Friday, 2 December 2011

The Number 254 Route

Thursday 1 December 2011

I was rather puzzled last week to discover (courtesy of a comment about the 253)  that the 254 was once part of the same route. I had not imagined that the route from Aldgate to Holloway could have anything to do with the bus from Camden to Euston which we so regularly take.  Indeed, I pictured a northward journey from the start, a bit like the 17. Well, that's what this project is about: opening the eyes of parochial travellers to how the town knits together.

Linda and I met at the little bus station opposite Aldgate tube, and were onto the 254 just before 10.00.  With fine views of the city, we headed not North, but East.

Our first landmark was Aldgate East Station, with a blue plaque to the poet Isaac Rosenberg.  It's apt that his plaque should be at the Whitechapel Gallery, since he had hoped to become an artist, instead of being remembered for ever for the 'droll rat' and 'the parapet's poppy'.

We hurried on eastwards, past many banks but also small clumps of terrace houses, which had clearly survived both the Blitz and the developers.  We were following the line of the so-called Cycling Superhighway (CS2) as it makes its lethal way to Bow Roundabout.  I could not help thinking that it was perhaps appropriate to have an ambulance parked alongside it.

 We passed the stylish and substantial East London Mosque as well as the Jagonari Women's Centre, and continued east.  As we reached the Royal London Hospital and the memorial to Edward VII opposite, I really did wonder if we were on the wrong bus. The former Albion Brewery looks rathe shut up now, though still a fine building.

And now at last we turned north, or left, up Cambridge Heath Road, to pass Bethnal Green Gardens and reach Bethnal Green Station, scene of one of the worst events of London's Second World War experience.  On a more cheerful note we passed a convenience store named 'Offie and Toffee', which amused us, and then came to the Museum of Childhood.  There is little that brings on the Schadenfreude in a former teacher better than seeing a school party about to enter a museum, but there is such a lot to see and do there that I was sure the behaviour would be impeccable.

Soon we were out of Tower Hamlets and into Hackney, where we approved of the borough's signage, and also remarked upon the amazingly narrow Old Ship Pub.  We assumed that it has a more standard sized entrance on another street, as indeed it does.

At Hackney Central we did indeed pick up the 253 route, and we alternated with them for the rest of the journey.  We noted that the Lord Cecil Pub still has its picture of Lord Burghley, though it has been closed for some time and is clearly the subject of local debate.  We passed Clapton Ponds, and then Clapton Common, which also has a pond, and spotted a police van with the strapline 'convictions that stick'.  There were serious roadworks in Stamford Hill, and were were held up for a good ten minutes, occasionally glimpsing fine views across the Alexandra Palace.

As we passed through the Woodberry Down Estate, which is being regenerated, there came the message we like least:  that the destination of the bus had been changed.  It was going to terminate at Finsbury Park, so we got off just after Manor House Station and were soon on another 254.  We said hello to the Arsenal Shop, and admired the couture opportunities of Finsbury Park, before heading round the Sobell Centre to reach the Nag's Head and our terminus near Holloway Prison.  The trip had taken 70 minutes, which is not bad, considering the road works, as well as the huge swathe of East and then North East London we had visited.  And the sun shone for much of the way, too.

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