Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Number 57 Route

Monday 22 February 2010

While we are never inclined to complain, we are really bored with this cold, wet weather, which ensures that our photos give barely an impression of this long and interesting trip. After a 20 minute wait at Clapham Park for the 'every 6-8 minutes' 57, Mary, Linda and I headed upstairs hoping to thaw, only to find cold air blowing onto us from above.

Clearly there was a general problem with the service, as we did not see a 57 in the opposite direction for the first 30 minutes of our journey . But we did not pass any hold-up sufficient to explain it. We were, as so often, impressed by our driver's patience and competence, when other road users hadn't got as far as the page on box junctions in their copies of the Highway Code.

Still, off we went, and soon passed the Knights Youth Centre, and then a ghost bike on the railings where the South Circular meets the A23. The cycle lanes in the boroughs through which we travelled were so narrow and intermittent, I suppose we should be glad there were no more.

On a more cheerful note, Streatham Hill has the attractive white Wavertree Court, with its (Dutch inspired?) roofs, as well as Dr Dolittle's Pet Shop and a hair dresser to add to our collection ('Cutting Room', which we assume to have a cinematic resonance).

The Waaberi Community Centre proves to offer support for the Somali community in South London and we also passed the 'Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministry' (a Nigerian Church), before coming to the Wandsworth Oasis Charity shop.

The bus was very busy, no doubt because of the long wait, with many young people getting off for South Thames College as we turned right off Mitcham Lane, and more getting on and off at Tooting Broadway Station. Through Colliers Wood, with the Wandle flowing very high, we came into Merton. South Wimbledon station was a bit baffling, as we were coming from the north and had not reached Wimbledon itself yet; but we soon did, with the Polka Theatre (fond memories for Linda from when the children were young) and then the New Theatre, before popping into and out of the Sir Cyril Black bus depot (Wimbledon’s MP from 1950-1970, since you ask).

Then it was on to Raynes Park, with the playing fields of Wimbledon College intermittently visible behind the large houses. We went across the Beverley Brook Walk which looks attractive, and the A3, which doesn't, to reach the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Apparently Saxon Kings were sometimes crowned here, but the 'Royal' these days is authorised by a charter of 1965. We were actually in New Malden, with many private roads, some gated, off either side of the bus route. Soon we came to Kingston Hospital, and into the town, although without glimpsing the Thames. We did, however, pass a number of schools, notably Tiffin Boys' and the Royal Grammar School, before arriving at Fairfield Bus Station, and the end of our journey, well within the 95 minutes advertised time, which left us ever more baffled about the gaps in the service.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Number 56 Route

Whipps Cross (Hospital) to West Smithfield (St. Bartholomew’s Hospital)

Tuesday February 16th 2010

Today was one of the few occasions when we could do directly ‘back to back’ buses: having just got off the 55 down the road, and walked the short distance after disembarking, using Tesco’s loos ('all they are good for?’) and admiring the local war memorial – Essex regiments in both wars.

We could never quite get the USP of this route, as for most of its time it snuggles up to our ‘old friends’ the 30, 38 and 48 and of course ‘new friend’ the 55, but given that this part of the world is thin on tubes and trains they probably do need more buses, and certainly though a very frequent service it was busy enough. The upstairs was bright and clean and HEATED, which meant of course less condensation, though the rain continued outside.

So we settled down on our cosy bus and did some waiting back at the Bakers’ Arms while the drivers changed. This was half term but most sensible people were skulking indoors and the several male passengers seemed to be destined for the couple of mosques we passed. We did notice that the driver quite often lowered the door thresholds as the bus knelt for buggies and less able passengers, and the whole bus sort of ‘sighed’.
Along the very long Lea Bridge Road we spotted the Sleeping Beauty Motel and the Waltham Forest Carnegie Library, which they have afforded a ‘local’ blue plaque – these have been in short supply through the Fifties… On the whole Lea Bridge has the usual selection of fast food and hairdressers Tangles and Montáge [sic]. This is not the first time we have passed the Lea Valley Riding Centre and never seen a horse so I expect they were skulking too.

At the Lea Bridge waterways junction there was a scenic riverside pub (Young’s of course) and another one called the ‘Ship Aground’, both testaments that this was once a busy working river, I imagine used for hauling stuff up to the City. Technically the River Lea or Lee (both spellings seem equally acceptable) is a canalised river joining Hertford to London.

Soon we were back down to the Lea Bridge Roundabout, probably better known as the Clapton Ponds, and then we poddled on through Hackney at quite a slow pace owing to the volume of traffic into town. There are some fine old Mansions we had passed before and lots of new build social housing, with more to come (we noticed the Queensbridge site had reduced its rubble to fine dust but not yet shifted it or built and foundations).

What had progressed was the work on the East London Line extension, with gleaming new tracks and pretty points seemingly close to completion, doubtless inspired by the ‘Empowering Church’ just opposite.

For sustenance of a different kind we passed again Arthur’s Café – the super Youtube link is on the Route 38, but this time we managed a photo.

Down into Canonbury via the Essex Road and the bathroom fittings on offer go suddenly upmarket – shops approaching the Angel included ‘Past Caring’ second-hand goods, Angel Cuts and ‘S&M’ food. For once the traffic through Islington and past the Angel was pretty clear though of course lots of people were out shopping in their lunch-hour. This continued down into the City where the range of umbrellas on view became altogether more sober and bigger. Lunch-type shoppers who had opted for the environmentally sound paper bags looked pushed to get back to their desks before soggy paper bag syndrome took over.

Our exposure to bus and roadside advertising has been pretty constant over the last year but we both really enjoyed the 118.118 adverts using tube stations as ‘eating stops’: apart from the one illustrated we had also seen Chutney Bridge, Piccallili Circus, Elephant & Casserole and Hyde Park Korma – a witty and friendly take on London eating.

The 56 turns down Goswell Street and it seems only from here on is it a sole bus. passing as it does the City University, dotted about in different shop fronts and the Dogs Trust (a recent rebranding, which might explain why we had not heard of it ) and appropriate for a trip which included a very well behaved dog.
We crossed over Old Street and then into the City past the Museum of London, which seemed inspiring when it opened forty or so years ago and can still please. However we need to wait until May 2010 for the refit of the modern galleries to be revealed.

The bus passes Gresham Street with its grasshoppers and close to St Paul’s, looking grey rather than white today, before turning right up to West Smithfield (the market sides covered with tactful wrought iron roses rather than meat carcasses) and stopping in front of the old part of Bart’s. We did not have Mary with us today who, along with several family members did her medical training here, but we salute it as one of London’s older hospitals, even if it's lost some of its former standing.

In fact you might say this was a hospital-to-hospital bus as we left from close to Whipps Cross passing the Homerton and arriving at Bart’s.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Number 55 Route

Tuesday 16 February 2010

After several journeys in South East London, we were heading North and East towards Leyton for a change; unfortunately the weather was unchanging, except that it was wetter than ever, but still cold. Linda and I met at Great Titchfield Street, where the journey begins, despite the nominal start at Oxford Circus. We turned left almost immediately, along Goodge Street and Chenies Street, because of the CrossRail works at Centre Point. We wonder whether this one way system will become permanent.

We rejoined the traditional route at the Umbrella Shop, which I expect was doing roaring trade on this grim day, and headed past Bloomsbury Square, along Theobalds Road and into Clerkenwell. We passed the north end of Hatton Garden, and soon reached Old Street Station. We were making the kind of progress that demonstrated that we were heading out of, rather than into, the city. Actually, we were in Islington for a brief while, passing the EC1 Music Centre and a Classic Cars Emporium (they looked quite modern to me...) The Reliance Pub has a Thames sailing ship as its pub sign, but as usual the websites are all about the beer and not about the reason behind the name.

We passed through a corner of Tower Hamlets, with the many leather goods places we had noticed before, as well as Metal Morphosis which seems to teach as well as offering tattoos and piercings, but were soon into Hackney, and zooming along Cambridge Heath Road. We were surprised to see that the Religious Sisters of Charity are having a new Convent built, bucking the more usual trend for religious communities in the 21st century. We noted a property called 'City Retreat', a reminder of the days when Hackney was a rural haven for the wealthier city folk, and also Mothers' Square, once a hospital but now housing, before reaching Clapton Pond, its fountain busy adding to the rainy day.

Then it was over the River Lea Navigation, and past the large HQ of the Clancy Docwra Victorian Watermain Replacement Project which we all enjoy so much and which (apparently) will be finished in 2010. And so to Leyton and the Bakers Arms, in very much less than the projected 75 minutes, despite being 'held to regulate the service'.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Number 54 Route

Tuesday 2 February 2010

We were once again in Woolwich for our 12.00 start, and a short wait outside Tesco's brought us the 54, a double decker between two single deckers about which you will read in a few months. The 54 is Lucy Mangan's bus, according to her column about snow, so we felt we were sitting on the seats used by the famous. 'We', on this trip, were Linda, Mary and me. This was a very new bus, with huge windows upstairs, all the better to see the dreary and rainsoaked world outside.

This is not the part of Greenwich that tourists see; it seems run down, with boarded-up pubs like the Village Blacksmith and the Woodman, and a certain amount of new building. We passed Repository Woods, still the property of the MOD and were soon into the centre of Charlton village, with views of Charlton House and the Bugle Horn pub. The views down to the river and the Dome reminded us how steeply the land rises away from the Thames.

Houses in Vanbrugh Park Road matched the smartness of its name, and then we were onto Blackheath, with its handsome Georgian and early Victorian houses, and the drinking fountain endowed by Alderman Andrew Gibb at the start of the last century. Our bus went through Blackheaths smart shops and on past the enormous Church of St Margaret , Lee and close to Christ the King Sixth Form College, where it was clearly the lunch break.

We soon rejoined routes we have travelled before, past Lewisham Hospital and into Catford, noting Linda's office, the Theatre and the bus station and then past the Tiger's Head and the Green Man, both now closed and the Motown Soul Bar, still thriving.

Then it was a right turn down towards Beckenham, the 54 being the only bus that serves this bit of the 'greener Borough' of Bromley, and we crossed the Green Chain Walk again before reaching the Village sign. The centre had some very fine pansies, but we were slightly baffled by the sign for the Villager's Sausage Shop. Perhaps apostrophes would be better totally abolished (or perhaps only one villager is actually allowed to shop there?)

To add to our collection of hairdresser names, we were pleased to see 'Cutting Remarks' and 'Nut Hatch'. We may have to start a new category, as we were tickled by Cake Expectations (though we could not find a website for them)

Soon after that, we reached the large Elmers End Tesco's and disembarked. We had been puzzled by the less-than-convenient terminating place for the 54, but it turns out that the trams are to blame! The journey had taken 60 minutes instead of the advertised 45.