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.

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