Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Number 314 Route

Eltham Station to New Addington Parkway 

Wednesday 28th March  2012

This was the spring day the weather forecast had promised us – like summer but with all the joy of spring flowers bursting out everywhere, and today’s photographer Mary was taking full advantage.

We met at Eltham Station, where the forecourt plays host to several bus lines including our choice today – the 314. From the start there was an auxiliary transport official standing beside the driver from which we surmised perhaps the driver was new to the route – certainly he drove somewhat as though the stops and passengers were a little incidental to his journey, though after the initial jerky braking things smoothed out a little.
We crossed the main Eltham landmarks of which today I shall say little – even though we shall not pass this way again. One of our readers/followers has pointed out the repetitiveness of our blogs and that we should include more demographic details. Well I am not sure that we wanted to get into economic graphs. Usually the size of the domestic properties, the liveliness or other of the High Street shops, and the range of passengers is a good indicator of the economic prosperity or not of the areas through which we pass. Like many routes this one went from High Street shopping through 2-garage detached properties and finished on one of London’s larger social housing estates. 
Back to Eltham, which it remains impossible not to remember as the location of the Lawrence murder – though at least the achievement of 2 convictions finally offers some suggestion of progress in the direction of justice. Greenwich (now officially and very proudly Royal) tries to keep the schools looking modern and the High Street maintains its pseudo Tudor facades – totally appropriate given the nearby former Royal Palaces. 

On a day like today we were relishing the blossom trees with a magnificent alley of palest pink enhancing New Eltham  from where we turned  through to the Mottingham Estate via the broad William Barefoot Drive, named for a former councillor whose work through the Thirties is commemorated; this is when the bulk of the Estate was built on former farmland  with the Coldharbour bits post war to house displaced persons. The range of local shopping is limited, so hence bus services to a greater range of shops. There are small parks and recreation grounds abounding with willows in the sharpest of new greens.

Taking Elmstead Lane the contrast could not be greater as suddenly there were large and detached homes set well back, some close to a golf course and all nearby to the ancient Elmstead Woods which feature in both the capital Ring and Green Chain walks – they are more extensive than you might think and I have known local friends who can remember getting lost there.  

By this time we were looking rather lonely on the bus as no-one joined us as we headed up the aptly name Hill Brow to Sundridge Park; the actual house and golf course are set back of course. At the top of the hill there seemed to be a clutch of Catholic establishments; St Joseph’s Church, the primary school of the same name and inbetween the sizeable Trinitarian Convent. However unlike some convents this one does not seem to have a website – nuns online – I like it.

We had almost by stealth reached what I always think of as the square roundabout at Plaistow, which is the Plaistow in Bromley North rather than the East Ham one, and doing an almost complete circuit allowed us to admire the bright spring planting, at which Bromley borough so excels.  

We passed St Mary Plaistow: Bromley seems well endowed with places of worship though all of the Christian variety – this is the first trip for ages not to include a mosque or temple, though there is of course always the Temple to Mammon that is the Glades shopping centre. Alongside many other routes the 314 nips down the back of the pedestrianised High Street and the afore-mentioned Glades, passing both Bromley North and South stations before turning down Hayes Lane. It was lovely to see this affluent enough thoroughfare in bright sunshine after several memorable rain sodden and snowy trips on the 119 and 246. Today, as befits a smaller higher number route we turned off at Norman Park down Mead Way and took a couple of turns round further suburban housing before emerging in Hayes – more spring colour. Two quite chatty schoolboys had joined us and got off for Hayes School, one of Bromley’s shining stars.

 The next part of the trip leaving Hayes and on to Addington offered green vistas and this seemed to be a signal to the driver to speed up. Admittedly there were no other passengers boarding but after Spring Park the driver was going so fast that Mary and I were holding on to counteract the bouncing.

The bus then drew into the Addington Interchange, and the engine switched off. The back-up operative came down to us and asked if we were getting off. We said we needed to go to the end of the line both because of the Project (card duly handed to puzzled operative) and because we needed to catch the 464 which does not call in here. He then launched into protective mode, not recognising us as ‘locals’, warning us of the risks of ‘up there’ (New Addington) while we tried to persuade him we lived in or near Peckham, had travelled widely and could look after ourselves. This then triggered a fond reminisce about Peckham and Brixton (no trouble there he said)  and his favourite route to Belmarsh (Thamesmead was no picnic, he said, but better than here); however, he still felt he needed to explain that the level of vandalism was such round this way that buses had been suspended from running to the Parkway. Last winter TFL had needed to abandon two buses because of the snow and when they came to rescue them all the windows had been broken. It was not about not having a service (the Parkway gets 5 routes plus the tram) it was about respecting it.

By now he was convinced we could not be persuaded and the 314 continued; however as we were engaged in conversation our observations and photos of this bit of the route were limited. It took at least another ten minutes to reach the top and both he and the driver reckoned this was one of London’s longest routes, and in fact several more passengers got on clearly wanting the Parkway interchange too.  Inspired by King Henry’s drive the side roads are also all named for Tudor worthies such as Walsingham and Bothwell (wasn’t he a murderer?); perhaps the locals might behave better if the streets were named for more modern role models? 

The last thing he said to us was that the route was about to get new buses (or possibly hand-me-down newer buses) but when we failed to look suitably impressed at the news that they would be a Mercedes Bus he said goodbye.

Potentially we could have had 30 minutes to wait for our next service (a 26-seater heading into the hills twice an hour) but as luck would have it we only had 8 minutes. New Addington Parkway of course looked quite benign in the spring sunshine, at the end of a long route both in time (1hour 15 minutes) and in distance covered.  

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