Thursday, 12 December 2019

The NUMBER 71 Route

Chessington World of Adventure to Kingston (Cromwell Road Bus Station)
Friday November 15 2019

Well, the last time we rode this suite of three routes it was Spring time whereas today was a grey, cold and drizzly day where the inside windows of the bus were as misted up as the outside, even though we were the only passengers.

Linda caught the train from Vauxhall with just three minutes to spare (Jo had been half an hour early) and Chessington South is the end of the line – we took a 71 to get us to the start of the route – the impressive entrance to Chessington World of Adventures, looking more than a little bedraggled.

The bus stop indicated a journey of 35 minutes which seemed a bit optimistic, but the pleasant and chatty driver said it would probably take about 40 given the road disruptions in Kingston – as Jo had guessed correctly, these are down to creating newer safer cycle tracks and triggered a discussion as to whether cyclists actually use them: eventually seems to be the answer.

We set off past all the large and clean-looking industrial units that line this part of the route and then turned right to serve first the station and then a large and tidy-looking estate, which is where the first passengers got on, with buggies or shoppers.  As we approached Chessington North ( Do NOT alight here for World of Adventure) there were clusters of shops round St Mary’s Church and clear signs these used to be more scattered villages ‘filled in with 19th- 21st century homes.

Through the raindrops you could just about make out some fine autumn colour, though the Chessington Oak pub seemed to lack one – perhaps ‘sizzled away’ as one of the chain of pubs that promises to ‘sizzle’ all their food.

Soon Chessington merges into Hook, also in its time a village but now blighted by the Hook interchange, where we crossed the A3.  Hook Parade advertised itself with one of those boosting and bracing banners exhorting the locals to, well, shop locally and seemingly much loved by local authorities trying to boost forgotten corners of their areas, but the shops were mainly of the tyre and battery variety.

‘The Maypole’ is the name of both a pub and a bus stop – always slightly risky as the pubs can re-name or disappear quite suddenly , but this one seemed to be safe for the time being.  Also between Hook and Surbiton was another stop named Lovelace Gardens (there was a school too) leading us to speculate as to whether Richard Lovelace, the poet ever lived round here but even the very detailed Wikipedia entry seems unclear as to where he was born, offering me Holland, Woolwich or Kent but in his colourful 40 year old life he does not seem to have passed or dwelt here.  Someone suggested maybe the Lovelace connection was Ada, but there is no obvious link there either.

After that digression, on to Surbiton which, in its steady way, has remained largely unchanged since we last passed hereabouts; we see it as a ‘gateway to Kingston’.  Passing the back of Sainsbury’s is unedifying but we were cheered to see a trio of workers putting up Surbiton’s Christmas tree and though they had a small crane on the back of their lorry they were insisting on hurling the light garland at the tree, in a rather dissolute way…  As someone who has enough OCD to make sure the tree lights are well distributed I found this casual approach a bit unnerving, but I expect the end result will be good enough.  Surbiton is one of those centres that went in for a town clock - this one is free standing and still keeping time.

The work to improve Kingston’s cycle lanes was now obvious and they seem nearly complete though with some gaps still to fill between Surbiton and Kingston.  As this route passes bits of the Kingston College (now in new premises), the Crown Court and the County Hall employees of those three establishments should find the additional cycling routes helpful?

Very soon we were passing Brook Street from where our next route was due to leave but the 71, after losing most of its by now numerous passengers to the main shopping streets of Kingston, pushes on past the station to the well laid out Cromwell Road Bus station, which we had reached in 37 minutes.

This pretty straight and straightforward route which will always serve the outlying suburbs and bring their residents into Kingston for shopping work or further onward travel had brought us nearly to the start of the 65, which you will already have read!  

Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Number 70 Route

Friday 6 December 2019 
A single decked bus and a dreary grey day did not seem to offer much in the way of pleasure; but we were cheered at the bus stop by the poster offering a free, volunteer run ride from Roehampton to South Kensington on Christmas Day, the only day of the year when there is no public transport.

Our 70 left South Kensington on its no less lengthy journey to Chiswick Business Park at 11.15, and headed out along Harrington Road, to pass the Ampersand Hotel, its strange name unexplained on its website. (I could have researched it on my phone, as the bus
had charging points on the backs of the seats, but I didn't).

Turning right brought us to the Cromwell Road, where we turned right again, rather worryingly.  Chiswick is West of Kensington, I wanted to say to the driver, but didn't. So we passed the Natural History Museum, and then we turned up to Hyde Park and, happily, westwards.
We saw the way in to Kensington Palace, which we had visited on our previous project, and then the extraordinarily unattractive Royal Garden Hotel, before turning right up Kensington Church Street.  Again, this was worrying:  why head north when Chiswick lies to the south? As well as all the oriental antique shops of this street, we noted the Russian Tourist Office. Its website is mainly about getting a visa, though it seemed also to be offering a centenary tour for the 1917 Revolution...

Kensington Church Street is also the home of Joseph Yates the timber merchant, which seems to have closed since we were last here.  Passing the Old Swan pub, we enjoyed its pretty sign before turning East (aargh) to head along the Bayswater Road, past the imposing entrance to Palace Gardens Terrace, home of several ambassadors and embassies.

Then the route goes left (ie North) up Queensway, where the traffic was brought to a stand by some building works hidden behind dull grey hoardings. It may well be part of a regeneration plan, but was a bit annoying for bus users.

Westbourne Grove, where we turned west again, was equally congested;  our driver then told us that we were on diversion till Ladbroke Grove Station. Nobody seemed to mind.  Along Westbourne Grove we spotted a blue plaque to A J Cronin, though it proved to be one put up by the Royal College of General Practitioners, rather than EH. A novelist so committed to the NHS would be very nervous as the service becomes a bargaining chip for politicians whose words can never be trusted.

We came into Ladbroke Grove and to the station, the bus becoming more busy now it was on its official route; and we headed North some more, passing North Kensington Fire Station, and the Catalyst & Community, with its bright access ramps.  I'm a bit puzzled by this as Catalyst seems to be the Housing Association which was involved in various controversial schemes around the Grenfell catastrophe and certainly we were in an area with Grenfell notices and graffiti. Perhaps this is their attempt at a community hub.  Anyway, we got to the top of Ladbroke Grove and turned into the Sainsbury's, as most buses do.  We caught a glimpse of the memorial to the people who died in the railway disaster of 1999, before - to our surprise - heading back down Ladbroke Grove.

We were relieved, however, to take a right along Barlby Road, and come out into the area known, strangely, as North Pole. Next we head south down Scrubs Lane to  along Du Cane Road, parallel to the West Way, and heading definitively west at last.  Aside from signs to the Linford Christie Stadium(unlike Blue Plaques, you can still be alive to have a stadium named after you) and the prison, this is a hospital area:  Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte's and the Chelsea Hospital are all along here, together with former accommodation for hospital personnel, now presumably well out of their financial reach.

As we went over the cross roads with the West Way, we saw a Club which offered Russian Billiards. We were unaware of such a sport, but you can get a tutorial here. We came past King Fahad Academy, as well as signs to Shepherds Bush Cricket Ground, but we were sure we were coming into Acton.  Acton Park was either side of us as we travelled along Acton Lane, and we noted the little cottage which might once have been pubic conveniences - or maybe a warden's home. 

This is suddenly quite a residential area, and of course parked cars do not help the bus.

Then we saw signs welcoming us to Acton Town Centre.  What had presumably once been a cinema, is now the New Arch Climbing Wall.  We passed the modest Oaks Shopping Mall, and a mammoth Morrisons, claiming to have existed 'since 1899'.  We thought it probable that back them Mr Morrison was operating on a smaller scale.  Against that kind of commercial muscle, we thought the hoarding asking people to support their local small shops stood little chance.

By now we had passed several of Acton's many stations, and after Acton Town, the Tube Station, we travelled through an industrial area, to urn right just before the level crossing and wait for the gates to open to let us into the Chiswick Business Park. It looked pleasantly leafy and had another number 70 waiting to take people away;  but it didn't look much like Chiswick to us. We arrived at 12.35, 80 minutes after setting off, rather than the 69 offered at the head stop.

This had been a very peculiar route, twiddling around Kensington and Bayswater before resolving to get on with its job.  But we had passed some interesing buildings, and it reminded us yet agin how the different areas of London shade imperceptibly into each other.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Number 69 Route

Friday 29 November 2019

After our long journeys of last week, we enjoyed two brief trips around North East London today.  Our first bus had brought us to Canning Town Bus Station, with its useful facilities, and we were onto the 69 towards Walthamstow by 10.10.  It made a lovely change to have blue sky after the dreary weather of the last few weeks.

We headed out under the A13 to travel along the Barking Road towards Plaistow. We passed the Celia Hammond Animal Trust, which helpfully neuters feral cats. Celia was a model in the 1960s; interestingly, Brigitte Bardot also turned to animal welfare in her later life.

Turning left along Hermit Road brought us past some little patches of green, where we admired the bright foliage of autumn, and then to the extensive East London cemetery.  The 69 is the only bus along these mostly residential streets, and there were many people boarding, presumably for shopping in Stratford.

We came over the Green Way which, as Londonist says in his walk notes, is an excellent walk, and a good use of the embankment over the great sewer.


Plaistow High Street has some new building about to start, as well as its charming little station and some rather fine wall art.

There is also one of those self catering hotels, its signage offering untroubled sleep.


So now we were in Stratford.  Am I the only person 
who thinks of the Nun Prioress* every time I come into Stratford? Probably!
*Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly
After the scole of Stratford-atte-Bowe, 
For Frenssh of Parys was to hir unknowe.

Almost all of Stratford seems new since we were first here, 
though not of course in more recent visits. 
The London Academy of Excellence is a 6th form college, 
with a fine new building, which fits in well with the idiom 
of the rest of post-Olympic Stratford.

The building with Moxy written above it is a Marriott Hotel. 
We passed the bus station without waiting any time at all:  
surely the clouds used to be all silvery grey?  
We quite liked the shiny green and blue.

The Picture House announces that it is in the heart of 
Stratford's Cultural Quarter, and we did notice the 
University of East London, with links to Birkbeck here too.  

On our way north, after passing Maryland Station, we spotted the Cart and Horses Pub, which identifies itself as the birthplace of Iron Maiden, You can get a taste (of the group, not the beer) here if you want, But we were clearly not out out of Stratford yet, as a block of newly built flats declared itself to be 'stylish apartments set in fashionable Stratford'.

But we were soon into Waltham Forest, and so supposed that the road works were to do with cycling infrastructure,  Certainly Leyton Station, which we passed after Draper's Field green space, boasted the kind of cycle parking which we associate with the TfL £30,000,000 grant

After all the newness of Stratford, we enjoyed the pretty terraces both along the route and glimpsed across the Leyton Sports Field.
Gullivers seemed an interesting name for a shop selling East European specialities; maybe it was called that before the current people took over.  There were also a couple of shops selling 'modest clothing'.

Among the pubs we noted was the Pepper's Ghost.  This is not the ancient name:  it's been The Shoe Laces recently.  The William IV, on the other hand, is an older name:  a good King to name a drinking place after since he was the monarch who ordained that people in the Royal Navy could drink the 'loyal toast' sitting down. (He had been in the navy himself while his father and brother were on the throne, and was tired of cracking his head on the deck above when standing to drink their health)

The other remarkable business we saw round here was  a cupping clinic. In fact, we saw two, but I have no comment to make about this strange treatment.

But that was it, really.  We reached Walthamstow's excellent and well designed bus station at 11.05 and ended our journey, sighing for the poor buses at Euston and King's Cross which have no such simple and clear layout.