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.
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…