Monday, 26 July 2010

The Number 88 Route

Camden (behind Sainsbury’s) to Clapham Common Station

Monday July 26th 2010

This started and ended as an overcast clammy day with some fairly feeble rain in the middle (not an umbrella’s worth) and low cloud obscuring some of the photographic opportunities.
88 – two fat ladies – slight exaggeration but 2 bus ladies boarded at Camden after what seemed like a pretty long wait which somewhat set the tone for the whole journey…

It was a long time since we had done any real central London trips, having been out beyond the TfL limits recently, and while in some ways it was good to be back – lots to look at – in other ways it reminded us how unpredictable central London traffic can be.

Anyway down Bayham Street, one of Dickens’s many dwellings and past the glories of Mornington Crescent – refurbished Craven A building and less furbished Taylor Walker pub (the lamps and trimmings needed a polish) and Koko club – I am sure it looks better by night.
Talking of disrepair, the former Temperance Hospital looks a real wreck along the approach to the Euston Road – perhaps it’s like the picture of Dorian Gray and the more the population drinks the more it crumbles? Not that we’re exactly tee-total.
The bus had to detour round a stranded car that seemed to have died on this rather busy thoroughfare.

Anyway the new bit of the route into town was along Great Portland Street (this is in fact one of those routes that correctly you should do both ways: as much of the earlier part is one-way the experience surely differs). Once behind the station this is a very fine stretch of upmarket shops and restaurants including one calling itself the Flower School. Even more surprising was a shop headed up hair-raising for kids, which I thought must be an exclusive children’s salon – it however proves to be a much more worthwhile venture.

We were quite surprised to see extensive queues of young people often with buggies in line for the Polish Embassy which finds itself in this corner of the West End. Of course the 88 soon crosses Langham Place with the cleaning of the Broadcasting House nearly complete and arrives at Oxford Circus – strange all that disruption last year to create a diagonal crossing and hardly anyone uses it? The journey down Regent Street towards Piccadilly seemed painfully slow today – we had a quick ticket inspection and then spent our time wondering randomly –

- why the road surface was quite so bumpy, after all this prime tourist Regent Street

- is oh-so-English Burberry still justified in flying the flag? 

- and why had another car ground to a halt on a double yellow line just short of Eros?

Down Haymarket was if anything even slower as by now in addition to the 10 or so routes queuing this way we had also acquired two ‘Original Sightseeing Tour’ buses. Trafalgar Square went comparatively faster and then we enjoyed reasonable speed down Whitehall giving us time to admire the range of statuary (General Haig in a rather commandeering pose), the Women at War Memorial and of course the Cenotaph. Talking of war, of course the Parliament Square peace protesters have been moved on and the grass looked as bare and yellow as it does elsewhere.

Milling crowds almost obscured the entrance to Westminster Abbey, leaving us to contemplate the Sanctuary Building nearby – once the HQ for the British Union of Fascists (I take no credit for this historical information). Soon after this and before we got too much of a nasty taste the 88 dives down Great Smith Street, which is much quieter . There was some debate as to whether the new government had dropped the Children & Families from the schools bit of its Education department so ‘we’ may be floating free again? Here is the HQ anyway, then bits of the Home Office too and eventually the 88 creeps up behind the Tate Gallery emerging in time to cross Vauxhall Bridge , which is of course where the rain set in – spoiling the transpontine photo opportunities of which I am so fond.

The streets off the South Lambeth Road have rather more to offer than the main drag, which has a somewhat patchwork period feel – there is just about something from each era. The  Black History Walk  starts from here and the link gives you both history and a map.

There was not to be much walking today, however, as the 88 pressed on down to Stockwell , as it happens our last journey through here (shh we’ve already ridden the 345), I think pretty thankful it could take on grateful passengers and move at normal bus speed. We passed again the church for the deaf – St Bede’s – and what seemed to be a speciality hereabouts – strange pub adornments: first of all an astronaut atop the Circle bar and a fish skeleton for the Railway Tavern near to Clapham North Underground.

From there it is but a quick run down to Clapham Common though quick was NOT how one could describe the total running time of this trip which was close to 1 ½ hours – still, if we had wanted to be in a hurry we would have taken the Northern Line all the way, but we are the Ladies who bus so we stayed put – it’s like a slow cooked flavoursome casserole as opposed to fast food.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Number 87 Route

Tuesday 1 September 2009

This route was taken almost a year before its posting and, unusually, I was on my own.  Like the 86, which we were to travel much later, the journey was remarkable for many miles of straightness.

A short walk from the 28 brought me to Wandsworth Plain, where a selection of 87s stood, and we were off by 11.50.  We went at a smart pace, particularly compared to the lethargic 28.  After Wandsworth Town Hall, we went pretty well straight until we reached Vauxhall: East Hill becomes St John’s Hill and in due course Lavender Hill and Wandsworth Road.  The first time our driver had to steer at all was to get into and then out of Vauxhall Bus Station. We swept past Clapham Junction Station, and Arding and Hobbs (now Debenhams).
The Artesian Well has a handsome Triton on its exterior, though its website reveals it is not really a pub for people our age.
The Postmen’s Office proves to be Clapham Sorting Office.  Being alone limits the chances of taking photographs, but the website will show you what a quaint building it is.

On every occasion that we stopped at a traffic light, the driver hooted as soon as he got green, to encourage whoever was in front.  The scheduled time for the trip to Aldwych is 45 minutes, and this is clearly rather tight.

After Vauxhall we crossed the river to proceed smartly along Millbank.  No-one wanted to get off for Tate Britain, but as we reached Parliament Square and Whitehall there was more passenger movement.  

We were a little slowed by the continuing works up Whitehall.  The barricades are, I take it, to protect our civil servants from their employers, the governed, which seems an interesting use of the taxpayers' money.  We were not seriously delayed, however, and we panted into Aldwych within the set time but only just.  

When they make me Dictator of all Buses, one of my first acts will be to shorten the time allowance for the 28 and lengthen the 87’s.

The Number 86 Route

Monday 12 April 2010

Having emerged from the Blackwall Tunnel on the 108 and got to elegant Stratford Bus Station, Mary, Linda and I had to hurry to get onto the 86, before it left at 11.15.
There were already lots of people on board, so we didn't get our customary front seats on this, the only double decker of our journey.

We headed straight along the Romford Road, and in fact were to go straight for many miles.  It's hard to say whether this is because (a) the comparatively flat nature of the land makes straight roads easier, or (b) the roads came before some of the settlements or (c) the Romans were here. Certainly it was very different from some of the lane-like high streets we have wound along in West London

We passed The Old Dispensary which apparently is now being used as Newham Council's 2012 Olympic Offices.  We were, of course, in Olympic territory with good views, though poor photo opps of the main stadium and the aquatics centre.  By the time you read this, it will all be even nearer completion, but this website is quite fun anyway.

The West Ham Municipal Baths is now home to the First Musical Academy,  and we also saw the large Police Station and the Forest Gate Mosque.  We were still heading straight, noticing anxiously that almost all the front gardens had been converted into hard standing - where will all the rain water go?

Manor Park High Street had some attractive shops and we were able to admire them before popping under the North Circular and over the River Roding  and (at last!) making a right and then a left to point towards Ilford and Romford.  Winston Way, we thought, was an indicator that we were getting into Churchill territory, though his constituency was a little further out.  We also noted the Winston Children's Centre. Our route paralleled the railway (our return on the 66 was to follow the Central Line) so we passed Seven Kings, Goodmayes and Chadwell Heath Stations.

The pubs on this trip seemed to be in better condition than other places we have been, and we admired the realistic sign of the Cauliflower.  We also approved the Borough's signage about drinking too much.

Other signage we saw included the 'yoof' Church board ('luv 2 talk? talk 2 Jesus) and a hairdresser called 'Dye-ing for a Cut'.  The Territorial Army's 289 Parachute Troop, whose HQ was on our route, has a long history, including supporting the Royal Horse Artillery, an odd mixtures of the ancient and modern when it comes to methods of warfare.  Although we passed signs to Romford Greyhound Stadium, we sadly did not get close to it, nor indeed sample its many delights. 

We reached Romford Station, busy with shoppers, at 12.25.  Much of the 70 minutes of the ride had been in a straight line, but with plenty of shop-and-people watching to keep us entertained.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Number 85 Route

Kingston (Kingston Hall Road) to Putney Bridge Underground Station
Tuesday July 20th 2010

My regular travelling companions were both holidaying with grand children so I had the benefit of a guest companion today – confusingly also Mary, whose specialisms include Garden History, plants and the local knowledge of living in outer South West London for all of her life.
We walked from the station through historic bits of Kingston – Kings’ tun or homestead I gather (outside the Guildhall is the Coronation stone for the seven Saxon kings) beyond the shopping malls and stores to reach the start of Route 85 close to the courts. Given that Kingston has not just one but 2 bus stations, it was a bit puzzling that this route should choose to start here.

Once aboard we crossed the Hogsmill River, almost hidden from view. By Kingston it has come quite far (Epsom & Ewell) and is about to join the Thames. In Medieval times this would have been one of the key Thames crossings outside London. Also past the Market Place so it’s quite a shock to come out by all the modern buildings with the Kingston Club Oceana and the Wilkinson chain taking over the old C&A building on a prime corner. There is the ‘ghost’ of a sign for the Empire but the cinemas are new build also – Kingston town seems somewhat to have segregated its historical bits from its modern shops.

Mary was pleased to see the very well laid-out Cromwell Road bus station (that’s what I call a proper bus station) before we rounded the corner by Tiffin School ( a mere newcomer founded well after the Grammar school) and the Lovekyn Chapel opposite, apparently presented by Elizabeth 1 to the Grammar school post Reformation. It seems a shame that both these older buildings are on such a busy thorough fare and exposed to the traffic fumes of the Kingston one-way system.

On we went past St Peter’s church closely followed by Kingston Hospital on the right – the fact that the car parks seems to loom more impressively than any ward buildings seems to say something about modern planning – it does sit quite handily close to a roundabout and range of bus routes.

However with the hospital and central Kingston behind us the bus becomes the sole route hereabouts (there is a University bus though) and heads up Kingston Hill. I had had high hopes that once on the top deck I would be able to see over the trees and peer at the range of expensive properties hereabouts but that seemed not to be the case – for the most part they remain safely cocooned behind gated and private (of the unmade up sort) roads in an area called Coombe, known already in Domesday times. However I suspect the residents are far too exclusive to allow mere bus passengers to peer over into their properties…The only grand building clearly visible is Galsworthy House, now refurbished as a nursing home, but I like to fantasise this was the property Soames Forsyte built for himself when his fortunes were on the rise ( The Forsyte Saga) Galsworthy was born on Kingston Hill though there is no blue plaque.

Kingston University has parts of its campus up here, with superb views over towards Richmond and Wimbledon Common. According to its website it has more applications than any other London university, which is not really surprising given its proximity to London but airy feel.

Still we were about to leave ‘airiness behind’ and hit the more prosaic A3 – not for long though as after a little detour across or rather under the dual carriageway to serve the 24 hour Asda (the 85 is a 24 hour bus also) we then turned down a narrow bus only snicket in order to serve the pretty densely populated Alton Estate. Mary and I had both worked here in our time and felt some of the blocks were in need of TLC although the trees were looking good – some big enough to predate the estate, others having matured over the years. Not surprisingly many passengers boarded along here. Mary noticed a walnut tree and a wellingtonia and we were both very aware of the low flying aircraft hereabouts. Just as the bus approaches Roehampton Village, which obviously pre-dates the 1950s estate, there are several churches of all persuasions including the RC one with its open air Madonna.

This bus then has to negotiate some quite tight turns through the village, complete with period cottages, before it emerges alongside Putney Heath – here there are prestigious private estates cheek by jowl with the Ashburton estate, all of them situated opposite the greenery of Putney Heath – however the greenery was by now looking sadly dry and yellow as a result of too little rain. Perhaps ‘The Green Man’ can work his magic – the bus stops alongside the handsome pub of that name as well as the terminus of our old bus friends the 14 and 37. Having climbed up and over Kingston and up to here it was now downhill all the way to the Thames.

The bus had made excellent time so far but this is always something of a bottle neck and we lingered awhile in the traffic at the junction of the South Circular and Putney Hill and its continuation Putney High Street. This gave us time to admire a Millenium memorial sundial with its quotation from a well known hymn identified NOT by yours truly, whose sole memorable hymn was ‘All things Bright & Beautiful’ but I digress .This, I am reliably informed, comes from verse 5 of ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’. There is a lot going on along Putney Hill: new buildings galore – a former college (according to some helpful fellow passengers) now a Marketing Site & Suite for Barratt Homes.

We liked Gentle Dental but were a bit puzzled by the Citizen Smith bar as we remembered him as hanging around rather less smart Tooting and so long ago we wondered whether modern customers would even get the reference??

Putney High Street is traditional with turn of the 19th century grand buildings clustered around its rail station but modern shop fronts with a road built wide enough for one or two trams but certainly not for a full range of buses, delivery lorries etc so progress was slow but we weren’t in a hurry and our prize at the end of the High Street is of course Putney Bridge and an excellent way to cross the Thames – today pretty full. The last church in Putney also boasts a sundial and then it’s past the Bishop’s Park and turn right to the elevated Putney Bridge Underground station, which is of course a contradiction in terms …

For a change and to cool down we took a relaxed and very interesting lunch break in the Bishop’s Park, where you can walk along the river in the shade complete with newly-restored Fulham Palace (the Bishop of London moved out in the Thirties and Hammersmith & Fulham have used grants to restore it as a local amenity.

Just under an hour from Kingston and passing some pleasant open spaces (I can’t honestly say they were still green) and lovely trees en route.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Number 84 Route

St. Alban’s to New Barnet Station

Tuesday July 13th 2010

Mary & I had arrived at the starting point of the Number 84 route after three false starts on leaving St Alban’s Station where we had arrived swiftly courtesy of a small payment and First Capital Connect trains – that is we thought it was the starting point just round the corner from the station and only realised once aboard a small and boneshakingly old bus, and by asking another passenger, that we should have walked the other way. It just shows what happens when the tour leader abandons us to follow the Tour de France and inept deputies step in. However as Mary was already trying to make her strained back (over-achieving on the allotment?) comfortable, we thought for once we would do nearly the entire route – our first deviation in 84 routes – how standards can slip.

Effectively we saw little of St Alban’s, which is a City in its own right, and headed out of town generally, we were advised towards London Colney. Not only was this bus a bit rickety, but also its doors whistled each time they opened and of course it did not have the luxury of automatic bus stop announcements, but it made up for it with friendly passengers

London Colney looked very much as though it had been built post World war II to house families who had lost their homes in central London, and was now several generations on. In amongst the newer housing stock were several older and prettier buildings including both a ‘Red Lion’ still very much open, and a ‘White Lion’ closed down. Just when we thought we were into the old village and over a little river – the Colne rises in North Mimms and runs to Staines, and is apparently beloved of fishermen – suddenly in the middle of all this rural activity there was a huge Sainsbury’s previously Savacentre, then across the heath to the Willows Farm
Village and Farm Shop.

Just further along a sign indicated the De Havilland Museum so clearly lots to do for the upcoming school holidays round this way.

The bus was rattling along at a fair old speed as once we had delivered the St Albans passengers to London Colney the 84 hardly stopped at all, and then came the most surprising bit of the trip – on our right fields of barley (gold) [Sting alert!], well, something ripening, I’m only a townie – and on our left the M25 busy as usual whereas we had our road to ourselves. The country theme continued with the rather lovely ‘White Hart’ pub and a distinctly piggy smell, which penetrated the bus. So too the street names we could catch were Mutton Lane and later Cherry Tree Lane as we whizzed through some hidden hollows round about South Mimms – little do you know what lurks as you drive up the M1 or round the M25.

Our first set of traffic lights for a while greeted us at the commencement of Potters Bar so we spared several thoughts for the people whose lives had been lost in the 2002 rail crash and wondered how the enquiry was going. Interestingly the enquiry does not appear to have its own website so thought the Health and Safety Laboratory one would give a less sensational account.

Potters Bar seemed quite extensive – I think the 84 pretty much does a total tour in order to access the station and then heads south, pausing to change drivers as we cross back into the London zones and safely back inside the M25. This is the way towards Hadley Green of which we had never heard but were impressed to find a village so close to both London and the M25 retaining quite such a small scale feel

Although this photo looks like our usual attempt to capture the local war memorial this image in fact is a much older monument with a more unique history – namely the Battle of Barnet.

Chipping Barnet merges into High Barnet and the focal points of the High Street – the very fine church and the Spires shopping centre named after it. I was just explaining to Mary how we had received a helpful comment on the 34 blog about how high the Barnet Church is when a fellow passenger, disembarking with us at New Barnet, told us it was 326 feet above sea level (not surprising as our views had been extensive even from a small bus) He added that his dad, who had been unable to serve in the forces during World War II as he had a weak chest from being a stoker had been on fire watch, which he used to carry out from the top of the Spire – which apparently you can still climb up at weekends.

The church apparently founded in the 13th century was rebuilt in 1560 but I think the current version is a Butterfield special from his gothic revival phase though I am happy to stand corrected. Lots of historical details here for the keen. It is the site of an ancient horse fair, whence comes the rhyming slang of Barnet Fair or barnet for 'hair'.

It was downhill from here – in all senses. We passed High Barnet Station – having grown up on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line, taking the right had fork feels like being unfaithful so I tend to leave it well alone – and thence into New Barnet (confused? Yes so were we) and the end of the route.

A doubting relative had not believed a red London bus would take us to St Alban’s but here was the proof and very enjoyable and certainly memorable the trip we had aboard it.

PS We were clearly not the only doubters as just short of New Barnet a very cheerful Inspector boarded to verify our passes and hailed our driver as ‘Easy Tiger’ which is not quite how I would describe the careful chauffeur who had brought us safely through rural Herts back to London.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Number 83 Route

Monday 5 July 2010
Another warm morning, though perhaps not as sunny as the past few days: and what better way to spend a birthday than a few buses?  Linda and I met at Golders Green, not for the first time, and were off by 10.45, destination Ealing Hospital.
The first part of our trip was along the Golders Green Road, and we spotted a vanity numberplate appropriate to the ethnicity of the area: M17VAH, as well as a ghost wall sign, presumably from the 1950s.

We crossed the North Circular and the River Brent, and admired the greenery of Hendon Park and the neat way the modern Magistrates Court had been attached to the older building.  We were the only bus for a while, but as we headed towards Kingsbury, we saw a learner bus.  we also noted the King George Pub, with a fine picture of the young George III.  Poor George, famous for being mad, just as Henry VIII is always depicted as fat, and Florence Nightingale always has to have that lamp.  But I digress.

Brent Town Hall was clearly a hub for buses, but we were more interested in the stadium just opposite, and then both Wembley Park Station and Wembley Stadium Station, with its handsome bridge, which looked a bit underused, but clearly is not.  Also in this part of Wembley is the Ark Academy, which looks as if its building programme will be complete before the cuts bite.  We saw the Queens Park Rangers Football Programme, called 'Kickz: goals through football', which proves to be part of a national scheme, funded through the FA and the police, among others. Rather a good strapline, we thought.

We were kept busy admiring Brent Council's excellent hanging baskets, with petunias and surfinias, as well as geraniums in beds and troughs along the roads.  There were many attractive front gardens as well, to compensate for those that had been turned into hard standing.  As we passed some street stalls, Linda wondered what 'methi' was: it's fenugreek.  Some of the stalls were also selling pretty clothes.  We passed a branch of the ICICI bank, one of the first Indian banks to become international, as well as Wembley Central Mosque and, pretty soon, the Neasden Mandir.  Over the Grand Union Canal, and the River Brent again, and we were into Ealing.  We went round the Hanger Lane Gyratory, relieved to see that its many underpasses are for cyclists as well as pedestrians, and along Hanger Lane itself.  Bridge repair works near North Ealing Station slowed us down, but then we were at Ealing Common, and then Ealing Town Hall, built, we thought, to match Christ the Saviour Church next door.

A reminder that Ealing used to be well outside London came when we passed cemeteries belonging to Westminster, and to Kensington and Chelsea.  Ealing High Street gave way to Hanwell, and we headed along the Uxbridge Road and over the River Brent again, to reach Ealing Hospital and its close neighbour St Bernard's Hospital, an earlier example of patient care.  Our bus had taken almost half an hour longer than the timetable promises, decanting us at 12.10.