Friday, 3 June 2011

The Number 178 Route

Lewisham Bus Garage to Woolwich

Tuesday February 2nd 2010

This wet February morning found the three of us ‘bumped’ along to Lewisham Police Station from the bus depot as due to building works we could not board absolutely at the first stop. The Route 178 is a pretty local single decker bus, which was something of a ‘bookend’ to our key route for the day.

The bus goes East almost immediately, namely down Lee High Road, which is struggling a bit trying to keep its businesses afloat. What were formerly a variety of car showrooms are now sites of demolition, with boards promising us lq development This seems to be the revamped London & Quadrant Housing Association, long active in SE London, which has apparently taken over much of Lewisham’s housing stock, and presumably has plans to build hereabouts? … Perhaps the church offering us ‘Fresh Fire’ and Healing & Deliverance was closer to the truth. For the second time due to poor weather and photographic conditions we missed the attractive Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses and Boone’s Chapel , which as the name might suggest are retirement and nursing homes endowed by Boone, who belonged to the Merchant Taylors Guild – ‘one of the twelve great livery companies’ as they describe themselves.

Emerging to cross the South Circular there are lungs of green namely  Sutcliffe Park Nature Reserve  – more properly a Wetland area to alleviate flooding of the Quaggy back at Lewisham where the bus started – and John Roan School playing fields. Quaggy by name quaggy by nature?

The bus then starts its extensive service of the Ferrier Estate. The Estate (built in two batches in the late Sixties and early Seventies, partly using the pre-fabricated section systems) was in that most depressing of states – almost wholly but not quite vacated, so the odd still curtained flat sat amongst the boarded up ones and the already demolished blocks. Given this part of the trip, serving both clinic and school, took over ten minutes you can see how large this estate was, and this the only bus to serve it and Kidbrooke Park Station. The regeneration plans and where the contracts went plus the compensation offered makes depressing and lengthy reading – it clearly has taken a lot of bulldozing in all senses to get this far….

Thomas Tallis School is also having a rebuild and we went over the Blackwall Tunnel Approach and on towards Shooters Hill, doubtless named for the amount of target practice that would have taken place here by artillery learners and experts. A clearer day and a taller bus would have given us vistas towards the O2 aka Millenium Dome, and the River (Linda having Thames withdrawal symptoms).

As it is we had to make do with the ‘Sun in the Sands’ pub, China Wall, Snip Snip and Grabadoc (actually a deputising service for local GPs – hard to believe but true). Hereabouts on Woolwich Common we cross the Green Chain Walk again and suddenly our lone route joins lots of others to get the local population to the Queen Elizabeth (Military) Hospital – now in its third incarnation and a comparatively recent build which would not I think, win any architectural awards, having somewhat the appearance of having gone up in a hurry. Still we hope new at least means clean.

Along Ha-Ha Road and down the steep Nightingale Grove – the names are better than the views – and along a route very familiar to us from our recent ‘friends’ the routes 51 & 53. We noted a camellia that had tried to come out too early last week had been badly frost damaged in the intervening period. Round in front of Peggy Middleton House (named in the Seventies for a young and dynamic local mayor) and a variety of buildings, once examples of civic pride and now no more than the back end of a 1 way system, brought us to Calderwood Street and the end of our very instructive 45 minute SE London tour – a bus that does serve many of the densely packed estates of Greenwich and those now being decanted and rebuilt.

PS June 2011 – I can honestly say that, even sixteen months on, this route - amongst the many we have covered so far - remains very memorable but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons, namely how depressing it was.

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