Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Number 150 Route

Becontree Bus Station to Chigwell Row (The Maypole)
Monday March 7th 2011

When we started The Project – just 2 years ago today – we had thought that many bus rides would involve some quite tricky trips to the start and finish of the more out of town routes. This has not in fact very often been the case: in spite of our project’s name, most of our journeys have taken us to places where another bus connects to carry us on or back. But today proved to be one of those days, with no chance of making it more than a one route trip …

We (the project was at full strength today) met at Dagenham East Underground Station where the manager told us the weekend works crew had dug their way through a mains water pipe (and walked off) and therefore the advertised station toilets were not available. However he kindly took pity on us and let us use their station facilities, so we said we would record his kind deed for posterity.

A beautiful sunny day meant that our walk from Dagenham East to Becontree Heath was pleasant if uninspiring, and it seemed totally appropriate that our Route 150 we would be starting from an inn, well a Fifties era type pub called ‘The Three Travellers’. It was not a busy bus and most folk boarded only to get off at Ilford – but I get ahead of myself.
The National Trust signs indicated a nearby property at Eastbury Manor, managed by Barking Borough and apparently where the Gunpowder Plot was hatched – it must have been quite a hike back to Westminster from here in Stuart times was the thought that occurred!

Our bus was pretty speedy along here, skimming past the mainly pebbledash inter war housing. These housing developments were largely built without shops and other services, which instead clustered along the still busy Goodmayes and Seven Kings High Streets. I had hoped Seven Kings might be named after a whole heap of Saxon rulers with those novel and unpronounceable names such as Etheldred or Aelfoot ( I made that one up) but it seems more likely it was just Sevve’s settlement. By now we had entered Redbridge whose borough logo seems more like a cannabis plant than a chestnut , but who am I to question what was undoubtedly an expensively commissioned corporate symbol?

Goodmayes and South Park, where we were recently on the 145 all fringe the ever-busy Ilford with its complex one way routings and major bus hub. The Viper Studio offers tattoos of all sorts while the local borough had been busy planting pansies to spell out (we think) Ilford Town centre (ITC) and they certainly make sure all the town’s facilities are clearly signposted.. Strangely, although there is a rather derelict tower block covered in dirty netting around two corners you find an even taller block still being built?
This route leaves Ilford via the Cranbrook Road and past the excellent Valentine’s Park – the lake this morning was full of birds, The approach to Gant’s Hill has speeded up significantly since the last time we were here when it was full of road and landscape improving works (note the pebble street art), so it was a bit sad that there had been a crunch between two cars necessitating police and paramedic intervention. Fortunately it did not look too serious for the drivers concerned, and the road is now wide enough to let the other traffic pass. Going slowly for a bit (hardly anyone requested the bus past Ilford) we saw a nice preschool learning alliance van with a colourful caterpillar.

We had not thought of this part of the world as particularly Jewish but perhaps it’s a handy place to have a wholesale outlet – not sure what they do the rest of the year though?

Though it is not very clearly signposted – how did we miss it? – this route goes past Barkingside, which has long been the HQ of  Barnardo's , the historic children’s charity. When I started work their family group homes were still looking after children out here in Essex and had indeed inspired local authorities to build similar clusters of children’s homes in their own localities. Nowadays Barnardo’s energies are focussed on more local and specific projects – parent advocacy and child sexual exploitation for example. I suppose the sobering thought is that the problems have not changed that much though the responses from Barnardo’s have evolved.

For some reason the shops in Barkingside and Hainault seemed to enjoy names chosen to make you wince such as ‘Toyology’ and even worse ‘Footology’. Even though it was Monday morning there was a wedding going ahead at the handsome Redbridge Registry Office – at the next roundabout there was a much more modern building housing ?library or swimming pool. (In spite or maybe because of the little chestnut/cannabis logo, the Redbridge council website is not the most helpful.)

By now we were on a road so straight it looked positively Roman called the New North Road, and in the far distance we could see trees – the bus pretty much zoomed along here with very few passengers at the many request stops. Housing was getting far less dense, even a few bungalows, and just before entering back into Essex at Chigwell we did a good tour round the well maintained Manford way estate and then rejoined the dual carriageway, the other side of which is Hainault Forest thanks, as this very dedicated website says, to the foresighted folk who in 1903 secured the forest for the public use. The bus has a little lay-by, just opposite the All Saints Church , where it can rest before turning round, and thus we found ourselves ‘out in the country’.

Well we were not really in foresting mode, today but it is impressive that a London bus brought us so far so fast.

PS. It was a bit of a hike back past some impressively large and security guarded properties till we reached Grange Hill Station, bearing not the least resemblance to the BBC School soap that kept my children gripped 3-4 years in the Eighties, though the series ran from 1978 – 2008.


  1. PPS Grange Hill fans, don't forget that Eliza played Chrissie's mum when the year 10 student became pregnant.

  2. Congratulations on two more milestones. Here's to the next 2 years and 150 buses.

  3. Congratulations! I have randomly found your blog googling about route 150, good job :-)It is good to know that Iam not alone :-)
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    www.ftud.net (From the upper deck )