Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Number 98 Route

Willesden Bus Garage to Holborn
Monday January 18th 2010

This route was the return trip for the three of us as our Index Route 52 had left us conveniently at Willesden Bus garage – although grey and almost foggy the weather seemed quite balmy in comparison to our last 2 trips out, braving the snow!

This was a double decker and from the outset as busy upstairs as down – and this was mid-morning. Willesden is very multi-cultural and nowhere is this better evidenced than on this route as we passed, not necessarily in this order, a Brazilian Protestant Church, the Islamic College for further studies, the Hijab Centre (any number of attractive head wear), the True Buddha Temple and, once we got onto Willesden Lane, the very colourful Shree Swaminarayan Temple on the corner of Deerhurst Road towards Brondesbury. Along here the 98 is the unique route.

Willesden Lane is very clearly following an old lane which must have been developed in late Victorian times, as some of the houses stem from that era with the ‘gaps for the missing teeth’ filled by a variety of later dwellings, some of them proudly clad in bold Cotswold stone.

Said Willesden Lane of course comes out onto Kilburn High Road, which is always slow – Width of road? Volume of traffic? Pedestrians straying off course? – I have never been able to figure it out but clearly the bus timetables allow for this stretch of the highway.

Kilburn gives way to Maida Vale and a whole lot more choice of bus routes – we all love the turn of the century mansion blocks that grace both sides of the road and can only imagine what their interiors look like (doubtless some nosing through estate agents’ sites might satisfy our curiosity?) and then of course we passed under a rather clogged Westway, past both Edgware Road tube stations (and pity the poor souls now left hovering at the District /Circle one as the Circle no longer lives up to its name and is now journalistically the interchange from hell .

Today counts as our 7th trip along the Edgware Road (only 2 to go!) so the only novelty we could spot today was a cake shaped like a pink dolly’s pram – perhaps for a christening? Church Street market was open. It could even become a tube station if local campaigners have their way.

The journey up Oxford Street from Marble Arch was in fact quicker than Kilburn High Road – Selfridges had lovely new windows for spring though unfortunately our photographer was focussing on Parklife, where apparently from January to April 2010 24 life-size robotic dinosaurs will be roaming free – a novel way of using the Oxford Street ‘empty lot’. ‘Free’ is also not quite the right word for an experience which will set you back about £12 and can be had for ‘nowt’ in Crystal Palace Park. By the time you read this of course the dinosaurs will be long gone – not in Crystal Palace though!

TFL had already warned us that:
"OXFORD CIRCUS WC1: From 0800 Saturday 16 January until December 2010, Routes 8 55 98 N8 N55 N98 and N207 are diverted eastbound between Oxford Street (Wardour Street) and Museum Street due to works to upgrade Tottenham Court Road Tube station and enabling works for Crossrail. Buses will not serve Tottenham Court Road Station in this direction.
Diverted via Newman Street, Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road, Chenies Street, Gower Street and Bloomsbury Street."

Actually we were quite pleased to be on this diversion as it offered a change of scenery – smaller and more quirky shops along Goodge Street and right past the Eisenhower Centre, which was also of course a deep shelter, and on through bits of Bloomsbury and Bedford Square with their publishing houses and the Senate House for the University of London. Our bus rejoined its rightful route by Red Lion Square and we alighted and were able to admire the statue of Fenner Brockway.

Something of a bus of two halves with the cultural expansiveness that is Willesden and the London Borough of Brent and then through the heart of the West End, but still very much to the time-table.

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