walk 14: wandsworth bridge to battersea bridge, with emily oliver

26 Jun

Northside | Start: 16:13 | End: 17:33 | Duration: 1:20

An abandoned warehouse is left decaying on Townmead Road, all shattered windows and gap-toothed doors, while all the other houses have pretty gardens and neat dustbins. They won’t play with it at break time, call names and gossip about the trees left wild with blue plastic bags wound in branches.

A helicopter overhead hammers out its sound, hovering above, looking for its target and then scooping down into a landing pad on the opposite bank. The air is thick with noise and unrest. Our hair blows like feathers; a blackbird races a speedboat.

a bird races a speedboat

Chelsea Creek rises in north London and joins the Thames here, by an old power station. This tidal mouth is completely obscured in this awful development, barely noticeable amongst the manicured plastic gardens, layered apartments and polished signage. But the Creek exists and has done and will do for longer than you or you or you. An ugly flat bridge takes us passed the lock, marks nothing, keeping us focused on the dull buildings in white and beige and magnolia.

Barely noticeable

I’ve researched Battersea: this is where the strongest current is, where it’s most tempestuous, where it’s rough and then gets rougher. But the river edge is hidden from view, tucked under the gated-entranced, bunting-decorated, soulless, concreted ‘Mediterranean-style boulevard’. We can’t see the tide, if there is a tide, or how fast the flow is, without leaning far over the rail; shadow on the water, feet off the ground.

Today is clear and we walk slowly, the sun warm on my neck and ears, boots too heavy, rucksack weighty. In the distance – an image from Whistler, without the fireworks behind – is Battersea Bridge. Long, narrow and charged with traffic while a series of brisk, appropriately-dressed athletes running its length.

barely noticeable2

This walk was a collaboration with artist Emily Oliver.

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