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

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