Tuesday, 20 October 2009

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.

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