Tuesday, 22 October 2019

The NUMBER 62 Route

Mark’s Gate to Barking (Gascoigne Estate)
Thursday October 18 2019

We were certainly, as the ?Bible puts it, ‘unto the East’ today having started at Whitechapel for the District Line to Hornchurch which took us to Collier Row (a bus route in the 200s so we may never live that long) and from there a mere 5 stops to somewhere called The City Pavilion – a rather odd name for somewhere virtually in a field but it seemed to be a sort of civic community centre hosting events as diverse as the Panto and a Psychic Evening.  From there it was a short walk past the Whale Roundabout to Mark’s Gate and the start of the 62, a low number bus for a fairly, if you pardon the expression, remote route.

We had noticed the ploughed fields and the bus stop called Furze Farm so thanks to Hidden London for this entry explaining the origins of the area. Whalebone Road to which we were alerted by the well …whale bones … at the roundabout is such an evocative name with  somewhat  fuzzy origins  - the consensus seems to be that a whale was stranded in the Thames and the bones from its carcass formed an arch which has variously been along the road in front of a house now demolished and most recently at the Borough (this route lies entirely within the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham – LBBD) Museum . So whales have been going astray up the Thames for nearly 400 years as another victim died off Greenhithe recently – perhaps they come to London to die?

The whale theme continued when we crossed the A12 at the Moby Dick Junction and passed the huge golf complex where the crazy course featured a whale and a pirate ship...  There is also a proper course and it all seems very reasonably priced and lacking in pretension, and of course you are promised ‘ a whale of a time’…

This road crossing signals the route arriving in Chadwell Heath, where the 62 is joined by the 362; most of this route was residential – houses rather than blocks of flats – and Chadwell Heath offered some local shops: Scruffy’s Dog Grooming anyone?  We were not quite clear what Vatra Romanescu might be – clearly more than just a shop, and some research indicates a nationalist /right wing organisation.  This was not our only Romanian encounter of the day as three lads (should have been in school?) briefly joined us on the top deck where we had been alone – and asked us whether we could drive , and seemed amazed when Jo disclosed her age , and the length of time she had held a licence.

The Blesma organisation on the other hand is NOT Romanian but a charity helping limbless ex-servicemen, which has in fact moved from here in the past few weeks, though their logo is still atop a building.  The other key sight of Chadwell Heath is the Eva Hart Pub, still looking very nice, which commemorates her – a young survivor of the Titanic, and also Mary Wollstonecraft , born locally.  We have Wetherspoons to thank for this local history. This was in contrast  to the deserted’White Lion’ at Chadwell Heath. 

After a couple of bends we got onto another straight stretch of road through what is essentially the Becontree Estate – as this website has it,  the size and vision of building so many homes was revolutionary and this route only passes through part of it. Post Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’  you can see where homes have been ‘improved’ or at least customised.
At this point I asked had we not been to the Valence Museum (there was a sign to the park of that name) and Jo said she had no recollection which is a shame as she wrote the entry!

The museum also celebrates the social housing.  Though shops had been included in the original specifications for the Estate leisure facilities less so, so LBBD had more recently added a Youth Zone near to Parsloes Park, itself a LBBD resource that was created at the same time as the Estate but has had its facilities updated since.

For much of this this stretch the 62 is the only route; there is of course Becontree Station, another stop on the District Line: one way or another we passed several of these outlying stations today all similar in design, many on a bridge above the platforms , but all sadly in need of some repointing and spruced up paintwork.  This was in contrast to the earlier Chadwelll Heath a TFL Rail station which had seen some TLC.

Though we passed under the overhang of the elevated A13 the 62 route stays north doing a detour to Upney – another residential stretch with many overhanging trees scraping the bus roof enthusiastically. There was barking Bus garage too, where the drivers changed. 

Once past Upney’s station the focus of the traffic, shops and institutions became firmly Barking and its regenerating (it’s not quite there) town centre with tired looking shops and shopping centres and many new office/shopping and above all residential facilities springing up. With a school named after it I wondered how much of Barking Abbey remained …

The Barking Abbey Ruins are part of the larger area of parkland that is now called Abbey Green. The location is that of the original buildings of Barking Abbey, founded in 666 AD, until it was demolished shortly after 1541 AD. The only surviving building of this period is the Curfew Tower, which is now the gateway to the adjacent St Margaret's Church, but was originally a gatehouse to the Abbey. Most of the remaining ruins are now buried and hidden

So not that much then.. Most of the few remaining passengers got off as we passed the station and shopping hub of Barking after which the bus, along with several other routes, has to contend with a contra flow while a large residential development is ‘finished off’ (this usually means a couple of trees, some gravel and pots) and then pushes on for four stops to terminate on the Gascoigne estate , which clearly pre-dates most of the current building boom.  There have been several noticeable changes in Barking since project 1 so it will be interesting to see how far the transformation is planned to continue.

Our trip had taken an hour – it was not the most thrilling of journeys but wen t from a whale to fishes  a reminder of former industry from the  green belt farmland through well-established communities into Barking which is clearly trying to be a major residential and commercial area.

Friday, 11 October 2019

The Number 61 Route

Thursday 10 October 2019
The 61 was another gentle route through the south eastern villages and towns of London.  It begins at the recently renovated Gordon Arms, and wombles through the aptly named Loop Road to set off up the hill and out of Chislehurst.  We had noted the substantial houses, with modest attempts at topiary, and had plenty of time as the traffic going up the hill was heavy.  School students were boarding the bus in large numbers:  it was only 13.50, but perhaps hours have changed since our day.

We came past the war memorial, and a brown sign to the Caves. Linda and I had visited these a few years ago, and can recommend them.  They're not actually 'caves' but the remains of chalk mining, and still have clear remains of their use for shelter during air raids on London.

As we came through the village, we saw the village sign, which depicts Elizabeth I knighting Thomas Walsingham, a local who had helped raise money to defend against a possible Spanish invasion.  So honours and big political donations have clearly been going hand in hand for some centuries.

We continued towards Petts Wood  and Orpington, with green on both sides and really very large houses as well.  Many of them had turned their front gardens into parking spaces, from which we deduce that some must be divided into several homes.

A line of bungalows, and then a row if terrace houses told us we were coming into Orpington, passing the pond where, Linda thought, the River Ravensbourne might begin.  I'm not sure if we were in Keston, though as all these former villages merge together somewhat.

Through Orpington centre, we noted that the Bon Marche had closed, though it seemed to be quite a thriving town centre otherwise;  but we were rapidly through, past the war memorial on its traffic roundabout and up the hill towards the station.  Presumably railway engineers preferred to avoid the steep valley of the Ravensbourne, however inconvenient the climb out of the town might be for rail passengers. Houses here were built on embankments steeply above the road, and many steps to reach the front doors

New properties were promised, luxury apartments with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

We came through Locksbottom, which is basically a line of shops with two pubs, both of which seemed to be thriving.  Called the Black Horse and the Whyte Lyon, these seemed traditional names for pubs.  The British Queen, which came next, was more puzzling, since its sign was a strawberry.  I do know (well, now that I've checked in the internet) that there is such a make of strawberry, but I don't know why they should have avoided pictures of royals, and gone for soft fruit instead.

On towards Bromley itself, we passed several more pubs, as well as the Stagecoach bus garage and the gigantic police station with its roof covered with solar panels, we were glad to see.

We passed Bromley South Station, but this route, like so many, finished at the picturesque but effectively useless Bromley North Station, so we turned right past the huge Glades shopping centre, and went round the relief road which enables the High Street to be pedestrianised, before wriggling through the streets of North Bromley to reach the station.  We liked the print and copy shop with a window which said ' good quote: to be or not to be;  better quote, 10,000 A5 leaflets for £185'.

A former pub had become a sourdough pizza place, and there were several more coffee shops than the last time we were in this bit of Bromley.

We finished our trip at 2.45, less than an hour after setting out, having enjoyed the reasonably sunny day.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Number 60 Route

Friday 4 October 2019
This was a pleasant South London trip; the route has a surprisingly low number for something that gets no closer to the middle of London than Streatham.  Reaching its head stop required trains and other buses, including a brief trip on the 60 to get to the end/beginning.  The kind driver let us remain on board for the five minute turn around break at the Tudor Rose in Old Cousldon, which was pleasant as the rain had begun and the bus shelter was full.

We set off at 10.45, to pass the handsome and modern Coulsdon 6th Form College, and head steeply down hill along Tollers Lane.  We noticed that the bungalows were cleverly designed, with the 'downhill' one of each pair having a garage underneath, while the 'uphill' halves had their garage on the level. 

We came to the Coulsdon Memorial Ground, but thought that the bowling green looked to have rather a challenging and uneven surface.  Possibly people no longer play bowls around here.


Coulsdon South Station is surrounded by recently built apartments, mostly new since we were last this way.  It's quite a good place to commute from, since trains these days go to both London Bridge and St Pancras

We noted the cycle shop near Coulsdon library:  the sort of hill we had come down makes an electric bike look rather a good idea.  We also admired Coulsdon's large Methodist church with its uneven looking tower.  

Now we headed straight along the A23, with residential properties on either side.  Most of them had large front gardens, depressingly turned into car parking spaces, though some had at least got smartly trimmed hedges.  I think it was P G Wodehouse who once referred to something as being 'straight as a privet hedge in Purley'.

We passed apartment blocks where (we thought from our youth) Purley Cinema and its Orchid Ballroom used to be.  Croydon, like many other boroughs, has adopted banners proclaiming the delights of the place.  Whatever we think of straplines like 'safe in Purley', we did approve of the borough flowers on the street barriers

As we came into South Croydon, we noted that the Earl of Eldon had gone the way of so many pubs, but the property (or space for apartments) had not yet been sold. We thought at first that the Swan and Sugarloaf, a bus stop as well as a pub, had survived, but no: it is now a Tesco.

We passed 'Wandle Apartments' which may, for all we know offer riverside living.  And now we were into Croydon, interesting in many ways:  the attractive pedestrian crossing; the huge amount of street art of various kinds, both formal and informal;  and the fact that former offices were now becoming flats.

Opposite the Clock Tower Museum (the bus stop was called 'Croydon Library, but we know better...) there is a large hole in the ground.  It is being cleared by John F Hunt, whose website says
Queens Square, Croydon – a major asbestos removal and demolition project on behalf of R&F Properties at their Queens Square mixed use scheme in the heart of Croydon. The scheme comprises the demolition of 4 commercial blocks and associated ground clearance with a value of circa £9m due for completion Q3 this year.
And this appears to be what will be going up instead.

We travelled on to admire the little pedestrian area in the centre of the scary dual carriage way by Croydon College and the Fairfield Halls, and came to a small gym where the art work appeared to be tiles, not paint.
As we passed West Croydon Bus Station, we saw that the force was gathering for some bus fare inspections:  not our bus, though.  It's a good interchange, with the Overground, the trams and the buses all in close proximity.

The next place you go through used to be called Thornton Heath, but it seems to have been rebranded as Broad Green, Historic Village, for reasons which are explained here.

As we headed on, we saw a EuroLoos van displaying the sense of entitlement from which drivers of motorised vehicles seem to suffer:  double yellow line? so? Cycle lane? who cares?

More enjoyable were the ladies in the fountains outside the hotel we passed: presumably they were in cages to protect them from unwanted attentions and litter.
What we used to know as the Mayday Hospital has been renamed 'Croydon University Hospital' which is probably sensible.  The nearby Saints and Sinners Pub seemed to be alive and well.

Once we had passed the Thornton Heath Pond roundabout, we were quickly into Merton, passing both the Library and the densely packed graveyard, before moving swiftly into Lambeth, our third borough of the ride.
As we came along the Streatham High Road, we were startled by a brightly ornamented pub called 'The Rabbit Hole'. And we were right to be amazed:  the former Greyhound Pub has been themed as an Alice place!

But we were nearly at the end of our journey.  Thank heavens for bus lanes, I thought, as we moved past stationary traffic to reached Streatham Hill Station at 11.55