Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Number 159 Route

Tuesday 9 March 2010 (but see PS at the end of this post and annotations in red which date from Monday 28 March 2011)

Mary, Linda and I met at Marble Arch, relieved that it wasn't raining yet.  Mary and I advised a tourist how to get to the 'Thames River' and the Eye (yes, the 159 bus) and we thought he looked a little alarmed when we stepped onto the same bus, at 10.15.  Past Selfridges spring windows, and the dinosaurs opposite (now vanished as the site is again being built upon), we made quite rapid progress to Oxford Circus and down Regent Street, slowing a little as we came to Piccadilly Circus and down Haymarket, noting the blue  plaque for Ho Chi Minh, although it is not an English Heritage plaque.  He worked at the Carlton Hotel in 1913.  

As we approached Trafalgar Square, past the statue of George III  and the Texas Cantina, which stands on the site of the place where the Rugby Football Union was established, we saw a handsome building, now boarded up, but I have been unable to identify it.  We were, however, able to recognise the CPS picket outside the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and to catch a glimpse of Sir Keith Park, the New Zealand Airforce hero, on the 4th plinth 
(of course the statue of Park is now in its permanent home, at the top of Carlton House Steps, making a change of tone from all the Crimean War memorialising that goes on round there)
There were South African flags down Whitehall, for President Jacob Zuma, and we swept past the memorial to the Women of World War II and the Cenotaph, before crossing Westminster Bridge and seeing St Thomas's and the Florence Nightingale Museum  as well as the new Park Plaza Hotel.

We saw the building that used to be the station for the Necropolis Railway (it is said that the platform tea room had a notice that said 'spirits served'...) and then raced down the Kennington Road, past the Imperial War Museum, to Kennington Park, where we admired the Lodge, built to a design of Prince Albert's and moved here after the Great Exhibition of 1851.  It's not entirely clear in this picture, but you can blame the weather. 

On south,  through Brixton, we passed the Ekaya Housing Association HQ  as well as a number of entertainment venues, including Jamm, and the huge Barnado's charity shop.  Soon we were into Streatham, and waited briefly for a change of driver at the first of two bus depots.  A number of Polskie Delikatesy and Russian shops confirmed the influence of the new Europe which we have seen before in south London, before we arrived at Streatham Station, just over an hour after leaving Marble Arch.

PS 28 March 2011

A brief meeting of the Rules Committee of the Project was needed when we noted a few weeks ago that the 159 route had been extended to the Paddington Basin, instead of being Streatham Station to Marble Arch as it was a year ago.  It was agreed that if we have blogged a route AND THEN it changes, we do nothing;  but if we have travelled a route but not yet published it and then it changes, we must fill the gap.  Hence the red annotations of  a couple of things that have changed.

So having spent a pleasant morning in the North Eastern part of London, on the 158,  we took the Central Line to Bond Street, and completed the 159 route. As we left the Tube station we realised that Crossrail was affecting traffic here too, and so had a bit of a walk to find a bus stop that was actually in use.  But we were on a 159 by 12.20, and able to admire some Community Support Officers on their bicycles as we headed towards Marble Arch. 

Marble Arch had some startlingly bright primuli to make up for the Horse's Head, not our favourite art work.  We were going too fast to photograph the jelly babies, but we had seen them only a few weeks ago. We turned up the Edgware Road;  there was a time when it seemed as if every bus we took went this way, but we have not been here for some weeks, and so were able to enjoy the various Arab influence shops, and the magnificent building which houses Waitrose.

Next it was left along Sussex Gardens, to St Mary's Hospital, with the plaque for Alexander Fleming.  With Paddington Station on our right, we turned into Eastbourne Terrace, to meet  -yes-  more Crossrail works, before sweeping up and over Bishop's Bridge  to loop almost all the way back to get into the Paddington Basin area, where we shopped, after a trip of barely fifteen minutes, to add to the hour of a year ago.


The Number 158 Route

Stratford Bus Station to Chingford Mount
Monday March 28th 2011

After what felt like several weeks down on the borders of SE and SW London it was refreshing to be back in busy Stratford, when the sun never seems to set.

As Stratford has been a major building site for the last five years or so we needed to note progress, which was pretty evident.

Westfield Shopping Centre seems ready to go though the office space on top is not yet let; several tower blocks complete and signs of great activity building what I take to be, according to my finally up to date A-Z, the athletes’ village. We also glimpsed an odd white plastic covered structure rather like a giant egg box covered in white plastic sheeting, which research indicates is the  Basketball Arena .

Now seems just about the time to mention that Olympic tickets are available to? order? bid for? ballot. If you thought completing the census form was a bit tricky try the Olympic ticket website! There are more conditions of sale than I have ever seen before. We can only commend  Diamond Geezer's spirited guide to getting tickets, so read, laugh, and beware, before you click.

The bus trundles past the Eastern and eventually Northern perimeter of the Olympic Site, which is marked by crossing Temple Mills Lane (named for the Lea River powered water mills owned by the Knights Templar – thanks Wiki) and from Newham into Waltham Forest borough. Leaving Stratford behind the bus edges its way through the fairly narrow thoroughfares of Leyton. There were plenty of passengers, the numbers perhaps enhanced by refugees from a malfunction on the central Line (what is it about the tube and Monday mornings?) though for large sections of the route we were alongside our ?older ?younger relation the number 58. Whoever said multi-culturalism had not worked had not seen the Leyton shop offering Indian style pizzas?

These routes take Church Road so not surprisingly we passed the Parish Church, which over time has absorbed several different parishes, and soon thereafter the Almshouses – only a mid 19th rebuild of the original foundation dating from 1656. Apparently they have early Crittall windows and there’s me thinking Crittall is very specific to the 20th century

This was a route that was heading north through Walthamstow and for once did not go into the very well arranged and by now pretty familiar Walthamstow Bus Station but passed instead St James Street station, and not much further Blackhorse Road, always a favourite alighting point for travellers. Walthamstow likes to maximise its links with William Morris and apart from the little museum there is also the Kelmscott School named after the private press,  that was one of William Morris’s pet projects later in life.

Walthamstow also has the Lighthouse Church, which summoned the faithful by flashing a light rather than ringing a bell!

By the time we came to be bowling along Blackhorse Lane (aptly named as it winds as proper lanes should) there were rather more front gardens, so we could appreciate spring, which even in polluted Inner London is irrepressible – who can resist blossom or Magnolia about to burst out? Just between the houses we glimpsed some water, which from looking at the map would appear to be Lockwood Reservoir. Research indicates it is part of the Lee Valley Reservoir chain – this is at the southernmost end of said chain and reaches eventually by several reservoirs and linked river systems to Cheshunt where the White Water canoeing events of the Olympic will take place, which is kind of the point where we came in.

‘Kute Cutz’ hairdresser was one thing but full marks to ‘Reservoir Cogs’, a big bike shop for E17. The latter is in Billet Lane, which brings the bus route to the Crooked Billet, the name all that is left of a pub demolished to make way for more roads, in particular the North Circular. We seemed to get over it quite smoothly and as ever when clear of the North Circular pebble dash starts appearing and the houses seem more spacious; it is no different for Chingford Mount, which is where we were – a short drive brings you to the terminus of the 158. There are the remnants of an art deco shop parade, with unusually a public barometer rather than just a clock. I was busy failing to see where the Mount was (no visible change in ground height hereabouts) – as you will know by now I like my ‘Greens’ often favoured as bus termini, to have some vestiges of grass, so I was expecting Chingford Mount to have some raised awareness but I was disappointed.

This was a nippy and short route linking Stratford, Leyton, Walthamstow and finally Chingford Mount in a straight run and in less than 40 minutes.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Number 157 Route

Crystal Palace Park Parade to Morden Station
Monday March 21st 2011

We hoped Mary’s first day of Spring in Guernsey was as springy as ours bussing round South London. We had the usual no-wait start for our 157 at Crystal Palace Bus Station and headed off down the very steep Anerley Hill – unlike last week when we were on a single decker this double decker afforded an excellent view down to Croydon and what was probably Elmers End. The bus passes Crystal Palace Overground and Rail Station, which is really pretty from the outside as its Victorian exterior (built for the 1851 Great Exhibition) has been nicely renovated, at a cost of about £4million. However, once inside it is a nightmare of stairs and steps, both up and down to get to most platforms, and as yet no sign of a lift.

This was known as the low level station (it is in fact 2 bus stops down the hill from the highest point and there once was another station closer to the top, remnants of which are still visible.

So we enjoyed the view, which is rather more inspiring than Anerley High Road, though the roads back are pleasant. Just before the crossroads, still known by locals as the Robin Hood although the pub which gave this crossroads its name is no more, we noted the once-impressive municipal build that was Anerley Town Hall, now seemingly sold off and privatised by Bromley Council, who sometimes forget that Penge is in their borough. Other shades of faded London include the ghost sign along the Croydon Road. Painting on brick seems to last quite well so maybe the pupils at nearby Harris Academy were likewise inspired to paint murals on the school wall?


The bus made very good time through Norwood Junction and we were treated to more views as we headed down to Selhurst . Once you get off the hilltops this whole area is very heavily railed – Norwood Junction, while no Clapham Junction, has significant lines in and out while Selhurst, which we passed also, is a major depot where I suspect (what do I know about trains?) spare trains get tucked up for the night, if we’re lucky, after a nice clean…

We have been through Croydon quite often so will keep my comments short – one novelty today was a small dirigible/barrage balloon advertising a STORAGE firm; we can only think that the proliferation of smallish flats round here, and the building seemed stalled on some of them with evidence of rusting scaffolding and abandoned sites, means that living space is so tight inside the appartments that you need to have most of your possessions in a nearby lock-up?

There was me thinking as we emerged from our little detour into West Croydon Bus Station that this part of Croydon was getting quite alternative what with Swag Records and Forbidden Planet but I see the latter is part of a chain of similar stores round the country.

We crossed behind Centrale Shopping centre and the various tram routes by Reeves Corner, with its furniture store just about hanging in there. Interestingly many of the smaller industrial and trading units have been given over to religion of a particularly inflammatory kind – the Missions of Mountains of Fire and Miracles plus some more watery ones also.

After Waddon Station and Fiveways Corner we were heading confidently for Wallington, and at this point the bus stated dawdling: whether it had got ahead of itself or made better time through Croydon than the driver anticipated, who knows?

Certainly by now the trip felt much les pressurised, fewer passengers and the neighbourhoods through which we passed far less built up. Wallington seems to be a place of two halves; the more modern Wallington closer to the station has some faded shopping parades, a village hall that looks as though it might have been a cinema, and a town hall – all very much in the suburban art deco style, interspersed with more modern buildings – supermarkets and starter flats, that are yet to be fully occupied. The more villagey parts of Wallington cluster round the Green , from where Wallington merges into Carshalton, with the local Museum for Sutton – Honeywood House – situated by the pretty little ponds. The roads were leafy, burgeoning spring blooms of magnolia about to pop, and very gracious homes either side of the road, as the 157 made its sole way up Wrythe Lane, past Carshalton High School and the local MP’s office – a Lib Dem called Tom Brake – possibly the most unpopular party and those people who voted for them now participating in the anti-cuts rally.

We were a bit surprised to see a holder, which seemed too small for gas compared to several we have seen, but as I far as I can tell, still operational. We arrived, still taking our time at St Helier Hospital, and in the intervening week since we passed on the 155 last week, ALL the daffodils opposite the hospital’s main entrance had opened. They were so bright they made the visibility jackets of the A & E staff lurking by their ambulances look positively pale and uninteresting.

The 157 did another turn round the Rose Hill roundabout but rather than heading for Sutton we took the very straight and impressive St Helier Avenue, which is a red route; the bus paused several times so it was easy enough to photograph the dual carriageway, nicely landscaped and the safely quarantined bicycle path.

We followed the red route down to Morden Hall Park, a National Trust property, and then at the next roundabout to Morden – the end of the Northern Line, and the opportunity to board a whole lot of other buses!

This route does quite a significant dip south into some of what used to be the old Surrey villages, so offers quite a contrast between the high rise blocks of Central Croydon and the village ponds of Carshalton taking in a few large housing estates too.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Number 156 Route

Wimbledon to Vauxhall
Monday October 26th 2009

This was our third bus on a just lovely warm October day and again a route largely in London Borough of Wandsworth – and why not?
Jo and I were on our own but joined upstairs by a couple of younger boys, it being half-term, one of whom had clearly trodden in (but not noticed?) some dog crap which gave the already none too clean bus a certain added pungency. Fortunately, unlike us, they were not going all the way. We pitied the adult who was yet to clean up, but breathed anew when they got off at Gap Road roundabout.

We had already walked through the centre of Wimbledon to get to the start of this, our only double decker bus for the day, and noted the sundial on the Argos and tennis by the station. This was something of a mystery tour as we had no real grasp of the route beforehand. Leaving the Sir Cyril Black Bus depot (turns out he was Wimbledon’s MP from 1950-1970) it turned right out of Wimbledon Town Centre and followed the railway – this means of course unexciting views down into the Wimbledon rail depots and industrial units with a big cemetery on the right. The route follows Plough Lane which we remembered as the original home of Wimbledon FC, founded 1889, before its 10-year sojourn at Crystal Palace and then eventual re-location to Milton Keynes where over the years they have metamorphosed from the Wimbledon MK Dons to just the MK Dons with their own local following. Meanwhile Wimbledon has another football club. Confused – or perhaps you don’t care? As it happens buses have a habit of passing football clubs of all shapes and sizes.   At the major road junction there were substantial amounts of new housing, most with balconies, and Homebase and furniture stores to help the first time buyers to decorate and furnish.

Across the road there was a sparkly white painted mosque and soon afterwards we were back into ‘The Brighter Borough’ and heading up the Merton Road to Earlsfield and Wandsworth. It seems Villeroy & Boch have a seconds outlet here which will be a must-go destination for Linda who has hankered after their crocks for years.

Earlsfield is something of a limbo land between more affluent Southfields and Wandsworth Common and this bus route, alongside others, passes the Wandle (perhaps we should call the 150 routes the Wandle Years?) and King George’s Park before skirting the Ram Brewery (see the 37 for a weblink) and the one-way system. At lunch time the traffic was light (this can be a terrible bottle neck in a car at the weekend and many’s the time we sat here when returning from points south) so we were up by The Book Trust (they have a lovely website) ) and East Hill before too long.

Even round Clapham Junction the traffic was flowing (the south west of London seems to have escaped the major water mains replacement which have dogged many of our recent trips) so we continued up Lavender Hill passing the Battersea library having a well earned face-lift and Battersea Arts centre ,  which produces some innovative works. Somewhat to our surprise the bus dives down Queenstown Road – the shops either side are forgettable but off to the side there are some quite desirable and presumably quieter properties. Battersea Power Station at the end of the road dominated the skyline and remains very photogenic – there have been countless projects to revitalise it but none seem to get off the drawing board and decay continues.
From there of course we passed what is now the Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home  complete with queues of punters  (DON’T click here if you get tempted by forlorn and abandoned dogs and cats) and along the Battersea Park Road  they were just setting up the London Freeze, an Ice and Snow show not to be confused with Frieze – the annual art show. It was weird to see a ski jump in Battersea though. There is just a quick glimpse of the River before the bus turns into the noticeable/overstated Vauxhall Bus station which also looks like a ski jump.

End to end in about 50 minutes…

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Number 155 Route

St. George’s Hospital to Elephant & Castle

Monday May 17th 2010

This proved to be a nippy uncomplicated route that basically followed the nether regions of the Northern Line into town. Our previous buses had left us outside St. George’s Hospital, where of course several buses call and we hurtled very rapidly at top speed round the corner where we then waited for the drivers to change, puzzled as to why this did not happen at source?

Anyway with a new and more relaxed driver we continued in what was essentially a straight line north up the successive and busy high Streets of Tooting, Balham, Clapham etc. Again the bus was popular, taking on several students from the South Thames College. It’s also not a route where you would be likely to starve – small and mainly fast food joints in abundance. We noted that towards the Broadway the food offered was South Indian and Sri Lankan while further north the shops were more Punjabi and Bangla Deshi, and of course the religious venues to match – some temples further south and then mosques. Fusion food abounds too with ‘The Great Kebab & Samosa Company’ grabbing our attention – or may be it was just getting close to lunchtime. Tooting has no less than 2 indoor markets, one dating clearly from 1930. Along the way there are also ghosts of an older English way of life –  St. Anselm's Church sits squatly on the main road and we spotted a ‘ghost sign’ for Hovis on the bricked side of a house.

The stretch towards Balham was something of a first and we were impressed with the size of the Singer sewing machine sales and repairs  and its companion store ‘Sewing & Craft Superstore’ The jewel of Balham is however Du Cane Court ,  a splendid Art Deco block or blocks – for many years the rumour was that had Hitler managed to invade and conquer the UK he was planning to set up his HQ here. One of those quirky Radio 4 slots explored the urban legend quite thoroughly and a legend it remains. We cannot pass Balham without reference to the Peter Sellers sketch of 1958.
Living in Balham during the early Seventies it was impossible to escape reference to this well sustained piece of multi voicing pastiche by the unique Mr Sellers. The facts were all totally spurious.  Interestingly Balham has become significantly more upmarket since Mr Seller’s day and ours…  as the gated community of Hillgate Place would indicate.  The ‘Gateway to the South’ is desirable in offering both a train and tube service so close together.

We are quite used to bussing along Clapham Common but it was refreshing to take the South Side route of this excellent triangle shaped green oasis of South London – Mary recommended the Windmill as a venue as a Young’s pub it is well maintained and in a prime position. As the name might indicate it sits close to the site of a  former mill.

In spite of the traffic increasing we made good time through the Claphams. Bicycles are also privileged here with their very own fast track blue routes, very newly launched when we passed through.
Stockwell is also a pretty familiar stamping ground for us by now and in fact we are close to finishing the routes in this sector (there being some we had completed earlier) Today we crossed straight over at the Roundabout Shelter and headed up the Clapham Road – both on and off the main road the houses here are very beautiful and often large. This finally gives the chance to mention that Van Gogh lodged at 87 Hackford Road just off to the right heading north during his time working in London for an art dealer.

Close by developers are working on the monumental but still handsome print works, which will become residential property. The nearby White Bear Theatre Company will offer solid entertainment.

By now we could see the tall tower of the Strata building at Elephant & Castle so knew our trip (as indeed the batteries on the camera) were coming to a close. This route comes in past Fusion – Southwark’s swimming pool and leisure centre – and we noted the surrounds had been hard landscaped but offered a sitting and play area that was quite welcoming. The railings of the E & C roundabout were loaded up with bikes and the students for the College of Communication Studies* were out enjoying the sunshine – a 45 minute trip undoubtedly quicker by tube but would we have seen half as much??  * Since passing on this route the former College of Printing has become part of the London University of the Arts currently spread over 6 sites.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Number 154 Route

Monday 21 March 2011

This was the first day of spring, after the equinox, and the weather behaved as it should, with blue skies and a light breeze. South London was looking very attractive.

Mary being away, Linda and I had travelled to Morden Station by another bus, about which you can read later this week.  We made use of the facilities at Merton's unattractive but 'convenient' Civic Centre, and were onto our bus by 11.20, bound for West Croydon.  We headed left, round the roundabout and then back, to stop opposite the station, where a considerable number of people got on.  Linda tells me that the Baitul Futuh Mosque and Islamic Centre, which we passed, was built on land which had once been an Express Dairy depot.   It seemed rather a handsome example of brown field building.

Next we were off along Green Lane, the bus occupying the supposed cycle lane all the way, since the road is too narrow.  We thought that a better solution might be for cycles to use the path down the middle of the central reservation:  we have seen a number of shared use paths in Sutton.  We passed the attractive and extensive estate of Haig Homes, with a medallion of the Field Marshal as part of their embellishment.

Rosehill roundabout brought us to Rosehill Park, with gardens, tennis courts, green areas and, of course, daffodils.  We had been here before but this time, as we passed The Winning Post Pub (formerly the Red Lion) and Petsville International, we turned left to run alongside the Salvation Army Church which has a well publicised coffee bar as well.

The Thomas Wall Centre is part of the work of the Thomas Wall Trust, the family of the sausages and - later - icecream, and then we turned into Benhill Road, and then Ringstead Road, an area of very pretty houses and gardens.  Though honesty requires me to say that, on such a beautiful spring day, pretty well all the gardens we passed were looking ravishing.  We briefly joined the 53 route but  then, after we had gone past St Philomena's School we were again the only bus.  The Saint is from Roman times but the school is clearly very up to date and is consulting about Academy status.

 As we approached and passed Carshalton Beeches Station, we could tell we were in a prosperous area from the shops and cafes around, including an Italian restaurant with a 'bruschetteria' which we took to be a sort of Tapas Bar equivalent.

Our bus went past Little Holland House too fast for a photo, but it is open to visitors from time to time, and was the home of Frank R Dickinson, who truly merits one of those names like 'Man with a vision, since he designed, built and furnished by the work of his own and his wife's hands including, apparently, spending their honeymoon sanding woodwork....

We also saw signs to the QEF Mobility Centre, before coming to Stanley Park, with its Primary School and High School, and then were at the Shotfield Health centre building site.  We had changed buses here only last week, so were not very surprised to see very little progress in the construction!

The area of Roundshaw was a big surprise, though I suppose it would not have been if we had realised that it is built on what used to be Croydon Airport.  First we noted the Amy Johnson Primary School;  then streets named for the Spitfire  and Hurricane, as well as others named for designers, such as Douglas and Roe.  There was also Mollison Avenue, named for Amy's husband.

We remarked upon the sculpture outside Sainsbury's, and also upon what appeared to be a number of electricians doing synchronised pole climb and wire repair (new Olympic sport?) at the Surrey Health and Racquets Club.

But then we were in Croydon, passing the rather Jazzy yellow Waddon Hotel, and some even more yellow daffodils.  We did find ourselves wondering whether WW would actually have seen 10,000 at a glance.  Probably poetic licence, we thought, though short of getting off the bus and counting any one of the many fine displays we saw, it would be hard to prove.

Noting the wind turbines on a new building, we speculated vaguely about how efficient they would be, but then we were swept up and round the various roads that lead past the Fairfield Halls, past the Whitgift Centre and past a number of large 'To Let' office blocks, interspersed with building sites putting up yet more office blocks.

It was 12.20 when we reached West Croydon Bus Station.  It's not, perhaps, the most handsome and elegant place, by it is a really amazing transport hub:  never mind the dozens of buses popping in and out;  or the trams trundling past.  The Railway Station - which could do with a bit of a facelift - has trains to Victoria, or London Bridge, or Highbury and Islington:  and that's just the ones going north.

All in all, we had had a very enjoyable outing, passing westwards and then back east, through several of the outer boroughs of South London.