Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Number 223 Route

Harrow Bus Station to Wembley Central Station

Thursday September 15th 2011

Jo and Linda today were accompanied by Sue – a family member up in London for a belated birthday treat, though bussing round Wembley seems a strange choice of treat (there had been other outings in case you think us cheapskates). She could of course use her Wiltshire Freedom Pass, which made us wonder how TFL recouped the money. Our attempt at meeting at Baker Street had turned into something of a French farce – by which I mean Jo and I were chasing each other up and down escalators with the barrier personnel going ‘she went that a way’ – but we eventually boarded the newly spruced-up Metropolitan line train to Harrow on the Hill, a good choice as the line splits after here.

But to the buses… This was our first journey starting at Harrow Bus Station, though we have passed through several times – and very nice it is too: classical music, lots of informed officials, and close to both the train station and shopping centre. We had time to appreciate this as we had just missed one of the three-per-hour single deckers, and eventually boarded at 11.30, by which time there were several passengers keen to get home with their shopping already done. I heard that familiar clatter as a boarding passenger dropped her stick while showing her pass – having travelled with my 92-year old mother, I know that it is pretty difficult to juggle pass/bags/stick and then stagger to your seat. Fortunately most of the passengers were of the same demographic and therefore tolerant.

Through Harrow, where the range of shut pubs (poor old Fat Controller), derelict offices and offices to let remains pretty unchanged. As far as I can see this route does a detour (detours were to be theme for the day) in order to call at Northwick Park Hospital which meant a couple of roundabouts, giving us the chance to spot  The Plantation Garden centre, which calls itself London’s largest, and Harrow High tucked in under the roundabout.

After the hospital the bus means business, and heads along Kenton’s High Street and then strikes through the heart of residential Kenton, where most of the passengers were headed. By now we were in a ‘Hail & Ride’ section. During our visit to Brixton Garage the Manager there told us he thought they would be phasing out ‘Hail and Ride’ as it was abused by both drivers and passengers. We could not see this ourselves, though perhaps it was hailed more frequently than established bus stops. The houses were pleasant, and we noticed a Lake District Theme creeping in with Roads named for Coniston, Windermere and Rydal and a pub also.

An inter-war estate built on former farm land, this is very much an area where people will depend on this bus route to take them places, and they seem to have an active and alert Residents' Association.  A newer property was named for Coleridge – one of the Lake Poets I suppose though I am puzzled why a band  hailing from the North East should name themselves after the North West’s most famous area?

Having served the South Kenton part of the Preservation Area are we moved on to Preston Park, which has both a pub and station named for it. From the hillier bits of this route we could glimpse distant views and the now not so distant Wembley Arch.  As regards the Arch it is very Alice through the Looking Glass as the closer you get the less you see of the Arch while on a fine day you can appreciate its entirety from South London!

Where the 223 rejoins other bus routes at Forty Avenue we had a good sight of the Ark Academy at Wembley Park Station (Built 1923), an altogether more useful station on the Jubilee Line. This is such a new school that they are only now admitting their second intake of year 7 pupils who will be sporting the same shade of red as the front gates.

‘Making the Most of Each day’ could easily be the school’s motto but seems to be that of the Preston day centre supporting the more mature members of the community.

Brent Borough, where we spent most of this trip works hard at regeneration – this can be seen in all the new buildings round Wembley Central, in its hanging baskets and also schools and support services. We tend to think that the recent history of this area started with the Empire Exhibition in the 1920s and building of the original two towers stadium but apparently Wembley Park in the 1890s was the location for a project to build London’s very own  Eiffel Tower.

We had the most glorious sunny September weather for this trip but actually this makes photos even trickier because of the reflections so I have included a selection of what the Americans call Public Service posters, some old some new. Before the days when everyone carried their own electronic entertainment about with them posters were an ideal way of catching people’s attention, and they still can be. The London Transport Museum does a splendid one :

‘HELP the driver by signalling clearly to stop the bus – Part of your war effort’ which I cannot reproduce for copyright reasons (but you have a look on their website)

The 223 did one more loop along Empire Way and round the back before rejoining the High Street and letting us out by Wembley Central Station after a 40 minute trip.

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