The Lost Pond – Autumn walk in Epping Forest

A few years ago I picked up a postcard in the Epping Forest Visitor Centre at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Chingford. It was a painting by Jacob Epstein of a pond surrounded by trees. A lady working in the Visitor Centre told me it was ‘The Lost Pond’ and that it was near Baldwin’s Hill. But somehow I never quite managed to find the Lost Pond on the few occassions I tried to find it, until I headed out with that intent the other Sunday, armed with the Corporation of London’s map of Epping Forest as well as the Ordnance Survey map.

There is also a passage about the Lost Pond in J.A Brimble’s London’s Epping Forest (pub. 1950). In fact, it appears that it was Brimble who gave the pond its name.

“Just before the ground begins to drop steeply to the valley, there is a pond set deeply in a dense surrounding of trees. It is right on the hill-top and is actually overlooking Bellringers’s Hollow.
The pond is not a natural one. It was made many years ago in supplying Loughton with gravel. But Nature and the passing of the years have concealed the scars, and the pond has settled beautifully into the Forest scene.
I don’t know that it has an official name. I have heard it called ‘The Gravels’ and ‘The Top Pond’. To us, it is always known as ‘The Lost Pond’. For, like many others, when first exploring the Forest, I walked blindly and stumbled on the pond by accident, afterwards being unable to remember how I got there, and where to find it again. It became ‘The Lost Pond’.”

The Lost Pond Epping Forest

The Lost Pond

Brimble also notes that it was a favourite haunt of the sculptor Jacob Epstein and that one day he found Epstein with his easle set up by the pond and he told the artist the name of the lake which then Epstein helped popularise. I wonder if this was the day the painting on the postcard was produced.

‘The Lost Pond’ is only one of several such attractive spots to be found in the woods. For the Forest only yields the secret whereabouts of these places to those who know her intimately.
J.A Brimble – London’s Epping Forest 1950

Kensal Rise Has A Story – psychogeographic sound trail

Kensal Rise map

My project for Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture in collaboration with the wonderful Kensal Rise Library went live in September. Kensal Rise Has A Story tells the story the streets around Kensal Rise Library through the voices of local people and is part of the inaugral Brent Biennal.


I explained the project in an interview with Art Review

“It’s a geographic sound map or trail of Kensal Rise. The form the project takes has partly been informed by the COVID-19 restrictions. I had planned this beautiful archive inside the library and some of the sound works were going to be burnt onto vinyl which could be listened to within a listening booth. We’ve not got those, but its ok, those were outcomes, they weren’t really the work itself which is a portrait of the community in their own words. By ‘community’ I mean the community of the library. Where it becomes geographic is that the emphasis is on the subjective responses to the environment and the changes within that environment rather than looking for some objective, dry, historical overview of the area, or even contemporary commentary on the area.

The ethos of the Kensal Rise Library is at the heart of the project. About 60 percent of the contributors are connected to the library, as users or in some other way. You can’t listen to any of the clips without feeling the presence of the library.”

You can read the rest of the interview here

Kensal Rise sound trail

photo by Thierry Bal

You can explore the trail by following the map found outside Kensal Rise Library and scanning the QR Codes with the camera on a smart phone (or listening to the playlist above).


Kensal Rise map

photo by Thierry Bal


Kensal Rise

photo by Thierry Bal

YouTuber, Sean James Cameron made this great video of a walk around the trail

Longer form versions of the interviews and additional research materials will be added to the project blog here.

John Rogers Brent Biennial

John Rogers Brent Biennial


John Rogers Brent Biennial

Map at Kensal Rise Library

John Rogers Brent Biennial

John Rogers Brent Biennial

You can watch a Zoom talk I gave about the project for Kensal Rise Library here

Sunday stroll through Central London

A walk through Bloomsbury and Soho to Piccadilly Circus

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been in Central London this year – certainly not since the lockdown. So I glided up the escaltor at Holborn Underground with a sense of excitement tinged with trepidation. My old Sunday stroll path was to head along Kingsway and up Southampton Row, have a mooch in Book Warehouse then wander through Bloomsbury. That was the route I followed. Book Warehouse closed a couple of years ago. There was a notable absence of tourists and Sunday strollers around Russell Square. The University of London grounds were deserted – IoT, SOAS and Birkbeck were ghost towns. Senate House was again cast in a sci fi movie.

There was more life around the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street but dwarfed by the enormous Soho Place development that’s wiped out the end of Charing Cross Road – including the much loved Astoria Theatre.

Soho Place development - site of Astoria Theatre

Soho Place development – site of Astoria Theatre


Old Compton Street, Soho

Old Compton Street hummed with life – the road blocked off, tables lining the centre of the street from Charing Cross Road to Wardour Street. There was a queue outside Ronnie Scott’s in Frith Street. It was a heartening sight. Let this be the new normal.

The walk ended at Piccadilly Circus, the sun setting over the statue of Eros with lovers huddled around on the steps as they’ve always done.


R.I.P Luna Lounge Leytonstone – home of live music

Luna Lounge

It was so sad to hear of the closure of the Luna Lounge, Leytonstone last week. Luna was a beacon in the community – lighting up Church Lane with live music. A bohemian dive bar and a Sunday afternoon chill out, a late night blues club and a folk club evoking the heyday of Greenwich Village. And that was just four days of the week – the Luna provided live music seven days a week at time when London’s live music venues were biting the dust like French soldiers at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.  Suja created something magical at the Luna Lounge that will live long in the memory.

There were so many incredible nights at the Luna Lounge. One highlight for me that demonstrated what Luna gave us was after a great gig at What’s Cookin in the ex-Services Club by two touring Americana acts from the U.S, the musicians decamped to Luna to do a second jam session into the small hours of a Wednesday morning. Where else would you find that, not just in Leytonstone, but in London.

Luna Lounge

Car Free Day at Luna Lounge

But the true judge for me of what Suja and the Luna Lounge gave the Leytonstone Community were not the rocking nights at the bar as part of the throng, but the evenings wandering on the other side of Church Lane looking across at the scene inside the Luna Lounge, the music wafting across the street, an event you could experience by proxy on the way to the shops.

Suja was always a great host, ever ready to help the community, keen to be of service. He ran a tight ship, trouble-makers were rare but dealt with calmly and effectively. It was noticeable the diversity of the people who felt safe to enjoy a night out at the Luna. And they came from far and wide. When telling people I lived in Leytonstone, you’d often hear people reply that they knew the area solely because of Luna Lounge. Musician travelled from all over to play at the Lounge. It became legendary.

Luna Lounge

East London Writers Club at Luna Lounge

So why has it closed. There are conflicting reports. I spoke to Suja not long after the Police had visited with the Borough licencing officers to check whether Covid regulations were being properly followed. He was still visibly shaken. He’s built that venue up from scratch to make it what it is, poured his heart and soul to turn a dream into a reality and give such joy to so many. It seems particularly harsh and overly bureaucratic to haul him in front of a licencing review conducted in such challenging circumstances. You like to think common sense and a degree of humanity could have prevailed. But it seems not.

Waltham Forest has lost an alarming number of pubs and venues over the last decade. It can ill afford to lose another, especially such a gem as the Luna Lounge. The music has stopped in Church Lane, and it’s hard to imagine that it will return when the virus subsides. And the licencing authorities will be to blame for the loss this valuable community asset. Long Live the Luna Lounge! And best of luck to Suja and the Luna crew whatever they do next.


The Luna Lounge appears to be back open again and hosting fantastic live music. Can’t wait to get back in there.

A Nostalgic walk from Leytonstone to West Ham Park – East London Walks

A walk from Leytonstone to West Ham Park


“The word nostalgia is learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain” or “ache”, and was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. Described as a medical condition—a form of melancholy—in the Early Modern period, it became an important trope in Romanticism.” – wikipedia

Nostalgia is a tendancy in myself that I’ve tried to resist informing my work too much, as I’m a deeply nostalgic person. I suppose this is because it became synonymous with a certain type of sentimentality, a yearning for the past, ‘the good old days’. Growing up during the 80s this was associated with a post-war period that the rush to a digital future was desperate to dump in the dustbin of history. But I seem to be able to feel more nostalgic about last week than Saturday Swap Shop and Spangles.

The theme of nostalgia came up in conversation at the Wanstead Tap with Jake Green about his wonderful Pie and Mash book two days before the walk in the video above. Neither of us are particularly pie and mash people. But these survivors of late Victorian and Edwardian London seem to represent something that it’s sad to see is under threat.

I contributed an essay to Jake’s book of photos of London’s surviving Pie and Mash shops. The theme of the essay was a walk that linked together the locations of former pie and mash shops between Stratford and Islington – a Dead Pie Shop Trail.

“I find myself on a late winter’s day in West Ham Lane, Stratford, at the site of Lediard’s Pie and Mash shop. Steak Republic now occupies the site. The menu still boasts ‘World Range Pies’, along with milkshakes, gourmet burgers and traditional fish and chips. A fragment of carved stonework from the old building pokes through the gap between the plastic shop signage and First Impression Hair and Beauty Salon next door. The neighbouring stretch of West Ham Lane features numerous food outlets; Mummy Yum Chicken Ribs and Pizza, Top Chef Chinese Cuisine, a Polish Delicatessen, and Burj Chicken and Pizza. There is clearly still a market for cheap and simple food in the area despite Lediard’s demise.

The view West from here towards the next part of the Dead Pie Shop Trail is one of emergent skyscrapers, cranes looming over skeletal towers on the outskirts of Mega City Stratford. The grand old civic buildings of the County Borough of West Ham dating from the early 1900s are boarded up, abandoned. Change is sweeping not only through post-Olympic Stratford but London as a whole. What can we learn from the dead pie shops about the London that’s been lost and the city to come?”

west ham park

Cairn on the site of Upton House in West Ham Park

So it’s unsurprising that on a blustery Saturday morning last week I allowed my feet to lead me through the ‘memory grounds’ (Sinclair/Kötting) from my early days in Leytonstone to my first days in London as student living in a terraced house just off the Romford Road. I went down past St. Patrick’s Cemetery to the former workhouse and hospital at Langthorne, on a site that had once belonged to Stratford Langthorne Abbey. Along the route to West Ham Park the ghosts of former pubs lined the roadside like gibbets dangling highwaymen. The Cart and Horses where Leytonstone’s Steve Harris gave birth to Iron Maiden is in a state of stasis awaiting a block of flats to be built out the back before it can receive a full renovation. West Ham Church stands like ‘a still point in a turning world’ (a favourite phrase of my old walking buddy Nick Papadimitriou). And West Ham Park itself links us to a period of civic pride and a belief in the public good that I feel no shame in being nostalgic for.

With the world as it is at the moment and a long winter looming, roaming the byways of the past in mind and on foot could bring necessary relief in these uncertain times.