Having just written that, I immediately see that it is not the whole truth. If you look at the map, as I did when selecting my page, you can't help but build a picture in your mind of what the features may look like. I had always assumed, for no good reason, that this part of London was flat. The A-Z gives no indication of contours, being just a pattern of streets strung across the page. I was surprised to find that Chingford itself is situated at the top of a hill from which there are fine views back towards London. The businesses on the main road are a bustling hotchpotch of utilitarian shop fronts and streamlined, faded art deco facades. The map does not reveal those little details and nuances that differentiate one area or street from another:
"the sudden change of atmosphere in a street, the sharp division of a city into one of distinct psychological climates; the path of least resistance - wholly unrelated to the unevenness of the terrain - to be followed by the casual stroller, the character, attractive or repellant, of certain places."
Guy Debord, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography
Quiet terraces of brightly painted and well-maintained Edwardian houses give way to streets of more aspirational 1930's suburban semis, set back from the road and sporting ornamental gateposts and sub tropical palm trees....
I am probably guilty of what Debord terms 'exoticism which may arise from the fact that one is exploring a neighbourhood for the first time' which he deems to be 'unimportant and subjective, soon fading away'. He emphasises rather the behavioral disorientation over the element of exploration. I hold my hand up - guilty as charged. Surely that is one the pleasures to be experienced from this sort of wandering - the fact that the area is different from one's normal environment cannot be discounted and leads to a more attentive frame of mind and a sharpening of the imagination.
The map showed a tantalising string of reservoirs all down one side - part of the Lee Valley reservoir chain, which supplies drinking water to London. On the map they are edged with the dotted lines denoting a footpath but the terrain resisted all my attempts at exploring it. Try as I might it remained out of bounds, one of those areas destined to remain unknoweable. This part of the map at least, was not able to be brought to life - below is a photograph showing the fence bordering the reservoir on the horizon, the lone chair a metaphor for the absent view.....
.....and the lengths they go to keep you out!