West Croydon to Brixton
Tuesday October 12th 2010
Tuesday October 12th 2010
Mary, Jo and I are all pretty familiar with Croydon, having either lived near there or had close relatives to visit, so it holds few surprises. The bus routes hold even fewer surprises as they all seem to duplicate each other 70% of the time, meaning that it is quite difficult to find much that is new to say.
Today found us going back and forth between Brixton and Croydon in pretty much a straight line, as of course they are joined by the A23. It does not seem a very demanding drive – compared to some – with hardly any turns: the only challenge is waiting for the trams to take priority as you leave Croydon.
We all remember how Croydon used to be so impressive – back in the Sixties it had a Manhattan-type canyon of tall modern buildings with an early example of the purpose-built (if draughty) shopping centre. As Jo reminded us, the reason it was possible to build so comprehensively after the war was because Croydon suffered more V1 Bombs falling on it than the whole of London put together due to some judicious ‘false propaganda’ put out on the radio. It now seems to be in something of second wave of needing rehabilitation. Croydon’s rail links are second to none but it is now also linked to the Underground system from West Croydon and this should help stimulate the local economy somewhat. [This paragraph was written many months before the 2011 riots, which of course hit West Croydon very hard – our sympathies to the affected local residents and businesses.]
This route was also a good illustration of the ethnic diversity of South East London as we went through areas where the food outlets, whether shop or restaurant, move from South to North India (vegetarian to Halal) with temples and mosques to match. Norbury and Thornton Heath seem to have a more settled Caribbean flavour and by the time you get to Streatham the Somali preferences come to the fore. In Brixton of course the whole world meets, which might explain why they have quite so many bus routes delivering the world to its doors and markets.
Round the Whitgift civic pride ensures that the central reservation beds are well tended with an interesting collection of ‘dry weather’ plants. Not all of ‘old Croydon’ was wiped off the map as the old church and ‘ghost sign’, not far from the Mayday hospital show.
Thornton Heath signage promises both clock tower and ponds. The latter bit of naming has puzzled me for 40 years – unlike Clapton there are NO PONDS visible. As far as I can tell the ponds (useful to water passing cattle and horses) were enclosed when enclosure happened (that would not get me many marks in an exam but I am sure you are all with me) into farmland so there have not been ponds for years. The clock tower, on the other hand, is very evident: it was built by public subscription, a bit like in 'Back To The Future' .
Can you tell I’m a bit bored on this trip!
Anyway: back to Thornton Heath, which is where this route does some deviation heading towards the right hand route through Norbury – a quiet residential stretch with pebble dashed houses. Those to the right must have wonderful views out to the back as the whole area between the railway line and this bus route (Green Lane and Parchmore Road) is a series of parks and sports grounds. Like the surrounding housing it dates from the Thirties, with a children’s playground added later.
At the end of Green Lane the route joins several others heading straight north to Streatham and the first really viable pub for some time turns out to be the ‘Pied Bull’, a Young’s pub. On a trip where nice looking OPEN pubs were few and far between this and the other Young’s pub at Thornton Heath (‘The Railway Telegraph’) led us to the conclusion that Young’s do look after their establishments more then most.
Just passing St Leonard’s Church in Streatham there was a brief tailback because of finishing road works, which gave us the opportunity of pondering what exactly wig suppliers might be supplying? Also the Maq-soud restaurant promised Italian – Turkish - Somali dishes, which gives you some idea of which empires once ruled Somalia.
This end of Streatham still has both Karting and Ice Skating, whereas up the top end the bowling and the night entertainment venue Forum had both closed. Today we even crossed the major South Circular and A23 junction without stopping. The last stretch of the route already reaches into Brixton. We know the prison is only one block back but today we glimpsed the windmill. In fact according to the website major restoration is about to happen with the sails taken down, so they will not be visible for a while.
As some sort of compensation we spotted the newly arrived heron weathervane just opposite the Ritzy, which cheered us up. (Pleased to report that’s it’s still there a year later so probably counts as permanent.)
It shows that even on a familiar route there can be novelty and we did enjoy some details of plasterwork even amongst some otherwise rundown buildings.
Do we think 250 marks the half-way point?
Broadly speaking the numbered buses stop at 499 with the odd 600 routes designated for school use – there are also significantly more ‘missing routes’ between 251-499 than in the ‘half’ we have completed (see the 218 and 239) so the answer is probably ‘yes’.
On the other hand there are about 107 ‘LETTER’ routes including the trams which is about a year’s worth of travelling at our current average of 2 buses per week…