Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Number 49 Route

Clapham Junction to White City Bus Garage

Monday November 9th 2009

(Clearly one we prepared earlier as London is experiencing significant snow this Christmas week)

Our connections today were not quite as seamless as they often are, due I might say not to the buses themselves but to some careless map reading and chatting. We managed to overshoot the head stop and found ourselves walking down Northcote Road Market (Smug website alert!), which seemed to have more sourdough and olive oil shops than you can shake a stick at, in stark contrast to Falcon Road, which is pretty run of the mill.

However Northcote Road does not have a 49 bus, which we finally ran to earth in Battersea Rise and boarded at about 1.10. It was pleasingly warm and very clean too and by the time we were cruising down Falcon Road it was pretty busy. There is a large house, situated on the main road appropriately enough between Khyber and Afghanistan roads, which has been converted into the Islamic Cultural and Education centre. Learn more here.

Most of Battersea Bridge Road is densely built up with social housing (as opposed to the mansions along by the park) so we assume either major wartime bomb damage or post war inadequate housing clearance or more likely a combination of the two. So it’s always a nice surprise to get to Battersea Bridge, which has one of the best views of the houseboats and the loveliness that is the Chelsea Embankment and Cheyne Walk. To live here you needed to be rich, famous or dead or probably all three but it’s almost certainly worth walking in historical steps.

The mansion housing is as densely packed north of the river and these mansion blocks lead us out into the Kings Road – though only briefly as the 49 takes a turning off down Sydney Street – houses remain beautifully uniform here with glimpses of market stalls that look like beach huts, announced as the Chelsea Farmers’ market. The reviews indicate that actually it’s more a cluster of eateries as opposed to somewhere where you can get, as it were, home-made sausages brought up from Kent. It looks very pretty though. The parish church of St. Luke’s, though only built in 1820 to cater for a growing congregation, is most impressive and apparently has the tallest tower of any London parish church.

As Jo rightly deduced, the signs for King’s College (which we are used to seeing round the Strand) refer to the science departments – largely Pharmacology, from when King’s took over Chelsea college. Things get even grander round Onslow Square and by the time we get to South Kensington it is definitely lunch-time and the cafes and restaurants, by the look of them, are full of ‘ladies who lunch’.

Encouragingly the road works, which had delayed many of our earlier trips on 14 and other ‘return’ buses, seem to be clearing and both traffic and pedestrians are flowing very well. This is also very much hotel territory and there were some smaller gems which had taken over older buildings, rather than building new and big and impersonal. Not surprisingly some of the embassies have established themselves here also and we flag spotted both Korea and Zambia.

Palace Gate, as the name implies brings you out at the very end of Kensington Gardens and straight into the High Street, which is agreeable enough but unremarkable. Today certainly the shoppers/tourists were out in force and stopping for them lost the bus some time, not that we were in any hurry! More greenery, or autumn leafery courtesy of Holland Park and another lament for the Commonwealth Institute—it used to offer an excellent wet Sunday’s free entertainment for children with its ramped floors and generous display of cocoa beans. Even if displaying Commonwealth products is an outdated concept no one seems to have found a use for either building or site?

Before you know where you are the 49 is braving the 6 lane wide roundabout that is now Shepherds Bush and it then travels alongside the railway to get to both Westfield and the bus garage. Westfield has been open a year and doubtless has taken trade both from shops in Hammersmith and Kensington, where we had just been. We have enjoyed the very quiet and well ordered bus garage before and this time the operative in charge of the information kiosk let us into the free and very swish public toilets. The renovated garage is well worth a visit, and though not originally built as a garage has served as a factory and a film location.

The contrasts between Battersea and Chelsea and Kensington are probably not as extreme as they once were, but the 49 is still, to some extent, a bus of two halves. Also for such an urban bus it touches on three large green spaces Battersea Park, Kensington gardens and Holland Park.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Number 48 Route

Tuesday 6 October 2009

We met at 10.15 at London Bridge, we being Linda and Jenny and John and me. John is only the second man (oops, I mean 3rd, please see comment below; perhaps I should have said 'this was the first time we had people from Exeter with us') to come on a bus, so that was especially delightful. The 48 was a very busy bus, which meant that we did not get the front seats, but we had plenty of time to admire the scenery because the traffic was amazingly slow. After 30 minutes we still had not reached the Bank of England. We sat for a while wondering if the statue in Tudor gear on the side of the building was Thomas Gresham (bad money drives out good) or some other Elizabethan, but prolonged googling has failed to find the answer, and we no longer know anyone who works at the Bank.

The Woodin's Shades pub seemed to have an odd name, but it proves to be less exciting than you might think. We were impressed that they had already named an alley after Nicholas, when you think he was only born at the end of August (sorry, grandmotherly joke)

As we left the City the traffic finally speeded up a little. We had been this way before, and were soon in shoe and handbag land. We liked Hackney's new street banners ('Get the X Factor, register to vote' and '9 of London's best parks'

We crossed the Regent's Canal, and later various bits of the River Lea and the Navigation. Well may Hackney be called 'The Venice of the North' though I know it isn't.

The Levy Centre looked impressive, and the work that CSV does deserves a good training facility like this one. Our bus also passed Mother's Square, originally a nineteenth century Salvation Army home for single mothers but now housing, and, once we were in Waltham Forest, the Master Baker's Almshouses

We arrived at Walthamstow Central's handsome bus garage at 11.45, about 20 minutes later than the timetable suggested, thanks to the gas mains of the City. We barely had time to use the facilities and buy a newspaper (John) and peppermints (me) before leaping onto our next bus, about which you already know.

The Number 47 Route

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Linda and I met in Shoreditch, and the 47 bore us down Bishopsgate, with fine views ahead of the gherkin. After last week's discussion, we were interested to see fatsias in a window box: an odd choice, but a pleasant change from cyclamen-with-a few-pansies. London Bridge brought fine views of the river and HMS Belfast, looking majestic in the sun. We nipped fairly speedily down Tooley Street with its increasing number of tourist attractions: the London Bridge Experience and London Tombs have now joined the Dungeon, the Britain at War and of course the ship herself, past City Hall, and to a Wetherspoons pub called The Pommelers Rest. Aside from the fact that the lack of apostrophe suggests that this is a simple statement (... when not working) it seems to be a case of people who work with Pommels, for pommelling things like leather.

Now well into Southwark, with its colour coded districts, we passed the Dickens Estate and a number of hansdome churches, including St Paul's and St Olaves, as well as the entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, before reaching Canada Water Bus Station, where this blog began with the Number 1. Beyond Surrey Quays, the public housing is increasingly LCC fifties style, rather than the modern look. The Pepys Estate maintains the literary theme, with many references to John Evelyn in pub and street names, making this part of London diarists' corner.

But by now we were in Lewisham; St Nicholas Church is where the murdered Christopher Marlowe is said to be buried. All these literary references were some consolation for the lack of blue plaques, and Linda's tendency to say 'probably Charlie Chaplain' whenever we saw but could not read a local authority plaque. We noted a remarkable number of religious organisations, for example the Grace Christian Centre, which declares that it is 'rebuilding lives and raising prevailers'.

We were impressed by the steep climb undertaken by the DLR as it approaches Lewisham centre and enjoyed glimpses of Brookmill Park before we were passing Lewisham rail and DLR stations and the mammoth police HQ. We knew we were in Catford when we passed the Cat (actually we knew anyway, since this is Linda's stamping ground) and admired the refurbished Broadway Theatre. We sped down the Bromley Road to reach Catford Bus Garage in just an hour from our departure. A splendid journey, with tourism at the start and interest throughout.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Number 46 Route

Lancaster Gate to Farringdon
Tuesday December 8th 2009

For our first December outing the weather was kind enough to be both brighter and drier than last week’s outing, which regular readers will remember produced some much admired Turneresque photos.

We were starting opposite Hyde Park at Lancaster Gate and for a while we were the only passengers on this single decker – it seemed a rather creaky old model, where the springs were audible and added to the moderate discomfort.

Appropriately the bus turns away from Hyde Park and into Spring Street, which brought us out, a little to our surprise, alongside Paddington Station and ‘old friend’ bus routes we’ve travelled before. However, once over the Bishops (rail) bridge our bus was able because of our smaller size to weave round Paddington basin, much of Little Venice and the newish landscaping that is Rembrandt gardens.

This being the kind of area where you probably have a car, if not a chauffeur, or a boat, passenger numbers remained low and entirely female until Kentish Town. In Clifton Gardens there was a blue plaque for Sir Alexander Fleming, who we know from earlier routes worked at nearby St. Mary’s, so we presume it was somewhere near here that he left his washing up undone, or his food unwrapped and watched the mould grow. Thankfully we crossed the Edgware Road and went up Hall Road – again large and imposing houses including one where JW Waterhouse lived - I know a recent Royal Academy show tried to re-evaluate Waterhouse, but for me his paintings remain technically rather than emotionally memorable.

Somewhere along the Finchley Road Jo and I got into a dispute about Fatsias, which I think look their best at this time of year – all that fluffy white seems like a harbinger of snow – however she dislikes them although they meet her very strict criteria of all year round interest. Needless to say the front and communal gardens of the expensive housing that is St John’s Wood was well endowed with full flowering fatsias. As we eventually came into Swiss Cottage we noticed Overground House where they are finally joining up the trains and undergrounds into one seamless and Oyster friendly network.

From here the bus takes a brave route up the not inconsiderable hill that is Fitzjohn’s Avenue, resplendent with large redbrick houses, now all flats. My old school is a turning off and my memories of the Avenue are mixed – in the dire endless winter of 1963, when our playing fields in Regent's Park were still under snow, we were forced to run up and down the entire hill each week supposedly improving on our ‘times’, and how relieved we were when the thaw finally arrived.

Memories of forced exercise apart, the route 46 is at its most attractive here and at the Hampstead cross roads turns right down Hampstead High Street still retaining that village-y feel, though lacking the individuality it once had. Money is clearly no object between a whole Farrow and Ball shop and Bang & Olufsen. A ‘local’ blue plaque tells us David Low (see the 27 and 28 routes) had his studios here. Camden had provided Hampstead with hanging baskets and LED lights infinitely superior to the ones in Kentish Town. Just off to the left is a National Trust sign (very rare in Inner London) for 2 Willow Road, a 1930's Modernist house designed by Goldfinger. There is an old entrance for drays still visible in the Brewery Buildings rebuilt 1869.

As said before the bus was quite densely packed by now and a woman pushing a child in a wheelchair was told to get off and on again by the central doors which she refused to do, even though she could not progress down the bus. The passengers meanwhile were discussing their shopping & deciding ‘You can give cat food to your cat even when it’s past its sell by date…’

The bus turns left into Pond Street, thus passing the Royal Free Hospital, and it was here it became so much busier. Heading towards Kentish and Camden towns you pass several Camden estates and the primary schools, non-and denominational come thick and fast. Fleet School tells you what used to run here.Camden has improved the leisure facilities round here with newly vamped basketball courts and then the new Talacre Community Sports Centre. There is also a Camden Community Law centre on the corner and then Jews for Jesus. So if this particular combination of law and faith does not fix it for you, further down towards St Pancras the Al Rahma Mosque Community Centre has been given some space at the bottom of a council block.

If all variations of God, the law and exercise still do not appeal, a quick getaway via St Pancras International might be the answer. After which the number 46 turns into the Euston Road, past the arches now being re –occupied by the purveyors of large-scale junk, and passes King’s Cross Station. We spotted the memorial garden for the victims of the 7/7 bombings, while the plaque for 1987 fire is down in the Underground station. Wren Street Gardens are very pretty, just behind the dental school, and there is also the Calthorpe Project, which combines a teaching and community garden, off the Grays Inn Road.

A Japanese restaurant (though reviewers see it as more bar than eatery) is called the Crane and the Tortoise, reminding one of some of their garden designs. The sandwich bars were coming thick and fast and were busy as it was pretty much lunchtime, and suddenly we were again alone on the bus as it crossed over Holborn and left us in Stonecutter Street just south of Ludgate Circus. Quite an interesting East/West journey with a substantial loop north included and water features aplenty.