Friday, December 15, 2006

Capital Ring: Finsbury Park to West Ham

While the last segment of this walk improved as it went, today's outing was marked more by its troughs. We caught the Tube out to Manor House, and after some muddy paths around some reservoirs reached Clissold Park and Stoke Newington. All well and good, especially navigating some of the very unkempt unconsecrated grounds of Abney Park Cemetery, full of Salvation Army luminaries like the founding Booths. At the library next door is Daniel Defoe's tomb, otherwise memorialized in the area by a street and a pub.

Continuing on through Upper Clapton, whose streets had a very noticeable Jewish and Muslim presence, we got to Springfield Park, with its eastward view over the Lea Valley. From there we got down to the Lea Navigation canal (with a big barge marina), which we were to follow for some time thereafter.

On our left (to the east) were the Walthamstow Marshes, and from around Lea Bridge, not far behind us was a man who appeared to be determined to expose himself to me, should I look around for more than a split-second.

I tried to ignore him and hurried Bondi along, being engrossed in a podcast about Dunbar's Number, which is a theoretical limit to the number of sustainable relationships an individual can sustain. Normally around 150, at this very minute I was being strained to extend it to any one further than a leash-length away. After about a mile I had to stop to give Bondi some water. The man passed me, only to attempt to reveal himself from behind some bushes not far down the canal.

Finally losing him, we resumed our walk by the canal. Curiously just as a radio newsbreak was detailing the findings of the inquest into Princess Diana's death, I passed the Princess of Wales pub. After that no more excitement, except a blip of memory as I passed the old Lesney factory where Matchbox cars had once been made.
Graffiti on the commercial buildings backing onto this stretch of canal began to build up in quanity and intensity, with some of the skull figures reminding me a little of hattifatteners with dentures. I may have been prompted in this memory by my purchase, last week, of a reprinted volume of Tove Jansson's Moomin comic strip. It's over 50 years since these began appearing in London papers. I could just imagine hattifatteners travelling through this urban canal-scape in their little boats (leaving aside the local trouserfauna of similar appearance). A little websurfing yields the titbit that there are moomincore bands giving musical interpretations of Jansson's creations. One can hardly wait for a Finnish Eurovision entry along these lines.

Now south of Hackney Wick, in the Stratford Marsh area, the gruesomeness continued to develop. We walked along the Northern Outfall Sewage Embankment, developed by Joseph Bazalgette, who featured in the Worms of Euston Square, a six mile walkway optimistically named The Greenway, possibly because it rolls off the tongue better than "Proving Ground for the 4 Horses of the Apocalypse". From around Pudding Mill Lane, the walking environment seemed like sewer crossed with warzone, with burnt out cars and seedy streets.

In the distance I could see lollipop-coloured apartment blocks being raised up - reminding me of similar constructions in Melbourne's Docklands - until I saw that the colour scheme was identical to the abandoned vehicles along the NOSE/Greenway.

Above is the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, the "Temple of Sewage" erected by Bazalgette. Nearby, some old nautiloid pumps stand, gazing forlornly over this horrible landscape.

Just put down Andreas Eschbach's fabular novel The Carpet Makers. A very nice read with echoes of its English-language champion Orson Scott Card, Brian Aldiss' Helliconia and maybe a touch of Lem.

1 comment:

  1. As I type there's a UKTV History channel on the "Seven Wonders of the Industrial World". THis episode is "The Sewer King", about Bazalgette.