Friday, 17 February 2012

The Number 297 Route

Willesden Bus Garage  to Ealing Broadway Station
Thursday 16th  February 2012

 Fuller length postings resume today, as Jo and Linda met at Dollis Hill Station while Mary helped out with grandchildren over half-term; we’d hoped some of the children might have joined us but not this time. Dollis Hill is the nearest Underground Station to Churchill’s very secret bomb shelter; so secret and so distant he barely used it and fortunately total defeat was averted, though Brook Drive, the actual location of the bunker, is in the opposite direction from Willesden Bus Garage where our trip started.

Talking of  Derelict London, almost immediately we spotted a rather splendid Ghost Sign saying, we think, ‘Everybody Reads the Daily Express and Sunday Express’ Well, not everyone.

The 297, always busy but not too crowded, takes a northerly direction along Neasden Lane, the only route to do so, thereby passing a range of industrial units and municipal buildings – the Magistrates Court and the Jobcentre, rather a large one on the day when the announcement came that Unemployment is the highest for 16 years. After Neasden Underground Station and copious signs to the Welsh Harp we also passed Brent Ambulance Station. It makes perfect sense to have these semi industrial business units hereabouts in an area squeezed between densely packed railway sidings and getting under the North Circular, which at this juncture is in 3-lane mode.

Once safely under we came down Blackbird Hill and Forty Lane, here doubling up with the Route 83 and others, and passing Brent Town Hall: a very Thirties build and  'The best of the pre-war modern Town Halls around London' (says Pevsner). ‘Serene composition of overlapping brick planes with design links to Dutch modernism of the 1920s. Classic 1930s council chamber’ (says the Brent Council website). So now you know.

Oh yes, and a huge Asda. Also, on quite an ordinary house, a Blue Plaque for Arthur Lucan, a Thirties era actor who played ‘Old Mother Riley’ in drag but perhaps not as famous as  the Lord Lucan of disappearing fame. By now we were getting an excellent view of the Wembley Arch seen so much better from afar.

 Empire Way also recalls the previous Wembley Stadium, built for the British Empire Exhibition 1923-4, but today, though we had a good view of the soaring arch it was not quite fully frontal as we were taking a more oblique route up the quite hilly Park Lane which passes the Edward VII Park on the right with terrific views across to Harrow on the Hill.  The raised pavements are a testament to how steep the incline is.

At the top of the hill we nipped nimbly, but never anything other than very smoothly with this driver, along a short stretch of Wembley High Road to turn into Ealing Road direction Alperton. The South Indian restaurants clustered at the start of this turning gradually give way to food shops and a range of excellent clothing shops offering wedding finery, and everything for the modern woman.  Spiritual needs are catered for by the Central Mosque Wembley and the sandstone Temple – usually it glows but does need some sunlight to help it along. There was some scaffolding round the gate so we were not sure if this meant repairs or additions.  

After crossing the Grand Union Canal, along with all other bus routes, we turned into the Alperton Sainsbury’s with its equivalent Chinese supermarket opposite, but exceptionally this route carries straight on, taking a left for Perivale and again taking on passengers as being the only route to come this way. Perivale seemed to be a mixture of more industrial units and some housing along a road that ends in Horsenden Hill, which clearly promises a lot though only glimpsed from the bus. 

Then we did a rather daring little dash alongside and eventually across the fierce A40 to take Argyle Road where the driver waited for some people running for another bus in front of ours. Jo had lost her confidence about naming rivers but I will be brave and say we crossed the River Brent at this point and after following its valley for a while climbed round Pitsanger Park and up Castlebar Hill – more green open spaces.   As is usually the case, the folks with the money live up the hill and this became clear as we passed large detached houses, modern block fill-ins and not a few private schools along street names such as The Knoll and The Mead.

Signs to Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School reminded us of less salubrious links to long concealed child abuse, which goes to show that private education and privacy can be mis-used by those in charge.   

St David's  home nearby is also a historic home and caters for a different age group and generation. 

We had set off thinking this was to be a repetition of several of our previous outings in NW London (Neasden/Park Royal/North Middlesex axis) but in fact the 297 offered a back view of Neasden and surprising amounts of greenery for a route that also crosses two of North West London’s key arterial roads. A pleasant contrast to the more challenging 266.  From a westerly start we had come still further west with a northerly dog leg, taking in all about an hour.

By the time we had reached the bottom of the hill, which had shown us a more affluent side to Ealing, Haven Green was in sight and the end of our trip for today.

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