Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Number 40 Route

Aldgate to Dulwich Library

Tuesday August 4th 2009

We, being the South London posse, did this route, in its entirety of course, as a way of getting back from Liverpool Street, starting out with a brisk walk down Middlesex Street, known more familiarly as Petticoat lane – however it was quiet and not active today. It is a historic Sunday market and the Victorians felt it should be renamed rather more ‘properly’ than the descriptive label of what was on offer! As we arrived at Aldgate a very kind Number 40 driver, who was just finishing his route, gave us a lift round to the starting point of the outward bound Number 40 which we ran to catch. It is a double-decker and from the off was pretty busy even upstairs – a gentleman sat behind us seemed to be conducting his business by phone in three languages.

We recalled how shops used to be a scarcity in the City but there are now several branches of many clothes chains, particularly along Fenchurch Street – an indication of the number of women now employed within the ‘Square Mile.’ We also admired all the public clocks, and might try to photograph some more, where we can. The rain had stopped and gave us better photo opportunities from the top deck. Before we knew where we were we had passed The Monument. It is well worth the 400 or so step climb for an excellent view (the website will give you one without the effort). Then we were flying over London Bridge, with excellent views of HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge. Borough High Street has lots of character and was again busy with people on their lunch hour breaks.
The roads and streets south of London Bridge became very important as early a the Middle Ages (sorry historians this is as precise as I can get here) as it was the main southern route in and out of the City and numbers of inns and other ‘providers’ were established to cater for those travelling to and from London – and of course this was the start of the pilgrims’ way to Canterbury. Today we spotted the ‘Blue-Eyed Maid’, which is probably in its second incarnation following earlier fires.

The John Harvard Library commemorates Southwark being the birthplace of John Harvard (1607-1638), who emigrated with his 400 books but more importantly left an endowment for a college in his name.

Though the present St George’s church was built in 1736 it was close by the old Marshalsea prison. Literary references abound and much of Sarah Water’s Fingersmith is set in Lant Street. And a great read it is too.

Further down Newington Causeway we passed our second court buildings of the day – this time the Inner London Criminal Court where Mary had been called to give evidence and Roger to serve on the jury (not together!) Not surprisingly Elephant & Castle was as busy as ever and with about 26 routes calling here this has already become very familiar. Down the Walworth Road we passed more libraries and shops that we have described on earlier trips – and on down to Camberwell Green (which isn’t very) and more courts, this time the Inner London Juvenile Courts. The volume of traffic at Camberwell makes it unlovely and unlovely it has been for the last 40 years. We know that from time to time there are some attractive squares off to the side, and the buildings backing on the Maudsley are handsome but there is little of merit.

Most of Denmark Hill itself is given over to King’s College Hospital in all its shapes (dental – outpatients – sexual health – day surgery) and as local users we appreciate the skills within the seeming chaos. The bus rounds two corners to skirt the very pretty Denmark Hill station and passes the forbidding William Booth College. Someone has added a group of sculptures – wolf chasing sheep – just on the bend?

Dog Kennel Hill always feels a bit like a roller coaster – even more so from the top deck front seat but the view right out to Crystal Palace made it worth while. Past the Goose Green roundabout comes the ever more trendy East Dulwich with its indoor market at Zenoria Street and the Friday and Saturday North Cross Road Market, though Sue, as a fairly regular stall holder, had words to say about the very poor parking and loading facilities or rather the lack of them. Just before we arrived at Dulwich Library (see the start of the Number 12) we saw 2 pre-fabs filling in a bomb site with a splendid cottage garden in front.

This neat little trip had taken just on 40 minutes and brought us so close to home we could then walk the rest of the way…

The Number 39 Route

Putney Bridge to Clapham Junction (Falcon Road)

Monday October 26th 2009

Jo and I met at the further reaches of the District Line on a very lovely glowing autumn morning to board our very modest Number 39 – a small, single-decker and very local bus that travels within Wandsworth borough rather than going much further afield. Linda remembers waiting hours for this number when stranded up in the ‘estates’ back in her early social work days but some thirty years on it offers a pretty regular and punctual service, used mainly by older persons and younger mothers getting to the shops.

The bus pulls out of the charming side-streets of Fulham (Gonville Street) and immediately turns left to cross the river – today the Thames was very low but we had a good view of the Star and Garter on the Putney side – it’s a beautiful old Victorian riverside pub, however reviews indicate that it’s had something of a New York-themed bar makeover and attracts quite heavy drinkers. This bit of the river is famed for the start of the boat race and the two tend to go together. Jo and Andrew had walked the Thames Path more than once and very pleasant it is round here. The 39 made good progress up the High Street, past the Putney Exchange, several pubs we had seen on previous trips and up Putney hill passing, but not stopping at, the Green Man. We glimpsed at the traffic below heading north and into town on the A3 and it was stretched far far back – times when it feels really good to be on the bus.

The number 39 serves many of the Wandsworth estates – the Southmead and the Ackroydon, built mainly in the Sixties – the trees have matured and given the age of many of these low rise and maisonette type flats and houses they still look well cared for. Not surprisingly there are several schools including a Primary Pupil Referral Unit (bit scary to think a 5 year old has to be taken out of class) and some health clinics too. The bus dips down to Southfields station, which used to be the recommended route for public transport access to Lawn Tennis (get off here and onto a coach) but maybe there are more direct routes today. On into Earlsfield which it is tempting to assume must be named for the same reason that the local gastro-pub is called the Earl Spencer, but there seems to be no connection: the area is named after some-one’s home sold off to the railway company on the condition they kept the name for the station. Earlsfield has a significant park –King George’s Park, opened by King George V in 1923 and offering walks, allotments and a sometime pool. The park is located just behind what is now the Southside Centre (Linda remembers when it was the Arndale). Apart from the usual shopping centre outlets this one does have a 14-screen cinema also, quite neatly tucked away.

Inevitably we rounded the Wandsworth one way system to pick up some more passengers opposite Wandsworth Town all Hall, alongside the Wandle, which we had passed earlier too and up East Hill. The Wandle was something of a victim of its own success as the 90 or so mills that were built along it caused so much pollution it took years to get back to the trout filled river it once was. The web will offer you an 11 mile heritage walk ,which we may one day follow when the buses take us out to Carshalton…

Today we noticed lots of undertakers (usually they cluster close to cemeteries) but maybe these had been established when there was still a St John’s Hospital here, now reduced to the St. John’s Therapy centre. ‘The Secret Library’ in SW11 turns out to be (yet another) club/bar – however it does seem to have some links to the Rosicrucians – how very Dan Brown! St John’s Hill,which is the approach to Clapham Junction, is far more gentrified than when Linda originally worked here but there are still signs of the recession in closed shops and unfinished building projects. We stayed on our cosy 39 round the corner into Falcon Road where there is a smallish bus garage abutting the supporting structure to the railway Junction.

A bus that does what it says on the tin with no thrills or spills.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Number 38 Route

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Well, this is another one we prepared earlier, part of a round trip with the 8 and another bus (which we shall come to in about 2019, I think) that took us from Victoria to Bow, thence to Clapton Pond and there onto the 38. Linda (there were just the two of us that day) feels that this account should have a black border, as it was our first experience of the less-than-shiny side of London bus travel.

We got on with a number of other people at Clapton at 13.20, and were impressed by the handsome Round Chapel but then we became stuck in dense, mostly bus, traffic, and at Hackney Central Station, the driver announced he was terminating his route.

So we waited for another (time for Jo to buy a sandwich) and climbed on the next at 13.40. Diversions around Dalston Lane (for the east London Line, which WILL make life easier, so we’re not complaining much) slowed us down more, and we had time to note ‘Arthur’s Café – Father, Son and Grandson’ Even if you don’t usually bother with our links, watch this one!

There was a brief fracas in the seats in front of us when a young pregnant woman got on with a friend and a dog and the small boy near whom she sat shrank away and ‘kissed his teeth’. She took great exception to the insult to her dog and used some fairly striking language, but it calmed down when the boy’s accompanying adult apologised and moved him away. Hmm.

On down to Upper Street at the statue of Sir Hugh Myddleton (Linda did not know about the New River, but she does now!) and so past the Angel, Sadlers Wells and Clerkenwell to Holborn, where we were told that the bus would terminate at Hyde Park Corner. Our turn to suck our teeth, but steady progress was made through to Soho and down to Piccadilly, where we were cheered by a funky cartoon of Sir Isaac Newton on the hoardings of Green Park Station, which is being improved So we got off and waited for a further 38, which eventually reached Victoria at 14.55. More than 90 minutes, and an unpleasant scene: not what we are used to!

The Number 37 Route

Tuesday May 26th 2009

Putney Heath (Green Man) to Peckham Bus Garage

(As can be seen from the date above this was a trip and account prepared earlier.)

We did this route, in its entirety of course, as a way of getting back from the wilds of Putney to the more familiar nearly-home territory (for Linda and Sue) of Peckham. In fact the Green Man terminus was delightful complete with friendly caff (as opposed to café) and bench for picnic. (See also Route 14)

We left at 12.35 on what was a busier bus with changing and frequently phone using upstairs passengers. Coming down Putney Hill gave us a chance to admire the view back towards the Thames, and again we picked up passengers outside South Thames College. One is also very aware of the continual overhead planes low over the South Circular heading for Heathrow. At the foot of Putney Hill the bus goes right and follows said South Circular or close to it right round to south-east London. For Linda, who had worked for Wandsworth Social Services both in SW18 and for four years in Putney, this was something of a nostalgia trip, as it had been her ‘commuting’ bus. Still it was over 30 years since she had made the journey all the way and she must have fallen asleep on a very regular basis especially in the later stages of the trip past Clapham. When Linda worked in Wandsworth it always smelt of beer and you still saw Young’s dray horses delivering to local pubs from the Ram Brewery (now subject to development plans).

The unremarkable library on West Hill has in its time been the centre for child-minding and ‘Intermediate Treatment’ (YOT type stuff related to the CYP Act 1969) so it’s some indication of the gentrification of Wandsworth that it is now the De Morgan Centre Wandsworth Town Hall manages to stay pretty clean, situated as it is on a ferocious one-way system on the South Circular, and it has often starred on TV standing in for hotels or foreign embassies – the interior is equally splendid. The bus flies up East Hill and over the Trinity Road looking more impressive than its A214 number might indicate. Down past the old LCC ‘Fisheries’ estate gate, now the only remnant of a grim series of blocks called Hull and Scunthorpe and already demolished in the Seventies, and on down by the old cinema now being renovated as the Lumiere Apartments (though the recession must have bitten as they were originally advertised as coming on stream in 2008.)

Clapham Junction has some stature – Arding & Hobbs (now Debenhams) and the restored ‘Grand Palace of Varieties’ built 1900, surely a former music hall and now the claphamgrand (sic) a venue for stag and hen parties. Will G. had lived close to the station and enjoyed the lively and very mixed shops of St John’s Road SW11 offering everything from pound shops to Jamie Oliver products. We also loved ‘The Temperance Billiard Hall’ offering 12 tables – and presumably no alcohol. Our driver was zipping slightly too quickly along Clapham North Side (making photography difficult!) and screeched to a halt on a pedestrian crossing giving us time to admire Thornton Place, formerly the largest homeless hostel for men in London and now – see for yourself. Then comes Trinity Church – Sue had been to a special Carol Service there with thespians reading the lessons.

The traffic was slow round Clapham Common and as we rounded Park Hill there was a true mish-mash of architectural buildings – modern estates, thirties semis, the odd Victorian cottage. Clapham Park Road was wide but busy; still with some industry even if only of the Sunlight laundry variety and as we approached Brixton down Acre Lane the bus got busy even upstairs. Traffic round Lambeth Town Hall was hectic, due in part to the road works (I presume Victorian water main replacement) and by now locals out enjoying the green areas of Windrush Square.

Effra Road is not beautiful and dotted with warehouses and industrial units, though we noted some local residents had really tried with their front gardens. We wriggled round Brixton Water Lane and past the ‘Poets’ Corner’ of SE24 (Chaucer/Spenser/Shakespeare Roads) and up to the local favourite venue that is the Brockwell Lido. Nearby we celebrated a family member with ‘The Florence’ another renamed pub? More pubs in evidence with the very handsome ‘Half Moon’, which dominates the busy road junction.

From here on the route was on very familiar territory going past the nicely restored North Dulwich station and the local private schools Alleyns' – a more gracious front than JAGS which keeps its best face over the railways line. Dulwich Hospital holds personal memories too – birth place for Sue’s children, serious surgery for others but the current buildings look still to be running down? East Dulwich and Goose Green (where the Christmas geese had been walked in, complete with leather shoes, all the way from Norfolk for the London markets) bring us back to the William Blake Mural (see also Route 12) and thence to Peckham Rye. We admired the Anthony Gormley Bollards, though they do look a bit random, and made quite good progress along Peckham Rye and into the extensive bus garage. As we got off our 37 bus we noted the large spillage of beer on the ground floor, so realise we had been relatively protected upstairs. The trip took about 1hr 15 minutes.
The most stressful aspect of today was getting home on the 197 which was heaving with buggies which didn’t fit, large shoppers with even larger trolleys and bags, and disabled as opposed to merely over 60 bus pass users such as ourselves, so it was quite a salutary ending to a good day.

The Number 36 Route

Monday 19 October 2009
Queen's Park Station to New Cross Gate
Just writing the start and finish of the journey reminds us how amazing the London buses are: all that, from North West to South East, in just 75 minutes!

Mary, Linda and I met at Queen's Park Station, having taken the Bakerloo Line, and walked round into Claremont Street to ensure that we started at the very beginning, although the driver would have preferred to pick us up round the corner. There was also a brief loo stop, but we were off by 10.45, through the attractive terraces of Carlton Vale, to leave Brent and enter Westminster, possibly the oddest London borough, in that it encompasses the really extremely posh, the deprived, and everything in between. Our busy bus shared the route for a while with the 31. There was an excellent pedestrian area where Elgin Avenue approaches the Harrow Road (permeable, as we cyclists like to note) and then we swept past the Science Photo Library well known to Andrew and other science authors. Over the canal and past the new Westminster Academy, and we were down to Royal Oak Station and into Paddington.

We all know how Linda feels about the Edgware Road, but we enjoyed the many Arab shops and eateries, before sweeping (well, not too slowly) round Marble Arch and down Park Lane, where the Westminster gardeners were putting in the winter bedding plants. As we rounded Hyde Park Corner, we spotted the Duck Tour, which has been a feature of many of our journeys, and I drew attention to the Commonwealth Gates and the particular memorial to Commonwealth holders of the VC and GC. I can't find a decent website to link to, so you need to go and look for youselves.
On down to Victoria, less held up than we had been expecting, and Vauxhall Bridge Road, to enter the striking bus station and pass Vauxhall City Farm. Then on past the Brit Oval and a blue plaque for Monty and down into Kennington, with its masses of Public Housing blocks reminding us of the need for speedy reconstruction in the 1940s and 50s. Linda has commented on Camberwell Green before, so I will simply note the wide range of places of worship around here. There proved to be a wealth of plaques along the road through Peckham and on to New Cross, including those for Oliver Goldsmith, Barnes Wallis, John Tallis , Harold Moody and the Founders of the Pioneer Health Clinic of the 1930s. Bus travel is indeed an education in itself.

Terminating at New Cross Bus Garage at about 12.00, we felt we had had a very varied trip, geographically, socially and historically.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Number 35 Route

The Falcon (Clapham Junction) to Shoreditch High Street

Tuesday October 13 2009

Follower Sue kindly joined me today to help with the photography on what was to prove quite an extensive odyssey. The train having delivered us at Clapham Junction, which is all trains to all people, we transferred our attention to the bus on a crisp, clear and ultimately pretty warm autumn day. The head stop is in fact just close to the enormous railway bridge carrying all the mainlines from the South and South West into London, but we quickly passed the shopping hub of Clapham Junction, still dominated by the ghost of Arding & Hobbs.

Once we reached Clapham Common North Side we could really appreciate the autumn colours in all the trees across the still green common and the very finely kept houses. According to the blue plaque one used to be the home of John Walter (1739-1812) who apparently founded The Times newspaper. Just further along is a building that now forms part of the very exclusive Eaton House Schools group, but which, years ago, used to be one of ILEA (the Inner London Education Authority)’s special schools for the ‘delicate’, or open air schools as they were known. In a quiet way, these provided nourishment (breakfast and tea) and fresh air as well as education – it was no coincidence that this one was located near the common, and took children from the more deprived parts of Wandsworth and Lambeth, as indeed the borough boundary falls mid way along North Side. Trinity Hospice along here is also known for its charitable works. It too nestles amongst the trees and some were overgrown enough to bang on the roof of our very nice and clean double decker.

Passenger numbers were steady, including a series of African gentlemen conducting what sounded like business deals as we went on our way.

The bus turns away from Clapham Old Town along Clapham Park Road towards Brixton and we noted a small mural saying that ‘The Good Die Young’ on a take-away pizza shop … research indicates it to be in memory of Antoine Smith, a local resident of 24 years who was shot in this alley just 3 years ago.

Progress through the centre of Brixton, that is round the Town Hall and Ritzy cinema, was much slowed by a combination of both replacement water mains work and no traffic lights, but we passed the time lamenting the passing of the old Bon Marche, which was apparently the first purpose built department store in the country also a branch of John Lewis at one time. Brixton had a very handsome Woolworths too, which also is no more.

Sue lived here when she first came to London and Goldsmiths’ College in 1965, in a Hall of Residence called Armytage, which was in the Brixton Road, and indeed it was opposite the Ram Jam Club. The bus goes the length of Coldharbour Lane, and comes out in Camberwell, just north of King’s College Hospital – close to the Green, though this is not one of the more attractive Greens that often form part of bus destinations. The bus pursues its route up Camberwell Road where the large blocks still stand – when Sue worked as an Education Welfare officer in the mid-70s, she remembers this patch was a pretty deprived area. Evidence of long-standing attempts to help with the deprivation is the presence of Cambridge House, once a ‘settlement’, now more of a local resource and focal point.

By now we had moved on from Lambeth to Southwark and it was clear as we approached Elephant & Castle (please remember about twenty-six different bus routes pass through here so it’s difficult not to be repetitive) that Southwark was working to improve the area – some of the Heygate Estate has already been demolished with the rest of it boarded up. There are several excellent short films like this one on YouTube, which give a very good idea of the life and death of the estate over the last five years. On the other hand someone clearly thinks it’s OK to allow the building of the STRATA block, also known as the Castle Block (and less reverently as the ‘electric razor’) going up just the other side of the roundabout. It was ‘topped out’ in June 2009, but still looks unfinished: only holes where there apparently will be some wind turbines to provide power for the building.

From Elephant the Number 35 heads off through Borough, past some of the sites we had already seen on the Number 21 – St George the Martyr and British School of Osteopathy, the Blue men and Southwark cathedral , which should be better known. There were very extensive queues outside the UK Border Agency’s ‘Overseas Visitor Record Office’ (from which we assume the recent autumn influx of students must be attempting to register).

Very soon we were crossing London Bridge, in significantly better weather than last week, and as always the views up and down river are incomparable and heart lifting, especially from the top of a bus. Regrettably the slowing works in King William Street we encountered last week were still very much in evidence – you have to admire the patience of London bus drivers through the city where they still have to contend with narrow streets, significant traffic and often very selfishly parked white vans…

There is a magnificent old Fire Station building opposite the Broadgate Development with one remaining red door and the rest given over to Tesco’s. The contrasts as you leave the City of London past Liverpool Street & Heron Tower to enter Tower Hamlets are immediately palpable, with the cleanliness and almost glitz of the city giving way to the likes of the boarded up ‘Crown & Shuttle’ pub. The bus stops in a pretty busy thoroughfare by the old Shoreditch Town Hall and police station, and we took the opportunity to explore a very little of what remains of Shoreditch.
The bus took the full hour and a half TfL had said it might and actually I cannot imagine anyone wanting to take it end to end: it is not the most efficient way of getting around, but as a ‘trip’ it was fine and varied enough, covering as it did at least 5 London boroughs including the City of London.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Number 34 Route

Walthamstow Central Bus Garage to Barnet Church
Tuesday October 6th 2009

A North London bus through and through. This journey saw four of us embark on what was a very rainy autumn day compromising the ability to take clear photos. One of the regulars had just returned from Germany where the double-deckers have windscreen wipers UPSTAIRS for the benefit of the passengers. Anyway enough wishful thinking as 2 regulars were joined by two followers from Exeter who were on extended child care duty and had just left a false chicken pox alarm. We set off from Walthamstow where we admired the state of the art bus station complete with toilets, information office and a proper bike shed. The signposts there offer us the Vestry Museum, which we must try and visit next time we are round this way.

The route north out of Walthamstow goes along the fairly winding Hoe Street which has smaller terraced houses both sides – they had seen better days but were for the most part still cared for. Walthamstow clearly hosts a Farmers’ Market, though not today, but we noted the poster appeal for more police to be allocated to the borough. We passed what called it self the ‘Tramway Offices’ so obviously public transport has been serving this part of London for many years, and also spotted the unusually named George Monoux College. Apparently George Monoux had been Lord Mayor in 1514 and founded not only the school but also some almshouses.

At this point the 34 joins the North Circular and follows it for some miles, coming off from time to time for a (not very popular) bus stop or two though clearly it is the only form of public transport along this way. What does the North Circular mean – yes IKEA – and business parks (Trinity Park at least has a nice public clock) and a random golf course called ‘Nice 2 tri’?? Waltham Forest also signposts its Muslim cemetery, which is just off the A406 aka the North Circular. Just after that we sailed over the River Lee (but Lea Valley Ice Skating and Horse Riding centre?) towards Cook’s Ferry roundabout with an excellent view back to the Gherkin in the City. (Having recently flown in from the east on a good day these reservoirs are very visible and easy to identify as you come into London) Just to show you that we are not the only people with leftfield hobbies, I refer to you this website celebrating the detail of said North Circular (which actually makes our progress easier to follow)

By Angel Edmonton we were clearly in Spurs country with supporters flags visible from the road . Angel Road station is on the dreaded National Express East Anglian line (they went on strike 12/13th August 2009) so I expect the locals are pleased they have a choice of buses to get them around as well. We were back on the north Circular and close to the North Middlesex Hospital and then on through Palmers Green to Bowes Park and Arnos Grove, finally branching right, or North to get to Barnet . As we travelled variously through N22 and N11 the most exciting observation was that we caught up with the bus in front (it’s hard to slow down on a 3-lane carriageway) and past ‘Pest of the Week’ – know your enemy.

By N20 we were following the railway line (North Capital Connect ) north out of town. There seemed to be an awful lot of Barnets starting with Friern Barnet, East Barnet, and New Barnet with more to come. In Oakleigh Road, as ever when you are north of the A406 the housing improves dramatically. Whetstone seemed slightly more down market but Barnet still had a fully functioning Odeon cinema, which was cheering to see. This is on the Great North Road which could have taken us all the way to York but which we stayed with only as far as Chipping Barnet, having passed also High Barnet (end of the Northern Line will tell you how far we had gone) and finishing at Barnet Church – not immediately visible from the alighting point but just up the hill in what was clearly once the focal point of Barnet village.

Sadly any bus trip involving the North Circular in the rain is not going to be the most scintillating trip but it certainly took us to a part of North London that we had never visited before and there were some small scale delights.