Friday, 14 January 2011

The Number 137 Route

Oxford Circus to Streatham Hill (Telford Avenue)
Monday February 22nd 2010

Here we were, still awaiting spring and embarking on a 3-bus day with unremitting rain and threats of snow. We met at Oxford Circus where there were at least four 137s and the female driver let us board while she finished her book on her break. We were the only upstairs passengers for all of the trip and for all we know the only passengers – full stop. This is such a frequent service that Mary, Jo and I could have had a bus each, but we stayed in team formation.

Normally this is a very attractive route skirting as it does a wealth of London Parks – starting with Hyde Park after Marble Arch, then round the corner past Kensington Gardens and upper Knightsbridge, then down the very swanky, moneyed shoppers-only Sloane Street past Ranelagh Gardens and the Royal Hospital, home to the Chelsea Flower Show ,  and over the pretty Chelsea Bridge to Battersea Park . The bridge dates from 1937 and is apparently a ‘self-anchored suspension bridge’ Yes, I am breathless with naming the parks we failed to see through the Impressionist mists of rain.

What we did spot, or just about discern, was that something along Park Lane is being renovated and that nothing is happening on the disputed Chelsea Barracks site – acquired for development but vetoed by HRH .
There has been some more building near QVC, once the home of ‘The Observer’ newspaper and now a rather deserted-looking HQ for the Shopping Channel. Sopwith Way is quite a resonant name, making one think of a Sopwith Camel, which for some reason is an airplane – but I digress.

South of the River (and it may be that the current mayor is trying to cut us South Londoners adrift by shutting off the bridges systematically) we definitely acquired some more passengers, passing the handsome St Philips’ Square and fringes of the Shaftsbury Estate. We liked the sound of 'Natty Tatty’s’, which offered baked potatoes with Greek fillings. The uphill which now houses the Shaftesbury homes was once known as Pig Hill, which would seem quite quaint in 21st century London, had it survived.

The 137 cuts through to Clapham Common courtesy of the wide Cedars Avenue, slightly nicer sounding than it is, and brings you out on the corner by Clapham Common Station, the war memorial clock and some dalliance with other bus routes that we have ridden.  Clustered round Clapham Old Town, as it likes to call itself, are two more hairdressers of note – Head Quarterz and Witches Hut.  Further along the Clapham Park Road we decided the 'The Coach & Horses' still looked quite original and discovered that William Bonney, after whom an estate is named , was more likely a local dignitary though my technical support instantly recognised him by his nickname of Billy the Kid ……”Wild West hero born in South-west London” – I think not, but it’s nice to dream and there would have course have been a blue plaque..

However, rather than press on down into Brixton, this bus turns right down the rather magnificent King’s Avenue back towards Streatham. King’s Avenue has a mixture of different aged housing, most in modest and manageable blocks with the King’s Avenue Primary School serving the local population.

On a pleasant day a very pleasant trip. Today the driver got through it very swiftly as there were so few people out and about that at the penultimate stop we were held to regulate the service.


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  2. Great blog. Link to the site came from reddit. Looks like you got quite an increase in visitors today as well!

  3. The Booker Prize nominated author Magnus Mills was interviwed some months ago on the radio. He mentioned his days as a bus driver and said that the largest convoy he ever drove in was a line of nine 137s that left Oxford Circus at the same time.