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.


  1. Most of the 'extensive grounds' of the Avery Hill campus are in fact the public Avery Hill Park. The campus buildings are based upon the original mansion of Colonel North, the 'Nitrate King', whose presence explains why 'North Park' in Eltham is actually to the south of the High Street.

    Halfway Street was originally 'Halfway Street Road'. That sounds strange until one recalls that 'Street' in this part of Kent originally meant a village, in this case half way between Lamorbey and Eltham. Sidcup was virtually a railway invention, previously being an insignificant settlement between the villages of Foots Cray and Lamorbey. This is borne out by the age of the relevant churches, almost always an accurate indicator.

    And check the historic milestones on the old main road through Eltham and New Eltham. They all refer to Foots Cray (and London Bridge)rather than mentioning Sidcup.


    1. I like to think of it as halfway between Sidcup and Eltham and Street just means road, and Kent doesn't start until just east of Foots Cray, all this historic stuff just confuses me!

  2. But the history is still true.