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.

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