Out And About: London Fields

From time to time I shall be writing about my travels in and around London (seeing as this is how I spend much of my working day). In London we have various private companies who run different rail routes to and from the north, south, east and west of the capital, as well as the Transport For London (TfL)-run London Underground (Tube), Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and London Overground lines. They all offer varying degrees of service and comfort, and differ from one another in the upkeep of their stations and the general effort to which they go to make things pleasant for ye daily commuter (e.g. me).

Now, this may all sound rather dull, but trust me: it isn’t. Being the historic and ever-developing city that it is, London is full of quirks and surprises, some of which I hope to share with you from time to time.

Today: the area of north London known as London Fields.

(N.B. I will debate with people who have different views on what constitutes ‘North London’ or ‘East London’. They intermingle. What I do is look on a map. If it looks north, I call it north.)

(P.S. I didn’t actually go here today. I wrote all this about a week ago, when the weather was nice.)

* * *

So, Ed, where did you go?

I went to London Fields, in the Borough of Hackney.

How did you get there?

I took the Number 35 bus from Camberwell, north over London Bridge and through the city to Liverpool Street Station. From there I caught the Greater Anglia Trains’ service to London Fields station.

How long did it take you?

About an hour, which is about average. I’ll leave an hour and a half to two hours’ journey time, depending on where I’m going. Buses tend to take longer, but I’ll go with whatever entails the least changes.

And how was the journey?

Two words can sum this up: Greater Anglia. Greater Anglia run train services to the north and east of London, out of Liverpool Street. It is, without a doubt, the most unpleasant rail service in and around the capital. It’s as if there was a meeting at their headquarters in which the question was asked, “Does anyone here feel like we should be providing a smooth and agreeable rail service?” To which the reply was a unanimous burst of raucous laughter. The trains are out-of-date and grotty, and the stations uniformly grim and soul-less. I hate travelling on Greater Anglia.

Wow. That’s pretty strong. Any redeeming features?

Happily, yes. London Fields turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant area. Maybe that’s because the sun was shining, and today was that fresh, crisp, autumnal day that I find irresistibly cheering, but whatever the reason I took to London Fields.

What was so good about it?

The station’s built into an archway of one of the many Victorian-built red-brick rail viaducts that snake outwards from London’s heart. The downside is that this makes the station itself a grinding, grey dungeon of corrugated iron and dirty walls; the upside is that there are some charming cafés and bakeries thriving in adjacent arches.

Coffee Is My Cup Of Tea just has a great name, and looks like a cosy place to sit on a cold winter’s evening. Check out their website.

Cafe T looks more funky, populated as it was by young trendy types with iPads and vintage outfits spilling out on to the pavement outside. No website I can find, but it sure looked nice.

The Happy Kitchen Bakery makes all sorts of yummies that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and organic. My kind of place (lacto-intolerant). Find out more.

There was a nice park nearby, with mums and kids playing in the playground, and because the surrounding roads wind back and forth through the viaduct the whole place hd that hidden-corners, nooks-and-crannies feel that I love.

So how would you rate it?

The station: 5/10 — not the worst, but not the nicest.
The area: 8/10 — pretty and engaging, for me at least.
The journey: 3/10 — any time me and Greater Anglia are mashed together, we end up not talking.

Any last words?

I’m typing this bit a week later, so all I can say is that my overriding memory is a pleasant one. Call me a geek if

you will, but I’ve enjoyed documenting my little visit; it brings back to my mind a tiny corner of my city that I may just call ‘the place I went one day’, but which some people call ‘home’.

Bless you, London Fields, and all who dwell in you.

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