Wednesday, 30 March 2011

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.

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