Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Number 171 Route

Catford Bus Garage (Bellingham) to Holborn

Tuesday December 15th 2009

This is essentially my commute-home bus when I have been office bound all day, but for the sake of our followers I shall try to be a little sparkly and see it with fresh eyes.

PS May 2011: Having now retired I dedicate this bus to Deanne who still uses it for her commute, while she waits for her driving test.

After disembarking from the Number 47, we had only to cross the road for the first stop on Bromley Road and wait about ten minutes for our 171; it was cold but bright with it. All the boroughs we passed through had a range of colourful Christmas decorations, usually strung round the lamp-posts, but of course not lit up at this time of day. The third stop along is outside Laurence House, six floors of offices above a library, so the stops are always busy and today, mid-morning was no exception and very soon the bus was half full upstairs. We passed the two Catford Stations and the David Copperfield pub, and continued round the South Circular leaving to turn towards Brockley, passing rather strangely a woman warmly dressed except for her bare legged flip flops. After Dalmain School with its range of international flags welcoming the community comes the tiger standing astride the Babur, arguably the best restaurant around these parts – be sure to visit its excellent website and you do need to book if you intend going.

Brockley gets its name from the old word for badger: not many of those around these days though no shortage of local foxes, plenty of them thriving in the Brockley Cemetery that we passed. The Brockley Jack pub (named after Jack Law, a local celebrity highwayman (who’d have thought badgers were worth robbing?) who might also, some say, be the origin of the phrase ‘Jack the Lad’) has a theatre attached, which attracts regular reviews and clientele.

Converted in the Fifties from a 1913-built Picture Palace the Rivoli Ballroom is undoubtedly the jewel in Crofton Park’s crown, especially now the Passmore Edwardes library’s days are numbered. Just further on is St. Andrew’s church which holds a nice position on the corner of Wickham Road – it also has a memorial window to the victims of the New Cross fire, the origins of which have never been very satisfactorily explained.

As the bus cuts across to New Cross the wall has a series of active verbs starting with ‘Live, Work, Love’ and ending with ‘Sow and Reap’ attached to the retaining back wall for the houses. New Cross is very much Goldsmiths’ territory which has always been fundamental to the area – many of those who arrive from elsewhere to study often stay put and then become Lewisham residents…More recently Goldsmiths’ has become famous for being where the YBAs (Young British Artists) did their art degrees. New Cross was badly damaged during the war and the then Woolworths was the site of the V2 rocket that caused the most casualties in the later stages of the war, commemorated by a local plaque .

The 171 pushes on along the Queens’ Road where there is significant evidence of new building but also rather strangely a wasteland site complete with burning chimney? All through Peckham there are signs of face-lift such as the Library and Pulse, but also newer blocks of flats, schools and surgeries, some complete with olive trees in huge tubs. There was less traffic than there can be in Peckham (no dedicated lane you see) though the bus was never in a hurry (we put it on a sliding scale between relaxed and dawdling) and as we approached Camberwell sadly there was a major funeral taking place at St. Giles’ Church.

Across Camberwell Green – I have strict instructions not to be rude, but genuinely today was pleased to note the hanging baskets with cheerful winter pansies and the pub now offering a Nollywood experience.

The range of places of worship round here is very extensive and they seem happy to take up residence in shops, industrial units or wherever. The sixties builds along this part of the Camberwell Road are looking tired and even the pub is up for sale – at a reduced price no less. The Walworth Road was pedestrian busy and we rounded Elephant and Castle as before passing the old MI6 building, now having had a face-lift and been converted into swish flats close to Lambeth North station. Passing the Old Vic (sideways on it's less pretty) made us think of the productions we had seen in 2009 – some better than others (we mention no names but we were pleased when they finally cut down those cherry trees in the Orchard...) Up past Waterloo Station and over the bridge, with arguably some of the best views in both directions and a quick swing round the Aldwych, boasting some very fine Christmas decorations, until it disgorged us at Holborn Station, some 100 minutes after starting – could have been quicker but it is a long way and we were not in a hurry.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh... the 171 bus route... a means to an end!