Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Number 385 Route

Monday 2 July 2012 

Please don’t ask me whose fault it was that we missed this once an hour bus:  Linda and Mary were forgiving, at any rate, so it would be churlish to suggest that the TfL bus map was at fault.  With 57 minutes to fill, we had a sandwich in the cafe of the huge Crooked Billet (no relation to Penge’s as enjoyed on the 354) Sainsbury’s  and, refreshed, boarded the 13.00 bus, bound for Chingford Station.  We were surprised at the large Holiday Inn (views of Sainsbury’s car park,  the North Circular and the A112;  but people do need to stay somewhere on the way into and out of London)

We came out of the supermarket area, and passed the Walthamstow Stadium.  It is four years since there were any greyhound races there, and the planning row about developing the site seems to go on and on.  I should have thought English Heritage would want to maintain the handsome stadium, even if it were to be converted to community use of some kind.  Ian Duncan Smith, the local MP, appears to be against the development.

The large terrace houses along Chingford Mount Road had lovely plasterwork details in varying paint shades, and we also passed the Chingford Boarding Kennels, unusually town-centre compared to many such establishments. 

The next feature was the Chingford Memorial Gardens  and then we came to a couple of interestingly named pubs:  the King’s Ford which (strangely for a Wetherspoon’s pub) has no explanation on the web site:  which king?  When did he ford, and what?  Also the Artisan, which I suppose needs less explanation.

Now we headed along Hall Lane, to travel parallel to the reservoirs and the River Lee Diversion.  None of this was visible, but we recognised the grassy banks and fierce fencing and there are some pictures here.  We turned right of the main road, which by now was called Waltham Way, to travel through neat residential areas.  If some of the semis round here were once public housing, they have certainly been done up and beautified by their current owners. 

As we approached the outskirts of Chingford, we noted  Maximus Memorabilia which may have roman helmets on its fascia, but actually specialises in more recent collectables   We were interested to pas a Corporation of the City of London Sign indicating that we were touching the edge of Epping Forest and also one of those wooden clad houses which  are a feature of this part of Essex.

Then we came to the war memorial, which is in the shape of a cross, quite unusual, we thought, though a quick look at the website of the UK National Inventory of War Memorials proves us wrong, as there are nearly 6000 with a cross shape. 

 And so we arrived at Chingford Station, where we have been before.  The trip had taken the 25 minutes advertised on the bus stop; for quite a lot of the way we were the only passengers, so maybe once an hour is enough.

We noted a message to the local MP before heading to the railway station next door to return to our homes. 

(It was here at Chingford Bus Station, on a previous visit, that a bemused student doing a survey asked us what we would do when we finished the project, and was a bit shocked when I suggested lightly that we might all be dead by then) 

The Number 384 Route

Wednesday  29 August 2012

More than three years since we rode the 383, here we were heading back to the Barnets.  Linda and I hoped that Mary was having a good time, and met at Cockfosters Station.  We were on the bus by 10.20 and heading out and right along Mount Pleasant.  Our single decker was in 'hail and ride' mode from the start, picking up people heading for the shops, we thought, and later, people heading home from the shops.  It was the sort of bus that pops into and out of residential areas, the driver skilfully squeezing past parked cars on both sides of most roads.

We admired the well kept properties, and liked the fact that  most of the verges-between-driveways were planted up as auxiliary flower beds.  The attractive green area in front of the parade of shops reminded us that councils like to take care of the spaces they have, and we were pleased to see the Jester Pub was still operational, though of course quiet in the morning of a Wednesday.
Through mixed semis and flats, most with parking areas for front gardens, we came to Pymme's Brook, and ran alongside it for a while before crossing to head back along the other side of it.  We were surprised to see a gas holder among all the residential properties as we headed along Lawton Road, and interested to see two police cars, with officers talking to the residents.  But however much London may seem like a cluster of villages, we knew we should never find out what it was all about. As we went on through the housing area to get to the East Barnet Road, the bus stopped often to let people off conveniently near their front doors.

This was to be a route with confident looking pubs.  We thought the Lord Kitchener was looking much healthier that when we were last hereabouts, as did the Railway Bell Pub, the name of which told us we were approaching New Barnet Station.  We headed past the war memorial with Victory at the top, sculpted by Newbury Abbot Trent.  He apparently also embellished a number of cinemas, and made other memorials. 

As we came out of the bus station, and headed onwards, we were still in 'Hail and Ride' areas until we reached the stop proudly labelled for the Barnet Odeon.  I say proudly, because a history stretching back to 1935 is something to admire.

We noted an 84 bus with its modern electric display reading '100 years old' as it headed home from St Albans.  Then we spotted the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School at the Bull, once a pub.  Not all the entertainment venues we passed this morning were thriving, sadly, and we saw that the Ocean restaurant had ceased to offer 'fish in matzo crumbs'.

Arriving at the Spires, this bus barely pauses to change drivers, before heading on to other parts of Barnet.  We passed a small mirror shop which had looking glasses of every imaginable shape, including a golf bag and a running shoe.  The route then continues to Barnet Hospital, it being a rule of nature that buses always go to hospitals if at all possible.  After a pause to say hello to a 384 heading in the opposite direction on these narrow roads, we were again into 'Hail and Ride'.

We gasped at the impressive new building of Whitings Hill Primary School.  As you may have noticed, we like the new schools built by the last government, as we know that students do better in attractive surroundings, and efficient classrooms and public spaces.

Thus at 11.00 we reached the Quinta Drive Parade of shops, where the 384 terminates.  It had taken 40 minutes to travel through the various residential areas and, though the sky had looked pretty grey at times, we had enjoyed snatches of sun and no rain.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Number 383 Route

Woodside Park Station to Barnet (The Spires)
Monday June 28th 2010

Passing Comment: We rode this route two years ago – before we had our five minutes of fame last week – so it was a route devoid of glamour or incident, which is what life on most of the 300+ routes ridden to date has been like. We have, however, in view of our ‘celebrity status’ (come on, now, let’s not overdo the irony) now also been asked to lend our support to a campaign against the proposed library closure in Friern Barnet,  through which we passed during this trip.  As you may imagine, as Freedom Pass users we also approve of libraries which offer both book and IT access to their communities plus local information for all users. Many library buildings are very attractive and well situated near bus stops so it would be sad to see them go and I am sure this applies to Friern as much as any London area library faced with closure.  

Following on the hottest day of 2010 so far and England’s defeat to Germany (that could be 2006 or any other year then?) in the World Cup will remind what you were all doing as this will take some years yet to be posted

 A muddle for which we both shared the blame meant instead of walking a short distance from our key bus we had taken a more circuitous approach and found ourselves waiting 25 minutes for a twice hourly service which we had clearly just missed – nice station frontage but nowhere to sit, but no complaints about the sunny aspect of things. Some locals with dog in tow, clearly knowing their route, arrived just in time to board the very smallest of buses – a mere 47 person capacity vehicle with only one door.

You will guess from this that sections of the route were ‘Hail & Ride’ and indeed that was the case – it was nice to see how well the driver knew his passengers, asking after the health of a gentleman whom he had missed seeing for a while.  

Woodside Park appears to merge into Torrington Park, all situated within the London Borough of Barnet, which we must have crossed most of today. Some parts had Edwardian villas turned into multi-occupancy homes or small hotels, then later came inter-war era semis with some infill from newer smarter small blocks. We passed Friary Park a fine Edwardian Park on the site of a former Hospitaller foundation – this route, along another of North London’s Ridgeways, skirts two aspects of the park but because of the bus size photos were difficult to take. This part of Barnet still has some historic buildings in the shape of some pretty little almshouses, endowed in 1610 by Lawrence Campe,  though the buildings are from a later, probably post –fire date. Then there is a church alongside the North Middlesex Golf Club, which seemed to be touting for  Lady Golfers, but finding no takers amongst the Ladies Who Bus
I confess we got quite confused about the geography hereabouts nearing Oakleigh Park as we seemed to go from Friern past Whetstone and Totteridge Station (you can’t seem to have one without the other?)  and then into New Barnet – Barnet council has put up a series of signs telling the public they are entering East Barnet Village or New Barnet (or even Friern or Chipping)  but some of the bits of New Barnet looked quite old. Old enough to have a pub named the ‘Lord Kitchener’, which Jo  found interesting. This would have reflected a time when his reputation would have stood higher than it does today.

 Also there was me thinking Whetstone was something different but it may just be a corruption of West Barnet … This cross borough route needed its small bus dimensions as we passed through a very narrow bus gate (one-way for us only) and under a very low bridge similarly. There was significant passenger changeover at Sainsbury’s as shoppers got on and off and then another flurry of interest as we entered Barnet Barnet, where the bus left us at the Waitrose (not the first one today by any means) entrance to the Spires shopping Centre so named we think for Barnet having the tallest church spire in London – see our comments on the Route 34. 

This really cannot be described as anything other than a very local hopper bus but a pretty relaxing 40 minutes in the back streets of yes – you remembered – BARNET
Whetstone has been described as historically being an important staging post but I am not sure the  Route 383 will have the same fame in years to come..

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Number 382 Route

Mill Hill East Station to Southgate Station
Wednesday June 29th 2011

Following on the hottest day of the year so far and some epic thunderstorms, which disrupted trains especially in North and East London – a couple of facts to help remind you of the time of year, and indeed, given our long odyssey, which year we undertook this journey…

We had arrived via Mill Hill East station which is an adventure in its own right – Jo had patiently waited for 11 minutes at Camden for a direct train while I changed at Finchley Central – as a result having the wrong impression that one little train shuttles between Finchley and the very sweet country cottage lookalike Mill Hill East station.

The bus departs from opposite the station and such was my enthusiasm to catch it I was nearly run over by a passing motorbike. My travelling companion made sure the bus driver waited which was just as well as he proved to be in something of a hurry. However this was probably the most exciting bit of our trip…  Mill Hill East is leafy and seems to be wedged between two prestigious golf courses that are more visible from the train: from this single decker the main view was of outer North London suburbia – on the whole more rather than less affluent.  As a local route serving the communities largely of Barnet and Southgate it was quite difficult to orientate myself and I therefore did some research at home to give some shape to the route, which broadly was low on shops or public buildings and high on homes of all sorts.

Soon after starting and having passed post-War family housing we emerged briefly at Finchley Central station (we could have cheated, said Jo, and met here to board the bus) and surprisingly only a short hop up what is essentially Finchley High Road though called Ballards Lane at this point. Very soon we were in Hail & Ride territory, of which there were three patches on this trip, with the passengers all hailing each other as well as the driver so there was quite a steady hum of chat between the folk riding along. We emerged along the side of what proves to be the Great North Leisure Park. However rather than a load of Geordies clubbing, which is what the name conjures up, it proves to be little more than a cinema multiplex with bowling added on. Tucked alongside we spotted the Air Cadets Squadrons 2 & 21 local base and thought the cadets might just be tempted to nip off to the cinema if their allocated tasks proved too boring.

On the way along to Colney Hatch we passed The Compton School,  one of the more recent recruits/converts/conscripts to Academy status, and more quaintly a pub called ‘The Triumph’ (pubs were few and far between on this trip also) which clearly is not a triumph as it is currently closed awaiting demolition or redevelopment?

Talking of demolition: as were passing through Colney Hatch (where several passengers got off, probably to take the Number 43) it might be worth digressing into the history of the institution that was built here in the 19th century. Not only was it a prototype for most large mental hospitals that certainly proliferated round London's outer edges,  but it is also thought it came to give its name to mental hospitals generally and led to expressions such as booby hatch (from Colney Hatch perhaps) whence also booby prize and booby trap.

No sign of the hospital today but a very large and exclusive-looking housing development which may or may not be in the former buildings of Colney Hatch.  Though we glimpsed the view it was hard to capture but certainly this part of the trip was often uphill and along a ridge with good views. By now we had reached New Southgate station and some cutting through the back streets brought us out at Arnos Grove Station – always a pleasure and like us enjoying the sunshine of this summer’s day. 

The drivers changed here so we had a lingering chance to admire Charles Holden’s  elegant work before returning to Betstyle Circus (returning as in having passed this way on other routes) and heading from there towards the Brunswick Park corner of Southgate. Again this part of the route seemed low on shops and public buildings and soon we were taking a narrower route alongside the  New Southgate Cemetery  and Crematorium – the first section we passed looked very overgrown and which like most things called ‘new’ are actually getting on a bit. Although its website refers to “well tended” we spotted some overgrown parts but these could of course be deliberately set aside for wildlife.  It certainly is one of London’s more multi-cultural cemeteries with different sections for different parts of the community. The most memorable grave is that of Shogi Effendi from the Ba’hai faith who died unexpectedly whilst in the UK.

Already on our third hail and ride section of the trip, the bus took a little loop through an estate with signposts to a walk called the Waterfall Way which like many features on this route has been a little difficult to locate but is probably part of the  Pymmes Park Trail. The last section of the route from Osidge to Southgate is better provided with shops and public buildings so finally you could borrow a book (the Library) report a crime (the Police station) and even buy a bridal gown. Southgate preserves its country feel as demonstrated by the must be hard to clean bus shelters which are a series of little lychgate type huts, rather than the usual metal frames. 

Southgate station is quite circular, with geometric borders, and has an outer ring for the Station parade and stopping places for buses but we scarcely had time to admire the layout and buildings as our next route was all ready to go, the 382 having taken well under an hour to serve this route. (And how can you not love a route that introduces you to Osidge?)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Number 381 Route

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Well, hello to all the people who are reading this blog for the first time thanks to what happened yesterday.  I feel the need to explain, so if you (very reasonably) just want to read about the 381 route, please scroll down.  First, I want to deal with the 'ladies' thing.  We are all of the age and social attitudes that mean that we call ourselves 'women' but 'ladies who bus' was a sort of joke about 'ladies who lunch'.  I expect you all realised that, anyway.

So, some weeks ago the excellent people at London Councils (who administer the Freedom Pass) suggested that when we reached the 381, which passes their door at 591/2 Southwark Street, we should drop in for a coffee and biscuits.  I contacted them last week to say we were arriving, and they asked if we would mind them sending out a press release.  Of course we agreed, since we are always grateful to them, and would probably agree to do their washing up if asked.  Little did we realise that, in this week after the fabulous Olympics, people might be looking for a happy little story.  And what we got was BBC London 94.9 at 07.45, BBC TV London News both at lunch time and in the evening, and ITV London Tonight.  Also the London SE1 Community website and the BBC website. Wow.

It all took rather longer than usual, so it's as well we had planned to do only one bus, rather than taking a second one to bank for later blogging.  We were delighted that William came too.  He is Mary's grandson, and - of course - likes buses.

Now, onto the bus.  The 381 is a splendid route, which takes you from Peckham bus station to Waterloo,  looping eastwards as it goes.  It is also a double decker, which adds to the enjoyment.  Linda had paused on her way to visit the  peace wall, an art work made up of the post-riot messages left by Peckham residents. We met at the 381 stop, to be greeted by David, TfL's press man, and then by Phil from ITV and his camera man. 

I had time to photograph the delivery lorry outside Morrisons, with the not-quite-Olympian slogan, which we found rather funny.

We headed off at 09.45, and noticed some Olympic cars in the flow of traffic before turning left and right, noticing that the police had cordoned off parts of the open space outside the Library, thought we didn't know why.  As we travelled directly towards the distant Shard, our lady driver waited politely while a man with 5 staffies crossed the road.  
We turned fairly sharply right into Peckham Park Road, where a serious amount of new housing was going up.  We just spotted the Southwark blue plaque which shows where Rio Ferdinand was brought up, before reaching Canal Bridge.  This name is one of several remains of the Grand Surrey Canal, which once aimed to be as important as the Northern Grand Union Canal.  Turning right towards Surrey Quays, our driver waited for a would-be passenger to run across the road to the stop.  Now we twiddled around Caitlin Street, to serve the residents of the area, we supposed, before getting back to the main road. We passed the Old Southern Railway Stables,  where allotment holders like Mary can get free horse manure if they bring their own bags.  Speaking of allotments, there were some well maintained plots on the other side of the road, one with a peach tree with pink, ripe fruit.

We also passed the City of London Academy, with its fine buildings and (if you check the website) equally fine students, before turning very sharply right into Galleywall Road to reach the Rotherhithe New Road.

  Manoeuvring a 381 round such corners takes skill we can only wonder at.  So far, we had been heading AWAY from Waterloo ever since we left Peckham, and now we took a turn around the retail and transport hubs of Surrey Quays and Canada Water.  Again, a serious amount of new housing is going up, and we had time to admire the amazing library, as well as feeling nostalgic for our very first trip, as we paused for a few minutes in the Canada Water bus station.

Looping round Redriff Road, we saw signs to Lavender Pond Nature Reserve, in the middle of much housing, and also noted a youth hostel and,  Olympic reference of sorts, a pub still marked with the Wenlock Brewery 1913 sign.

Passing the Rotherhithe Overground Station, we also spotted Mucky Pups Dog Grooming, to add to our collection of entertaining shop names.  Then we saw Heather Burrell's wonderful leafy cyclist as we skirted the access to the Rotherhithe Tunnel. 

Now, at last, we were heading west, along Jamaica Road.  We half expected to see lots of Jamaican flags to celebrate the Bolt phenomenon, but did not.  Along here we were asked to move to the back seat for our ITV 50 seconds of fame, but were looking out of the windows again along Tooley Street and past one of London's most successful tourist attractions.

Turning left and then right to reach Southwark Street, we admired the lovely carving of the Hop Exchange, before getting off for our London Council's rendezvous, at 10.45.

Here we said goodbye to the ITV people, and went up to the roof for wonderful views of, among other things, our bus stop, as well as the Shard, distant Crystal palace and, indeed, much of London.

Back to the bus stop at 11.55, this time with Warren from the BBC and his cameraman, we boarded a much older and less clean bus, with the heating on.  We were almost at Waterloo, but did pass the Kirkaldy Testing Museum, which I warmly recommend, especially to people who wonder why the beautiful bridge over the silvery Tay collapsed.

We reached the end of the route shorty after 12.00, but I need to reassure people who want to ride it that it doesn't usually take this long.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Number 380 Route

Thursday 9 August 2012

A beautiful, sunny day seemed to Linda and me just right for taking a bus from Lewisham to HM Prison Belmarsh, and we met at the station.  Mary was having fun at the Olympics:  we hoped as much fun as we had had earlier in the week!

The bright sunshine and single decker bus meant that pictures were hard to obtain, but Linda did her usual competent thing.  We were off by 10.10 and soon out of the streets of Lewisham, passing the Clock Tower and heading up Lewisham Hill.

I am always surprised at how bits of London join together, and lo, here we were on Black Heath.  We spotted two mounted police officers, as well as an enclave of police vans and tents (for communications, we thought, rather than sleeping bags and campfire singsongs.  Of course - we were very close to the Equestrian events in the historic part of ROYAL Greenwich.  Our economical instincts were reassured that the borough has not changed every sign to reflect its royalness, which dates only from early February this year.  There was also a funfair going on, but Linda and I passed it without a pang of envy.

We were allowed along a road closed to other traffic, (by which I mean that someone in a high vis jacket moved a bollard to let us through) and headed towards Charlton, crossing the main road which feeds the Blackwall Tunnel.  The route became very wiggly, and our driver demonstrated both skill and patience in roads too narrow for parked cars, buses and moving traffic all at once.  We came past the Charlton Liberal Club, clearly dating from the ancient days before Lib Dems and such.  It said it was affiliated with the C and I Union, but the TUC website gives no clue of what this might be.

Heading steeply uphill, we were reminded again of how hilly south London can be.  There were large blocks of public housing here, being renovated;  the housing became more varied as we came into Charlton Village.  We noted Charlton Reptiles shop before we turned left down Church Lane to reach Charlton Park and Marion Wilson Park (or Maryon Wilson Park as it is spelt on some web pages)  It seems local people have been having a campaign to save the animal centre there.

We passed St Thomas's Church, whose sign, interestingly (well, I thought so anyway) refers to the Benefice of Charlton, rather  than Parish;  and then, of course, we were into Woolwich, with the various barracks converted into houses and flats.  Our route was fairly wriggly, but it is clear that it is always like this, and has nothing to do with the Olympics.  It did mean we came rather close to Woolwich Dockyard Station as well as Woolwich Arsenal Station.  There is a big screen on the area outside the station, though people seemed more interested in their shopping than in watching Team GB.
(I hope no-one will mind if I mention now that I am still not clear about why it is GB and not UK?  Are there no competitors from Northern Ireland?)

 Now we headed on to turn right at the new flats where Crossrail is coming.  The same hoardings have been up, promising frequent and accessible travel to central London, ever since we first visited Woolwich in the spring of 2009, but I suppose we shan't see progress until stations and such begin to sprout.
Opposite Plumstead Bus Garage is the Greenwich Islamic Centre and mosque, a handsome building, only recently completed.

Turning into Goosander Way, we realised that we were into Thamesmead, with its streets named for birds, as well as some actual geese along the water's edge.  The various streams which criss-cross Thamesmead are mostly canalised and artificial, but none the less attractive for that.

 Once we got out of the town of Thamesmead, people were getting off with their shopping, rather than getting on, and after Hillview Drive we were the only passengers, back westwards, to reach the little layby next to Belmarsh Prison at 11.00.  All seemed very peaceful, and it was hard to imagine this as a category A prison, or indeed to picture Ian Huntley, Ronnie Biggs, Abu Hamza and so on in this green corner of Thamesmead.