Monday, 12 April 2010

The Number 66 Route

Romford Station to Leytonstone Station
Monday April 12th 2010

In order to get thus far we had already been under the Thames and out from Stratford so were not impressed that we waited over the expected 12 minutes for our 66 to start us off from Romford Station. Once again we found ourselves a year on from our last visit back in Romford on a non-market day, but by lunch-time in the school holidays Romford was still pretty busy and this route, like many of the others makes sure you pass the key shopping centres at Liberty and the Romford Mall – smaller and quieter. The pedestrianised areas are all well sign-posted, and bus is probably the best approach to this part of London, situated as it is not far from two major roundabouts, signs to the M25 and a whole lot of dual carriageways.

We of course were heading (not for Chicago or LA) but back into town and Leytonstone and the most direct way – if you don’t opt for the Central Line – is arguably down the A12 dual carriageway on Route 66. We were 12 miles from central London (much less than 2,000 miles all the way), as the many motorway boards told us, and swept on through lingering only by a few early shops – office clearance showing the death of the filing cabinet as they piled up on the pavements. After that it was fast driving along the quaintly named Whalebone Lane North to get, most aptly to the Moby Dick crossroads. If you ‘Google’ Moby Dick at Crossroads you get an excellent heavy metal YouTube clip of a band called Black Dog, or possibly the other way round! However more prosaically there was and still is a pub of that name.

The only route along here takes it pretty fast as most of the stops seem to be requests – we agreed that with the Central Line so key to this area the bus ‘fills in the gaps’, sometimes considerable, between stations, but most commuters would go for the tube. Some stretches had rows of inter-war housing, with blossomy front gardens still well maintained, other bits had larger warehouses named randomly ‘Doors-R-Us’ or even ‘Lamps-R-Us’. Signs to Goodmayes Hospital reminded Mary of some early experience in mental health medical training.

Our speed was curtailed by the Gants Hill roadworks, which had been due to finish this year, but it seems not so we’ll update when we are next round here. This gave us time to contemplate the teeny weeny balconies on the new build by George Wimpey – handy for the tube though. Still the sole bus we passed Redbridge Station close to the M11 and a very large road intersection – apparently a speciality hereabouts.

Thames water seem to be housed in a pretty and older pumping station and there are some squeezed in allotments, possibly prone to flooding from the River Roding, just before you get to Wanstead Station – lacking the art deco charm of the Piccadilly Line the Central Line stations are utilitarian and in need of some TLC, which we noted Wanstead is about to get in the form of a face-lift and better access.

Somewhat to our surprise the bus turned off the A12 at this point and what we glimpsed of Wanstead Place impressed us with its villagy feel – a Green, older houses, and even some Almshouses, so obviously is worth stopping off. Then lo into yet another Roundabout – this time the Green Man, a very popular motif in East England – location of a Close named after locally-born writer John Drinkwater, whose most quotable lines appear to be the seasonally appropriate “And not a girl goes walking / Along the Cotswold lanes / But knows men's eyes in April / Are quicker than their brains.” From here we took a little 1-way access into Leytonstone Station, where clearly café society has arrived, and joined the passengers heading for the Underground.

Well you can tell by all my desperate references to stations passed and route numbers that the bus was short on drama, history or landscape, in short: I did not get many kicks on Route 66, which did its number in something over the promised 23 minutes.
Short route = short blog.

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