Monday, 6 February 2012

The Number 291 Route

Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital Woolwich to Woodlands Estate
Thursday October 20th 2011

We had arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital via the 244 and almost without drawing breath stepped straight onto the 291, another small single decker route that poddles round Woolwich – poddles is perhaps a little unkind because it has quite a sinuous route to follow and some narrow double-parked roads also. Being a hospital route that runs four times an hour it will always have passengers, especially during the busy out-patient morning period. This particular incarnation of the hospital dates from 2001 when it was re-built under a PFI initiative bringing together some pretty historic foundations, which date back to the Crimean War – having sent Florence Nightingale to look after the sick at the front Lord Herbert continued to be interested in healthcare back in the UK. The modern building seems faintly insubstantial (it looks like composite portakabins).

Talking of modern structures, the first sight to greet you is a largish white structure on the common opposite, which looks much like a plastic marquee (it was flapping a bit in the wind on this lovely autumn day) and proves to be the Olympic Shooting  facility. From one side it was oddly like an iced cake adorned with Smarties, and as we passed today they were adding the finishing touches to the landscaping . I suppose if there are any shooting related casualties they can get swift medical attention!

After descending Repository Road – this was a rather hilly route – we entered Woolwich town centre this way and noticed signs of post-riot recovery with the burnt out pub now boarded in, rather than cruelly exposed. .

Leaving Woolwich via Burrage Hill meant another ascent and passing the defunct Lord Raglan pub – another veteran of the Crimea conflict (the Lord not the pub) whose main legacy to leave a new way of attaching sleeves to jackets, probably because he had lost an arm during various campaigns, eventually dying like so many of dysentery complications in the Crimea.  By the time the bus climbed up yet another hill the housing stock was older – we presume the whole lower dockyard area would have been a prime target for German bombers.

Plumstead Common in the sunshine (our trip on the 51 and 53 had been in the snow) was quite a revelation and we skirted nearly two of the sides to then strike off past the Garland Road clinic.

The bus destination had been ‘Woodlands Estate’ but it was far from obvious when or where this was – only eagle-eyed Jo spotted when just after the clinic the destination indicator changed back to Queen Elizabeth Hospital: the bus loops slightly round the houses here but back down by the clinic to rejoin the route out.
As we came back round the common we noticed all the parked cars and were not sure why that might be – there were some dog walkers but not enough to justify all the cars and it seemed a bit far from the station?

The route back allowed us to see in more detail the different bits of the army which still have homes round here – an Artillery Division and DSG, which look from the outside rather like a light industrial unit. 

Finding out what they do – basically light repairs for the Navy and Air Force – means somewhere service men are sitting on base waiting for the guys with their spare parts to arrive to get the ‘washing machines’ to work…
You can access their site here but might want to refer their prose to the ‘Plain English’ campaign:

‘Our wide range of capabilities plays a key part in the provision of cost-effective through life capability management.’ ???

The presence of a few guys in combat fatigues (said she who finds a man in uniform most attractive) indicated that these were real sailors/airmen not a PR dream from the Ministry of Defence.

That just about brought our round trip back to the starting point having taken us 45 minutes there and back.

Since taking this route not long ago Greenwich has become a  Royal Borough to reflect its historic royal links from dockyard  and palace days. See also route 286 


  1. Sadly the pub in Woolwich is still boarded up all these months on, and at least as of early December the Wimpy (sort of) opposite still hadn't even been cleaned.

  2. The 291 runs every 10 minutes (6 buses an hour). It's not a hospital route as it has run at that frequency since before the hospital opened in 2001 and was always busy.