Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Number 342 Route (not)

We are reaching a stage in our list where the number of missing buses increases, so I thought I would take the opportunity to give readers a light entertainment break.

The Number 63 regular made a compilation of 'bus' songs for us to mark the new year:  but this one is the mother and father of them all, even if it used as an anthem by route-master fanatics.

Enjoy it!

The Number 341 Route

Thursday 31 May 2012

Linda has been blogging stored routes, and inventing interesting things for non-routes for so long, it was almost a shock to be back on a bus.  And the day did not start particularly well.  Linda, Mary and I were going to meet at the head stop and, naively trusting the online map and the listed route, we thought that meant County Hall, or at least York Road.  I suppose we have had too many easy starts to our journeys.  After a lot of wandering around (and I hope South Londoners will not object to me saying that walking down Lower Marsh is always a pleasure, doing it more than once and still not finding a bus is not) we consulted the paper map.  Ahah.  The asterisk that marks the start or stop was clearly in Baylis Road, right by Lambeth North tube.  So we were well exercised when we boarded our double decker at 10.00.

We were headed for the huge Ikea in Edmonton, and we assumed it was going to take quite a long time, which it did. 

First we went round the Imax and past the Hayward Gallery, which had a wonderful baobab tree made out of rolls of fabric outside it.  But the website is full of Tracey Emin and David Shrigley, so I don't know what the tree is about. Over the river, we went round Aldwych to head along past the Royal Courts of Justice.  There were press vans all over, because of the Leveson Inquiry. Today was the day that Mr Hunt the Culture Secretary was 'on'.  You can watch and listen to him on the website.  In passing I should like to remark how odd it is that people who are incandescent with fury about cyclists on pavements don't seem to mind motor vehicles on pavements, like the press vans outside St Clement Danes.

But anyway, we pressed on to turn left up Fetter Lane (the only bus to do so!) and passed the statue of John Wilkes. Left along Holborn, and up the Grays Inn Road, our bus reached the Clerkenwell Road at the Yorkshire Grey,  a pub with its own website which explains the name, so three cheers for that.  We turned right and then left up Rosebery Avenue, and then went straight up past Sadlers Wells to reach Angel.

We noted the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub and then headed along Upper Street to fork right into Essex Road at the statue of Sir Hugh Myddleton, developer of the New River. Among the other monuments we admired was a newish war memorial, apparently known as 'the doughnut', and then a possible Banksy dog on one of Islington's little green spots.

Heading on northwards, we crossed the Balls Pond Road and saw signs for new build on the site of the Mildmay Hospital.  Strangely, this clip of the demolition does not seem to have any date on it, but the work that the Mildmay did with Aids patients is still going on.  Through Newington Green we came to the Monarch pub with a picture of Charles I and an inn sign depicting his beheading. A good, macabre joke, we thought.

 We realised we were in Green Lanes as the shops were mainly Turkish, and the traffic quite slow.  The advertisement for the Fitness First Centre seemed rather appropriate, but mostly we were ogling the amazing cake and fruit shops of the area. 
We had come past the Robinson Crusoe Pub and Clissold Park, before reaching Finsbury Park and crossing the New River.  Now we noticed a slight tendency for pubs to have the names of politicians:  first the Beaconsfield, with a gloomy Disraeli on its sign, and later Salisbury and Palmerston.  It was at the Salisbury Hotel that we finally turned off Green Lanes to head along Harringay Road, passing George's Fish Bar with its handsome mosaic.

The Tottenham Ambulance Service HQ is along here, which reminds me that during our morning's travels we saw three different ambulances attending road traffic accidents.  I don't know if this is a normal number or whether the sudden cooling of the weather had caused inattention on the part of road users. Up St Ann's Road, and left along Black Boy Road, we came to West Green and turned into Philip Lane.  We passed the Marcus Garvey Library as well as the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, and looped round to get back to the main road and reach Bruce Grove Station.  There is a mixture of housing types around here, including these embellished terraces.

We reached Northumberland Park Bus Station, and headed straight on, once again becoming the only bus. Turning right into Leeside Avenue, we came to a wasteland of large gas holders, and crossed the railway to arrive at the enormous Ikea at 11.20.

It had been a remarkable route, not least for the number of times it avoided the straight direction in order to serve different corners, from Fetter Lane in the city to Lansdowne Road in Tottenham.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Number 340 Route

Edgware Station to Harrow Bus Station
Wednesday March 7th2012

This was a wet day but we were not going to complain as months have elapsed since it  has rained on our parade, and the South East is in drought. Also we had only just caught our previous, fairly infrequent bus as it was drawing away and were in a mind to check again its frequency and count our luck, when the 340 appeared. (So no time to verify the frequency of the 305.)

It also meant there was no time to savour our last visit to Edgware Bus Station, the 340 being the highest route number to pass through, or as today start or finish here. Edgware Bus Station is one of the best for which our criteria are
  • easy  for changing routes
  • clean
  • well signposted and set out
  • close to a station (Northern Line in this case)
  • adjacent to a modest shopping centre with lunch-buying and toilet facilities.  
  • frequently playing classical/soothing music

There is a road to cross to access either trains or shops but the buses are patient and well trained and the crossings are clearly marked.

I loved this piece when Tanya Gold wrote it two years ago, maybe I’ve linked to it before but it’s worth it  The bus station also seems to have its own Facebook page – who ‘befriends’ a bus station? – other bus stations?  Bus routes? Drivers?

To get back to business: the route started with a left turn out of the station and went straight ahead at the crossroads, passing the very familiar Church of St Margaret of Antioch – busy bee that she was (see the link on the 303) – and the stately solid red-brick Edgware Police Station. Not a state of the art police station but one that houses the Child Protection Teams for Harrow and Brent (yes I know it’s confusing, most of Edgware is in Barnet borough but the border runs along nearby Stonegrove). The building dates from 1892.

As the 340 heads towards Canons Park the semis that line the route get more substantial and are set further back from the road. 

‘Cannons’ [occasionally sic] Park was originally the ducal estate for Lord Chandos who seems to have been both an embezzler, abusing the trust of his public position, and then an  ‘insider trader’ and poor speculator to boot, so not surprisingly his estate fell into decline.  So the name has nothing to do with either big guns or small priests.

St Lawrence’s Church is also historic and Handel is said to have played there with Lord Brydges/Chandos as his patron.  

At the next crossroads the 340 turns up Marsh Lane, where it is the only route on offer – on a day like to day it was easy to imagine this as marshland but essentially it’s a small strip of Common land before the well spaced housing continues; much of it set back behind green verges.

Like most of the sights on our trip today the Ernest Bernays Institute, recently restored but looking small adjacent to Stanmore’s Sainsbury’s, was not seen at its best through the rain and gloom   but does serve to remind us that Stanmore was a village long before its current status as yet another mixed High Street, though admittedly in better shape than many.

We thought the bus might be heading to Pinner as we glimpsed the rather charming white sign posts but in fact it goes through Great Stanmore (is there a little Stanmore?) and more direction Harrow Weald. Here the grander semis are interspersed with newer, retirement type blocks. We saw Heywood, not one of the major firms, was building even now. From their website I gather they may be a descendant of the once radical Notting Hill Housing Trust founded to combat the inequalities in housing apparent in the Sixties, though never really eradicated.

Here the bus is alone as a numbered route but with company from some of the Hs (mainly H12) and they pass close to Harrow Weald cemetery and the rather attractive and substantial churchyard of St John the Evangelist. We also spotted ‘The Miller & Carter’ trading as a steakhouse but research indicates this is a ‘false traditional’ name and they are actually a chain of Steak Houses so doubtless dreamt up by a focus group or advertising agency…

The rain was pretty constant by now, so much so that the wind screen wipers were squeaking relentlessly, therefore no surprise when lots of people boarded indicating that a double decker was a fully justified choice for this route.

The stretch of route between the roundabout and Harrow Bus Station was all too familiar (see routes 140, 182 and 258) but like leaving Edgware we think this is the last time we shall pass this way, meaning through Harrow Weald and then Harrow. itself.  We could doubtless retrieve photos from these earlier trips but in the spirit of truthful reporting we shall give you Harrow in the rain. The lamppost banners were advertising the Harrow Dance  & Food festival. While I can see that these two activities celebrate the diversity of this North London borough dancing after eating never seems that advisable, speaking digestively.

After this comes the usual sequence of Bus depot, Salvatorian College and Harrow & Wealdstone Station, less monumental inside than out, the Civic Centre, monument to bureaucracy  like all local authority centres, and finally the somewhat depressed High Street that runs to the bus station . Jo had already announced she was not going to photograph the ‘Golden Lady’ just short of the bus station but snapped our final destination instead. A rainy jaunt of 35 minutes through NW London. 

And Harrow Bus Station  - murky but musical...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Number 339 Route

Shadwell to Fish Island   (Bow)
Tuesday August 31st  2010

This lovely late summer morning found us (with 63 Regular taking some photos) in Shadwell from where we were intent on taking the short but sweet route out again.  Talking of sweets we were rather distracted by sampling some particularly delicious and celebratory (Completion of Route 100 earlier) Turkish delight and so missed the earlier bus – this being a route that runs 4 buses an hour to a time-table. Never mind, it gave us plenty of time to admire the dual purpose bike and bus shelter decorated with the Tides on one side and the Moons on the other (not just a random display of circles) and to think that the route must be a very handy add-on for the very many people who live on the densely packed local estates and commute either by the DLR or the Overground, Shadwell now having both services. Both these stations are actually located on Cable Street, famous since 1936. Interestingly, websites are as polarized  politically now as they were then but this site has some interviews with  people who took part.

The flats came thick and fast, both low rise and older high rises, and it was no surprise that this little bus was always busy with shoppers.  For once we did not pass any very large supermarkets, but several clusters of smaller local shops at the bases of the blocks or in the remnants of the old high streets. The shops were particularly numerous round Roman Road, which also has a market.

It was also to be expected that in such a densely populated area there should be many schools to serve the local people and the Route 339 passes at least four, starting with Ben Johnson Primary. We were a bit puzzled by this as while the playwright had a few fights round Shoreditch, for all the talk he was quite a middle class lad – born and schooled at Westminster no less. Anyway he is remembered round here in what looks a to be a nice new building. We also passed. Sir John Cass (a City of London alderman, merchant and benefactor who had ‘escaped’ to Hackney to avoid the Plague!) and Stepney Green schools
and Redcoats school again with new buildings though a much longer history. Not to forget Higher Education either – the campus of Queen Mary College, University of London is very much on this route also.  The  Bow Heritage Trail  offers a more detailed appraisal of this historic neighbourhood.  

The bus passes close to Stepney Green where you can still get some idea of how it must once have been, complete with ‘village church’. A more recent history than Roman times brings us to the delights of the industrial age and its heritage for the inner city nowadays – that is the local canal and this area is fortunate to have access to the Regent's Canal  over which the 339 passes.

Stepney has a very long history of migration and today is no exception with several specialist shops serving the current local communities. Labbaik Travel on Ben Johnson road offers a very dedicated travel bureau – Labbaik apparently means ‘at your service’ and forms part of the Hajj prayers. Next door is an ‘only for females’ beauty parlour.

After Roman Road most of the passengers except us got off – we completed the trip onto Fish Island ; I had assumed that this little wedge of industry and new buildings was so named because of its shape and surrounding water (canals see above) but it seems the name originates from the street names. Considering how narrow the roads are round here we were astonished at both the volume of traffic and the heavy nature of it.  .  With many larger blocks still underway I guess this volume will continue for some time yet. 

This was only a 20 minute bus ride taking us from the old Docklands area to the old industrial bases both of which have outlived their moments of glory. After periods of neglect and desolation these are now being regenerated through both private and public investment .A short but fully packed route. 

PS Just round the corner from Fish Island is the rather excellent Bow Garage, built 1908 out of which run the 5s, 8s 15s 205s and 207s, which stands opposite the former Bryant & May factory made famous in the ‘match girl ‘ strikes. Now converted into flats they were recently in the news as the site of  Olympic related anti-terrorist missiles!     

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Number 338 Route (Not)

For our latest non-route, we though we would celebrate another of the delights of travelling across London, especially on the top of double-decker buses: the chance to spot ghost signs.

If you don’t know what we mean, these are signs painted directly onto the façades or sides of buildings, either to publicise whatever business was carried out there or for more general advertising purposes, called ‘ghost’ because they are frequently old and faded and often tout long-vanished businesses or products.  As we have observed, however, some are still in excellent condition and a few new signs are still being painted, so ‘ghost’ does not always do them justice.

The best places to spot ghost signs tend to be pre-Second World War high streets and shopping corners that have not suffered too much modernisation, but they can be found in all sorts of places (there is at least one on Oxford Street).  Some parts of London offer very rich pickings – New Cross, for example, or Camden, or Stoke Newington Church Street

We make no claim to expertise in this field, we just enjoy them when we spot them.  To pursue the interest for yourself, the History of Advertising Trust launched an ambitious scheme to create a national archive or database a few years ago – find it  here – though it seems to have been rather neglected recently.  Another good source specifically for London ghost signs is the 'Faded London' blog though this also seems to have gone a bit quiet recently.  If you just want to look at pictures, there are several ghost sign groups on Flickr.

Meanwhile, the photos illustrating this post are all our own: to be totally honest, they were not all actually been taken buses, but they are all on bus routes.  

The Number 337 Route

Clapham Junction to Richmond Bus Station
Thursday June 23rd 2011

We are beginning to come to the view that many of the higher route numbers, especially the 300s, are essentially composite or extensions to lower number routes and it was clear from today’s journey that is exactly what the 337 is, duplicating as it does core sections of both the 37 and the 33. In fact I can remember in my first proper job commuting from East Dulwich almost to Barnes on the then 37 route, whereas today (setting aside the railway) it would need both 37 and 337 to accomplish this.

Talking of railways, our route started at Clapham Junction, where there has been a steady flow of improvements – new overhead bridges, toilet facilities (end of Platform 17), more bicycle racks and a new exit /entrance called rather grandly the Brighton exit, which is a fair way up St. John’s Hill and usefully exactly where the 337 route starts.

We had installed ourselves in our usual front seats but essentially had the whole top deck to ourselves – we cannot vouch for passenger numbers on the lower deck but I suspect they were modest.  The journey up St. John’s Hill went smoothly – the number of small restaurants seems to be on the increase and there was a faint ghost sign on one of the cleaned older buildings.

At Wandsworth Common we joined the South Circular, whose route this bus essentially follows. It is always a mystery to me how anyone not already familiar with the twists and turns and vagaries of the South Circular ever gets to the right place. As we headed down East hill Jo spotted  a  café called  The Huguenot's Rendez-Vous, named we thought for the mansions of the same name but in fact we had just passed the entrance to the Huguenot cemetery tucked in behind the Book Place and the two ‘forks’ of the South Circular (I promise I won’t mention it again). It was used as a burial place for dissenters between 1687 and 1854 and had a recent restoration in 2003. Local history seems to think they contributed greatly to the prosperity of Wandsworth. 

East Hill heads down to the centre of Wandsworth, now dominated by the very fine Town Hall and the large South Thames College.  The Ram Pub is also on the High Street, virtually astride the Wandle River, and was the flagship pub for the brewery, though now but one ship in a larger fleet. Wandsworth High Street has limited charms, and today those charms were even less visible given the volume of stopped traffic – here in Wimbledon week with traffic heading up the hill to SW19 the actual S**th C*rc*l*r was closed and diversions in place – fortunately the bus lanes were all ours to go up West Hill (in fact the two hills form the  hill sides to the Wandle valley) passing the de Morgan Collection housed in the local museum  to good effect.
The next familiar landmark is the Hospital for neuro-disability with newish banners proclaiming ‘Communicating: A Right not a Privilege’ which we thought had universal appeal and application, not just for the patient group..

We certainly lost some traffic heading towards SW19 and tennis as we turned back on ourselves down Putney Hill . There are flats of every vintage along here from Victorian conversions and Edwardian mansions to now tired-looking Sixties blocks and the more glitzy and recently-completed 21st century  version of the 2-bed starter home.

Once onto the Upper Richmond Road (also known as ‘that road again’) and heading for Barnes and Richmond our pace increased; Sheen is very genteel so it was no surprise to find a Waitrose and a Garden Centre, though to be fair there are Pound Shops too. 

One of the jewels along here is the Hare & Hounds Pub with a lovely sign.

William Hickey, who died in 1727 left his property in trust to provide pensions for 10 women and 6 men (even then the differential survival rate was obvious) and by 1834 the Trustees decided to build some homes (it takes a 100 years to decide what to do?) which today are Grade 2 listed Almshouses (See also section for Route 310).

Approaching the centre of Richmond we passed the Victoria Foundation, of which we knew nothing, and a rather deep hole which appears to be a BAM building site of some mystery.  

The bus terminates at the very modest and old-fashioned Richmond bus station rather than by the railway station as I expected. It had taken 55 minutes but this would probably have been 10 minutes shorter but for the diversion round Putney. 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Number 336 Route

Catford (Thomas Lane) to Locksbottom (Pallant Way)
Thursday December 8th 2011

It mattered not a jot that Jo’s Southern Comfort (I forget all the individual train companies) train was a bit late arriving at Catford bridge as it meant we had a much shorter wait for this ‘Only 3 an hour’ route that lurks in a quiet (one of the few you can call such) road round the back of the Catford shopping centre – the stop was full of passengers who at 10.07 had already done their week’s shopping and were ready to go home. The 336 is a single decker single entry bus that really serves densely populated residential areas between two key shopping centres – Catford where we were starting and Bromley through which we passed much later.  

Crossing the South Circular we dived straight into the Bellingham Estate, passing the extensive playing fields on the corner, which are still called the Private Banks playing fields but have been managed as Powerleague for some years – though bits of it have some cricketing history. The bus carves its way through the Bellingham.     That last link gives a factual history of the building of some 2000+ homes on Kent farmland whereas other links class it is a ‘chav town’ – I shall not use that link as I know unchavvy people who live there. Cladding and pebble dash usually indicate home ownership. 

Anyway, we emerged briefly onto more major roads at what used to be the Tiger’s Head - one of many today, they seem to be SE London speciality. (We suspect a military nickname but can’t find one directly relevant – can anyone enlighten us?) Anyway, this one is being developed into housing though still retaining the name and a rather large ‘Tiger’s Eye’ to catch attention. We carried on up Whitefoot Lane and then deviated off down Downderry into Downham, another large estate of the same vintage and similar origins to the Bellingham, though at least three times the size – think ‘Homes for heroes’ and these sturdy brick built cottages, mostly semis must have been real treat for the original tenants.

(Hidden behind is a stretch of very pleasant woodland walk, which forms part of the Capital Ring; were you to walk it in December you would emerge opposite a positive grotto of Santas, just visible in the picture.)

Quite a few of them (houses not Santas) now have been sold off under the ‘Homes for Potential Tory voters scheme’ and dressed up accordingly: we saw cladding alongside pebble dash together with many bricked over front gardens.  Just past Bonus Pastor School, having a rebuild, there was a bit of a squeezy encounter as builder’s vans/lorries and the bus all tried to pass each other. Rangefield Road then runs into Southover which marks the transition from Lewisham to Bromley borough, most visibly signified by a change from blue to green in the street plates but also a greater proportion of owner occupied homes. Lots of passengers boarding here, most of them poised to get off at Bromley. The 336 approaches via Plaistow (which always feels to be in the wrong place) and Bromley North where it paused for a while outside the (staff only) bus garage to change drivers.    The 336 of course continues down the back of the pedestrianised High Street, fully decorated for Christmas. We noted that the Post Office which had closed when all such did, had lain empty for a while but was now refitted as an Italian restaurant.

We also passed Liberata, which Jo thought /hoped might be a centre for liberating the unliberated (women and children mostly) but proves to  - I am not quite sure what?

Many passengers, including some who chose to stand, got on further down the High Street and by Bromley South Station and very soon as we picked up a bit of speed along one of the few straight bits of this trip, causing a spillage of apples from a passenger’s shopping bag rolling round the bus floor. Just as apple gathering was afoot two inspectors boarded – given that there was only 1 paying passenger and many Freedom Pass holders I was not quite sure of the point but Jo thinks it is to monitor the drivers?? Anyway they were not with us for long. From Bromley the route to Locksbottom is pretty much straight down the A21 Hastings Road but the 336 takes a more interesting route turning left down Homesdale Road.

This was interesting: although much of Bromley is either old Kentish  rural villages now absorbed or post war executive homes from 1940s onwards, the little workers’ cottages down Homesdale Road seemed to be neither, and instead belonged to the Victorian industrial revolution, railways and gas.   The homes have not been as cherished as they might elsewhere and Jo noted that the pub, named for Lord Holmesdale had an extra ‘l’ but it has always been like that. The gas works had succeeded a brick works but even they look derelict now.

Turning off Homesdale Road we get into exactly what Bromley does best – fine tree lined residential streets of semi-detached family homes plus garages, and this formula sees itself repeated in builds through the 20th and 21st centuries. . At Lavender Close (there’s always one of those on these estates) a wheelchair user with a wholly electronic chair controlled by a tennis ball joystick did some very nifty three point turns inside the bus to be facing forwards and safely before we moved off again.

There was really no need to rush anyway as once we merged onto Bromley Common, well south of the bustle around Bromley College, the traffic was stationary due to single lane controls managed by a proper old fashioned  ‘STOP/GO’ man. One of the few landmarks along here is the proper Bromley Bus Garage, where buses bed down, and once past the slow bit there was no stopping our 336 that sailed on down – there are stops here but as much of it is common land (or private roads) there are few boarding passengers.

Just before the end it takes a turn into Locksbottom Village (shouldn’t this be on the River Lea navigation said Jo, where’s the Lock?)  The High Street has a pseudo Tudor look about it doubtless inspired by the pub, ‘The British Queen’ with a portrait of the unmistakeable Elizabeth I.

Those of us left were destined for the end of the line at Pallant way, which proves to be the car park surrounding a large Sainsbury’s. Tucked into the corner were some loos, which though newly decorated and tiled were not very hygienic.   
Our trip had taken an hour and ten minutes through some very narrow and at times parked up streets along a route, which actively avoided main roads where it could.