Monday, 24 August 2009

The Number 27 Route

Chalk Farm (Morrisons) to Turnham Green Church Monday August 24th 2009

A stuffy warm rather than overtly sunny day, and London brimming with tourists at a peak period. I was travelling alone so was limited as to how many sights I could take in. We left about 10.30, the driver optimistic the bus would complete what is quite a long trip. Morrisons is adjacent to a landscaped turning point for the buses, a re-cycling point and actually quite a sizeable modern housing estate all tucked between Camden Lock and the railway.

Going north and into town the buses take a 1-way system away from the main crowd of pedestrians and we passed both Camden Town tube and the end of the High Street complete with the statue to Richard Cobden. Camden have named a school after the 19th century reformer and politician though he did not really have any links with this part of London). Also heading north the buses use the crescent rather than cruising alongside the very handsome Carreras Building. The bus was getting ever busier and just down Mornington Crescent I spotted a Blue Plaque but was not able to read it. The definitive plaque for Willie Rushton, who invented the game of Mornington Crescent, is in the station itself; web research tells me the plaque in the Crescent commemorates Walter Sickert (1860-1942), the painter and ‘Jack the Ripper’ suspect.

We soon passed Regent’s Park Station, its exterior handsome enough to nearly live up to the nearby Nash Terraces and I spotted some chestnuts just about ready to fall. I studiously ignored the longest ever queues for Madame Tussauds, admiring instead the fabulous co-ordinated hanging baskets outside Portman Mansions, along here too is the University of Westminster, not quite as old as its name might imply. The Landmark (a hotel too posh to admit it is one) has taken over a gothic red-brick building complete with clock in the turret, and another Blue Plaque tantalizes me from Radnor Place.

For once we head down Praed Street at some speed and without delay, passing Paddington Station, though you wouldn’t know it if they did not announce the fact, its face to the world is so anonymous. Gloucester Terrace offers a contrast in housing with social blocks to the right and early Victorian villas to the left. As happened a couple of weeks ago we were held up by the mains replacement works in Queensway giving me time to admire a cyclist doing some excellent wheelies (on the pavement). An ambulance that had been waiting patiently like us suddenly lost it and started its siren and lights??

Soon we were close to Notting Hill, already sporting signs leading up to next weekend’s Carnival, and not a few confused looking tourists. After a bit of a wiggle we were on Kensington Church Street, which was surely once a lane? As ever it has some very expensive antique shops and a mixture of fine old buildings, many in a vaguely Dutch gabled style, and some less nice fill-ins. The Churchill Arms’s floral display sure stands out, and I gather the drinks aren’t bad either. The bus here was much emptier, the locals presumably having no need of such lowly forms of transport.

However, we were boarded by a young couple with a very smelly Staffie type dog whose owners loudly announced they really wanted the Number 28 and almost immediately leapt off to try and catch the one in front. Melbury Court had a Blue Plaque and this time I actually spotted the name of Sir David Low, the political cartoonist (1891-1963). Olympia looks a bit sulky and run down in contrast to the row of dazzling modern buildings along this bit of the Hammersmith Road. A blink-and-you-miss-it plaque recalls Hammersmith’s role in the planning of D-Day. Then comes Hammersmith, which sadly is one giant one-way system seemingly now wrapping around the double storey bus garage, where we drove in and out, our time noted on a clipboard.

We then continued down King Street, a once vibrant shopping street that shows signs of suffering after Westfield opened and was now offering cut price and bargain items from its shops. Further along King Street was a beautifully preserved pub – the Salvation Pub, run of course by the local brewery Fullers. A move upmarket was announced by passing Latymer Upper school – very red brick and public (i.e. private) and onto leafy Chiswick, with signs down to Chiswick House, – so leafy in fact the trees kept banging the bus and making me jump! We passed another attractive hostelry ‘The Packhorse & Talbot’ then Chiswick Common and the bus station, where we changed drivers, as he had indicated to me at Chalk Farm.

Very soon thereafter we slipped to the left for Turnham Green, which unlike many of the other head-stops (which are green in name only) is actually quite a sizeable open space with a large and handsome Giles Gilbert Scott church at its centre. The journey had taken pretty much the hour and 18 minutes indicated at the outset.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Number 26 Route

Monday 17 August 2009 A new recruit again this week, so it was Julie, Linda, Tim and Jo who met at Waterloo, conveniently outside the station, and headed off to Hackney Wick (which seems to be either Saxon or Latin (vicus) for a place or refuge or village, so a less interesting word than one might have hoped). We had a nippy journey, over Waterloo Bridge, round the Aldwych and into the Strand, passing the St Clement Danes and the Royal Courts of Justice before reaching Fleet Street and St Paul’s. We noted many Corporation Blue Plaques, indicating buildings which had vanished in the 18th century, presumably when the developers, headed by Christopher Wren, moved in. We admired the Duke of Wellington (on horse) outside the Bank of England, and then George Peabody (on chair) as we approached the Gherkin. We waved at Kate but she obviously was not looking out of her window. We were impressed by the railway building works, which we have seen before and take to be the East London Line upgrade and extension; and then on past Shoreditch (when I grow rich) Church which proves to be by George Dance, not Hawksmoor as we speculated. As we entered Hackney, we found ourselves in a street solid with handbag shops, before seeing Hackney City Farm and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children. Then it was over the Regent’s Canal and past St Joseph’s Hospice to reach East Way and the final stop: only 11.15, so less than 45 minutes from Waterloo.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Number 25 Route

Ilford Town Centre to Oxford Circus Monday March 23rd 2009

Now here was a bus worthy of its low number high status – a frequent, popular, busy and efficient service that took us (in an hour and a half) from the centre of Ilford looking lively and purposeful if not affluent straight into the heart of the city. Even mid-afternoon on a bendy bus there were people standing as the varied diverse populations of Manor Park and Forest Gate and Stratford got on and off – going down to the Whitechapel markets? Going to visit or attend the Royal London Hospital? We also passed both the University of East London and the big site for Queen Mary’s, and the students, with their phones, populated the bus also.

Interestingly Queen Mary's London, which under that name was actually founded in 1885 now cites its origins as from 1123 when St. Bartholomew’s (Bart’s hospital & medical school) was founded – how to age over 700 years in one fell swoop! However, there are different bits of the campus dotted all along this route.

We saw some fine local civic architecture in the now replaced but listed Carnegie library and the not quite defunct St. Clement’s Hospital. Interesting that some of the street signs should say Poplar rather than London Borough of Tower Hamlets or Hackney, harking back to London County Council days before 1965 (for an interesting website on London history see here) – not sure whether that was a reflection of local pride or not having enough money to re-do the street signs?

[You may wonder why I have failed to mention the Whitechapel Gallery founded 1901 in the spirit of bringing ART to the East End – well, although the spanking new extension has been well and truly opened by the time this journey is blogged. we actually travelled past it just a couple of weeks before the ceremony – but here is a link about the extension to show willing.]

As we crossed over the Lea we noticed the amount of buildings demolished from years back and the cranes in place – signs of the coming Olympics no doubt. Interestingly down towards Aldgate the wealth of the city has started to encroach outwards and east and the contrasts were then stark between what the early part of the trip had indicated (small, mainly Asian owned businesses) and then the Gherkin, which is very photogenic – not that we managed anything so good from a crowded bus – the Bank of England etc. The less said about banking the better. Cornhill, Cheapside and Holborn are much more accessible by bus than any other vehicle and though it was raining by now the Number 25 thoughtfully deposited us by the side entrance of John Lewis after an hour and a half of excellent entertainment.
P.S. To be perfectly honest, the Route 25, which is a single-decker articulated or bendy bus is not very photo-friendly, especially when it is raining and crowded, so these pictures relate to stages on the trip but have been 'borrowed' from other routes within our ever-growing archive.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Number 24 Route

Monday 10 August 2009 We were a party of four this time: our third-ever paying member, and only our second man. (see the 4 for previous man and payers) You will see his impact on this page if you note the clever counter, so thanks, Tim.

Well now, the 24. This was indeed a journey of two halves.
By the time the other three of us met Linda in Grosvenor Road, Pimlico, she had ascertained that buses would be terminating at Victoria, as there was traffic trouble up west. Undeterred, we climbed aboard our first hybrid bus, ‘a red bus going green for London’. We’d had a bit of a wait, but the views of river and the power station were fine. We went past Shelley House, where James used to live in his bachelor days, and turned north through Pimlico. The large numbers of people at every stop were evidence that the service was being disrupted. We enjoyed the Blue Plaque to Walter Clopton Wingfield, ‘father of lawn tennis’ and passed Pimlico School, now Pimlico Academy, which looks as if it will have succeeded in having its new building completed during the summer break. The Elusive Camel clearly isn’t a pub any more, rather a cocktail bar. It would be nice to find an explanation for the name, but I failed.

At Victoria Station, about 10.50am, all 24s seemed to be terminating, and the always-helpful man in the information kiosk explained that there had been a big crash in the Tottenham Court Road, and that nothing would be going that way. So we revised our plans and took the C2, newly extended to start and finish at Victoria, all the way to Parliament Hill Fields. By the time we get to put that journey onto the blog, the world will be a different place.
A pleasant stroll across the south end of the Heath, past the lavish playgrounds and paddling pool, brought us to South End Green, where we saw a number of 24s ready to head off to Pimlico. So we hopped on, at about 12.15.

We thought St Dominic’s Priory was being converted to housing, but we seem to be wrong. Malden Street was interesting, with public housing one side, and 19th century terraces the other, and we reached Chalk Farm, doing a twiddle through Camden to pass the HQ of the Transport Police and head down Bayham Street, passing Richard Cobden and Mornington Crescent as we headed towards the Euston Road. The National Temperance Hospital looks more decrepit each time we pass it. It seems that the plans to turn it into the NIMR (National Institute for Medical Research) are running into all sorts of problems. It’s nice to know that our NHS is so rich it can afford to have prime real estate crumbling unused like this. We swept down Gower Street and along Denmark Street, where we noted a blue plaque for Augustus Siebe. Then on down the Charing Cross Road to get a distant glimpse of some bloke on the 4th plinth (we could not tell what he was doing). Then down Whitehall and along Victoria Street to disembark south of the station, having completed the whole route, one way or the other.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Number 23 Route

Westbourne Grove Station to Liverpool Street Station Tuesday August 4th 2009

This was a South London posse expedition, only as Jo was taking healthy exercise in Yorkshire, so Sue G, Mary and Linda emerged into gentle rain after a novel trip on the Hammersmith & City Line to get us to Westbourne Grove. TfL had indicated a trip taking 1hour 35 minutes on this very cross London route, which is in fact a 24-hour service.

Leaving the canal behind we ran briefly alongside the railway and almost immediately ran straight past Erno Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower, which is now subject to a Grade 2 listing and has been a star of film and TV. Greenery is limited round here but we noted some balcony baskets and a small strip of possible guerrilla gardening close to the railway.

The Cobden Working Men's Club in Kensal Road, which was the first of its kind in London, even if no longer living up to its name gave a hint that this had historically been an area for labourers probably here to build tunnels of all sorts. My research tells me there were Potteries also. The bus briefly detours for the Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury’s, which is canal-side, and from there turns into Ladbroke Grove which steadily becomes more gentrified as the bus progresses. All the houses are sizeable – up to 5 stories of white stucco early Victorian – but start very much as multi-occupied and slightly run down before becoming cherished and very large single homes.

The London Plane trees were in full leaf and we were very conscious of them brushing the roof of the bus as we passed underneath. We just glimpsed a blue plaque for a Hablot Knight Browne aka ‘Phiz’ – the illustrator for much of Dickens’ work, who had lived in Ladbroke Grove – before arriving at Elgin Crescent, where the delightfully ice cream coloured houses are, and past the Portobello Road. Some of this area had been blighted by the looming of Westway overhead but seems to have settled over the years. Colville Square had a delightful garden at its heart, and what’s more one open to the public. Just close by is the Brands museum, which started its life in Gloucester as the (Robert Opie Collection of packaging!

Suddenly we were in Westbourne Grove and the most amazing array of upmarket shops such as Joseph, Dyptique, LK Bennett, where there used to be expensive antique shops. The bus continues the length of Westbourne Grove and gradually the shops become more mainstream and mundane as the road narrows. Two of us regretted the passing of the very beautiful Elliott shoe shop in the art nouveau premises on the corner of Westbourne Grove and Chepstow Road. In fact we were held up for some considerable time by the usual (renewal of Victorian mains) road works. The bus had not been particularly busy and while it was stopped I noticed a wheelchair user asking to get on, which the driver refused – however he did let someone impatient to walk off!

Kensington & Chelsea borough gives way to Westminster City and we remembered Dame Shirley Porter and her famous "Homes for Votes" scandal along the Bishops Bridge Road. We slowed again as we followed two articulated 436s along to Paddington Station, where not surprisingly large numbers of passengers got on. We had passed the plaque for Sir Alexander Fleming at St Mary’s hospital before but now we knew (having watched Breaking the Mould) that he may have noticed the beneficial properties of penicillin mould but it took Florey and Chain at Oxford to graft away to find out how to mass produce and dare to test it out.

Of course we then came out onto the Edgware Road, where in spite of its being a Red Route and within the congestion charge zone the traffic was nose to tail so progress to Marble Arch was slow – the number of venues where you can gamble openly seem to be on the increase? This part of the Edgware Road is famous for the Lebanese restaurants, which we have yet to sample. A blue plaque told us that Randolph Churchill (father of Sir W.) lived quite close to Marble Arch at 2 Connaught Place – handy for the shops you might say! This was something like our 6th trip along Oxford Street but there is usually a new development or window display to admire – certainly the upper deck allows you to appreciate the style of the different buildings as when walking the street you tend only to see the goods on offer.

After Oxford Street we turned right down the more salubrious Regent Street and through Piccadilly, noting the new Tfl display. Down Haymarket, where a non-EH blue plaque on New Zealand House recalls Ho Chi Minh’s stint in the kitchens of the now-defunct Carlton Hotel, and across the bottom of Trafalgar Square – it was just on mid-day so the plinth person was getting down and the American college band just striking up. Going down the Strand this way is much faster and we nipped along and round the Aldwych, wondering who would build 92 luxury apartments on what is effectively a traffic island? The answer appears to be the Norman Foster Partnership.

We passed the very handsome Royal Courts of Justice and were thankful, all three of us, for not having to appear there any more. Fleet Street is narrow but retains some charm though most of the newspapers are long gone with small churches such as St Dunstan-in-the-West and later the Wren church of St. Martin’s with St Jude, after the bus drove across Ludgate circus.

The 1 hour 35 minutes was up so the driver decided to terminate at St. Paul’s Cathedral, not a bad place to stop and admire the scenery except the bus was so close to the end of its journey it seemed a bit silly. Very honestly we waited for the next 23 which went alongside a big 60s block – Bucklersby House – being demolished and the now familiar statues of Peabody and Gladstone. Then just over London Wall we arrived at our destination, the back of Liverpool Street Station.

Mary was of the view that you did not get your 30p’s worth of toilet when she remembered the rotating and self-cleaning facilities at Seoul airport, but Linda thought Liverpool Street was in an altogether better league than the grim facility (note the singular) at London Bridge…

2 hours in total when you count the wait to finish on a second bus.