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?)