Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Number 180 Route

Belvedere Industrial Area to Lewisham Bus Garage

Wednesday June 1st 2011

This was to be our second route today that was to fill the gaps in and so complete a sequence of nine routes – most of them originating in SE London. Our route planner was away walking in France and I was not sure she had absolutely noticed that Thamesmead Town Centre is not quite the same as Belvedere Industrial area – there would have been a complicated 2-3 bus trip to link them but in the end Mary and I decided to walk a 2 mile chunk of the Thames Path from Thamesmead Pumping Station to Crabtree Manor Way a route which circles the ‘bump’ that is essentially Thamesmead – it also takes you past such delights as the Crossness Pumping Station, then  The Crossness Sewage Works and the new re-cycling facility for the posh inner London boroughs – bring your rubbish to Thamesmead… ‘The Riverside Resource Recovery Facility’

The river sparkled in the sun, and it was interesting to see Dagenham, so recently visited by us on routes 173-5, from across the Thames. The sewage works were a little wiffly today leading us to wonder whether this was another hazard of living in Thamesmead, when the wind is in the wrong direction.

As planned we left the Thames Path (this is a bus blog and not a walkers’ guide) and had a few minutes to wait for the next 180 to pick us up from the first stop, where I would guess passengers are fairly rare. As no one lives here the route’s purpose in coming here can only be to offer workers a ride to their employment. Not that it wasn’t busy – lorries kept arriving and leaving – one site had 90 lorry slots and there was a huge amount of waste disposal of different kinds leading us to reflect:

a) There must be money in muck as evidenced by ‘The Sopranos’ and their interests in waste disposal

b) In order for huge city like London to function there has to be this whole hidden side where lorry loads of crap of all kinds arrive at the Eastern outskirts and get disposed of….

c) Are Belvedere & Thamesmead as New Jersey to London’s NY?

Back to the bus – we nipped pretty quickly round the various roundabouts of the Belvedere Industrial area and sure enough most companies seemed to be into euphemistically-described waste disposal (Allied Hygiene) or to have nameless functions hiding behind anodyne slogans (‘Great People Great Work’??).

The 180 then heads on passing a steel horse at the roundabout,  and down Yarnton Way, one of the bigger main roads through Abbey Wood and Thamesmead, and by the look of the Sixties type tower blocks one of the older parts of Thamesmead. Walkways are provided to cross the roads and by the number of people boarding the 180, it is one of the few routes serving this densely populated part of Thamesmead. We saw no shops and only 1 pub – the aptly named ‘Barge Pole’ as included in   insider memoir

Suddenly we emerged into Abbey Wood with its conventional layout of roads and small houses from late 19th century to mid Thirties, looking welcoming in the late spring sunshine and with mainly well-tended gardens: this sense of place seemed to be what Thamesmead lacked.

By this time even the upstairs of the bus was pretty full and we disappointed many half-term holiday school children who would have liked the front seat, where we had been installed since the off. The sun through the glass was getting quite warm and we somewhat lost focus between Plumstead and Woolwich having passed this way only an hour or so ago. We did notice that the views out to the River and beyond are much better going this way – nice glimpse of Bostall Woods and excellent vistas of the Thames – at one point Mary spotted the distinctive outline of ‘Strata’ (the razor like new build at the Elephant) through the struts of the Millennium Dome – a quick look at the map will tell you this is entirely possible given the angles and alignment of the Greenwich Peninsula, where we were not heading today. Today was also the day the Olympic people took money for our Olympic ticket applications – or not as the case proved to be – Mary’s well-chosen list foundered and we have a laughable allocation of 2 seats for either synchronised swimming or the Equestrian events, which will of course take place at Greenwich.

Again we passed the chimney seemingly for rent (see the post for the 177).

It was clear by the time we got to Woolwich, having picked up even more passengers in Plumstead, that this was the destination for most travellers though new ones boarded to complete the last leg of the trip back into Lewisham.

By now the driver was really going as fast as he could – at times leaving the passengers waiting to be picked up by a rather more patient 177 driver. Greenwich looked as scenic as ever. In many ways historic Greenwich would benefit by being a pedestrianised area, both for the volume of tourists and the cleanliness of the buildings, but there is nowhere you could really re-locate the traffic – Trafalgar Road is the only way between the river and the hill that is Greenwich Park.

Today the lampposts were telling us all about the imminent (24/6-3/7/2011) Dance Festival, not be confused with the later summer one  – not sure what’s going on here?

The road between Greenwich and Lewisham does have some nice quirky shops – we had already passed The Mirror Shop and then spotted a curious sculpture of Mr Punch on the front of a house in Greenwich Road.

There had clearly been some demolition going on along Morden Hill but it was not yet evident what might be going to replace it – Morden Hill forms the boundary between Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs and soon we were arriving in a very busy Lewisham at lunch time – unlike many routes this the 180 does not spend its resting time at the bus station but rather in Molesworth Street behind the shopping centre. For once we were pleased to be in an air conditioned setting and sat and people watched whilst eating our sandwiches and preparing ourselves for the last leg of today’s bus outing.

The 180 had taken rather under the hour to get from the wilds of Belvedere to busy Lewisham and judging by the number of passengers a much appreciated and used service.

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