Westfield (White City Bus Garage) to Hounslow Heath
Monday August 15th 2011
With Jo in Scotland, Mary and I had stepped off our key route, the 207, taken a turn round the facilities of the excellent White City Bus Garage and stepped straight onto a double decker 237 – a nice treat after the last bendy.
So it was straight out into Shepherds Bush at lunch-time with people enjoying the sunshine on the Green complete with its children’s playground. Of course lots of passengers boarded after their shopping trips at Westfield and the outdoor market respectively. The market runs through from the Uxbridge Road to Goldhawk Road and it was the latter we were to follow for the first part of this trip. Just before we left Shepherd’s Bush we noticed 'The Shepherd and his Flock' pub, rather opportunistically renamed I thought. However for a pub soundscape (and some other West London sounds) click here.
As we edge (the 237 and the 94 both) towards Chiswick, the signs of affluence increase with upmarket branches of Cath Kidston or Fired Earth and not too many Poundlands. Oh yes, and I forgot to mention the French Kitchen and Wyndham House – ‘Contemporary English Butchers’ which set us wondering what exactly made a butcher contemporary: a Cath Kidston apron rather than a blue stripy one?? Just set back from the main road at Number 70 you can glimpse ‘The Power House; once the electric source for London’s trams, built in 1901, but more recently flat conversions and housing quite a prestigious sound studio – the second on this route.
Chiswick also honours its own with a larger than life statue of Hogarth out on the pavement, and his house (which he used as his country retreat) close by but not due to re-open to the public until November of this year. Chiswick House with its excellent garden was also built for summer parties rather than winter living.
Another Chiswick asset is Christchurch – a fine Giles Gilbert Scott building on Turnham Green, and even our photo makes it look like a village church. Heading, as we were, towards the roundabout we noticed how road up to the Green offers food outlets and shopping needs for the workers based in the office blocks the other side of the Green. Easy to grab a bite to eat and sit out on the grass – however, the two largest blocks were both very empty and this must impact on the local economy even in an area as seemingly recession-proof as this one.
The bus continues to amble until it reaches the Chiswick Roundabout with the Flyover heading over the top to the M4. Gillian Clegg, local historian, tells us the flyover was opened by Jayne Mansfield: the US film starlet liked publicity and I guess opening a flyover was as good as anything?
This route does not cross Kew Bridge but does pass the pumping station and the nearby Musical Museum,
though our photo makes it look more like a petrol station than a museum.
No flying over but under for us, and a turn left as if to cross the bridge though in fact the 207 prefers to go along the river through Brentford, and Brentford, while also steeped in history (Romans, Civil War battles etc) is kind of the cheap and cheerful cousin to Chiswick.
Being on a double decker let us peep over to the water but what you see from here is not the Thames itself but the Brentford Dock now over 150 years old.
By the time it /they empty into the Thames, the River Brent (which we crossed back on the Uxbridge Road and the 207) has joined with the Grand Union. The last great lock is also very visible from this route as we reach Brentford town centre. This part of the route tends to be something of a bottleneck with two courts to service and a narrow bridge for the traffic to cope with. We were not held up long enough to pop into the wittily named 'The Docking Station' a community resource rather the café I thought it was. Further pause as the drivers changed – I was interested to see that they did not even nod at each other let alone exchange any words!
As we drove on through Isleworth, at a slightly faster pace it has to be said, the over-riding impression was the succession of planes passing overhead, many so low you could easily see the insignia. Inevitably the roads here get wider, the property more uniform and less interesting as we move further west still pretty much in a straight line. There was no shortage of pubs, the finer and better kept ones maintained by the Fullers Brewery, whose patch this very much remains. That it was also a ‘controlled drinking zone’; this seemed slightly incongruous but perhaps necessary.
Isleworth morphs into Hounslow, an area through which we have passed all too often with its drab and unfriendly bus garage. Most buses in fact start on the High Street close by some of our favourite shops that set out their stock so well. I have never worked out the rationale for which buses are allowed through the largely pedestrian High Street and which go round but today we were one of the chosen few to take the chicane bends – this must be one of the most challenging bits for the driver as pedestrians are likely to do unpredictable things as we pass through. Today was uneventful and we re-joined the rest of the traffic and headed towards Heathrow with the continuing air traffic above us. A route which has been consistently busy and very much heading in a straight line at the very last takes a diversion into the back streets, where we hoped the home owners worked at Heathrow as certainly the aircraft noise was inescapable and at times scary.
Still there we safely arrived in just over an hour, having come through some of the livelier and historic bits of West London to the more down to earth or up in the air outer areas.