Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Number 12 Route

Dulwich Library to Oxford Circus Monday May 11th 2009

Glorious spring day with temperatures in the teens, again!

Jo being in Australia,Mary and I decided we would continue the project and accordingly met at Dulwich Library. We went (as directed by the 40 Inspectors) to the Head Stop in Friern Road only to be told – in spite of trying very hard to chat up the driver – that we could not board there. However, he relented and picked us up on the way back to first stop in Barry Road.

The 12 is a single Decker ‘bendy’ bus known locally as the ‘free bus’. For Mary it is her local ‘get into town’ route, so very familiar and she has travelled it at rather more edgy times than today’s mid-morning. For Linda, it is the irritating vehicle that needs two goes at the lights to turn the corner at either end of Barry Road, and behind which we often sit fuming when travelling by car.

The 12 used to start at ‘The Plough’ pub, but when a few years back the pub transmogrified into something like ‘the Pie and Pattipan’ TFL played safe by using the very beautiful Passmore Edwards library as the end stop. As we swooped down Barry Road, Mary reminded me that it was on Peckam Rye that William Blake had had one of his earliest visions – “a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars” – but today little more than the odd dog-walker can be seen. ‘The Clock House’ pub on the corner of Barry Road and Peckham Rye always has the most splendid hanging baskets and today boasted a fine wisteria along it pergola and up its wall. Very handsome big houses line this side of the common until you get to the remnants of what was Peckham’s outdoor lido, where Catherine learnt to swim – sadly no more, just a few steps remaining. Also now only a memory is good old Austin’s, the second-hand furniture emporium from which we had all bought tables, now only commemorated in the name of the very bland town houses that have replaced it.

Rye Lane (effectively Peckham’s High Street) sometimes seems on another continent between the Beneficial and Veracious Chapel and the God Bless Restaurant , not to mention the (Brazilian?) Igreja Batista de Povo – also the many street shops selling bowls of chillies/peppers and mangoes to evoke warmer lands. Not surprisingly the passengers reflect the diverse and for the most part black community. Out beyond Peckham town centre we passed again the Peckham Pulse and award-winning Will Alsop Library and more soberly the Oliver Goldsmith Primary School, where Damilola Taylor went. The senior school is now rebuilt as the Harris City Academy.The Walworth Road has some fine municipal buildings including the very pretty town house kept for the Registry Office and the impressive Camberwell College of Art (now London Uni) in its Passmore Edwards Building. Mary had worked at the new and colourful Sunshine building, which houses the Child Development and auxiliary services for Southwark’s children.

On through Camberwell and passing the old Camberwell Baths – like our own in Forest Hill due for a refit. Camberwell Green apart from the juvenile courts also has some fine pre-war public housing and shortly afterwards the drivers changed at Camberwell Bus Garage. At the end of Walworth Road is the complex of old municipal buildings including the Cuming Museum, Newington Library and the former Southwark Health Centre which still sports over the door the bracing slogan “The people’s health is the highest law.”Built below some student flats the capacious ‘Dragon Inn’ restaurant comes highly recommended, even if it is close to Elephant & Castle, now suffering from ‘development blight’. We zoomed past the London College of Communication (formerly LC of Printing) and the Imperial War Museum. The less said the better of St George’s RC cathedral – drab and vast – but we noted our only Blue Plaque of the trip to "George Myers - Master Builder". Morley College needs a special mention for its creative courses for South Londoners. Then on to what was County Hall – the former traffic island opposite now sporting a very tall hotel development. St Thomas’s Hospital is the last south London landmark before you sail over Westminster Bridge – and indeed ‘earth hath not anything to show more fair’. After Waterloo the very busy bus emptied to being largely tourists – sitting near the back door we reckoned 1 in 3 people getting on there actually paid…

Unfortunately our bus came to a grinding halt as we were diverted away from Parliament Square (shades of the 11 two weeks ago), this time for legitimate demonstrations by Tamil supporters. Boadicea still impresses, but though we saw a wealth of statuary along the Embankment this is of course not the designated route. We got back on track at Trafalgar Square: thence up to a very slow Piccadilly and along Regent Street to Oxford Circus taking something over 1½ hours – we agreed that if we had not been on the project we would have got off and walked!


  1. Just because someone doesn't touch in on a bendy bus doesn't mean they're fare dodging: Travelcard and bus pass holders don't need to touch in, only Oyster PAYG.

  2. Well today I took myself off to ride the 12 from Oxford Circus to Dulwich library. The road work that are making the circus a little less manik closed one of the stops though not so bad. It was quiet on the bus and journey down was good.

    I walked back up to Peckham where I joined the bus again. I was stood texting a friend when a lad snatched the phone out of my hand. I told him to get off my phone which didn't seem to affect him, so I said 'Just get off me phone' and he handed it back to me. Not sure if I was asking for it nether the less I got back to my bike at Oxford Circus and cycled home. Bit of an adventure...

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