Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Number 321 Route

Tesco’s Foots Cray to New Cross Gate (Sainsbury’s)
Thursday October 6th 2011

[When we rode this route we were distracted to the point of taking a wrong exit at the roundabout, as at that time a hacker had managed to lock us out of our blogging account to play the old ‘help I’ve been mugged in a foreign country’ scam with it. However, thanks to patience and Google we were subsequently able to resume ‘normal service’.] 

Our last bus had finished somewhere beyond Swanley, well into near-countryside Kent, and we had returned part way of the same route – along the very rural Old Maidstone Road – to Ruxley

Though quite familiar with both Swanley and Sidcup, this was not an area I had heard of previously. Ruxley seems to sit in between – apart from the nursery we spotted catteries and stables and Google offered me beekeepers also, so you see that we were a bit countrified. We walked on round the roundabout and took a turn to find a huge 24-hour Tesco’s where after using their toilets we asked them to indicate where the bus was. There did not really seem to be any actual bus stops (this is a terminus) and the driver said ‘Wait by the bins’ which we did, but not for long. The 321 is a double-decker 24-hour service so ‘the real thing’.

We swirled out of Tesco’s straight into a fairly complex road system and the route lined with industrial complexes, some more lively and functioning than others (this one round the corner before start of the route was the most noticeable) then came B&Q at  Crittall's Corner with this link honouring the heritage of GB-made steel frame windows.

We thought the Coca Cola factory looked more modern but in fact they seem to have been on site for 60 years or so

Unusually Jo displayed some North Londonish preconceptions and when we crossed a little river said ‘Could it be the Wandle?’ ‘How about the Cray in Foot’s Cray then?’ Bexley’s link gives both a description of where it goes and the industries (see above) it used to support.

Through Sidcup, where the driver lingered somewhat and where more passengers boarded. Sidcup High Street had that mixture of some still-thriving businesses and some abandoned 'Aching Soul'  – perhaps to detract you from slightly aching tattoo site? At any rate, tattooing still seems to be going strong. We liked the more unusual pub name of ‘The Tailor’s Chalk’ and some fancy plasterwork on a house.

For the next stretch of this route, still heading determinedly North and West, the 321 is alone through pleasant suburban streets with probably the largest houses we saw on our trip today.  At several points the bus runs alongside the dual carriageway of the A20 and we were able to peer down on the more speedy traffic. We also spotted Flamingo Park, which has nothing to do with those flamboyant pink waders but seems to be a sports ground.

On our left Jo spotted Marechal Niel 
A military leader whose name meant nothing to us, leaving us wondering why he might have an Avenue named after him near the Sidcup by-pass. The following, written in slightly translated English, explains both his military exploits (French, on our side at Sebastapol in the Crimea) and, more significantly I guess, his incarnation as a dramatic yellow rose.

Keeping up the momentum we were soon in New Eltham with its small cluster of shops round the station and the Beehive pub, which we had spotted on our previous trips down this way. The route into Eltham from here is served by several routes and even more buses congregate there; today we felt quite smug as the 321 is one of the few double-deckers and we certainly had an enhanced view of the range of buildings along the High Street. Given the Tudor heritage (Eltham was a royal palace for many years) it is not surprising that this is echoed in both later building styles and shop names.

We have been through Eltham many times and started and stopped here, but had not previously spotted the Yak & Yeti – one of a small (new?) chain of Nepalese restaurants. By now we had crossed over to Greenwich borough, which always seems to have a lot of regeneration work on its plate with Balfour Beatty and others involved in building here. 

Once we had negotiated the roundabout at Eltham Green we were clear to head on into Lewisham and Lee Green; there were roadworks which slowed us somewhat but led us to think that perhaps some regeneration was due here as well. Time was that there were busy council offices on the corner – Housing and Social Services – and thus enough people to stimulate local lunchtime trade at least, but with these blocks nearly empty the little shopping centre looked sad. There are some fine older buildings at Lee Green – the two Tiger’s Heads and some Dutch style gables.

Today it was still too leafy to spot the Boone’s Almshouses set back a little. But we did note the  Accordion Shop with its most excellent website .

Lee High Road is actually quite narrow for the volume of traffic and number of bus routes so we had slowed significantly – I also spotted that rather sneakily the driver had changed the destination without announcing it so we waited until he had overtaken the 321 in front and leapt off and onto the following bus so as to complete the route. The second 321 was heaving with people by now so we took our seats where we could. Obviously the 321 is related to the 21 and from Lewisham onwards we followed the latter route up Lewisham Way passing both Lewisham College, which seemed to have more students in evidence than Goldsmiths’ College up at New Cross. Progress is always slow here, which is doubtless why the routes get terminated early, but Lewisham Way has a predictable consistency of familiar landmarks – the multi-coloured house that looks as though it may have been hippy commune, the  Aladdin's Cave by St John’s Station, the New Cross war memorial and the Celia Hammond charity which will neuter pets for free, supported by a keen cat owner I used to know.

The last bit of traffic round New Cross gate meant our arrival into the spacious car park at Sainsbury’s was an hour and five minutes after our leaving Tesco’s in Sidcup. This was a trip form nearly rural Kent to Inner London student/transport hubs. It also occurred to me that you could arrive too late to do your shopping at Sainsbury’s and just get on a 24 hour bus back to 24 hour Tesco’s in Foot's Cray !    


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