Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Number 373 Route (Not)

I believe this was once a route between Upminster and Grays, Essex, which ran until 2007. It is no more.

In the spirit of the Olympics we offer you a London Bus disguised as a promotion for the forthcoming Brazilian Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, spotted at Crystal Palace apparently as the mobile HQ for Brazilian TV or LOCOG equivalent recording how it should or should not all be done.  (SHOULD: torch relays are fun; SHOULD NOT: using overpriced private security firms is not such a good idea.)

Also spotted several Welsh Police cars but that’s another story… 

The Number 372 Route

Hornchurch to Lakeside Shopping Centre
Thursday November 3rd 2011

This was the beginning of our ‘day in Essex’ and while we waited for our 3xhour route to come round the corner we went into one of the handy charity shops to buy a card for Mary. Jo had actually asked a newsagent if they had any postcards for Hornchurch and was met with a stare that clearly said; ‘Has this woman just landed from another planet?’  We took the hint and looked elsewhere. Hornchurch Town centre is pleasant – several more charity shops, more buses than even we could ask for and a range of eating places. One of the pubs was named ‘The Fatling & The Firkin’ so I was duly informed that a fatling is a beast to be fattened up for the table – the pub sign did not really convey this.

 The central reservation looked as though it might once have been something more significant than an Italian restaurant, but at least is in use and not derelict.   The bus was busy enough throughout – not to the point of having anyone standing but certainly never a ‘private bus’ as has sometimes been the case for us.

We were essentially following the last three stops of the east bound District Line and then out (as in Toy Story) to Infinity and beyond not only the underground network but the Zone 6 border which marks the edge of Greater London.  I have included a link to a District Line driver’s blog as without the tube we would not be able to access quickly the more outlying parts of North, West and East London. It has been harder than you think trying to identify when this line was built as most websites seem keener to tell me about the history of the Western end of the District Line (one of those West over East prejudices so common in London) as clearly most of the housing we passed today – and we passed row after row of terraced or semi-detached family homes – would have been built following the advent of the railway, most likely before 1939.

Back to the 372: by the time we had passed Elm Park, its station and amenities we had also spotted Harrow Lodge Park which clearly extends for some way, including some less managed wilder woodland areas.

Heading towards Rainham we spotted some signs (round fenced-off areas and derelict sites) for the Thames Gateway Development Board and this site seems to summarise Rainham’s problems (and some solutions) quite succinctly – Tescos, where of course the bus pulls in specifically, and a main road combine to kill the High Street and bisect the village from previous links, so one can only hope the solutions materialise soon.

Rainham Village brought us more passengers and thereafter the route definitely became more countrified as we passed farms, ploughed fields (very definitely autumn) and several grazing ponies. Talking of ‘fattening’ we spotted two farmyard geese, we presume living out their last days before the Christmas cull?? (Vegetarians look away) 

Such housing as bordered the road had the look of quite simple Victorian-era cottages – names such as Kent View and Laundry Cottages give you an idea both of how close to Kent this bit of near estuary is and also how earlier locals may have earned their money.

The roads linking the villages allowed the bus to speed up significantly and clearly it is not the only vehicle to do so. Once past the garden centres selling fireworks and Wennington Village we passed two roadside shrines in fairly quick succession and a sign saying ‘Automatic Number Plate Readers’ which we took as a sign that traffic moves too fast here. Some of this land would have been marshy – Rainham and Wennington both having had marshes which probably meant development came later rather than earlier. We also crossed the Mar Dyke) – an Essex River  flowing down to the Thames.

Essex also seems to specialise in dry weather planting and though rather damp today we passed some examples of plant choices for their roundabouts of which there seemed to be plenty today.

After a fast stretch – excuse coming up: single decker/dirty windows and grey day means poor choice of photos – the bus passed through Aveley, which from local history sites seems much older than Wennington with a church dating back to the 12th century, though what we could see from the bus was a development of very 21st century-looking post-modern housing units. Old and new it seems. The road names sound evocative though – Mill Lane and Ship Lane heading down to Purfleet and the Thames Estuary.

Some time ago when we walked the Erith to Thames barrier bit of the Thames Path (all south of the river of course) our walk was accompanied by the regular popping of guns seemingly from the Purfleet ranges and here we were – a mere pot shot away from them again. It is strange to think that there have been  gunpowder stores  here for over 250 years.

My antique (early 1980s) A-Z shows the area between the A13 and the M25 as chalk pits, and that is now of course where we were heading – but now transformed into a range of retail parks and the Lakeside Shopping Centre.  This was my first visit (though all I saw was the bus station) and am interested to learn that like Bluewater it was built on disused chalk pits, though this is not immediately obvious as the descent is not so steep as across the river at Bluewater.  I did not see the Lake either so feel a bit cheated.

The reason we did not let ourselves be distracted by the shops was that we had another bus to catch: the Number 372’s ‘doppelganger’ is the rather superior 370, about which you will already have read, and it was nearly ready to board. These are the only London buses to come this far.

Our trip from already outer London Hornchurch to Lakeside had taken 50 minutes.

The Number 371 Route

North Sheen (Manor Circus) but actually Church Road Richmond
to Kingston  (Kingston Hall Road)  (Pss, we break out west from Essex for one week...)
Thursday May 3rd 2012

This route came third in a 3 bus day which felt more like a 6 bus day possibly because Jo was brewing a fine cold, we had been chucked off our second route twice, and in spite of the date it felt as cold and damp as November. The trees and blossom were cheering but hard to capture. We left the despised 391 at Richmond Bus station with the intention of walking back to North Sheen, and must have been about halfway there when a 371 appeared from behind which confused us no end. After much consultation with the bus map and head scratching we decided the route must have changed and headed for the next stop in Church Road, where we boarded a well populated 371. Later research shows we actually got on at Stop 9, which is in direct breach of rules but we needed some warmth and comfort. We did pay the price by not getting good enough seats for much photography.  

In spring this should be a delightful route passing as it does by some of Richmond’s more gracious properties, most of which had ancient and well-tended wisterias to admire.  However the driver was taking these narrow residential streets at quite a lick so all we spotted was the gate of Richmond University, surely a private and very privileged institution?  St Elizabeth, mother to John the Baptist, has a small RC school named for her. Jo was in a mood for testing me on bits of the New Testament which I only manage to pick up through art and the buses.

Somewhat to our surprise, as we had no idea that we had climbed, we were suddenly on Richmond Hill and passing the front door of the Star and Garter home,  here since 1919 and caring for ex-servicemen. It dominates the skyline and is very visible from walking the Thames path. The charity’s website indicates they may be moving out next year so what next for this plot?

From here the ‘down’ was very noticeable and again speedy as we passed in quick succession Ham Common, the Dysart Arms, now just the Dysart  and not just offering ‘pub grub’ clearly where you have a drink when finishing the weekly match at the Ham Polo Club. As they list helicopters on their website I don’t imagine many members arrive via the 371!

Petersham Nursery  is also now probably more famous for its food than its fuchsias or foxgloves. Affluence is again visible in the fact that most properties are walled rather than merely having fences or hedges, but from a single decker sadly we could not peer over. Ham Street leads to the National Trust Property Ham House. Preservation fears and heavy use of blinds mean the inside is quite dark but there are some fine textiles and the gardens, as you might expect, are lovely.

There is a later side to Ham, we think a Sixties era development of sixties era development inspired if not built Span homes grace the roads round Broughton Avenue. More affordable tastes are catered for at the well-named  'Hansel & Pretzel'.

Tudor Drive and many of its associated side roads – Ann Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey – made us think of the Reformation so when I saw a shop offering ‘indulgence’ I took it in its historical sense of buying a place in heaven as opposed to being bodily pampered. Get a grip said my travelling companion.  Jo did manage to get the school’s advice down :
‘Park your car a few streets away,
it will keep you fit and hazards at bay’ Not great poetry but sound advice. I bet Ann Boleyn would have parked on the wavy lines.

On Queen’s Road the houses each had plasterwork beasts (as in ‘The Queen’s Beasts’) but all still quite visible. Latchmere House is well set back from the road as befits a former Youth Offending Institution, later prison, subsequently decommissioned. Now what for this large site and property?

Not daunted we pushed on round Kingston (not much hybridding here said Jo – we thought he was going too fast and relied on his diesel engine) with Tiffins and the Lovekyn Chapel as markers. For some reason the 371 along with the 85 are not allowed to rest at either bus station but wait patiently in Kingston Hall Road where we descended, the last passengers standing so to speak, about 35 minutes after boarding We did pass the Hogsmill and Clattern Bridge but took the photos on our walk back to the railway station. Given that we had bent the rules once already on this route cheating slightly on the photos seems a small indulgence (see what I did there?) in comparison.

A very pleasant way of getting from Richmond to Kingston if you are not inclined to take the Thames Path …

 Addendum or a route of two halves  Thursday May 10th 2012

North Sheen (Manor Circus) to Queen’s Road

Feeling rather guilty about short-changing this route, and as I happened to be in Richmond the following week, I rode from its start to where we boarded in error. This 4-5 an hour single decker rests and starts from a stop at the edge of the customer car park for Sainsbury’s, so not surprisingly was used by non car-owning shoppers to get their loads home. Talking of non car-owners, the length of the Mortlake Road which connects North Sheen to Richmond has a most excellent cycle track sharing the pavement with pedestrians and well screened off from the busy road, so I was sorry Jo was not with me to coo. One side of this road has charming cottages probably built about 1893, the date on the end one close to the Richmond Circus (I noticed that Richmond had circuses rather than roundabouts but it comes to much the same), while the opposite side is all glassy glossy office blocks frequently empty.

Once past the second circus progress was slow, giving me time to note that the Orange Tree theatre continues to thrive making Richmond a two theatre venue. The Orange Tree is handsome in its Victorian Young’s Pub while the theatre on the Green (not visible from the bus) is a well-maintained Frank Matcham gem.  

Back to Richmond, where we won and lost passengers past the station and the several fairly upmarket shops. The bus swings back on itself rounding the corner by Eton Street where they are building a food co-operative, according to the poster, but that may be a front for, yes you have guessed it, more offices.

The stretch of road from the corner to where the bus turns off down the continuation of Queen’s Road is characterised by a series of rather handsome Thirties developments – blocks face each other and the Christian Science Reading Room, though squat, is quite impressive. Obviously pre-dating this clutch of Thirties  blocks are the gracious Georgian and early Victorian homes for which Richmond is famous, many of which this week were hung about by wisteria in full bloom. The Quinn hotel brought me back to where we had started last week = route now completed end to end and honour satisfied!   

The Number 370 Route

3 November 2011

This, our second bus of the day, another single decker, picked up Linda and me (Mary being just out of  hospital) at 11.37 at Lakeside.  Having been to Bluewater last week, we were interested to see the place, but we did not linger long.
Heading back, round the roundabout, towards Hornchurch and then Romford,  we crossed the A13 (pic 6).

Our driver was being particularly considerate, waiting for elderly passengers to reach their seats before setting off again.  We passed a sign to the Pilgrim’s Lane Caravan Park, but this proves to be rather a puzzle, as it seems Thurrock Council disallowed it in June 2011. 

Of course I am probably confused.  If I had known the Interweb would  be this enigmatic, I should  have asked the charming fellow passenger, who told us lots of useful local information, about it.  She pointed out the Davy Down Riverside Park, which houses a pumping station for bore-hole water.  She also told us about the Rainham Bird Reserve and reminded us that we were in the Mardyke Valley.  

 The huge Thurrock Garden Centre was displaying its Christmas offerings, but also had fireworks for sale, and then our informant drew our attention to South Ockenden Church, which we should never have remarked upon without her.  It’s a Norman Church, and started life with a small spire surmounting its round tower.  But after a lightening strike, the Victorian parishioners gave it crenellations instead

 Passing the village green and the Royal Oak pub,  we were soon out into the countryside, with several farms. Our rate of travel was pretty rapid as we headed past the large crematorium and cemetery complex, and so we were soon into Upmister, and passing the Crumpled Horn pub . For those of you who wonder where you’ve heard the phrase before, here’s the answer. (By the way, all the pubs we passed in this corner of Essex/Thurrock seemed well maintained and thriving.  Of course it may be that closed pubs are turned into housing more rapidly than in other parts of London).  Homes round here were well tended and inclined to be large.

After going into and out of the station yard at Upminster, we passed the windmill, and then crossed the Ingrebourne looking fairly small after the dry weeks we have had.

We were also surprised - and delighted - that what appeared to be a historic rural pub was in fact a chinese restaurant

 College  students crowded on as we passed Wingletye Lane, and chatted quietly as we were held up in the roadworks of  the water company. 

 From there it was a swift swoop into Romford, to arrive at 12.36, exactly an hour to complete this interesting rural-feeling route.  We also had a chance to notice again the planting that the councils round here have adopted, presumably for fear that climate change will mean an end to rain. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Number 369 Route (not)

Well, this is a close run thing.  When we began our project, there was a 369, but by the time we reached its proper turn, it had gone, to be replaced by EL1.

According to Wikipedia, this is part of a new plan for a part segregated bus system, known as East London Transit.  Those of us who have travelled the segregated 'busway' from Cambridge to St Ives will watch with interest to see just how 'part segregated' things can become.

The other bus route which is directly affected by the new scheme, the 179, did not escape us!

Instead of a bus trip, therefore, here are the answers to the 63 Regular's challenging bus quiz, which we posted a few buses ago.
Actually, I think I'll put in the questions again too, to save you from having to go back through past buses:

1.     Which Hitchcock film inflicts an untimely end on a boy carrying what he thinks are some film cans on a double-decker bus?
2.     How many horsepower does Flanders and Swan’s ‘Transport of Delight’ boast?
3.     Which episode of the Harry Potter saga introduces the triple-decker Knight Bus?
4.     Which 1960s rock band found love sharing an umbrella at a ‘Bus Stop’?
5.     Which bus route did Radio presenter Geoff Lloyd defend at the Boring Conference in December 2010?
6.     What is the name of the bad-tempered double-decker bus character in the TV adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine?
7.     According to conventional wisdom, how long is a blue whale, measured in double-decker buses?
8.     What was the route number on the blind of the bus which Cliff Richard and his mates drove across Europe on their Summer Holiday?
9.     Which mod rock band sang about a ‘Magic Bus’?
10.   How fast do Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock have to keep the bus moving to stop Dennis Hopper’s bomb going off in Speed?

And here are the answers
1.     Sabotage
2.     97
3.     3 – HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban
4.     The Hollies
5.     23
6.     Bulgy
7.     3
8.     9
9.     The Who
10.   50 mph

The Number 368 Route

Thursday 17 July 2012

A brief train ride from our previous bus (the 364 for those of you too busy to watch the dates) brought is to Chadwell Heath and we walked the few metres to the new ugly police station (I make this value judgment about it only because we shortly passed the old police station, with the word ‘Police’ above its imposing door)

It is of course now the Eva Hart Pub, named for a survivor of the Titanic, and quite a feisty one at that 

Chadwell Heath clearly has something musical in the air, as both Millicent Martin (1970s) and Jessie J (now) were born here
Back past the station, we came soon to what had once been the Hind’s Head pub, now long gone and its freehold for sale. According to the Estate agent handling the sale, it should fetch £1,100,000;  we noted that both it and its ‘For Sale’ sign looked somewhat shabby, however.

Turning right along Bennett’s Castle Lane, retracing the 364 route, and then along Becontree Avenue, we noted the huge amount of formerly public housing, much of it improved by new owners.  We spotted Tudor type beams, crazy paving facing, Grecian pedimented porches and, of course, hardened front gardens since these houses were built before cars became ubiquitous.

As we passed Barking Football Club’s grounds, and St Cedd’s school we spotted the tell tale pink signs of the Olympics.  We speculated that an area was being prepared for the Flame and the accompanying fun and jollity next Saturday

We also admired a sort of ghost sign for the Co-op and spotted that W Wade sells live eels in his fish shop.  We speculated briefly about how you would get an eel home, but stopped short of envisaging the grisly sequel.

Goodmayes Park was looking green and lush and we liked the shop name of an appliance repair shop in Goodmayes: 'Safe Handz Domestix'.  Here we were held up in a long traffic queue, for about 10 minutes.  We feared the worst as an ambulance forced its way through, but once we finally moved on we saw no sign of what had held us up.  We went under the A 13 to head along the Barking Road. The large expanses of Rippleside cemetery were on our right for some time, before we came into Upney Lane.  The Harrow was another closed pub, as was the Bull later as we entered Barking town centre, but we cheered ourselves by remarking upon the dry weather planting that Barking and Dagenham has put in, ready for climate change to dry us out…. 
Ripple Primary School’s building dates from a time when there were separate boys’ and girls’ entrances. What am I saying?  With the proliferation of faith schools, no doubt a return to this segregation is on the way.

The bus was very busy here, with people standing, mostly, we thought, shoppers.  We noted a new Cosmopolitan shop about to open and passed an assisted care block called ‘Millicent Preston House’  But who she was I cannot discover.

The BroadwayTheatre in Barking  is where the memorial to Job Drain VC was erected in 2009 (pic)

Barking always seems to have masses of building going on, and today was no exception. We had also gone past the remains of Barking Abbey, founded by St Erkenwald for his sister, so it’s not all new build around here.

Now we came into the high street and passed the station to loop along Cowbridge Lane.  We passed the public art with the fish (we had previously noted the Jolly Fisherman Pub), reminders of Barking’s history as a fishing port 

This brought us to Hart’s Lane, where we finished our journey at 12.40.  It had taken about 15 minutes longer than it should, explainable by the traffic hold up earlier.

It’s been some time since we were in this part of the world, and we enjoyed renewing our acquaintance with it on a day when thick black clouds did not drop any rain on us at all.

The Number 367 Route

Bromley North Station to West Croydon Tramlink
Thursday May 26th 2011

We, that is Jo and Linda, Mary being more sensibly at the Chelsea Flower Show, had disembarked by Bromley North (as Paul indicated it should properly be referred to) Bus Garage to walk through the very pretty and deserted (it goes nowhere very useful) Bromley North railway station and almost immediately – though they only run three times an hour – boarded a 367 bound for West Croydon. There are other routes that cover this (the 119 for starters) but we were glad to board quickly as the long awaited rain was threatening.

Like all Bromley routes we headed round the one-way system and past some rather deserted shops in East Street – the Post Office has been moved to WH Smiths’ though they seemed to be doing something with the building, but the Fitness centre had lost the fight.  

As per usual the bus goes down the back of the Glades shopping complex – when last here in the spring the central reservation boxes had been a blaze of bright colours (mainly tulips) but today we were obviously catching them ‘between seasons’ and empty – and it started to rain.

At Bromley South station several passengers got on and stayed with us as we headed towards Shortlands. We had turned off the main road along Cumberland Road and passed the Thames Water Depot (it’s no longer a pump so not clear what happens here). All followers need to thank me for wading through a website dedicated entirely to pumps so that you don’t need to. I learned (and promptly forgot) about the infinite varieties that existed. The Shortlands pump was known as a waterworks BULL (after its ‘inventor’) and was something of a ‘market stall rip-off’ of the more famous Boulton & Watt pumps who took out a legal suit against Mr Bull – it was moved here in 1910 and the rather mellow brick building now offers some residential homes.

Anyway the bus uses a more back-street way along Beckenham Grove and Scots Lane to come out at Beckenham Town centre. There were some fine gardens along here with a range of well established plants – this week was a week for elderflower, a versatile bloom, which not only has a long folklore history but can also be eaten and drunk. This site of course will not be of much use to you if we actually publish in mid-winter but you can always buy cordial or plan ahead!

This time we came upon St George’s church from the side and made reasonable progress through the High Street, our second visit today, though we were about to turn off down Village Way and past the church of St Edmund of Canterbury who seems to have been something of success in his life-time: ascetic student at Oxford after whom St Edmund Hall was named, treasurer for Salisbury Cathedral and then Archbishop in Canterbury – the last always something of a ‘hot-seat’; he withdrew to France for the end of his life. You could probably write a similar CV for a high-flying cleric in 2012. 

It was a shame that we were only in a small bus as the views down from this road, which feels very like a ridge along a hill, must be pretty good from a higher viewpoint.   Our 367 turned into Wellhouse Way and then along Eden Park Avenue until we came out at the two big roundabouts that constitute Elmers End Green and the huge Tescos.

Though the route does pass  Monks Orchard School it does not really serve the Bethlem Hospital, which has been established round here since 1930 – its fourth location since it started as the world’s first hospital to specialise in the treatment of the mentally unwell at Bishopsgate (giving 'bedlam' to the world), moved briefly to Moorfields, then to St George’s site (now the Imperial war Museum) and latterly to here. By and large Monks Orchard is a quiet residential area and seems a far cry from the ‘bedlam’ of the inner city where most of the patients come from. No clerics this time – just a well-off Mr Monk.

In amongst the double-fronted set-back properties there was a run of bungalows, some of which had been extended more than once…

I am not entirely clear how but we very soon emerged from the back streets at Shirley and then plunged into what is now known as Shirley Oaks village. The original houses, some of which remain, were built as children’s homes (group homes based on the Barnardo’s model) run originally for the whole of London under the auspices of the LCC and later by Lambeth Borough. As I had visited a child there in the early Seventies I guess some of the homes remained open for a decade or so.  Then they were named alphabetically for trees and when the more modern homes were built they are named for flowers. It is likely this is the only bus route which serves the estate/development so most homes have cars.

Back on the main road, having done an entire loop from Wickham Road to Shirley Road, we passed the local new-build school Oasis Academy which seems to be a 5-16 learning environment including the library which is also accessible by the public. Students were dribbling out in small groups clearly having just finished some GCSE exams with lots of ‘note comparing’ going on – never a good move.

In contrast to the still shiny newness of much of Shirley, Addiscombe looked a bit tired – there were shops trying to make a go of things such as Ground Jewels – a gardening shop.

From here it was something of a slower run into West Croydon via the usual one-way routes, passing East Croydon and the Whitgift Shopping Centre and finishing outside the bus station.

The walk through to West Croydon and the Overground are barely marked (West Croydon is such a poor relative to East Croydon station) and one feels they ought to build a walkway to connect the bus, tram and train stations but clearly there is no cash for that. A lick of Orange paint is about all that West Croydon is going to get. 

Another somewhat loopy East-West route but more pleasant and offering more variety (even if largely residential) than the well-trodden main road routes we have already taken. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Number 366 Route

Wednesday 18 May 2011

 Beckton Bus Station to Redbridge (Falmouth Gardens)

This was the third bus of the day for Mary and me, Linda being on holiday.  We had arrived at the hub which is Beckton Bus Station (or Asda car park!) at 12.20 and so stepped without much of a pause onto our single decker.  None of today's route was new to us, and it would be true to say that we were feeling  little jaded, and not too inclined to enthuse at the passing scene,

We went east before heading north, to pass East Beckton and the Gallions Reach Shopping Centre before taking a loop to call at Sainsbury’s.  As we have said before, this is an area where the huge industries of the past have been replaced by retail opportunities.  The complex roundabouts that get you over the A13 brought us to Barking, and past the station, then on for brief views of Barking Park with its lake.  The Park has benefited from a sizeable grant from the Public Parks Initiative of the Heritage Lottery Fund, but we didn't really pause to sample its many delights

Almost without a break, we were in Ilford.  We know Ilford well, as it is traversed by many buses, but today we did not linger, pushing on up The Drive to Redbridge, where we passed the station. This route takes us past many stations, as if suggesting that there are faster ways to get around East London than by bus.

We had only a little way to go, to arrive just over an hour after we had set off, in Falmouth Gardens, with its mixture of semis and bungalows.  From there it was a short walk back to Redbridge Station and the Central Line.  

From the River at beckton to Redbridge, we had been through residential areas, varied only by areas of public green space.  Some of the spread of this area was due to relocation after the bombing of the Second World War, and some, we supposed, to people choosing to move outwards from London for less traumatic reasons.