Friday, 2 August 2019

The Number 51 Route

Thursday 1 August 2019
Linda being in Northern California, I was on my own for this very SE London pair of buses. The 51 starts from Orpington Station, and repeats my previous route (the 208, by the way) under the railway bridge, past the war memorial and along the High Street. So we passed my previous bus as it rested in Perry Hall Street, before turning left to Carlton Parade.  I noticed that a party shop could not survive here, but as we turned left towards St Paul's Cray, I admired the topiary in a paving centre courtyard.

 At first there was a narrow cycle lane sharing the road with the cars, but then it moved away, which was a good idea.  The traffic along here, including my bus, is rather nippy.  We did not turn in to St Mary Cray Station, but drove past a number of semis with hardened front gardens, and a former pub which is now a Macdonald's Drive-Thru.

For a while we were the only bus serving this area, but as we went under the A20 and into Bexley, we were joined by some others.  I admired the plasterwork oak tree on the side of a house, and wondered if it had once been a pub, but the interweb is silent on the matter.

Heading left up Sidcup Hill, brought us into Sidcup itself, where I noted a Solicitor claiming to be a specialist in what was euphemistically called 'driving matters', separated from other criminal defence work in his window. As in so many of these suburbs, the High Street was full of charity shops and bookies, but also three National Banks had branches here.  The streets were also embellished with banners celebrating famous people of Sidcup. They include Rose Bruford, of Drama College note, the founder of Macmillan Cancer Support and someone who went with, and died with, Captain Scott.  You can see them all here.
The route heads down the hill to pass the station, and then passes Ye Olde Black Horse Pub to move back into residential areas.  We did rather a nippy right into a broad street, with no-one wanting to get off as we came to a green space called The Oval, which is in Blackfen.
This road is signed as part of the London Cycling Network, but the blue signs are all there is.  Imagine if all there was to a motorway through route was a sign....
The next place you come to on this route is Welling, and I liked the label on the (former) library, rebranding it a 'workary'. 
We then had a couple of minutes to change drivers, before passing Welling Station and heading under the railway bridge to reach more residential streets.  Our new driver activated the recording which announced 'this bus is ready to depart' at every single stop.  I found this unnecessary, but it's his business, and his scrambled brain.
We turned right to go along Edison Road, and saw that the Glenmore Arms Pub has been 'acquired for luxury apartments'.
After weaving through some narrow residential streets, with parking permitted on the footway, we came into Slade, passing Winn Common which rapidly became Plumstead Common. The terraces along here were built in the 1890s.
There were a couple of interesting buildings here:  a huge clock tower, which just seemed to be above a carpet shop and an Indian restaurant, and then the Ship Pub, which  has built a Sports Bar extension.  Lots of Plumstead Common was visible, which was enjoyable, as we headed into Woolwich.

The terraces here are older than the ones we had been passing, and we had time to enjoy them, as some extended roads works (purpose not announced) slowed us through the one way system.

 And, really quite soon, we were able to turn left  towards the centre, over the railway, where a number of building sites seem not to have progressed since we were last here.  The delays to the Elizabeth Line cannot be helping housing developments whose USP was brilliant travel into London. The last business to catch my eye before my journey terminated, was offering transfers of all kinds to Nigeria.  And so we arrived, at 12.22, conveniently close to Woolwich Arsenal Station for those of us, well me, who like to use the Thameslink back to St Pancras.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019


Due to family commitments and exploring alternative forms of transport Jo and Linda will not be riding ROUTES 51 onwards for about 4 weeks when NORMAL SERVICE will be resumed.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

The NUMBER 50 Route

 Croydon (Not Park Street) to Stockwell Station
Thursday July 11 2019

We were not sure whether our arrival (197) and departure from Croydon were disrupted due to road works or what turns out to be the major refit of the Fairfield Halls,  but certainly buses were not starting or finishing at Park Street as foretold by TFL.

Whilst crossing the unlovely road (people have been killed here, please use the crossing) we spotted a 50 on its way so tracked it to Stop WL outside the Whitgift where most northbound buses stop. There was just time to admire the ‘tie-dye’ effect cladding (?) on a new build completed since we were last this way and the bus arrived, complete with dirty windows.

Other new buildings have sprung up and some have been renamed – Interchange is an office space with apparently quite a lot of … empty space.

Even 10 years ago developers seemed to have failed to realise that computers have shrunk to lap tops and filing cabinets all but disappeared and people work at home: at least three reasons why you might not want to spend chunks of your budget on large-scale office accommodation.

This route chooses Windmill Road as its route in and out of the City centre – it must be difficult to maintain a small business along here with a large shopping centre down the road, and this in microcosm is the conundrum the local council somehow has to reconcile, balancing the needs of the larger chains with the smaller shops (and that’s not to mention the impact of online retail).

Up at the roundabout Jo spotted three alternative community religions – Christianity at the big red church, the Zakia family Centre and the Masons. Once on Whitehorse Lane there was the newly built  The Legacy Centre,  which looks admirable both inside and out and certainly improves the area as we headed towards Thornton Heath, also spruced up since we last came this way. Yes there are closed pubs – The Thomas Farley, a former ‘gin palace’ and favourite with football supporters, is no more and its future currently uncertain.

We enjoyed the wall painting and pastel houses along the High Street – very Mediterranean – and were pleased to see the Clock Tower still in place. Thornton Heath developed originally as a ‘ribbon development’ along the initially Roman then anyone’s route between London and Sussex then with the railway came an early expansion of the Victorian version of a commuter town. The station was built in 1862 and still gives good service.

We were not to linger in Thornton Heath but took a right turn down Melfort Road where we were the only bus route serving this residential stretch, largely untouched by the many bombs that flattened central Croydon. In the first stretch many even retained and cherished their front gardens – towards Norbury cars began to appear as the main ‘crop’. Banners celebrating ‘CR7’ were in evidence and there was a 20MPH speed limit (which the bus just exceeded) ‘CR7 is wonderful’ and ‘Our strength is in our differences’. There was a good uptake of passengers, presumably heading for some shops as none here.

As we turned right to rejoin the more major London Road we paused by a William Hill whose days are numbered Slightly more puzzling was the fact two policeman appeared to be standing over a workman excavating the pavement just in front of the doomed premises.

Norbury was looking slightly less cared for than Thornton Heath and there was some angry graffiti relating to the power of Children’s courts. We also crossed over a small stream which I take to be the Norbury Brook, which you can just about follow, and rather as I thought it sort of peters out as we approach Streatham – more lamppost banners ( they have become such a thing) celebrating Streatham which we were to enter at the Common crossroads. Pockets of gentrification could be seen in the names of some newish watering holes - ‘The Mere Scribbler’ and ‘The Chalk Pit’ – which make up for some closed pubs earlier on the route.

After having been a solo bus for a while it was a bit of shock to find some competition and our driver clearly felt he needed to forge ahead. And forge uphill he did, as far as is possible when the stops are so close to each other and takers waiting at all of them.  Having passed Streatham Station we now stopped behind Stratham Hill station when it became clear that all the ‘forging’ was to get to this point where the drivers changed over. The blackberry branches were spilling over from the railway bank wilderness (we were parked on the bridge) and it looked very much as though a passer by were sampling some – much too early for fruit said Jo another 2 months to go.

We were convinced the 50 would rejoin Streatham High Road and head to Brixton before its ultimate destination but no, we were wrong. We continued on through the residential and very pleasant back roads of Streatham, mainly houses with some of the older larger ones converted, and it was hard to believe we were still so close to the busy A23 and even busier South Circular.

But join the latter we finally did along King’s Avenue and Poynders Rpad as we threaded our way to the South Circular and Clapham Common. We headed right alongside the common and two of its ponds … and two of its hotels, one of them in the well-established and well maintained Windmill Pub.

Talking of former premises the once underground public toilets at the entrance to Clapham Common station have now become Wine & Charcuterie, with the emphasis on the WC. This is part of a trend where the local authorities are not able to maintain their original function due to the inaccessibility of these often handsome but awkward loos.

Continuing straight ahead the businesses of Clapham merge with those of Stockwell .

We were mindful that underneath the Common are some of London’s longest/largest tunnels built just too late to offer protection from the main ‘Blitz’. London Transport’s system was taken over by the Ministry of Defence who did the actual works and TFL requested a series of outside access points hoping to be able to turn the ‘new’ tunnels into a kind of proto Crossrail once the war was over, but as things turned out there was no money for this come peacetime and the tunnels were used by ‘new arrivals’, of the Windrush and later generations many of whom came to work for London Transport and who needed emergency accommodation. All this we learnt on our ‘Secret London ‘ Tour of Clapham South where the access is well maintained but there are further circular concrete structures on the common and halfway to Stockwell. This one is occupied by Growing Underground 

There have been some other additions, mainly to housing, along here too and then there we were at Stockwell Station, in just over an hour, having crossed many of the residential areas of South London. We watched our 50 do a U Turn and immediately park at its head stop, where we had caught it nearly 10 years ago. The return trip showed changes afoot and underfoot.

Friday, 5 July 2019

The Number 49 Route

Thursday 4 July 2019

Another beautiful, shiny blue day saw us hop off one bus in the White City Bus Station, and pop into the Westfield Mall before coming out to catch today's main route. It was 11.35, so we expected to be at Clapham Junction by about 12.45 and home in time for lunch. Ho ho.

We trundled out through the subterranean service areas and car-and-bus parking, to reach Shepherds Bush Underground Station.

Here we saw an advertisement for Drivy, which we hadn't met before. Some might have mixed feelings about anything that makes driving a motor car in London easier, or about renting out their precious motor car. I can't find anything on the web about the tax status of the rental income, either.

Anyway, we headed back the way our previous bus had come, to pass the end of Scarsdale Villas. Please bear the name in mind for a few paragraphs, and I will explain later.

We turned left at a handsome tulip tree along Earl's Terrace, and then Kensington High Street to pass the Design Museum, which is having a Stanley Kubrick Exhibition. We had plenty of time to notice this as the traffic was extremely slow. 

We inched our way along to reach Hyde Park, and then turned right down Palace Gate, and past the Jam Cupboard. This proves to be just a restaurant attached to the Rydges Hotel, rather than a branch of the early days of the Women's Institute. This brought us to the attractive mosaics of Gloucester Road Tube Station. At this stage, it seemed possible that we were heading for the river and might cross Albert Bridge, but on the contrary, we headed east along Stanhope Gardens.  Some graffiti suggested 'to be political it has to look nice' which we thought rather cryptic for a Thursday.

After more crawling, we got to South Kensington Tube Station, and turned down Onslow Gardens, to pass a statue of Bela Bartok, who has a Blue Plaque further down the street. If you fancied hearing his Concerto for Orchestra, you will find it here. Meanwhile, we also noted rather a dusty Porsche with Azerbaijani plates.


Theo Fennell's huge premises are the HQ of a remarkable jewellery business, samples of which are on the website.

Turning right onto the Fulham Road made us wonder if we were in for another big, slow loop.  But happily we immediately headed left down Sydney Street, again pointing towards the river. I was pleased to see the box parterre hedges across the road from the Velorution Bike Shop, because one of my (other) sisters in law likes such things.

The Royal Brompton Hospital, like so many, has shrunk somewhat, and new build flats are going up, presumably to help with the running costs of the place.

The route then goes right for a brief way along the King's Road, before turning along Beaufort Street to reach Battersea Bridge.

The tide was very low, as we crossed, to pass the swan sculptures on the corner building.

We noticed that the Royal College of Art here is housed in the Dyson Building, presumably funded by proceeds of the £300.00 hair dryer. As always, we were passing a great deal of new building.

We went along Prince of Wales Drive and turned into Albert Bridge Road. If you remember that I asked you to remember Scarsdale Villas, the reason is this:  Michael Flanders, the lyricist, used to live there, and Donald Swann, the composer for the songs they sang together, lived here in Battersea.  In the spoken introduction to the song about the Gnu, Flanders mentions this, and I thought it was interesting that the 49 route links their two addresses.  Though of course in those days buses were not accessible for wheelchair users, and driving and parking was easy. But enough digression.

We admired the pretty flowers outside the Lighthouse pub.  A lot of shops in Kensington and Chelsea now have those plastic garlands over their doors, so real flowers were a treat.

We were travelling along the so-called CS8, which consists merely of blue paint on the road, with the odd parked Royal Mail van to ensure that cyclists cannot use it; but the traffic was still slow enough to be safe as we admired a ghost sign for F D Finn, and the Dovedale Cottages Almshouses, built in 1841, and still in use for elderly people today. We also noted the Latchmere Pub and Theatre, which we have visited in the past.

We admired the woodwork along the roof of this property as we came to Falcon Road, with the former Arding and Hobbs (now labelled 'Debenhams') and passed the well-camouflaged entrance to Clapham Junction station from where the route twiddles round to finish in Bolingbroke Grove. It was almost 1pm. It's an interesting route, but the lack of progress along a number of roads does dull the pleasure a little.