Monday, 28 June 2010

The Number 82 route

Monday 28 June 2010

After last week's adventures, it seemed tame to be meeting Linda at Victoria.  Mary was on holiday in Wales, so it was just the two of us.  Actually, the head stop was in Grosvenor Gardens, just past the statue of Marshal Foch, presumably because of the ongoing works in Victoria Station forecourt.  We were on board shortly after 10.00.

Effectively, and give or take a few roundabouts, the route goes straight north until it reaches North Finchley.  So we headed past Buckingham Palace Gardens, round Hyde Park Corner and up Park Lane.  We glimpsed the Queen Mother's Gates and the Memorial for the animals killed in War, before getting to Marble Arch with very lovely red and white busy lizzies (or possibly petunias.)  Was this patriotic planting to go with the w*rld c*p, if you'll excuse the mention?  (Our trip was the day after England's last match)

We admired the terraces of Portman Square, noting that one houses the HQ of the League of Arab States
We also noted the Blue Plaque for the artist Sir Gerald Kelly. We were making rapid progress as there was a 13 ahead of us to pick up passengers, and we swept past Dorset Square and Marylebone Station to reach Lord's and then the Wellington Hospital with excellent, bright plants on its balconies. Once we got to Swiss Cottage, we craned our necks for the view of the back of Linda's school, and then we were up the Finchley Road and into the Borough of Barnet.  We approved of Julian Pizza, Pasta and Carwash, which seemed to offer all that a man could desire (well, nearly) but does not appear to have a website for you to share.

Linda remembered that the 82 used to be a trolley bus when it brought her to her ballet lessons.  The Shri Swaminarayan temple which uses an old church is less stunning to look at than their Neasden flagship, but we were interested to notice that it is still active.  We also liked the wording on the Finchley War Memorial.  But more exciting than that was College Farm where we saw three black, long horned cattle grazing, but could not get a picture.

 Next we saw signs to the Middlesex County Cricket Club Academy, as well as a dry cleaners called 'Cleansleeves'.  Then it was along past Dollis Park and Finchley Central Station, to reach North Finchley Bus Station at 11.05, just about an hour after setting off.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Number 81 Route

Tuesday 22 May 2010

Linda was on holiday in Wales, so Mary and I hoped that she was having the beautiful sunny weather we were enjoying, as we grappled with the issue of how to travel on the only London bus that goes to Slough. If we were not such purists we might have said, 'oh, leave it till later';  but rules are rules and the 80 was done last week, so we met at Paddington, took a train to Slough and its about-to-be-rebuilt bus station to get onto the 81 at 10.45

Neither of us knew Slough (as opposed to driving past it) and we liked the pedestrian shopping area, and were delighted with a shopping centre whose name we could actually explain:  the Observatory Centre because  -of course - William and Caroline Herschel lived and worked in Slough.  As we headed out of the town, we admired the excellent roses planted along the verges, and the shared pavement/cycle track.

We crossed the M4 at the Honda roundabout, sponsored by them as it is near their huge offices.  New homes were labelled 'Heathrow Gateway' as we approached Colnbrook, to pass The Ostrich, which claims to be third oldest Inn in the UK.  We were, of course, on the main road from the west to London (in the days before the A4 and the M4) so inns were naturally to be expected.  After the motorway, and the River Crane we travelled on almost country roads until we got to Heathrow, signalled almost as much by the 'no third runway' posters on every lampost as by the planes which appeared to be alarmingly close to us as we sat on the top deck.  A bus journey round two sides of Heathrow really showed us how huge the whole thing is: hectares of car parking, innumerable hotels, lots of minicab firms and lots of warehousing.

At this stage we got into conversation with the couple behind us, who were on their way to Peckham to have some stewed eels.  We did not think that the 81 to Hounslow was necessarily the ideal way to get there:  they usually catch a Green Line to Victoria.  We were very interested though, as the man had been stationed at RAF Uxbridge, and we were planning to be there later in the morning.

Travelling along the A4, the overhead planes were almost continuous as we got into Hounslow.  Given the host nation of the current football, we were pleased that our access was along Steve Biko Way.  We circled the Treaty shopping Centre, and then were a little taken aback as the bus said it was terminating, and then moved on, just as we and the stewed eel people were negotiating the stairs.  Still, no bones were broken and we got into Hounslow Bus Station at 11.45, ready to cross the road and hop onto our next bus.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Number 80 Route

HMP Downview to Reynolds Close (Hackbridge)

Monday June 14th 2010

Mary & I had arrived at the starting point of the Number 80 route, and reading that it came every 12 minutes were all ready to start eating our sandwiches when one (a single decker) suddenly appeared round the corner and we just about had time to grab our passes and board. No time for any photos of the area! On our gentle walk up the hill from Belmont Station where had left the 80’s close relative the 280 we had passed a road sign rarely seen inside London, and this of course indicates that this was one of the trips taking us from the outer edges of the TfL domain.

The isolation is of course why in1877 the Victorians chose to build a ‘lunatic asylum’ to safely house the ‘mad of Middlesex’ and I can still remember Banstead hospital on this site as it is still shown in our A-Z (not quite the latest edition…) Closed in 1986 there are now 2 Category C prisons on the site. Looking at the number of parked cars it’s clear most of the staff don’t use the bus and sure enough we were the only passengers until passing the impressive (in all senses) Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton hospital and some allotments.

Most of our fellow travellers were heading for Sutton town centre /station, including some 17 year olds casually discussing that ‘granny was to pay for the £3000 car, one parent the insurance the other the cost of driving lessons’ so he won’t be on the bus for much longer. Going north the routes go past the back of Sutton High Street and its shops but rather more scenically than the south route.

Anyway this is a comparatively back street bus and we soon turned left past the sizeable Sutton bus garage towards Sutton Common and Morden, with a brief foray on the A217. There were substantial amounts of inter-war era housing and at Morden Park (NOT to be confused with Morden Hall Park ), which comes before the very end of the Northern line at Morden. Mary was clearly getting a bit homesick as she thought we might get the tube and ride home, but this was NOT the end of our trip.) We passed Merton Technical college and its students flooded onto the bus.

Truth be told this was more of a people bus than a places bus. Passengers greeted one another – sadly the youngsters made some racist observations between themselves and the passenger seated behind us was curious enough to ask what we were up to.

Our replies then triggered a certain amount of teasing from the students who clearly felt they ought to point out the local landmarks ‘This is the stop where the bus sometimes terminates’ or ‘You’ll be needing your Satnav’ They were closer to the truth than they knew as I was quite confused that we seemed to be heading BACK into Sutton at one point but actually crossing the main road to deliver more passengers home.

A single decker is very intimate and there was no hiding the fact we were trying to take photos which prompted some posing also. By the time we were back on the very extensive, garden city style St. Helier estate, Mary told them she was most impressed with the estate’s evident keen support for the England team – just about every other house had a flag – they were quite tickled that we had photographed one of their homes.

The estate is quite extensive and the 80 is one of its key routes. We crossed the River Wandle again and stopped at Reynolds Close – by this time the driver was curious too but happy to be photographed next to his vehicle. By now we had arrived in Hackbridge/Bedddington .

‘Strange smell’ said Mary – on almost all maps there is a huge blank space hereabouts which proves to be the Beddington Sewage Works . I leave you to decide whether this was fitting end to one of our more diverting (but not diverted) trips.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Number 79 Route

Monday 7 June 2010

Mary was recovering from half term, so Linda and I made this trip,  starting at Alperton, in Glacier Way, just across the road from our first bus of the day. In fact the buses call it 'Alperton, Sainsbury's' but they do not go into the car park as we might have expected.

The headstop timetable promised a 35 minute journey, but this was not to be, as our journey took almost an hour from our starting point at 11.40.  There does not seem to have been any real problem, just a number of places with no bus lane and so general traffic slows the buses down.

We headed out over the Grand Union Canal, making its way down towards the Thames, passed the Alperton Bus Garage and came to the Church of God of Prophecy, part of a chain.  We noted that this one also included the Comunidad Christiana Latina which is a protestant church serving mainly the Ecuadorian community, as well at the Central Wembley Mosque and the beautiful Alperton Temple.  I was rather shocked to find a report of the exploitation of the stone carvers when had been brought from India to embellish it a decade ago.  But their work looks good  ten years on.

Soon we were into the main shopping area of Alperton, with Linda noting that her favourite Ambala sweets-and-snacks shop has a branch here.  There were windows full of lovely Asian clothes and jewels, as well as handsome borough geraniums in baskets along the railings, as we moved on towards Wembley.  We had fine views of the Stadium before we turned left over the railway and along past King Edward VII Park.  The bus was being used by shoppers, as well as students coming to or from exams.

The bus does loop around a bit, and we were interested as we headed away from Edgware and towards Watford, but this was only a brief twiddle, and soon we were bowling along Honeypot Lane and Marsh Lane, past Canons Park and its station.

We came to the Church of St Lawrence, Little Stanmore.  We had been told that Handel was connected with the church, and sure enough he was, since he was employed by the Dukes of Chandos.  Soon we passed the Church of St Margaret of Antioch, quite an interesting saint even if we found the building unremarkable!  We realised that this had been quite a religious journey, one way and another.

We had also seen a lot of pubs, as usual a number were boarded up but there was a substantial number that were alive and well, and flag decked all ready for the World Cup.

Very soon  (though not as soon as the promise!) we were at Edgware station, disembarking at 12.35.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Number 78 Route

Shoreditch Church to St Mary’s Nunhead

Tuesday October 13th 2009

Taking this route was something of a spur of the moment decision as we fell upon it having got off our key route ( the Number 35 which brought us to Shoreditch) By now it was lunch-time and Sue and I had eaten our sandwiches in the well tended and gardened (but nevertheless frequented by drinkers) churchyard of St Leonard’s. We found some local sites while trolling in vain for a toilet so in the end just boarded the bus. The 78 is a single decker so photo opportunities are less good but people watching and nipping through the back streets much better. It did a complete circuit of Arnold Circus with its magnificent blocks, built in their day as ‘slum clearance’ now looking a bit run down but it was beautifully quiet considering how central we were.
The bus went back towards the City, passing TEA and the building site that is the new overground station Shoreditch High Street, which will be part of the East London Line and apparently by 2010 will be (is!) joining hitherto ‘tubeless’ south east London more directly to network.  This was lunchtime and the streets were really busy round Spitalfields, Artillery Row and the tiny ( or is it just dwarfed by the surrounding buildings?) Dirty Dicks. These streets going round the back of the Pinnacle building were all strange to us non financial sector workers but we came round into Houndsditch and St Botolph’s and eventually into the Minories as we approached Tower Bridge. Although the pedestrians were clearly ‘city types’ the passengers on the bus were not; however that did not stop them conducting some different sorts of business over their mobile hones as we progressed very smartly past the Tower of London and across Tower Bridge – what a privilege. Butler’s Wharf on the left houses some very expensive real estate and the 
Design Museum and very soon we were bowling along Tooley Street and Bermondsey through the heart of Southwark –here too there is green in the shape of Bermondsey Spa gardens. Dunton Road leads into both the Old Kent Road and Mandela Way, which leads only to the biggest Tescos around which I fear demeans the name of the great man. Once out on the Old Kent Road (remember this was the old pilgrim route out of London towards Canterbury) and heading south you pass a number of large stores an Asda, a B&Q … you get the picture. Avondale Square estate on the left looks well maintained and is still managed by the Corporation of London - a better landlord than many.

Being essentially a ‘back-streets’ bus we turned off down past the old, Livesey Library (now seemingly a church ) with its murals celebrating the history of Southwark, and down into the Friary Estate but noting an excellently maintained butchers’ shop with some nice meat on the counters. **This reminded me of ‘Last Orders’, Graham Swift’s excellent book, which when filmed featured Michael Caine as a Bermondsey butcher who loses out to the local supermarket. There are dense estates hereabout with one of the blocks adorned by a Southwark plaque for Rio Ferdinand.

The 78 then doubles up with the 63 route for a while which of course means it comes round by Peckham Library and through the Peckham 1 way system – the fruit and veg stalls were on top form today and it was all we could do not to leap out and buy a basket of bright peppers.

At Peckham Rye this route diverges left past Austins court and time again to be nostalgic about the passing of the real Austins; a three storey furniture shop. Nunhead Lane winds authentically as a lane should but much of its original character has been lost or poorly replaced. The Almshouses (‘Live and Let Live’ motto over the door ) and nearby pub do enhance the not very green Green next to the Pyrothechnics' Arms. A nifty right and we were in St Mary’s Road – peaceful and pleasant and near to the old Health Centre complex called Peckham Vision.

In contrast to our index trip of 1½ hours this one barely took 40 minutes - impressive, considering how far it had come.