Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Number 354 Route

Penge (The Crooked Billet)* to Bromley North Station
Thursday May 26th 2011

*A bent branch of a tree – and there I was thinking it was some kind of agricultural implement. Needless to say, neither was visible in Penge today.

Our key route of the day has left us just round the corner, so we found the Crooked Billet quite easily. On the whole Bromley Council tends to pretend Penge belongs elsewhere but they have attempted to inject a little continental cafĂ© society into the High Street by providing a canopy/clock and area to sip your lattes etc – though the weather was not really suited to that today.

Counter-intuitively, the bus heads north out of Penge, in what I think of as the opposite direction to Bromley, but a Tfl operative handing out questionnaires to all boarding passengers distracted us. This is a route that runs to a timetable about three times an hour so perhaps they were thinking of axing it? I noted that buses in the opposite direction had also been given mini-questionnaires and pencils. She collected them as people got off so I am not sure whether she noted the length of bus use or not?

It was a very small one-door only bus that caused some fun as we had 2 buggies (not at the same time) and a dog large enough to require a whole passenger area. O yes, and a rogue escaped balloon.

Anyway it somehow got to both Penge West and Anerley Stations without following the main roads, thus avoiding some of the more depressing bits of Anerley Hill.

Just by Betts Park the bus crosses over a small stream – I have not been able to discover if it has a name but did find a rather good account of the former  Croydon Canalwhich did run hereabouts – the bus runs along side the Castledine Road which is mentioned in the link. Just fancy: tearooms in Anerley (this is not a typo). Mr Betts was of course a local chap who did well enough to donate land.

The crossroads from which there is always a fine view over South London used to be called the Robin Hood, but as the eponymous (been waiting to use that) pub has been demolished, I am not sure what it is called now. Anyway, we went straight across in the direction of Birkbeck which seemingly does not warrant a Wikipedia entry so I am left wondering whether it has any relationship with Birkbeck College, famed for its evening and extra-mural courses. Beckenham crematorium and cemetery seem pretty large but then the latter runs into South Norwood Country Park at some stage.   My handy guide to all things dead tells me that both  Thomas Crapperprime plumber to the Royals and WG Grace are buried here – today we were to have a cricketing theme, as you will see.

The present Beck Lane was not developed for houses until after World War II, being previously used as allotments. At the far end, on the Elmers End Road corner, stands the London Transport Depot. The former building (1929), which incidentally housed solid-tyre 'buses, was destroyed by a Flying Bomb and when rebuilt (1953) one of the entrances was called 'The Cunningham Gate' in memory of   a faithful fire-watcher who remained at his post on the roof, to give warning; I note that 41 Firemen are also commemorated in the local cemetery where they took part in a bad air raid.
Beck Lane still has some allotments but the whole area has a certain charm and a very unified look to it. 

At this point, where Beck Lane turns into Churchfields Road, our bus ground to a halt for nearly 15 minutes – it seemed mainly to be volume of traffic – at 12 noon? So we crawled past the superb Bromley Dump – sadly we non-Bromley types can no longer use it as it is now strictly reserved to Bromley rate payers but we remember it fondly as a 5* site: well ordered, clean and with plenty of room for cars to turn, and a nearby children’s playground if things do take a while.

We were finally able to come onto the High Road near Clockhouse Station and the road from here to the Beckenham War Memorial is largely composed of (loosely speaking) civic and communal buildings – library, pool,  fire station, English Language School and so on.

In spite of having two quite large supermarkets near by, Beckenham does somehow manage to hang on to its High Street and there is always something to see, like Thai boxing for example! At this point the bus really filled up. Traffic through Beckenham is usually slow so we were able to note that the metal structures that had gone up in the park alongside St. George’s Church, and which looked as though they might be expecting peas, were in fact supporting roses – a bit like having your roses supported by scaffolding we thought.  The churchyard on the other hand had been left to grow wild or perhaps they had not cut the grass? It’s hard to tell nowadays what is deliberately left for wild flowers and insects and what is merely non-intervention: a bit like distressed paintwork or ripped jeans. 

Rather than take the direct road to Bromley we took a side road: Foxgrove Road and then Downs Hill – the very names tell you that this will be affluent Bromley with larger, even double fronted houses. This area is known as Ravensbourne for the River of that name which joins the Quaggy at Lewisham – it also has a station, which is down in a dip and looks very rural.

Ravensbourne had both a golf course (through which the river goes) and Beckenham Cricket Club, and later in the day we noted a banner for a cricket festival?  I refer to this in the spirit of selflessness, as I have never watched cricket in my life. Notwithstanding the apparent wealth of the neighbourhood several passengers got on, obviously heading for Bromley – this included two police officers who of course do not pay, and a bus driver heading to work and all remarked on the late running of this route today.

Things were about to get even later as once we came out into Beckenham Lane, which is both steep and twisty, some road works delayed us even further but we did eventually reach Bromley Bus garage 50 minutes after leaving Penge in what is advertised as a 25 minute trip across outer SE London using residential rather than main roads. It did show the social contrasts that you can find within Bromley as we did stay within the one London borough.

PS After posting the 208, which takes a more direct route through Catford to Bromley we received a comment from a bus driver – yes Paul I mean you -who had noticed us boarding in Penge.; I think the only driver ever to do so (or they’re too polite to say what they really think) so Paul this is for you….

Also as our note on the 351 states the route followed by that erstwhile number is now more or less this 354. 

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Number 353 Route

Thursday 28 June 2012

Linda and I decided to go from the Orpington end to the Addington Village Interchange in order to pick up another bus from there, so we met at Orpington Station in good order at 10.00.  

It was not quite sunny, but working towards it, and we walked down to the Ramsden Estate in order to stretch our legs.  It took us about 45 minutes to reach Rye Crescent, helped by a reassuring local lady who watched us trying to work out whether we were holding the A-Z the right way up.  We were delighted to see that the 353 is a double decker.  The other people getting on were clearly shoppers who were not interested in the front upstairs seats, so we were very happy as we set off just before 11.00.  The Ramsden Estate is having large numbers of houses built, we were pleased to see, so we expect this bus will get busier in the years to come.

The bus took us back towards Orpington itself, picking up a few people with empty shopping bags.  We passed the Priory School which, we were interested to see, is also the home of the Frank Bruno Boxing Academy.

Priory Park was looking lovely.  You have to say about the kind of weather we have been having, that it keeps everything green and lush.  This is where the River Cray begins its journey to join the Thames:  you can walk its length if you wish.

Orpington High Street was busy and bustling, and we headed along it to bring us to the War Memorial, which sits on a roundabout, so you would have to dice with death to read the names, which are attractively set out on low level stones in a half circle round the monument.

Heading out of Orpington, we passed The Maxwell.  As so often, I can find reviews of the beer and the gents' toilets, but no explanation of the name.  Those of us who come from Watford, associate the name with the  ... well, on a public blog I'd better just say 'person' ... who stole his workers' pension fund to continue to enrich himself and his family.  In these Leveson Inquiry days, it's quite funny to read the PM's gushing tribute to the man.  But that probably has nothing to do with the Orpington Pub, or indeed this bus trip.  Almost opposite is the Crofton Roman Villa, or at least the little bungalow which is the way in.  

Now we headed up the hill out of Orpington, and for the first time we had company on the top deck.  The downstairs sounded quite busy, presumably with shoppers who had filled their bags.  Most of the front gardens have been converted to parking spaces, though most with a bit of garden as well.  This is an area of large houses, pretty well continuous till you reach the handsome mock Tudor of Locksbottom.  Here we spotted the charity shop for Harris Hospiscare, which took the name in 2002 because of support from Lord Harris.  We were pleased to note also that the 'British Queen' pub's sign was of the first Queen Elizabeth, to echo the Tudor theme

 Moving on into the smart area around Keston, we wondered again what 'Keston Mark' meant:  according to Wikipedia it was once a pub.  Perhaps it was the mark put on livestock when this was a farming area?  Among the huge houses, we also saw some attractive flint faced cottages.  Linda was also pleased to see horses in a field.

Out of Keston, we nipped along green country-ish lanes for a while until we reached Hayes (or 'Hayes, Kent' as people tend to say to remind everyone that they are not near Heathrow) and passed the station.  The excellent central reservation flowerbeds which we have noticed on previous visits were looking rather dull, as the geraniums aren't yet in flower.

Out of Hayes, we came to the Coney Hall Roundabout, named for the housing estate that was built here early in the last century.  The wide green spaces on the right belong to the City of London, but we also passed a huge field of broad beans, indicating that Kent remains a bit agricultural even in Bromley.  They were not yet flowering, which is apity as the wonderful scent would have penetrated the bus on this muggy day.

And so, at 11.30, we reached the Addington Village Interchange, not really a destination in its own right, but perfectly convenient for stepping onto another bus after a few moments conversation with someone else waiting at the bus stop.  We had travelled through commuter land for the whole way, but pleasant and green, helped by the sunshine.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Number 352 Route

Monday 18 June 2012

I was on my own today, both Mary and Linda having holidays with, I hope, lovely weather.  From Bromley North to Lower Sydenham, I had sunshine, though with lowering grey clouds.

I had had a long and rather strange journey to reach Bromley North Station, about which I shall tell you in a few weeks, and it was almost 13.00 as I waited for the 352.  The Countdown kept saying 10 minutes, for about seven minutes, so it was with relief that I hailed the bus as it arrived at pretty well the time expected, rather than 10 minutes later.

As usual with buses in Bromley, we headed out past the Civic Centre, and along the busy road that enables the High  Street to be a pedestrian haven of peace.  Then we turned right, past The Glades, and left, to reach Bromley South Station, less pretty but more useful than Bromley North.  It was possible to glimpse the building and refurbishment works which were promising 'your bigger and better station'.

Turning left, we entered residential areas, with most of the front gardens hardened.  Nevertheless, there were many cars parked in these narrow streets, built before cars were seen as essential, so we often had to wait for traffic coming the other way.  Everything was very green, unsurprisingly, given the June weather we have had. It has always seemed strange to me that people imagine June will be lovely, since it often rains, or worse.  The D-Day landings were delayed, the Coronation took place in a deluge, and so on.  

Having gone uphill out of Bromley, we headed steeply downhill, and I thought of the great views I could have taken from a double decker

Coming toward West Wickham Station, we had the golf course on both sides of the road, and were into a hail and ride section.   Judging by the size of the houses, this would not be a bus user's area.  The 352 is the only bus along much of its route.

There were more modest houses, but still lots of cars, as we came towards Beckenham, and passed Crease Park, one of the smaller green spaces in the Borough.  Along the High Street and past the war memorial, I enjoyed some silly shop names as we went first under and then over the railway.

After passing New Beckenham Station, we turned left down Worsley Bridge Road to reach a branch of Kent County Cricket Club, which must have been reeling from a recent tragedythough one could not tell from the bus.  Many people got off here, leaving me the only passenger for a while.

As we came into Lower Sydenham and passed its station, we went over the Ravensbourne, which offered a riverside walk. Then we nipped through the shopping area to get to the large Sainsbury's, where this route terminates.  It was 13.35.

Although there had been some green interludes, this area is effectively all 'London', with big houses in the leafier bits, and smaller houses and flats on the approach to each railway station in turn.  It was interesting to see how the different places on glimpses from train or motorway link to each other.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Number 351 Route (not)

There is no 351 route.  But that bald statement is rather an oversimplification as there used to be one up in Essex, and, until 2002, another around Penge and Bromley as you can discover here.

Meanwhile, I wanted to say a few words in praise of Oyster Cards. 

I don’t know of many other examples of people setting out to spend almost double the normal price on an identical item.  Marmite in a Harrods bag?  

But Linda and I, on our three buses yesterday, watched two people pay £2.30 for something that costs  £1.35, because they did not have an oyster card. Yes, you pay a £5.00 deposit, but you get this back when you return it.  It is strangely difficult to find any information about returning oyster cards on the TfL website, but the fact is that you can return it at any underground station ticket office.  This is all very clearly set out at this address.

Before anyone comments on the fact that we freedom pass users are sheltered from all this, allow me make that comment myself.

Now. Speaking as a conspiracy theorist of long standing (ask me who killed JFK, rather than just where I was when I heard the news) I know that Oyster cards are tracked, especially if they are registered, and some people resent the totalitarian implications  Here’s a summary of the dangers.  On the other hand, people:  £2.00 instead of £4.30 for a Zone 1 Tube journey? 

Also, if you ever travel by bus outside London, you will know how long a journey can take when people have to pay their fares, collect their tickets and retrieve their change before the bus can leave each stop.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Number 350 Route

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Having taken the train to Hayes and Harlington Station (apparently freedom passes are not valid beyond this point) we needed to walk a couple of stops to get to the start of our route, in Clarendon Road.  The driver was bemused, so we gave him a card at the start rather than at the end of the trip, and off we set, at about 10.10.

We had seen a double decked 350, but ours was a single decker.  Indeed, all the 350s we saw except this one were double deckers, which was slightly annoying.

Hayes is full of Nestle's works, street names, nurseries and so on;  but there are also plenty of green spaces and the odd ghost sign.  We came to Hyde Park Hayes, an office development with very attractive outside spaces, designed by Wilson McWilliam:  whether the world needs more offices is always worth considering, especially as there was a large semi-derelict something across the road, and we were to pass a number of 'to let' office developments of various kinds.

Of the various food outlets we saw, we noted one advertising 'English breakfast and Chinese food' as well as an ex-pub calling itself 'Inhibitions' and promising 'exotic dancers seven days a week'.  

Crossing the Grand Union Canal, we went through the gates into Stockley Park,  an amazing business park, with water features and green areas, as well as prestigious looking offices for Canon, Samsonite (we thought appropriately near Heathrow for a suitcase company) BP, Marks and Spencer and Apple.

Once we were out of the salubrious environs of Stockley  Park, we came into an area of mixed business and housing.  Much of the housing stock had once been public, and some still was, we thought. But we also saw rather a handsome ex-pub, attractively turned into housing.  

Crossing the Grand Union again, we took a turn into West Drayton Station and out again, and then into West Drayton itself, noting a Jade and Marble shop called Hydrodragon.

Also in West Drayton is Drayton Hall, HQ of the pharmaceutical Company, Ferring.

We supposed that the proximity of the airport is what attracts all these companies, though we were surprised that, travelling in this direction, we had heard no aircraft up to now.  

But crossing the M4 and heading towards Harmondsworth, we had aeroplanes overhead. We crossed the little river which I think may be the Duke of Northumberland's River or possibly the Longford River. (I apologise for this vagueness, but my A-Z goes all impressionistic around Heathrow) and so came into Heathrow, terminating at the subterranean bus station of Terminal 5 at 10.45.

As you will see from Linda's pictures, we actually had warm sun, blue skies, little fluffy clouds for this enjoyable trip.  One would almost have thought it was summer.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Number 349 Route

Ponders End to Stamford Hill
Thursday January 12th 2012

The 377, our first route of the day (Jo had had her planning hat on – similar to the sorting hat but more useful), had left us at Ponders End all ready to cross the road and leave Ponders End (forever) on the southbound Route 349, which proved to be a somewhat dispiriting experience. First sight was a Wetherspoons pub called the Picture Palace Pub; usually they have a line of history but this one only explains the beers and gives photos of the quite nice inside. The outside was curiously nondescript.
Further along is the Boundary House pub, doubtless a reference to the boundary ditch, now more likely a culverted sewer /  former river which is a very common fate for these old waterways.  Also fairly charming was the row of villas all named for trees – Willow/Pine/Poplar/Chestnut/Cyprus (sic) and alongside the Conservative Working Men’s Club, something which would have been considered a contradiction in terms back in the day (on which subject, by the time we had reached the end of this route the poverty on view was such as to bring to the fore all revolutionary tendencies).

Back to the bus route, which was gathering more and more passengers below but as many were quite disabled the upstairs remained fairly empty. This route offers little novelty and rolls on down in pretty much a straight line from Lower to Upper Edmonton via Edmonton Green, familiar to us because of its canopied and efficient bus station.

The shop signs show that the route segues from a Turkish and Eastern ethnicity to an ever broader range of nationalities, but the properties visible along the main road became increasingly sad or derelict. Clearly the blight engendered by the whole ‘Will Spurs move to the Olympic Stadium’ followed by last August’s riots have left Tottenham looking even more depressed. Many of the shops and blocks were empty, some possibly being squatted and certainly attacked by pigeons close to the Alpha Road turning. Haringey has a difficult borough to manage and was trying to give a positive feel to what remains of the High Street with its ‘We Love Tottenham ‘ posters but it felt a bit of struggle. There was also a rather enigmatic street sculpture of a horse, and a cat?

Spurs’ stadium and the shop alongside are showing their age as well, but the club’s futile bidding for the Olympic Stadium cannot have helped local commerce. Ironically on the day we passed Spurs, having played their match in hand, had just gone 2nd in the league and were doing as well as they ever have for very many years in the wilderness. Close to the Tottenham Community Sports centre there was a car boot sale in progress and very well attended too – adults with no other place to go during the day.  The fact that the Aldi store has gone as well seemed the finishing touch.

By the time we reached Seven Sisters things were smartening up a little – this is a very busy thoroughfare with at least eight bus routes passing through and at one point a dedicated bus lane to keep things moving.

There were some lighter moments along the way. A dry cleaners promising ‘No Mark Dry Cleaning’, ‘The Elbow Room Pub’ and some light-spirited graffiti in anti-capitalist mode.  The route also includes a Blue Plaque, which is fairly self-explanatory honouring local explorer John Williams.

This was a very straight, uncomplicated, double-decker north/south route with few twiddles and no single portion of the route which was not covered by other buses, so combined with the faces of the successive high streets a rather lowering experience.

I hope when I come to blog this later in the year things will be looking up for Tottenham – the place rather than the club. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Number 348 Route (Not)

For those of you with ‘fast’ computers and good capacity we are including a link to some films from the London Transport Museum Collection (also available on DVD).

Most of these are about the Tube, or Underground, and show not only what the system used to be like – pretty empty – but also show a very dated style of documentary filming. The recent BBC series about the Tube managed to be both informative and entertaining.

Without trains we would not get to some of our starting points, but this is a bus blog so if you prefer, the short  The Elephant Will Never Forget film records another jubilee this year – 60 years since the last tram, the Number 36 as it happens, ran into New Cross Bus garage. Even the veteran LWB do not really remember trams very clearly.

For those of you who really need a bus fix, the same page will offer you London on the Move, a 1970 tribute to London Transport’s tubes and buses.

Film geeks will know that the films’ producer, Edgar Anstey (1907-1987), was a very respected documentary maker, whose career started with John Grierson in the famous GPO Film Unit and included some years running the London office for the famous American series The March of Time before joining British Transport Films.

PS Thanks to Andrew for finding this link. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Number 347 Route

Thursday 7 June 2012

The Number 347 Route goes from Ockendon Station to Romford, and Linda and I were pleased with ourselves as we caught the 09.50 from Fenchurch Street, feeling this would be a streamlined day.  We had neither of us been to Ockendon before, and vaguely associated it with the refugee charity.  Wrong!  That's Ockenden, near Woking.

Meanwhile, back in Essex, we had a nasty shock when we discovered that the 347 runs once every two hours!  Aagh. This is the first bus we have encountered which is that rare, though we have had once an hour routes, from Bromley North, as I recall.  Happily, we had only 40 minutes to wait, rather than a possible (I suppose) 119 minutes, and the sun was shining among the clouds.
The bus arrived with several minutes to spare, and the charming driver was interested in our project.  His day starts at 08.30 when he collects his bus from Rainham Garage. (It's logoed 'Blue Triangle' but is now part of the Go Ahead Group) then he drives his route to and from Romford twice, to finish his morning at about 13.00.

We came out of the station forecourt, turning right to reach the village green, with its war memorial, and a round towered church before heading into the countryside of Essex.  We were the only passengers as we sped past the stops, most of them named after farms (Fair Play Farm and Clay Tye Farm for instance).  We were running parallel to and east of the M 25, which enhanced out feeling of being out of London.  We were the only bus along here, and still the only passengers.

Under the M25 (briefly held up by road works and a red light) we came towards Upminster, and some more passengers got on, ending the solitude of our first fifteen minutes.  Overall, we shared our journey with about six other people, all of whom, like us, were travelling free.  in the last stages, we were joined by three young people, but they, too, travel free.

Now we were in residential areas, with a mixture of housing, including some which were decked for last weekend's patriotic mood.  There were bungalows in between semis and substantial detached properties, some of them clad with wood in East Anglian style.  What they did have in common was that they had almost all hardened their from gardens to provide car parking.

Once we were through Upminster, and past its station, we were soon back into countryside.  Through Pages Wood, we travelled along Shepherds Hill and admired the Shepherd and Dog pub.
We also enjoyed the name of the Cockabourne Bridge, which crosses the Ingrebourne.

This brought us into Harold Wood, with its rather sweet little station.  Then we turned left along the A12 to visit the Gallows Corner Retail Park (where, surprisingly, no-one got off or on) and then back along the A 12, passing what had once been the Plough Pub, very derelict but with no sign of the developers moving in.

As we came into Gidea Park and turned off the A12 onto the A118, we noted that there were many pubs:  we thought that this main road from the rich fields of East Anglia to London must (in the past) have needed plenty of watering holes for travellers.  We went over the end of the Park Lake in Raphael Park, once part of the grounds of Gidea Hall.

The next thing we knew, we were in the outskirts of Romford, where the three young people mentioned earlier got on ('this bus is too quiet' they yelled happily to each other)  We felt they could have walked to the station, where our bus terminated at 11.45.

Once again, the journey had taken ten minutes longer than the supposed time:  but given the very speedy passage between Ockendon and Upminster, it is hard to see how it could have been done any faster.