Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Number 266 Route

Brent Cross Shopping Centre to Hammersmith Bus Station (Lower Level)
Thursday June 9th 2011

Well, a day that had started so well with barely a wait and faultless connections rather dissolved at this point and not anticipating such delays we had not brought any sandwiches so hunger did not help the situation.

Learning that this route, as well as running over 24 hours delivered a bus every 7 minutes, we thought it prudent to take a comfort break and sure enough soon after we returned to bus stop B at Brent Cross (more bus melĂ©e than a true station) along came the 266 and we boarded at 12.45PM . Not that clean – people have a nasty habit of leaving their half eaten chicken dinner under the front seat or on the front window sill…

Off we set at quite a pace across Tempelhof Avenue, which reminded us that Barnet is twinned with about 10 places including Berlin. Over the North Circular from Brent Cross there is quite an alternative shopping centre that has grown up with less glitzy stores including outlet centres for many of the bigger chains such as Mothercare or Next.  As it is the North Circular and a junction where traffic often slows there are very many hoardings and we noted how so many brands seemed to be celebrating their 100th year – Nivea and Coca-Cola to name but two. Perhaps on reflection it is actually Capitalism which is 100 years old, and each brand is just another facet of it. Looking very like another outlet shop the Jesus House Centre seems to do what it says on the tin, and is a religious Christian outlet if you will.

Before we knew it – and this part of the journey for once was very smooth – we were heading south along the Edgware Road through Cricklewood past more outlets and some charity HQs (the MS Society) and the Al Hussaini Masjid, one of several mosques we passed on this trip – this one looks to be located in a former office block so is not particularly conspicuous. No idea what the pretty Arabic says: ‘New Mosque opens here’ perhaps?  We stopped by the Comfort Delgro Building – the word’s second largest Transport outfit from Singapore that owns thousands of vehicles including Metroline, so sure enough we stopped and switched off the engine while the drivers changed (hence the initial speed I think, to get off shift). Then off we went turning down Walm Lane towards Willesden Green, Willesden, Neasden and Harlesden . I have to say none of the ‘dens’ actually make my heart soar, and moving at snails’s pace while it was trying to rain the outlook generally was not great. Willesden High Street’s shops  have one or two more interesting places – the Architectural Salvage shop look s like somewhere that might have some hidden gems and we 'Modest'
which offers ‘Fashion with Conscience’. Just as we passed Willesden Bus Garage the roads (these are all former country lanes and really not very wide and certainly not wide enough for the current volume of traffic) there was a police car in the bus lane and no room for us to pass – they seemed to be questioning a young man in a doorway but just few metres further along was a deserted pub where they could have parked up more considerately. Eventually an onward coming van gave way and we progressed down Beaconsfield Road and Ilex Road. Religious outlets came thick and fast here – they often take over smaller office blocks and we had in quick successions Portuguese Brazilian Christians (not just ordinary Catholics then?) and Elim Pentecostals, 7th day Adventists and the Well of Deeper Meaning above and beyond the two further Willesden mosques.

We were in the aptly named Church Road – again progress was so slow we could have leapt off at any point to buy some Jerk Chicken or even a scandal or two. One shop was using a (toy) tiger to attract attention – it had a label tied to its ears which made them flap in the breeze and look quite animated and lifelike. Having said that not sure to what they were attracting out attention!

We passed Willesden Junction where indeed a multitude of rail lines converge, sometimes on different levels – the station itself is very confusing and they post an operative at a key point to redirect the lost souls who are on their third circuit of not finding the right platform.

After more slowness through Harlesden due to some fairly substantial road works, the announcement came that the bus would be terminating at North Acton and a group of us were duly ejected to wait for nearly 20 minutes on a rather windswept bridge by one of the many Acton stations which break down as follows:

Acton Central and South Acton  = the Overground
North Acton and East Acton and West Acton =  the Central Line (Underground)
Acton Town = the Piccadilly and District Lines (Underground)
Acton Mainline = the Railway
Oh yes and there’s a canal as well, while the 266 crosses A40 Western Avenue at Gypsy Corner.
(Thanks to our readers for these corrections: your blogger had by now clearly had enough!) 
The net impact on the traffic is many bridges and much slowness.

Park Royal is essentially a large trading estate, and though we only skirted it today we spotted a couple of gems including the John Lewis Depository.  Boden at least make a virtue out of necessity and while I spotted the Perfume factory Jo saw the real  interest factor. I prefer to think of my perfume being hand gathered in the lavender fields of Provence rather than manufactured out of chemicals in Acton but there you go.
We are not very familiar with this Elvis’ output being more connoisseurs of the American one but  this offers great samples.

We then crossed the Uxbridge Road at Gypsy Corner – slow but not stationary – and into more of Acton. Most striking thing hereabouts were the three or so 22 floor Tower blocks built in the late Sixties otherwise known as the Steyne Estate.

Round one of the more focussed bits of Acton (sorry, I’ve lost my nerve after listing seven stations) was a large Morrisons, but more encouragingly a quite lively market on what looked like the remnants of a market square. Acton has some other delights – two quite good ghost signs and a Passmore Edwards Library, one of I think 22 or so such foundations he bequeathed to the less affluent bits of London.

By now the bus was announcing it was going to terminate at Seven Stars corner but rather than get stranded again we did that trick of eying up the bus ahead (to be fair our 2nd driver did try to catch and overtake the 266 in front – obviously not the one that had rejected us at North Acton) so we managed, just (the doors shut in my face while Jo was holding up the next 266 but I squeaked and was released in time). Not good for the temper.

Along The Vale there were huge numbers of police on both sides of the road. As it happened we were by now behind a 207, one of the remaining bendy buses, and on previous trips on these multi-doored buses we had watched how when the inspectors boarded they would be accompanied by police to prevent potential fare-dodgers exiting (See the Route 18 about 2 years ago). However on this occasion they did not attempt to get on the 207 so it was far from clear what these numbers of police were doing round the edge of Hammersmith – waiting for another bus?

Along the Vale the substantial buildings housing …Newman prop hire stand proud.
Rather than heading straight along to Shepherds Bush the bus heads further south along Askew Road towards Starch Green . I have not as yet found any explanation for the history of the name but did find a delightful web-site for an art and craft studio of that name.

The run into Hammersmith Central is packed with interest – a beautifully kept Young’s pub, the Thatched House, Godolphin & Latymer School and – just opposite the Metropolitan Line station – the Swan Dining Rooms complete (or restored)  with pub sign, lantern portico and excellent architectural detail.

The bus’s final resting place was the Lower bus station at Hammersmith and we staggered out 1 hour and 40 minutes, and on our third vehicle after we had started. I suspect today was not exceptional and there is something about this route that does not quite work.  If the account appears disjoined it was written over several days but in a way reflects the experience also.


  1. Acton Town is on the District and Piccadilly lines, not the railway!

  2. At Gypsy Corner it crosses the A40, Western Avenue, not the Uxbridge Road.

    And here's how it used to be: