Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Number 199 Route

Canada Water Station to Catford Bus Garage

Monday November 22nd 2010

Meeting at Canada Water Bus Station ‘brought it all back’ as this was where the Project started back in March 2009 with the Number 1 route. The memories were Jo’s as Linda had not been part of that trip. There have been lots of changes round Canada Water since then – a whole new Overground has opened, and there is significant building in an area, which has its history very much in merchant shipping and Docklands.

Not far away is the Norwegian church and Seamen’s mission and many of the names of streets, and indeed the whole area remind us these bits of London were once working docks and unloading quays for merchant shipping from all over the world, named for the Surrey side of the Thames.

Greenland Water gave shelter to whalers and the Scandinavians brought us wood, which was often precariously balanced by the specialist ‘Deal Porters’ that carried heavy high and costly piles of timber. The Surrey Canal (the remnants of which now command the way to the cinema Multiplex) was supposed to offer onward transport but was never that successful. The war-time bombs just about finished off the docks which were closed in the Sixties and then re-generated courtesy of the London Docklands Development Corporation so that you have what is today’s combination of shops and housing. The Redriff Dockers Shelter (a replica) with its mural offers some commemoration of this and now forms a bus shelter !

The bus in essence follows the River Thames through Deptford along Evelyn Street, named for the famous diarist, garden designer etc. The Thames Path also runs hereabouts, but not in one of its better-signposted stretches so easy to lose. Evelyn Street turns into Creek Road indicating where  the Ravensbourne  comes out into the Thames.

In fact you cannot fall over in Rotherhithe /Surrey Quays/Deptford /Greenwich without bumping into HISTORY of some sort so back to 2010. Creek Road is lined with  student accommodation  not linked specifically to any University it would seem?

This bus was in no hurry but mid morning on a Monday Greenwich itself was not congested so we went through the one-way system quite smartly taking in all the lovely buildings. So lovely, in fact, that there is an almost endless list of films and TV programmes that have filmed on location hereabouts – handily listed on this downloadable movie map .

What was the Naval College is now mostly Greenwich University including the newish Stephen Lawrence Building, and then on past the Market (Excellent but VERY crowded at weekends) and the lovely Hawksmoor St. Alfege's church currently being restored. Deptford has an equally strong naval and Thameside history – the shame of it being it is now so built up along here you can no longer glimpse the River.

More water – by now the Thames is away behind us but we are following  the Quaggy, rather aptly named I fear. The attached group are keen to resurrect the river, now a glorified drain, to its former glory. Crossing the Quaggy means of course we had arrived in Lewisham Town Centre which for several months has been barricaded off to traffic while they replace sewers so we were on diversion round the back of the Lewisham Centre.

The bus, never full to start with, was now in competition with a range of routes that ply their trade between Lewisham and Catford, so did not have that many takers.

Given the number of routes along here it is always quite surprising that they do not jam more passing Lewisham Hospital, Registry Office and all the other useful offices and landmarks along here – War Memorial and University Hospital, Job Seekers, Housing Options, Rushey Green Children’s Centre, Kaleidoscope Centre, and finally Lewisham Town hall, Theatre and Civic Centre – all located squarely in Catford.

Lewisham is a long, thin borough and today we had spent quite a lot of time dipping in and out of it on various routes.

Bromley Road is nicely wide so most drivers take the opportunity to speed up as they approach route’s end at Catford Bus Garage, and today was no exception.

A surprisingly quick route, just under an hour, which offers the passenger a tour through London’s waterside history, post-war urban development and a range of shopping opportunities.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Number 198 Route

Thornton Heath High Street to Shrublands

Monday July 25th 2011

It was a real summer’s day when Mary and I met at Thornton Heath Station to walk back down the High Street to the start of the 198 route. Passing through by bus Thornton Heath can look a little weary but with a chance to admire the range of mangoes (imported) and lack of gooseberries (home grown) we decided the shops were holding their own against the Tescos by the station. Several 198s passed us so we knew we would not have long to wait.

At the bus stop we met a chatty A&E staff nurse on his day off and he was pleased about the sunshine too and in fact rode most of the route with us. It was the first week of the holidays and how can you tell—much less traffic and more families and children on the buses.

The bus’s first job is to get itself facing the right way to travel the length of the High Street passing the new leisure centre (an attempt to kickstart some regeneration, we thought) the rather handsome Thomas Farley Pub – the reviews think little of it but it has a handsome exterior, and who was Thomas Farley? I know pub signs aren’t known for their likenesses or accuracy but roughly speaking this one offered a Victorian country squire, which seems an unlikely match for the New York medical officer or the journalist (both modern) or the 1600 chap who emigrated to Jamestown US which Google offers. The corner has a Crossways garden centre, a biggish Tescos and Ambassador House, where Mary had encounters she would rather forget. Thornton Heath station has quite an attractive exterior and the bus then heads down Brigstock Road – another sign of regeneration being the library annexe along here. And of course the Clocktower.

Very soon we were in the Mayday Hospital belt around which there are signs of improvement – a brand new mosque (expecting up to 30,000 per week through Ramadam), a refurbished and extended hotel with 100 rooms, and what seemed to me a random Boots Optical store outlet but which clearly has some hospital links. The booking website refers to a ‘tranquil corner of South London’ which is not the description I’d choose for this quite bustling bit of West Croydon. There has been building here with some rather tall blocks which do not fit well with the more modest scale of the older properties hereabouts – tall is for Wellesley Road and Central Croydon. Along the London Road there is a large plot which remains empty – presumably some kind of dispute – and which now offers a haven of wildlife where the buddleia and grasses have gone wild.

We felt the pubs we passed had missed tricks and could have had more explicit and entertaining pub signs than they did – ‘Saints and Sinners’ for example and the ‘Ship of Fools.’ The story for the latter harks back to a medieval allegory about a pilotless vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious to their destination. Umm, could this be a description of the ‘Ladies Who Bus’ ??)

The other pubs: Arkwright’s Wheel and the Fox & Hounds opposite West Croydon station were trying a bit harder. We covered the very familiar territory from West to East Croydon – with just a nod to the excellent hanging baskets on the barriers – very smartly, and were soon out on the quieter (?tranquil corner of South London) Addiscombe Road complete with double fronted homes, a tramroute and, just by the Shirley roundabout, the prestigious and private Trinity School – it was they who sold their Central Croydon site which gave the world (or at least South London) the Whitgift Centre and Trinity a nice new site. Shirley morphs into West Wickham – this whole route mainly composed of broad avenues sizeable homes  and open spaces – some of them reserved for golf.

The Tudor Lodge is more pretentious than some of the homes but you have to give them a round of applause for their chutzpah – there are even traditional twirly Tudor chimneys. Much of Monks Orchard is still owned/occupied by outposts of the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, one of the UK’s more prestigious psychaitric treatment facilities. On the whole the wards down here offer very specialist services for which you need a referral.

The last little bit of this route, which for much of its way duplicates others and in particular the 194, branches off down Bridle Road to Shrublands, an apt name for an estate built by Croydon and completed in the late Fifties (and they also built shops and a pub’The Goat’) to deal with the post-war housing shortage. Building on shrublands, they left plenty of  grass and the homes all have gardens. Shrublands also has its very own bus route: the very regular 198 which starts and stops here.


As we got off downstairs another passenger looked rather surprised and said ‘Was the bus going on to Bromley?’ and she was mortified, as a long time local resident, to realise that back in Shirley, where there was a choice, she had got on the 198 rather than the 119 . I was tempted to say ‘should have gone to Specsavers’ (or indeed the Boots near the Mayday) but instead we, and the helpful driver suggested she rode the next one out of town and picked it up there…

We gave our driver a card and contrary to the usual bemused stare Driver SHAH Badge Number 78444 gave us his card. He told us he had been driving for 46 years and remembered the Route 109 when it used to start in Purley and go to Westminster. We said we would record that he had driven carefully and thoughtfully on a quiet day on a journey that had taken us about 40 minutes through the South East London’s greener suburbs.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Number 197 Route

Croydon Town Hall to Peckham Bus Garage

Monday January 5th 2010

NB: We rode and wrote up this route some 18 months ago and then last week rode the 194 which covers much of the same territory and route so please excuse any repetition. Since riding this route the stations mentioned have perked up due to the Overground.
This route was in fact the return half of the Route 50, the noteworthy start of the New Year and with sub zero temperatures. Nevertheless Jo from the North joined the South London posse of three, and Mary had risen from her sick bed to join us.
We had used the toilets and admired the makeover that was the Clock Tower (with the David Lean cinema)
of Croydon’s Town Hall, opposite which were ranged a variety of bus stops and useful voluntary organisations. The bus heads almost immediately right and north, foregoing the underpass but passing Croydon’s public buildings ranged along here – the College, the Home office, the Blue Orchid nightclub (now very abandoned), and of course East Croydon station which is handy for Brighton and Gatwick. There is a very confusing one-way system in Croydon including a separate route for cyclists, which looked as though you needed a degree to map-read it.  Still we were heading north out of Croydon passing another closed pub (Taylor Walker) on a prominent corner site but later finding the Joiner’s Arms still open. Woodside Green is precisely that, with its communal open space maintained, and looking over the tops of the houses we could just glimpse the line of the trams beyond. Correctly the bus does a loop to take in Norwood Junction Station, not much in itself but a very significant rail landmark. We crossed over the lines on the Goat House Bridge  and then headed down towards the Robin Hood roundabout (another defunct pub?) and Penge – not today when it was fairly grey but from the top of the bus there would normally be a fairly spectacular view over to wards the Surrey Kent borders.

At the Pawleyne Arms we had to negotiate our way round a clutch of 176s pausing before starting their very long journeys and soon we were heading up hill past our local Homebase, and one of the many entrances to the Crystal Palace Park. We had of course passed the very gracious Waterman's Square - a large complex of almshouses, now this being Bromley, in private hands and the Lightermen moved out to Hastings

Border Road, obviously, marks the move from ‘the greener borough’ Bromley to Lewisham and almost immediately the stop for St Christopher’s, which really did spearhead the whole hospice movement and still runs excellent courses. Up past Cobbs Corner and the now defunct Greyhound pub (one way or another that makes four or five this trip – pubs not greyhounds) and past the end of Jew’s Walk, where Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl, killed herself after a difficult relationship – you cannot quite see the plaque from the bus but we know it’s there, believe us!

Dartmouth Road offers a well-known (locally at least) trio of 19th century public buildings: the Library, now beautifully restored, Louise House (originally a girls’ home and then social services office) and the Swimming Baths, just recently saved from demolition and due for a face-lift/rebuild. Up through Forest Hill with the Grade 2 listed building that has metamorphosed from being the local cinema to a Bingo Hall and is now a Wetherspoons drinking arena.

However the most notable venue if not the most notable building in Forest Hill is undoubtedly the Horniman Gardens and Museum, which has both impressive national collections and community outreach – there really is something for everyone indoors and out..** 2011 Horniman gardens largely full of diggers pending their 2012 scheduled garden upgrade.

By now we are on the South Circular, though not for long, and still mystified that a house so close to collapse has not yet been demolished though Southwark are clearly keen to do so.** Now boarded up as a dangerous structure but not yet demolished !

 Up past Firemen’s Alley, the little snicket that leads to Dulwich Park and soon back by the lovely Dulwich Library. For once we were riding down Barry Road on a double decker and could see well over the tops of some houses into the extensive gardens they have beyond.

Down past the Young’s pub (the only 2 nicely presented and surviving pubs we saw today both belong to Young’s: the Bricklayers’ Arms and the Clock House) and along Peckham Rye – strangely the willows were still (or again?) in leaf while all else wilted under the sharp frost. Peckham was its useful lively self with a wide range of beauty options available and well-wrapped pedestrians spilling onto the road, which of course our driver avoided – heading smartly into the rather modern Peckham Bus Garage.

For three of us the bus passes the end of our roads so we were on home territory for much of this route, though truth to tell it’s not one we use that often. Better for hair salons than blue plaques but some quite nice green spaces along the way.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Number 196 Route

Elephant & Castle to Norwood Junction (Grosvenor Road)
Tuesday March 30th 2010

Today there were just two of us actually boarding a bus at Elephant & Castle, instead of merely passing through on one of the other 25 routes that do so. Perhaps it’s time to say a little about the proposed regeneration that never quite seems to happen: what the website describes as an “important milestone” proves to be that “Southwark Council's Executive approved the terms of a Heads of Terms agreement with Lend Lease Europe Ltd.” Ooh, be still my beating heart!! Meanwhile, the Shopping Centre remains with only Boots and Tescos hanging in there against a raft of small and struggling outlets – the indoor mall is gloomy which is perhaps why the outdoor market stalls threaded round the base are livelier and do better business. The underpasses require you to take a deep breath and focus or all is lost, as I nearly was today.

(Update : To be fair there have been improvements since we wrote this and it is now almost possible to do all the key pedestrian crossings overground )

Off we set on a damp day, the bus damp underfoot with a random potato, which might just start sprouting. Mainly quiet upstairs and our photographer struggling with some scratched windows. We liked the contrast between the firmly labelled ‘Builders CafĂ©’ adjacent to the Strata and then, as the bus turned niftily into Kennington Lane, not one but two French cafes: the Toulouse Lautrec and the Lobster Pot. Kennington Lane is aptly named and for its winding length has the full range of 18th to 20th century buildings. If you penetrate this surprisingly peaceful hinterland lying as it does so close to major routes you can find  the Cinema Museum .

This bus, as we discovered, has the very good trick of going to all sorts of key places but by the back streets so the drivers need to be really gifted. We crossed Kennington Road and passed the Lillian Bayliss School and having skirted Vauxhall Bus station we did a brief start on the Lambeth Road, admiring some rather well maintained C of E flats (non-believers need not apply?) and by turning into Landsdowne Way cut through the heart of pretty Stockwell to rest briefly at Stockwell Bus Garage, where of course the drivers changed. It is a splendid edifice and you can almost imagine the buses nestling there each one under its white roofed duvet.

We passed the war memorial and clock, and the fairly recently added mural of Violette Szabo, who apparently grew up round here. Then down towards Brixton – when I was a child this was the place to come to buy a second hand car as dealers Pride & Clarke, whose showrooms were painted red brick and they seemed to own the whole street, though it has now been taken over by a range of offices/shops/housing/community projects. From the top of our bus we had an excellent view of the purpose-built skateboard park, sadly without any skateboarders but they should all be at school of course. Nearby is the Brixton Academy, for once not a school academy but funky venue.

The 196 joins all the other buses that pass through Brixton and today was a really swift passage – many passengers boarding but little traffic hold up – the road widening schemes seem almost finished with a wide plaza (Windrush Square) in front of the Ritzy but work still in progress alongside St. Matthew’s Church. As well as “collecting” punning hairdressers/cycle lanes/strange slogans/public clocks we have developed a penchant for ‘ghost signs’ in the brickwork and there is a fine sample of the Bovril one round here.

Dulwich Road and Poets’ Corner brings you to some very pretty houses and past Brockwell Lido, with a quite difficult turn to take in Herne Hill station, which is really attractive and well kept and includes local cafes and florists. In addition to the twists and turns the bus now needs to climb along Dulwich road and the other side of Brockwell Park – a great community resource.

On the other side of the road I have long been fascinated by the attractive building that is the Fisher Book Binding Building  assuming it was still in its original use but apparently not.

Just before crossing the South Circular at Tulse Hill we were scrambled by a police car and ambulance that went ahead but not our route. There must be a vet’s hereabouts as a lady boarded with her pet carrier full of cat.

The roads narrow and the pedestrians were out and about again as the rain had stopped, so progress slowed somewhat as we passed both the impressively large West Norwood Bus garage (not today thanks) and the extensive West Norwood Crematorium and cemetery. West Norwood is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ and amongst others you would find Sir Henry Tate and Mrs Beeton; nowadays we know her early death was probably due to a gift of syphilis from her husband. More roller coaster hills: Knight’s, Convent and Beulah from which the views were extensive back to Crystal Palace and virtually down to Croydon – it suddenly becomes airy and spacious and we think this may all have been part of the Great North Wood (North of Croydon you understand). All these hills remain very much landmarks and features, which have determined the growth and spread of South London. After the ups come the downs onto South Norwood  Hill (North Wood = Norwood – get it?) and of course Norwood Junction with just a little blue plaque to William Stanley (Inventor) to divert us at the end of what was a twisty turny route through the long thin borough that is Lambeth, ending just over the border in Croydon and the start of another journey.

Apologies if I have muddled any of the Norwoods…

The Number 195 Route

Wednesday 20 July 2011

We had reached Brentford County Court by lengthy means, about which you will read in a few weeks. 'We' were Mary, Linda and me.  Walking round the corner, into the neat little bus area, dominated by St Paul's Church spire, we had only a few minutes to wait for our single decker, and were off by 12.05.

We passed what had once been a library, and soon came to the University of West London. The large building labelled TVU clearly dates from its former name.  The M4 flyover looks a bit rickety, though I am sure it is rock solid.

The bus was busy from the start and, as we moved into suburban streets, people began to get off with their shopping.  Some of the houses were semis, with their front gardens converted to  hard standing, but there were also rows of terrace houses, one of which had some topiary in its front garden, which we found impressive.

We came into Ealing, with Elthorne Park on our left, and then into Hanwell, with its small green.  Although there were fewer shops on this route than on some, we spotted West 7, which makes possible the kind of house restoration that appears on the television.

The Viaduct Pub relates to the railway, as we could see from the Inn Sign: we had missed our chance of photographing the Grand Union Canal, mostly because we were on a single decker.  We were to cross it again later, and still fail to get a clear photo.
We came to Ealing Hospital and again, lots of people climbed on.  We went under Brunel's Iron Bridge, and passed the signs to Dormer's Wells.  We were going straight along main roads, which made us wonder why we had to be on a single decker bus:  we had standing passengers almost all the way, so a double decker would have made sense, as well as being more fun for us.  We usually associate little buses with curving routes.

The hoardings along the road indicated that we were coming close to Southall, and soon we slowed -inevitably - to negotiate the High Street.  We passed the cinema that specialises in Bollywood films:  an earlier cinema had turned into a Lidl.

We were pleased to see the large blue gas holder which, unbelievably, says LHR with an arrow, to show aeroplanes which way to go:  I always thought they had technology for that.

A hoarding offered amazing bargains on villas in Hyderabad:  can they really mean £15,000, wondered the man sitting next to Mary.

Next we passed the enormous Southall Police Station, as well as Goldfactory, whose website offers many delights, and came to the Shri Guru Amardas Gurdwara.  We were soon also to pass the mosque and then a Hindu temple, as well as the Parish Church and a Somali Social Cafe.

We very much liked the the mural outside Hambrough Primary School:  the National Curriculum in pictures, from Tutankhamun to killer whales, and from Henry VIII to volcanoes.

Over the canal (still no photo), we came into a rather bleak business park, which brought us into Hillingdon. The large orange, Victoria pub offers Indian food all day. We went along Station Road passing Hayes and Harlington Station, before doing that loop one has to do because the High Street is pedestrianised.

At this stage, the Oyster Reader was not working, and there was a certain amount of chat about free buses as we passed  Botwell Green and came to an area of ex-public housing.  We had a driver change in the middle of nowhere in particular, and then spotted that the Hayes Town Chapel was offering Christian Camping in Wales.

Through Hayes Village, we had to go onto the Uxbridge Road for a few metres in order to get into the huge residential area which would lead us to the termination of the route.  When we finally reached the end of the route, it almost looked like the countryside, with horses in a field.

It was 13.15, and our only transport option was to sit on the bus till we reached Hayes and Harlington railway station.  We gave the driver our card, but it left him rather puzzled.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Number 194 Route

West Croydon to Lower Sydenham (Sainsbury’s)

Thursday July 14th 2011

The complete team assembled courtesy of the Overground and rail at West Croydon Bus station and was able to board a 194 almost immediately. It was quite a bumpy ride out of Croydon and another passenger was almost hurled into our laps as he tried to sit down on the move – making us grateful that we can usually get seated (or unseated) while the bus is stationary – this was a careful and measured driver and there were no ‘alarms or excursions’ during our 1 hour journey – nor were there many passengers round some of the wealthier South East London suburbs.

I used to think of Croydon as ‘modern’ by which I suppose I meant largely post-war Sixties builds – as the view down the ‘Canyon’ which is Wellesley Road proves. However the 21st century has seen Croydon updating itself and today we seemed to pass several building sites and cranes in quite a short space of time -
they call it Regeneration I guess, but I am sure with several more Croydon bus routes to go we should be able to see the final result of the 45 floor building project!

In order to avoid too much traffic and duplication of other buses, this route approaches East Croydon station from the side and then heads east, partly along the tramway towards Shirley and West Wickham, both of which were clearly villages that have grown and been absorbed over the years. Shirley now boasts a  restored windmill .

Though the route taken by the 194 is largely through solid and mature 1930s housing; we were pleased to note as often garages had been included therefore we could still enjoy many of the front gardens in full bloom today and there was a lively discussion on the merits of hydrangeas and the demerits of polygonum, except as a cover for ugly fences etc. The bus, and at this point it is the only one which serves this part of Croydon borough, takes a loop round the housing from the corner by the library – a neat Art Deco building with that sunbeam effect that seems to invite the spread of knowledge. Surprisingly there was a pub – the area has churches, a library and schools at appropriate points throughout but finding somewhere to buy a carton of milk seems more challenging.

The route offers a very few shops at the Shirley end (bridal wear being rather a specialist niche market) and then another smallish parade – the very word gives away the age – at West Wickham, where you could feed your pets at ‘Waggles Pet Emporium’. The barbers (still?) had a red stripy pole reminding us they used to be surgeons also (all that blood and bandages) and there were further floral roundabouts both here and at Elmers End; really the areas blend into one another.

Linda chose today, which is after all when the French remember their revolution (Bastille Day), to have a rant about how Bromley Borough clearly takes substantial council tax off these very many wealthy properties (not to mention the stuff they have in the south of their borough) but very little appears to be redistributed to the poorer end and the residents of Penge. Even the pavement trees – alternate Rowans (Mountain Ash) and Copper Beeches – are a better class of tree than elsewhere, or at least a more decorative one. We hope that Beluga Fish and Chips were sending themselves up, but maybe not? .

This route, unlike several, just skirts the edge of Beckenham passing its war memorial and the listed cinema, still very much up and running, and up to Clock House, whose origins are now rather lost in time – 'there goes the railway' said Jo pointing at the bridge across the road – no the railways is down there that’s the tram called something quite other (and much less memorable) like the Beckenham Road tram stop – I think Jo was rather surprised to run into the tram but I remarked it might be a rather quicker route to Croydon than the one we were on. However we shall get to the trams in due course…

After my rant about the marginalisation of Penge, today the bus took a route away from the High Street up Parish lane – this is quite narrow for a double decker to negotiate – and we had a chance to admire the lovely cottages in Albert, Edward and Victor Lanes – these being in honour of Queen Victoria’s children – and another historical royal Queen Alexandra Pub (very popular in pubs we’ve noted), but only listed on the Dead Pubs Society blog proving there are people out there even more obsessive about sharing their lists than we ladies…The parades of shops in Penge date back to 1899 again with some fine plasterwork .

This back way leads the 194 along Newlands Park and thus into the Sydenham Road and very much the last leg of the trip: a run down hill to Lower Sydenham. The High Street has seen many changes and of course scandals over the years, including an unsolved murder of some note.

We also passed close to the former residence of Sir George Grove, who though he trained and worked as an engineer had an even more illustrious second career as a head of the Royal College of Music and was in charge of the Crystal Palace as it moved from its original Great Exhibition site to the hill in South East London which has since taken its name.

The other unmissable landmark for this part of Lower Sydenham is of course the gasworks which still dominate the Supermarket which took up residence here about fifteen years ago – built originally as an experiment by Sainsbury’s venturing into the megastore market, it was originally called the Savacentre only more recently reverting to Sainsbury’s. Built at the same time were the special bus stands which give good access to the shop, making it very easy to get to for shoppers without cars – the least friendly approach is for pedestrians…

Our trip from Croydon had taken just over an hour with no significant hold ups – for the most part leafy and at this time of year flowery but never very busy.

Interestingly we completed, on the same day and merely by crossing the road, a bus route, which had exactly the same starting point and final destinations as the 194 but where there were no overlaps at all – however you will have to stay with us and our blog until Route 450 to hear how we got back to West Croydon…