Wednesday, 11 March 2020

The Number 87 Route

Thursday 28 March 2019

This was a remarkably straight route, but none the less interesting for that.  We started from outside Somerset House at 10.10, somewhat later than we had intended.  But then who would have thought that a bus ride from Camden to Aldwych would take virtually an hour.

We set off along the Strand, pleased that the bus lane was helping a bit, and went past a number of handsome buildings along what we are learning to call 'Northbank'. We noted particularly the Army and Navy clock, and the sleek glass of Coutts Bank. This is clearly not for the likes of us, as it is a private bank, with a website which says 

'With insight and judgement shaped by working with wealthy individuals, we appreciate the subtlety and complexity of the lives they lead. Expert in the drivers of wealth generation and the intricacies of international and ultra high net worth individuals, we are well placed to understand your needs.'

Past Charing Cross Station and its Eleanor Cross, and we came to Trafalgar Square, where we turned left, to travel down the tourist hotspot that is Whitehall.  Among the many sights are the Adam screen in front of the Admiralty (I had suggested to Linda that it was Wren.... Doh), and the Horseguards.  It was the Blues and Royal who were mounting guard (no, I did not recognise them, I looked them up when I got home) . We did think that the contrast between sleek horses on a London pavement (guarded by armed police, by the way) and tanks and armoured cars in nasty parts of the world was striking

Then we came to three leaders of the Second World War, Slim, Alanbrooke and Montgomery, on one side of the road, while the other was occupied by the Foreign Office and the treasury.  

These buildings, presumably full of agitated public servants preparing for who knows what*, hardly advertise themselves.  They could learn from John Lewis and Next about branding.

*by the time you read this, we shall know, I suppose.

Next we turned right outside the Houses of Parliament, where demonstrators were active, and the press and media were encamped, in case something happened.

Straight alongside the river, we passed a pleasant playground, as well as Tate Britain, as well as the derisory blue paint which denotes the so-called Superhighway 8. Then we turned left to cross Vauxhall Bridge. This was only the third turn we had made since leaving Aldwych, by the way.

There seemed to be building works going on in the river alongside Spies-R-Us, or the MI6 HQ as it is sometimes known.  Whether this is to do with the Tideway sewer, or merely an extension, we don't know.

Straight over the bridge and into Vauxhall Bus Station, where we paused for long enough to admire the hanging clock at bus stop G, before heading straight Eastwards, again.

This is the area which is becoming known as the Nine Elms Neighbourhood, with enormous amounts of building going on.  Development is driven partly by the Battersea Power Station, and partly by G W Bush's planned new US Embassy. We bus users think that the outside decoration is reminiscent of Stratford Bus station.

We passed what Linda remembered as a post-16 Educational establishment, but a charming gentleman overheard her and told us it was now closed.  It appears to be a private gym now.
We also passed a restaurant name the Lusitania. This is, in a way, not odd, because that is the Roman name for Portugal.  On the other hand, the sinking of the SS Lusitania in May 1917 was one of the events which brought the USA into the First World War, so its proximity to the Embassy gives the name an added interest.

In among the former breweries, and huge new apartment blocks, some of the older houses do survive.  We were also rather taken with the fact that Premier Inns had renovated a strange and decorative building, rather than simply occupying a brick and glass block

We enjoyed the Christian story on a mural, cramming in the whole of the life of Christ as happens during a calendar year!

Next we came past the Battersea Arts Centre, which continues to serve its community despite all difficulties. And the Falcon Pub, named for the Falcon Brook, as well as boasting the longest bar in the world, is also thriving as far as we could see.

Given how large and important Clapham Junction Station is, we found the entrance unprepossessing in the extreme. The St John's Therapy Centre was rather more striking, though

Now we came to Wandsworth Common and turned left (the first turn since Vauxhall Bus Station) to head into Wandsworth and pass the enormous Town Hall, before turning into Wandsworth Plain, where this route ends, at 11.00.

We had had a sunny and interesting ride, through an area which is changing beyond all imaginings.  Given that property prices in London are falling quarter by quarter, we wonder how many of these apartments will be occupied.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

The Number 86 Route

Romford Station to Stratford Bus Station
Thursday March 5 2020

The weather, if anything was worse than last week as we met (unusually) for a Thursday outing. Almost the biggest thrill was the journey from Liverpool Street to Romford which was on a brand new TFL train (formerly C2C?) with the new upholstery colours designed for the Elizabeth Line, and of course walk-through carriages.  It was a smooth and quiet trip and we did remember where all the buses stop and lo! an 86 drew up.  Essentially we retraced our route passing most of the stations we had come through on the train.  Please admire the Wallace Sewell moquette – one of the driest pictures.

We were upstairs and the bus was pretty empty until Ilford where it filled up and stayed busy.  The bus, like all Romford ones, makes its way round to the shopping centre, or at least one of them, and the market (which for us is always a bit of a unicorn as we’ve never actually seen it functioning).  There are many multi story car parks, some used, some looking a bit derelict – but that might just have been the weather which was NOT mythical but biblical.  The Brewery complex includes entertainments (and car parks) and then we were heading out back south to inner London.  There has been much new building in Romford, noticeable from 10 years ago and visible from the train too – and with improved connections why not?

The next landmark seemed to be Romford (now Coral) Greyhound Stadium (dog racing being a south and east London specialty) – at least if you are going to bet let it be on something you can see happening in front of you as opposed to endless web sites.  It is no coincidence that the richest woman in the UK owns a betting site/ shops, and many folk are rendered the poorer through extensive betting habits . Enough with the moralising.

I had spotted a newish block called St Edward’s Court and then came the announcement for  St Edwards Academy, so it is no surprise to find out that the reason St Edward aka Edward the Confessor is a local hero is down to his having had a country residence at Havering atte Bower (after which the whole borough is named)   By now we were nearly in Chadwell Heath and as far as we could see (NOT very far) there were school playing fields on one side and heath on the other.

There are small clusters of shops along the way and several closed pubs – the White Horse looking dead, desolate and vandalised so quite an eyesore.  Not so dead is the Eva Hart pub, named for a local resident who survived the ‘Titanic’ sinking.  Nearly next door was Mapson’s, an old fashioned family jewellers with a ghost sign dating back to an earlier generation but sadly the weather meant we had no possibility of capturing the match.

Goodmayes to Seven Kings was a mixture, from what we could see (and I include several total mystery photos), of smaller local shops and a huge 24-hour Tesco’s which is cited as one of the main employers for this area.  The name has no royal connections but a modern version of something Saxon., which is a deal less interesting .

Seven Kings once had a huge Gin palace called  The Cauliflower  which looked very derelict but seemingly only since 2018 when it was destroyed by a fire. Anyone who has read VS Naipaul’s ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’ will think of ‘insure and burn’….

Not far is the Mandir Temple.  Also only a little way on is the General Havelock pub – strange to keep the pub’s name of the general who ordered the slaughter of so many Indian soldiers at the 1st war of Independence in an area whose population includes Indians?  Calling it the Cauliflower would be more ‘woke’?

Having negotiated the roundabouts we got through Ilford relatively smoothly, taking on lots of passengers and passing the Library with its excellent museum.   But then the slowness began – there were successive road works but of course with the weather so bad no one working on them and Jo managed to capture at least two violations of the cycle lanes plus the fact the bus lane only worked for the early rush hours.

We crossed over the River Roding – liable  to flooding unsurprisingly – and under the North Circular which really indicates a return to Inner London.

Still following the rail line we had taken to get to Romford, progress continued slowly through Forest Gate and the University of East London.  At least the former pub the Pidgeon had escaped dereliction by being converted to a Tescos.

Stratford had begun its transformation just before we started project 1 (2009) and the building work is still going – we passed a whole block being demolished presumably to be turned into yet more flats?  The University of East London has some of its campus round here too.

The odd glimpse of bobbing daffodils or a nice beech hedge was encouraging but not enough to press on…
Ten minutes over the hour predicted we pulled into Stratford Bus station – we had intended to transfer to the unique 108 Route but the weather was so bad and vision 1/10 that we abandoned the idea and headed our separate ways.

Friday, 28 February 2020

The Number 85 Route

Friday 28 February 2020

The 84 used to go from Barnet to St Albans, and still does, but it is no longer a London bus and so falls outside the parameters of this project. So here we were, on a very nasty wet day, boarding the 85 at 11.40 It leaves from the little warren of streets around Putney Bridge station, and had to wiggle round a huge tow truck before reaching the dripping customers outside the station.

Crossing the bridge was faster than it had been on our previous bus, because going south there is a bus lane. The bus was rather cold, but at least it wasn't one of the useless new(ish) Routemasters: from March 6 as I am sure you know, it will only be permissible to board at the front by the driver, though it is not clear how the poor drivers are meant to enforce this.  So just to sum up Mr Johnson's vanity project:  open back for boarding? no; air cooled so no need to open windows? absolutely not, for those of us who remember to summer of the roastmasters; three entrances for speedy boarding? not a chance, since these buses proved to be as 'free' to ride as the bendies they replaced.

Still, enough of this wingeing, and on with our soggy trip, through Putney and therefore in Wandsworth, and passing Putney Railway Station.  There can't be many areas with their names on stations both sides side of the river


We travelled down through Roehampton, alongside residential areas, and Putney Common.  I can only hope that you regard Linda's valiant attempts at photography as 'Turneresque'.

We noted that several of the bus shelters had solar panels on their roofs, not that these would  have done much good on a day like today, and we also came past the extensive Happy Valley Cemetery. We had been reading about the possibility of composting our bodies, but it's a long way to Seattle, so we have to hope that things have changed before we need the facility.


The next event was the little circuit that buses do to serve the enormous A3 Asda, and then we trundled on to cross the Beverley Brook and several of the campuses of Kingston University.
 There were some lovely spring trees, just about visible through the rain, including hazels all adorned with catkins, and cherries, and then a mimosa just behind a northbound bus stop. Along here there are some very substantial houses, as well as a number of apartment blocks.

Then we reached Kingston Hospital, and for the first time since Putney High Street were slowed by traffic. This gave us time to notice that we were passing the UK HQ of VSO, before we swept past the Fairfield Bus Station to wiggle round the High Street, and over the Hogsmill River. Whatever else might have been wrong with today's trip, one can't deny the pleasure of going over two of London's small rivers, as well as the big one.

So this brought us to Kingston Hall Road, where this route finishes, and we were off the chilly bus at 12.30 

The weather reduces the enjoyment of any trip, I think, but this south London outing had had its points of interest.