I was a little early for our start of day meeting but no matter - I was able to enjoy award-winning North Greenwich Station, opened in 1999 (of course) in all its gleaming glory even though the sun was not shining. Admittedly at this time on a Monday morning it’s not crowded but it felt spacious yet not unfriendly with the circular sweep bus stops echoing the curves of the Dome, now O2. The employees take great pride in their station and the man at the information desk was polishing his glass windows.
But we weren’t here to admire the architecture but ride the rather small bus south. We too followed the now familiar route off the Greenwich peninsula past the gasholder and modern and colourful flats. Better the coloured concrete than the wooden facings – it does not withstand the weather for long and soon looks tired and even more significantly ‘lifts’ and lets in the water.
The bus exits the only way it can via the Blackwall Tunnel Approach, leaving that delight to the Route 108 and passes the Angerstein hotel- maybe he didn’t pass the stringent blue Plaque test but he has a hotel, albeit one situated on a rather noisy corner, named after him.
This route now leaves the busier through routes to concentrate on serving the local communities and heads first of all for Kidbrooke, where Balfour Beatty is building an entirely new site for this impressively large South East London comprehensive Thomas Tallis, due to be completed 2011. The court composer, of mainly church music, after which the school is named, is thought to have lived round here in his later years.
Inevitably I suppose we were to emerge at the Well Hall roundabout, whose crowning glory was the now defunct Coronet cinema left empty while decisions are made and debated about its future. Since we last came this way someone has erected a quite imaginative hoarding which allows the illusion of a still flourishing cinema.
The run into Eltham is quite swift passing the Tudor Barn set in the Pleasance, much older than the cinema but seemingly thriving and past the church at the crossroads. While we are keen supporters of public toilets these black huts in front of the quite pretty church seemed an odd civic choice. Eltham seemed very busy with shoppers so maybe the toilets have their local fans.
From here the 132 heads left, and as it happens rapidly down hill towards Avery Hill and Blackfen. Greenwich obviously managed to get its school rebuilding funding approved before the change in government and again Balfour Beatty were improving the school environment.
Pubs like the ‘The Jolly Fenman’ and streets of low rise buildings, even one of the churches is built to look like its neighbouring bungalows alerted us to the fact that we had indeed reached Blackfen – a low lying area close to both the River Cray and eventually the Thames itself.
The Shuttle is in fact a river off the Cray and offers a local 5-mile walk, which is generously sign-posted from this bus route.
Talking of Rivers the bus actually crosses the Cray just before Bexley – we have to confess before we rode this route we had assumed that Bexley and Bexleyheath were one and the same but a short turn through Bexley quickly shows us that Bexley is still very much a village and abounds in older properties, narrower streets as perhaps exemplified by the lovely Styleman's Almshouses, still in use.
In stark contrast the bus poddles out of Bexley and passes over the very fast M2 below.
Passengers had been slowly congregating along this route and most were clearly heading for the ultimate destination, which is Bexleyheath – for us a by now familiar bus hub, and for most (normal?) people an opportunity to do your weekly supermarket shopping plus a choice of Wetherspoons or Bingo to name but two attractions on offer.
PS Many of the features on this route, which we completed back in August 2010 are the same as those on the 129, completed just 2 weeks ago. At least you can compare (compare the meerkat, no less) the photos taken first in the summer, more recently in snow, which Aleksandr Orlov might prefer.