist John Evans who wrote a report published as, ‘On the Exploration of a Barrow at Youngsbury, Near Ware, Herts’. Here’s an extract from his report:
“The more eastern of the two barrows is recorded to have been opened a hundred years ago by Mr. David Barclay, the then owner of Youngsbury, and there is a tradition of spearheads, coins, and other objects having been found in it, none of which however are now forthcoming. According to Clutterbuck’s account, it was nevertheless Roman pottery and coins that were found in the barrow, which he says proved it to be of Roman origin. Judging from the appearance of the barrow a shaft has been sunk in it from the top, but I am by no means sure that the original central interment has ever been reached. This barrow is of much the same dimensions as the other, the opening of which I am about to describe, and in all probability it belongs to the same period.
Both barrows stand at the edge of a field known as the Hilly Field, and are partially overgrown with whitethorns and maples. On my arrival at Youngsbury,, by the kind invitation of Mr. Giles-Puller, on the 11th of June last, I found that a preliminary opening had been made in the upper part of the mound on the south side. At its outer end this cutting extended over about a sixth part of the circumference of the barrow, but its vertical sides converged so as to leave a face about 6 feet wide at what was apparently the centre of the mound, and at this point the cutting was about 9 feet in depth. The diameter of the barrow as nearly as could be judged is 60 feet, and the height about 12 feet above the surface of the adjoining field.
Clearing out the loose gravel and soil still further, a magnificent sepulchral urn became visible, lying slightly on one side. It had split into three principal sections and a few smaller fragments, but is in wonderfully good condition, and has been well repaired by Mr. Talbot Ready.
It is an olla formed of well-burnt grey ware, with a bold rim nearly an inch in depth round the opening, and its surface ornamented with parallel markings somewhat like corduroy. These at the neck are wavy, but on the body run in graceful curves. This ornamentation is by no means common, but is not unlike that which occurs on some Late-Celtic urns.”
Not only was the walk a magical experience, the power of the location that had inspired the positioning of the mounds still resonating across the millenia. But also my subsequent visit to the British Museum to look for artefacts excavated from similar Romano-British burials. Passing the abandoned church at Thundridgebury added another layer to the expedition and reading reports of the site being adopted by ghost hunters and occultists who perform rituals in the medieval church tower. It’s a deeply storied and beguiling terrain – I’m already planning my next trip.
After popping down to photographer Jake Green’s studio in Leyton to pick up the new and expanded edition of his fantastic book, Pie and Mash (containing my essay The Dead Pie Shop Trail), I went on a wander down to Stratford that I’ve done periodically ever since I moving to the area.
Somehow this route from Coronation Gardens Leyton, along Leyton High Road, past Drapers Fields, Temple Mills Lane, Leyton Road and Angel Lane to Theatre Royal Stratford East, has been a way of taking the temperature of change in the area from just after the time of the announcement that London would be hosting the 2012 Olympics.