Friday, 14 February 2020

The Number 83 Route

14 February 2020

Today was a pleasant two bus trip from Alperton to Golders Green and then on to Edgware, so it took in 3 tube stations. But, as you know, we prefer to be on the road rather than under ground. By the way, there is no 82 route, which is why we were on an 83 at about 9.55. Last time we were in Alperton, it was mainly warehouses and workshops.  Now it's mainly apartments.

We immediately came to the beautiful Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and swept past it, through the very Asian shops and roadside banners of this part of London, towards Wembley.  So many new blocks of flats are being built here that I have concerns for the utilities that underpin them.  I assume 'luxury' in a description of a dwelling means one bathroom per person, which must put quite a strain on water and waste services.

We noted the Brent Indian Association's handsome mural, but were travelling too fast to take a picture, and then we passed the Wembley Central Mosque, before arriving in the middle of Wembley, where the tower blocks seem to get taller every time we visit.

The Al Pasha Supermarket was adorned with a picture of a man in a Fez, and I wondered if this was a portrait of Attaturk, the Father of Modern Turkey, but a fez and a moustache are not really sufficient clues for an identification.  We glimpsed the Wembley Arch in the distance, but were more surprised by the name 'Fatburger' for an eatery. We were also interested in the banners that advertised Yeh Hai Chahatein, which proves to be a soap series on Star Plus of which you can watch a sample here.

On we went, past still more recent flats, to cross the Wealdstone Brook and reach Wembley Park Station. Here's what Diamond Geezer said about the Brook in 2015.  If he revisited now he would find much more residential development, but still not much of a river.

The Ark Academy, in its smart new buildings, leads to some substantial detached houses, mostly with hardened front gardens; we did like the young plane tree with its last-year's fruits on its bare branches.

The George Pub seemed enormous, and brought us into Kingsbury, where we admired the Kingsbury Mandir, just across the road from the Holy Innocents Parish Church, before turning onto the Edgware Road.

Again, there were those yellow signs, which point to new-build estates, on every lamp post. When we passed a closed business labelled Japarts, I thought that the market for Japanese art had collapsed in t his area:  but it proves to have been J A Parts which sold bits for motor cars.

We turned left and uphill to pass the Welsh Harp Boat centre though we did not glimpse the water.  The trees had been fiercely pollarded;  it always amazes us that they don't seem to mind such draconian haircuts.

Once we were over the North Circular, we came to Hendon Central Station.  The former cinema which had become a Virgin Active Gym has now morphed into a Nuffield Health gym.

We were also interested to see a shop front for that remarkable organisation, Jews for Jesus.  Remarkable because, as Swami Vivekananda said, 'See Christ and you are a Christian'; but I suppose the social and community ties of the Jewish faith still holds people.

We came over the fast flowing River Brent and into Golders Green, marked by a large number of Jewish Care Homes, as well as Grodzinski's Bakery, announcing that it had been hereabouts since 1888.  We thought it likely that the terrible persecution of the pogroms in Russia in the 1880s triggered sufficient migration to make a Jewish Bakery a viable proposition.

The curving 1920s shopping parade brought us to the Clock war memorial roundabout, and to the end of this trip in Golders Green Station yard, after just about an hour.

Monday, 3 February 2020

The Number 81 Route

Hounslow Bus Station to Slough Bus station
Friday 31 January 2020

With a historic departure from the EU lurking later today we tried not to be too depressed on this 3-bus winter’s day…  We had started in White City and been through Uxbridge to arrive in Hounslow to find the departure bus stop (no passengers allowed in the horrid Hounslow Bus station ) in the same place by the lovely fruit and vegetable stall,  remembered  from years ago, which of course at this time of year is mostly full of exotic imports.

But I digress.  Our route out of Hounslow mirrored our route in so we had our camera poised to snap not just the rather forbidding Treaty Centre but the patch of soggy grass hosting a series of fairground attractions including nicely painted roundabouts – perhaps they are waiting for a sunny day to offer rides as they looked too well preserved to be abandoned.  Also hereabouts was Carpatica Cuisine, which offers ‘meat-centric traditional Romanian cuisine in a family setting’.

Hounslow House looked very new and shiny and is indeed a bringing together of civic services, leaving the old council offices for redevelopment and housing , so hopefully Hounslow’s plans will benefit the community.
The 81, like many other routes, follows the Bath Road up to West Hounslow station – pausing long enough to take on many passengers and give time to admire the station façade: a Charles Holden collaboration in Portland Stone.

The next stretch of the Bath Road is dual carriageway and bordered first by some shops but then a series of hotels and accommodation suites – for travellers with early/late or complex flights we imagine.  The bright neon of Moxy (though we read it as Maxy) proves to be low budget Marriott so yet more Heathrow friendly accommodation.  Needless to say the planes were coming low at a very steady rate.

At one of the major crossroads we noted that three of the four corners retained the original cupola rooves that the designer of the shopping parades had added in a stylistic flourish.
After the bustle of planes and hotels suddenly there was a field of cows, then one of a cereal crop – such contrasts within 2 bus stops!

We crossed over into Hillingdon Borough and then left the busy trunk roads behind to become the only TFL bus route through a series of villages starting with Cranford, then Longford with its village pump and older cottages.  I have included a more detailed map to show how close to Heathrow (and the M4/M25 interchange) they are, and where presumably any proposed third runway would go?

There were few passengers boarding but speed was restricted due to the narrow winding village streets, so the driver could slow for running passengers, which he did more than once.  The route crosses both motorways and small streams; not far off are the reservoirs which must be more than full after what seems like non-stop rain since October.  Although this is as noted the only TFL route in these parts, we noticed from a bus stop that Slough has ‘borrowed’ the Number 10 (discontinued by TFL, though in a very different part of London).

After Colnbrook, now irrevocably linked with the infamous Detention Centre, the 81 rejoins what looks like smaller version of the Bath Road .

By now we were clearly on the outskirts of Slough with a couple of schools and their pupils spilling onto the pavements and some on board – perhaps Upton Park Grammar and St Bernard’s finish a t Friday lunchtime?

This approach to Slough was very residential so I am not sure where the large and famous Slough Industrial estate might be.  Slough of course is famous, partly as the location of ‘The Office’ and before that for the Betjman poem invoking – well – bombs to fall.  It seems to me on re-reading the poem that Betjman was an arch snob: nowadays MANY people would be grateful for a home for £97 down payment and 2/6 (12½p) a week thereafter, as the prices were in 1937.

Mercifully fairly few bombs fell on Slough but the developers haven’t half made their presence felt and there are major town centre changes afoot to include both residential and retail    (though who would want to build retail with failing shops and closing department stores?).  The bus did a kind of circuit round a futuristic metal tube and then sidled into a demarcated spot in the bus station, slightly in quarantine away from Berkshire buses.

After an hour’s journey overall  we got off to find that the metallic tube was a bus shelter with cosy looking waiting areas and a café, so Slough must value its bus users.

We then went into the pretty red brick station and while Jo was wrangling her passes and I realising I had left my purse at home the railway official opined we could travel free into London provided we didn’t take the ‘green train’ (GWR) but the mauve one aka the Elizabeth line which now seems to run every 15 minutes through to Paddington.

At this point I will say that I was given a pair of London Transport Museum gift shop Elizabeth line socks for Christmas which I vowed I would not wear until I could ride the eponymous line so there were mutterings of ‘you can get your socks out now’.   However we were in something of a hurry and hungry (never a good combination) and so boarded the GWR train prepared to pay the difference to West Drayton.  At Hayes & Harlington our train drew alongside an actual moving, with passengers, Elizabeth Line train and very pretty it was too, but for now the socks stay in storage…

We had had an interesting day circling round Heathrow, where I suspect we shall soon be returning…

Friday, 24 January 2020

The Number 80 Route

Friday 24 January 2020

If I am to be honest, which I am, this was not the most enjoyable trip we have ever done.  It started badly with our inability to find Reynolds Close, which was where the 80 departs, to make its way to the clutch of prisons at Belmont and High Down.  Indeed, had it not been for the friendly people mending motorcycles at Stoppies, we might still be wandering vainly around Hackbridge.  But we arrived eventually at the bus stop in the dank weather, to discover that our bus was a single decker.  Salt was later rubbed into our wounds as we saw double decker 80s heading in the opposite direction.  Still, we were on board by 11.00 am, and travelling straight through residential areas, mostly with hardened front gardens.

The houses were of varying sizes and periods, though mostly, we thought, 20th century rather than earlier or later. We did see one repossessed house (boarded up and 'for sale by auction') but otherwise it all looked fairly prosperous.  Though we did agree that the bus would be essential for even minimal shopping.  The first shops we came to were in Green Wryther, where we noted a barbers called 'a Clip round the Ear'.  Otherwise, there was little to look at till we reached the shops and station of Morden.  The borough of Merton has a lot of (formerly?) social housing, known as the St Helier Estate.

As we came into Morden we did note a lot of newly built flats and offices, around the station and town hall, before heading out towards Sutton.

We turned left at the huge Asda to travel along Sutton Common Road, where there were again a few shops.  I noticed that 'Kebaby' was about fast food rather than infants, and we also came past Glenthorne High School.

Sutton Library is in a neat little building with a cafe as well, and then we were held up by road works as we continued through still residential roads.

Sutton Bus Garage was a reminder of the previous project, though this is our first visit here  this time. Then we came into Sutton itself, with amazing amounts of newly built blocks of flats.  And there are due to be more:  Helena House, a former office block, is due for demolition once the planning us sorted out.

We saw that the borough still has its Christmas decorations up, though not lit up.  Perhaps they will be left all year as an economy measure.

Now the route takes you through the bit of Sutton where the bus stops are all lay-bys, past the old Court House.  We also spotted the Cock and Bull Pub, and Eagle House School, a branch of the autism specialists we have noted near Clapham.

The road works were enough to puzzle anyone, with a sign announcing 'diversion ends' immediately before a sign announcing that the road ahead was closed.  How baffling life can be.

As we came out of town, we passed Sutton Hospital, which looked pretty unloved to us and not nearly as smart as St Helier Hospital, but is clearly at the heart of some quite controversial plans.


Then we passed briefly through Belmont, which clearly was once a separate village from Sutton, and reached the prisons, though an area of bedraggled woodland with cars parked along the road. We weren't clear why, as there appeared to be no charge and a large car park at the facility. Still, we arrived after an hour on the bus, at 12.00.  There had not been a great deal to grab the attention as we travelled through these mainly commuter areas.

We don't think this will be one of our favourite routes when we finally answer the question posed to us on the 75 route post, and about which we are still brooding. But of course the dingy weather did not help our enjoyment.