This Lockdown is an invitation to seek out new places to stroll and explore (in a compliant manner, of course). Today was my first visit to the Walthamstow Wetlands, more than 200 hectares of reservoirs on the outskirts of London - a nature reserve as well as one oft he capital's main sources of water.
The Wetlands only opened to the public three years ago. And they are wonderful
One of the most atmospheric sights was the cormorants (or are they shags?) roosting in a tree.
The site also has two wonderful old industrial buildings - the most striking, the Coppermill Tower, dates from the 1860s and is Grade 2 listed.
The Engine Room stands near the main entrance and is also a cafe, currently doing hot drinks and take-away sandwiches.
From the Wetlands you can see the new Spurs stadium in Tottenham nearby, and a little further away the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf
And as you can see, the weather was wonderful - a bright, crisp, late autumn day. A delight!
If you are curious about how an out-of-the-way gaffe in Walthamstow was named Museum of the Year, get down there and see for yourself. The William Morris Gallery is balm for the soul. It's housed in a wonderful Georgian building in its own grounds - William Morris, who was born nearby, lived here through some of his teenage years.
The museum takes you through the main areas of endeavour of this remarkable man: tapestry and textile design; painting, not his great forte but he was part of the pre-Raphaelites scene and his wife, Jane, was a muse and model and later ran off with Rossetti; furniture and interior design; writing, much of it epic verse influenced by Icelandic sagas; book design, typesetting and binding; the preservation of the built environment ... and then there's his politics.
The displays give full weight to William Morris's political activism, From 1883 for about a decade, he was Britain's most engaged socialist intellectual - libertarian, somewhat utopian (he was the author of News from Nowhere), and very much an activist.
On show is the satchel that Morris took with him to political meetings and demonstrations - and a wonderful display of his pamphlets, many of them embellished by Walter Crane's designs, along with handbills, posters, a few marvellous photographs and a banner which has a touch of Morris about it.
Not the least of the delights is a cafe, airy and light, which sells excellent cakes - and has an open-air terrace overlooking the grounds. There's a good shop (see below) - and it's all free.
Just ten minutes walk away is Walthamstow's other museum, the Vestry House Museum - the displays are nothing like as memorable, but the building and its surroundings are enchanting. I have never come across such an arcadian idyll within the bounds of the M25. Opposite the Vestry House is a single storey 1830s school room now a spiritualist church, and an early Victorian fire station - nearby there's a wood-beamed fifteenth century house and opposite a red hexagonal Victorian pillar box (both below) - footpaths arched by apple-heavy boughs - alms houses - a row of charming country-style Victorian cottages ... and this is E17!
A wonderful ghost sign off St Mary's Road in E17 which I stumbled across this morning ... as you can see from the scaffolding, there's building work underway. I hope the sign survives!
A more assiduous researcher than me has discovered that this enterprise appears to have opened in 1895, was renamed as Walthamstow Business College between the wars and closed in 1957.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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