Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Number 20 Route

Walthamstow Bus Station to Debden Monday June 13th 2009

Though technically our next bus, this journey was actually the second stage of a mammoth 6½ hour 5 bus marathon, which in fact only took us round a small area of North East London!

It was pleasant and warm and Walthamstow Bus and Tube station seemed modern, salubrious looking but with somewhat smelly conveniences. . The Number 20 was a bit of a puzzle as it is a very low number that frequents the very fringes of London, usually known as Essex. My research thus far indicates the Number 20 has been ploughing slightly different furrows out here since at least 1950, but I have yet to discover where it first started. [STOP PRESS! a historian at http://www.busesatwork.co.uk/ informs me it previously went from Kingston to Guildford!!] Our first two stages having taken a while we only boarded at 12.25 and wondered whether this double decker had been cleaned after the weekend as there were three Red Bull cans rolling around and the windows were very smeary, as you will see from some of the photos.

Walthamstow is in East 17 and there was a lot of it today – old high streets with the usual mixture of eating places and beauty parlours and charity shops – one for the Kashmir International Relief Fund set up following the earthquakes. This was a variant on the usual charities. This bit of London seems to like punning shop fronts; especially for its hair salons but we also noted Fu-nicha. It was also not a particularly busy bus at this point as there were up to eight alternatives along the main roads, that is Lea Bridge Road. Just before we hit a dual carriageway we noted the Lamb’s CafĂ© doing a brisk trade in all day outdoor breakfasts.
Close to crossing the North Circular you enter Epping Forest, which like several other large open spaces is in fact maintained by the Corporation of London – Jo tells me prior to the open spaces and countryside acts MPs only trusted the City to guard the green areas and clearly its wealth over the years has helped maintain open land and several ponds, if not very thick forest in and around Epping. St. Peter’s in the Forest church, though in fact only a Victorian era building, seemed charming with toppled tombstones in its graveyard, and shortly afterwards we crossed the North Circular Road, by the large and intimidating junction that is Waterworks corner.

Over a cattle grid and into the London Borough of Redbridge, along a route rich in schools and other social resources such as Haven House Children’s Hospice. That one of the schools should be private was not entirely surprising as we travelled through both Buckhurst Hill and Loughton, both keen to retain their villagy feel. Certainly there were old-fashioned ‘finger’ signposts, a row of little cottages though most building (as is usual outside the North Circular) was well post-war. There was even a village cricket ground and the ‘Gunmakers’ Arms’ indicates that this area would have been considered distant enough from dense habitation to permit arms manufacture.

En route we seemed to meet several Hackney dustcarts that must dump their contents somewhere in Essex and a random traffic warden wandering around in a field?

Uphill out of Loughton gave us some good views and we had a very thorough tour of Debden – an impressive range of housing: flats few, houses many and some bungalows all interspersed with large areas of green open space and a little river. However passing through may not be the same as living there – for a jaundiced local view see here. Debden is almost certainly the most uniquely undiverse (i.e. whites only) neighbourhood we had been through since starting the Project. There were schools too including the Davenant Foundation, which had moved out here from Whitechapel in 1965 because of falling numbers, and Thomas Willingale, named after someone who apparently wielded an axe in 1860 order to establish his right to lop/cut down trees in the Forest.

The bus brought us to the back of the very neat, if significantly less affluent than Loughton, Debden Broadway so that we could make our eventual 12-mile way back to London. The journey was closer to 50 minutes than the 40 promised but interesting nevertheless.

1 comment:

  1. I use this route nearly everyday. Definatly one of my favourite routes.
    I can assure you that most of the time, the buses used on this route are very clean, but can get the odd day where it hasnt been cleaned out.
    I live in Loughton, and it is known to be not as nice as it looks, but still a great place anyway.
    Im glad you enjoyed the route. I think its great to see the scenery change, from urban Walthamstow, through the leafy London borough of Redbridge, affluent and village-like Buckhurst Hill, and then Loughton and Debden.