Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Number 77 Route

Tooting Station to Waterloo Station
Tuesday November 24th 2009

This route proved to pair off nicely with the 44 which had brought us to Tooting RAILWAY station – Tooting being more famous for its 4-square on the Northern Line it was interesting to discover that there is a train line too that goes from Sutton as a Capital Connect right up to Kentish Town and Luton. Jo resisted the urge to return home more swiftly and we admired the variety of individual, as opposed to chain shops that dot this part of Tooting – catering (and I mean catering as most are eateries of one kind or another) to the diverse population. Some of the quirkier examples included Rick’s Café (there’s me thinking Casablanca) but if offers weekly ‘Haggis, neaps and tatties’ opposite the Tooting Progressive Club and the rather splendid St Boniface Church.

When our 77 had stopped bullying the 270 in front of us, it behaved quite nicely and on several occasions along the way paused to let ‘runners’ catch up. Wandsworth borough seem to be cleaning and restoring their libraries as both the Tooting and the Lavender Hill ones were encased in scaffolding. We waited (actually we lurked as there was no ‘This bus is being held’ announcement) at the bottom of Garratt Lane which gave us time to think about how it really was a proper lane, and that we could imagine it with not only cows along it but horses and carts. For the most part the remaining old houses are the smaller, turn of the century workmen’s cottage type Many of them have been shop-fronted and today was our day for catching hairdressers again – down here we had ‘Clean Cuts’ and ‘Hair Republic’ with more to come in Battersea**
Earlsfield is of course the ‘up and coming bit’ of this part of the world as the evidence of upmarket diners, tended window boxes and larger villas indicated. After Earlsfield train station the 77 turns right and for a while is the only bus climbing the hill up to Wandsworth Common and the splendours of Spencer Park – we noticed a lovely villa ‘The Station Master’s Lodge’ which stood out in size from its neighbours – no doubting the pecking order in Victorian London. The bus goes alongside the rail approach from the south west and allowed us to see properly the memorial erected to the victims of the Clapham rail disaster. We presume Windmill Road had one once.

Once round the corner that is the Clapham Junction shopping area (and bus hub) we carved a pretty much dead straight line along Lavender Hill with its arts centre, Magistrates Courts, and multitude of estate agents and mixture of interior design and exterior make-overs by which I mean ‘Hair Disciples’, ‘Crew Cut’ and ‘Cut Point’. . The Christmas lights had been attached to the lampposts and it was so grey today they were already switched on at mid-morning but we were lucky to complete the trips today without rain.

Gradually Wandsworth borough gives way to Lambeth (along the Wandsworth Road as it happens) and by now the 77 was filling up nicely. There were some specialist shops (not as adult as those spotted on the 43) but SF, Mystery Collectibles and some small studios adjacent to Larkhall Park. At times the views to the left were very extensive, sweeping down over many many rooftops and railway lines – too built up to see the river though. Another more modest set of almshouses caught our attention and in contrast the very modern building that used to be a college and now seems to be under non-educational redevelopment.

We did our now familiar little tour of Vauxhall bus station and the little Brunswick House before carrying on in a straight north east direction passing Vauxhall Bridge, and the much more attractive Lambeth Bridge, complete with Mr Tradescant’s pine-apples atop the end pillars (? brackets) that hold the bridge up, as he and his son lived /worked and were buried close to here – the Museum of Garden History commemorates their work also. The upper deck allows a very good view of the Lambeth Palace gardens and the lovely old Palace which rather shows up the bland buildings that seem to house shipping offices or some such. The wind was whipping up the water and the poor little Duck tour was bobbing about.on the Thames. Sometimes when it’s windy they suppress the London Eye but today it was turning though missing a pod (or Eye-pod, as Jo said) and coming at it from this direction gave a strange pylon like impression… St Thomas’s, which has absorbed the Evelina from Guys in its new buildings, was visible and we were astonished at how nearly complete the round building is which has replaced the old GLC extension in the middle of the huge roundabout at the end of Westminster bridge. Somewhat to our surprise and pleasure the 77, and it may well be the only route to do so, squeezes its way down the back of the South Bank venues to finish at Concert Hall approach, handy for both culture and convenient onward travel.

A pretty neat trip and just under the hour it estimated – strong on haircuts less so on blue plaques!

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Number 76 Route

Monday 24 May 2010

Mary was in Scotland, so Linda and I met at Baylis Road and were on our way by 10.10, in beautiful, warm and sunny weather. The bus was quite busy, with some tourists but also a lot of people heading to work or the shops or college. We passed all sorts of familiar sights,  the Old Vic, Waterloo Station, St John Evangelist Church and King's College South Bank, as well as the IMAX and the National Theatre, to cross Waterloo Bridge, still undergoing road works, but with the River looking very alluring in the sunshine.

Over the river, and we headed round Aldwych to go straight along the Strand, past St Clement Danes.  On previous trips, we have always noted the RAF statues at the West end of the church, but this time we spotted Samuel Johnson, behind the East end of the Church. Then we passed the City of London marker, which points out that it is on the site of Temple Bar, and we were in Fleet Street and pointing straight at St Paul's and the statue of Queen Anne in front of its west end.  We noted that some of London's elephant herd was having a nice sit down on the way to the Millenium Bridge.  As always, we enjoyed the street names and fine buildings, large and small, of the City, as we passed Punch's Tavern and the Royal exchange, to reach London Bridge and turn north and into Hackney.

We were on familiar territory as the bus went up Moorgate to London Wall and then up the City Road to Old Street and the New North Road. Hackney promises to be 'delivering decent homes on your estates', as well as celebrating its open spaces on many banners. We crossed, and then turned right alongside, the Regent's Canal, which brought us into the leafy de Beauvoir area, and the N1 Garden Centre which is, of course, a 'boutique garden centre'.

Around Dalston Junction, the works for the East London line appear to be continuing even after its opening: presumably the extension to Highbury and Islington which has not yet been cut by the Coalition.  Stoke Newington High Street offered the kind of contrasts so familiar in London:  a shop selling lobsters across the road from a pound shop.  We also noted a funeral director who offers repatriation (hence, we suppose, their pyramid-and-palm-tree sign) before heading through Stamford Hill and into Tottenham, admiring the public conveniences with clock.

We alighted from our bus at Tottenham Town Hall, about an hour after leaving Waterloo.  Linda gave the charming bus driver one of our cards, and he expressed some interest, saying 'I've always wanted to do that.'

Crossing the road to catch a different bus, we were amazed and delighted to see what we assume must be a genuine Banksy, since it is protected with a perspex sheet, which means that the photo is less than perfect. Still, you can enjoy many including this one at his website. Art as well as warm sunshine will mean that we remember Tottenham with pleasure.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Number 75 Route

Lewisham Bus Station to Croydon (Fairfield Halls)

Monday May 17th 2010

Jo being up North doing clever things for the University of the 3rd Age, Mary and I were left in charge of photography and scribing respectively on what is often a workaday get-around-South-London bus for me. Still we will try to do it justice.

Lest we forget, buses are actually for transporting the public around not for playing blogs, and this one was jam-packed from start to finish with virtually all seats taken upstairs, so clearly serves the population of South East London well. The bus was clean and we had lots of leg room as we sat upfront alongside anxious looking ladies from Eastern Europe whose places were then taken by eager Spanish tourists who rather strangely boarded in Penge, descended in Croydon and were clearly intending to take a train to Victoria and then the tube to sight-see round Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace – not the most direct route I would say, but we didn’t have the heart to turn them round the other way…

The 75 of course follows the usual route from Lewisham to Catford, which takes in the shopping centre and market, newish and very large Police Station, Clock Tower and War Memorial and the spread out buildings of Lewisham Hospital. Today there was a wedding at the Registry Office – Monday morning at 10.15 seeming a rather strange time to choose to promise your undying devotion.

After Catford we headed off in new direction and for most of the middle section of the trip the 75 was the only route. This is certainly a bus that has to take many twists and turns as it skirts (positively avoids I feel) Forest Hill and much of Sydenham, just skimming past the handsome 'Thorpes' built between 1901-14 and designated a conservation area in 2001 due to the ‘consistency of the building materials’ following a Queen Anne style with brickwork and pargetting and in sharp contrast to the smart new build Forest Hill Boys’ School. The 75 then crosses Sydenham High Street towards Penge along lanes where you would scarcely think two double deckers would pass. Off to the side are very charming houses in Victor, Albert, Edward and Tennyson Roads which gives you some idea of when they were built.
That they still survive is something of a miracle as Penge was very heavily bombed.

Clearly the Number 75 has been serving the locals for years but today we were not heading to heaven, merely Croydon.

This is a bus from which you can nearly always see the Crystal Palace transmitter – as much a landmark to South Londoners as the Eiffel Tower is to Parisians – the highest hill of the ‘Old North Wood’ and the bus takes a run up to the Robin Hood and down to Selhurst. There is of course lots of railway line to cross and lanes to negotiate – It’s only a cut through to Selhurst Park Football Ground, rebuilt some years ago and a shared ground in the past but now the sole ground for Crystal Palace FC, at the end of the season seemingly in poor financial shape but clinging to their place in the Championship..

The run down into Croydon is less than inspiring though it is interesting to reflect that Croydon had high rise buildings long before central London, which is of course why so many of them are looking slightly tired. Central Croydon is a canyon of sorts. Today we noticed a new phoenix rising from the ashes of a previous building proclaiming on the hoardings ‘live in extraordinary beauty’ . This proves to be the IYLO Building - it’s on a traffic island /roundabout?

Decide for yourself.
There is no doubt that Croydon is a city in its own right with terrific transport links of all sorts and shopping and eating facilities that operate virtually round the clock – today the traffic was smooth and we made our final stop in 55 minutes – the faithful old Fairfield Halls – long time venue for theatre music etc having delivered an entire bus load of satisfied passengers to their chosen destination.

We did wonder whether the popularity of the bus was due in any way to the fact that Croydon houses both the Home Office and the offices of the UK Border Agency…

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Number 74 Route

Putney Bridge to Baker Street

Monday July 27th 2009

My folk memory of this bus growing up in NW London was that it was the route that took you to the Zoo – very important to know for some-one who had junior membership of the Zoological Society – however since 2002 it has terminated at Baker Street.

The Number 22 (see earlier) having left us at Putney Common, we finally found a walk that took us from the Common along the River where we passed a series of boathouses belonging to a range of public schools, noted the River was at low tide and dived into the Putney Exchange shopping centre to use the facilities. However we continued to amble up the High Street oblivious to the fact the first stop was outside a defunct Woolworth’s, so we missed the first 74 but then climbed upstairs on the next one at about 12.15, immediately crossing Putney Bridge where the River is good and wide and the views extensive in both directions. The view upstream being of course the start of the Boat Race course. The morning’s rain had just about stopped so it continued to get warmer.
The upper deck of the bus gives an excellent view over Fulham Palace Garden which is quite extensive. The bus itself was very popular with passengers the length of its route and the upstairs was almost always over half full. We noted that large chunks of Fulham Recreation ground next to the rather lovely Fulham cemetery were being re-seeded but equally flocked over by the birds so the net gains (no pun intended) may be small. Just at Fulham Cross we spotted Zazou Cuts for men, and alongside the run of antique shops the Arab Cargo Company all ready to ship your purchases away! Lillie Road winds it way like the Lane I’m sure it once was and past of course Sir John Lillie School. (As several routes use Lillie Road I thought it would be easy to find out who he was but it is difficult even for Google to get past the barrage of web pages created by, for or about the school! Possible candidates include a pre-Shakespearean actor, an 18th century general and a US Bostonian who seems to offer links to the families of both Churchill and Bush, but the favourite may be a director of the East India Company…

We noted the 28storey monstrosity that is the Empress State Building (not a patch on its New York mate). Much of this route duplicated the 430 we had travelled some months ago, but is rather more creative around Earls Court – today there were no concerts or exhibitions to tempt one in but we did pass both sides of Earls Court “Creating Legends Since 1937” apparently.

Along this bit of the Old Brompton Road there seemed to be several Cornish inspired names in the side roads and once into Kensington & Chelsea Borough the public flowers took on additional grandeur, and actually some novelty (Lilies and hibiscus) along the Cromwell Road aka the A4. Apart from the Cromwell Hospital this stretch is wall to wall hotels dominated by the very tall and plain Holiday Inn, but we also noted the Radisson, the Cromwell (Best Western) which was a very pretty and spruced up original building, as indeed is much of the nearby Queen’s Gate.

The bus does a little swerve away from the Cromwell Road at this point so though you glimpse both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert it does not actually stop alongside. The V&A is due to open 10 new medieval and renaissance galleries in November 2009, which should be tempting. Both temples to knowledge are so impressive it is hard to say anything original about them – it being the school holidays the crowds were impressive. South Kensington, with its continuing road works is still something of a pickle but we got through quite quickly, and swept up Knightsbridge to Harrods, which Jo for some reason had felt she had missed out on – why? The passenger head count round here was impressive so it was good to see the overseas visitors spending some money.

Not for the first time (!) we came round Hyde Park Corner and along Park Lane, by which time both hunger and familiarity had set in. The past few occasions we have circled the Marble Arch it has been busy with people cleaning and planting up and today we were somewhat surprised to see a giant horse's head reminiscent of ‘The Godfather’, but only a temporary resident we understand. For once we turned right at Marble Arch as if to head for Oxford Street. At this point we took a radical decision and GOT OFF the bus in order to undertake a couple of vital errands (coffee and treacle toffee stocks were running low – I leave you to work out who wanted what) and some 45 minutes later we reboarded another 74 at the same stop in order to complete the journey. Gloucester Place, rather like Orchard Street has more than its quota of Blue plaques and we spotted homes where Wilkie Collins and Gerald Kelly (a remarkably long-lived – 1879-1972 – portrait painter) had lived. The bus took one more right turn into the Marylebone Road and past the very grandiose Marylebone library to leave us outside Baker Street station, where a plaque marks the spot of the first underground railway.

The V&A galleries have indeed opened - excellent exhibits shame about the captions.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Number 73 Route

Monday 13 July 2009

This being the day of a 5 bus marathon, we should have appreciated a prompt start;  but while we were early at Victoria, the 73 was a bit slow to appear, and so we did not leave until 10.30:  and then, even before getting to the end of Park Lane, the destination was changed to King’s Cross:  so we got off in the Tottenham Court Road and immediately hopped on to the following bus.  We must have hit the only gap in the day-long stream of 73s that so annoys people waiting for the 390.

The bus was very full from the start, though thinned down a bit along Oxford Street.

We were able again to admire Grosvenor Gardens, with its two little shell encrusted huts (function not discoverable) and the Rifle Brigade Memorial about which there is a very interesting article in the War Memorials Trust Spring 2008 online magazine.  10 times as many riflemen died in the First World War as in the Second.  We also glimpsed the blue plaque that indicates that Ian Fleming lived at 22 Ebury Street 
As we went up Park Lane we caught sight of the very new memorial to the victims of the bombings of 7 July 2005  which looks to Jo as if the architect had had a good look at the New Zealand Memorial at Hyde Park Corner.
Oxford Street was very slow, but our driver evened things out a bit by going over many just-red lights. We passed many familiar objects, and as the Euston Road was also slow we had time to admire them all.  We noted that the old Kings Cross Thames Link Station is still open for access:  a long walk underground!  Then we were into Islington, along Upper Street, noting the splendid hanging and kerbside flowers before moving away from the 4 and 19 route at Islington Green. We spotted a blue plaque saying that Collins’ Music Hall had once stood here.
Stoke Newington has many fine buildings and another blue Plaque (bear with us, we had been rather starved of them recently) for Daniel Defoe.  There was also social housing of various periods, Hugh Gaitskell House dated fairly clearly by its name, and the Guiness Trust Estate, which seems to bear no relationship to the beer peer who so miraculously recovered from Alzheimers some years ago.  Moving into Haringey, we came to Seacole Court, before arriving at Seven Sisters Station and heading down the Victoria Line to get to Walthamstow and the key bus of the day, the 20.

Friday, 14 May 2010

The Number 72 Route

West Acton to Roehampton (Bessborough Avenue)

Monday April 6th 2009

The Number 7 (see earlier) having left us in East Acton, we had only to remain at the same stop to get its close relative – the number 72. East Acton was a lot smarter and less scary than we had anticipated and even nearby Wormwood Scrubs looked attractive in the spring sunshine. We are clearly not alone in thinking this as the prison building built between 1875-1891 was recently awarded 'listed status'. We retraced some of the same ground back to Latymer (private) and Burlington Danes (C/E) schools and then turned right past some ? regenerated nurses’ homes (Nightingale and Pankhurst blocks) onto the Du Cane Road. This then took us under Westway past a shiny, as in aluminium covered, and secure looking building which turned out to be the new BBC. In fact it calls itself the new Media Village, was designed by Allies & Morrison and can be visited in detail in the News Release put out by the BBC on 11/5/2004. The bus swept onto the older BBC White City, familiar from aerial shots. This is of course now close to the large Westfield Shopping Centre, which seems to fill in a rather dead area between White City and Shepherds Bush.

The bus went right round the Green that is only enlivened by a small war memorial and the detritus of the101 fast food outlets which now surround the eponymous patch of grass. We veered off left towards Hammersmith, which has less green but more offices – we noted firemen busy washing their engines in the newer station and the older station just up the road a trendy restaurant. Hammersmith is a major transport hub, as we have learned to call them, with the tube interchanges rather neatly tucked under the road system and two tier bus garage – we went through the lower one and then headed south.

My more knowledgeable companion informed me that St. Paul’s School, with the pupils evacuated during the war, had served as a secret HQ and was the site where Monty told Churchill about the D-Day plans. To me this indicates that St. Paul’s has been out in Hammersmith for at least 60+ years…We were delighted to cross Hammersmith Bridge, which is most attractive (visit here for a 360º view) and had been out of commission for so long. This led us then along the road to Barnes – Castelnau – graced with substantial villas and many a magnolia tree in bloom, followed by bosky Barnes Common.

No sooner had we crossed the South Circular by Rosslyn Park Rugby Ground than we passed several different parts of the University of Roehampton – formerly different teacher training establishments, but now selling itself as ‘open spaces – open minds’ We thought it was a good campus if you felt a bit timid about tackling central London universities. There also seemed to be a vestige of Queen Mary’s hospital, Roehampton perhaps still famous for its limb-fitting centre. At the end of Roehampton Lane the bus turns into the very large Alton Estate, known to me from my Wandsworth social worker days when this was indeed my ‘patch’. In the early seventies, when I worked here the blocks and houses were newish, the buses were few and far between and the tenants had mainly been re-housed from ‘older properties’ in Battersea and World’s End (Chelsea) and thought themselves, quite literally, to be at the end of the line out of London.

The blocks, built during late Fifties, do have extensive views over Richmond Park and rather than walk directly from one end to the other we (eventually via the A3 and a comfort break at ASDA) got ourselves into Richmond Park and back round to pick up our next bus.

This was a friendly and busy but not crowded single decker bus, often used by younger people doing short hops, especially round the key stations and university.
PS There is a very striking documentary series on life on the inside of Wormwood Scrubs, currently running on ITV.

PPS Only three photos are taken at the time and then batteries failed – I’ve added some spring colour to cheer us up – all familiar, reliable and popular garden plants visible on many bus rides….

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Number 71 Route

Kingston (Cromwell Road Bus Station) to
Chessington World of Adventures
Tuesday April 6th 2010

The Number 65 (see earlier) having left us in a Kingston side street off the main shopping drag, we walked to the more streamlined of the two bus stations at Cromwell Road where we boarded, along with a few passengers of school-age, bound for fun at the end of the line. It was clearly school holiday time.
Very pleased to be back on a double-decker bus, we enjoyed our superior view of Kingston as we threaded through the town   following the quite fierce and extensive one-way system. Close to the bus station you can just see the ghost of an older Bentalls, now flats. (Today’s bus did not past the current revamped store.) The precincts were very busy and several passengers boarded loaded down with their spring finery purchases. Tempted but not that much we progressed through Kingston, passing en route evidence of Civic Pride in both the Crown Court which has hosted some pretty high profile trials of late, likewise the adjacent handsome Town Hall When we emerged we were headed in the direction of Surbiton, which while ostensibly a suburb of Kingston is still very much a place in its own right – the bus did not do much stopping round here as the residents clearly walk or use cars, but slowed through the Surbiton High street, nicely tended with abundant daffodils, and older buildings thoughtfully recycled into the ubiquitous Pizza chains or Building Societies. Research indicated that Surbiton Station was used as a location for ‘Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince’.

As we left Surbiton via the fringes of Tolworth the scenery changed abruptly into the rather bland and slightly tired looking ‘ribbon’ development that had grown up (and died by the look of several pubs) alongside the busy arterial roads hereabouts. The Hook roundabout is big enough and in fact goes over the multi-lane Kingston by-pass below and the 71 keeps up its speed along this route passing rapidly through Chessington North before heading off the to the right and uphill to Chessington South. We confessed to being rather disappointed as the Tfl South West map (and we were very much on the fringes of London travel) looks all ‘green and fairly empty’ but is in fact pretty built up and has been for some time – all rather reminiscent of the North Circular which was a bit disorientating, as we were about as far away as we could be from that.

Just close to Chessington South there had been some redevelopment – a new Community College (with pupils keen enough to be doing some Easter revision classes by the look of it) and a very extensive Business Park. Once past these buildings the bus draws into the front of Chessington World of Adventure – originally just a zoo but now one of the premier adventure parks. The ‘Welcome to Chessington’ guides looked slightly surprised when two ladies ‘of a certain age’ disembarked without grandchildren, and possibly relieved when we turned round to march back to the nearby rail station. At Kingston they had estimated the journey as taking 23 minutes – 29 would be closer for while the distance covered is significant the Number 71 can belt along quite happily for long stretches without having to stop.

The Number 70 Route

Tuesday 11 May 2010

A week's gap in our journeys for reasons I won't go into in case you are reading this over a meal, but Mary, Linda and I were all set this week, and walked through parts of Acton from our first bus to board the 70 at noon in Horn Lane.

A single decker bus, it was busy all the way, with people getting on and off with shopping, and a number of large buggies.  We headed down the Uxbridge Road, here called Acton High Street, and were interested to see a green grocers that had not gone over to the plastic basin sales method.  We also passed a Passmore Edwards Library, so we are able to note what an all-round good guy he was.  Without him and Carnegie, we wonder how many London boroughs would have libraries.

 We noted the EYCIS centre and the Michael Flanders Centre, opened by the great man's widow shortly after his death, and catering for the elderly.  Then we reached Acton Central Station and Acton Park, pleasingly springlike though the weather had clouded over, and then the King Fahad Academy, celebrating its silver jubilee this year.  Acton, by now East Acton, had become rather village like, with small cottages opening straight onto the pavements.
Soon we were over the A40 and passing Hammersmith Hospital and then Wormwood Scrubs Prison.  The attractive white painted blocks of flats that are called Pankhurst House and Nightingale House seem to indicate a feminist enclave, but I can't find any explanation of their names. Barlby Road brought us to the Kensal Road and the Grand Union Centre (and Canal) where we looped into and out of what we think of as 'Sylvia's Sainsbury's' before heading down Ladbroke Grove as far as Westbourne Park Road, and swung left, entering Notting Hill, with its pram shops, fine houses large and small, trendy restaurants, as well as the Portobello Road Market.

The bus took us round Whiteley's, and on past the Catholic Church of St Therese of Lisieux and the Anglican Church of St Mary Abbot, so we could have had both earthly and heavenly delights had we not been pressing on towards Kensington.  Along past Kensington Palace and Hyde Park, we turned right into Queen's Gate, with a Statue of General Napier as well as a blue placque for the ex-Hungarian Physicist Dennis Gabor.

We reached South Kensington Station at 13.00, after an hour of enjoyable West London travel.