Finsbury Park to Hackney Wick
Friday October 8th 2010
Our key bus for the day had left us at the bus gathering area (not organised enough to be a proper station, nor undercover enough to be a garage) outside the two Finsbury Park stations where we had detoured in order to use the platform toilets, kindly guided there by an off-duty rail employee...
Relieved, there was but a brief wait for the single decker Route 236 waiting in the forecourt. We knew it would be a ‘back-street’ bus from its size and frequency but pretty popular nevertheless taking us through the heart of ‘Gooner’ territory. It crosses the Seven Sisters road and passes the City & Islington College (lots of students hanging about) and passes the end of Gillespie Road, the site of the former Highbury Stadium, now converted into flats, sadly not at very affordable prices. By now the bus was heading into Highbury proper where it was clear money was no object – the nice roads are blocked off so are not used as ‘rat runs’ and the tennis courts were full of ‘ladies who play tennis’. We just glimpsed a local (not blue) plaque on a substantial home in Highbury Grove referring to a Mr Cruft, whom Jo correctly guessed is the chap who started the dog shows now named after him.
Highbury Grove leads into Highbury New Park and along the way we passed the 'Snooty Fox' which seems to be rated as a fairly amiable local pub situated on a key corner in Highbury. The gentrified theme continues along past Newington Green with a branch of a patisserie/boulangerie – no mere bread shops round here. After Newington Green the bus takes quite a meandering route to disgorge most of its passengers at the Ridley Road market behind the Dalston Junction station. The market is much beloved by the locals and not much known outside the area, which is perhaps as it should be.
A couple of early birds who had already done their weekend shopping boarded as most got off – we do not usually ‘bus’ (for the blog) on a Friday and there was a real difference in the volume of traffic and passenger power between the beginning and end of the week. Dalston Junction is the end of the NEW Overground line (coloured butterscotch orange on new tube maps) which has transformed crossing London, with new bits to come in 2011. [As indeed has happened: the East London bit of the Overground now runs through to Highbury and Islington offering even more scope for changing.]
From Dalston we were back in the familiar territory of the Queensbridge Quarter, where the buildings of the first phase look pretty much complete.
The nearby Tomlinson Centre has been unveiled since we last passed this way and fits in with the general attempts to brush up this area. This little bus them detours into a much older estate – the Regents Estate so named because it backs onto the Regents Canal – and then we emerged at London Fields, made very famous by Martin Amis in his 1989 novel, when his particular style seemed at its s most original and attention grabbing. The park was looking lovely complete with either sculptures or plant/topiary things of a seated couple – difficult to see at some distance.
Roundabout here we passed the Anderson Road car pound – now that may not sound very exciting, but earlier in the day during our travels round Hackney (and truth to tell we barely moved out of the Rose Red Empire *) we had watched the cranes remove an illegally parked car from off our 106 bus route, so this is where we presume the hapless owner had to come to reclaim it.
Once more we approached the ever busy Hackney one-way system and slowed down past ‘Ocean’ – apparently a club but we were moving slow and close enough to see its foundation stone was laid by Princess Christian. Who she? we thought – the answer seems yet another Victorian princess, this one originally called Helena who changed her name on marrying Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, which brings us to a whole other question (unsubtle history joke). (I think I may have got something wrong here but you cannot tell with German aristocracy)
Talking of confused, we were not quite sure of the links if any between the Homerton Hospital – more modern lower storey blocks – and (round a couple of bends) the much more traditionally built Hackney Hospital. The latter was of course the original workhouse, then the first NHS hospital until Homerton was built to replace it, and after some refurbishment (we hope) mental health services moved into the older buildings. Whatever the client group this bus route serves both. Jo wondered why there was a college in Cambridge called Homerton, but it did indeed start life here in the borough as a teachers’ training college.
A few more bends round the former lanes and a glimpse of the admittedly not very large Mabley Green, but probably quite welcome bit of park to this very densely populated part of Inner London.
* ‘Hackney:That Rose-Red Empire’ Ian Sinclair – not an easy read by all accounts?