But eyes themselves were all the hearers there,
And every stone, and every star a tongue,
And every gale of wind a curious song.
Dumbness – Thomas Traherne
Sometimes an enforced change of routine can be a good thing.
Varying your journey to and from work, or any other regular destination is supposedly stimulating and energizing, something that’s good for creativity and good for your general wellbeing.
As someone who loves walking and loves wandering around in cities, I ought to do this more often: head off on foot to follow the original course of an underground river, create a path that allows streets to be walked only in alphabetical order, go from A to B via as many churchyards as can be taken in along the way.
The truth is, most mornings rather than indulge in playful psychogeographic drifts on the way in to work, I tend to take the same route. Walk to the same station. Get on a train at around the same time. Stand in the same crowded carriage. Look out at the same view.
Yesterday, the St Jude storm sent me on something of a dérive within a small area of Lambeth. There were no trains due to the winds, so instead of standing on Tulse Hill’s platform 1, I made for Brixton, but wanting to avoid the main roads, headed up a road I’d never walked along before – Thurlow Hill and absent mindedly carried on up past the rather impressive Rosendale Allotments association grounds and into Peabody Hill, which at first appeared to be a cul-de-sac.
The map on my phone certainly showed no way out (it’s nice to see that Google and co haven’t quite captured every detail of everywhere. Yet.) but – reluctant to trudge back to the main road – I did what no self-respecting bloke is supposed to do and asked someone if there was a way through. There was, it turned out – a lane, running through a small wooded area, Peabody Hill Wood, which emerged at the back of the magnificent red-brick apartments of the Peabody Estate off the Herne Hill end of Rosendale road. Near the lane there are also a range of Garden-City style cottages.
Best of all, the path took me past a derelict building that I’d noticed a few times from the train – I’m not sure what it was, but from the tracks it looked like some kind of cricket or bowls club house. On closer inspection I didn’t learn much more except that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of pitch nearby so the building may have been used for something else entirely – going by the cartoon characters in the graffiti I’d guess it may have been a nursery for the estate.
There’s a short wooden tower in the middle of the roof – a mini-version of the lighthouse style tower at King’s Cross. I’d been meaning to try and track it down one day and have a look, and suddenly, here I was. If it wasn’t for the storm I doubt I’d have ever got around to it.
UPDATE JULY 2014
Went past on the train the other day and noticed that the above building was being demolished. Glad I caught a glimpse before the end. The site has now been filled with a new block of flats.