Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Number 182 Route

Harrow Weald (Oxhey Lane) to Brent Cross Shopping centre

Tuesday February 1st 2011

A rather grey day when the damp made it seem colder than it was. We had a short walk through what is probably technically Wealdstone, where our last bus had left us, and boarded our waiting Route 182 neatly tucked close to a roundabout, which proved to be something of a signature dish (? Linda you have been watching too many cookery programmes) for this route.

Our starter or appetizer for today’s menu was a broad sweep of classic North London Tudorbethan semi-detached houses, set well back and quite leafy with it. One house rather surprisingly called itself ‘Heaven’ but was well barricaded behind a grille gate, CCTV and a burglar alarm – time to check the Met’s new crime hot spot meter perhaps? There is a small bus garage round which is wrapped the modest Harrow Weald recreation ground which offers a range of tennis courts and pitches. After swathes of housing came the starter courses of the High Street for this bit of Harrow: side by side Noodle and Pizza Huts and a good range of hairdressers – ‘Hairs & Graces’ and ‘Hair 2 Order’ (later we were to get Mopheads) – interspersed with local charity shops. We were impressed with the range the charity shops had on offer, including bridal wear and a small cafĂ©, all to support the hospice for Brent & Harrow area.

Mary spotted just back from the road the Winsor & ‘Eton’ factory – having been thinking about the not-that-distant Harrow Public (as in private fee-paying) school she had thought the historic artists’ materials provider was based near Windsor, but in fact it is spelt differently. The family firm  has been here for over a 100 years and you can do a factory tour! Remember the joy of a new paint box till the colours get messed?

Talking of messing, we passed two rogue apostrophes – a Kiddie’s outfitter and ‘Shopping at It’s Best’.

The Wealdstone centre proves to be a community library, though for how long who knows, and close to that is the new built Harrow Mosque. The locality also has the Safari cinema showing Asian language films and Asian sweetmeat shops. Also a street front Samaritans – I thought they only took phone rather than personal callers though this chap looks as though he might need their services?
The Mosque looks not quite complete yet. It is very centrally situated almost opposite the handsome Harrow & Wealdstone Station which hosts both the London Midland trains and the Bakerloo line trains. There is a commemorative mural to the 112 casualties who died in 1952 following a 3-way train crash, actually at the station: a sobering total, far exceeding even the worst of recent rail crashes.

By now we were nearly onto the main course of the day, namely Harrow proper – there has obviously been some regeneration going on in Harrow with a big shopping centre complete with massive car parks and a one-way system, and significant speculative building of both homes and offices – several of the latter quite empty in spite of glitzy statuary adorning the entrances. With its double station (and local knowledge tells me the Met line splits here so twice as good) and bus station it offers good transport links and access, but seems sadly lacking in character. There is still building with 2 massive cranes in evidence. Not surprisingly many passengers we’d acquired thus far got off to shop while we took as many back on board. Talking of easy access we spent the next 15 minutes crossing and re-crossing the Railway lines so were not surprised to see a pub, sadly defunct, called the ‘Fat Controller’. However the train crash memorial was a stark reminder that toy trains are a far cry from the real thing.

Leaving rail crossings behind we began to approach that other behemoth of North London – the North Circular, but before that we had a brief foray back into suburbia as the 182 ploughed on through Sudbury – interestingly it seems to be nearly the only route that passes Northwick Park Hospital. Strangely there is a large and glossy golf course just next to the Sixties-build hospital, the former rather showing up the age of the latter.

Sudbury was next: once unknown territory to us but ever since the historic trip on the 18 we know it well, and now the 18s are no longer bendy but back to being double deckers since earlier this year…
If it’s Sudbury can Wembley be far behind – usually something of a hold up, but this time we passed through Wembley comparatively swiftly, noting how the stadium had brought regeneration to the area – lots of starter flats including some multi-coloured ones over the top of TK MAXX . Trying to persuade Mary who hates to shop that there can be good bargains to be had Jo said ‘But you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get to the real thing’. Patient and persistent shoppers can start here.

As we passed through Wembley it began to rain so our views of the Stadium were compromised. In case you had forgotten what the ‘old Wembley’ used to look like we offer this, another image courtesy of Little Gooner as a reminder – not quite sure why Legoland has failed to catch up with the soaring arch but perhaps it’s a little difficult to recreate in little bricks?

Even more spoilt were the views down over London which can be had from the next part of the route after negotiating a further one-way system round bits of Neasden and under the North Circular (don’t ask). The route map looks not like a spider but some gross anatomical sketch of the intestines so convoluted does it get. The route along the aptly named Crest Road usually offers stunning views but sadly not today (except for the Shard which is clearly ALWAYS going to be visible!). Also more noticeable today was the combination of potholes interspersed with traffic calming humps seemingly designed for a smaller framed bus. The net result of all this was a mile or so ride of truly bone-shaking proportions as the bus bumped its way along, eventually to emerge, after passing the Ox Gate pub and a few more industrial units, onto the great North Circular itself, just close to Staples Corner. In spite of road works we got past quite quickly (not always the case for this notorious traffic jam spot) and a few more wiggles and we arrived at the Brent Cross Bus Station.

We needed a short trip to get to Brent Cross Underground Station since, although it can be accessed on foot, it’s not the most pleasant of walks. A most helpful and jokey ?bus inspector virtually escorted us onto the correct bus, and we left him shoe-horning a few more buses into their resting places so the drivers could have a short break.

The driver of this 182 surely deserved her break – it’s a long, arduous and tortuous route, busy as to traffic, complex in its many twists and turns and very popular with many passengers all along the route.

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