What a difference three decades makes

The perspective is not quite the same, but I think you can just make out that Shirley Wheeler is standing in the left-hand of the two bridge spans.

Disused railway line, Poplar, 6 August 1984.

Disused railway line, Poplar, 6 August 1984.

Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, 4 September 2014.

Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, 4 September 2014.

This is the view just north-east of Poplar station on the Docklands Light Railway line heading up towards Stratford. The bridge carries Poplar High Street across the tracks. Just over 30 years separates the two photographs.

The first photo was taken when ‘Docklands’ was just a developer’s wild idea. The second was taken this afternoon. In the summer of 1984 Shirley was looking up at the birds nesting under the eaves of the derelict building — house martins I think they were, or swallows perhaps. We’d spent the day wandering the vast broken landscape of the Isle of Dogs, from Mudchute and Millwall up here to Poplar. Much of the former industry had been bulldozed or had just fallen down in abandonment. Everywhere was a riot of flowers and birdsong. We picked blackberries from the old railway embankments. I found the peculiar plant-hopper Asiraca clavicornis, for the first time. It’s a regular on London brownfields still, but is rare elsewhere in the UK.

The massive redevelopment started soon after our visit, and is continuing even now. Each time I travel on the DLR there is more construction going on somewhere as more plots are infilled. I don’t want to get too maudlin, but I do mourn the loss of what was, at the time, London’s largest nature reserve.

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