Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Number 152 Route

Pollards Hill to New Malden

Tuesday January 4th 2011

This route offered one of our most effortless transitions between routes, namely getting  off one bus and onto the next from the same stop in Pollards Hill. Our bus was a single-decker, though we did meet a double-decker 152 en route – the bus companies must struggle between meeting passenger demand which for this route seemed considerable and the need to have a smaller more manoeuvrable vehicle to send round more intricate routes, which the 152 proved to be.  

For starters we had a more detailed tour of the newer parts of Pollards Hill, the streets named for English counties (Yorkshire/Berkshire/Hertford) and a few for castles (Conway and Carisbrooke) so you can tell the density of housing round here is considerable and with few corner shops around the passengers needed to go further afield to shop. For a brief while we retraced our steps of the Routes 60 & 118, past the Harris Academy for Merton, where they offer skills classes for adults also, and the community facilities of New Horizons and Commonside, but the bus soon branched off, very much the only route round Grove Road and Locks Lane passing a very new station called Mitcham Eastfields. There was considerable debate amongst the Ladies who bus as to whether this was
a) really a tram stop or
b) a shabby old station someone had renovated

but it proves to be a TOTALLY new station (plans were suggested back in the Thirties) to serve an area poor in trains. What’s more we actually stopped at the level crossing to watch a train pass!

Between here and getting to Mitcham we noted some extensive if densely packed allotments (Merton seems well provided with these) and St. Mark’s Academy School. Rather to my surprise (having lost all sense of direction doing some circling in Pollards Hill) we joined major routes at the Mitcham Town end of Figges Marsh.

We are very familiar with Mitcham and today passed only one of its Greens but noted Raleigh Way. Jo had discovered, whilst researching the 127, that Sir Walter of that name and cloak had owned land round here so now he is forever to be commemorated in the 1-way system. Having looped a little north to be heading west the 152 was again forging into new territory, what might be termed the borderlands of Mitcham to Merton. As a local friend puts it Mitcham is the bit that Merton forgot, when it came to handing out urban renewal.

Some of this route is a little unlovely with gas works, though a local Primary school cheered us with its colourful fence and railings. Then as you approach the major road junction with the A236 (we thought it must be much more important than that) you come face to face with a huge and hideous empty, derelict office block of some size. There have been some injections of retail outlets in the area with the rather new looking Tandem Centre but the pedestrian access to the centre looked poor and as yet the buses do not go in directly.

Anyway we were soon on a more familiar looking High Street, Colliers Wood which blends into Merton High street, and we could tell there had been shops for a while as there was an excellent 'ghost sign', photographed especially for our sometime technical support aka  63 regular. (The above blog – which has recently,  like ours a few weeks ago,  been featured in the Guardian’s blogroll – looks at facets of hidden old London with a more detailed eye than is possible to those of us passing by on a bus.)

As mentioned on the 131, this area has a rich industrial heritage, bits of which are still visible along the River Wandle. Doubtless drawn by better employment prospects here, there was once (still is?) a sizeable Irish population as the names of the pubs (The Kilkenny) local solicitors and shop names still indicate. The other folk commemorated round here are Nelson and his mistress Emma Hamilton: ‘her’ pub looked quite derelict but ‘his’ hospital is still going. It is an old building though and the services are purely out-patient ones. Nelson had bought Merton Place for Emma, but after his death she could not afford the payment for upkeep and eventually died a pauper; she is also famous for having posed more than once for the portraitist Sir George Romney. Shame about the demise of the pub as the choice of portraits for the pub sign would have been extensive!
Things were just getting posher with such shops as ' Grate Expectations ', which seemed to dominate the station and the very delicious-looking  La Bottega del Pane, still with its tasteful Christmas decorations.

We passed for the second time today a station that we had never heard of: Wimbledon Chase – and crossed another railway line – this time without benefit of level crossing gates! (This would appear to be the Epsom to town line so not to be sneezed at.) Then came a diversion where we appeared to go backwards but a more seasoned passenger explained a road was blocked off and the route was making sure it accessed Raynes Park Station before rejoining its former route to New Malden. Mary had spotted the Edward Rayne pub so we could research  after whom the area was named.

The bus map shows this route as crossing the A3 but what actually happens is that there is a sizeable slip road for local traffic, much of it built up with major outlets such as B&Q and a giant Tescos which goes alongside and beneath the very substantial A3 which here is usually known as the Kingston by-pass. Jo reminded me we had once walked bits of the A3 to get from one bus route to another via Richmond Park. This stretch was decidedly less scenic and less pedestrian friendly, so we were not surprised that it had been developed by businesses rather than for residential buildings. We spotted a Korean wholesale outlet which proved to be the key for New Malden’s current identity.

The bus terminated after 55 minutes offering mainly a residential experience uniquely punctuated by 2 railway crossings and 2 little known rail stations so quite a voyage (does that have to be by boat?) of discovery in less than an hour. From the Fountain, which is a real one not a pub, and is where the bus terminates, we walked the length of the lively and pleasant New Malden High Street and soon discovered why there was a nearby Korean wholesale outlet. Clearly the South Korean community South Korean community has taken up residence here big-time, and by now rather hungry we were being tantalized by the sights and smells of Korean food.


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