Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Number 332 Route

St. Raphael’s North to Paddington Station
Monday July 5th 2010

This was our way back from two earlier key routes round North West London and proves to be one of those ‘useful’ routes serving the Brent Park Estate, better known as the Neasden IKEA.

No one was actually clutching a flat pack, or even a lamp, so maybe even on a Monday morning they could not face the queues  though the packed car parks might indicate otherwise.

Back to the bus, which had to weave its way up and over or was it down and under the 3-lane dual carriageway beast that is the North Circular hereabouts. There were more and smaller trading estates including Propeller Park named we presume for the wind turbines on the roof . 

The bus also does a little loop into what was Neasden – the suburb from the Thirties which still has it high street parade in that familiar north London style – to pick up its passengers and then returns on its journey south and west through the rest of Neasden and on into Dollis Hill. It was only when we were half-way along that we noticed that Dollis Hill really is elevated and therefore offered us the most splendid views towards Hampstead, Highgate etc – the highest points hereabouts. Though a multiple bus route, the houses remain uniform and well kept with varied front gardens – not all put to car use – and even still a local pub (The Ox & Gate), though deemed unremarkable by the pub reviewers at Fancy a Pint. Dollis Hill has several World War II connections, what with having a remote underground bunker to shelter the great and the good and the Post Office research centre where they built the Enigma (code-breaking machine): not bad for an area usually thought of as either Neasden or Cricklewood.

The 332 is of course closely related to the 232 and its really grown-up relative the 32 which ‘does’ the Edgware Road in a somewhat boring straight line – this more or less carries on where the 32 stops at Cricklewood, passing the rather modern bus garage. 

Certain bus companies are German – this one seems to be owned by a Singapore company making you wonder how British is the British bus?

Back on the Edgware Road (ho hum, but for probably the last time) there are several charities which surely benefit from the range of routes serving them – we spotted the HQ for the MS Society and another large branch of the British Heart Foundation which will re-cycle household items.

Cricklewood merges into Kilburn, which does retain its Irish Identity though successive waves of other immigrants also live here, some clearly preferring more bling on their furniture than others. The very handsome Crown pub has had a hotel annexe added to make the modern Crown Moran hotel and further down is the Beaten Docket – referring to a betting slip for a losing horse. Yet further the Black Lion – all are handy venues if you are thinking of a night out at the Tricycle theatre also along here.

In case all that booze, betting and theatre proves too much for the soul, the Ruach Ministries have taken over the former Gaumont cinema for their North London HQ – so are clearly expecting large congregations. 

Kilburn is always slow for traffic (perhaps if one crept up on it at about 3 AM you might not bog down?) and today was no exception. We noticed as we entered the straight stretch of road that goes from the end of Kilburn High Road through Maida Vale and essentially up to Marble Arch (though the 332 stops before) that there was frequently very ‘fluid’ interpretation of the ‘Red Route’ and bus lane legislation – cars are allowed 20 minutes for loading and unloading but that seems to include quite small passenger vehicles (??) and we spotted a police car, on social rather than criminal business, in the bus lane – this of course means the bus has to pull out competing with the rest of the traffic and slowing everyone down. 

Maida Vale through Little Venice remains attractive even though on a busy road – the giant chestnuts sheltering the properties to some extent and many are well set back, especially the magnificent mansion blocks. At this time of year when they are at their most prolific the branches hang low so up on the top deck we had some regular thumps to accompany our progress.

Just to finish at Westway the 332 pulls off and down along past the flyover, over 
Bishops Bridge Road and stops alongside Paddington station. The area round the Bridge has been smartened up with a recent building programme though it feels a bit of a no-man’s land marooned as it is between rail and canal and road.

Longer then the scheduled time but still not bad for a route which goes from out of town IKEA to a main line station. 

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