Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Number 136 Route

Grove Park Station to Peckham Bus Station
Tuesday August 3rd 2010

Being the school holidays and lunch-time, there was that combination of children and food aboard this bus – at least 2 lots of chips and a certain amount of sweetie squabbling but generally peaceable nevertheless. This journey on the 136 meant that we had with a single visit crossed Grove Park off our list of places to start and finish. The 181 had brought us here and the 136 would carry us away – the bus station is very modest with only 2 routes and a recovery vehicle. The 136 is a double-decker, so we were able to admire the views as we climbed up Downham Way and looked over London towards Blackheath. The huge inter-war Downham estate was named after the chair of the LCC at the time, though it sounds suitably rural – the land was originally farmland in Kent and offered new homes with baths and kitchens to the workers of Bermondsey and Deptford. Having said that, it stranded them far from much useful affordable transport and shops – even now for worthwhile shopping you need to take the bus back into Catford, which is where of course we were heading. Over the years there have been a few additions to the communal facilities, which were a little thin on the ground when the estate was built. Not surprisingly, many of these are religious in origin, for example the Downham Family Church and the the 999 club dealing with local crises for the population both young and aging.

Back towards Catford the bus passes over the trickle which is the Pool river. Today - the dry season perhaps – but it does still run from outer Bromley to the Thames, and as it passes through the Homebase ornamental fountain we noticed a couple of guys in waders doing some dredging. The opposite corner to Homebase used to be the site of a large crossroads pub – The Tiger’s Head – now not even a desolate ruin but a building site – homes we presume.

Further down the Bromley Road is Catford Bus garage where the drivers changed – very efficiently as it happens – and we swept on through Catford and down what is officially known as Catford Broadway passing the Grade 2 listed theatre that is unimaginatively called the Broadway Theatre. On the whole Lewisham does rather better for theatres than it does for cinemas: the former cinema round here has become a UKCG centre.

We have ridden this section of the route more than once, though more recently in the direction from Lewisham to Catford, and the range of civic buildings stays the same: Town Hall, Theatre, Eros House (also listed), Housing Department, Library, Child Development Centre, Department for Social Security, Job Centre and then of course Lewisham Hospital and Registry Office. All those public sector workers need to get fed and clothed .

Lewisham market was as busy as when we had come through earlier, but from the top deck we had a better view. I note the German Sausage man is now a permanent fixture – having come for a Christmas market once he seems to have stayed. Rolls & Rems  had the most wonderful display of bright furry material: should you wish to start making your own soft toys, this is the website for you.

Still we were through Lewisham pretty quickly, noting that the all the older housing opposite Lewisham stations had been razed to the ground and that Barratts  moved in. This is a truly ambitious project and a pretty vast site so it will be interesting to see how it progresses if we pass this way again. This route is essentially one of the main ways into London and usually very busy. We passed Goldsmiths College but mid-vacation this was unusually quiet and few passengers boarded. There is a good range of second hand shops hereabouts, including the delightfully named  Aladdin's Cave  - very handy for chairs apparently. Goldsmiths accounts for many incomers to Lewisham – in a very common pattern the students come to study and end up staying to live and work. (unless you are Damien Hurst presumably?)

The bus passes New Cross bus garage, our third garage of the day, and the two stations, New Cross Gate of course now proudly linked to the excellent Overground service. There is a pub on the bridge which seems to be called ‘the Rose’ on the side and the ‘Hobgoblin’ from the front so we detected a take-over at some point – an endless supply of students will doubtless make its fortune, or at least secure its future.

The major road works at the apex of the New Cross one-way system held us up for a while – it was a bit difficult to see what exactly they were doing. Sooner than you might think we were heading straight on down Queens Road for Peckham – away from Lewisham borough and into Southwark the hanging baskets stopped abruptly.

By now no-one much was interested in a 136 as from here on it is the big brother 36 route which does the business right up to North London – so we have now done another in the ‘36’ family…

We have mentioned the pioneering health centre before especially on routes 21, 36, and especially the 78, which goes even closer, but the founders  lived here on the Queens Road and this seems to be the only Blue plaque of the day (which involved three buses overall)
Did I mention this was a REALLY dirty bus? The food and drink spills had turned into a stickly (new word meaning sickly and sticky) black soot which coated all the upstairs floors – not sure where the cleaners had been: I think Aggie and Co were needed with buckets of bleach and Marigolds. Still we survived keeping our eyes glued firmly to the road not the floor or seats. And we are not that fussy….


  1. London buses are the most famous. I adore them. Regards from hotels in London