Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Number 96 Route

Monday 16 August 2010

Any bus that goes from Woolwich to Bluewater is going to be a part of a very full day, given where we start from, and this was no exception.  Linda and I had a bit of a walk from the bus that brought us to Woolwich, before we found the headstop, climbing to the top deck of the 96 at 12.25.

We had been promised a sunny day with temperatures of 23 or 24, but it was in fact cold, autumnal and overcast. I suppose we have too much faith in the word 'forecast', imagining that it means something more than it does.  Past the entry to Woolwich Market, and we came to the Riverside Royal Arsenal apartments that seemed to have made little progress since we were here in the early 50s (bus numbers not years). We were going alongside the river, though it was seldom visible because of the 'houses in between' though I admit that the song references other parts of London.  We had a change of driver as we passed the East London Bus Group's Garage, and came to Plumstead Station with a nearby Tandoori restaurant called the Ghandi (whereas the Mahatma's name is more usually spelt Gandhi).

  The bus was very busy, with the upstairs almost full for much of the way. A garden and hardware shop was advertising fox repellent, obviously a big thing with foxes so much in the news this summer.  All we know is that they sneer at those electronic deterrent things.  What had once been a school still carried the LCC coat of arms, but seemed to be disused now.  The cemetery, however, was still functioning, and the terracing up the slope seemed to ensure efficient land use.

We were slowed down by road works - it looks like a new roundabout  - and then passed a farm, or at least a paddock with some horses (we townies get very excited about things like this) before coming to a pub called The Duchess of Edinburgh.  This is very puzzling, as the pub sign is of a 16th century lady, sort of Jane Grey looking, and yet the only Ds of E I can find are either the one who then became our queen, or one who married Queen Victoria's son Alfred.  Oh, yes, and a clematis.  This wasn't our only pub sign worry:  we also passed the Guy Duke of Warwick;  a couple of buses ago I wrote a lot of stuff about the King Maker, and the end of the Wars of the Roses, but again, this pub sign (which we hadn't seen before) shows a late Tudor person. But I digress.

Meanwhile our 96 had reached Welling, where many people got off, and we admired the cannons in the middle of the town, as well as noting a Wimpy burger bar.  We had thought that the brand was extinct, but it is alive and well on the borders of Kent.  I've put in the link so you can see where the name came from...  We were delighted to see both a fabric shop (Loose Linens) and the Welling Sewing Centre, since home sewing seems to be a bit of a dying tradition.  Welling also has an HQ for the GMB union. The road then headed straight as a ruler for Bexleyheath, following the 89 route for some way, with some slow traffic because of the 'major gas works' in Church Road.  We were amused by the biblical implications of the property lawyers, Cain Associates (how to ensure that your brother does not inherit?)

On the outskirts of Bexleyheath, huge numbers of people got on outside the giant Asda, so that the bus was completely full.  I think this is only about the second time this has happened to us on a double decker. We headed out of Bexleyheath along Arnsberg Way, named for one of Bexley's twin towns, which is near to one of the Dambusters' dams, the Mohne.
We headed on towards Crayford with the wide open spaces of Bag Hill Wood on our left, and signs to Hall Place, before coming to the Greyhound Stadium and the clock tower, installed in 1902 by what was then the Rural District Council.  Then we moved into Kent, and came rapidly to Dartford, where quite a few people got off, confounding our surmise that we were all going to the shops in Bluewater.  The other remarkable thing about Dartford was its Church Tower, with the clock faces offset rather than central, and its feet in the River Darent.

From the outskirts of Dartford, the bus is non stop to Bluewater, with a bus lane where you might think the fast lane would be. And so we arrived at the quarry with the shops in it, at 13.45. Linda had of course been here before, but her preferred memory was of a walk some years ago with a local friend, when they all laughed at the thought that anyone would ever visit a shopping centre built in the middle of nowhere...

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