Friday, 30 December 2011

The Number 272 Route

Chiswick (Grove Park) to Shepherd’s Bush Station
Tuesday December 27th 2011

The bus expedition today, including two male relatives both keen to try their respective technologies of I-Phone and new camera, had met earlier in Mitcham and given the light Bank Holiday traffic we were soon at Putney Bridge. After a delay while, rather as in the old  Music hall ditty, an old lady got locked in a lavatory in Bishops Park, the party advanced on foot in an effort to walk off a few Christmas meals taking in the considerable  curve of the north bank Thames Path to Chiswick where the petite 272 waits in a quiet residential street.

Technically this part of Chiswick goes by the name of Grove Park, but doubtless in order to avoid confusion with SE London’s own Grove Park the nearby railway station is firmly called Chiswick. Compared to the grand riverside residences of the Eyot (island to you and me), this is less posh Chiswick but that still makes it a more expensive area than the start of most of our routes. Grand houses, mostly now sub-divided into flats, and the open spaces of the Quintin Hogg Playing Fields line wide and quiet avenues. The original philanthropic Old Etonian who founded the Regent Street Poly all those years ago might be a little surprised to find it was now the University of Westminster with its playing fields out here…

The bus passes back to the station along two very pleasant wide roads bordered by grand homes and we arrived at the Station House, formerly perhaps a station hotel. The front looks very grand but we had been round the back where the sight of dustbins and unswept leaves was less appetising.

Back to the Chiswick back streets. Jo was convinced we would be the only passengers but she was soon proved wrong. Three giggly girls got on, not seeming to know the cost of travel, and I had them earmarked as travelling to spend their Christmas money at Westfield. Other passengers soon boarded.  Grove Park was named after a larger older manor house and the same is true of Sutton Court Road; Sutton Court had been the largest manor hereabouts and after changing hands several times was finally demolished to be replaced by the current fine flats in 1905.

Suttton Court Road brought us out at the corner of Turnham Green, one of my favourite London greens, much enhanced by the Giles Gilbert Scott church; we were not sure what the building on the corner might be with its canopies and proud fa├žade it looked as though it might have some civic purpose? 

The bus dives into the side streets, where the rather nasty Chiswick Health Centre (perhaps converted from a car park?) is thankfully hidden away, and we soon drove parallel to Chiswick Common Green and saw the two railway lines – an argument amongst the party as to which tube line this might be proved we were both right as the Piccadilly and District run close to each other.

Acton Green and the Tabard  pub all border the conservation area  that is Bedford Park, again built as a cohesive whole rarely bettered; we fell for the Dutch gables and other properties along the Bath Road, many of which are now listed. This is a route, which could only be taken by a slim single decker, as several times we had to obey ‘Give Priority to Oncoming Traffic’ signs. The Tabard itself was built by the Victorians in a country pub style; even they apparently tired of those huge edifices and hankered after the nostalgic ‘village pub’ look...

More architecture attracted our attention – this time at the modern end of the spectrum in the shape of the
'Factory Quarter' development, apparently built on the site of the former Prestolite factory.  Prestolite was a US company, which took over from Lucas who made components for diesel engines but soon after the take-over (sounds familiar?) the factory closed now only to be remembered in the development’s name. 

From here the 272, which has been pretty much on its own, has a brief foray onto the Uxbridge Road alongside other routes like the 266 and the famous ‘non stop’ 607.
Continuing along Old Oak Road was again familiar territory but it made a change to approach it from this direction and the landmarks came thick and fast: Newman set and prop hire, the Angel (Askew) Pub, a play on the road name, and, just approaching Sandy corner and East Acton Station, a row of workers’ cottages looking truly out of place by now.

After doing the little loop round Brunel Road, the ‘run in’ to Shepherds Bush was even more familiar with firstly the homes for prison workers then the listed buildings of Wormwood Scrubs closely followed by student flats , Hammersmith Hospital and Latymer Schools and playing fields. All these are strung along du Cane Road, named for the prolific architect Edmund du Cane,   a son of Plymouth. 

Once under Westway and into Wood Lane the BBC dominates with buildings of various vintages and grandeur. The extent of the site made us question why droves of people had been sent to Salford? Will the BBC sell off the spare office/studio space?

Sure enough as the stops for Westfield shopping were announced our passengers who had boarded with us in Chiswick got off, as did most people. In fact the last two stops taking us round 2½ sides of Shepherds Bush Green were the slowest probably due in part to the seasonal fair complete with a Walzer  few us of could even bear to look at.
All the fun of the fair indeed. As befits our age we more enjoyed the range of architectural delights available to us on this circuitous but charming route.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Number 271 Route

Thursday 12 May 2011

This was the third bus of the day:  we had come from South of Honor Oak to the heights of Highgate, and this bus would take us back to Finsbury Square and the city of London.   ‘We’ were Linda and me, since Mary was busy child-minding.

We walked down the hill from where the 214 had left us, and were not kept waiting long before the 271 rolled up.  The view down the hill towards London was slightly misty but still extensive and we headed downhill, reaching the Whittington Hospital.  The significance of the area was marked by a couple of pubs: Whittington and his Cat and the Whittington Stone, with an inn sign showing young Richard presumably with ringing in his ears.

A handsome Manga graffito occupied one wall, cheering the Holloway Road up considerably, and we also admired a church poster ('Galilean Carpenter seeks joiners’) and ‘The Loving Hut’ which proved to be a restaurant serving ‘pure vegan and vegetarian cooking’ so I hope no reader thought it was another kind of establishment (we saw one of those a little later, we think, since it was called ‘My Desire’ and had its blinds firmly drawn)

Another interesting shop front was London, a rather specialist estate agent for Hungarians, and we also passed the HQ of the National Youth Theatre

Our first bus journey of the day had shadowed parts of the South London Overground, and now here we were at Upper Holloway Station, a part of the Gospel Oak to Barking line, heading down the Holloway Road to the huge and rather decayed looking Odeon.

We came to a campus of the London Metropolitan University, not to mention the Nag’s Head Waitrose which used to be Jones Brothers.  We liked the name of a Ghanaian Restaurant  - Sweet Handz - and were interested in a pub called ‘The Horatia’.  It has previously been known as the Lord Nelson, so it seems not too fanciful to hope they have renamed it after the hero’s daughter (see this less than well written bit of Wikipedia)

Arrived at Highbury Corner, and Highbury and Islington Station (yes, the Overground again) we noted the totally inadequate  provision of cycle parking, and had barely time to register the Hen and Chickens Theatre Bar before heading down Canonbury Road, the only bus to serve this part of Islington.  Neither of us has ever visited the Estorick Collection, and we were not inclined to interrupt our journey today, but we shall certainly come back now we know where it is!

Past Essex Road Station, and over the Regent’s Canal, we were soon into Hoxton, passing the Salvation Army’s Hoxton Centre and then to Old Street, where we noted the Wesleyan links:  not just the Leysian Mission and the Wesley House, but also Epworth Street. (For those of you who, like Linda, do not know this story, it was at Epworth Vicarage that the infant John Wesley was rescued from a fire, and declared to be ‘a brand plucked from the burning’, thereafter being expected to devote his life to God)

From there it was a short step to Finsbury Square , where we arrived within 30 minutes of leaving Highgate, for once less than the advertised time!

The Number 270 Route

Tuesday 27 December 2011

You might expect us to be doing old things as the year ends, but this was a trip of new things:  we have never travelled a route on a Bank Holiday;  and we have never had two gentlemen to accompany us two ladies (Mary will be rejoining us in the New Year)  Both these novelties were extremely pleasurable.  We would not have known that the services were running at weekend rates, and the empty roads meant they ran pretty well to the nominal timetable;  and having Andrew and Tim along was fun.

The 270 starts in Mitcham:  the bus map says Madeira Road, but the first stop is actually in Commonside East, close to the Three Kings Pond.  We departed at 10.10, Linda having been dropped off after a fruitless search for the bus and the rest of the party in Madeira Road.  Our double decker was not very busy, though a modest number of shoppers did get on and off as we went along.  The pond, by the way, was named for the nearby pub, now a chinese buffet, rather than any Christmas visitors.  We headed through Mitcham, with its attractive Christmas tree on Fair Green, and passed a huge Lidl, which was open and busy.  Mitcham Public Library, on the other hand, was closed.

After Figges Marsh (named for Mr Figge who owned the land in the 14th century) we came to the cemetery, glowing with flowers from Christmas visits, and then admired the pub sign for the Gorringe Park Pub, which is a punning 'G' made out of orange peel.

This is a Young's Pub, probably named for the House and grounds that used to be here before the needs of Victorian population growth replaced it with housing

As we came into Tooting itself, past the mammoth police station and Amen corner, we saw what we thought must be the nest of a homeless person, behind a roof of umbrellas.  At least it has not been as cold this Christmas as it was last.  We also passed Morley's department store, which we think must be a branch of the Brixton Store.  This Tooting one used to be called Smith Brothers, apparently.

Coming up to Tooting Broadway Station, we admired, not for the first time, the statue of Edward VII.  As we approach the Diamond Jubilee of the current Queen, it's worth thinking what a difficult time an heir to the throne may have, waiting until well into middle age for the proper job to start.

The road feels very much like a country lane as it wiggles towards Streatham, and we passed another cemetery as well as the Diprose Lodge Almshouses in their attractive enclave.  They were built by the St Clement Danes Charity but seem now to be for sale.

We noted a minor incident at a bus stop, with a police car stopped and the officers having a conversation with a car driver.  We did not know, as we moved on, whether two other, racing police vehicles were dashing to the scene or going somewhere else.  The Halfway House, another Young's pub with a good sign, counts as Earlsfield, and we assume that the river being crossed in the picture must be the Wandle.

After the various Youngs Pubs we had passed, it was interesting to see that nothing has happened to the former Young's Brewery.  Young's did move its operation to Bedford, but has now sold out of brewing altogether (can you tell that we had a CAMRA member with us today?)

We crossed the Wandle, moving into an area with several Fuller's Pubs as well as the Young's houses, and were impressed by the staying power of a small house squeezed between modern commercial premises, and soon crossed the Thames, to arrive at Putney Bridge Station at 10.45.  Our double decker had headed fairly straight along main roads as it made its way north, and we were aware of the difference a Bank Holiday makes to the rate of travel.

We hope you have noticed the changes to the shape of the blog, as made by Tim, including an index page for ease of checking earlier buses, and the fact that the book list is now down the side.  Thanks , Tim.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Number 269 Route

Monday 19 December 2011

 Linda thought she might be busy  towards the end of the week, cooking and such, so we decided on a Monday outing.  Our previous bus leaving us with a brief walk to Bexleyheath shopping centre, we were on board our double decker by 11.40, and heading towards Bromley North. 

We admired, but did not sample, the various fairground rides set up for the enjoyment of the Christmas shoppers.  We thought the Crazy Croc looked particularly unsuitable for children emerging replete from burger bars, but then neither of us much enjoyed that kind of thing when young (though I do remember an illicit trip to the Great Yarmouth funfair, over which - on reflection - I prefer to draw a veil)

We also noted the clock tower, erected to celebrate the coronation of George V, and with two of its niches occupied, one by the King, and one by William Morris, the local designer, whose Red House is just up the road.  Coming away from the many bus stops of the centre, we turned left along Bexleyheath Broadway, and then darted (if a large bus may be said to dart) into the area around the Library, or rather 'LibraryPlus'.  After this little wiggle, we headed out of town, quite steeply downhill, to cross the A2, which looked quite busy.

Now we were into mainly residential areas, crossing the River Shuttle Way as we went.  While I am always keen to try any walks we may pass, this tributary of the River Cray is only 8km long, so we may leave it for a few years.  We were the only bus along here, and were unloading people who had shopped in Bexleyheath as we went towards Sidcup.  A  couple of large buildings dominate the skyline:  Marlowe House, centre of Child protection work for boroughs from the river southwards to here, with Christopher House next door, is one of them.  Legend has it that the Playwright had links with the town, when not spying for Walsingham or brawling in Deptford pubs; he certainly attended school down the road in Canterbury.

The other large building is going up at the moment.  I just hope that it is not offices to stand empty, but we were not close enough to find out the names of the builders or anything useful for searching.

As we left Sidcup and headed towards Chislehurst we entered the borough of Bromley, marked by the appearance of municipal flower beds full of winter pansies.  We also admired the handsome war memorial (Sidcup's is also fine) and various green areas with autumn colour as we continued through residential roads.  I have recommended the Caves to Linda before, to no avail, so I shall have to force her off a bus when Spring comes.  Speaking of the weather, by now it had started to rain, and the bus, which had felt so warm as we boarded it, had chilled down considerably.

Chislehurst was the retirement home of the ex-Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie;  after the splendours of Second Empire France, he may well have enjoyed the quiet of suburbia.  But he only lived  there for 3 years, and Eugenie moved to Farnborough after the death of their son, though she did not die till 1920.  I think an exclamation mark there might be ageist, so I shall not add one.

Chislehurst station is well away from the village;  indeed it seems closer to Bickley, which actually has its own station.  We were passing a surprising number of small private schools.  Linda's theory is that they exist to get children into Bromley's well regarded selective schools. We were heading into Bromley town along Widmore Way, but sadly the Widmore Pub is no more.  Soon we were in the little warren of streets around Bromley North Station, where we finished our journey in only a little over the advertised time.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Number 268 Route

Golders Green Station to the O2 Centre (Finchley Road)
Thursday June 9th 2011

Our second June 2011 bus day started really well, with both of us arriving punctually at Golders Green station to inspect the refurbished toilets – cosmetic, I would say, with new floors, doors and tiles but the same old reluctant  cisterns etc but probably TMI. Golders Green Bus Station is now having a total make-over – I suspect they will give each couple of routes their own parking slots rather than the somewhat random free for all there is currently, but we shall see.

Anyway: we got ready to settle in at the first bus stop in North End Road, as after all this service only runs every twelve minutes or so, but one beamed round the corner – it was a single decker and we were comfortably installed and off at 10.05. The very steep and narrow climb takes all traffic up to Hampstead, both Heath and Village, and because the road is essentially a tree-shaded cutting (the pavement is on a completely different level and only on one side) it is always very dark whatever the weather. The sights include the ‘Old Bull & Bush,’ a famous pub that never seems to make much effort with its frontage – no window boxes or tubs and fairly functional tables, but presumably it is still favoured by walkers having a break or young men  making eyes at their favoured one as per the lyrics.

On the right hand side are a string of blue plaques for local worthies who lived round here – Anna Pavlova for one.  The bus emerges at the top, probably the highest point of the Heath as some-one has planted a flagpole, and past the newly refurbished  Whitestone Pond, originally for  horses, who must have been thirsty when they got to this point,  with its new reedy edge. It used to look both leaky and scummy so the improvements have certainly paid off (thank you Corporation of London) though we noted there were some guys working round the other edge today. The route also passes the pastiche Jack Straw’s castle, once a pub now a gym.

The 268 is the only route which then heads downhill into Hampstead Village – we were not quick enough to capture all the boutiques and specialist shops round here though there are plenty of chain stores also. We wondered if the art dealer could really source all the artists on his shop sign, and certainly if anyone can afford the prices these works of art would fetch it would be the folk of Hampstead.

For a virtual tour of the village – well worth a day out especially when the fair comes to town click  here. Though there are many handsome mansions the charm lies also in the coveted workmen’s cottages and well-preserved fountains, wells and other street furniture.

Jo was keen I mention the William IV pub just to remind everyone that as monarch he spared all sailors for rising for the Royal Toast – as the Sailor King he had served aboard ships and knew if you  stood up you would hit your head…

Just as we approached the old Town Hall, with Belsize Park tube station opposite, the bus turns right into Belsize Avenue and we enjoyed a good stretch of this route with its magnificent large white painted houses looking very sparkly in the sunshine. Though the route was not actually hail and ride we could see it offered an excellent service for the elderly residents of Hampstead to get them down to (and more importantly up from) the supermarkets of the Finchley Road.  I can remember walking this route on summer afternoons as we had to get ourselves from school (pretty much on the Finchley Road) to a tennis club by Belsize Park big enough to absorb about 60 school girls at a time. I’m not sure we did walk in our tennis shorts but there was certainly no parental frissons or angst about the unsupervised nature of the stroll. For someone who was not good at tennis the temptation was to head for the tube and go straight home.

This route takes you close to Maresfield Gardens and  The Freud Museum. Whatever you may think of his treatments and the patients he selected he was often perceptive  and made everyone think again about human interactions. 

By now we had emerged into College Crescent, which reminded us that most of the land from here down to Chalk Farm belongs to Eton – the college referred to. Jo was taken by a sign saying Swiss Deli, which she took to be an outlet offering Swiss rather than the usual Polish/Italian delicacies but I think it was named more for the area than the food!

For a little bus the next bit of the route is the most testing as it has to cross 4 lanes of traffic in order to go round the Swiss Cottage one-way system and back down the Finchley Road; charming as Hampstead is, the charm offensive stops here on the Finchley Road but there is an excellent, large and very calm Waitrose in the well-maintained Thirties Building that was John Barnes.   Art Deco fans shop here.

We passed the Underground station and stopped outside the O2 Centre having had a delightful 25 minute trip.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Number 267 Route

Tuesday 22 September 2009

This was the route that would bring us back from Fulwell Bus Garage to Hammersmith, the 33 having brought us there.  The drivers sitting around the bus garage seemed a little vague about where we might find our bus, suggesting that we take the 33 back!  Our language skills were not good enough to explain why this was anathema, so Mary and I walked up to the crossroads and found the head stop of the 267, boarding at 12.35. London bus maps, though inspirational and free, are a bit impressionist when it comes to the siting of stops.  We were delighted that it was a double decker.

The route did not overlap with the 33 at all, curving north where the 33 had headed south.  We passed through Twickenham with the William Webb Ellis pub  and the Garryowen Club there to remind us of who first picked up the ball and ran with it, and which Club preferred kicking ahead.  Lots of young people getting on and off the bus pointed to the proximity of Richmond College, whose website, I am glad to say, makes clear that they use Moodle for their VLE, as this gives me an excuse to say 'hello Tim'.  We knew we were in west London as there were constant aeroplanes overhead.

The West Middlesex Hospital made the fifth hospital of our day, though the first on this route, and we passed the gateway to Syon Park.  A number of private schools, including Latymer Upper and the Green School testified to the number of prosperous people in this area of London, and there were some handsome properties. 

The Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock was soon followed by Kew Bridge, and we were back into the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, reaching Hammersmith Bus Garage at 13.25, a much faster trip than the 33 which had taken us to Fulwell.