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.


  1. Wood Green is a bit chainy, yes... but I'd like to offer a mention of the Big Green Bookshop on Brampton Park Road, just off the main drag. It's a friendly, independent bookshop that's worth a look. You could probably have seen it from the bus if you'd been looking in the right direction at the right time!

    Muna's Sudanese/Eritrean restaurant is pretty good. The coffee ceremony is fun too.

    Finally, re the spelling of Haringey/Harringay — a local assures me that the borough is spelled "Haringey" while the neighbourhood within the borough is spelled "Harringay". So Harringay is a subset of the London Borough of Haringey, and it's not the "Haringey Ladder" but the "Harringay Ladder".

  2. Kake is correct. Harringay = neighbourhood; Haringey = borough. Historically both are legitimate, but the borough spelling had laid dormant for a few hundred years till it was revived by the newly formed Haringey Council in 1965. This article on the BBC's h2g2 site gives more of the story. This Wikipedia article gives chapter & verse.

    PS: Green Lanes isn't a place, it's a road - as your link shows by linking to Green Lanes N16 which is Stoke Newington and not on the 29's route.

  3. Hm. You missed out pretty much everything between Manor House and and Camden, which is about 50% of the route.