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.


  1. Hi guys, loving your blog - what a fantastic idea! I am actually a journalist for a national newspaper agency and would love to have a chat. Feel free to email me on and we can have a chinwag!

    Keep up the travelling!

    Many thanks, Adam

  2. If I'm heading to Stratford I usually take this route as opposed to the quicker 238. I like the scenic route of 104 and it's interesting sitting on the top deck and seeing/feeling how the driver navigates in and around Lonsdale Avenue. Also it's a long enough journey to just sit back and listen to my mp3 player!