Friday, 20 January 2012

The Number 277 Route

Highbury and Islington Station to Leamouth (Saffron Av)
Thursday January 19th 2012

It was a day of deep dark puddles; the sort that children love and adults hate and all over London the transport was getting really dirty. Today I was doing a solo trip as Jo was on a mercy dash to grandchildren and Mary had rare-as-hen’s-teeth Leonardo tickets, so I waited alone for the 277 at the first stop, which it shares with other key Islington routes – the 4 and 30.  A young man was telling another chap, not a friend I think, how he has pleaded with drivers about being ‘short on cash’ and sure enough as soon as we boarded I could hear him wheedling with the driver, ‘I didn’t know I didn’t have enough money, please let me on, I have an important meeting,’ until the driver finally relented. I wondered if he travelled round London with a permanently under-resourced Oyster card? St Paul’s Road, which is where the 277 stars its journey south and east is the slightly less glitzy end of Islington, but nevertheless we passed several terraces of fine early 19th century homes. The side roads offered glimpses of even more gracious frontages. 

Steadfastly we pushed on down the Balls Pond road as we approached Dalston Junction – the Turkish barber indicating just one of the diverse communities that populate this area. Barbers’ shops are a good example of ‘arrival city’ businesses – you bring your skills and expertise from your country of origin and set up shop to cater for your community – barbers shops in particular being a good community and social resource. By now this route was doubling back on the journey I had made via the Overground to catch the bus in the first place but if it was logic I wanted I would not be on this project. At Dalston Junction we crossed with one of about nine 277s I counted heading the other way; there is something very comforting about a run of red buses on a grey and rainy day. 

Coming from Graham Road we avoided the worst traffic of Hackney and breezed past the Empire, the old fa├žade a wonderful Frank Matcham flourish and the side extension suitably modern. The clock on the Town Hall was correct as well and today I spotted the Mare Street studios, but they prove to be spaces to rent rather than something more specific.  More incongruously, Freed of London, famed for their dance wear, especially shoes, has a factory here and the contrast between the stock and the rather run down building is interesting. 

Though this route does not go close to London Fields it very much criss-crosses Victoria Park and today it was easy to see how planned this area was when first built – the roundabouts at each end of Lauriston Road and Grove Road offer fine views down expansive terraces. The pubs now look more gastro than working men’s  (it’s often known as the People’s Park) and the whole area offers a range of delights both as a living environment  and  park proper.

Planned by James Pennethorne and opened in 1845, and now  largely within Tower Hamlets borough it will also play a role in the Olympics. There have certainly been some new additions as could be seen even from the bus.

Not content with one green space the 277 then runs the length of the much more linear and rather less grandiose Mile End Park  This has a very different history, having been created on the site of 1940s war bomb damage (including the site, marked by a Blue Plaque, where London’s first  Flying Bomb fell) and now consisting of a range of different  sections – the Go-karting track looked excellent and there is an Ecology stretch leading to the Green bridge – we whizzed by too fast for me to capture it but I did get a clutch of buses lurking by Mile End Station.

This excellent website gives a brief overview of what is to be seen round here and makes a good case for why it should be Two Mile End?!?

Apart from some D buses the 277 is the only route along here and for the first time since Hackney there was more than just me plus a another on the top deck.

Despite my obsession with crossing water (as Jo might say) I had missed the Hertford Union Canal earlier so was pleased to see the Limehouse Cut.

By now the 277 was ready to cross East India Dock Road and gain entrance – I say this advisedly as all transport has to pass through a security light and police controlled barrier – to the Canada Water development . The towers were all clearly visible from Westferry onwards and then we did a loop cutting along the concrete canyon – the nearest London comes to Manhattan. More glimpses of water, and even the odd boat break up the buildings along Cabot Square and we exited the money making metropolis via another gate by Churchill Place and Billingsgate Market

Compared to most fish markets this one looks both unromantic and unscenic  especially on a wet Thursday morning . By now I had realised that my left boot had let in water and I had a wet sock and that there was no heating on the bus. I looked enviously at the other front seat passenger who was wearing leopard skin pattern wellies, but she agreed it was cold and banged the window shut. By now the bus had given up on passengers and was speeding along the very fast Aspen Way from which it turned off to its final resting place.  I had not done much prior research on this route except for the start and finish and was quite looking forward to admiring what I imagined to be a little estate built like a spice rack – Nutmeg Lane, Saffron Avenue, Oregano Drive, you get the picture.

When I and the leopard wellies got off as the last passengers we found ourselves in a further grey canyon of nearly windowless slab blocks, most of which were heavily barricaded with the bus stopping behind another security barrier.   Clutching my map and directions for Canning Town I was hailed by a security guard who pointed me in the right direction. “What are all these big grey blocks?” I asked ‘Telehouse – security data’ was all he said. Well I had to Google that didn’t I? Having got a couple of error messages on my first attempts I was about to get all conspiracy theory on you, dear reader, but Google finally served up the following link, so perhaps it is just ugly rather than actually sinister.

What an amazing route – upmarket Islington down through colourful Hackney with green spaces galore in Victoria and Mile End Parks THEN through the monied not to say muddied waters of Canada Quays finishing in a rather baleful industrial estate near the Lee River mouth, and all in under 50 minutes. 

1 comment:

  1. I've just discovered your project, and have to say I'm also a fan of buses. Unlike you "ladies who bus" my aim is only to go on each bus in London, without the terminus-terminus aim (though there are a few buses for which I have done that). This is because I've got exams - which limit my time to do this. But it's good to see some other people who have a similar aim. I'm trying to achieve this before my free travel runs out and I have to start paying £1.30 for each ride, but by the looks of your project this is an impossible aim.