Our East London tour today began at Wanstead, where Mary, Linda and I met by 10.00. We had been hoping for a beautiful sunny day, but it was quite cool, and the sun did not break through until the afternoon - too late for us. Still, the little bus had amazingly clean windows and a cheerful and careful driver, so we were happy.
Wanstead is an attractive place, with a High Street which seems to be doing fine, and the Green was well tended, with a sort of lych gate at the corner, sheltering a drinking fountain. A measure of the sober respectability of the area might be that the public toilets in Woodbine Road had the toilet paper just on domestic type holders, rather than being caged to prevent theft!
We liked the plasterwork on the 'Older People's Centre' as we headed off along the green, noticing a number of apartment complexes of the kind we have come to expect near commuter stations. We passed the Convent of Mercy before turning to cross the A12, and enter an area of more substantial houses, with the courts of the Aldersbrook Tennis Club in the central reservation, as it were.
We were skirting the edges of Epping Forest, but I will spare you the lecture about Disraeli and open spaces. We were amazed at the huge block of flats that seemed to dominate the landscape in a way that made us wonder about planning permission; but this is an area where people were rehoused from the war-devastated dock areas of London, so maybe this kind of building is not surprising
Wanstead Flats were looking, well, flat, but with swans and other water birds milling around the pond near the road as we passed, it seemed a pleasant area of green for the borough of Waltham Forest's residents to enjoy. Victorian terraces were interspersed with ore modern housing, and we noted streets named for Anna Neagle and Vera Lynn, which date quite precisely the period of building around here. Some of the gardens were glowing with the most lovely spring blossoms, and we saw a number of camellia bushes which had survived the cold of a few weeks ago to remain covered in flowers
We came past the Wanstead Park Overground Station, and a surprising number of thriving pubs: the Railway and the Fox and Hounds almost next door to each other, for example. Along Forest Lane, we came to Magpie Close, which appears to be part of Forest Lane Park, established where Elizabeth Fry's brother, Samuel Gurney, lived and did his good works. It is an imposing facade, with housing behind it. The Manby Arms Pub came next. You will not be surprised to know that I can't find out who he was, or what his arms were. Manby is rather a Norfolk and Lincolnshire name. It is easier with school names: Sarah Bonnell left a serious sum of money in the 18th century to educate girls in West Ham, and her school moved to Forest Gate in the last century. It now has handsome new buildings.
We also passed the Stratford Campus of the University of East London, as we came into Stratford. We were pleased to see the Newcred offices. Being simple old folk, we are unable to understand why banks owned or mostly owned by the taxpayer cannot be forced to lend our money to people who need it, but credit unions are a way of bypassing the whole scummy, bonus grabbing lot of them. The daffodils in Stratford, around the church, were lovely. We turned into the very-much-improved bus station, and were amazed at the art work all around. At least we think it is art, but can find no reference anywhere to the cloud/lily-pad shaped things on grey pipes. (PS just shows how much cleverer some people are than me: have a look at Diamond Geezer's blog for Saturday 17 March 2012 and it explains the whole thing)
Soon we were out of Stratford and heading towards Leyton. We admired the King Harold Pub, with a fine inn sign, but were also interested by a building with (we guessed) Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in iron work on its side.
After passing a Greek Church, we reached the Lea Interchange and Spitalfields Market, moved out of the City in 1991, as well as the Olympic velodrome and BMX area. And then we came to Hackney Marshes, our second large expanse of green, alongside the canal. We were going through the huge blocks of the Kingsmead Estate, and then, after passing Hackney Hospital, the smaller and newer blocks of the Chatsworth Estate.
We reached Clapton Park at 11.05, just inside an hour from Wanstead, after a journey through the many communities and varied developments of this edge of east London.