‘Bet you didn’t know this about Redbridge – man pounds the streets looking for secrets’

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Here’s a great article about This Other London from the Ilford Recorder.

Even the most avid lover of Redbridge may learn something from a new book exploring the somewhat overlooked delights of London.

For example, did you know that Aldersbrook does not have any pubs as it was built when the anti-drink Temperance Movement was at its height?

Or that a grisly murder was committed in Belgrave Road, Wanstead, when Percy Thompson was killed by his wife’s younger lover in 1922?

Author John Rogers, 42, a keen walker, has travelled far and wide from Australia to India and quite a few places in between but said that London has just as much to offer for the adventurer.

With two reluctant knees, and a can of Stella in hand, the father-of-two trekked far and wide to discover the bits of our capital which deserve another look.

John said: “I’ve travelled but kept getting drawn back to London. I kept that spirit of adventure. London has places as wonderful as anywhere else and it’s all the more amazing because they are outside your doorstep.”

Ilford and Wanstead both feature in his book with the grand finale focusing on a trip to South Park, South Park Drive, Ilford, which started as a bet with his seven-year-old son.

“I was trying to get my kids to come on walks with me. One of them said he would if we went to South Park off the TV show.

“He thought we were going to Colorado but I took him to South Park in Ilford – he saw the funny side of it.”

He said the book gave him an opportunity to find answers to things he had always wondered about such as why there are no pubs in Aldersbrook.

“The estate was built in about ten years from 1899-1910 at the time when the Temperance Movement was very popular, which is why there’s no pub,” he said.

“It was built for city gents who wanted the country lifestyle but still commuted to the city.”

This Other London: Adventures in the Overlooked City will be published in September

Strange light in the skies over Leytonstone (seen from Ilford)

Yesterday I decided to tackle the video footage accumulated on the 10 walks I did for my book, This Other London – adventures in the overlooked city (published in September by HarperCollins).
I laid all four hours of rushes down on a timeline. The very last clip was shot by my wife through the front window of a number 145 bus as we trundled down Eastern Avenue from Ilford approaching Redbridge Roundabout. I hadn’t looked at this clip before as it was after the last walk had ended and we were making our way home – a part of the journey not included in the book.

As Final Cut rendered the footage (it was a different frame rate to the rest of the timeline) it played the clip back much slower than real-time and I noticed a strange light in the corner of the frame near the end of the clip. Assuming it was a reflection in the window I went back through the clip – there was no reflection in the glass. I went through the clip frame by frame till I was convinced that it was indeed a fast moving light across the skyline at sunset. But what was it?

I posted it on Youtube & Twitter yesterday and comments seem to suggest it’s either a shooting star, a meteorite or perhaps space debris. Nobody seems to think it’s a UFO sadly. I’d been to the three places you’re most likely to get abducted by aliens in London – Woolwich, Clapham Common, and Walthamstow – and not seen a single ET or funny light in the sky. Were a group of narcissistic Greys trying to get a mention on the final page? Probably not. But the plausible explanations are cosmic enough for me.
I like the idea that the end of my year-long journey exploring some of the regions of ‘overlooked’ London was marked by a shooting star in the skies over Leytonstone.

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Forest to North Circ

Late Sunday afternoon and I’m overcome by the desire to strike out through the forest. Maybe it was my father calling me up earlier in the day asking to speak to Fieldfare and then berating me for my recent lack of walking.
I live a good 20 minutes walk from the edge of Epping Forest so to bring it closer I decide to head up along Forest Road, a pastoral row of cottages with nattering birds and flower festooned gardens.

A clockwise spin around the Hollow Ponds in the rain with a polystyrene cup of tea from one of the roadside huts and then through the trees emerging opposite The Forest – a row of beautiful Victorian houses overlooked by the fourteen grand-a-year Forest School.
Back through the woods and as I start to revel in the sylvan beauty of it all I’m confronted with a psychedelically decorated concrete underpass, and worse, an intersection of directional signs. ‘Waltamstow – Redbridge – Chingford’, not a choice so much as a warning, a rambler’s Russian roulette, I was looking for a state of fugue, not an example of poor post war urban planning.
I end up changing my mind twice – first in favour of Chingford, then Redbridge. This delivers me to a promenade that runs beside the majestic North Circular – a road to which Deep Topographer Nick Papadimitriou is symbiotically attached. You can’t walk beside such a road (which at the time I confess I mistakenly identify as the M11 – maybe that’s a Leytonstone thing – all motorways become the M11, all motorways are the M11). This brilliant path is raised high along the cutting giving a grandstand view of the metal pods hurtling past with the dark hills of the forest rising in the distance.

It’s not possible to walk beside a motorway without thinking both of Nick and his North Circ obsession (I once witnessed him clasping his hands and declaring his love for the road from the top deck of a bus as we passed it near North Finchley – I have this beautiful Brief Encounter like moment on video), and Iain Sinclair’s magisterial book ‘London Orbital’. The combination of these two references makes it futile to even consider writing about the experience of walking beside a motorway, so instead I stand on a footbridge and think about the documentary series of motorway walks that I plan to pitch to bemused commissioning editors (note to commissioning editors: come on – it’ll be great) – I just need to work on getting Clarkson onboard.
As I see the sign announcing Stanstead airport I momentarily plan to propose a walk out to the airport – then realise that the other member of the triumvirate of great contemporary psychogeographers, Will Self, has perfected this practice to the extent of boarding a plane, flying to another continent then continuing his walk into the city centre (no small feat in LA or New York – more of this when I get round to blogging my recent trip to LA).
I’m further drawn along the roadside by the sight of a cluster of tower blocks rising in the distance like some kind of proto-Croydon. Where can it be?
Turns out to be South Woodford, lovely old Tory South Woodford and a development being misbranded as Queen Mary’s Gate by Telford Homes (“at the forefront of East London regeneration”). These developments always seem to have a fortress-like appearance, the outpost of a colonial power, in this case City capital. But with the credit crunch starting to bite it’s not so difficult to imagine the potential ghetto-isation of such ‘prestige’ communities.
I amble down George Lane which feels like it belongs in Boscombe or Ventnor, particularly on a lazy Sunday evening – so I stop for gelato and take it on the tube home with me.

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