Barking and Stratford
Barking is not the kind of place you would want to bring your family in.
It's not inherently a bad place, but it certainly had a very distinct lack of too many redeeming features. The closest thing from Finland would be the combination of Kaisaniemi and Hakaniemi before the facelifts that gave either of them their current feel.
The place gave off a rather phlegmatic air. If neighbourhoods of boroughs can have a character, Barking is mostly just tired. And even worse, I got a strong sense of joylessness in there. Sadness would be a temporary state, making room for something else; in Barking joy might not be even on the menu. The whole place just reeked of, not desperation, but early surrender.
It was as if the heart of Barking hadn't quite stopped trying, but just couldn't be bothered to make a proper effort.
Perhaps the most worrying detail of the area was the notice in local supermarket: eggs and flour were not sold to anyone under 18. The few schools in the region were a bit on anemic side, and in all the whole place was more a sleeping suburb than anything else.
North of Barking is Ilford.
Ilford was a slightly more energetic version of Barking. People in the area were clearly busy, and I was very happy to find a suitably nice street market there.
The local high street windows showed a very colourful, if repetitive selection of garments.
One could say this was a nicer version of Barking.
Going west, we first pass through...
Wanstead is a much nicer place, although the cleanest lots appear to be those nearby the Wanstead Flats and Epping Forest parks. Some houses even looked as if they had their private gardens.
The houses are surprisingly modern. The people were nice and friendly too, with lot of the activity centered around sports. When it came to the local pub, that had a nice communal feel.
I could think of living here with a family.
However, moving further from the parks, the overall feel and quality both go down. This trend continues towards Stratford, only breaking when we get very near the town centre.
The place is like a metropolitan version of Tampere. The centre is very modern and has a "big city" air all over it.
The lack of green spaces is a bit of a disappointment, though.