Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington

Abney Park Cemetery, London from fugueur on Vimeo.

The other summer I spent the afternoon filming the stone carving workshop at Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington led by Nigel Mantel. Then Nigel gave me a brief tour of the cemetery including the ruined chapel and the grave of Constable William Tyler, a policemen shot near Tottenham Marshes during what’s known as the Tottenham Outrage in 1909 (the grave of 10 year-old Ralph Joscelyne, who was also shot during the incident, was overgrown and inaccessible).

Olympic Park – East Village: first wander along new London streets

Passing through East Village in the Olympic Park today I was overjoyed to find two new roads (re) open – Honour Lea Avenue  and Olympic Park Avenue, apparently opened to the public yesterday, 7th March.

I seem to be developing am ongoing relationship with East Village and the wider Olympic Park (to a slightly lesser degree) which started when I sent a frustrated tweet to the East Village admin people about the naming. This led to me being invited to a tour of the site last July by the charming PR team and somebody from the construction firm.

I think my blossoming obsession perhaps comes from my interest in researching and exploring London suburbs of the past, so to witness a new neighbourhood come into being in front of your eyes is a unique opportunity. The horror I feel at times might be what people felt when they saw the first streets laid out in the fields of Perivale and Sudbury Hill. I’m now trying (really) hard to dispassionately document but it’s a struggle at times.

I wonder where all this is heading.

Olympic Park Pedestrian Peril

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The mistake was to assume that there was a shortcut through the Olympic Park from the Eastway – a magic byway from the proud new Leyton logo sign that captures the Lea Valley sunset through to the Westfield behemoth (a PS4 game goldmine for my sons). I mean a shortcut on foot that is.

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Firstly we were turned away from the road beside the new bus depot that I had assumed led down to where Chobham Academy now stands – apparently it just ends up at the Velodrome, which like most of the venues sits in darkness. The view from the Eastway has changed little since I moved out this way in 2006-07 – the same metal fencing, the piles of sand move around a bit and there was that moment in the summer of 2012 they tarted it up for the TV show but soon after they put it back as it had been – a building site.

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I started to wonder if it will always be a building site – given that large chunks of the Olympic Park have been set aside for development, much of which has yet to start – thousands of new homes are supposed to arrive at some point. We thought we found the through road – the old Quarter Mile Lane leading into Temple Mills Lane, but the signage screamed at the unwary pedestrian not to enter.

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There was so many signs prohibiting travel on foot it was difficult to know if it was safe to even stand still – and if so where, following the signage to the letter would have meant finding a tree to climb then radio in for an airlift free from this autogeddon.

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Just as I started to prepare my two young sons and pug puppy for the likelihood of having to walk along the Hackney Cut then hop on the Greenway we came upon Waterden Road that seemed to have a serviceable pavement. Then the fences dissolved into sodden newly laid grassland.

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The pug gamboled down the path, the boys rolled down the grassy banks beside the river. A few joggers puffed past, but otherwise there were few people around. We took refuge by the calming waters of the Lea – spitting out clods of pollution inhaled from the death roads of the east.

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I’m sure they’ll get the footbridge over from Hackney Marsh into the park open at some point, just like they’ll have to start using the Velodrome soon and the stadium – but for now the priority has clearly been to get the motors motoring to the real destination – the consumer cathedral at Stratford – which is where we headed once we’d recharged our souls for the horrors ahead.

 

 

Twilight wander through the Olympic Park

I still don’t understand the Westfield-Olympic Park retail gulag – just can’t process what it is. This sign and the plans for the new ‘east village london E20′ is making my cognitive dissonance even worse – should I be excited by the emergence of a whole new area of London rising out of the marshes just down the road? But why do feel a combination of fear, horror and anger.

I got drawn along the inspiring and imaginatively named Westfield Avenue towards the expansion of this miniature Singapore.

The new mega-ghetto is this high-rise block of student apartments. Clearly the student rental market is a more lucrative investment than when I moved to a terraced house just off the Romford Road in Stratford at the end of the 80’s when landlords were actively discouraging student tenants.

The cynical suspicion that ‘east village E20′ is being set up as a privately-controlled outpost of transient, well-off, passive consumers with MBAs rather than ASBOs is offset by this glorious view north across the top of the Velodrome to a dark smudge of distant hills.

Although there is a steady trickle of traffic, the fact the footpath is fenced off starts to make me feel as if the way isn’t formally open to pedestrians. This makes me even more determined to push on towards Hackney Marshes.

Soon there are not even bollards to separate me from the 4x4s who seem to be enjoying the smoothness of the newly laid tarmac a bit too much for comfort. A voice with a strong African accent calls out, ‘Excuse you can’t walk here’. It is a female security guard in her hut. ‘You need to go back the other way – I am worried for your welfare’. I take her careful advice. Beyond the hut there was not even a kerb to tightrope walk along, and the light was all but gone.

The park looks far from finished, and I shared a joke with the security guard that the the summer opening may take place in November but that they’ll call it ‘late summer’ somehow, like calling the new suburb ‘east village’. Whatever they call it, and whatever they build – the once mighty River Lea couldn’t care less, it’s just waiting for a chance to reclaim the marshes.

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