Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Stratford is the first station on the Central Line if you are travelling westwards that connects to another underground line - the Jubilee line.

At Stratford you can enter or exit the tube train from either side which is very unusual. It was a dull day when I visited Stratford so apologies for the quality of the photos.

The station is a huge transport hub with 6 different rail lines as well as a large bus station. It was here that hundreds of thousands of people arrived to access the London Olympics. Consequently the area has undergone a large regeneration programme over the last ten years. The run down shops, derelict buildings and chemical wasteland that existed in the Lea Valley have all gone to make way for shopping centres, apartment blocks and a very clean river running through a variety of thriving habitats.

Robert is a 38 tonne saddle tank steam engine which now  stands outside Stratford Station. Built in 1933 for use at the Ironstone mines railway in Northamptonshire. After a chequered life it was cleaned and repainted and placed outside Stratford station.

As well as the rail and underground there is a large bus station with what looks like umbrellas that have blown inside out. I then read that when it rains the water drains away down the middle of the supporting pillars.


From the station I ignored the new shopping mall and walked across the road to the older shopping centre. Above the centre is a sculpture called 'The Shoal'. It is made up 120 titanium clad 'leaves' that move in the wind.

I walked through the older shopping centre to see it wasn't just shops but it also had market stalls, very much part of the East End community.
Walking through the market I came out into the cultural part of Stratford with its entertainment centre.

The Theatre Royal opened in 1884 and was refurbished in 2001. It is now a Grade II listed building. The Theatre excels in developing young talent.

 A statue in front of the theatre is a memorial to Joan Littlewood, an actress,  who ran theatre workshops in the 1950s to provide a stage for the working class people of the area to voice their stories.

This is the four - screen Stratford Picturehouse. When I go to the cinema I go to a Picturehouseas they  have very comfortable seats and more importantly special prices for seniors.

Next to the Theatre Royal is the Stratford Circus, a performing arts venue.

The centre produces a programme of Cabaret, Circus, Comedy, Dance, Music and Children's theatre. It also runs workshops, education and training opportunities for the local community .

On the corner is the University Square Stratford part of  the University of East London

The church of St Francis of Assisi run by the Franciscans (1868). You can see a statue of St Francis at the top of the building. However there is no entrance to the church here you have to walk around the corner to find the main entrance.  

I had a look inside the church and saw this delightful wrought iron spiral staircase leading up to the bell tower I assume.

This building has been standing here for over 100 years. In 1910 it was a very early cinema. You can still see the old ticket office standing out in the centre. It then became a Billiard Hall. Nowadays it is a Health centre.

The Cart and Horses pub and hotel where the Iron Maiden heavy metal band played some of their early gigs.

This is another station not too far from the Underground station. Maryland is part of tfl rail going from Liverpool Street to Shenfield in Essex. I believe it will be one of the stations on the new Crossrail which should be in service in 2019.

St John's church is in the centre of old part of Stratford.
In the churchyard is this monument to thirteen Protestant martyrs, eleven men and two women who were burnt at the stake in 1556. They were found guilty of heresy. It is said a crowd of 20,000 came to watch the executions.

Across the road from the church is this Grade 11 listed pub dating from the early 18th cent. It started out as the King of Prussia but patriotically changed its name in 1914 to King Edward VII. Affectionately known as King Eddies it is a popular place with the locals.

'Railway Tree' stands at the junction of the Broadway and Great Eastern Road. The steel girders are shaped like railway lines as a reminder of Stratford's connection with railways. The first train station opened here in 1839 as well as engineering workshops for the Eastern Counties Railway. The sculpture was created by Malcolm Robertson. He also created another sculpture in Stratford called 'The Time Spiral'.

This was the original Borough Theatre and Opera House erected in 1895. It was one of the largest theatres in London and could hold 3000 people. It was converted into a cinema in 1933 and then became a bingo hall in 1969.

I am returning to the Underground station via Stratford High Street and the Olympic Park. I am sure if I had a photo from 15 years ago and compared the two, I doubt many of these buildings would have been there.

As I walked towards the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park my eye was attracted to a very long mural. Up close you can see that it is made of ceramic tiles. Created by the British artist Clare Woods, it is made from 88,000 ceramic tiles. The photo shows one small section of the mosaic.

This is the Aquatics centre designed by the female architect Zaha Hadid. It is a beautiful building with its curved roof and glass frontage. I was greatly saddened to learn of her death this week (02/04/16). At 65 there was still much she wanted to achieve.

Looking across  the River Lea from the Aquatics centre you can see the tallest sculpture in the UK the ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor.,  It always looked like a helter skelter and now I understand they have added a spiral slide so you can experience the sculpture as a fairground ride.

On my way back to the Underground I crossed the bridge over the railway. Just looking at the station from this view I took a moment to think about how the environment has  changed since I started out on this journey from Epping, a village in the middle of the Essex countryside to this very urban town.
The statistics show that 59 million people used this station during 2014, almost five times the number of the previous station.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


This is  the 20th station travelling East to West on the Central Line.
There was nothing inspiring about the station as I stepped out onto a very busy Leyton High Road.
I had travelled through this station numerous times on my visits to the other tube stations and was amazed by the size of a cemetery than ran alongside it, so that was my first visit.

The cemetery is St Patrick's Catholic  cemetery, one of only two Roman Catholic cemeteries in London. It is a rambling, overcrowded place with many large tombstones and monuments. Opened in 1868 to cope with the rise in population, many people buried here are of Irish, Italian or polish descent.

Not too far from the High Road is the Queen Elizabeth Park, formerly the Olympic Park of 2012. I am standing on the spot where the athletes' and workers'  dining rooms in the Olympic Village were located.  I was a volunteer working in the dining areas during the Olympics and it is interesting to see how it has changed and delighted that the area has not become a white elephant. Where the athletes were housed in all these apartment blocks, they are now the homes of the new residents in the newly named East Village. To my left was the fitness area, gym and administration block for the athletes. It is now a school with sport as its specialism.

And on the site of the dining rooms is an interim use community project, the Mobile Garden City. Launched in 2015, it will be open until Dec 2016 when it will move to a new location in the park. Its aim is to create a beautiful mobile public garden and to provide training opportunities for the community in gardening and food growing. Areas not currently being developed are used for community based projects and activities until a more permanent development is started.

I walked on a little further to the Velodrome. As I approached I saw a class of young children on the outside track learning how to ride their bikes safely. I am happy to see there is a legacy to the Games.

The centre of London is about 6 miles away. From this vantage point next to the Velodrome you can see the Olympic Stadium in the foreground (the new home of West Ham United Football Club) and some of the city skyscrapers.
No mistaking this sign's meaning. Not sure what is behind the wall but I won't be climbing up to find out.

An invigorating walk in the beautiful sunshine took me across the A12 via the Eton Manor Bridge.

On the other side of the road are the Hackney Marshes which run alongside the  River Lea. This is one of the largest areas of Common land in London. It was originally marshland but was drained during medieval times. Its status as common land with grazing rights and the effects of flooding have saved this land from being developed.  It now has the largest concentration of football pitches in Europe. 

The new Spitalfields market moved to Leyton in 1991. Prior to that the fruit and veg market was near Liverpool Street station and is still a market today focusing on art, craft and fashion. The new market is open to retailers and caterers and is the most famous fruit and vegetable market in the country.

There is no admittance to the market without wearing a high visibility garment as its opening hours are midnight -9am.

No mistaking which part of London I am in.

I have walked in a large circle and am now back on the High Road. This is Leyton public library built in 1882 it began life as Leyton Town Hall but in 1892 a new town hall was built next door

Next door to the library is the Town Hall designed by John Johnson whose design beat 30 other competitors and was erected in 1894/6/

Close to the centre of Leyton is Coronation Gardens. Built in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII. It has a fountain (shown here), landscape gardens and a bandstand. Although it was midweek when I visited, the park was full of people enjoying the sunshine. A class of children were playing around the bandstand so I didn't take a photo.

This is an interesting sign in the park as the Borough of Leyton no longer exists. It was abolished in 1965 when Leyton combined with Walthamstow and Chingford to form the London Borough of Waltham Forest. There are 32 London Boroughs plus the City of London making 33 districts altogether. This journey on the Central Line started in the county of Essex outside the London borough boundaries. Since Woodford I have been through the Borough of Redbridge and Leyton is my last station  in the Borough of Waltham Forest.

I walked through the park to have a look down some of the side roads and here I found Leyton Orient Football Club. The stadium is overlooked by these apartments so as long as you like football you would enjoy living here. The grey gate is one of the entrances into the stadium.

This is the main entrance into the stadium. The team currently play in the 2nd division of the Football League.

I followed a sign for Skelton Lane park and discovered that it included an urban farm. The farm has been built next to the railway arches which carry the overground railway.

The farm had new animal enclosures as well as indoor and outdoor classrooms providing a learning centre for this part of East London. There was a range of farm animals such as pigs, sheep, goats alpacas and cows as well as numerous chickens and ducks. What a great way for inner city children to learn about animals.

Back on the High Road I walked beneath this bridge which carries the Overground trains to another station Midland Road.

 This cricket pitch and pavilion was the former home of Essex County Cricket Club. Built in 1886 it was their headquarters until 1933. The pavilion is now part of Leyton Youth Centre.

There were a number of art deco buildings on the High Street.

I like the modern design of the leisure centre.

At the crossroads of Lea Bridge Road and Leyton High Road is the area known as the Baker's Arms. The name comes from a pub on one of the corners which is now a betting shop. The pub itself was named after almshouses a little further down Lea Bridge Road.
Entrance to the Bakers Almshouses. These almshouses were built between 1857 and 1866 for the London Master Bakers Benevolent Institution.

52 almshouses were built on 3 sides of a square with turrets in the corners and overlooking the garden. They were built for retired people who had spent their lives working in the baking industry and lived within a twelve mile radius of Charing Cross.

In September 1916, twenty two were damaged by bombs. Then in the late 1960s the almshouses were compulsory purchased by the Greater London Council for a road widening scheme. However the almshouses were saved due to their architectural significance and were given a Grade II listing.

When the road widening scheme was abandoned the houses were refurbished and  converted into one bedroomed flats. The last retired baker moved to new accommodation  in Bakers Lane, Epping in 1971.

There are a number of plaques on the almshouses. These two give thanks for the installation of electric lighting in 1924 and gas in 1939.

Even Leyton Bus station looked picturesque with all the daffodils in the glorious blue sunshine. Despite my first impressions on leaving Leyton Underground Station I have enjoyed my walk around the town.