Monks Orchard Road to Upper Sydenham
Monday July 25th 2011
A beautiful summer’s day found Mary and Linda walking through the Shrublands Estate from the end of our last route to the start of the Number 356, which waits snugly at a grassy corner of Wickham Road and Monks Orchard Road. We were just crossing said grass when the bus moved off and although we ran the driver either did not or did not want to see us. So we settled down on the bus shelter seats for our 20-minute wait for this 3-an-hour single-decker one-door buslet (New word: buslet = baby bus). It duly came and left with us on the dot of 12.00 noon, with the Bethlem Hospital as its first stop, though no-one much wanted it along here. We had a little reminisce about patients we had known admitted here, mostly with positive outcomes.
Up until Eden Park we were the only passengers with the bus whizzing along past several request stops. Again this is a largely residential area though with more modest housing than Shirley and West Wickham – here the homes were in fact terraces though cunningly constructed to look like semis, at least along the main road.
The roads, and I think this is probably true of not just the main and bus thoroughfares but also the side roads, are generously wide and often sinuous, interspersed with floral roundabouts.
However, once you arrive at Elmers End modesty goes out the window and the Tescos, which to be fair is tucked in on what must have been ‘railway land,’ has an approach which makes it look like a small airport, with a flyover to the car park and an underpass to the station. Here many passengers got on, some flinging open all the windows and several with bags and luggage. I suppose if you want a quieter approach you need to follow the Waterlink Way. This is mainly a cycle path so depends on how pushy the cyclists are if you are planning to walk it…
The 356 heads up Elmers End Road past the Beckenham Cemetery and Crematorium, which has no very grand gates or obvious lodges and looks a little neglected (at least the gravestones do) from what can be seen from the road. See the 354 for famous burials.
Elmers End and Birkbeck stations serve the Cem & Crem like bookends and neatly show how the Victorians speculated and built railway lines in a rather ad hoc fashion – the stations are very close but on different lines – and the housing would have followed the railway.
Just past Birkbeck Station the bus turns off down the side streets, which form the ‘hinterland’ of Penge. The housing stock is quite old and for the most part well cared for, and though far from other shops there was a corner-shop fish bar remaining, looking quaintly old-fashioned
(Nearly complete July 2012)
As with several recent routes, we called into what many still call the Savacentre, but what is really a giant Sainsbury’s, which has its own bus area, and another chance to access the Waterlink Way. However, this time instead of heading up (Sydenham) High Street we went – equally uphill – along Perry Rise and Vale (both very aptly named as the bus climbs then drops a little) past a mixture of some newer built flats and a few shops, most notably ‘Hektik hair – we are for the individual,’ with several older properties. Most noteworthy are the so-called Christmas houses, built in the early days of the 20th century, doubtless soon after the railways arrived. Less commonare a few remaining Kent style cottages.
It is a good escape when the more worthy delights of the Horniman Museum opposite pall and was beautifully upgraded some years back.
Dulwich Woods to come to its final resting place (I think it might have expired if not allowed to pause) just past the Dulwich Wood House pub on Sydenham Hill and a handy connection to take us both home.
Actually this was an entrancing ride taking in as it did so many of the smaller and less well known corners of outer SE London, mostly green except for some Penge interludes.