Monday, 24 October 2011

The Number 240 Route

Edgware Station to Golders Green Station
Monday June 7th 2010

This proved to be one of our more seamless trips, needing only to walk through the well organised and clearly marked Edgware bus station from our number 79 to board a double decker 240. The traffic had been heavy on the way here but seemed lighter as we drove south and right away from the High Street, handsome neo-classical styling with porticos dating from 1923 (which is of course the period when the tracks and stations for this bit of the Northern Line were being built)  now tenanted by fast food outlets  and a few more individual shops. Sainsbury’s had relocated from this end of the High street to behind the station some years ago – mainly to be part of the small shopping mall and provide more parking – and the resulting site had been bought up and developed, meaning there is now a series of attractive 1990s-built low rise small blocks of private flats with well tended front parking areas which actually belied the density of housing hereabouts. The bus continues through Mill Hill (on the other bit of the Northern line of course, as anyone who has stood at Camden Town knows) crossing over a major road junction and then heading slowly and carefully up hill.

Sadly we were not able to capture the very stunning views to be had climbing up Hammers Lane but between the trees we could see far. Mill Hill seems to have three phases of development with earlier, larger properties around the Poets’ Corner at the bottom of the hill, and the later 1930s buildings half way up before the Village itself (geographically not chronologically) at the top. The Thirties properties were also impressive – private homes and private schools to match. Plus riding stables. Two developments caught our eye: The Marshall Estate a beautifully laid out area of supported retirement homes for those who had worked in the retail sector, and further up the hill the Chalet estate – in fact also known as the Drapers' Cottages  - charming bungalows. It’s nice to know that some industries look after their own.

In fact Mill Hill seemed to be full of historical sites, including the local pub – the Three Hammers – and the church where Wilberforce preached. His is not the only blue plaque as there was one for  James Murray, the dictionary man who was a sometime teacher at Mill Hill School . The pictures of him are straight Dumbledore out of Harry Potter.




As you crest the hill, and the bus takes these roads very carefully and quietly, you start on down the quaintly named Bittacy Hill and the huge 1938 building that houses the National Institute for Medical Research – it does of course have its own very impressive website with updates on the recent viruses that have a tendency to evolve and be one jump ahead of us. ‘Respect’ as my daughter says.

Further down the hill comes IBSA House which may or may not still be part of the MoD, but given the secretive nature of this ministry it was a bit hard to find out – it was the one bit of the bus route through leafy Mill Hill where there seemed to be people out on the streets enjoying the sunshine, whatever they do in their offices!


This bus is very much on its own and follows Holders Hill Road (NOT to be confused with Golders Green road – see later) and what I had wrongly thought to be the River Brent, looking rather unwell as in dried up and littered, but which later research indicates to be in fact the Dollis Brook running to the Brent at ... wait for it … Brent. This part of Hendon feels quite villagy and old with some smaller cottages left and the rather grand Arts & Crafts entrance to the Crematorium and the stained glass in the synagogue  – buses seem to like cemeteries and hospitals but on this route we only had the former. Quite unobtrusively  (this is a quiet unassuming bus) we crossed both the Great North Way and the North Circular and headed up the Golders Green Road. Having walked along it most afternoons on my way home from the school and station I knew the (shoe) shops pretty much off by heart (Dolcis, Carvela, Lilley & Skinner, you get the picture) but over the intervening mumble (40+) years most of the smart shops have moved to Brent Cross leaving mainly food shops, many of which offer an ethnic twist on Kosher cuisine or do I mean that the other way round? This bit of the Golders Green road used to have ‘our’ second cinema, now reduced to rubble or another lot of retirement flats. However the Barnet library – a staple haunt for local children, conveniently situated as it was next to Woolworth’s so you could get your books and sweets in one trip – is still standing. The bus went on up the Golders Green Road and through the barriers into the station completing what was for us a very neat triangular trip through a small corner of NW London. Were the barriers to deter parents dropping off their children in front of the station or terrorists we wondered?

The 35 minutes promised turned out to be closer to 45 but offered a most delightful and quiet trip through the lovely village of Mill Hill.
Though the Underground poster artists never seem to have been commissioned to do anything about Mill Hill, see this link for the London Transport Museum’s collection of posters promoting the residential and recreational delights of Golders Green: the first in the display is particularly fine!

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