Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Number 33 Route

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Just back from getting to know Nicholas, still a bit too young for bus trips (as Gore Vidal said,'Never have children, only grandchildren'), Mary and I travelled on the first 'small' bus in the numerical list. The 33 starts from the lower garage at Hammersmith, and wends its way southwards to Fulwell, a place unknown to us until today. Departing at 11.20, we headed over Hammersmith Bridge, with happy memories of the good times when it was pedestrian-and- cycling-only, and down through the green Castelnau area to Barnes and Roehampton. The Upper Richmond Road was slow, thanks to London's Victorian watermains, so we had time to look around. We passed Holmes and Daughters, the Funeral Directors, and also Hickey's Almshouses before reaching the narrow, attractive streets of central Richmond, and dropping on on Richmond Bus garage, before moving on over Richmond Bridge. We agreed that we did not feel particularly 'north of the river' as we passed Marble Hill, with streets and restaurants named for the local poet, Alexander Pope. (here are some quotations for you)
We spent a few minutes passing through Teddington, before reaching Fulwell Bus Garage after a 70 minute journey.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Number 32 Route

14 September 2009

Linda having posted 3 we prepared earlier, we set off on the 32 while she is off in Eastern Europe, having – we hope – a sunny time. Mary, Renee and I met at Edgware Station, visiting the Broadwalk shopping centre first to use the excellent facilities, and we were off by 10.20. The 32 route to Kilburn Park Station covers much of Renee’s ‘home’ area, and she showed us where she had worked for Green Shield Stamps, as well as various of her local shops and the Edgware Community Hospital, with which she is not impressed! We also passed two pubs with strange deer-related names, the ‘Change of Hart’ and the ‘Bald Faced Stag’, but as usual, none of the reviewing websites bothers to explain the names.

This was very much a retail route, with many oriental shops, including the enormous Wing Yip supermarket, but also a good smattering of Polish shops and services, as we went through Hendon. The route goes down to Staples Corner but not into Brent Cross (reminding me of the old Goons joke about catching the 29 bus because it goes straight past Holloway Prison and you would not want to go in)

There were many pawnbrokers as well as charity shops, something which we had noticed on the 16 and 31, whose routes we were following for a while. We liked the Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society, which is more usually just known as 'Foresters'. We also passed the national HQ of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and two other Kilburn stations, before reaching Kilburn Park Station and ending the trip, just 50 minutes after departure. Not the most exciting bus route we have been on, but enlivened by the company and conversation of Renee, and some rather strange advertisements along the way.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Number 31 Route

White City Bus Garage to Camden Town

Monday June 15th 2009

Two earlier buses had led us to the White City Bus garage, which proved to be a spacious, state of the art landscaped area, complete with toilets and enquiries office and a bonus public clock. The buses were clustered according to destinations centred on a turn of the century brick-built temple to the bus – namely the old garage, complete with immaculate internal tiling. We had eaten our sandwiches watching the lunchtime shoppers nipping into Westfield Shopping Centre (which probably paid for the garage renewal). The bus was consistently half full on top mainly with younger people stopping for retail therapy at the many key points along its route.Fortified we set off back to the Shepherds Bush roundabout and Holland Park Avenue – wide and tree-lined with some very grand white houses, especially on the South side. Norland Square is quiet and grand, and was also one of the early locations for the Norland Nanny college, now relocated to Bath.

This route was familiar from visiting Sylvia (mother and mother-in-law to today’s passengers) who lived in Clarendon Road from 1971 until her death in July 1997. The boutique shops looked even more expensive than they did in her day (we could hear her mutter about unnecessary purchases) but kept us reminiscing till Notting Hill Gate – the Coronet Cinema, originally a Victorian theatre, and the Gate Picture House (older and more independent minded) are both still functioning, and close to the corner is the Gate theatre, where family-member and blog-follower Eliza has performed in her time.

At this point the bus swings left to take in Portobello Road – the market was not very active on a Monday but the shops reflect a well-heeled local population that likes individual rather than mass-produced goods. The mature trees either side also indicate how well established the gardens are, and we crept along Westbourne Grove admiring the villas again. The Gotham gallery intrigues as does the number of roads (and therefore bus stops) named after a series of saints – St Charles earlier, then St. Anne’s, St. Mark’s and finally St. Stephen’s. Are these are remnants of old parishes? Certainly not all the churches remain. Hard to believe this was once dodgy Peter Rachman and Stephen Ward territory back in the day.

Leaving Westbourne Grove behind, we crossed over the Grand Union canal and the Harrow Road, where ? Westminster/Kensington & Chelsea seem to have enhanced the crossroads with public toilets. We felt there must be a story behind the naming of The Skiddaw pub (a homesick fell walker perhaps) as it seemed a little out of place, whereas another pub still sported its very handsome and large Taylor Walker lantern, like this one.

We crept up to Kilburn Park alongside the railway (the Chiltern line all the way) and passed the literary council blocks – Bronte and Fielding, which though tall are still dwarfed by the enormous Victorian St. Augustine’s Church. Alongside that we spotted the RSPCA Animals War Memorial Dispensary though Jo threatened to do nameless things were we ever to contemplate giving her a waif and stray kitten. It’s not that we don’t like Kilburn but we had already been up and down the High Road twice already so to cross it heading towards Belsize Park and South Hampstead* was more varied, keeping the railway still on our right. The Kilburn bookshop offered Polish books, quite a departure for an area long associated with the Irish community. We swung round the Swiss Cottage one way system, which is the rather run down cinema and the Swiss Chalet pub and rather unexpectedly the bus terminated outside the library (I can remember going there from school* in the Sixties and wondering why all the books by Freud were in the restricted area) and Basil Spence swimming pool.

Boarding the next 31 we headed down Adelaide Avenue which has a high density of Camden housing low and high rise plus some pretty upmarket homes often bought by the Primrose Hill celebrity set. For some reason all the side roads are named after public schools – Winchester, Radley, Merton and of course Eton, leading us to wonder whether Eton still owned the land? Still the bus turns right at Chalk Farm, just ‘en face de’ Marine Ices and for once it was actually warm enough to think about getting off to sample what I think is the best ice cream in London. This approach to Camden used to offer a wider variety of individual shops but now all seems given over to clothing and vintage frocks. The Roundhouse, and its neighbouring concert venue was trailing Oasis and Kasabian upcoming, and the Stables at Camden Lock were just about rebuilt after the fire. However this is a one-way system and we wheeled left into Hawley Road pausing long enough to let us wonder what ‘Quo Sursum in volo videre’ was doing on a pub sign might mean. [Much post-bus Googling leads us to either the intended motto of Minnesota or the actual motto of Lord Adare, but not feeling much the wiser either way!]

The bus let us off round the back. In comparison to many routes, this intrepid 31 has to negotiate, especially after Notting Hill, some narrow and windy roads with many left and right turns and that’s no mean feat for a double decker – it was some 20 minutes over its expected time of 40 minutes but an excellent trip which I had for some reason eagerly anticipated (perhaps because I often saw it passing but never got on?) and was not disappointed

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Number 30 Route

Hackney Wick to Marble Arch
Monday August 17th 2009

This came as the very accessible return trip from the 26 which had left us at Hackney Wick and was only a short walk round the corner for the four of us – including two followers Tim and JF, who contributed to the photos. Intriguingly the bus stop was opposite the Church of St. Mary of Eton (with St Augustine) and sure enough Eton College decided in 1880 “It is desirable to connect school distinctly with some charitable work in London” – Hackney of course being seen as worthy of good works. The bus itself was immaculate – it still smelt of new bus and was a very clean pastel blue all over inside. It was also incredibly busy with many passengers, and their children, going shopping along the way.

We all wondered what Wick might mean and guessed it used to be Wyke, as a very extensive Housing Estate along both sides of the road seemed to be known as the Wyke estate. As soon as we passed under the A12 we entered Hackney borough, which was promising free cycle tuition for its workers and residents. There was little other than housing on this particular stretch but we did note ‘the Prince Edward’ (not the current Royal) and ‘the Duke of Wellington’. ‘The General Browning MOTH Club’ was also intriguing: apparently it is an ex-servicemen’s meeting place ("Memorable Order of Tin Hats") using the old Trades Hall.

We came round Paragon Road one-way system which seemed familiar to some of us, and then were right in the heart of Hackney, with its library, Town Hall and of course the very noble Hackney Empire. After that we passed under several rail bridges carrying the Central and North London rail links. Down Mare Street where Julie and Jo spotted some fine, and surprisingly un-grimy plaster work and Linda noted the Children’s Services and Child Protection offices for Hackney (which in 2004 was officially named the “most deprived local authority in England”). By now the traffic was getting much denser and the pace of the bus slower, though Julie thought the driver was very nippy at the lights – a characteristic of many London drivers it has to be said. Amherst Road led us onto Dalston Lane, which as the name suggests winds somewhat. Either side were Sutton Dwellings but also the very handsome and renovated Arts & Crafts Navarino Mansions.

Just after the St. Mathias Boys’ club (more evidence of the ‘London poor’ being targets for philanthropic undertakings/enterprises) a diversion seemed to take us round in a circle. We passed the Queensbridge Quarter New Homes, not far from the very evident work being done on the East London line, and eventually back on track onto the Balls Pond Road, with Sylko and Swan (suppliers for the sewing trade) still giving a clue to what were traditional occupations for this area. We even passed Arthur’s cafĂ©, which we have learned to love on our travels, but much of the Balls Pond Road is featureless, apart from busy traffic, and then suddenly you are in leafy Islington complete with civic hanging baskets and desirable Georgian properties, with equally desirable gardens as far as we could see over their walls.

We were now on territory familiar from route 19 and approaching Highbury Corner where again we took the turning for Islington, which is Upper Street, with its innumerable restaurants, boutiques, and general air of affluence. The communal flower beds had been grown into a shape like an anchor, perhaps a reference to the pub opposite (the Hope and Anchor) though pretty flowers seem an unlikely venture for a pub trading on its “punk/metal/alternativeness” – make up your own mind!

Some old pubs remain pubs, others are now trendy cocktail bars like Albert & Pearl. Just past Islington Town Hall – our second set of civic offices this trip – we spotted the In and Out doors for the Islington Dispensary Rebuilt 1886. Approaching the Angel, where road works had narrowed the lanes to single file only, we joined a queue of many buses – the 4, 19, 38, 43 and 56 which told use we still have a few more excursions to Upper Street to come! Progress was so slow I noticed a couple get off, presumably to buy or deal with whatever they needed and get back on our 30 further down Upper Street, where we had jammed. The ‘Angel Building’ is modern and as yet largely vacant, probably because it is not due for completion until 2010 For once we turned right along the Pentonville Road, which without being as smart as Islington has some fine houses left – the Crafts Council have their offices here just before the new Jury’s Inn, and we passed along a reservoir which Jo says is the New River, brought into London 400 years ago to satisfy the growing population. Other organisations have their headquarters here – Sense and also Veolia, which apparently deals with the rubbish disposal for Camden (who would have thought it with that name). NIDO offers very dense student accommodation for London based students and provides a virtual tour here. By now we were passing the old Thameslink access which has moved up the road. You certainly cannot miss the still-being-renovated St Pancras hotel and the King’s Cross frontage is apparently due a much-needed renovation.

The Euston Road brought us in quick succession to Euston station, the British Library and Unison offices, St Pancras Parish Church, The Friends’ House and the Wellcome Collection. In order to go straight on the bus has to go round the 1 way system that is the new University College Hospital (another return visit for frequent fliers) and past the end of Harley Street and several other upmarket streets – we noticed that the London Clinic (private) was rebuilding and that the high-tech cancer treatment CyberKnife had bought some advertising space for their recently opened first UK centre for private patients. Just after we passed Baker Street station we were inspected, quite unusual on what is not a bendy bus, and we admired the new building clad in diamond panes at 55 Baker Street. This used to be the former HQ of M&S and the cladding has brought it into the 21st century – meanwhile the M&S Flagship store on the corner was busily celebrating 125 years and looking distinctly ‘retro’. Anyway we turned right out of Baker Street and stopped almost immediately in front of the Primark that signifies the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street and the end of our trip. It had taken only 1hour 15minutes, which was pretty impressive considering the distance it had come, the high number of passengers, and the delays round Islington. No blue plaques, but very many pubs!

NB It was of course a Number 30 bus, while on diversion from the earlier incidents that morning which was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on 7/7/2005.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The Number 29 Route

Wood Green to Trafalgar Square
Monday July 13th 2009

[September note: for a variety of reasons, the regulars will not be riding any buses for a week or two. Fortunately, we have hit a part of the sequence where there is a run of three “ones we prepared earlier” so we will be posting those to keep our followers happy. New journeys will resume shortly…]

This came as stage 5 on what proved to be a long day so we were travelling close to the rush hour on a very busy articulated (bendy to you and me) bus – it was also rather hot and at one point down the line the bus stopped briefly to cool off. Jo is a frequent part user of this route and tells us it is known locally as the ‘mad bus’. However today seemed eminently sane with the only quirkiness detected being a young woman doing her tai’chi in the seats in front. A neighbouring passenger was sporting a very new hoodie with the tag line ‘creating limitless heights’ over which I am still musing.. On with the trip.

Wood Green itself was very busy – it offers every chain store you can think of and there were many pedestrians, and passengers beeping repeatedly to get off.

Once we swung straight across into Green Lanes it was impossible not to note the variety of eateries and produce shops – even if Turkish dominates presided over by the Cyprus Potato Marketing Board at the start of the Lanes; the Tugra Baklava Bakery looked tempting and there was also the Muna, offering Sudanese and Eritrean food, and the Tara, Kurdish and Middle Eastern. The Project does have a follower who lives round here – Green Lanes girl – who would have been out at work today so we saluted the end of her road, living as she does in what is known as the Haringey ladder. In the world of social work Haringey is a by-word for ‘How not to do it’ so there was a certain amount of holding up charms to ward off contagious ills but we did agree that any borough that does not know how to spell itself (we saw ads for Haringey Fostering but also Harringay Library) needs sorting out badly. The bus works its way along two sides of the not inconsiderable Finsbury Park, turning right at Manor House station. The Spring Park Hotel, which had colonised adjacent period buildings, has obviously gone into steep decline and was boarded up. Down the road past ‘The Blackstock’ which dominates this corner (beware the regulars apparently) and the frontage of the Islington City College (see the number 17 route) and we were back into the altogether more organised and doubtless wealthier Islington borough.

Along at 202 Camden Road you can still see the White building which in 1870 was the second purpose built site for Miss Buss’s school for girls that eventually led to North London Collegiate School, which post war has been educating privately in Edgware, and Camden School for girls just down the 29 route at Sandall Road offering free education. Notwithstanding the split we do honour:
‘Ms Beale and Miss Bus, so unlike us
Cupid’s darts do not feel, Miss Buss and Miss Beale’
as in many ways they laid the template for women’s education. The big houses provide offices for charities such as the Carr Gomm Society and more halls of residence for the University of London, and further down the Headquarters for the British Transport police. Mornington Crescent (in real life as opposed to the radio game) always strikes me as a little seedy and I can still remember when Northern Line trains DID NOT stop there so it was not surprising when we saw hard core drinkers outside the 3 Lions pub. British beer only on sale.
As you swing round to the bottom end of Camden High Street you now pass Koko, which has been a club for as long as I can remember, and in fact was traditional music hall, featuring Charlie Chaplin, and a cinema before becoming a club during the punk era. It does keep changing its name.

The Temperance Hospital looks very shut down and very sad and we remembered (whilst on women education pioneers) that the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital has now been subsumed into the University College Hospital, which we passed not for the first time! Back along Gower Street with its plethora of blue plaques – it really is a historic hub of literary, scientific and artistic London with the nearby RADA and Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood (anyone for 'Desperate Romantics' then?) Just past St. Giles we noticed the new build going up in Lego colours of green and orange and came over all Prince Charles like about whether it really suited the area?

The very fine looking (drinkers may differ) Porcupine pub on the other hand seems the epitome of what an historic pub should look like. Down past the National Portrait Gallery, Edith Cavell and St. Martins-in-the-Fields all newly cleaned and spruce and into Trafalgar Square where there were additional crowds looking up at the 4th plinth (on this occasion a somewhat static Welsh Quaker). The sun was shining brightly but it was well after five so we beat a hasty retreat home, after about an hour on the bus.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Number 28 Route

Tuesday 1 September 2009
Kensal Rise to Wandsworth

My turn to be on my own (the first time since the Number 2) and an easy journey to the start from Camden Road to Kensal Rise on the North London Line, or rather 'The Overground'.

I was onto the 28 by 10.20, with an official journey time to Wandsworth of 71 minutes. We zigzagged along routes known to us from other buses, past Asian and Portuguese shops but also strong evidence of Caribbean beer drinkers. We headed generally southwards, pausing to change drivers at Westbourne Park Bus Garage, just as we'd gone over the canal, under the Westway and under the railway. With all these transport links, I was not surprised to see that we were in amongst the Brunel estate.

We were going at rather a stately pace, stopping for pedestrians who had not yet made up their minds to cross, decelerating in case the lights turned from green to amber, and so it was not surprising that we were later held for a while 'to regulate the service'. Fortunately, and thanks to the Guardian, we all know that drivers get into trouble for 'fast running' as opposed to 'slow running'.

We passed The Arancina coffee bar with an orange Fiat 500 in the window, and then a right turn and a little wiggle took us to bendy Kensington Church Street and a sports shop called Sweaty Betty. Other retail highlights were an ex-church selling 'beds on 4 floors' - happily no jokes about 'heavenly rest' - and The Kiwi Kitchen in North End Road. The only blue plaque I saw, as Linda found with the 27, was David Low in Melbury Court. This does, however, gives us all a chance to remind ourselves what a great cartoonist he was.

One of the pleasures of this route was saying 'hello' to many other buses we had been on, and seeing remembered highlights, like the excellent bike racks in the middle of High Street Kensington. Also, on this route, a lot of posh shops, like Ken Lo's restaurant, and a shop selling Iranian caviar. The 28 also took me to Sand's End, which we had seen advertised before but never visited. It proves to be the bit of Fulham that takes you down to the river.

Over Wandworth Bridge and we were into 'the Brighter Borough', squeezing under the railway bridge and onto a bricked piece of road (not that we needed slowing down any further) to pass the Town Hall and South Thames College ('shaping your future'). We arrived at the South Side Shopping Centre in our allotted 71 minutes running time. I estimate that, if the drivers had gone at the pace of the 87 (which I took for my return journey and about which you shall read in due course) we could have done it in 40 minutes!