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.

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