Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Number 132 Route

North Greenwich to Bexleyheath Garage
Monday August 16th 2010

I was a little early for our start of day meeting but no matter - I was able to enjoy award-winning North Greenwich Station, opened in 1999 (of course) in all its gleaming glory even though the sun was not shining. Admittedly at this time on a Monday morning it’s not crowded but it felt spacious yet not unfriendly with the circular sweep bus stops echoing the curves of the Dome, now O2. The employees take great pride in their station and the man at the information desk was polishing his glass windows.

But we weren’t here to admire the architecture but ride the rather small bus south. We too followed the now familiar route off the Greenwich peninsula past the gasholder and modern and colourful flats. Better the coloured concrete than the wooden facings – it does not withstand the weather for long and soon looks tired and even more significantly ‘lifts’ and lets in the water.

The bus exits the only way it can via the Blackwall Tunnel Approach, leaving that delight to the Route 108 and passes the Angerstein hotel  - maybe he didn’t pass the stringent blue Plaque test but he has a hotel, albeit one situated on a rather noisy corner, named after him.
This route now leaves the busier through routes to concentrate on serving the local communities and heads first of all for Kidbrooke, where Balfour Beatty is building an entirely new site for this impressively large South East London comprehensive Thomas Tallis, due to be completed 2011. The court composer, of mainly church music, after which the school is named, is thought to have lived round here in his later years.

Inevitably I suppose we were to emerge at the Well Hall roundabout, whose crowning glory was the now defunct Coronet cinema left empty while decisions are made and debated about its future. Since we last came this way someone has erected a quite imaginative hoarding which allows the illusion of a still flourishing cinema.

The run into Eltham is quite swift passing the Tudor Barn set in the Pleasance, much older than the cinema but seemingly thriving and past the church at the crossroads. While we are keen supporters of public toilets these black huts in front of the quite pretty church seemed an odd civic choice. Eltham seemed very busy with shoppers so maybe the toilets have their local fans.

From here the 132 heads left, and as it happens rapidly down hill towards Avery Hill and Blackfen. Greenwich obviously managed to get its school rebuilding funding approved before the change in government and again Balfour Beatty were improving the school environment.
Pubs like the ‘The Jolly Fenman’ and streets of low rise buildings, even one of the churches is built to look like its neighbouring bungalows alerted us to the fact that we had indeed reached Blackfen – a low lying area close to both the River Cray and eventually the Thames itself.

The Shuttle is in fact a river off the Cray and offers a local 5-mile walk, which is generously sign-posted from this bus route.

Talking of Rivers the bus actually crosses the Cray just before Bexley – we have to confess before we rode this route we had assumed that Bexley and Bexleyheath were one and the same but a short turn through Bexley quickly shows us that Bexley is still very much a village and abounds in older properties, narrower streets as perhaps exemplified by the lovely Styleman's Almshouses, still in use.

In stark contrast the bus poddles out of Bexley and passes over the very fast M2 below.

Passengers had been slowly congregating along this route and most were clearly heading for the ultimate destination, which is Bexleyheath – for us a by now familiar bus hub, and for most (normal?) people an opportunity to do your weekly supermarket shopping plus a choice of Wetherspoons or Bingo to name but two attractions on offer.

PS Many of the features on this route, which we completed back in August 2010 are the same as those on the 129, completed just 2 weeks ago. At least you can compare (compare the meerkat, no less) the photos taken first in the summer, more recently in snow, which Aleksandr Orlov might prefer.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Number 131 Route

Kingston Bus Garage (Fairfield) to Tooting Broadway Station

Monday February 22nd 2010

We risk being boring about the weather but this was one of our chillier trips – the third in a series which had seen us waiting (yes WAITING) some 25 minutes in snow flurries for our index bus, and then cooling down further in its unheated upstairs. It left us at the Fairfield Bus Station in Kingston and with nary a moment to enjoy the delights of Kingston on our first acquaintance we stepped straight onto this 131. The upstairs was no warmer, as it happens, and Jo asked about some heating but was told it was ‘automatic’ ? Automatically off?

Kingston likes its buses so much it has 2 bus stations, and this 131, after scurrying round a series of car parks and backs of stores, erupts into the 1-way High Street complete with chain and department stores, skirts the railway station on the corner and then passes Cromwell Bus Depot – “the other one”. This driver, unlike our previous 2 women drivers, was in no mood to hang around and left runners breathless and frustrated standing on the pavement while he drove on. Kingston is technically Upon-Thames but no sign of the river as we left by the less smart bits of this particular London Borough. It seems to cluster all its social housing along the Cambridge Road which also passes the grounds of Kingstonian and AFC Wimbledon Football Clubs. [The original Wimbledon FC has been in almost as many places as us on the buses: having had its own stadium in Plough Lane, it then shared with Crystal Palace, and following that went in name to Milton Keynes where it seems to be having some success as the MK Dons; meanwhile, AFC Wimbledon is the replacement club set up by defiant fans who wanted nothing to do with “a new town in Buckinghamshire” and is now working its way up the lower divisions.] This bit of the route, though eventually taking us in the same direction was a complete contrast to the private roads that border the 57 route.

New Malden, for that is where we were, seems to host a significant South Korean population as they have several shops, restaurants and centres round here.

New Malden public library had some nice plasterwork on its side, which we failed to capture. This time we went under the A3 Kingston bypass and close to an open level crossing at West Barnes – there are both train and the outer extremes of the Croydon tram system round here and the bus route follows them quite closely. The route today which liberally provided with the new ‘POP in your postcode’ posters from tfl which offer even more interactive bus maps for entire routes ‘The Project ‘ thinks TfL only introduced these as they realized as people enter specific bus routes into Google our blog came up as a solution and to reclaim their position as market leaders they introduced the new bus route maps – well maybe.

 Back to Raynes Park, which we had passed earlier and back through Wimbledon passing again both adult and children’s theatres, both looking a little the worse for wear.

From South Wimbledon onwards of course the route follows the Northern line north passing Colliers Wood and the River Wandle, today fast and furious it was so full of water. . There are some nice walks hereabouts and some eating places to go with the walks. ‘The Colliers Tup’ seemed an odd mixture of rural and industrial heritage. Not far away are Merton Abbey Mills , where you can learn about the cloth mills that were built up and down the Wandle.
Terpsichore House caused some discussion as to its pronunciation – Terpsichore always makes me think of the dancing master in  Dickens' 'Bleak House' but we were on firmer ground with Head Hunters – yes, another hairdresser.

Back past St. George’s Hospital, which serves a huge area and dense population in SW London, and eventual end of journey opposite Tooting Broadway station. It’s always busy and the streets were heaving even on such a cold and unfriendly day so we dived down into the tube - for once really pleased to be back in fug rather than in a draft atop a cold bus.

P.S. Clearly this is one we prepared earlier - in the snowfall at the start of 2010 rather than those at the end: even we do not ride the buses during the holiday period

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Number 130 Route

Tuesday 30 March 2010

This was the middle bus of a journey whose primary aim was the 64.  We (that's Linda and I)  had met in rain but it was clearing up as we got off the 196 at the back of Norwood Junction Station, walked about 10 steps and climbed on the waiting 130, destination New Addington Tramlink.  

It was a single decker, between two big buses.  Off at 11.20, we passed a Polish Delicatessen, designed to look like a country cottage, before swinging right to go under the railway and towards South Norwood.

A Caribbean cafe called 'Refill' caught our attention, then South Norwood Swimming Pools  which have been recently refurbished, as well as the Croydon Arena, also part of Croydon Leisure Services.
Shirley has a new school, the Oasis Academy, which is clearly part of a chain and we also saw Trinity Boys' private school, with its spacious grounds, which is part of the John Whitgift group 

This is an area of substantial and handsome houses, up and then down Gravel Hill, with a genuine farm (Heathfield Farm)  - now council owned and leased to a local farmer  on our right and soon Addington Palace Country Club  on our left.

This brought us into the tram-served area of Croydon, and we noted how the buses paralleled  the tracks in many places.  We crossed the North Downs Way.  Linda had - conveniently - heard Steve talk the night before about the North Forest of previous centuries, which gave Norwood its name, and we admired the views of much remaining woodland from the several high points of this journey.

We turned through the Applegarth Estate, with a range of 1960s house styles, including the 'hanging tiles' design as built by Kebbel in Croxley Green.

We reached the New Addington Tramlink depot, with its wooden carvings, at 12.00, having had a pleasant suburban ride.

The Number 129 Route

Monday 20 December 2010

This was the shortest journey we have ever undertaken, perhaps appropriate as the start to a day when the ice and snow had filled the media with long stories about travel problems. But Linda and I met at North Greenwich Station with no difficulty (in fact we met on the Jubilee Line train from Canada Water) and were onto our single decker by 10.00.

 We were the only passengers as we whipped round the various car parks and buildings of the peninsula, and headed towards the Millenium Village and its various cinemas and supermarkets, not to mention its modern accommodation blocks.  A couple more people got on at this stage, asking anxiously if this was the right bus for the Cutty Sark, but there were only the four of us.

We saw a 129 going in the opposite direction, and noted that it was 'going green for London':  ours was more traditional and, presumably, pollutant.

We turned right to get across the approach road to the Blackwall Tunnel (something would have gone wrong with it as we returned on our fourth bus of the day and there were huge queues of stationary traffic, but it will be many buses before we tell you about that.)

We passed the Angerstein Hotel, a pub named after a local business man of the 18th century, whose art collection now forms part of the National Gallery's display, as well as East Greenwich Library, on Vanbrugh Hill, named for the great architect before coming to some new building, claiming to be sustainable accommodation to make a 'new Heart for Greenwich'.  It seems to be rising on the site of a disused hospital, if the website for English Partnerships is talking about the same new heart.  We also saw the Forum at Greenwich, an ex-church, now a combination of accommodation and venue.

And the King William IV pub was a reminder of the King of Britain who had actually served in the Royal Navy, appropriate for this most naval of boroughs.

Even with so few passengers, the cold outside meant that the windows were fairly misted up, limiting our view of the wide expanse of Greenwich Park, soon to become the Equestrian centre for the 2012 Olympics.  But we could just about glimpse the Observatory on the top of the Hill. a reminder that Greenwich's strapline is 'the borough where time begins'.

 Soon we were passing the entrance to Greenwich Market, and the many interesting shops of Greenwich, to pull up not far from the Naval Hospital, and not very close at all to the Cutty Sark, which is the named destination for this bus

Our trip was complete in just about 15 minutes, leaving us to assume that this bus is a side effect of modern transport developments, since it links the Jubilee Line with the DLR.  A very pleasant little drive, with a considerate and careful driver.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Number 128 Route

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Neither of the other 'ladies who bus' being available, Andrew undertook this journey with me, and took photos on my phone, since I had unaccountably left the camera behind, so he is the reason we have this account at all.

The 128 departs from Claybury Broadway, which is quite a long way from anywhere, the way we approached it, though actually between Barkingside and the North Circular if you look at a map.  We set off at 11.50, and headed as straight as anything up the hill Clayhall Avenue, fast enough to cause the 30mph reminder signs to flash at us.  This is a residential area, with almost all the front gardens converted to car parking, and with a number of bright Christmassy decorations.

Soon we reached Barkingside High Street, where we turned right to note The Chequers Pub, looking quite prosperous, as well as a haircutters called Kutting Krew.  We came to Redbridge Magistrates' Court, looking very forbidding on this murky wet day, and wondered if it was up for closure in the next few months.  We also sent good wishes to Nina, now having fun in Australia, we hope, but often at work on the Bench here.

As we passed the King George V pub, also looking quite healthy, we noted Nail Shops opposite each other on either side of the road.  US Nail Pro offered 'Extentions', an interesting spelling.

Gants Hill Underground Station (Central Line) was a reminder of just how far London stretches, and the A12 was its customary busy self as we crossed it.  Our next noteworthy hair cutters was Hair Hunters: 'your hair needs our care', and then we were heading alongside Valentine's Park, its cricket sight screens all lined up waiting for next season, and towards Ilford. The skyline is dominated by the enormous 'Pioneer Point' which offers 'luxury living reaching new heights', but we also passed advertisements for 'unique stylish offices' in a disused church.

Bodgers appears to be Ilford's own home grown department store, just along from the station, and we also passed a large business offering Payday Loans and Speedy Cash, in what had clearly once been a pub.

We were soon at the large Sainsbury's and then looped round, noticing the Ilford Hindu Centre, to pass the Library, Multiplex Cinema and Kenneth More Theatre.  We also had time to read the Police warnings ('Drunken acts, sober prosecutions') before heading out of Ilford, past a Magazin Romanesc, and along Green Lane (in the singular for readers who might confuse it with Haringey)

As we moved out of the town centre, we noted some large vegetable shops, selling huge sacks of onions for £7.00, as well as 'Daisyroutes' Garden Centre.  Goodmayes was signalled by the Lord Napier Pub, yet another thriving establishment, this one named for the hero of a number of Imperial wars, as well as the Millenium Clock, with attractive blue Christmas Decorations on it.

The next town is Beacontree, part of Dagenham, and with the eponymous pub on its outskirts.  It is about to have a new Leisure Centre, due to open in 2011, and clearly coming along well.  The next part of the route goes through an area of public housing, with some tall tower blocks, though nothing to match Ilford, and as we approached Rush Green, a number of students got on and came upstairs, talking about their English coursework.

Queen's Hospital, as the bus announcements referred to it, is now long gone, a heap of rubble with hoardings advertising the Taylor Wimpey 'Reflections' new build which are going up in its place.

Now we were into Romford, passing The Brewery Shopping area and  taking a long detour along the A 118, round the centre of Romford, in order to reach the station, where our journey ended, at 12.45, only just outside the advertised time for this route.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Number 127 Route

Monday 6 December 2010
(St Nicholas Day, as I'm sure you all know, even if you aren't lucky enough to have grandsons called Nicholas)

Mary and I met at Tooting Broadway, Linda being off in Germany, and were at the bus stop ready for the 10.10 bus.  The 127 comes at named times throughout the day, being only four-an-hour.  Or that's the theory. In fact we did not get on board until 10.40, bound for Purley.  I suppose we get too used to apologetic announcements on tube and rail platforms to be happy with the lack of explanation when it comes to buses.

Still, off we went, straight through Tooting and towards Streatham, noting the handsome Barclays on the corner, which is clearly smaller now than it was when the building was built and embossed with the word 'bank' in its plasterwork.

As we came towards Mitcham Station and Mitcham Public Library we noticed the snow remaining:  far more than in North London.  We passed the handsome building of Eagle House School which proves to be a private school for children with autism.  The building is also of interest, the land having belonged to Walter Raleigh and the house built for Catherine of Braganza's physician.

We were soon making our way round Mitcham's extensive one way system, passing the Cricket Ground, the Burnt Bullock Pub and Mary Tate's Alms Houses, built in 1829 for 12 elderly women, but now rentable for seven women who are Anglicans and have lived in Merton for at least five years.
As we turned right to reach Mitcham Junction Station, we were the only bus on the route, through residential areas, with a lot of snow and ice on the side roads.

 We needed to pause while a hearse reversed into the driveway of the Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul:  the evidence of the flowers suggested that the funeral was for someone's 'Nan'. Then it was on past Wilson Hospital and to the broad green expanses of the Common, leaving Merton to enter Sutton.

The strange roof embellishments of the Bioregional developments were of interest, contrasting with the boarded-up blocks of flats which we came to next.  We wondered whether they were being demolished ready for more ecologically sound housing, or whether the downturn in the economy had stalled them at this sad stage.

We came to the river Wandle, looking cold but running too fast for ice,
 and then entered Carshalton, passing the HQ of the Lib Dem MP for the area, Tom Brake, who is presumably wondering how to vote on student fees, and then Carshalton College, whose strap line is 'realising ambitions'.  Carshalton Pond and the Ecology Centre were looking pretty wintery, and we admired the Tudor lady in a niche on the side of an otherwise modern looking house.  Carshalton  has a theatre as well as the college and a railway station, all in all a satisfactory small town!

We headed right into Wallington, and again went through residential areas, before reaching the shopping area and the station.  We liked the recycling signage, suggesting that people should starve their bins.  The Town Hall seems to have metamorphosed into a college.

 Then we were almost into the country, the snow really quite thick and mist obscuring the distant view.

We were not excited by the prospect of going through the centre of Croydon:  we have done it fairly frequently in the past few weeks, so I hope no-one will be offended;  but in fact we entered the borough of Croydon only to nip smartly right and through the smart area of Woodcote, again the only bus except for a school journey bus.  The pavements were still thick with ice, indicating a car users' area, rather than a walk-and-bus area.

Before we knew it, we were in Purley, noting 'Cutting it Fine' the hairdresser, as well as the offices of the African Child Trust, before arriving at the end, Purley Station, at 11.35, just under an hour from our delayed departure.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Number 126 Route

Eltham Crescent to Bromley South
Monday November 22nd 2010

Bienvenue à nos lecteurs français, qui ont trouvé notre blog de Londres. Salut!

The Number 126 is very closely related to the Number 124 with at least 30% overlap on the route, particularly the bits round Eltham & Mottingham. Indeed we just got off our 124, crossed the road and waited not all that long for our 126. Back through Eltham passing first of all what looks the outline of a reservoir sited close to the road but suitably protected, then along the Chequers Parade, so named for the pub of that name, The Chequers Pub.

Eltham is a mixture of some key older buildings in amongst more mundane shopping parades. The Library has obviously been cleaned up quite recently, though there seems also to be a library in the New Eltham Civic Centre just visible from the main thoroughfare.

At the High Street crossroads we noticed there was a complete Snooker Hall for rent above the McDonalds – but no time to debate whether the coloured balls were losing their allure before we turned left towards Mottingham, passing as we went the main approach to Eltham Palace.  Don’t let its name mislead you: this tourist attraction is more of a magnificent Thirties home (wonderful art deco, much used as a location for period films and TV) built round a medieval hall. Beware of visiting on Saturdays as you may find yourself stopped in your tracks by a bouncer keeping out unwanted guests from weddings!

Like our companion number, the recently-blogged 124, this route cuts a swathe through the Mottingham Estate,where the LCC (London County Council) had bought up the then Court Farm, now just remembered in the street name, in order to build homes for those made homeless by war-time bombing.

In Chinbrook we passed over a large stream, which we assumed to be the Chin: however, it proves to be the Quaggy River, which trickles its way through Lewisham borough, which we were about to enter briefly. The Marvels Lane woods, part of the Green Chain walk, also back onto a series of playing fields belonging to public (that is private schools) both local and not so local. Dunkery Road comes out by Grove Park Station, opposite which is the very desolate looking  Baring Hall hotel,
which had burnt down over a year ago perhaps feeling solidarity with Barings Bank, and banks in general , one of whose founders was still visible on the pub sign. Dangerous structures indeed, whichever way you look at them.

From here the run into Bromley was pretty nippy, made even faster by the suppression of some bus stops due to road works. As ever this was a route used by shoppers – boarding at Eltham to get home to Mottingham, or at Grove Park to go shopping in Bromley.

This route approaches down Burnt Ash Lane and passing Plaistow Cemetery – the name of the latter (there is also a Plaistow Green) confusing Jo who knows Plaistow as being close to the East and West Hams, but Plaistow it is. This northerly bit of Bromley is called Sundridge Park and seems to consist of the most enormous golf course and a few sizeable houses to match, but the bus of course does not penetrate that far, heading on into Bromley Central past the rather insignificant station that is Bromley North with trains to nowhere in particular in contrast to the variety of buses on offer. But then as a lady who buses I would say that.

We glimpsed a blue plaque to Prince Piotr Kropotkin in Crescent Road, which tickled me no end: the incongruity between Kropotkin’s anarchist views and the sobriety and consumerism that is Bromley today are such poles apart. Even Edwardian Bromley, and he lived here for almost thirty years, must have been pretty respectable. Like in Conrad’s ‘The Secret Agent’ you expect your anarchists to live somewhere more louche.

Bromley is anything but louche, and even today many shoppers were preparing for Christmas clutching bags of tinsel and rolls of wrapping paper. The front face of the Glades Shopping Centre and the High Street are strictly pedestrian only with all buses etc sent down Kentish Way between parking and shopping with its little tube to join them safely.
As we approach winter and darkness I have tried to include as much colour as I can, so enjoy winter berries and the excellent flower stall on the forecourt of Bromley South station – a much more impressive hub with frequent trains, including one to suit us. This bus very nearly hit its target journey time of 35 minutes – not bad for the distance it covered.    

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Number 125 Route

Friday 3 December 2010

The snow and ice had made us wonder whether to travel at all this week, but Mary and I decided to take one short journey.  Linda was trapped at home by the inability of the buses to deal with the hills of her bit of South London, together with the non-running of South Eastern Trains and the Overground.  Indeed, both Mary and I had allowed so much extra time to get to Finchley Central for 10.15 that, even with a bit of a walk to the head stop, we were off by 10.05.

We were pleased that the 125 is a double decker, given that it does not go very far, and spends most of its time in quiet suburbs.

We headed straight back past Finchley Central Station and the Dignity Pub, whose website, though full of interesting stuff, does not explain its unusual name.

Our route was straight towards Whetstone, without any deviations at all, giving us plenty of time to note that the Guild Players, based at the Wesleyan Chapel, are doing 'See How they Run' for their December show.

We found ourselves wondering where all the snow had gone:  clearly North London is even further from South London than the conspiracy theorists who live down there would have you believe:  they are getting Kent and Surrey weather whereas up here it was merely cold - not the bus, though, which was lovely and cosy, and stayed that way as it was not heavily used, so the doors did not open too often!

The next pub we came to was The Elephant, with a remarkable charging elephant on its sign, and we soon also passed the Safari Bar, which appeared to be an Indian Restaurant also serving Sunday Roasts.  Clearly they like to walk on the wild side up here in Finchley.

After passing an Iranian shop and advice centre, we came into Whetstone, and for the first time turned: right.  We passed the Mogador Cafe, whose name means 'beautiful' in Arabic (thank you, Wikipedia) and has nothing to do with Mogadon, the brand name of the sedative nitrazepam - in case you were wondering.

The right turn was to enable us to tour through the residential areas which connect Whetstone to Southgate.  Passing the Cavalier Pub (again, no idea why it is called that:  there don't seem to have been any long haired Royalists around here in the seventeenth century) we could see the splendid view down the hill as we turned right again into Brunswick Park Road.

The Osidge Arms left us really baffled:  why does it have a pub sign of an attractive country lane?  Why do all those repetitive beerintheevenening type pub websites never tell you where the name comes from?  Am I the only person interested?

Anyway, we passed the small Pymme's Brook, and I resolved to walk the 10 mile trail at some stage, and also passed the Sir Thomas Lipton Home for Retired Nurses.  He (the Tea man) came from Glasgow but lived in Southgate, and his mother had been a nurse, so this was one of his many charities.

Soon we turned into Southgate Tube Station Parade with its handsome curved facade, and then round the roundabout again to head on towards Winchmore Hill.  We noted in passing the HQ of the Thalassaemia Society, before being baffled once again by a pub name (this is the last one for this ride, honestly!)  The Fishmongers Arms?  Why?  Do trawlers regularly moor in Southgate to sell their wares?  And it does not help when the world wide web simply offers 'formerly known as 'The Southgate' as an explanation.

 As we approached Winchmore Hill we were impressed by the substantial houses in this part of London, noting that the pavements remained fairly icy through, we assumed, underuse.  We passed a dancing and theatre school, as well as a restaurant called, wittily, Chinese Whispers, and came into Winchmore Hill itself.

We are always amazed that Tanning shops survive despite publicity about the clear evidence of the harm they do, and the one in Winchmore Hill certainly looked quite prosperous.

So we arrived at Station Road, where the bus terminated, at 10.40: one of the shortest journeys we have ever had.  We gave the driver a card, which slightly puzzled him, until we explained that we were not inspectors of any kind, just tourists enjoying the scenery of this calm and prosperous part of North London.