Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Number 286 Route

Greenwich (Cutty Sark) to Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup
Monday December 20th 2010

An early start on almost the shortest day of the year meant that at 10.30 AM we had already completed the key route of the day, which must be one of London’s shortest and had left us at the side gate of Greenwich University main campus, in what most of us still think of as the Royal Naval College. Both the Wren college buildings and the Maritime Museum looked splendid in the snow, even from the limited viewpoint of a single decker bus. These picturesque and historic buildings are often used as a backdrop for TV or big-screen filming.

Still the 286 is not just to pass a pretty face, as the increasing number of passengers boarding indicated. We glimpsed in quick succession a new (but ‘antiqued’) housing development – very Duchy of Cornwall, we thought – and the Arches swimming facility and East Greenwich Library. Approaching the Blackwall Tunnel interchange from this direction did not cause as much delay as we were to experience later in the day, though we paused long enough to see an ICTHUS church (one of those fishy ones) and for Jo to try to remember what all the letters in this word stood for: the answer (thank you Wikipedia) is a latinisation of the Greek ἰχθύς, standing for Jesus Christ God's Son, Saviour – appropriate enough five days before Christmas.

On a bus-only counter-traffic access we essentially turned left up Westcombe Hill – the road surface was just about clear enough, though the pavements looked treacherous and untreated.  This is a very scenic and steep route, and the bus crosses the main A2 close to the Royal Standard before taking the pleasingly broad (not so broad with slush piles on both sides) Kidbrooke Park Road with gracious Victorian homes and the picturesque St. James church until we turned off at the Well Hall roundabout.
We had noticed when we had taken the 124, 126 and other Eltham buses how popular Eltham was with shopping passengers, the Eltham shops presumably offering more choice and more competitive prices than the infrequent corner shops hereabouts – such small shops as there were tended to be more specialist and geared to motor or to pet owners.

Dover Patrol road, like the earlier Old Dover Road, reminded us just how close this part of SE London lies to the Kent coast and one of our main entry ports. . As I have noted before, Eltham has that strange mixture of links to an important Tudor past and a rather ordinary 20th century presence and present. The Tudor Barn was snow covered but I did glimpse Edith Nesbit Walk, reminding us that this Fabian society pioneer and children's author moved round SE London (almost as much as we do) and this bit of Eltham contained one of those homes.  
After Eltham the bus became less busy, though if term had not been over I am sure we would have transported lots of students as the 286 passes the Avery Hill campus of Greenwich University, having started at HQ so to speak.  Avery Hill used to be a college for training teachers in its own right but is now absorbed into the bigger academic institution. This campus still sits in extensive grounds, the range of which was difficult to gauge in the snow where it is hard to tell where one things starts and another finishes. Crown Woods, a school round this way, was still being rebuilt (let’s hope the money lasts) and a sign indicated the  Shuttle Riverway, almost certainly part frozen today.

Halfway Street, which is more important than it sounds, was only halfway cleared of snow so both driver and pedestrians were taking it fairly cautiously along here – one of the main ways of getting to Sidcup.  This approach to Sidcup is again scenic, swinging round by the Green which today was totally snow covered, even the dinky war memorial.  Transport for London had warned of delays close by the station but this seemed not to be the case today and very soon the bus was terminating opposite Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup. It seemed odd that in order to get to the hospital buildings passengers still needed to cross what amounted to a dual carriage way, and we could not see why the bus  did not stop actually outside, to allow the sick, the disabled,  the pregnant and their visitors an easier access to health care.
We had thought we might need to access the hospital facilities but no way if it needed this amount of negotiating traffic.  This route had taken under an hour and though a single decker was busy throughout.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Number 285 Route

Tuesday 28 September 2010

We waited only a few minutes after climbing off the 111 at the Cromwell Road Bus station in Kingston. before hopping onto the single decker 285 at 13.10.  At first, Mary, Linda and I were the only passengers, but after we had passed Kingston Railway Station, we were joined by homeward bound shoppers.

Our bus rounded the smart John Lewis to head over Kingston Bridge. (We have heard a story that, in 1939, the words ‘Kingston Bridge’ were chiselled off the stonework in order to baffle the invading Wehrmacht as to which river they had reached, but I have been unable to verify this)  Once over the bridge, we headed right along the Teddington Road, rather than repeating the 111 route which had brought us to Cromwell Road bus station.  We knew we were nearing Hampton Wick Station because the number of ‘commuter flats’ increased, and soon came into Teddington.

We passed the Teddington Lock Campus of St Mary’s and signs to Teddington Lock, and headed along Cambridge Road, noting the many up market shops which serve the population.

The bus ramp was lowered to allow an elderly wheel chair user and her carer to board.  From then on, the driver had problems with the rear door, needing to open and shut it a few times after every stop.  We wondered in passing how many other major cities have entirely accessible buses. 

Neat terrace houses are a feature of this part of London, though some have made an effort to stand out a little. like this one with its interesting gable roofing.

Teddington Memorial Hospital has a more traditional memorial outside its gates, but was indeed built, after ten years of fundraising, in 1929 as a monument to the local people who died in the Great War.  Even more impressive was the National Physical Laboratory, famous for being where Barnes Wallis tested the Bouncing Bomb (sorry, a slight war theme developing here) but also a key centre for science research and development.

Lady Eleanor Holles School was another private school to add to the day’s collection, and briefly linked with our earlier ride on the 111, passing the Horse and Groom former pub before turning into Feltham.  The influence of Heathrow could be felt in the name of ‘The Airman’ pub, though the inn sign depicts someone from the time of its establishment in 1938 rather than a modern, besuited pilot.

Feltham Police Station and the Magistrates Court are both substantial buildings, while Feltham Station is more modest.  All this time we were having trouble with the rear doors and the ramp mechanism, which gave us time to note Oseikrom African and Caribbean Cash and Carry, which is (by the way) on the DEFRA list of authorized importers of tropical goods.

Hatton Cross Station is well known to us, as most buses in this area nip in and then out of it.  This time we picked up a number of outward bound travellers using our bus to get to the airport. 
 And we were nearly there, entering a world of car parks and hotels which lasted until we popped through the tunnel to arrive back at the Central Bus Station at 14.20, a mere three hours since we had left it on the 111 bound for Kingston.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Number 284 Route

Grove Park Cemetery to Lewisham Station
Thursday 22nd September 2011

Thursday’s child has far to go – well Linda’s have come a fair way, today being their 34th birthday no less. 

Jo and Linda on the other hand had come just one stop on the train from Hither Green, where our excellent 255 had left us, followed by a walk from Grove Park station through Chinbrook Meadows. There we enjoyed the usual park facilities but especially the Quaggy (nicer then it sounds and released from its culverts) and the  Desmond Tutu Peace Garden opened in 2009.

If it was peaceful you were looking for, the start /finish of this route is just outside the gates of Grove Park cemetery, which is probably why the bus comes this far. The combination of cemetery, park and street trees makes for a leafy experience. Somewhat to our surprise even from a single decker bus there was an excellent view back over London – so Grove Park must be on some kind of South East London hill. Most of these streets are part of the Grove Park Estate built mainly in the late Twenties and originally local authority housing.  At the crossroads with Chinbrook and Grove Park Roads the bus filled up and continued along the winding Marvels Lane, where they had once been a large hospital named for the area.

When acute services were relocated to Lewisham hospital and the long-term residents of Grove Park re-established in the community, this became a brownfield site ripe for redevelopment – the gates remain as a reminder of past history and the new houses are settled further back.*

Tucked away here also are the playing fields for the City of London School for boys (that building at the opposite end of the Millenium Bridge from Tate Modern) so you can see how far they have to travel for their outdoor sports. 

We were a bit puzzled when passing a modern block offering ‘Colposcopy’ and wondered whether this was a private resource but research seems to indicate it is part of the  Baring Road Family Practice

Rather than remember the Bankers of Baring Road, the alley named for E. Nesbit’s ‘Railway Children’ seemed more cheering.

By now we were back on the main road passing ‘you cannot really call it a bus station‘ Grove Park Bus Stand and the rail station. We were to head up towards Downham (more clinics/surgeries, a very few shops and a free standing undertakers) very briefly and then turn off towards Hither Green’s Verdant Lane and our second cemetery of the trip. Hither Green has both Crematorium and Cemetery and a range of tall and impressive trees – this was one of the first areas in SE London to be colonised by parakeets which by now have spread, like a green plague, everywhere. The aptly named Verdant Lane perhaps? This cemetery is the burial place for the victims of the Sandhurst School 1943 bombing. This account is long but vivid – we can all identify with that line which says ‘The bell had just gone and I reached for my sandwiches’ . Somehow the library survived and the school was later rebuilt and remains popular in this residential area. Today outside the library a guy was getting very frustrated with the public telephone and banging it to get the money out which reminded us how rare it was to see anyone using a public phone even if you can find one.

The bus travels the length of Sandhurst Road picking up more and more passengers, most of whom are heading for Catford where there are both shops enough to make up for the lack along the route thus far and the Town Hall and other services on both sides of the road.

After the twin stations of Catford and Catford Bridge this route becomes a ‘Hail and Ride’ through the back streets of SE6 and then SE4 Crofton Park. The 284 serves that series of roads made of name compounds including Elsiemaud, Gordonbrock, Arthurdon, Francemary and Phoebeth: I have never found an explanation for these and can only imagine they were named after the builder’s family members. Anyway the 284 is their bus. We passed what used to be Crofton Park School, which was rebuilt and renamed, I think, Ladywell Fields but with a similarly named school at Hilly Fields (the next hill along) it gets very confusing – as long the pupils know where they belong.

Very soon we merged out onto Lewisham High Street – very familiar territory – today busy with pedestrians rather than traffic so quite soon we were pulling up behind another vehicle at Lewisham Bus Station – very handy for both our homeward journeys.

This route, entirely within Lewisham borough and serving large residential chunks and two cemeteries took just 40 minutes and was well used.

* As this bus route serves the start of Stage 3 of the Capital Ring walk I have borrowed a couple of better photos from there…

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Number 283 Route

East Acton (Brunel Road) to the Wetlands Centre 
Thursday 26th January 2012

By now we are in the upper reaches/later stages of the bus routes and many of these start and finish in relatively remote corners of London – not remote to the locals of course but to us. Therefore the journey to get us to the 283 involved a bus, then a tube and a short walk in that order – the walk would have been shorter but for turning the wrong way out of the station. Perhaps by 500 we will get it right. Still we enjoyed the housing estate and some of the stories  it has to tell.

The single decker Route 283 snuck out of its garage to avoid being bullied by the big Number 7, which also starts/ends at Brunel Road and soon we were having a very comfortable ride This was partly due to the careful driver but also I think to a well sprung new bus.  Acton would have been one of those villages, initially a staging post on the route from the West of England into London and later providing a laundry service for West End hotels – the sort of enterprise that now happens on the Park Royal Trading Estate – and also some heavier industry. Today we spotted a grand Billiard Hall and then the listed gateway to Wormwood Scrubs Prison and the Hammersmith Hospital – not surprisingly this is where most passengers boarded.  

After a brief flirtation with the Westway Flyover (not to be confused with the Hammersmith Flyover) we took a left angled turn through the White City Estate where even more people joined us. This dense housing was built on the former display area where the pre-war (1909) Imperial International Exhibition took place; hence the names of South Africa and Bloemfontein Roads. Talking of housing, we also spotted the HQ of the Women's Pioneer Housing Association, which had done Sylvia so proud with her Notting Hill flat. The local leisure centre is named for Janet Adegoke, the first black mayor who worked for this local community.

The bus does a last right angle and exits from the estate into the Uxbridge Road just short of Queens Park Rangers ground. This is a very multi-cultural part of West London as the diversity of food and restaurants testified – today we passed Jerusalem Gate and noted the animal carcasses being delivered from the back of a van. Though we initially thought they were pigs it seems more likely they were sheep given the local food shops – bit difficult to tell when they are headless and not oinking in a pen or baaing in a field.

We lost our first batch of passengers to the Market and then having completed the tour of Shepherds Bush Green the remaining passengers descended either for the local shops or even Westfield. A woman sitting near me had been clutching a shoe box in a bag and spent her time peeping at its contents and then at her own feet obviously quite excited and keen to get her new shoes home and she finally left the bus too. The last time we were round this way (the 272 about a month ago) there was a fair on the Green and I thought that accounted for the slowing in the traffic, but the fair has long gone and the slowing seems endemic. Today the tower blocks seemed more visible.

It must have been getting close to lunchtime as we were rather taken with Jumbucks Pies, though I am still not clear how you bake a pie in a waffle iron, which seems to be what they are describing?

After leaving Shepherds Bush and heading south we passed Brook Green with some crocuses peeping through. Our turn through the very efficiently arranged Hammersmith Bus Station was swift as was coping with the unlovely roundabout under the infamous flyover (hope those supports are doing their job) and onto the river.

Hammersmith had several now lost rivers, some starting back at the Scrubs where we did and all coming out in the Thames near Hammersmith Bridge. This finally gives me a chance to mention a wonderful book ‘London’s Lost Rivers’ by Paul Talling – a Christmas present, how did you know??  I now realise how much river-related information we have missed over our previous bus trips! The tide was very low today leading Jo to say that if we were TV detectives this is the point at which we would find the bodies washed up. Her informants at London’s river police did report that one person per day dies on the Thames but there was nothing very visible on the muddy flats.

From south of the river it is a straight run down the generously proportioned Castelnau lined with the classical villas built by Boileau (he might have been a Hugenot refugee as was the Count of Castelnau). Slightly later in the year you can enjoy the wonderful magnolias in their front gardens but we may not pass this way again, having already ridden the rarer 485 some weeks ago. Mary noted that the houses on our left seemed to have open space behind them and indeed many must look out over the river.

There was no extended tour of Barnes village as immediately on getting to the crossroads we turned down a narrow road to access the London Wetlands Centre where you can see all sorts of birds in comparative peace.  Try the webcams. The remaining passengers were heading to bird watch, while we perched in a rustic looking bus shelter, ate our sandwiches and then returned home via Hammersmith.

A short trip of 45 minutes offering little in the way of novelty except for the turns round the estate, but encompassing a river crossing and some attractive buildings, both humble and grand, en route.  

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Number 282 Route

Wednesday 25 January 2012

 The full team met at Northwood Station, two of us waiting in the cosy waiting room for the third, and made our way to Mount Vernon Hospital, to begin our journey to Ealing Hospital.  There seems to have been some new building since I spent some time visiting the burns unit in 1987, but we did not linger to explore, as a 282 was ready to go.  It was a double decker, somewhat to our surprise and delight.

We headed back along the Rickmansworth Road towards Northwood, noting signs to the Northwood HQ of NATO, which used to be known as 'Eastlant' during the cold war.  I had a friend who was convinced that there would be a nuclear war (he had a bootleg copy of the 1965 BBC film which was not shown for years, War Game) and he moved his family to Northwood to be sure of being wiped out in the first strike.  Hard to picture that level of fear nowadays.

There are handsome houses in Northwood, some displaying those green roofs which seemed so exotic when we were young(er) and evidence that we were in a prosperous area came with 'Pressed for Time' an ironing service.  We also passed the London School of Theology which is the current name for the former London Bible College.

After the war memorial, and Northwood Station, we turned right just after St Helen's School towards Northwood Hills.  My two South London colleagues were pleased that there actually was a hill.  We were surprised at the number of closed-down shops in this apparently affluent area, but the William Jolle pub still seemed to be thriving.  (Because it is a Wetherspoons establishment, I can tell you that he was a local 14th century resident) The former pub opposite had, however, metamorphosed into the Namaste Lounge.

 Extensive and thriving allotments took our eye and we crossed the River Pinn a couple of times on our way into Eastcote.  We had met the River Pinn when we travelled the 183, and Andrew and I have walked the Celandine Way which follows it.

We were also pleased to see some horses in a field.  We townies like to imagine that we are in real countryside.

 Once we'd passed Eastcote's War Memorial and Station, with its cycle parking, we saw more allotments as we moved into Northolt.  The little clock tower in Northolt Green caught our attention as we realised we were leaving Hillingdon and moving into the borough of Ealing.

The large housing estates of the area are named for the farms which they replaced: Medlar Farm Rectory Farm.

Crossing the Grand Union Canal brought us into the outskirts of Greenford.  Once again, the allotments were looking good, but then it has been an excellent winter for growing things.  The allotments here were right opposite a parade of shops, which we thought unusual, since in many areas they are a back street feature.

Greenford has a handsome building, once a Burton Tailoring emporium, though now occupied by various other shops.  Waiting to turn right towards Ealing, our bus driver gave way to an elegant Fuller's lorry, and then we were heading along the much wider and straighter Greenford Road, the A4127.

 Here we waited at a couple of bus stops for longer than usual.  It may have been for driver change, since we were very close to the Ealing Bus Depot, but no reason was given and soon we pressed on, to pass the large West Middlesex Golf Club and a Sikh place of worship, named Satnam Waheguru, before arriving at the large campus of Ealing Hospital.  It is a long way from Ealing, but was presumably built where there was room for all that was needed, next to the older St Bernard's Hospital.

It had take us just over an hour from hospital to hospital, impressive, given the distance.  It was also interesting that, though we were in West London, we did not hear much of Heathrow, cross the River Brent, or inch our way along Southall High Street, all of which we had experienced in previous visits to these parts.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Number 281 Route

Tolworth (Ewell Road) to Hounslow Bus garage
Thursday December 15th 2011

Our morning had started bright and sunny at Putney Bridge station, but by the time we found the start of this route – via the facilities in the enormous M&S supermarket (food only) – it was clouding over and the cold wind was getting up. Though it did not seem dark the photos look pretty gloomy as though already dusk – I suppose we were only a week off the shortest day.

Back to Tolworth – the 281 turns its back on Tolworth's delights and heads on into Surbiton territory. Not only is this a bus that offers a 24-hour service but it was also a double-decker, and on the top deck we were joined by a father, his toddler daughter and George (not to be confused with Peppa) Pig. He – the father, not George – was an excellent guide to his child pointing out all sorts of obvious but child relevant things so she was of course entranced from here to Kingston where they got off.  

Surbiton was very clearly its own self-contained community, and we duly noted its Coronation Hall, so named as it was opened for the June 11th coronation of George V, since when it has been variously a lecture hall, a cinema (Ritzy and Roxy) then a bingo hall and has been recently restored by Wetherspoons. There are some very splendid Arts & Crafts era homes as this was a turn of the century suburb. We also passed the hospital, the 1936 version I would think. It is impressive how previous generations saw a need and just got on with it…(Don’t you love that font?) At the roundabout the Christmas tree, rather subtly lit with small domestic size tree lights, had been sponsored by the Waitrose from the corner.

Entering Kingston, Jo was surprised that what she took for an impressive white Town Hall passing on our left was actually the County Hall for Surrey, but Surrey sprawls so far that this seems as good a place as any for such a building – again the Victorians  did not do things by half. 

The more modern Crown Court is close by and today we had a clear view of the Hogsmill river as we crossed over to tour round rather than through commercial/retail. At this time of year there was the seasonal addition of a craft market. The pub, the King’s Tun, plays on the origins of the name Kingston and then there we were crossing the Thames and immediately turning right towards pretty Hampton Wick. Today we had the pleasant experience of passing almost uniformly smart and open pubs (perhaps all the closed ones have been ‘tidied away’ in the Royal Borough) and Hampton has both the White Hart and the Swan which the brewers Shepherd Neame tell us has been on the site since the 14th century though this one is from 1904.

More posh property round Hampton including the gated Langdon Park.The site has a fascinating history having been originally a hospital for mentally infirm children set up and run by the Langdon Down family until the NHS took over and eventually closed it. Some bits of the original site remain. The ‘Downs’ bit of the name is still with us.

Signs to Teddington Lock heralded our arrival in Teddington – again it has a pretty and thriving not to say specialist High Street, with its cigar shop and pub remembering Hogarth, whose links are more with Chiswick than here.
This is a good stopping off point to visit both Marble Hill and the more recently restored Strawberry Hill houses. Both are well worth a visit though overindulging and combining them might give you ‘stately home indigestion’

The run into Fulwell and Twickenham gave us a few more alerts: the Red Lion pub had opted for huge paw-print rather than the ubiquitous red lion rampant and the Tattoo Parlour, which seemed to have a range of lawnmowers in the window? Change of use?

Our next stop, and there was a significant pause whilst the drivers chatted and changed outside, was the rather imposing red brick Twickenham Depot handily sited alongside both the ambulance and fire stations. It has a proud history too.
Twickenham is famous on all levels; we enjoyed the still-working clock on the George Pub in King Street Twickenham and their real Christmas trees hoisted high on the lampposts as street decorations. ‘Jack the Stripper’ offered wood rather than male stripping – more useful if less exciting.

Crossing the Crane made it the third river crossing in one day and also meant we were about to pass along the Whitton Road and the home of English Rugby – all quiet today and time to photograph  the newly erected sculptures . Jo had deduced correctly they must be new as depicting a Rugby move only recently sanctioned. Whether the core values cited have been kept to – I leave you to decide.  

On a less controversial note is a more distant glimpse of Kneller Hall, now the Royal Military School of Music complete with extensive playing fields, cut through by the Duke of Northumberland’s River, which soon joins the Crane.

The 281 is the only route along this part of Whitton towards Hounslow.
Novelty continued with a pretty Lord Nelson pub (most of them are round Merton where he lived) and a southerly and pleasant approach to our old friend Hounslow.

Our transit through was swift today – just time to note that in lieu of Christmas decorations Hounslow has its street lighting powered both by solar and wind turbines. Today the latter were more in evidence and we certainly felt the keen wind on disembarking from this extensive tour of South West London including four rivers as a bonus. The time taken was 10 minutes over the hour for what is a long route.

PS As ‘Lofty’ pointed out, the bus would take a different route on a match day