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. 


  1. I think you mean A21, not A24!

  2. If you're going to get politcal by referring to the sold-off properties as 'homes for potential Tory voters' shouldn't you also describe the 'original tenants' as potential Labour voters?

    Sorry about the pedantry.