Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Number 226 Route

Golders Green Station to Ealing Broadway Station

Tuesday April 6th 2010

Rather a strange way of joining a Northern Line favourite to the end-of-the-line District and Central Line stations, but for us bus travellers in fact the first leg of a journey taking us on a beautiful spring day to the start of the 65 Route. This was also a friendly cross-town bus, avoiding for the most part the major roads and routes, and with a cheery driver who welcomed us on board. Off we set round Golders Green's familiar landmark.

Leaving Golders Green station, this is the bus that takes me closest to my childhood home, passing the end of The Ridgeway en route down the Vale (note they don’t have roads or streets in NW11 – they have names) where it nips across the Hendon Way, which divides the rather more affluent NW11 from its lesser cousin NW2. All of this area was built up as a deliberate ‘suburb’ to house families and gave them the Northern Line to commute on. On the far side of the Hendon Way the estates are laid out and named after English hill ranges (Pennine, Cleveland, Purbeck) though there are no hills in sight. This does not, however, seem to have stopped the local council adding a Jurassic Sculpture to a local park.

In its clever way, the bus serves Cricklewood Station, on what we now know to call the Overground, and then nips across the Edgware Road, whose length we have travelled more than once. Walm Lane carries a range of buses and hosts two mosques and Islamic Centres, one with some very decorative tile work. However, rather than serve the shopping centre of Willesden Green, the 226 passes behind the scenes along Anson and Kendal Roads, offering solid family homes – we guessed they had originally been built with diamond panes of leaded lights but most of course have needed replacement. Opposite is  Gladstone Park which once had a house where the Victorian Prime Minister 'rested',  now somewhat bisected by the railway, getting us eventually to Dollis Hill. Nearby  here was one of the wartime ‘deep shelters’ built against major bomb drops by the enemy but fortunately never used – and going rather strangely by the name of  Paddock.
This bus route serves the College of North West London but little evidence of students today as they were no doubt still on their Easter break.

The bus of course routes past the fairly substantial outdoor bus area that is Willesden Bus Garage (one of the older sorts where passengers and vehicles only meet at the next stop) and then with a host of other routes delivers us to Willesden County Court, in fact located in Harlesden. Our jolly driver finished his shift here wishing us a good onward journey. Cardinal Hinsley (who he? asked one of the bussing ladies – the answer is the last but several RC Archbishop of Westminster between 1935-43) has a school named after him and we spotted a hairdresser with a flag on the fascia we had to look up. With a navy background and red diagonal it looked like Trinidad and Tobago, but we are open to correction. Along with Goaties’ Barbers Shop and the Happy Hour launderette (can watching your underwear circulate in public ever be happy unless enlivened by a drink?) we passed through Harlesden and crossed all the railway lines in rapid succession and the  Grand Union Canal too.

We then dived into the very modern forecourt of the Central Middlesex Hospital, where not a few of the passengers we had picked up recently got off.

From there it was but a short hop to Park Royal and its famous (? infamous) trading estate, the range of trades is enormous but today we spotted Stone World and Stones 4U which had locally sourced flooring available as well as Travertine, which had come a bit further!

This next bit of the route took us round some very newly built roadways, access routes, blocks of flats and parkland which had all been laid out at the same time – it seems to create a new living environment. Consulting the ‘History of London Bus Routes’ we find our hunch is correct and the 226, sole route hereabouts, was only extended to take in Lakeside Drive and Bodiam Way in 2004, with the Ealing hail & ride extensions only added in 2007. Passing a few more mature gardens we enjoyed the vibrant displays of forsythia – a plant it is hard to keep down both physically and metaphorically as it is kind of ‘in your face’, but pleasing in the sunshine. We were therefore more than a little surprised when we emerged from a quiet-seeming road into the multi-lane maelstrom that is the Hanger Lane Gyratory, dubbed the UK’s most terrifying road junction and the plucky little 226 has to cross 6/7 lanes at this point,. Not daunted, it passes a Crowne Plaza (do you suppose people who cannot face the gyratory book in for the night?) and into a rather upmarket and quiet bit of Ealing, where only the most local of local buses penetrate.

Again a pleasant surprise as we emerged onto Haven Green, which is indeed still an open grassed space worthy of the name, but we were then dumped rather hastily in front of the not very cherished Ealing Broadway station.

This intriguing and pretty wriggly East-West route had effectively taken us from North West to West London in under an hour, serving High Streets, housing and industrial estates and crossing most of NW London’s major rail and road routes without batting an eyelid.

PS Since taking this route we have returned (too) many times to the Park Royal estates and feel considerably less bouncy about them.

Also the Central Middlesex has just recently been identified as one of those hospitals who now cannot afford to repay the PFI loan which enabled the rebuild…

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