Monday, 22 November 2010

The Number 124 Route

 Monday 22 November 2010

It was 11.10 as Linda and I set off from Catford on our single decker bus.  The official start is St Dunstan's College, a private school whose motto, Albam Exorna, means 'adorn the white' (which leaves this O level Latin veteran none the wiser)   That, however,  is simply where buses rest, and the first stop is more central, close to Catford Library and Lewisham Civic Centre.  It was a busy bus, with people returning from shopping.

Not for the first time, we passed the Goose Pub, formerly the Black Horse and Harrow. Next door, on the corner is the Housing Options Centre, a rather brutalist Owen Luder building which my local expert told me was listed.  There was slow traffic round the Catford one way system, giving us a chance to note a hair cutter's with a good name, but fortunately our route turned left and we were soon the only bus, past Torridon Primary School to reach the high point (for me) or the trip, the listed prefabs of the Excalibur Estate.  They have been very controversial as some of the residents fight for the listed status, and Lewisham tried to demolish them, so the Daily Mail link I have given you is by no means the only one.  Some of the street names were fine, but I think naming a street after Mordred, the baddie of the Arthur legend, might not have been wise.

As we passed Greenvale School, the bus called it Greendale School, which  could be puzzling.  It is a special school for students with profound disabilities, so we were glad to see the King's College Hospital mobile Dentistry van in attendance, making things easier for parents.
After the green entry to Hither Green Crematorium, we came to another entertaining shop name, this time a chippie.

We were in an area with enormous amounts of public housing, from various different periods, mostly built to accommodate those affected by the devastation of the Second World War around the Elephant and Castle area.

As we came into Mottingham, we were surprised to see the WG Grace Community, Centre, since we imagined that he belonged in Gloucestershire:  but we were wrong!  We did know that Henry Cooper, who has a street named after him, was from 'round 'ere''.

Down Middle Park Avenue, we were impressed by the extensive allotments, and then noticed that we were near Eltham Palace.  This is an area with many flags of St George on its homes, but we were pleased to see one more entertaining shop name (San Fairy Ann, in case the photo is too small, a name which may be a puzzle to our French readers) and to spot signs to the Bob Hope Theatre, the local centre for amateur dramatics.

As we came through Eltham High Street, everyone got off except Linda and me, who stayed for the next two or three stops to reach Southend Crescent at 11.55, ready to cross the road and hop onto our next bus.

P.S.  No postings yet this week (28 November) because of tube strile and snow: hoping to resume normal service on Friday.  Meanwhile, for some recent excitement around Lewisham Town Hall, as seen in the first photo above, see this story from the Guardian.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Number 123 Route

Monday 13 July 2009

This was a long day, involving five buses in all.  Linda and I had taken a tour of parts of Essex before returning to Ilford.  

The 123 stop was a few metres along the High Street from the 167 drop off and so we embarked with only a few minutes wait on our fourth bus of the day.  This was a very busy bus:  I think the first time we had heard the tannoy say ‘seats are available on the upper deck’.  We looped round Ilford, still beset by radical road works and admired 
their attractive almshouses.  To provide variety with the haircutter with punning names we were collecting, we were delighted to see a drycleaning establishment called Press-Tige.  

 Going past Gants Hill Station, not for the first time, we were a touch dispirited to be heading to Walthamstow again on the A 503, but soon turned onto the North Circular and passed Charlie Brown’s Roundabout. 
 Under the M11 and by the River Roding for a while longer, we found ourselves actually sharing the bus with school children, something we normally avoid!

It was great to be on the road that goes between the two Stoke Newington reservoirs, and we went over the River Lea, which Jo recognised from the time they walked from Leagrave to Limehouse.

Next we passed Tottenham Hale and then Tottenham Town Hall with its excellent provision of cycle racks, as well as some street art.

A blue plaque at Bruce Grove acknowledges Luke Howard, ‘Namer of Clouds’ whose book published in 1803 gave the world cirrus, cumulus and stratus, as well as all the intermediates.  It can’t be often that the creator of everyday words is known and yet so little known.

We realised we were getting towards Wood Green as everything went very Turkish, and we climbed off the bus at 16.05 after a journey of 95 minutes.  Only the 29 to go!

The Number 122 Route

Monday 25 January 2010

You know how Frazer in Dad's Army used to moan 'we're all doomed'? Well, that's how we felt at some stages on this day.  We were due to meet at Crystal Palace Parade to catch the 122, which would take us to Plumstead, where we would get on the 53 to go back to Whitehall.  Linda decided to walk from home and so got very wet.  Mary had a good long wait for the other two of us as her 363 came promptly and with a very sporting driver which zipped through red lights.  So she was pretty chilled. Meanwhile Jo, coming from the North, got a Northern Line train that dawdled and stopped its way to Elephant and Castle and then .... but you don't need all this.  Onto the bus!

10.35 and we were off, in a busy bus, with wet and steamed up windows, which means that Linda's pictures are rather impressionistic.  The bus was old, with scratched graffiti and -apparently - no heating.  We went past Sydenham High School, from whose tower Pissarro painted some of his images of Forest Hill and  Sydenham.   We headed towards Lewisham, past Jew's Walk, where Eleanor Marx once lived, though we could not see the blue plaque, and to Forest Hill centre, where the Christmas tree still stood. We noted (thanks to Linda's local knowledge) the street which marks the line of part of the Croydon Canal.

Then we were into the Ladywell, Brockley and Honor Oak area, coincidentally subject of the Guardian's 'let's move to' just the previous weekend.  This was all quite cheerful, as was passing the Babur and thinking of great meals there, and Prendergast School.  

But then the traffic ground to a halt and it took us 20 minutes to get as far as Ladywell Station and Leisure Centre, in better circumstances about three minutes worth. Then it was Lewisham Centre, so familiar to us from earlier buses, and we were into Lee (or 'Blackheath' as some residents like to describe it) before crossing the Greenwich Meridian and reaching Greenwich, 'the borough where time begins'.  

Half way along Westhorne Avenue, a long street with housing but no shops, it became clear that we really were 'doomed', as the bus driver announced he was terminating.  We all got out, into the rain, and a bus shelter not big enough for all of us, shivering in unison.  

But after less that 15 minutes, another 122 arrived, marginally less graffitied and slightly warmer than our first one, and we were off again, past the disused Coronet Cinema, about to become housing. 
Woolwich has some handsome buildings, notably the parade ground, but the centre is a little dingy.  We were surprised by the huge Screen outside Woolwich Arsenal Station: perhaps it is getting ready for 2012 and the shooting (sport not crime).  

We eventually arrived (right into the bus garage as we had not been nippy enough when the driver announced the termination of the route)  It was 12.10, almost 90 minutes for a route that is meant to take just over an hour.  

Between this trip, and its posting almost a year later, we have been known to describe it as our least favourite journey so far.

At least the 53, parked next door with a friendly driver, was warmer.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Number 121 Route

Turnpike Lane to Enfield Lock

Monday November 15th 2010

Bright sunshine and a warm bus so what was not to like for Jo and Linda as we set off from the always-lively Turnpike Lane major road interchange.

First stop was Wood Green Shopping City, which is often a hold-up – it’s all those eager shoppers darting across the road – but today went quite smoothly. Leaving Wood Green up the High Road the 121 passes another of Haringey’s civic centres, a police station and, in what looked suspiciously like a used-car showroom, the Church of the Seraphim and Cherubim, proving that God is better business than used cars. I am afraid my image of angels is determined by over-exposure to Raphael’s putti, so I could not quite imagine them flitting through the square glass block, but Jo reassured me that angels were at home anywhere.

 As we approached Palmers Green we crossed the borough boundary into Enfield, where we would remain for the rest of the trip, showing it to be an impressively large local authority. Christmas is clearly coming as Enfield had twisted the equivalent of a string of tinsel round each lamp-post with somewhat cheerless effect: maybe they look better lit up? Palmers Green does not have one (a green that is) but offers other delights such as a dry cleaner called ‘Turned clean’

By this point we had slowed down significantly, held up as ever by the road works on the old North Circular, but once past that bottleneck we chugged quite happily up Alderman’s Hill and Cannon Hill towards Southgate, passing the rather lovely looking Broomfield Park, like so many in London the site of a former ‘grand house’. What is visible from the bus is an extensive green area with pond and wildlife and distant hills wreathed in a November mist. If I sound romantic the sight of some thatched houses enhanced this mood as we came into Southgate Village. The village mood has obviously gone to Southgate’s head as it seemed to have more than its share of antique shops (‘Deal or No Deal’ anyone?) and even an auction room. I see from their website there would have been an auction taking place as we passed.

At the top of the hill is yet another outpost of the Piccadilly Line, this time Southgate, which has a splendid period station parade around which we circulated. All the exteriors of the Piccadilly Line stations are excellent examples of the architecture of their time, it’s just a shame the trains do not always live up to their outside promise.

There is also a college at the top of the hill and from here on we seemed to have a changing selection of school/college/university students as we passed a range of education outlets. They were indeed the main passenger base as far as we could see.

London N14 looked pretty affluent, especially as we curved through Chase Road leading to Oakwood. There seemed to be ample choice of primary education to suit all pockets and religions. However Oakwood was as far north as we were going today and at this point the bus route hangs a distinct right to head east.

The range of Enfield subsections had much the same effect on me as the Barnet ones (muddling) but actually Enfield Chase, where we arrived first makes sense if you think of it as once being the hunting grounds for deer. Up on the horizon the tower of the Butterfield church soars quite spectacularly – I gather Butterfield was actually quite religious, so building churches must have been heaven for him…

 The bus picked up speed through this very rural part of the trip, few passengers boarding and the horses, cows etc not interested. Trent Park is both a country park managed by Enfield and the home of Middlesex University. Close by is a proper village green complete with war memorial and fresh (as in new if artificial) wreaths placed just the day before.

Enfield’s Christmas decorations here were a little more elaborate and we were intrigued by Pearsons, which seems indeed to be a surviving independent department store dominating the High Street. The New River (not new and not a river, as we have observed before) passes through here and seems to be canalised along the main street, suffering rather from an intense case of duckweed, but quite an unusual feature in an English, let alone London place.

Village life gets quickly left behind as the 121 heads towards Southbury, crossing the impressive dual carriageway that is the Cambridge Road (A10 if you need to know) and back to the Hertford Road, a much quieter north/south route, where we had been earlier in the day. We hovered for some time outside the Asda distribution centre, the reason for which became clear, as the next stop was Enfield bus garage, where the drivers changed.

This is where Enfield gets interesting, as we were offered (the council has lots of ‘Welcome to’ signs) Turkey Street, named for the Turkey Brook, small but not so insignificant that it does not have a website, Enfield Wash/ Enfield Highway and the unforgettable Freezywater, named for a farm and its cold pond! Nowadays the Turkish community seem to be quite strong in this area and Different Strokes offers body art. Different Turkeys I think!

Rather than heading across the M25 to Waltham Cross as we had already done today, we continued East towards Enfield Lock passing along the aptly named Ordnance Road, whereby hangs another (sorry about this) history lesson.
 While Enfield was not big on heavy industry during the Industrial revolution (no coal or iron down south) it was busy through the 19th and 20th century manufacturing light bulbs, Belling stoves (the famous baby Belling was a big feature of bed-sits and student flats) and last but not least the small arms manufacturing associated with Lee (the designer) and Enfield - the place, hence the Lee Enfield standard issue British Army rifle that saw soldiers through 2 world wars and more. I am also reliably informed that the Bren gun got its name from Br (no) in Czechoslovakia and En (field) so there you go.

Halfway along Ordnance Road there is a level crossing and sure enough we were stopped for 3 trains to pass – as this is a mainline into Liverpool Street stopping must be quite a regular feature on this trip!

Ordnance Road runs into the River Lee navigation, and over a pretty bridge onto the Island Village, with roads named after army connections and guns. This aerial view is rather better than any achieved by ourselves.

The bus terminated close to a couple of pylons, whose feet are covered in bushes, rather sweetly the home for sparrows and parakeets.

Jo thought we had milked the goodness out of Enfield in all its varieties – Wash/Lock/Island/Chase/Village/Highway etc so it was a case of ‘I’m a bus lady, get me out of here’ – rather easier said then done. Come back Piccadilly Line all is forgiven we thought as we waited nearly half an hour for the surface train out of Brimsdown.


PS Two “one we prepared earlier” routes to follow. Beware abrupt changes of climate!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Number 120 Route

Northolt Station to Hounslow Bus Station
Tuesday August 10th 2010

Mary was on her way to Wales for summer holidays so Jo and I undertook a 5 bus marathon of which this was the second route. Having crossed the road outside Northolt Station (on the Central line as you ask) we joined an ever growing queue of extreme ethnic diversity – all keen to get on this bus, spurning all others, so when it came (every 9-11 minutes) nearly 2 dozen people boarded and it was like that the length of the route – busy busy. Several fellow passengers stayed the course with us, alternating reading of the Qu’ran with taking phone calls.

Northolt seems to call itself a village complete with village sign and the old county shield of Middlesex, three daggers and something else – it’s a bit ingrained in my aging psyche as it was printed on all my primary school exercise books. Little remains of Middlesex and most of Northolt seemed to belong to the London Borough of Ealing. They do their community proud and there were plenteous baskets on the lampposts and also seemed to be offering opera and concerts in the local park. Just past the vet’s where Jo had noted a parked police van (the dog handlers sort) so presumably they were in having their dogs' toenails cut or generally spruced.

The bus then arrives at the Target roundabout, quite a major junction, and turns right, thus skirting 2 sides of the sizeable Medlar Farm Estate – some websites say building began in 1949 but the tower blocks have that Sixties look about them – interestingly they offer filming opportunities.

Our next major landmark was to cross the Grand Union canal (Paddington arm) at Bulls Bridge  – by definition a narrow crossing for our big bus – and then pretty much straight down the lady Margaret Road. I cannot seem to find for which Lady Margaret this long straight road was named but the houses look inter war vintage – from time to time there are extra flower beds which again Ealing have maintained in a colourful fashion. Here and there, usually close by the bus stops, there were small clusters of specialist shops including, we noticed, ‘Window tinting’.

Before we knew it we slowly arrived at the Southall crossroads where the volume of traffic increased and the speed decreased – it’s both hugely busy and popular round here with food, especially vegetable stalls, a few restaurants but significant clothing outlets for bridal wear (my son was bought his wedding ensemble here), a specialist cinema – the Himalaya Palace - now sadly closed, several law firms, exporters/importers and even a marriage bureau. Not to forget the first pub in the UK to accept rupees, or so say its notices. Talking of pubs, we passed the Lamb just by the bridge over the Grand Union (main branch - keep up) while just up the road some-one had set up as ‘The Wolf’.

Edging slowly out of Southall the bus moves onto part of the area known as Norwood Green (very confusing for someone from South London where we have the real Norwood). There are now several Gurdwarda temples named after different leaders – we always thought Sikhism was a little more unified than some other religions but perhaps it’s a case of naming after different saints, as the various Christians do?

After Norwood Green - where they were setting up a fair - the 120, now very much on its own, skirts Heston and then slides quietly into Hounslow. As if the low flying aircraft were not enough reminder of the proximity of Heathrow, we were quite impressed at the number of hotels actually in Hounslow, which is of course only a few stops back from the Heathrow Terminal stations of the Piccadilly line and so perfectly viable for catching an early flight…

Hounslow is big and busy enough to have a range of civic amenities: the rail station is towards the edge but there is a civic centre, the Treaty Shopping Centre, High Street and of course our final destination, Hounslow Bus garage – not one of the capital’s more attractive or friendly ones . Tfl or whichever bus company runs out of Hounslow clearly do not want the passengers mixing with the personnel and turf you out down the side – no information kiosk or toilets and we needed to cross a busy road to pick up our next Heathrow bound bus.

Though promised a shorter run we were delayed in Southall (a common occurrence) so did this North to South west London route in just about an hour, on what was clearly a hugely popular and busy bus.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Number 119 Route

Bromley North to Purley Way Croydon Airport (The Colonnades) Monday November 8th 2010

A slight case of ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ but instead of mid-day sun we had relentless rain, wind and thus nastily damp and cold. The 119 proved to be a gentle ride through pleasant suburbs, however our photos are part of what you might call our ‘Impressionist phase’, that is deeply blurry. We today did not include Mary who is in New York, with, we hoped, better weather.

We had no wait at all in Bromley North and for most of the trip the bus was singularly empty. The middle chunk of Bromley High Street is pedestrianised and out of bounds to all traffic which is sent round the back to what might be termed the ‘Tradesmen’s Entrance’ for the Glades shopping centre – perhaps the place to be on such a cold day. Bromley Civic centre also offers the Library and Churchill Theatre but it was a bit early in the day for that. Though Churchill insurance is quite a major employer round here the Theatre is named not for the dog but for the historic Prime Minister who lived a bus ride away down in Chartwell.

This bus deviates from our more familiar routes which head south and takes a turn down Hayes Lane with wide double fronted detached homes well back from the road. Many of these managed both front gardens AND off-street parking which will give you an idea of their size, but some bungalows had opted either for gardens or extensive bricked over off-street parking.
From the top deck we just managed to glimpse Norman Park – I had hoped Bromley Council’s website would offer me some rather better photos but just listed fairly worthy events held in the park.
From our double blurry viewpoint (condensation inside and rain outside) the Park looked very extensive but in fact by now I think we were passing parts of  Hayes Common.

According to the Megalithic Portal there is a burial ground on Hayes Common but frankly today a herd of mastadons could have been holding a convention and we would not have noticed. (How we envied our opposite numbers in Berlin, where double decker buses have windscreen wipers for upstairs passengers…)

There is also Hayes Street Farm, where I have picked fruit in my time and it still has a proper farm shop. From this rural interlude you will not be surprised that Hayes Village has some older buildings too with a pretty parish Church , ‘modified ‘ by the Victorians. The pub had a stone saying it dated from 1671 and had been a coaching Inn but the  pub sign was for King George, who was not around till later –perhaps there was some expedient re-naming?
Hayes Village had its fair share of charity shops including one for the Air Ambulance Service.  Just past the heart of the village the bus passes an extensive inter-war estate, Coney Hall, which we assumed to be public housing however it was built more as ‘affordable housing’ with some owners holding a ‘mortgage strike’ in 1935 in protest at poor quality building. They lost but the Building Societies act was amended.

The 119 passes more open space, this time in the shape of Sparrows Den Playing Fields however this idyllic name proves to have been the scene of a shooting, about a year ago, and I have yet to find if anyone was charged.The bus passed a ‘road curves’ sign and sure enough the route climbs up Corkscrew Hill to arrive at the main crossroads of West Wickham, another Kent village, now London suburbia.

Between here and Shirley the architecture becomes progressively more modern as the bus crosses over from Bromley to Croydon borough. This is also one of the routes that passes the Bethlem Royal Hospital ,which has been specialising in the treatment of patients with mental health problems since 1247. Their museum comes highly recommended.

Also in Shirley but long since demolished and sold off for development was the Shirley Oaks Children’s Homes, set up the Bermondsey Board of Guardians and used by several London authorities until 1982. Some key buildings remain.

Another extensive site is that of Trinity School, doubtless also set up as a school for the poor of the parish but long since private. The school’s grounds neighbour those of a golf club so the housing of Addiscombe road reflects the privileged these establishments cater for.

Time to get real and up to date as we headed into Croydon but we realised even all those office blocks are now mostly 50 years old and even the innovatory trams (second time around) have been running since 2000, which does at least make them 21st century.

Dead umbrellas were beginning to litter the pavements and the puddles were getting quite extensive with the waiting bedraggled standing nervously back from the pavement edge, but our driver was really sweet and considerate, stopping clear of them. It was really only at this point; where in fact there is a greater choice of routes, that we took on any substantial number of passengers.

Central Croydon can appear grey at the best of times but today it was enlivened by a generous sprinkling of corporate size poppies – Bromley had strung theirs in the trees, Croydon affixed some to the lampposts. I suppose they are a very stark reminder of the Poppy Appeal but looked a teeny bit like Christmas decorations?

This bus route passes under the Croydon flyover and for several years this part of town had offered a range of South Asian restaurants – the mood seems to be shifting and today we spotted Galicia and Sombrero, Chilli Room and Argentine ribs so the ethnic food on offer seems to be changing. In amongst the Latino offerings was Doughmasters , who claim to be creators of the famous rolled sandwich.

I had expected the bus to head up the Purley Way (why, said Jo - no-one lives on the Purley way) but in fact it takes a more back route in order to better serve the community. There are things to do and see – principally the Croydon Airport Museum

The Colonnades seemed to offer a range of restaurants where you could quite easily put on weight and some opportunities to burn off the calories by swimming, fitness, bowling or lasers. It all seemed a little bleak on a cold wet morning.

I hope we haven’t bored you with too much history but visibility was so poor we have had to rely on research as much as what we actually saw to report on this rather gentle route which took just an hour to complete.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Number 118 Route

Friday 5 November 2010

We had decided that on our convoluted way to the 117, we should add the 118, and so we met bright and early (9.15 rather than our usual 10.15) at Brixton Station.  Linda and I were alone, as Mary had issues with her boiler. We walked down to the 118 stop, passing an admirable bike lock (though whether they were Metropolitan Police handcuffs or not we could not say) and were on board by 9.20, heading back past the station.  Being related to someone who is interested in ghost signs, we enjoyed the 'ghost shop', and noted that Mr Saunders had been both an optician and a watchmaker.

It was a bit too early in the morning for Brixton Market to be its normal bustling self, and we were interested to see that Brixton has a Sunday Farmers' market as well as the more usual kind.

 We passed a number of familiar landmarks, the beautiful Ritzy Cinema, and the handsomely refurbished Windrush Square; St Matthew's Church with the Budd memorial outside it,  and above all, the Maggi Hambling Heron and we were heading as straight as (insert preferred cliche here!)  towards Streatham.

I suppose I should apologise for so many pictures of Brixton, but it really is full of landmarks.

We passed the South London Marie Stopes Centre and the George IV Hotel (Linda felt he had not lasted long as King, but we reminded ourselves that he had had a long and tiring time as Regent, commuting to Brighton and so on)  Which reminds me, there were advanced warnings about the likely effect on traffic of the veteran car run to Brighton at the weekend.

On, still straight, past Streatham Station and Streatham ice rink, we finally turned right down Greyhound Lane, to pass Streatham Common Station, and a pet groomers called Gow Gow.
We were pleased to see that Dave Ridge and Sons (pebbledashing) are still in business in their smartly pebbledashed premises as we came to Streatham Park Cemetery with its attendant florists and funeral directors.
Passing a former school, about to be turned into housing, we turned right down Manor Road, then right again and we were into Mitcham, speeding alongside the green and gold of Mitcham Common.  The bridleways are marked with attractive white cutout horses: we couldn't get a photo as we were moving at a brisk pace, but there is a picture here.

The railway bridge brought us to Three Kings Pond, with elegant houses around it and equally elegant geese on it.  We came to Mitcham Fair Green, and turned left into London Road, which is part of Mitcham's all-consuming one way system. This brought us to Cricket Green and the Cricketers pub, as well as the Burn Bullock pub, named for a famous cricketer.  It was here that the Cricket Umpires Association was formed.
We thought Mitcham looked a very pleasant place, but there are websites like this one that do not agree.
Out of Mitcham and over the River Wandle and the Wandle Walk, we followed the very windy and narrow Wandle Lane, turning left into Morden Hall Road to reach Morden Station at 10.15.  For those of us who use the Northern Line further north, it was good to visit, for the first time, the place that trains terminate.