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.

No comments:

Post a Comment