When I first came to London in the Eighties we used to go to warehouse parties in Battle Bridge Road, just behind King's Cross. The area was a mix of old canal and railway buildings, deserted and rather desolate for somewhere so close to the centre of town. It was known principally as a red light district, because there were man quiet streets where kerb crawlers and prostitutes could go about their business.
Development was just beginning back then and the area progressively became London's largest building site as the St Pancras Eurostar terminal and the surrounding 'King's Cross Quarter' took shape.
I went for a walk around the area yesterday. There are lots of shiny modern, rather characterless buildings and shops: the Guardian have moved up there, for one. But there remain some pleasing reminders of the areas industrial past: gasometers, brown brick canalside buildings. The Battle Bridge Road warehouse where we used to party has been razed and there is some sort of development going on. I took a couple of photos, surveilled by a suspicious security man. He didn't call the police, though....
The purpose of my visit was to take a look at the Camley Street Natural Park and it's Natural London photography exhibition. It turns out that the park, built on an old coal yard, came into being at about the same time that I was attending those Battle Bridge parties. It's a few acres of carefully crafted wilderness alongside the Regent's Canal and very beautiful and on a damp, late afternoon in winter, soothing and restful. I particularly like the glimpses of industrial architecture through the foliage. I wonder how long the gasometers and warehouses will remain, though.
I love finding unexpected little places like this, like the overgrown botanical gardens you often find in European cities; they contrast with manicured, packaged and reparcelled, high-land-value nature of most urban space.
It turned out that the exhibition is next weekend, so I'll go back then.