Monday, 12 December 2011

Battles of the Battis

Next to Romford station is a dingy alleyway running alongside the railway arches called The Battis. My pal Katie, a former Romfordian turned Islingtonian, reveals that the Battis was the stuff of childhood nightmares, a sort of Lord of the Rings netherworld terrorised by Romford Orcs. She told me: “My mum and dad were quite relaxed and easy going but when I was a teenager the one thing they said to me was ‘we don’t care where you go, but whatever you do don’t go up the Battis!’”

So while visiting Romford it was with some trepidation I stepped past the shop backs and into the Battis. A sign warns “CCTV in operation”. On the left are huge cavernous railway arches, sealed off with wire netting. On my right is a 1980s football-pen style high wire fence. It’s a narrow corridor that might as well say ‘please mug me, bruv’. Mercifully I make it through and even pass a couple of people carrying shopping bags. Round the back of Sainsbury the Battis reaches the River Rom. It’s sealed off by more wire mesh, though someone has, with some dexterity, managed to chuck a shopping trolley over the top and it lies broken and half submerged in the water. The Rom is only a couple of feet wide and then disappears under the new Sainsbury. The town doesn’t seem particularly proud of its eponymous river. And then I dash back through the Battis to South Street.

When I later remark to Katie that with all those arches it looks a little like the Colisseum in Rome, her instant riposte is, “And you’ve got about as much chance of surviving there!”

Ross Kemp, could you handle the Battis?

3 comments:

  1. Katie comments:

    I can see it becoming a new tourist attraction on the back of this, or, more likely, "regeneration" project.....maybe a new Roman-themed shopping area!

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  2. Thanks for sharing, I have an irrational fear of archways, (dont ask!) and living in romford all my life, i stumbled upon te battis seven years ago with friends and I was instantly petrified! Love ur true description of the area around it and its safe to say I will never walk down there again!

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  3. I grew up in Romford, in the 40s and was probably a fairly adventurous boy, we always walked the battis,mostly in the dark, and never had any bad feelings about it, although it was a bit dark, it was the easiest route to the oldchurch area, still remember the smell from the brewery

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