Tag Archives: london roads

London’s only working toll booth

Driving around London you rarely have to pay any tolls. Yes, we have Congestion Charge and newly-extended ULEZ, look up London toll roads and you won’t find a mention, but there is one place where you do have to pay a specific toll.

No, it’s not a bridge (the QE2 Bridge is outside the capital unless you’re talking to Sadiq Khan), it’s not a ferry (the Woolwich Ferry has always been free) and it isn’t (as yet) a tunnel. It’s College Road, a small road in Dulwich.

The Dulwich Estate has the freehold to a ribbon of land in southeast London between Denmark Hill and Crystal Palace.

The toll road dates back to 1789 and was built by John Morgan who went by the unlikely title of Lord of the Manor of Penge. He lived at the top of Sydenham Hill and wanted an access road north across Dulwich College fields, so they let him, but when the lease expired responsibility passed back to the Dulwich Estate.

They added a tollkeeper’s cottage alongside the gate (still there, now listed) and continued to levy charges even after London’s last turnpikes ceased operation, one of these unused toll booths is to be found next to the Spaniards Inn on the edge of Hampstead Heath.

A quaint octagonal tollbooth sits on its own little island in the centre of the road. Originally the tollkeeper would have taken the money at the window and then raised the barrier himself, but the current set-up is automatic, taking cash, cards, and with a nod to modernity Apple Pay.

Featured image: Toll Booth, College Road, Dulwich by Noel Foster (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Getting Lost

Recently I made to a small contribution to the Every Little Thing podcast discussing one’s ability to be aware of a sense of direction. It occurred to me then that in over 10 years of writing, CabbieBlog has featured memory, but I have always assumed that everyone has an innate sense of direction.

Not so. To navigate a space, we seem to need three basic types of cells, these cells fire up at a very early age. The cells reside in the hippocampus (the area of the brain proved to be highly developed in London cabbies heads) to record direction, where the head is pointing; place the location in an environment; and grid, distance covered while moving.

Research by Giuseppe Iaria, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary, with a doctorate in Cognitive Neuroscience and over 20 years of experience in conducting behavioural and neuroimaging studies investigating spatial orientation and navigation sites several reasons some are better navigating, much of which is used on The Knowledge: practice, strategies, the environment, one’s age and your genes.

Most have a predisposition to navigate, although the reason is unknown, while 2 per cent have what Dr Iaria calls Developmental Topographical Disorientation (‘DTD’), or an inability to picture and remember the landscape.

Others, including those who pass The Knowledge, have a cognitive map of where they are in respect to the surrounding area. You don’t need to know how to navigate, all you need is a picture of your journey. When I was learning London’s topography, I would memorise every turn by what I could see at that intersection.

Some can make a mental map immediately, while others take time. It takes intense practice for most. But the good doctor conceded that London cabbies are phenomenal in this respect.

Test your ability at getting lost.ca

Long and winding road

The thoroughfare with the shortest name in London is Hide in Beckton, credit for the shortest falls to Candover Street in Fitzrovia at 135ft.

But which has the longest name and the greatest length? The longest name has surely to go to St. Martin-in-Fields Church Path, though some pedants give Stoke Newington Church Street as it is a ‘proper’ street, that can be driven down in my taxi.

[A]ND AS for the longest? Well, the consensus is that Green Lanes, stretching from Newington Green to Enfield is the clear winner, it does, incidentally intersect Stoke Newington Church Street and changes its name occasionally ending with London Road.

Using this measure my ‘longest’ thoroughfare starts at St. Paul’s and travels into another country, where incidentally it’s also called London Road and from which one can see the country’s parliament.

The A1’s journey takes in Goswell Road along Upper Street, which in reality is the lower part of this 410 mile-long road. It takes in Holloway and Archway Roads, Apex Corner, leaving London at Junction 23 of the M25 (Bignell’s Corner).