Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Number 93 Route

Putney Bridge Station to North Cheam (Priory Road)

Tuesday July 20th 2010

Mary J & I started this route in a very relaxed state having spent an enjoyable 2 hours in Bishop’s Park and Fulham Palace (just across the road or along the Thames Path from the starting point of the Route 93) but by the time we finished we were slightly more rattled.

It was clear from the moment the driver said he was not ‘going all the way’ that he was in a tearing hurry. The route advertises itself as taking 35 minutes, which we thought ridiculously optimistic. Mary, who was my guest and attentive photographer today as this route is very much one she grew up with and knows its highlights and lowlights, doubted she could make that time in a car.

We tracked our way back across the Thames where the tide had receded far enough to allow a man to be standing on a mud flat (taking photos?). Though we had already been down Putney Hill earlier today (just shows how little you really see) this time we noticed a blue plaque to Charles Swinburne, the Victorian poet – very apt, we thought, as he goes with the period buildings – plus on the same plaque Theodore Watts-Dunton (1832-1914) who, my research indicates, was a poet and critic but also Swinburne 's minder after he lost the plot after too much of the Victorian equivalent of a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle…

Although the traffic was flowing more freely it was interesting to note how many more passengers there were around so the bus filled up quite fast. At the top of the hill the 93 bears left round  Tibbet's Corner .

It’s a complicated junction, necessitating pedestrians to go via the underpass and brave the local ‘flashers’. (At least that was the case 35 years ago, Mary says – and no it wasn’t Swinburne, but perhaps they have cleaned up their act.) Talking of ‘cleaning up their act’ no mention of Wimbledon can pass without reference to  The Wombles, the original re-cycling family  (health warning if you play this one).

The number 93 is the way to go and we sped down Wimbledon Parkside with large and gracious houses well set back to our right and Wimbledon Common to our left – I was rather surprised to see a lone young mother pushing a double buggy emerging from the woods as this did not strike me as the obvious place for pram pushing, even at the height of summer looking quite deserted and awaking uncomfortable memories of Rachel Nickell. The speed of the bus accounts for the paucity of photos of this bit of the trip!

Nonetheless, it was a nice leafy ride and soon we were out of Wandsworth and into Merton borough and Wimbledon Village – as upmarket as most of the London ‘villages’ where the activities on offer include both riding and golf when you tire of the pretty little shops – I say no more. Wimbledon does retain remnants of a ‘working village’ with its Masons’ Yard and of course the nearby Windmill Museum

Still no lingering, and the bus embarked on the steep descent into Wimbledon town centre, managing by dint of the bus lane to overtake queues of traffic held up by the ubiquitous gas main works. Had we paused mid-hill I think there was a fine view over towards the Surrey hills. Wimbledon Town Centre has all it should have – nice old library, rail and tube stations, Victorian theatre built 1881, with the nearby Polka Theatre for children and even a YMCA should you wish to stay over .

Ever in a hurry, the 93 zipped on heading steadily south along the Northern line . I was reliably informed that the Baital Futuh mosque was converted from the former Express Dairies depot with lots of parking where the milk floats used to be – an imaginative bit of re-cycling for what now claims to be one of the largest mosques in Western Europe.

Coming into Morden was quite a contrast to Wimbledon – as the early to mid 20th century suburb that grew up around the station is not as coherent as when built. Mary’s mother had always said they had meant to continue the Underground to Cheam but the war intervened and stopped the tube extension so Morden remains the ‘end of the line’. The most attractive sights along here include the church of St Lawrence and the nearby Alms houses.

The 93 was in such a rush to depart its stop before too many passengers boarded that it pulled out in front of a car which had to swerve and hooted in response. Undeterred we raced up Stonecot Hill – the road is wide (A24) and straight (the old Roman Stane Street and, according to Wiki, this is the only section of the road that is on the true line from London Bridge to the east gate of Chichester).

The same road also passes over the Pyl Brook, a tributary of the Beverley Brook, which Jo had walked following our trip on the 57 in February – how time flies. By now we had reached ‘The Woodstock’ at the Sutton Common crossroads and as previously warned were turfed out. Another speed fiend of a 93 was close behind so we boarded and he was clearly heading for the garage as quickly as he could. By now we were in North Cheam which generated a discussion as to whether there was a ‘Railway Cuttings East Cheam’ – fictional home of Tony Hancock and Sid James.

More to the point, Mary knows the grand-daughter of a local builder Mr Macmillan, who went into partnership with a local farmer called Lavender and built significant numbers of houses in North Cheam – the farmer’s legacy being some streets named after him rather than the fragrant shrub. The bus’s last real stop is by the large Sainsbury’s and it then turns off at lights – a desolate Sixties block spoils one aspect of an otherwise reasonable thirties crossroads with only a bookies holding out where all other businesses have long departed. It made a rather depressing end to an otherwise pretty extensive trip from river to suburb through common and village, though one not enhanced by the somewhat hasty driving.

P.S. Coincidentally, this route was posted the day the Guardian Review published a memoir by the late Tony Judt recalling his childhood in Putney in the 1950s with - among other things - reference to its many bus routes.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I've just found your blog today via a link from Diamond Geezer, and being a Surrey/SW London exile in Milton Keynes nowadays a really nice read. The 93 was one of the buses of my youth as it transported me and my gang of wannabe yobboes most of the way to Stamford Bridge on a Saturday, we'd take the bus from Morden all the way to Putney Bridge before embarking on a spree of adolescent high jinkery all the way along Fulham Rd before arriving at Chelsea's ground pockets a bulging with shoplifted sweets and other teenage treasures, once again thanks for a cracking little blog, Kev.