Monday, 4 June 2012

The Number 344 Route

Liverpool Street Station to Clapham Junction
Monday November 9th 2009

Our key route for the day, the 42, had left us at Liverpool Street so we waited for this double decker outside the Royal Bank of Scotland watching our employees stand there smoking, and even watched three of them leaping into a taxi at our, the tax payers’, expense along a stretch of road served by no fewer than 12 bus routes. By the time you read this the banking crisis/recession may well be over (hollow laugh – June 2012) but even when well into it, it seems outrageous that people should do this.

Our ‘taxi’, that is the estimable 344, took us back into the City past  Heron Tower and St. Ethelburga's
with its centre for peace and reconciliation – the poor City churches that survived the Blitz or, in this case, IRA bombing are very dwarfed by business. The upper stories of some of the not so new buildings have some interesting friezes both on this building and later as we passed the Vintners’ Place. Near Fish Street there was a 1709 clock, so still working after 300 years.

We did an exciting wriggle actually round the base of the Monument and back across the approach to London Bridge so that we could cross  Southwark Bridge 

the ONLY BUS to do so! Tide was very low and still going out and there we were across back in South London.  These bits close to the River are a strange mixture of the new and spruce such as the Novotel and others strangely Dickensian like Marshalsea and Quilp Street. – Dickens seems to be claimed by most London boroughs as having lived there and Southwark is no exception. The bus was not busy – few passengers so far even though it’s the only bus traversing this bit of Southwark. We liked the look of the Island CafĂ© at 1 Flat Iron Square SE1 being more in the line of a traditional caff but it too was not busy today.

We did the inevitable but today pretty swift circuit at Elephant & Castle and swept along St George’s Road and not only past the side of the Imperial War Museum but rather grandly along the front so we could fully appreciate the guns and the dome. bathed in autumn leaves amidst the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park. William Bligh of the Bounty infamy once lived (and therefore has a Blue Plaque) along here – ‘such a loser’ as Jo says. At this point we headed back to the river, passing the Marine Society from 1756 and arriving alongside the Lambeth Garden History Museum which is one of the more attractive sites of the Albert Embankment that tends to the featureless, be it residential or business. The River is magnificent though and worth the ride. Next bridge along ('Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew, twenty bridges or Twenty Two’) is Vauxhall topped with Mr.Tradescant’s pineapples. Then comes the really scary 6 lane one way system which even the buses would have to brave – only a suicidal cyclist would attempt this I fear: they need their own underpass or bridge?? Dominating Vauxhall also is the MI6 building.
Talking of features, still the most ‘stand-out’ one along Nine Elms is Battersea Power Station which from this proximity was looking fragile and decaying – it is a lovely outline on the horizon – perhaps we just need a cut-out and not the real thing?

As already noted it was quiet today but we still did not expect a full size lorry to behave like a white van and do a U-turn in front of us on Battersea Park Road. Strangely an old ILEA school has now bee n taken over by the private sector and is a preparatory and pre-prep school, which tells you something about the gentrification of this area over the last 20-30 years.

Turning away before we reached Battersea Bridge (otherwise this would have been a 5 bridge bus) instead we headed uphill towards Latchmere – the bus was getting pretty busy by now with more passengers – with a range of shops and services going from the beautifully restored George Blunden Almshouses to Barking Betty (hair care for dogs) and the Islamic Cultural Centre which has both a shop front and house converted to Mosque.

A last push uphill and under the railway bridges and there we were at our destination of Clapham Junction, having taken just about the prescribed time – never wildly exciting but plenty to keep one interested in this fairly extensive east to west trip. Always looking polished, The Falcon (pub) keeps the flame of the lost river Falcon flying and reminds us many road routes follow the valleys of even older now lost rivers.

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