Monday, 29 August 2011

The Number 210 Route

Brent Cross to Finsbury Park Station

Monday June 28th 2010

This route came at the tail end of a trip that started with Route 82 over a year ago so there is some chance the 210 may no longer exist in this form by the time we get to post it. For me this was a nostalgia route as I remember this so clearly as a ‘little bus’, one of the early ones so chosen to manage the steep and narrow climbs into and out of Hampstead.

But back to 2010 and Brent Cross bus melĂ©e – it’s not well arranged and ladies who shop tend to crowd round the stops making it difficult to get to the right one but appropriately enough at 2.10 we boarded the 210. I can remember the excitement at our (very local) school when the first plans for Brent Cross were published – all those shops on our doorstep obviating the need to ride the 13 into Oxford Street and it did live up to its promise – now a ‘veteran’ mall at the age of 35 it retains its popularity still.

The 210’s first and quite complex task it to work its way through the complexities required to get over the North Circular (3 lanes each way at this point) and then immediately under the A41 – believe me don’t try this in a car. Anyway soon enough we were bowling through the quiet back streets of Brent and along the Golders Green Road, as it feeds and nurtures its ethnic locals, and past the station and the poor old Hippodrome – such a wonderful theatre, its most recent incarnation is as a place of worship; all I can say is that they must have a very large congregation to fill its 1500 seats.

The bus then progresses very carefully up North End Road – a road so narrow and sunken the pavement is elevated amongst the trees, which bang furiously onto the bus. Our progress was hindered today by some completely thoughtless car parking in a BUS LANE (that’s car crime said Jo). To both sides there is greenery galore – to the right the lovely Golders Hill Park, the most formal part of the Heath. Not surprisingly some of the grand houses on this side have blue plaques: Ivy House, now the Jewish Cultural Centre, was once home of Anna Pavlova the Russian-born ballerina and Heath End House for Dame Henrietta Barnett whose influence was so great and legacy still very evident in NW11. To the left, behind the houses (ask not the price) and the old Bull & Bush pub, is the lesser known Heath Extension until you emerge back into the sunlight at the top of the hill and Whitestone Pond – currently undergoing an extensive and expensive renovation so that enthusiasts of all ages can sail their model boats. **

There is so much to do and see on the Heath I leave this link for you to do your own research.

At this point the 210 leaves Hampstead proper to other routes and heads firmly round a tight corner (house now derelict and for sale) along swathes of the Heath to Kenwood – the views are terrific straight over the Heath and Parliament Hill Fields across the panorama of London in all its slightly polluted glory. If ever there was a bus to get off and explore this is the one, however trips to Kenwood Park and House need to wait for another day.

Once past Kenwood the properties prices rise again as the bus goes along the Spaniards Road , crosses the Bishops Avenue and then Highgate Village – in some ways less showy and more accessible than Hampstead village – both wealthy neighbourhoods where the description village is valid, apart from the toiling peasants of course. Again the views as the double decker descends Highgate Hill are terrific – what does it matter if it’s just pantomime lore but the thought that Whittington & his cat were on their way home when the call came to turn again makes a good story and here is its marvellous location (“It’s behind you!”). The bottom of the hill finds the 210 usefully passing several bits of the Whittington Hospital – some buildings saying more about Victorian grandeur then useful places to cure people…Highgate has its own more modest Waterlow Park just visible from the bus.

Not quite in the queue to board (which in our case was rather small, as we had caught up the 210 ahead, which took up the crowds) was a familiar figure on the corner – another Banksy for our collection.

No shortage of useful routes at Archway. Most of this trip had been nostalgic for me but Jo still has vivid memories of cycling here to Breast Screening Units, which always seem to be in the most obscure corners of large hospital complexes. The 210 avoids the mistake of its running mate here, the 41, by not heading for Crouch End but instead turns through the rather lively Stroud Green. Here we were impressed by the range of Mr Pak’s outlets – hairdressing on one side of the road and wigs on the other, was there a link perhaps, and just to make sure you were really beautiful his/her cosmetics store. The 210 completes the last of its nifty manoeuvres before arriving at the very useful Finsbury Park Station.

Truly a route with something for everyone from Mall shopping to nearby Emirates stadium at the ends with Heath, hair, hospitals, highwaymen and hills in between.

** I m happy to report that Whitestone Pond is finished complete with reed beds and newly installed ducks looking very clean – the water I mean – I cannot speak for the ducks.

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