Sunset on the Lea

I took this photo on my phone towards the end of a 7.5 mile walk home from Kentish Town after work. As I crossed the Eastway facing the carnage of the Olympic Park construction site the sun was setting directly down the course of the River Lea.

london

Old Leyton to Hackney and back again

Found this photo of James Lane Leyton on the wall of The Hitchcock pub last night (it’s a photo of the photo, I didn’t nick it). In a dark recess beside the dart throw there is a large C19th map showing the School Board schools in the area. The things you find in pubs if you look beyond your pint.
I originally tried, and failed, sending this from my phone last night as I developed a habit of doing when I started this blog all of five years ago hoofing it to and from the Angel – a place still pregnant with memory for me as I was reminded gliding through at 3am on a 214 from Kentish Town heading east the other night. That bus tours the ghost locations of pleasure gardens marked by brothels boozers and tower blocks – a film I never made (super8 images of Cally Clocktower from Barnard Park, Bagnigge Wells by lamp-light, the Eagle marooned in Hoxditch), the moment now passed.
The latest edit of the Nick film was the reason for this nocturnal tour, again on my mind last night as I flicked to p.51 of Iain Sinclair’s imperious Hackney That Rose-Red Empire, and there an oblique reference to the subject of my film, “the mysterious liminal figure at the edge of the city” (that’s Iain talking in the doc not in the book – get yourself a copy of that). It all loops back and around. The meeting at St. Luke’s with Nick, I was also there that night before I’d met either man.
The loop again, a trek over to Clapton last weekend to drop some Super8 off for telecine. I’ve brought the whole tribe so I take them on a stroll through the “Rose-Red Empire” round my old stomping grounds, the estate squat where I lived and ran the local Labour Party at a time of semi-illegal Labour Council led evictions, and down to Victoria Park where the blank generation have set up a gastro colonial outpost on the old lake where war-time abortions were disposed of. We can’t leave the fugue, even the little guys with their short legs, so we perambulate (in both senses as we have a pram-bulator too) through Old Ford where I re-tell mis-learnt stories of Romans and Danes, across to the Wick and into the manor of Ruckholt where the legs give out and we board a W15.

london

Walking along Norlington Road I catch a snippet of conversation from the two boys walking in front. They’re aged about 12-14 years old, and the vibe I get is that one of the boys is new to the area, the other has an authoritative tone like he really knows what he’s talking about.
“If you go Hackney don’t tell them where you’re from. If they ask where you’re from say E5 or something.”
The one wearing glasses doesn’t seem to take this in, so the other one has to spell it out for him.
“If you go Hackney right, and they ask you ‘what end you from?’, and you say Leyton, they’ll stab you.”
He delivered this chilling bit of local info as casually as telling him which bus to take to get to Mare Street.
It might be that he was putting the wind up a newly arrived country bumpkin in the way that Aussies used to scare me with tales of Brown snakes in the lavvie when I lived in Sydney. But then one day I did come across a Brown snake outside my front door.
It’s difficult to comprehend how merely giving the wrong postcode could get you killed and how it is an accepted part of the world that kids inhabit.

london

sunset walk

Set off with no aim other than to head in the general direction of Baker’s Arms – by the most indirect route practical.
Avebury Road always has a certain appeal, the romance of it and only this evening did I spot the compatibility of its conjunction with Southwest Road.
Further up off Bulwer I again clock Hawbridge Road and I play amateur etymology conjoining the prefix ‘Haw’ = the fruit of the sacred Hawthorne with ‘Bridge’ to suppose that this was a bridge over the Fillebrooke (PhillyBrook/ Phepes Broke). A rummage in W.H. Weston’s History of Leyton and Leytonstone shows a hand-drawn C18th map with the stream running southwest (road?) from Whipps Cross to Ruckholt – a course that would cut through Bulwer. This could have been the Haw Bridge. Another piece of pagan symmetry arising from the Fillebrook is where it once ran through or beside Coronation Gardens in Leyton is today a maze – a pagan symbol of springs and places of worship.

View Larger Map
google map showing the possible course of the Phillybrook – a windmill was recorded as sitting on the banks of the stream where the corner of Francis and Newport Roads is today

I pick up a track off Bulwer Road that runs between backs of houses. There are lock up garages for rent and fly-tipping so elaborate that it borders on installation art – Jeremy Deller recreating a liminal space as a site-specific piece.
The sunset breaks orange over the Lea. A large crow squawks. There’s a tyre in a shopping trolley waiting patiently outside a phonebox in front of an electricity substation.

Around the corner in Forest Road there is an absolutely majestic example of the architecture of the electricity substation. These things are like temples to the industrial age. Somebody please do a photographic project on them.

slideshow of photos from the walk

In West End Avenue (where the Fillybrooke was last seen above ground) you can see the back of a large abandoned wing of Whipps Cross Hospital with a noughts and crosses pattern of smashed windows.
It is bitingly cold and I’m a bit peckish but I push on over Lea Bridge Road and along the beguiling Shernhall Road with its amazing views across the Roding Valley and the Lord Raglan pub that encouragingly allows no caps nor hoods. I turn back at the end and head down Addison Road which delivers me to the warmth of The Village pub in time to catch the football results come rolling in.

london

Walk to the West End – redux

Sat in The Heathcote last night reading David Boote’s excellent series of leaflets on the Leyton Loop made me think about the walk that I did through Leyton to the West End via Kings Cross in June 2007. I posted a blog about it at the time.
Enthused, I came home from the pub, dug out the miniDV tape and quickly edited together this vid. It’s always difficult to capture the experience of walking in any form – literature seems to have managed it best. Here I tried to film as instinctively as possible as if scribbling in a notebook.
The Heathcote btw was shut tonight due to a gas leak – was it something I did? Not quite sure what I’ll do if it stays shut for a while. Maybe get round to writing up some notes I’ve got on walking that I’d like to share.