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.

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