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…

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