Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Number 105 Route

Greenford Station to Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3

Tuesday September 28h 2010

Definitely bonkers – having spent yesterday getting home from Gatwick I am now voluntarily visiting Heathrow, but in the services of the project you understand. It was good to be a fully re-established team, and good to see some public transport after a week in Italy, where I barely saw a bus. The Italians remain very attached to their (small) cars, which they drive round their historic hill cities with gay abandon, going home for lunch even. It’s difficult to know what came first – public ownership of cars leading to demise of public transport or lack of the latter leading to car ownership?

Anyway back to the less historic ‘borgo’ of Greenford, which as Solar Penguin, one of our followers has kindly informed us, has the first escalator from ground level UP to platform level, which we of course used to access our route of the day. (Plenty of escalators in Italy – to get the public from car parks outside to the attractions within the substantial city walls.)

We left from just round the corner from the station, across the road from The Railway pub, and boarded what seemed to be a rather poorly sprung double decker with thin seat covering making the journey memorable in the wrong way.

Greenford is well served by all sorts of public transport and major routes so is a rich area for housing – mainly post war by the looks of the properties. There is quite a generous sprinkling of playing fields, and the useful local map provided by TfL indicates plenty of open spaces behind the houses. At one point there were enough gaps to see more distant hills but today these were shrouded in rather gloomy low cloud that never really lifted. We saw some allotments too, which were looking fruitful. More flowery were some front garden sunflowers doing their cheering best.
As we approached the Dormers Wells estate, an area we had been through before, the driver was radioed to go straight ahead, dispense with any ‘twirls’ on his route and not stop. He actually came up the stairs to ask if that was OK, so we said that yes, we were gong all the way, but from the clearly distressed and confused pedestrians we passed en route others were not so happy. This gave us time to admire some of the well-cherished properties enhanced by off-street parking, of course, but also rather grand walls and fancy iron fences. Mary wondered if the latter were the choice of the Albanian community as when she visited the country of Albania a sign of prosperity was to build an elaborate wrought iron fence. Who knows? We passed the Lord Allenby again, but I am finding it hard to make a link between his life (bullish First World War military leadership at Mons and then the Middle East) and this quiet corner of London.

By now the bus was filling up substantially as if in Dormers Wells can Southall be far behind. The Town Hall crossroads are always a bit of a traffic bottleneck but we passed through today comparatively quickly. The last time we had been through here it was the eve of the start of Ramadan and everyone was doing their shopping – today it was just ‘ordinary busy’ and we noted the cinema poster but the still defunct cinema. As you sweep over the bridge crossing the railway and Grand Union you see a huge gas container with the letters HR on – apparently put there to indicate to pilots which way to fly if confused?

After leaving Southall behind we approached Cranford and having crossed the M4 the support industries that cluster round Heathrow began to appear – cargo handling, import and export, data management, and we also spotted a large wasteland obviously the site of some major demolition but still awaiting a buyer /developer. They could always build another hotel! Jo suggested we played Hotel Bingo with hotel chains instead of numbers as just about every chain you have heard of is represented along the Bath Road. This is also where the bus earns its keep as many of the passengers were clearly heading to work hereabouts. A large and smart-looking branch of Unite (the union) reminded us that they had represented many of the BA employees in the recent disputes.

There is also a large bowling alley for when all else fails.

This route runs along the Northern perimeter fence but also does a complete circuit round the Compass Centre (which way am I pointing now perhaps?), which gave us ample opportunity to watch several planes take off at very close quarters. Jo, who dislikes air travel because of its negative impact on the environment, was not prepared to take too many photos of the take-offs, but it did add a note of excitement to an otherwise rather familiar route. Actually I discover the Compass Centre monitors noise and is well located to do so, though in fact the evidence of noise on the bus was fairly small. Today the clouds were so low the planes vanished from view almost immediately.

Sadly this was not the most memorable bus of our 3 bus day, the others passing through rather more scenic and new areas than this route, which is doubtless useful to the locals but not very novel for us. It takes well over an hour also but does, like many of its fellows, run through the night.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Number 104 Route

Stratford Bus Station to Manor Park (Gladding Road)
Monday September 6th 2010

For those who wish to get from Stratford to Manor Park there are several alternative and quicker routes than this one, but that is not the point of our Project...

Unaccompanied on this trip I was certainly NOT alone as I boarded the 104 behind a milling scrum of at least 30 eager passengers at the always busy Stratford Bus Station.

Still I did manage to get a front seat and juggle pen and camera as we whirled out of Stratford round its one-way system. By now there are so many new buildings that the older ones begin to stick out – St John’s Church occupies a triangle in the middle of the roads and ‘Ye Olde Bull’ is now squeezed between newer blocks. The 104 heads down Tramway Avenue (I suppose it’s a bit like calling a road ‘Bus Lane’) and in spite of the fact we shared this route with at least 7 others this bus was always busy.

Today was the first day of term for most school age pupils and in still smart and slightly too large uniforms they were experimenting with the chip shops along the route. The bus heads past West Ham Park. This is apparently the largest green space in Newham borough. Newham seems to be one of the few local authorities, which does not believe in spending money on hanging baskets in the communal areas but rather relies on somewhat tired looking street decorations on the lampposts.

More seriously we also passed the HQ for ‘G’ Company of 7 Rifles, which has a TA Centre in Portway/Plashet. 

I have to confess that by the end of my 3-bus day I was more rather than less confused between East and West Ham, Plaistow and Plashet. Plashet it seems leads into West Ham if that is indeed the area round the football ground, which is sometimes known as Upton Park and which the locals seem to be calling ‘The Boleyn’. The bus stopped just by the ‘The Boleyn'  pub rather longer than might be expected for a change of driver. Unfortunately it was parked just that little bit too far away to take a convincing picture of the world cup heroes (1966 vintage) that have pride of place at this busy road junction. The Queen’s Market, the heart of West Ham, was not open today otherwise I am sure the bus would have been even busier.

This is where the 104 departs from other routes and where the driver’s skill has to be admired. This E6 ‘back route’, actually along Lonsdale Avenue, means he has to negotiate a series of traffic calming measures along what is in any case a pretty narrow road, and, between the oncoming buses (so surprised they are double deckers) and the silliness of some cars, it’s not an easy drive. Most of the homes round here are pre-war with gaps doubtless caused by World War II bombs, filled by rather utilitarian flats. Seventy years since the London blitz began when Newham suffered more than its share, being to the east and close to prime targets like the docks.

The 104 them emerges to join the 101 route but turns its back on Beckton and the old Docks heading back north. It passes on its way the Ancient Parish Church of  St Mary Magdalene set amidst a rather pretty but overgrown churchyard. This does not come as a surprise as the church has been here since the 12th century and is still used for worship.

By now we were on very familiar territory coming towards ‘The White Horse’ where we exchanged riding the 115 for the 58 back in March as very excellently recorded by Kate’s ace photos. This time I spotted the pub next to the park which is the most blatant football supporters pub I have seen so far round London, namely ‘The Hammers’ all decked in blue and maroon. Again I admired the Town Hall and this time noticed that Newham College offers a Women’s Business Centre, which when it was set up in 2008 was apparently the first such dedicated venture in the UK. Here of course the students boarded the bus in droves, though actually they might have completed the next bit of the journey quicker on foot.
Here the drive again gets tricky, as East Ham High Street is a pedestrian only area except for the narrowest cobbled bus-only lane, down which we edged. The risk here is not oncoming traffic so much as heedless and reckless pedestrians hurling themselves across the busy road full of every imaginable business and outlet. A few caught my eye – three community officers buying fruit by the bowlful, bags of candy floss hanging up (it's always party time in East Ham), yellow mangoes the size of melons and stand out shop fronts such as ‘Valet@shoe.doc or the ‘Overdraft Tavern’ then Cakes & Bakes including halal cakes (leave out the alcohol, basically). There’s always something new to spot round here and I am sure we will be back!

The 104 keeps going, crossing again the Romford Road and heading straight for Manor Park (rail) Station where the few remaining passengers got off. I stayed on till it had parked up in its final destination of Gladding Road and then made my somewhat lonely way back to the station.

Quite a short route taking just 40 minutes but no less intense for that, especially so no doubt if you are the driver.

The Number 103 Route

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Fenchurch Street Station was where Mary and I met to go to Rainham and begin our journey.  Linda being off in Italy, we were pleased that the two of us had a brilliant and sunny day for our trip to Essex as a compensation. We admired a very special pet shop as we awaited our bus, which arrived at 10.45.

Buses in Rainham set off from the War Memorial, a brick clock, and we noted that nearby Rainham Hall is open to the public occasionally: I was amused read that the ghost appears only in the daytime.  I'm sure the National Trust has rules about the proper frequency of hauntings, though at the moment the Hall is awaiting conservation.

Straight out of Rainham, we went round the Dover Corner roundabout with its interesting lights and came to some Forestry Commission land at Ingrebourne Chase, part of the growing Thames Chase Community Forest, on a former landfill site.

As we came into South Hornchurch we saw the former Cherry Tree Pub, in a very derelict state, but were cheered to see that the Bull is thriving.  We noted the Bereavement Centre with a flower shop conveniently next door, before moving into Dagenham, and passing Dagenham East Station and then the huge Civic Centre, and then turned right along Wood Lane to join the Number 5 Route for a while.  Huge is the word for institutions in Dagenham ( a couple of later buses took us to the Ford Works as you will see if you're still with us for the 170s):  the enormous cemetery at Horn Lane and the massive metal structures along Rush Green Road:  remains of gas holders we assumed, since sewage tanks - our first thought - don't usually have ladders going upwards.

Then we were quickly into Romford, and past the station.  As we pushed on into North Romford, the bus emptied rapidly as shoppers and students reached their homes.  We were the only passengers as we headed to North Romford, through a variety of ages and styles of housing, to reach Chase Cross at 11.35.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Number 102 Route

Monday 13 September 2010

Our third bus of the day, the 102 entailed only a short wait at Edmonton Green for Linda and me (Mary being only just back from the West Country).  We headed off at about 13.20, past the huge Asda which is one of many large shops in the area, and were soon caught in the traffic queues caused by the works to improve the gas network.  We were heading back along the route we had just travelled (the 144, as it happens) past an 'Islamic Desire' shop, a branch of which we had seen on an earlier journey, before coming to the Angel Edmonton Shopping Centre with its enormous Lidl.  How many supermarkets can one community sustain?

The North Circular had signs saying that access would be limited on 13 and 14 September.  These are the widening works that have been going on since April and are not due to finish till 2012, clearly very bleak for the people living alongside it, with many houses derelict and fenced off, though others looked in reasonable condition.  The Notting Hill Housing Trust is the partner with Enfield Council to renovate properties, shockingly subject to compulsory purchase orders in the 1970s for a widening scheme which is only now getting under way.

Crossing the New River, we were very close to where Eliza lives, and spared a thought for her journey to work this morning with the Piccadilly Line subject to serious delays.  Along Alexandra Park Road, our bus was boarded by a number of school students, discussing their new teachers and their timetables without restraint.  One said she was 'going to Starbucks to sit by myself and read' because she could not concentrate in the student block.

The John Baird Pub is 'named after the inventor of the TV' according to the pub's website, but I can't find any link between his life and Muswell Hill.  We headed on towards Fortis Green, leaving Enfield and entering Barnet, to pass the Noble Sage Gallery, which specialises in South Asian Art, and then past East Finchley Station to skirt the edge of Hampstead Garden Suburb, with its handsome houses, supposedly built to demonstrate how housing could be provided for all at a high standard, but now very much the home of the very wealthy.  We were heading along the Finchley Road, straight as far as the eye could see, and clearly too easy:  as we entered Temple Fortune our driver announced that he had been told to have a five minute stop as he was ahead of himself.

 Soon, however, we were again on the move, coming to Golder's Green Station, but not, somewhat to our surprise, looping into it.  Rather we headed off along the Golders Green Road and then left to pass the end of the road where Linda grew up.  Much of the housing was attractive and well maintained here, but we did see some evidence that leaving stuff in the garden is thought to be easier than going to the dump.

Pupils were coming out of Whitefield School as we passed, and we had views of Brent Cross for some minutes before we were able to cross the River Brent and weave our way behind the Holiday Inn to arrive at 14.45. We have linked to River Brent websites before, but not, I think, to this one.

The bus stop back at Edmonton Green had promised a journey time of 54 minutes, but this was clearly out of date, as we could not see any way that could have been achieved.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Number 101 Route

Wanstead to Gallions Reach Shopping Centre (Beckton)

Monday September 6th 2010

Well, after the glitz and fame of the 100 (600+ hits after being kindly tweeted By Diamond Geezer – thanks) the 101 was always going to be something of an anti-climax, not helped by its rather remote location requiring serious travelling to get to either end of the route.

Still we (Sue and I – Jo being in Suffolk and Mary still under the weather) were agreeably surprised by Wanstead, which even on this definitely autumnal and blustery day looked green and calm after the turmoils of the Central Line. It certainly has a villagey feel, what with the trough on George Green and then walking to get the Number 101 at Woodbine Grove.

The green theme continued as we passed the Old East Hammians (why not Hamsters) Football Ground and more importantly a great expanse of Wanstead Flats – this is one of the few routes to cut right through it. A fellow passenger, who introduced herself as Jean Gosling, told us there were recent protests at proposals to build a police ‘Briefing & Mustering Centre’ on Wanstead flats to deal with any trouble during the Olympics, which in turn reminded her that back in 1993, whilst a lollipop lady, she had been suspended because of leading her ‘school children’ on a protest to save some trees on the Flats.

Clearly the locals are prepared to fight to keep their open spaces and the Flats offer sports grounds, a golf club and of course some wilder areas with three or four ponds.

Not far past the Wanstead Flats we passed a large well-maintained cemetery which Jean recommended as also offering good walks – something confirmed by the existence of the following guided tour .

This was to be about the sum total of our greenery for the day though as you shall see Beckton proved to be leafier than anticipated. But I get ahead of myself.

First comes East Ham and immediately the bus, a proper double decker, became fuller and busier. By now we are familiar enough with East Ham to know that going south towards the River the bus takes a back route round behind the High Street and that was the way for us today. It passes through Ron Leighton Way, which we guessed must be a local footballer (you are very much in West Ham territory): however, my research indicates that he was in fact the local (old) Labour MP for Newham who died in 1994. In case you are interested, although there have been some boundary changes the local MP remains Labour and is currently Stephen Timms.

The bus ploughs its steady furrow south, passing the civic offices of East Ham – Town Hall and Library from the 19th century and the more modern Newham College opposite.

Today was very obviously the first day of term. The bus seemed abuzz with students of all ages who had been into their various places of education and were sharing timetables with their friends either directly or by phone, and each primary school we passed had a clutch of anxious ‘new mums’ outside.

Then once we had crossed over the busy A13 we were entering Beckton or Beckton Alps as the signposts promised us.
There is a mound/hill but we South Londoners are used to something more substantial and, dare I say it, less smelly.

Now our very old A-Z (I mean published in the 1980s.) has Beckton as a large area of gasworks, which indeed was the case, and it is still home to the largest sewage works in the country, the destination of London’s Victorian sewerage system and unfortunately the source of the smell just mentioned.

Further south are the remnants of three huge docks, which closed in 1981, and the river is really not that far away but unfortunately not really visible today. From the 1980s onwards the area has been developed and that was clearly what the 101 now serves – several estates of small houses in little closes, well planted with now mature trees, and then clusters round the several DLR stations hereabouts. The locals do of course need bus routes to take them shopping and the 101 is one such route as it approaches its terminus. The bus negotiates a few roundabouts and loops past the Beckton depot where cluster all the bright red DLR rolling stock, known in our family as Lego trains as that is what they look like – cheerful on a gloomy day, mind you. And then you are at the Gallions* Reach Shopping Centre. It’s in fact a huge car park surrounded on three sides by the usual high street suspects but seemingly housed in industrial type units. We took a comfort break and Sue even tried on a cosy looking leopard skin coat, which she promised not to wear with her leopard skin leggings. The shops were well stocked but strangely empty, so we rejoined the bus queues as this was ‘the only way out of here. ‘

Old & very new, green and not so green was the 101.

* If like me you assumed the “Gallions” was about old sailing ships getting up the Thames, think again – it’s named after the Galyons family, which might explain the lack of sailing motifs round the shopping centre!