Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Number 49 Route

Clapham Junction to White City Bus Garage

Monday November 9th 2009

(Clearly one we prepared earlier as London is experiencing significant snow this Christmas week)

Our connections today were not quite as seamless as they often are, due I might say not to the buses themselves but to some careless map reading and chatting. We managed to overshoot the head stop and found ourselves walking down Northcote Road Market (Smug website alert!), which seemed to have more sourdough and olive oil shops than you can shake a stick at, in stark contrast to Falcon Road, which is pretty run of the mill.

However Northcote Road does not have a 49 bus, which we finally ran to earth in Battersea Rise and boarded at about 1.10. It was pleasingly warm and very clean too and by the time we were cruising down Falcon Road it was pretty busy. There is a large house, situated on the main road appropriately enough between Khyber and Afghanistan roads, which has been converted into the Islamic Cultural and Education centre. Learn more here.

Most of Battersea Bridge Road is densely built up with social housing (as opposed to the mansions along by the park) so we assume either major wartime bomb damage or post war inadequate housing clearance or more likely a combination of the two. So it’s always a nice surprise to get to Battersea Bridge, which has one of the best views of the houseboats and the loveliness that is the Chelsea Embankment and Cheyne Walk. To live here you needed to be rich, famous or dead or probably all three but it’s almost certainly worth walking in historical steps.

The mansion housing is as densely packed north of the river and these mansion blocks lead us out into the Kings Road – though only briefly as the 49 takes a turning off down Sydney Street – houses remain beautifully uniform here with glimpses of market stalls that look like beach huts, announced as the Chelsea Farmers’ market. The reviews indicate that actually it’s more a cluster of eateries as opposed to somewhere where you can get, as it were, home-made sausages brought up from Kent. It looks very pretty though. The parish church of St. Luke’s, though only built in 1820 to cater for a growing congregation, is most impressive and apparently has the tallest tower of any London parish church.

As Jo rightly deduced, the signs for King’s College (which we are used to seeing round the Strand) refer to the science departments – largely Pharmacology, from when King’s took over Chelsea college. Things get even grander round Onslow Square and by the time we get to South Kensington it is definitely lunch-time and the cafes and restaurants, by the look of them, are full of ‘ladies who lunch’.

Encouragingly the road works, which had delayed many of our earlier trips on 14 and other ‘return’ buses, seem to be clearing and both traffic and pedestrians are flowing very well. This is also very much hotel territory and there were some smaller gems which had taken over older buildings, rather than building new and big and impersonal. Not surprisingly some of the embassies have established themselves here also and we flag spotted both Korea and Zambia.

Palace Gate, as the name implies brings you out at the very end of Kensington Gardens and straight into the High Street, which is agreeable enough but unremarkable. Today certainly the shoppers/tourists were out in force and stopping for them lost the bus some time, not that we were in any hurry! More greenery, or autumn leafery courtesy of Holland Park and another lament for the Commonwealth Institute—it used to offer an excellent wet Sunday’s free entertainment for children with its ramped floors and generous display of cocoa beans. Even if displaying Commonwealth products is an outdated concept no one seems to have found a use for either building or site?

Before you know where you are the 49 is braving the 6 lane wide roundabout that is now Shepherds Bush and it then travels alongside the railway to get to both Westfield and the bus garage. Westfield has been open a year and doubtless has taken trade both from shops in Hammersmith and Kensington, where we had just been. We have enjoyed the very quiet and well ordered bus garage before and this time the operative in charge of the information kiosk let us into the free and very swish public toilets. The renovated garage is well worth a visit, and though not originally built as a garage has served as a factory and a film location.

The contrasts between Battersea and Chelsea and Kensington are probably not as extreme as they once were, but the 49 is still, to some extent, a bus of two halves. Also for such an urban bus it touches on three large green spaces Battersea Park, Kensington gardens and Holland Park.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Number 48 Route

Tuesday 6 October 2009

We met at 10.15 at London Bridge, we being Linda and Jenny and John and me. John is only the second man (oops, I mean 3rd, please see comment below; perhaps I should have said 'this was the first time we had people from Exeter with us') to come on a bus, so that was especially delightful. The 48 was a very busy bus, which meant that we did not get the front seats, but we had plenty of time to admire the scenery because the traffic was amazingly slow. After 30 minutes we still had not reached the Bank of England. We sat for a while wondering if the statue in Tudor gear on the side of the building was Thomas Gresham (bad money drives out good) or some other Elizabethan, but prolonged googling has failed to find the answer, and we no longer know anyone who works at the Bank.

The Woodin's Shades pub seemed to have an odd name, but it proves to be less exciting than you might think. We were impressed that they had already named an alley after Nicholas, when you think he was only born at the end of August (sorry, grandmotherly joke)

As we left the City the traffic finally speeded up a little. We had been this way before, and were soon in shoe and handbag land. We liked Hackney's new street banners ('Get the X Factor, register to vote' and '9 of London's best parks'

We crossed the Regent's Canal, and later various bits of the River Lea and the Navigation. Well may Hackney be called 'The Venice of the North' though I know it isn't.

The Levy Centre looked impressive, and the work that CSV does deserves a good training facility like this one. Our bus also passed Mother's Square, originally a nineteenth century Salvation Army home for single mothers but now housing, and, once we were in Waltham Forest, the Master Baker's Almshouses

We arrived at Walthamstow Central's handsome bus garage at 11.45, about 20 minutes later than the timetable suggested, thanks to the gas mains of the City. We barely had time to use the facilities and buy a newspaper (John) and peppermints (me) before leaping onto our next bus, about which you already know.

The Number 47 Route

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Linda and I met in Shoreditch, and the 47 bore us down Bishopsgate, with fine views ahead of the gherkin. After last week's discussion, we were interested to see fatsias in a window box: an odd choice, but a pleasant change from cyclamen-with-a few-pansies. London Bridge brought fine views of the river and HMS Belfast, looking majestic in the sun. We nipped fairly speedily down Tooley Street with its increasing number of tourist attractions: the London Bridge Experience and London Tombs have now joined the Dungeon, the Britain at War and of course the ship herself, past City Hall, and to a Wetherspoons pub called The Pommelers Rest. Aside from the fact that the lack of apostrophe suggests that this is a simple statement (... when not working) it seems to be a case of people who work with Pommels, for pommelling things like leather.

Now well into Southwark, with its colour coded districts, we passed the Dickens Estate and a number of hansdome churches, including St Paul's and St Olaves, as well as the entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, before reaching Canada Water Bus Station, where this blog began with the Number 1. Beyond Surrey Quays, the public housing is increasingly LCC fifties style, rather than the modern look. The Pepys Estate maintains the literary theme, with many references to John Evelyn in pub and street names, making this part of London diarists' corner.

But by now we were in Lewisham; St Nicholas Church is where the murdered Christopher Marlowe is said to be buried. All these literary references were some consolation for the lack of blue plaques, and Linda's tendency to say 'probably Charlie Chaplain' whenever we saw but could not read a local authority plaque. We noted a remarkable number of religious organisations, for example the Grace Christian Centre, which declares that it is 'rebuilding lives and raising prevailers'.

We were impressed by the steep climb undertaken by the DLR as it approaches Lewisham centre and enjoyed glimpses of Brookmill Park before we were passing Lewisham rail and DLR stations and the mammoth police HQ. We knew we were in Catford when we passed the Cat (actually we knew anyway, since this is Linda's stamping ground) and admired the refurbished Broadway Theatre. We sped down the Bromley Road to reach Catford Bus Garage in just an hour from our departure. A splendid journey, with tourism at the start and interest throughout.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Number 46 Route

Lancaster Gate to Farringdon
Tuesday December 8th 2009

For our first December outing the weather was kind enough to be both brighter and drier than last week’s outing, which regular readers will remember produced some much admired Turneresque photos.

We were starting opposite Hyde Park at Lancaster Gate and for a while we were the only passengers on this single decker – it seemed a rather creaky old model, where the springs were audible and added to the moderate discomfort.

Appropriately the bus turns away from Hyde Park and into Spring Street, which brought us out, a little to our surprise, alongside Paddington Station and ‘old friend’ bus routes we’ve travelled before. However, once over the Bishops (rail) bridge our bus was able because of our smaller size to weave round Paddington basin, much of Little Venice and the newish landscaping that is Rembrandt gardens.

This being the kind of area where you probably have a car, if not a chauffeur, or a boat, passenger numbers remained low and entirely female until Kentish Town. In Clifton Gardens there was a blue plaque for Sir Alexander Fleming, who we know from earlier routes worked at nearby St. Mary’s, so we presume it was somewhere near here that he left his washing up undone, or his food unwrapped and watched the mould grow. Thankfully we crossed the Edgware Road and went up Hall Road – again large and imposing houses including one where JW Waterhouse lived - I know a recent Royal Academy show tried to re-evaluate Waterhouse, but for me his paintings remain technically rather than emotionally memorable.

Somewhere along the Finchley Road Jo and I got into a dispute about Fatsias, which I think look their best at this time of year – all that fluffy white seems like a harbinger of snow – however she dislikes them although they meet her very strict criteria of all year round interest. Needless to say the front and communal gardens of the expensive housing that is St John’s Wood was well endowed with full flowering fatsias. As we eventually came into Swiss Cottage we noticed Overground House where they are finally joining up the trains and undergrounds into one seamless and Oyster friendly network.

From here the bus takes a brave route up the not inconsiderable hill that is Fitzjohn’s Avenue, resplendent with large redbrick houses, now all flats. My old school is a turning off and my memories of the Avenue are mixed – in the dire endless winter of 1963, when our playing fields in Regent's Park were still under snow, we were forced to run up and down the entire hill each week supposedly improving on our ‘times’, and how relieved we were when the thaw finally arrived.

Memories of forced exercise apart, the route 46 is at its most attractive here and at the Hampstead cross roads turns right down Hampstead High Street still retaining that village-y feel, though lacking the individuality it once had. Money is clearly no object between a whole Farrow and Ball shop and Bang & Olufsen. A ‘local’ blue plaque tells us David Low (see the 27 and 28 routes) had his studios here. Camden had provided Hampstead with hanging baskets and LED lights infinitely superior to the ones in Kentish Town. Just off to the left is a National Trust sign (very rare in Inner London) for 2 Willow Road, a 1930's Modernist house designed by Goldfinger. There is an old entrance for drays still visible in the Brewery Buildings rebuilt 1869.

As said before the bus was quite densely packed by now and a woman pushing a child in a wheelchair was told to get off and on again by the central doors which she refused to do, even though she could not progress down the bus. The passengers meanwhile were discussing their shopping & deciding ‘You can give cat food to your cat even when it’s past its sell by date…’

The bus turns left into Pond Street, thus passing the Royal Free Hospital, and it was here it became so much busier. Heading towards Kentish and Camden towns you pass several Camden estates and the primary schools, non-and denominational come thick and fast. Fleet School tells you what used to run here.Camden has improved the leisure facilities round here with newly vamped basketball courts and then the new Talacre Community Sports Centre. There is also a Camden Community Law centre on the corner and then Jews for Jesus. So if this particular combination of law and faith does not fix it for you, further down towards St Pancras the Al Rahma Mosque Community Centre has been given some space at the bottom of a council block.

If all variations of God, the law and exercise still do not appeal, a quick getaway via St Pancras International might be the answer. After which the number 46 turns into the Euston Road, past the arches now being re –occupied by the purveyors of large-scale junk, and passes King’s Cross Station. We spotted the memorial garden for the victims of the 7/7 bombings, while the plaque for 1987 fire is down in the Underground station. Wren Street Gardens are very pretty, just behind the dental school, and there is also the Calthorpe Project, which combines a teaching and community garden, off the Grays Inn Road.

A Japanese restaurant (though reviewers see it as more bar than eatery) is called the Crane and the Tortoise, reminding one of some of their garden designs. The sandwich bars were coming thick and fast and were busy as it was pretty much lunchtime, and suddenly we were again alone on the bus as it crossed over Holborn and left us in Stonecutter Street just south of Ludgate Circus. Quite an interesting East/West journey with a substantial loop north included and water features aplenty.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The Number 45 Route

King’s Cross Station to Clapham Park
Monday November 30th 2009

**Apologies for poor quality photos due to bad visibility and dirty windows – we could almost certainly find some shiny sunny photos of parts of this route but that would be cheating… it was wet.**

The three of us assembled easily outside King’s Cross having admired the newly opened King’s Cross Underground ticket office which though large and swish soon looked very busy – ‘in on time and on budget’ they said – here’s hoping for equivalent upgrades to the Mainline station. Though we never got wet the trip seemed rain soaked and soggy after the deluges of the past week or so and there was plenty of evidence of standing water, often in large puddles close to the bus stops. It is only right that the underground station with the greatest number of interchanges should also be served by a wide range of buses and that’s where we were headed for today.

Not surprisingly this bus was very popular out of King’s Cross, though it never got that busy upstairs, leaving that for passengers on a longer journey. We swept down the length of the Gray’s Inn Road, once home to ‘The Guardian’ offices. I must say I was slightly distracted from my task of observing and taking notes as Jo regaled us with tales and details of the (subsidised as she knows the sous-chef) St John Bread & Wine dinner menu she had had over the weekend – we were close to the parent restaurant in Smithfield, but not quite close enough to include it on this trip. From the top there were good views of Great Percy Street and we have a great fondness for the pub sign ‘The Queen’s Head’ depicting as it does the image from the famous Penny Black stamp.

Other delights of the Grays Inn Road include the Eastman Dental Hospital, a Mecca for all things oral, and London Welsh Centre. We speculated as to whether Lloyd George may have attended but as it was opened in 1937 mandated to be both non-political and non-sectarian we think it unlikely! The bus was fairly slow round here – about the only part of the journey that was – so were able to note Roger Street and another pretty pub – the Yorkshire Grey. The bus of course takes you past the Verulam Buildings and all the other legal chambers that are in Gray's Inn (the ‘Estate’ page of this link will offer some excellent panoramas but beware if you tend to motion sickness!!).

Very soon the unmistakeable red brick of the Prudential offices came into view, meaning we had reached Holborn Circus – a short stretch along Charterhouse Street and then we re-joined the yet-to-blog but very familiar 63 route.

The Crowne Plaza hotel close to Blackfriars is a standalone hotel unlike the ‘clusters’ we saw on other parts of the journey. Blackfriars bridge is still very much shrouded while undergoing its station-extending makeover. Though ‘commuter chaos’ was predicted we are now over a year into the 3year closure and things seem to be going pretty well. Perhaps when we come past on the 100 we will be able to see the completed job?

All in all this is very rail-related route as it passes close to many mainlines and along the Blackfriars Road there is also the ‘ghost’ of an older station. The driver skilfully avoided drenching the many waiting passengers at the Elephant bus stop and the traffic was flowing pretty smoothly – the 45’s route south is along the Walworth Road. Coming at the Newington Library from this side it was interesting to note that the war memorial is built into the foundation stone of the building and still had several wreaths standing there.

Very close is the Baldwins Natural Products shop, which has been going since 1844, which must say something about the ongoing popularity of ‘natural remedies’. The top end of East Street has a plaque to Charlie Chaplin (though building demolished). Nearby is a long-standing Marks & Spencer, which looks to be a rather old-fashioned branch – closer inspection indicates it stocks sizes to suit the ’traditionally built’ woman. ‘Lashes & Brows’ on the other hand, testifies to the need to keep every inch of yourself in tip-top grooming. South of the river, much of the route was in Lambeth – very familiar to Mary who used to work here.

We crossed the major junction at Camberwell Green and then rather surprisingly did a little snicket down Orpheus Way in order to cross over and down Coldharbour Lane. The Sun & Doves pub is apparently very popular. Past Loughborough Junction – more rail – and past Brixton’s Mosque, Police Station and Market onto the very busy High Road, where there is a constant but friendly competing tension between the number of pedestrians and the number of buses. From the top we had a good view of the Ritzy Cinema and the nearly completed Lambeth / TFL regeneration works on the Windrush Square, and now the first time down Brixton Hill, where about 7 other routes will follow in time.

The road is wide and the buildings on the left all well set back behind grass and trees so it was not long before we reached that major road junction where the A23 meets the A 205 – also known as the South Circular. The bus in fact takes the latter option for a couple of stops in order to serve the very densely populated area that is the Clapham Park estate and the end of the line – just under an hour as it happens.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Number 44 Route

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Linda and I met at Victoria, Mary having a prior engagement with the dentist, and we spent a little time working out where the head stop for the 44 was: confusing as it stops twice within about 30 metres, but we purists know what's right, and were aboard from the right place by 10.40. We felt quite at home with many of the buses around Victoria: this was not the first time we had been down Buckingham Palace Road and past the flattened piece of land which is testament to what happens when the Prince of Wales does not like a building plan for Chelsea Barracks. Some of the build was supposed to be affordable housing. Ho Hum. Over Chelsea Bridge we went, with the river grey and bleak, and past the great QVC building. Why, we wondered, does a TV shopping channel need such prime real estate?

The new buildings at St James' Grove are apparently all completed and sold, and the old Battersea Park Board School has gone the same way. (actually, at £480,000 for a one bedroom flat (gulp), this link may not be there for long) There is an amazing amount of riverside property going up.

We came to the Latchmere, where Eliza acted a few years ago, and then were passing what used to be the Price's Candle Factory and shop (and is clearly still a candle place) Old York Road had a range of quite fancy shops and an area where the roadway had been replaced with brick, always a sign of an area on the up. Along past Southside and into Garratt Lane, with the Wandle flowing nearby, and we came to that other piece of evidence of encroaching respectability, a Waitrose. We wound along the Lane, passing the Old Sergeant Pub, with its splendid sign.

Soon we were in Earlsfield, and passing Battersea and Wandsworth TUC, founded in 1894 and still campaigning. The Diprose Lodge Almshouses were part of the St Clement Danes Charity, but have now been modernised and are for sale. We noticed a plethora of flower shops near the cemetry opposite the almshouses and on towards Tooting Broadway Station, but things were getting less wealthy, with pawnshops and shops selling clothes 'from 99p' as well as the compulsory Primark. Nevertheless, clearly property here is desirable, and estate agents keen.

After Amen Corner (pronounced Ay-men not ah-men, I gather) and St Boniface's Church, we reached Tooting Station, whence trains would take you to Luton Airport Parkway, if you wanted. We arrived inside the hour, and merely had to cross the road to get a different bus back towards the river.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Number 43 Route

Monday 16 November 2009
Linda's in Hamburg and Mary is in Uganda, so I was alone as I boarded the 43 at London Bridge, heading towards Friern Barnet. A 10.30 start, and it was immediately clear that traffic going south was faring worse than us. The river was looking spectacular in bright sunshine, with views of HMS Belfast, and Tower Bridge having its facelift.

Traffic in the City was much less slow than the last time we were here. I noted that City firms, like us and many London residents, had gone for cyclamen and winter pansies in their window boxes. Following Tim's 'Hitch-hiker's Guide' comment on the 42, I was tickled to see a branch of the former Halifax converted into a 'Rush' hairdressers. The telephone sanitisers will be next.

Up past Finsbury Square, and then we were along the City Road, finally losing the 141 with which we had been in convoy, and passing Moorfields Eye Hospital to reach the Angel and head along Upper Street. I saw a double-decker 38 on its way south: can it be that Boris is really phasing out the bendies? We do know Upper Street quite well by now: the mixture of posh shops and eateries, the Almeida and the Town Hall, noted for its Farmers' Market on Sundays. Also a shop called Fettered Pleasures (only follow the link if you are an adult...)

Along the Holloway Road we passed the handsome building that houses the National Youth Theatre. At this stage the nice person sitting next to me rescued my notebook, which had slid to the floor, asked if I was planning a school trip, and got the whole story. She said that she was moving out of London, and usually sat downstairs on buses: so I recommended the front top when she next visited! various agencies in Islington are demolishing and building in several places.

As we headed towards Muswell Hill we passed a Blue Plaque for Peter Sellers, put up by the Dead Comics Society, not EH, and then a Pizza place where a chef was working on an enormous lump of dough. The handsome buildings of Muswell Hill are a reminder that this area has always been quite prosperous.

The Parish Church of St Peter le Poer was built in Friern Barnet with money raised from selling the old Church in the City of London. I can't discover if this is a nickname or a different Peter from the New Testament one. We were now into Friern Barnet, and arrived at the terminal, just oppostite the library, well within the 78 minutes announced.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Number 42 Route

Monday 9 November 2009

Linda and I met at Sunray Gardens, Denmark Hill, where the pleasant driver had offered Linda the opportunity to sit on the bus to shelter from the brisk breeze that accompanied this sunny day.

Henry Bessemer, he of the Bessemer Steel Converter, had a large estate here of which Sunray Gardens alone remains - he had a model farm, observatory and all kinds of other amenities, reminding us that engineering was a good career back then

We were off at 10.20, passing a serious amount of public housing, Southwark on one side of the road and Lambeth the other, some of it dating from the 1920s. We admired Ruskin Park, convenient for R and R for patients attending the Maudsley or King's College Hospital and were soon into Camberwell Green.

This was a busy bus, lots of shoppers with buggies, so people were standing for almost all the route. It's hard to imagine how even this small bus would negotiate East Street on market days. The revitalising of Burgess Park is underway, together with areas of the huge Aylesbury Estate.

Surprisingly soon we were in Tower Bridge Road, noting that St Mary Magdalen Churchyard, with its charming little chapel, is also up for improvement. Then it was over the river, with fine views of City Hall and HMS Belfast (yes, I will always mention her whenever we pass near enough for it to be allowable!) This was the first of the 5 Thames bridges that our various buses were to cross today

The Tower of London and Tower Gateway Station were briefly visible before we turned right up Goodman's Yard and into Aldgate, where we admired the fishy railings on the pedestrian subway and some classic City street names, before passing Shoreditch bus garage and St Botolph's without Bishopsgate. A surprising number of churches are named after this saint, given that no-one seems to know much about him. And so to Liverpool Street, in only about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Number 41 Route

Archway to Tottenham Hale

Monday November 2nd 2009

Jo and Linda were on our own for this 5-bus marathon as Mary was off supporting an educational project in Uganda, but the storms of the weekend had cleaned and brightened London for us. We had already completed two routes in order to get to our starting point – all with seamless joins, the buses feeding out of our hands like tame birds – so it was only 12.50 when we boarded this route. However the law of diminishing returns set in as the first route of the day had some excitements like Oxford Street and Abbey Road and our interim bus traversed some smart and not so smart North London suburbs but the 41 can only be described as ‘less than enthralling’.

Our one ambled as it had closed the gap with the one in front and as a result wasn’t very busy either – Jo described it as a ‘blokey’ bus as all the other passengers seemed to be male. One particular one who had clearly just walked out of the A&E department of the Whittington Hospital spent his journey telling all his mates ‘he didn’t have a clot on his leg’ but needed to see his GP for follow up.

The most attractive part of the trip (had we known it) was just wending its way along the very narrow St John’s Way with the contrast of public and private housing either side of the road, both leafy and attractive – the roads to the left named after Shakespeare’s heroines Miranda, and Cressida. There was a large Hornsey school named for Coleridge and the children were playing out back after half term. The school is large by primary standards – 500+ and therefore had a new purpose built extension across the road which formed part of the September 2009 ‘Open London’ venues. We crossed a disused railway (now part of green chain-type walk) and arrived at Crouch End Broadway, which was looking a little the worse for wear with several shops up for sale and empty. Clearly there are better views off this route…

By Tottenham Lane, in spite of dawdling, our 41 caught the one in front as we passed the new YMCA, and just glimpsed the West Indian Cultural Centre. We had already crossed the New River (neither new nor a river) and crossed the entire set of major North–south routes, rail, tube and road, to push further east towards Tottenham Hale which combines bus terminus and rail exchange. Not far away is the Lea River Valley and Park (in this instance trading park).

This bus has been plying this route since before 1950 with very few alterations to the route – extensions to Highgate and Ilford were suppressed so it clearly serves its community well if dully.