Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Number 145 Route

Leytonstone to Dagenham (ASDA)
Monday February 21st 2011

This was something of an initiation rite/ ride (ho-ho) for a new recruit to the ‘Ladies Who Bus’ – Sue D who joined Linda for the day to take on the role of photographer, while other LWBs were being exemplary grandmothers. We had already had a short ride from Canning Town to Stratford and came on from there to Leytonstone to board our key bus of the day – the 145 which waits nicely parked alongside the station. This is an underground station, which always looks welcoming with its cafĂ© and flower boxes.

We had thought Leyton might be sporting triumphalist banners claiming following their success (or avoidance of defeat) against the Gooners in the Sunday cup-tie, but thankfully this was not too evident.

Our first job was to take the one-way route along Leytonstone High Street past the parish church of St.John the Baptist – I do not usually link to church sites as they tend to be a bit specific but this one gives a good history of the origins of Leytonstone as a name and its development as a village as it was of course 150 years ago. Also it shows a pretty church in contrast to the scaffolded and shrouded building we passed today. Just before we leave religion we noted with interest the Welsh church, which while it does have monthly Welsh language services seems more in demand by amateur dramatic companies for its small size theatre in the adjacent hall. .

After coping with the rather scary Green Man roundabout the 145 heads towards Wanstead, running alongside the A12 (where most of the houses now seem to be nursing homes). It then crosses the North Circular, doing a most complicated loop in order to serve Redbridge Underground Station. In spite of this considerate gesture, nobody much seemed to want the first third of this route, even at the station, as of course these major trunk roads are not on the whole designed for pedestrians – or buses.

We abandoned the A12 to head down the very aptly named The Drive – wide and straight and lined with what would once have been both expensive and fine homes; some of them have been rehabilitated and spruced up and others suffer from the neglect of multi-occupancy. At some point, about a hundred years ago the developers of this part of East London, now known as Cranbrook, must have had delusions of grandeur as all the streets are named for the most luxurious residential areas of West London – so we have Kensington, De Vere, Mayfair, Redcliffe, Ranelagh: you get the picture. One of the few more modern buildings along here was Cranbrook Primary School and Children’s centre.

As we peered out the window at this bus stop we saw a man boarding and our hearts sunk – unkempt wild hair and beard, grubby t-shirt barely covering huge beer belly, sundry tacky bags. “Please let him not come upstairs’ we thought but he did. The accompanying odour stayed on board for several stops until he got off at Ilford, the next major landmark. He represented what is probably the single most common hazard of taking public transport since the crime rate has reduced so significantly. Arriving at the rather attractive Valentine’s Park, through which runs the river Cranbrook, always means we are approaching Ilford.

Ilford is fairly familiar to us seasoned bus travellers as we had our first contact with the never empty route 25 nearly two years ago. Today we noted that the the Kenneth More Theatre  did not look its best in the gloom of a February morning, and we still can’t find that the late Kenneth More seems to have any links with Ilford? Most of central Ilford has the slightly tired look of Sixties building though there are some new homes  going up.

Not surprisingly it was here that most passengers boarded, and we could tell it was half term as small family groups scrambled upstairs only to scramble down again 2 stops later. One young man was boasting that ‘he was up all night and never got home’ so we were a bit startled to see that he looked about 10 years old. Was he being truthful or just ‘bigging it up?’

If Valentine’s Park is one of Ilford’s gems where does that leave South Park? A smaller area than Ilford’s other park it does have a lake and possibly a much-threatened small boy in an anorak called Kenny ?.......

At the crossroads with Longbridge Way we stopped at what looked like a small front door but which proved to be a side entrance/exit to the vast east London bus depot. As ever the changeover was slick and we thought the relief driver must enjoy not having to linger on a cold corner but could spot his colleague approaching from the window.  
Longbridge Way, and with it the 145, cuts a swathe through what is a very large housing estate built about 1921 and known as Becontree – all houses with gardens though there are recent developments of new building  - that ‘academy’ bit had us confused thinking it might be new school, but apparently not. Mayesbrook Manor on the other hand is a former academic site turned residential.

Enough of housing though it was interesting to note that the 1921 developers had totally omitted to provide shops for their new tenants and it was a while till we got to the Becontree ones including the rather intriguing ‘Lion of Judah Unisex Hair Salon’ which presumably specialises in dreadlocks, which symbolise the might of the said Lion.

More dual carriageway to a crossroads with new library and old war memorial and we noted the Old Dagenham Park, having a makeover, before what we hit what we post-war car users always associate with Dagenham – Ford Motors. Well I think we are about 10 years too late – Fords opened here in 1931 mainly to build vans and lorries then came the boom years and finished with the Fiestas. As you can see vast bits of the site are now very derelict with only one section still thriving and just adjacent the TGWU branch – possibly still active.


The recent (very) British film 'Made in Dagenham' captures the spirit of the era even if not an accurate portrayal of the assembly lines that were Ford at its busiest and a good reminder that workers’ rights were won by workers not by university graduates spouting slogans. It is ironic that the location shoots were not shot here but far away in Wales.

Well some of the brownfield site has of course become a retail park and here we were finishing our 145 trip round outer East London at the Asda car park having taken 1½ hours to travel some considerable distance.

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