Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Number 205 Route

Bow Church to Paddington Station

Tuesday April 27th 2010

Well this route came at the tail end of a trip that started with Route 69, so there is every chance the 205 may no longer exist in this form by the time we get to it. It is, it must be said, a route to make a train fan come over all weak at the knees as it passes at least 30 stations on its way, but I shall not be naming most of them, partly because trains don’t do much for me and partly because if I do I shall start sounding like the bus voice-over lady, with whom we have to live on a daily basis. Except for a wriggle north round about the Angel this is essentially a straight East to West (as we did it) or West to East route across London linking the ‘East End’ with nearly the ‘West End’ though in fact we did not quite penetrate Theatreland or the big shops.

Our last bus (and Mary who returned to water her allotment) having left us at Mile End Station, we walked back down the Mile End Road till we reached the start of the 205 and this allowed us a closer look at some of the civic buildings along here. The 205 is also related to the Route 25 which we travelled about a year ago but is a double decker affording much better views than its smaller cousin. * This being the most glorious of spring days, I had feared there would be little chance to ogle the blossom as we were traversing pretty built up areas but in fact was glad to be proved wrong – every little estate or corner or college seemed to have a tree in full glory.

This being a broad road we started off quite fast and zoomed past many of the key buildings we had passed on foot – which included both Registry offices, magistrates court and police station – the local police did not seem to travel far from their base and we spotted them both on foot at a bus stop and on horseback.

St Clement’s Hospital has long moved out leaving behind some rather fine but now desolate buildings. However the Girls' Foundation School  seems to be soldiering on in rather less than adequate premises for the 21st century.

Off behind the main road there look to be some fine old squares – College Square and Tredegar Road. Where Mile End crosses Burdett Road is a major junction and in order to help pedestrians and cyclists cross there is rather funky ‘green bridge’ covered as it appears to be with grass and plantings. We carried straight on across the Regent’s Branch of the Grand Union canal, which offers something of an oasis hereabouts. Queen Mary University is well established here with its main buildings and campus, so no shortage of passengers as it was still term time. Also the local pubs, unlike many sadly closed on our routes, were still thriving and included both the Old and New Globe plus the larger Half Moon: does this say something about students’ spending habits? In case sobriety is needed there is the nearby Salvation Army, celebrated with a statue of William Booth, plus also one of Edward VII – not quite sure why as he was no shrinking violet in social situations. We admired the entrance to the Anchor Retail Park, which evidently stems from an earlier building, and also noted the restoration apparent in the (Water Lily Block – perhaps once a local department store now being transformed – all indications that the proximity of this part of London to city wealth (Canary Wharf and the Gherkin looming on the horizon throughout) is beginning to spill over a little bit into the less wealthy neighbourhoods. Nearby Sidney Street is reminder of the area’s more turbulent history.

Interspersed with the newer bars were numerous small legal firms, with their supporting structures of stationery and IT facilities and sandwich bars alongside. The very impressive and newish East London Mosque also dominates and the little park next door was full of locals and workers enjoying the spring sunshine. St Clements may have been absorbed elsewhere but  (the Royal London continues to serve its population and community as it has for over 100 years.

On to Whitechapel and the refurbished and extended Art Gallery – by now with the roads narrowing and the traffic building up we had slowed down and by Aldgate East had caught the 205 in front – it had either broken down or been asked to terminate as all its passengers joined our bus and filled it to capacity upstairs and down. It was through the City that this route turned north, wending its way along some quite narrow streets past Bevis Marks Synagogue, along Wormwood Street and London Wall and both Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations.  Office workers were out in force and there was virtually no grass visible on either Finsbury Circus or Square for the lunchtime picnickers.

Moorgate gives way to City Road and eventually the Pentonville Road as you approach Angel from the South – it boasts two civic clocks, and also the Co-Operative Bank with its plaque to honour (though not all people see it quite that way) the Monopoly Board Game. Since our last trip along here Islington have completed their eco garden, which turns out to be a low maintenance sandy space with appropriate drought loving plants (Making Islington Greener) – let’s just hope the local dogs can be kept clear.

The traffic lanes around King’s Cross always clog and today was no exception, though we escaped faster than some along our bus lane. We still had time to note that King’s Cross beautification has not quite finished whereas the scaffolding is all but gone from (St. Pancras and the neighbouring hotel/apartment complex – such a striking memorial to Sir George Gilbert Scott it looks more like a cathedral (did he recycle an earlier building design?) and so typical of the wealth of late 19th century civic architecture rounds the UK.

Alongside us on the front top deck a German father and son combo had boarded at Mile End with quite a lot of luggage and finally disembarked at Euston – their next journey point presumably. Quite brave to choose a cross London bus when most tourists opt for the swifter if stuffier tube.

As we did our wriggle round the back of UCH (so much more modern than the Royal London) we spotted our old friend the bendy 29 heading north decorated with some interesting additions. Just by Great Portland Street we had an inspector – unusual on a single entry bus but perhaps he knows that from here on there are significant numbers of younger tourists heading for the Marylebone Road and Madame Tussauds [sic – the official website eschews the apostrophe to which the original Mme Tussaud would have been entitled]. The parish churches – St Pancras and Christ Church. Albany Street – are imposing also and have withstood the years of traffic quite well all things considered. Perhaps the wonderful ‘lungs’ that are Regents Park help keep the air moderately clean. Passing Balcombe Street was a reminder of early terrorist activity in London

For me the novelty of this route came right at the end where it does a loop and dive one road back to pass Marylebone Station, which I have never had occasion to use – very modest by the standards of the other mainlines we had passed but none the less attractive for that and interestingly it now has opposite it the back entrance to the Landmark Hotel.

Most of the passengers had of course got off well back by Baker Street and to be honest if you were in a hurry you would not use an overland service along here but we stayed with it and so I hour and 35 minutes after starting got off ourselves – the only remaining passengers – at Paddington Station after a road trip which felt in parts like a real life game of Monopoly – you pass all 4 stations (just about Fenchurch Street) and the entire ‘Blue Set ‘also.

PS Lots of updates since then – St Pancras Hotel has opened and can be toured as Jo already has done. Also, Route 25 has reverted to being a double-decker as another bendy hits the dust.

We really did see a bendy made up to look like an accordion!


  1. I think you may have meant the 8 and not the 69 at the beginning, also the 205 only recently got extended from Mile End and was used to help the 25 when it was impossible to get on when it was a bendy.

  2. Thanks. I did not explain clearly: We started the day with the 69 arriving at Canning Town, nipped the length of the 323 which took us to Mile End,and we walked to Bow Church. The Number 8 is of course Bow's bounty, travelled in April 2009.

    I am sure you are right about the 25 -one of the busiest routes.