Tag Archives: crystal palace

Thirty minutes well spent

6 Jan

I don’t watch a lot of television, apart from Who Do You Think You Are? there is not much else that I would make the time to watch. This evening I put aside 30 minutes to watch the first episode of series two of Great British Railway Journeys on the BBC iPlayer.

I didn’t watch the first series and very nearly missed this one. In this episode former MP Michael Portillo travels by train from Brighton to Crystal Palace via Godstone (although Godstone is a bit of a way out if you are travelling from Brighton to Crystal Palace) armed with a copy of George Bradshaw‘s Tourist Guide.

The programme was is a travel documentary with plenty of history (and historic film) and discussions with historians thrown in for good measure. It helped of course that the places featured were familiar to me.

Starting at Brighton on the Sussex coast we saw the Brighton Aquarium (now the Sea Life Centre) which I think I have only visited once, probably about 30 years ago whilst still at school, I really ought to go back again this year. Then we heard about the long destroyed Chain Pier and took a ride on the Volk’s Electric Railway.

Heading up the railway line towards London we saw briefly the magnificent Ouse Valley Viaduct, which I believe at least once of my distant relatives helped to build. In fact I would imagine that plenty of my relatives were involved in the construction of the London to Brighton railway, if only there were records to prove it.

Portillo took a detour to spend the night at Godstone, Surrey. I have been through Godstone on the train several times, but have never actually visited despite have connections there with my GASSON ancestors. I certainly had no idea that there were underground quarries there and wonder if my ancestors had anything to do with them.

The programme finished at Crystal Palace, an intriguing place with a fascinating history. I paid a brief visit to the park and the remains of the Crystal Palace last year as part of my Capital Ring walk. It was one of several places on that walk which I hope to be able to visit again to explore the park and museum further.

This programme seemed very personal to me, it was almost as if the programme was made specifically for me, truly thirty minutes well spent. Now where can I get hold of one of Bradshaw’s Guides?

Capital Ring: Grove Park to Streatham Common

10 Jul

Today my friend Chris and I completed the next two sections of the Capital Ring walk around London. Despite the temperatures pushing 30°c (which is pretty hot for England) we completed about 13 miles, mostly on the pavements of south-east London.

3.  Grove Park to Crystal Palace (8.5 miles)

4.  Crystal Palace to Streatham Common (4.0 miles)

I wasn’t that impressed with the first part of the walk, not much to see, no real views to speak of and much of the route along concrete and tarmac. There were a few parks and a couple of strips of woodland, but on the whole this were quite unremarkable.

The only really remarkable thing was the state of the grass, it has been several weeks since we had any decent rain and everywhere is starting to look so dry and brown, it is really sad to see. I know it will start growing again when we get some rain, but it doesn’t really make for an enjoyable walk.

The highlight of the first section was reaching the end at Crystal Palace Park, not least because there was at last something interesting to see. There is quite a large park there with many facilities including a very welcome cafe. There are some wonderful historical features here that really warrant further investigation one day.

Sphinx at Crystal Palace Park

The most prominent feature is the massive mast of the radio and television transmitting station, there is even a little cable car, presumably for maintenance purposes, that we saw rising slowly almost to the top of the mast.

Transmitter mast and stone terrace

After spending a bit longer than we had planned at Crystal Palace we continued onto the next section. Fortunately is was a shorter section because not only were thing starting to get very warm, but it seemed almost as uninteresting to me as the first section, with only a few redeeming features.

Loads of lavender

The photo above is of the lavender at Norwood Grove, which had quite a nice little garden perched on top of a hill. The views from here were pretty good, looking south to the North Downs. I wonder if we will ever finish walking along the North Downs Way this year?

The final part of the walk was from Streatham Common itself down to the railway station that bears it’s name. Every time I head to London I pass through Streatham Common station on the train, one of the many places for which I know the name, but have no idea what is there. Now I know, quite a nice piece of rough grassland at the top, leading down to more traditional park and playing fields.

At least this walk is putting pictures to what were previously just names on a map. It is a shame more of them aren’t more interesting, but I suppose you have to take the rough with the smooth.

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