London Overground Walk – Leytonstone to Barking

A walk along the London Overground Railway Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBLIN) from Leytonstone to Barking.

This was a walk I first planned as an episode of Ventures and Adventures in Topography with Nick Papadimitriou on Resonance fm, back in 2010. Although it would have followed the whole of the line from Gospel Oak to Barking. Then I walked a very short portion of the route with Iain Sinclair when he passed through Leyton and Leytonstone following the route for his book The Last London, which was flatteringly recorded in the text, “John was the animating spirit of Leytonstone. When he was in attendance, streets from which I felt a double alienation (theirs and mine) came to life.” So the continuation of the lockdown felt like the perfect time to actually walk the Overground from Leytonstone to Barking at least (it’s still advised to only use public transport for essential journeys).

I started my walk by the railway bridge on Grove Green Road, Leytonstone outside the Heathcote and Star. From here I made my way past Leytonstone High Road Station with a nod to the ground of Leytonstone F.C. Then I traversed that curious geographical anomaly, The Wanstead Slip. The Pretty Decent Beer Company, located in a railway arch, were building a bar in the brewery doorway to prepare for the weekend opening of the tap room. It made me realise I had to pick up some draft ale from the brilliant Wanstead Tap nestled in another of the arches. Departing the Tap with a couple of pints of Long Play IPA and some Clapton CFC stickers in my bag, I continued along the railway into Forest Gate.

 

Barking

Barking

Barking

Crossing Woodgrange Road, famous for its association with Jimi Hendrix at the Upper Cut Club, I head into Sebert Road, named after King Sebert of the East Saxons ( 604-616), the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity. The rain started to fall as I walked those fine streets of the Woodgrange Estate and breached a rainy Roman Romford Road. When the railway line opened it ran across open fields on this side of the Romford Road. The streets of Manor Park sprouted from that marshy ground, many of them seemingly named after poets. This route provides a dramatic entrance to Barking: the gasometers rising from the tall grasses of the North Thames Gas Board Sports Ground, the pylons, the North Circular, and the industrial estate. Classic edgelands. I cross the River Roding, the towers of the new London looming all through Barking and out to Dagenham. The terminus of the railway where face-masked communters pour out into the streets.

 

 

The Last London – in conversation with Iain Sinclair

Last week at the Wanstead Tap I had the great pleasure to talk to Iain Sinclair about his new book The Last London.

He read a passage about a walk along the Barking to Gospel Oak branch of the London Overground, a walk that I accompanied him on for a short section through Leytonstone, on the morning of Donald Trump’s US election victory.

“My theories at the time of Lud Heat, deriving from E.O Gordon, Alfred Watkins, John Michell, Nigel Pennick, were about lines of force connecting the churches, making patterns, and provoking crimes, rituals visitations, within an unregistered sphere of influence. What I now understood, in steady rain, on this morning of political madness, tracking an inoperative railway to a place nobody wants to go, is that the walks we are compelled to make are the only story. Walks are autobiography with author.”

Iain Sinclair the Last London

photo by Keith kandrphoto.com

Iain Sinclair’s work has had such a profound influence on London writing over the last 30 years at least, an influence that has stretched into film and visual arts. He synthesised a way of understanding the city and helped codify a new form psychogeography, distinct from its intellectual French roots. He expanded on the background to his hugely influential book Lud Heat:

“There was a period when you were able to absorb so many eccentric influences from all over and it goes back for me to a kind of collision for me between cinema and poetry which were my twin obsessives when I was very young and coming to London to be in film school and beginning to do long rambles and wanders and generally just to find one cinema to the next, whatever it was, and later as a gardener realising that the structure of these churches were enormously powerful and were in some ways, if you looked from the top of Greenwich Hill, connected. London was an irrational city but with rational plans put on top of it at various times generally doomed to fail in their own way but to become part of the story of the city.

I got very intrigued by that and from those kind of interests emerged a hybrid form of writing that was live day-to-day reportage of what I was doing as a gardener in an exciting part of London that I was only beginning to discover. And secondly then having the time to research the churches and their history in places like the Bancroft Road Library, which is sort of more or less gone now, which is a huge resource of local history and the librarians were so knowledgeable, they’d open up dusty boxes and show you all this stuff. It all fused together into a kind of writing that combined wild speculations, satires to do with the awful way the workers were treated down there and the idea that these jobs would disappear and that the landscape itself would disappear because we were treading on the ghosts of the future Docklands, ghosts come from both sides you know, ghosts of the things you find in the past, the ‘scarlet tracings’, but there were also ghosts of the future and they met in that landscape.”

Listen to the full audio of the conversation above.

Iain Sinclair and John Rogers

photo by Keith kandrphoto.com

 

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London beers #2: Partizan Pale, Clarkshaws, and Pressure Drop

Three more cracking Capital ales from The Wanstead Tap

pressure drop strictly roots

How could I resist the invitation to try a bottle of Pressure Drop Brewery’s Strictly Roots Dandelion and Burdock Porter brewed in collaboration with the legendary wild man of the marshes John the Poacher, when plonked on the bar of the Tap by Dan. I’d picked up a copy of John’s book in Leyton Library and stupidly only skimmed it in the Leyton Tech but it appeared to be full of stories of catching rabbits on Hackney Marshes. I’m making the assumption that he foraged the Dandelion and Burdock on the marshes for Hackney based Pressure Drop. Like one of John’s gamey marsh rabbits Strictly Roots can best be described as an acquired taste (I grew up on wild rabbit for the record) with strong hints of alluvial deposits from the river Lea and an intense muddy aftertaste kicking in after a liquoricey opening salvo. Best consumed sat on the banks of the Lea with a copy of Marshland by Gareth Rees.

Clarkshaws Strange Brew

There seemed little strange about this  ebullient bottle of sparkling amber ale from Clarkshaws after the Strictly Roots. Cooked up in East Dulwich, Strange Brew No.1 went down beautifully in the evening sun. I was drawn to this beer amongst the 100 on offer at the Tap by the modesty of its label amongst a veritable gallery of vivid branding lining the shelves. Surely this indicated that the beer would speak for itself. To be honest I was also sucked in by the individual bottle numbering (this one was Batch No. 1, Bottle No.54) giving it the feel of a limited edition. Not only did the beer speak for itself it sat there on the table reciting poetry before breaking into arias and sea shanties. Apparently it’s vegetarian as well.

Partizan Pale Ale

Partizan Brewing from Bermondsey have a distinctly different attitude to beer labeling on their seductive range of ales that even include a Saison Iced Tea. This zesty, citrus-tinged Pale Ale had my taste buds dancing round my gullet in the kind of kooky oompah-band hanky-waving gyrations that the figures on the bottle look like they are about to burst into. It then made me want to get up and do a few laps of the table to Half Man Half Biscuit’s All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit. Sign of a good beer.

 

These are dozens more are all available from The Wanstead Tap or direct from the breweries.