Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Number 345 Route

South Kensington to Peckham
Tuesday May 11h  2010

Our key route for the day the 70 had left us just round the corner, and the fact we found our driver seemingly dozing slumped over the wheel of his double decker should I suppose have been a warning for us. He did switch the engine on, which was kind as it gave us some heat before we set off. The fact that we needed heating in mid May was another issue.

It’s a long while since we have passed so close to the great London museums and Natural History was looking busy as ever plus two elephants from the art project running at the time we boarded this route, on our way back from two much earlier routes. Our first impression was that South Kensington and Kensington generally were stiff with Blue Plaques – we passed in quick succession:

Bela Bartok
Sir Alfred Munnings and
Sir John Millais at 2 Palace Gate

The shops also reflect the affluence of the area with Butler & Wilson’s shop showing quality vintage frocks and The Wedding Shop just oozing silver and crystal, if that’s what people really want as wedding gifts?

We also passed the College of Psychic Studies, which in a way seems a contradiction in terms but I suppose even good psychics can learn how to do better.  The housing down to Battersea Bridge is of course delightful and at this time of year covered in blooming wisteria. Some of the lesser blocks  are well crafted also. 

Once over the bridge (another bridge that is shut over the weekend) we noted some of the new building that is going up along here, doubtless trying to claim a ‘river view,’ and there remain some interesting pubs and local restaurants partly to cater for the overspill of Royal College of Art students.  Not sure if this is the new building promised following planning permission in 2008?  Battersea Park Road has its share of ancient and modern and we really hoped that someone would come forward and preserve the rather lovely semi-detached villas (Shakespere & Byron they are called) that were half-boarded up along here.

It was about this point that we started getting irritated with this route as it was so clearly NOT going the most direct way: all in all we spent much time willing it to go straight ahead and instead it would hang another left, or more usually right, just to annoy us, and all at a very slow speed.  Up we went, past Clapham Junction and part way along Lavender Hill, noting that the library, previously encased in scaffolding for cleaning, had emerged rejuvenated though we were not sure for how long it would remain pristine, given the volume of traffic and number of buses.

After Lavender Hill we left the Shaftesbury Estate, built as railway workers’ cottages and now much sought after, on the left we headed up the fine wide Cedars Avenue to Clapham Common. Lambeth Council has housing both sides of the road but we noted at the beginning and end much older mews passages where the ‘ghost’ writing indicated first horses were stabled and shod here and later motor cars, and in fact they still seem to do some servicing work.

Clapham Common was reassuringly green, but not surprisingly – given the temperatures – the children’s paddling pool had not been filled. Once past Clapham Old Town and the Northern Line tube station we were astonished when the bus turned north again and headed for Stockwell.  It has to be said that for most of our journey this far we had been ambling at a very leisurely pace, and by the time we got to Stockwell we stopped altogether and waited, presumably to regulate the service but no reason given.

We have no objection to Stockwell, but to take this route seems an absurd dog-leg for a part of London pretty well served by transport already, so maybe our friends or followers in Stockwell might enlighten us as to whether they need this route too? Since we last came this way about five months ago the temporary shrine to Jean Charles de Menezes has become a permanent tile memorial by the station. Round the roundabout, with its signpost to the (Type Museum  no I didn’t know there was one either) we went direction Brixton, crossing the High Road which at least spared us the nose to tail that is the Brixton Road. We then headed off up to Camberwell. At this point the 345 closely follows, as it has done for much of the route thus far, the 35 and 45 but now also pretends it’s a P4.

Outside Loughborough Junction we loitered some more (not the best of places to stop) and then again in Coldharbour Lane we stopped and the driver warned us he would take three minutes or so – most passengers heading for Camberwell Green just got off and walked. We meanwhile had all the time in the world to admire the eating joints of the Green, including the quaintly named (Rock Steady Eddies though those who have taken breakfast there seem to agree the name is best thing about the café: a true ‘greasy spoon’

Sugar Momma, however, proves to be a dress shop. We had passed a nice range of hairdressers today, which I have ‘collaged’ to compress them.

As routes go the 345 has a comparatively short history (1995) and really duplicates a whole lot of other routes but I suppose its unique selling point is that it joins up the bits…rather like beads on a necklace…

Once through Camberwell, where the 345 has its own lane to turn right, we were heading straight for Peckham, passing Cambwerwell Arts College (a 2 Art College bus!) and the Harris Academy, and so right into Peckham Bus Garage.

Mary was anxious to pick up a grandchild after school and she had been somewhat spooked en route to find some of her former haunts for meetings demolished and already reduced to that fine rubble that demolition firms can now so easily do.

Thoroughly irritated (and hungry) we descended to make our various ways home glad we had ticked this route off our list – not one, we decided, to revisit on a voluntary basis. 

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