Weybridge and Ashford

March 29, 2011


I have remarked in previous blogs that frequently it has been relatively easy to find our way to the high street of the suburb that we visit due to the obvious ‘peeking’ out of shop activity close by.  Even if it is not immediately obvious a short walk in usually one of two directions gives us a clue.  At Weybridge however it was noticeable that as we left the train station each of the three options seemed largely the same for a good five minutes each way.  We had ‘landed’ in the middle of a green spot on the map or ‘the heath’ as it appears on said map.  Whilst the few people that disembarked with us seemingly headed to cars we used the trusty mobile phone and took to the leafy B374 north along an ivy clad, tree lined route toward the A317 which, upon reaching, we turned east along what could be known as Weybridge high street.

The distance of the rail link to the high street seemed a noticeable feature of this suburb to both of us and went a long way to explaining the presence of so many Taxis at the station.  However the high street seemed to follow the distance between the intersection of the B374 and the B373 (both going south to Byfleet upon which the rail station could be found) and followed the A3050 linking Addlestone (to the West) and Walton on Thames (east).  Like many suburbs this pattern of following a linear direction along a major link route shows the ways in which a suburbs emergence is related to the Global network of movement and activity across a greater scale (London, West London, surrounding towns).  Similarly the distance from the rail link indicates that the rail link was perhaps built after the emergence of Weybridge as a local area and predominantly for the benefit of the global network (this mind is conjecture on my part).

On a local level we noted that the scenic and green route into the area had given us a sense of the area being rural and almost village like.  This sense was noted by the older style buildings that adorned the high street, which were built over a narrow (and very busy) street.  The street seemed to be punctuated at either end with a pub to almost demark the beginning and end of the High Street, however at one end (towards the A373) this pub was actually located on a small (village like) green that was based around a monument that lent its name to monument hill.


Here the high street appeared to end and blur into a non-retail environment.  There was extensive evidence of the older building types seeing adaptations for new commercial uses, such as a dentist practice and smaller more specialist shops (locksmiths, interior designers).


However this activity was closely related to the High Street and a few steps away from the high street residential building type dominated almost entirely.

Ashford (Surrey, not to be confused with Ashford International)

In contrast our exiting of the train station in Ashford saw us follow a crowd over a footbridge into Woodthorpe Rd on the south side of the tracks.  The profiler shows that it is along the southern side of the tracks and along Church Rd where most retail activity is located.

However there is a smattering of activity located around the train station indicating the importance of the station as a well-used link into the global network.  This area again had a local village feel to it adapting as it did older buildings for its commercial use.

As we made our way onto church street we noted how the road here was again busy, however a side road or ‘car lagoon’ as one of us described it hugged the West side of the B378 allowing street parking.

This had the effect of speeding traffic up on the main section of road and therefore making it harder to cross to the other side without use of crossings.  The road also become wider and the area felt more as part of a space along a through route (in that it seemed not to impose on the through Road) as say compared to Weybridge, where the traffic was slowed by the narrowness of the road which had the effect of imposing the local ‘feel’ and ‘flow’ of life onto the global network at this local point.

Ashford further differed from Weybridge in the architectural style of the area which seemed to be dominated by large purpose built structures, shopping centres, office and retail and a very imposing car park.  These buildings seem to have been a few decades old; at the time, their design would’ve been considered “cutting-edge”, but today, we see these sorts of blocky structures as drab and uninteresting. Weybridge’s older buildings have stood the test of time and illicit feelings of “historic” and “quaint” – you can’t just create character.

Ashford again showed characteristic linearity in its arrangement of its high street, it also displayed a commonly seen punctuated start and end point with the rail bridge in the north and a church in the south leading to points with almost no retail activity.

What was most striking about Ashford was the imposition of the building types on the feel of the area, the character seemed to have been shaped by these buildings both in aesthetic but also in terms of its regulation of flow.  The buildings, if seen over time could be seen as solid, with variation from their original form or easy change of use hard to imagine.  Further the road sculpture seemed to allow an imposition of traffic and road in the area.

This serves to highlight a way in which buildings start to have agency over their symbolic qualities as for example ‘modernist’ ‘brutalist’ ‘village like’ ‘city like’ ‘old fashioned’ or whatever may be the term and carry affective qualities by affecting and sculpting relationships of space in and around them with other actors (cars, people, shops, trains).


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