Friday, 25 November 2011

The Number 253 Route

Hackney Central Station to Euston Station
Thursday November 24th 2011

We have been rather slow through the 250-60 route numbers, mainly because there were none we had travelled earlier as return routes from other numbers, so we have been tackling them one per week. This week was the turn of the enigmatic Route 253 and in order to avoid further delays and getting bogged down in NE London overall I (Linda) decided to travel alone while Jo and Mary were otherwise occupied.  On paper it looks a strange loop, swirling away into North London and not that dissimilar from the 254 – in fact they share a NIGHT bus.

Getting to Hackney Central on the Overground proved easy enough and the latter is a nicer station than it might appear form the outside. I of course chose the wrong exit, so watched a 253 sail away from the stop but had scarcely time to draw breath when another, clearly destined for EUSTON, arrived and myself plus three waiting passengers I’d already spotted got on. Why did they not get the previous 253?

A young woman with Rihanna-style hair (red and over one eye) and myself were the only ones upstairs as we drove off through Hackney avoiding the delays that often occur round Mare Street. The bus made rapid progress to Clapton, barely seeming to call at stops but waiting patiently at zebra crossings. To be honest, it’s a while since we’ve been to Clapton although it featured heavily in the early days of our Project so it was quite nice to be back alongside the ‘pond’ which gives its name to the stop and then round the Leabridge roundabout to continue in a straight line. Buses have always nestled in the middle of the roundabout and sure enough the double decker 38s, one of the first routes to be ‘unbendyed’ (not a word that will find its way into any dictionary) were neatly ranked.
Though I have not been able to find out whether there is any significance to the random tree trunks ranged along one side?

Straight on through Clapton and in fact it is only this pair of buses that offers this service – it is a red route too. The bus passes Casenove Road but I am unable to confirm whether this was named for the eminent stock broking family though it seems more likely than not and hints at Hackney’s more illustrious history. Along the Lower then Upper Clapton Roads there is wide range of housing – mainly post war flats but some Victorian villas and interwar semis, which are rarer round here. Past some screening conifers I noticed an all girls Muslim School playing netball in a green and white uniform (one of the new faith free schools perhaps?), and by the time the bus heads its way towards Clapton Common the other significant religious minority – the Hassidic Jews – are increasingly to be seen.

For the last few stops both the indicator board and the announcements have been saying ‘This bus goes to Stamford Hill’, which was rather annoying as it had not been the case when we started, so when we duly arrived at ‘Stamford Hill’ we were told ‘This bus terminates here’. ‘Rihanna’ and I climbed downstairs and watched the driver let a mother and buggy on board. Puzzling. As we rounded a gentle corner (think of the route as a horseshoe with us reaching the top) into Stamford Hill I went to ask the driver if he was continuing to Euston – answer came there none – so we climbed back upstairs. After about ten minutes of silence the indicator board sprung into life again and informed us we were heading for Euston.

Today with the weather clear and bright it was suddenly apparent that Stamford Hill is indeed a hill, as we had an excellent view right across North London with Alexandra Palace sitting squarely on the near horizon.

Moving from post code N6 to N4 meant our arrival along Amhurst   Park to join the lower half of the Seven Sisters road at the Manor House Road Junction – back on the Piccadilly Line after a series of railway train only stations. The bus travels alongside the Finsbury Park, which gives the impression of being a rather linear and not very interesting park – more of a glorified recreation ground, though it does have fairly grand gates.  Some of the buildings on the road side (left hand) are being renewed by Hackney in places.

Just visible in the brickwork for the station named after the park is a sign for the Great Northern and Electric  Railway. I am presuming this is a reference to the Piccadilly Line as opposed to the railway being electrified in 1971? However what really catches the eye is the Arsenal shop below – today being a GOOD day to celebrate North London’s premier team.

Hereabouts we joined the route of the rather memorable Number 29 which seems to be the bendy still hanging in there …  and down the Camden Road we went together, Talking of togetherness we had followed both a 254 (not departed elsewhere) and caught the 253 in front with which we played chase for the rest of the trip.

Camden Road has many familiar landmarks; more familiar to Jo who can walk to them any day of the week and they include the City and Islington College with its effectively noticeable ironwork wall and the low windowless redbrick that is HMP Holloway. Soon after there is what looks like a disused twin towered church though the brickwork and glass looked to be in good condition. 

The run into Camden Town was inevitably slower, so time to notice a pair of Converse trainers hanging in a tree – part of a bullying or other trick? A glimpse of the canal as we passed over it before it reaches the busy market round the Lock. On the corner is ‘The Twins Coffee Shop’ with no apparent explanation for the name and while I was wondering what this was about we finally overtook the 253 in front. With all the one-way traffic through Camden this was relatively easy to manage. I have a real soft spot for the paint shop even more so with a home decorating job upcoming.

Once we reached  Mornington Crescent  ( I only insert these here as they set a standard for coherence and logic to which the rules for our own project aspire) the 253 continued straight ahead (as indeed had been the whole trip) down the what I always think of as that dark chasm alongside Euston station. Perhaps  cursed in some earlier incarnation,  but the sun never seems to penetrate down Eversholt Street with its Royal Mail and train offices all handy for Euston station. And finally the only right turn of the trip – into the bus garage.  

Given that the driver was clearly not very interested in communing with his passengers I did not bother to leave him a card. A more streamlined journey than I had anticipated, but a not very relaxing 50 minutes. 


  1. The 253 and 254 were originally one route, numbered 253, from Aldgate to Warren Street. This took over 50 years ago from the 653 trolleybus covering the same route,and a tram before that. Although the 253 was increasingly operated in overlapping sections a through journey provided a wonderful journey through the different cultures that make up that part of inner London

  2. Thanks as always for the Arsenal shout out!
    Not been to the Finsbury Park shop for ages now there are two massive ones at either end of the stadium. Used to be bad luck to go to that shop before a game as well I seem to remember, back when my bro and I were very superstitious.

  3. Hello, I am trying to contact one of the 'ladies who bus' and am having difficulty because I can't seem to find a Contact page on the site. Is there any chance, if you read this, that one of you may be able to contact me? My address is sarah @ and I will be able to tell you then what it's about,
    Thanks and best wishes,