Tuesday, 27 October 2009

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.

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