Crossharbour (Asda) to Old Street Station Monday January 10th 2011
The three of us met just after 10.00 at the 135 bus stop which is located in the Asda car park at Crossharbour – there is generous space for several bus routes but all the other routes proved to be ‘D’ buses which we will get to eventually. I don’t normally include a map but this whole area known as the Isle of Dogs is so intriguing in its contours and situation I could not resist including this. As you can see, the 135 follows the sinuous curve of the Thames hereabouts.
Without being quite able to explain it, we all felt this part of London is fascinatingand unique and the link here gives a very potted history of the Isle of Dogs, as it became known a mere 200 hundred years ago (previously known as Stepney marshes).Where the bus starts and the Asda-laden shoppers board there is still the sense that there is a resident community, and the new builds, or empty sites, are interspersed with some old pubs and houses – what little remains from excessive war time damage. The Millwall docks remain mainly in name, a reminder that though the football club has been in SE London since 1910 it started out as the team for a canning factory on the Isle of Dogs.
Also intriguing is London’s largest City Farm , the first park we passed and soon followed by Sir John Mcdougall Gardens , as Jo rightly guessed, named for the flourmill owner who was also a local councillor. There are a few smaller houses remaining but most of the very dense housing hereabouts is flats with nautical sounding names like ‘The Barkantine’ and ‘Anchorage Point Flats’ lest you forget where you are.
Sure enough the 135, alone amongst the numbered routes actually penetrates the northernmost part of the Isle of Dogs, now usually known as Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is of course best known for its tall tower, which is in fact 1 Canada Square, the tallest tower in London when built, though fated to be no more than the 2nd tallest when the Shard at London Bridge gets finished. With the City proper this is very much a financial district with many of the huge global firms and banks so it was not surprising that even the bus has to go through a security barrier.
On a day when the bankers’ bonuses were being announced you did wonder why the workers were not at the barricades protesting but that’s not really the English way. As even we, between us, know two people who work in this district we photographed the moneyed HQ and admired the pretty wharf side landscaping. The map above indicates how the 135 does a tour of Canada and Cabot Squares before diving back into the real world, which round here is Limehouse.
We spotted the pair of dragons announcing the transition into this once notorious part of London, where the Chinese community used to live, now home to a more diverse community.Always an area of transients there are several reminders of places where the merchant seamen used to flop down when ashore in London.
Some are abandoned, some luxury developments. The Sailors’ palace, built on the corner of Beccles Street and Commercial Road, stands out as a very fine Arts & Crafts era building and though hardly palatial must have seemed pretty luxurious to seafarers after months in hammocks or bunks. The contribution of the Merchant Seamen in both World wars was also fresh in our minds after watching The Sinking of the 'Laconia'
By now we had joined routes familiar to us from our early days (the Heritage Route 15, and its relation the 115) and the busy commercial and other traffic heading into the City of London. Apart from the lovely St Anne’s Limehouse Church, we passed a plaque for some one whose name we could not read! I had forgotten to mention earlier that though the bus itself was new and clean for passengers the front window was either badly scratched or badly cleaned so difficult to decipher or photograph detail.
At this point the very memorable buildings of the City are getting closer - the Gherkin is very photogenic and we can offer you the Gherkin straight or in its LEGO version (courtesy of Little Gooner) but please don’t ask for a brick count.
Actually the 135 does a very short trajectory through the City – it passes Aldgate East then heads across to Bishopsgate and once past Liverpool street turns left along Great Eastern Street and towards the rather daunting Old Street roundabout - daunting both if you are a motorist or a tube traveller with too many exits to choose from downstairs.
Along Great Eastern Street there is some very bold graffiti, which we failed to capture (Jo mutters about camera speed at this point) but research indicates this is a favourite spot and there have been two different art works and not sure which one we passed today! More likely the June 2010 one.
Clearly a popular spot for statement art, as just a few yards further on we found The Great Brain Robbers and a seemingly fitting ending for a trip which took us through some of the poorer bits of London and undoubtedly the most affluent real estate that is the financial heart of London.
Though estimated to take over 55 minutes we completed the trip in under 45 for a hugely exhilarating journey, where I am sure we missed as much as we saw!