There are London boroughs that are vast blank sheets of paper to me. Enfield, Redbridge, Bexley… I know virtually nothing about these areas, and almost any trip into them will be a completely new experience.
Then there are the boroughs and areas I know very well – the City, Southwark, Lewisham and so on. There, my challenge is to find pockets that I haven’t explored. I’m sure there are streets within a mile of my house that I’ve never walked down – Rob Winton’s blog on walking all the streets of SE23 is an object lesson in how much there is to discover in your local patch.
And then there’s Camden. Notoriously diverse, it stretches from Hampstead in the North via the gentility of Belsize Park and Primrose Hill, swirling through the chaos of Camden Town to Bloomsbury.
I know parts of Camden pretty well – MM works at Birkbeck, and I’ve had courses at Hampstead and at various locations in Bloomsbury, but the central swathe – including ‘Camden’ itself – I’ve skimmed by only briefly.
So for my Camden challenge, I took Birkbeck as my starting point, and headed north until I was half-tired, and then back south. I had no special sights in mind. No museums, cemeteries or nightspots. Just a winter afternoon stroll to make the missing links between places I knew.
I was in a mood to be distracted by minutiae – the patterns formed by drain covers, tiling, shop lettering, architectural details, urban decay and encroaching nature.
My memory card came home full of these (see my flickrset), along with the predictable Camden clichés – the Black Cat cigarette factory, the Roundhouse, numerous tat emporia, diverse graffiti, and…