Monday, 30 November 2009

The Number 45 Route

King’s Cross Station to Clapham Park
Monday November 30th 2009

**Apologies for poor quality photos due to bad visibility and dirty windows – we could almost certainly find some shiny sunny photos of parts of this route but that would be cheating… it was wet.**

The three of us assembled easily outside King’s Cross having admired the newly opened King’s Cross Underground ticket office which though large and swish soon looked very busy – ‘in on time and on budget’ they said – here’s hoping for equivalent upgrades to the Mainline station. Though we never got wet the trip seemed rain soaked and soggy after the deluges of the past week or so and there was plenty of evidence of standing water, often in large puddles close to the bus stops. It is only right that the underground station with the greatest number of interchanges should also be served by a wide range of buses and that’s where we were headed for today.

Not surprisingly this bus was very popular out of King’s Cross, though it never got that busy upstairs, leaving that for passengers on a longer journey. We swept down the length of the Gray’s Inn Road, once home to ‘The Guardian’ offices. I must say I was slightly distracted from my task of observing and taking notes as Jo regaled us with tales and details of the (subsidised as she knows the sous-chef) St John Bread & Wine dinner menu she had had over the weekend – we were close to the parent restaurant in Smithfield, but not quite close enough to include it on this trip. From the top there were good views of Great Percy Street and we have a great fondness for the pub sign ‘The Queen’s Head’ depicting as it does the image from the famous Penny Black stamp.

Other delights of the Grays Inn Road include the Eastman Dental Hospital, a Mecca for all things oral, and London Welsh Centre. We speculated as to whether Lloyd George may have attended but as it was opened in 1937 mandated to be both non-political and non-sectarian we think it unlikely! The bus was fairly slow round here – about the only part of the journey that was – so were able to note Roger Street and another pretty pub – the Yorkshire Grey. The bus of course takes you past the Verulam Buildings and all the other legal chambers that are in Gray's Inn (the ‘Estate’ page of this link will offer some excellent panoramas but beware if you tend to motion sickness!!).

Very soon the unmistakeable red brick of the Prudential offices came into view, meaning we had reached Holborn Circus – a short stretch along Charterhouse Street and then we re-joined the yet-to-blog but very familiar 63 route.

The Crowne Plaza hotel close to Blackfriars is a standalone hotel unlike the ‘clusters’ we saw on other parts of the journey. Blackfriars bridge is still very much shrouded while undergoing its station-extending makeover. Though ‘commuter chaos’ was predicted we are now over a year into the 3year closure and things seem to be going pretty well. Perhaps when we come past on the 100 we will be able to see the completed job?

All in all this is very rail-related route as it passes close to many mainlines and along the Blackfriars Road there is also the ‘ghost’ of an older station. The driver skilfully avoided drenching the many waiting passengers at the Elephant bus stop and the traffic was flowing pretty smoothly – the 45’s route south is along the Walworth Road. Coming at the Newington Library from this side it was interesting to note that the war memorial is built into the foundation stone of the building and still had several wreaths standing there.

Very close is the Baldwins Natural Products shop, which has been going since 1844, which must say something about the ongoing popularity of ‘natural remedies’. The top end of East Street has a plaque to Charlie Chaplin (though building demolished). Nearby is a long-standing Marks & Spencer, which looks to be a rather old-fashioned branch – closer inspection indicates it stocks sizes to suit the ’traditionally built’ woman. ‘Lashes & Brows’ on the other hand, testifies to the need to keep every inch of yourself in tip-top grooming. South of the river, much of the route was in Lambeth – very familiar to Mary who used to work here.

We crossed the major junction at Camberwell Green and then rather surprisingly did a little snicket down Orpheus Way in order to cross over and down Coldharbour Lane. The Sun & Doves pub is apparently very popular. Past Loughborough Junction – more rail – and past Brixton’s Mosque, Police Station and Market onto the very busy High Road, where there is a constant but friendly competing tension between the number of pedestrians and the number of buses. From the top we had a good view of the Ritzy Cinema and the nearly completed Lambeth / TFL regeneration works on the Windrush Square, and now the first time down Brixton Hill, where about 7 other routes will follow in time.

The road is wide and the buildings on the left all well set back behind grass and trees so it was not long before we reached that major road junction where the A23 meets the A 205 – also known as the South Circular. The bus in fact takes the latter option for a couple of stops in order to serve the very densely populated area that is the Clapham Park estate and the end of the line – just under an hour as it happens.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Number 44 Route

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Linda and I met at Victoria, Mary having a prior engagement with the dentist, and we spent a little time working out where the head stop for the 44 was: confusing as it stops twice within about 30 metres, but we purists know what's right, and were aboard from the right place by 10.40. We felt quite at home with many of the buses around Victoria: this was not the first time we had been down Buckingham Palace Road and past the flattened piece of land which is testament to what happens when the Prince of Wales does not like a building plan for Chelsea Barracks. Some of the build was supposed to be affordable housing. Ho Hum. Over Chelsea Bridge we went, with the river grey and bleak, and past the great QVC building. Why, we wondered, does a TV shopping channel need such prime real estate?

The new buildings at St James' Grove are apparently all completed and sold, and the old Battersea Park Board School has gone the same way. (actually, at £480,000 for a one bedroom flat (gulp), this link may not be there for long) There is an amazing amount of riverside property going up.

We came to the Latchmere, where Eliza acted a few years ago, and then were passing what used to be the Price's Candle Factory and shop (and is clearly still a candle place) Old York Road had a range of quite fancy shops and an area where the roadway had been replaced with brick, always a sign of an area on the up. Along past Southside and into Garratt Lane, with the Wandle flowing nearby, and we came to that other piece of evidence of encroaching respectability, a Waitrose. We wound along the Lane, passing the Old Sergeant Pub, with its splendid sign.

Soon we were in Earlsfield, and passing Battersea and Wandsworth TUC, founded in 1894 and still campaigning. The Diprose Lodge Almshouses were part of the St Clement Danes Charity, but have now been modernised and are for sale. We noticed a plethora of flower shops near the cemetry opposite the almshouses and on towards Tooting Broadway Station, but things were getting less wealthy, with pawnshops and shops selling clothes 'from 99p' as well as the compulsory Primark. Nevertheless, clearly property here is desirable, and estate agents keen.

After Amen Corner (pronounced Ay-men not ah-men, I gather) and St Boniface's Church, we reached Tooting Station, whence trains would take you to Luton Airport Parkway, if you wanted. We arrived inside the hour, and merely had to cross the road to get a different bus back towards the river.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Number 43 Route

Monday 16 November 2009
Linda's in Hamburg and Mary is in Uganda, so I was alone as I boarded the 43 at London Bridge, heading towards Friern Barnet. A 10.30 start, and it was immediately clear that traffic going south was faring worse than us. The river was looking spectacular in bright sunshine, with views of HMS Belfast, and Tower Bridge having its facelift.

Traffic in the City was much less slow than the last time we were here. I noted that City firms, like us and many London residents, had gone for cyclamen and winter pansies in their window boxes. Following Tim's 'Hitch-hiker's Guide' comment on the 42, I was tickled to see a branch of the former Halifax converted into a 'Rush' hairdressers. The telephone sanitisers will be next.

Up past Finsbury Square, and then we were along the City Road, finally losing the 141 with which we had been in convoy, and passing Moorfields Eye Hospital to reach the Angel and head along Upper Street. I saw a double-decker 38 on its way south: can it be that Boris is really phasing out the bendies? We do know Upper Street quite well by now: the mixture of posh shops and eateries, the Almeida and the Town Hall, noted for its Farmers' Market on Sundays. Also a shop called Fettered Pleasures (only follow the link if you are an adult...)

Along the Holloway Road we passed the handsome building that houses the National Youth Theatre. At this stage the nice person sitting next to me rescued my notebook, which had slid to the floor, asked if I was planning a school trip, and got the whole story. She said that she was moving out of London, and usually sat downstairs on buses: so I recommended the front top when she next visited! various agencies in Islington are demolishing and building in several places.

As we headed towards Muswell Hill we passed a Blue Plaque for Peter Sellers, put up by the Dead Comics Society, not EH, and then a Pizza place where a chef was working on an enormous lump of dough. The handsome buildings of Muswell Hill are a reminder that this area has always been quite prosperous.

The Parish Church of St Peter le Poer was built in Friern Barnet with money raised from selling the old Church in the City of London. I can't discover if this is a nickname or a different Peter from the New Testament one. We were now into Friern Barnet, and arrived at the terminal, just oppostite the library, well within the 78 minutes announced.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Number 42 Route

Monday 9 November 2009

Linda and I met at Sunray Gardens, Denmark Hill, where the pleasant driver had offered Linda the opportunity to sit on the bus to shelter from the brisk breeze that accompanied this sunny day.

Henry Bessemer, he of the Bessemer Steel Converter, had a large estate here of which Sunray Gardens alone remains - he had a model farm, observatory and all kinds of other amenities, reminding us that engineering was a good career back then

We were off at 10.20, passing a serious amount of public housing, Southwark on one side of the road and Lambeth the other, some of it dating from the 1920s. We admired Ruskin Park, convenient for R and R for patients attending the Maudsley or King's College Hospital and were soon into Camberwell Green.

This was a busy bus, lots of shoppers with buggies, so people were standing for almost all the route. It's hard to imagine how even this small bus would negotiate East Street on market days. The revitalising of Burgess Park is underway, together with areas of the huge Aylesbury Estate.

Surprisingly soon we were in Tower Bridge Road, noting that St Mary Magdalen Churchyard, with its charming little chapel, is also up for improvement. Then it was over the river, with fine views of City Hall and HMS Belfast (yes, I will always mention her whenever we pass near enough for it to be allowable!) This was the first of the 5 Thames bridges that our various buses were to cross today

The Tower of London and Tower Gateway Station were briefly visible before we turned right up Goodman's Yard and into Aldgate, where we admired the fishy railings on the pedestrian subway and some classic City street names, before passing Shoreditch bus garage and St Botolph's without Bishopsgate. A surprising number of churches are named after this saint, given that no-one seems to know much about him. And so to Liverpool Street, in only about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Number 41 Route

Archway to Tottenham Hale

Monday November 2nd 2009

Jo and Linda were on our own for this 5-bus marathon as Mary was off supporting an educational project in Uganda, but the storms of the weekend had cleaned and brightened London for us. We had already completed two routes in order to get to our starting point – all with seamless joins, the buses feeding out of our hands like tame birds – so it was only 12.50 when we boarded this route. However the law of diminishing returns set in as the first route of the day had some excitements like Oxford Street and Abbey Road and our interim bus traversed some smart and not so smart North London suburbs but the 41 can only be described as ‘less than enthralling’.

Our one ambled as it had closed the gap with the one in front and as a result wasn’t very busy either – Jo described it as a ‘blokey’ bus as all the other passengers seemed to be male. One particular one who had clearly just walked out of the A&E department of the Whittington Hospital spent his journey telling all his mates ‘he didn’t have a clot on his leg’ but needed to see his GP for follow up.

The most attractive part of the trip (had we known it) was just wending its way along the very narrow St John’s Way with the contrast of public and private housing either side of the road, both leafy and attractive – the roads to the left named after Shakespeare’s heroines Miranda, and Cressida. There was a large Hornsey school named for Coleridge and the children were playing out back after half term. The school is large by primary standards – 500+ and therefore had a new purpose built extension across the road which formed part of the September 2009 ‘Open London’ venues. We crossed a disused railway (now part of green chain-type walk) and arrived at Crouch End Broadway, which was looking a little the worse for wear with several shops up for sale and empty. Clearly there are better views off this route…

By Tottenham Lane, in spite of dawdling, our 41 caught the one in front as we passed the new YMCA, and just glimpsed the West Indian Cultural Centre. We had already crossed the New River (neither new nor a river) and crossed the entire set of major North–south routes, rail, tube and road, to push further east towards Tottenham Hale which combines bus terminus and rail exchange. Not far away is the Lea River Valley and Park (in this instance trading park).

This bus has been plying this route since before 1950 with very few alterations to the route – extensions to Highgate and Ilford were suppressed so it clearly serves its community well if dully.