Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Number 394 Route

Homerton Hospital to The Angel (Islington) Tolpuddle Street. 
Wednesday March 14th 2012

Mary, Jo and Linda managed to walk in the correct direction for once, namely along the rapidly gentrifying Chatsworth Road from where the 308 had left us and back to Homerton Hospital. As this is a hub for several routes the buses have their own car-free (and doubtless carefree as spellchecker would have it) space. This number was busy from the start, mainly taking on board the ‘walking wounded’ – slings/plasters and crutches where the NHS had put them back together. Interesting to note that although it is not very well signposted, certainly from the direction we approached  is in fact a designated ‘Olympic’  hospital.
But sometimes there are just too many notices on the streets to take them all in.

With the numerous passengers and their luggage/shopping and buggies all settled we set off with our first destination Central Hackney and Mare Street. This is a very densely populated part of London and we noted how hard Hackney council was trying to improve the facilities for residents: for instance there were raised beds awaiting seeds and plants in the greens by old LCC-era blocks and the shiny new City Academy School – only built in 2009 – where the pupils have bright red blazers, to match their school’s frontage, which certainly makes them visible when crossing the road. 

The route through Hackney, especially along Mare Street, can be a traffic nightmare but today went smoothly, and just slow enough to photograph St John’s and the Town Hall. Opposite the well-established Hackney Empire is a new cinema venture, opened about 6 months ago and already popular with locals. We know some long-time Hackney folk whose church we also passed just as we progressed away from the main road down Richmond Road. 

By this time the bus, already full, was joined by a small nursery group comprising five children and two adults. The children were quietly excited at their trip and both age groups pointed out things to each other. There was lots to see. The bus took in two sides of London Fields, Mary convinced she could see the steam from the Lido pool. It also edged past Broadway Market with the Cat & Mutton on a prominent corner.  Luckily the pub has a website which explains the curious name – it’s a contraction. The establishment has, you learn, been a 'fixture in London’s East End since the late 1600s when it started its life as ‘The Cattle & Shoulder of Mutton,’ a renowned ale house frequented by the many drovers and agricultural workers arriving in London to sell their various beasts in the markets of the city; the name was centuries later shortened to The Cat and Mutton So that makes sense now.

The children may not have been interested in the pub but they all remarked on the canal and the gas holder, looking very resplendent today.

Just after this the bus stopped seemingly in the middle of nowhere for the drivers to change, but later research indicates there is a small bus garage run by CT

We had waited for a while and after a few more tortuous corners the bus halted again. ‘Stopping again,’ said the children in chorus and indeed it needed some extreme revving to get going so on we went alongside the canal for a while. Thurtle Street seemed a wonderful name reminding me of Dr Suess’ ‘Yertle the Turtle’.

The Regents Canal is so leafy on its passage through Regents Park one forgets its more prosaic roots and here in Hackney it has more of a look of its industrial heritage.

The intensity of housing had been remarkable throughout the route and here we were crossing through the Kingsland Estate and all boarded up ready for renewal and new builds. In partnership with London & Quadrant 830 new homes are promised as replacement for older properties presumably.  The Kingsland Estate of course borders on the Kingsland Road down which we travelled very briefly passing the familiar landmarks of St Leonard’s Hospital and the Geffreye Museum. 

This community bus was heading across town by smaller (very much smaller) streets, and we found ourselves passing the training centre for  the Games Volunteers recognised by Jo because of their use of a distinctive and unlovely font plastering the training centre in Falkirk Way. (By the time you read this we will all know how marvellous the Gamesmakers were, so all credit to their trainers (the teacher as opposed to the footwear sort) and them. 

Hackney are busily replacing older properties with newer. 

Hoxton and Shoreditch, where we were in effect, may be the new trendy hangouts but during the day and traversing the tightly packed housing estates over potholed and humped streets of increasing narrowness made the latter stages of this route bumpy for the passengers and challenging for the driver. We could sense his relief when we came out just before the City Road by the Eagle Buildings reminding us that this was where ‘The Eagle’ of  'Pop Goes the Weasel' once stood.

Well we may not have gone in and out of ‘The Eagle’ but we certainly went in and out just about everywhere else. I note that that CT Plus group run ‘Community Services’ and this was a real locals’ bus serving hospital and home, market and museum alike, leaving us finally behind the Angel in Tolpuddle Street. There is no way you would take this route to get from Homerton to the Angel – for Mary this had been a nostalgic trip and she reckoned it would have been quicker to walk directly, than the circuitous 55 minutes we travelled but we all loved every minute of it.   

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Number 393 Route

Clapton (Kenninghall Road) to Chalk Farm (Morrisons)
Monday July 21st 2009

A summer’s day which was rather overcast, close and trying to rain found us changing plans in Newington Green and deciding to walk cross-country (or more accurately through Hackney) to pick up a high number cross town route rather than double back on ourselves and the Number 21, which had left us at Newington Green.  The 393 is a single-decker bus, weaving its way mainly through closely parked streets taking passengers for short hops, often to key rail or underground stations en route. The passengers reflected the diversity that is Hackney, with religious beards and headscarves of both Muslim and Jewish persuasions.  The driver seemed confident in his route and even stopped for some random passengers away from the stops.

To start with the road names seemed keen to remind us we could be heading east out of London very easily – Southwold, Halesworth, Theydon and East. Hackney is very densely populated and there were housing developments of different ages, including a very new one close to a light industrial estate with storage and other facilities, probably backing onto the River.  We dipped over the Lea River Navigation, then climbed quite steeply out of Clapton/Dalston and, leaving E5 behind, entered N1 passing en route the Jubilee and then the Simon Marks Jewish Primary Schools, this being a route more likely to pass the smaller schools rather than big comprehensives.  The Jubilee School website did not tell me when it was built – ie which Jubilee – but the Simon Marks site indicates the school was founded in 1953 close to a synagogue and moved to its current position on Cazenove Road in 1973.

After crossing one of the major routes that we leave to big buses we passed both Abney Park and Stoke Newington Common, not to be confused with Stoke Newington Green where we had been earlier in the day. The Capital Ring walk passes this way so Jo and Andrew had walked these streets. **

Being a nippy vehicle, the 393 was able to get down Stoke Newington Church Street which is splendidly but not entirely yuppified, with a variety of individual as opposed to chain store shops. Taking pride of place on the narrow street are the William Patten  School and the Daniel Defoe pub, both commemorating historic local  residents. Defoe had attended school round here and after a chequered life falling in and out of debt and political favour finally died in nearby Moorfields.  We noticed Hackney were restoring the old Assembly Rooms and council chamber and then the road comes out at Clissold Park
where the New River Walk crosses.  To be found nearby is the New River Pumping Station, and here we spotted (but failed to photograph) another ghost bike.

Across Green Lanes we then headed down Highbury New Park which is largely intact with huge old but very beautiful houses, now mainly divided into very pleasant and roomy flats.  Balfour Beatty, not content with the Olympics and East London Line extensions, was also building some new homes for Islington near the corner. “As any [North London] fule kno” this will bring you out at Highbury Corner – clearly a popular embarking and disembarking point for most of the passengers waiting to join a decent tube line, or arrive for a certain Football Club. You are guaranteed to see a supporter in the appropriate kit, whatever the time of year.   The bus continues down the Holloway Road for a while and past the once film-rich Coronet, now just another Wetherspoons.  Then it goes  briefly left into the Caledonian Road with the splendid side streets that are Stock Orchard Crescent etc. North Road cuts across even further west (you kept feeling the bus was failing to find King’s Cross but that of course was deliberate) and gave us the the Pleasance theatre,  (which seems more a comedy venue), then  Jo’s local health centre/GP practice. From that you can see how close we were to a home address and we did indeed pass the end of the road!

‘The Lord Stanley’ pub refers to the Stanley around at the time of Henry VII as opposed to the Livingstone one. It also offers a theatrical experience.   From Kentish Town Station we continued down Leighton Road, again not as wide as you might think.  The Kentish Town Road is familiar shopping territory for the locals. Heading ever further west along the Malden Road we suddenly debouched onto the bottom end of Haverstock Hill and there we were at Chalk Farm and the beginning of the ‘hippie’ (or should that be ‘punk’) but in any case more obviously the tourist trail that is the Chalk Farm Road leading to Camden. Town. Bus progress along here is invariably slow as swamped by  ambling visitors. However the 393 is  a no nonsense bus and finished its cross town trip neatly parked up beside the new build Morrisons, having taken an hour end to end and offering a wide range of entertainment from parks to football to walks and theatre..  

** 2 years down the line so had Linda and Roger, though they were unable to complete the ring as the Olympic security fences descended across the Greenway.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Number 392 Route - not

I have been unable to discover why there is no 392.  There is one that runs around Harlow, and of course several across the world, but not in London.  I shall amend this post when someone tells me where to look.

Meanwhile, we have been noticing the lack of decent bus facilities at London's main railway terminals.  For Kings Cross and St Pancras -sorry, St Pancras International - the buses have to loiter up York Way, if they are ending or starting their routes. 

At Waterloo, passengers need detailed knowledge, as some buses hide up the side streets while some begin at the roundabout near the Imax;  indeed some actually start up by County Hall though the timetables say 'Waterloo'.

Charing Cross does not have any buses which actually begin or end, so I suppose the lack of space there is justifiable;  Blackfriars has a little bus stand area just to the north side of the bridge, and of course Fenchurch Street is hidden from all but the most determined travellers.

Marylebone, in its genteel way, allows the Number 2, starting here, to pull onto its cobbled forecourt, and at Paddington, most buses start and stop along the side.

Some stations do have a recognisable bus station:  Euston's is cramped and dingy, despite the huge number of routes that pull in there.  Liverpool Street has an area above the station where some, but not all, buses call.  Victoria has a space in front of the station, though it always seems to be subject to road works and other obstacles.

London Bridge has a substantial area for buses, and you get the added treat of looking up at the Shard while you wait.

So what am I saying?  Well, er .... mainly, I suppose, that as stations improve:  Patisserie Valerie, Cath Kidson etc, it seems a pity that there is not more provision made for the many of us who use the bus to catch or leave the train.  When you compare the central London situation with the spacious, clear and covered bus stations at, say, Vauxhall or Walthamstow, you can see what I mean.

And before you talk about space and cost, let's remember how many local councils have given planning permission for huge and presumably profitable developments, in space where a dedicated bus station might have nestled.  Yes, Camden and the King's Cross Lands, this means you.

The Number 391 Route

Thursday 3 May 2012

People sometimes ask us what our favourite route is.   Indeed, in our recent, brief media flurry, we were constantly asked. Well, I think I can tell you what our UNfavourite route is, or at least was on this dank day.

It all started fine, with a gentle walk from Chelsea World’s End and the 329, to Sands End.  Linda and I didn’t get lost, and were on board the single decker by 12.25. We headed back the way we had walked, past the new Imperial Wharf Station on the Overground, past Chelsea Harbour and the Building site which will one day be Chelsea Creek.  It appears from the website that it will be inhabited by the kind of beautiful black and white women one sees in advertisements for perfume.  We also passed the Imperial Studios, which prove to be business premises rather than film studios from the days of Empire.

We came to the New King’s Road, and were briefly alarmed to turn right (we were headed for Richmond, you understand, rather than central London) but reassured when we turned immediately left to pass Fulham Town Hall and reach the Fulham Road.  Here we were in an area where pubs change their names:  the King’s Head has become the Broadway Bar and Grill;  the White Lion is now the Fiesta Taverna. 

Turning down North End Road, we were admiring the market stalls, while noticing that they do constrict the traffic rather when, with no warning, our driver pulled in and announced that we were terminating HERE.  It was 12.50, cold, drizzle, yuck.. We noted two pawn brokers next door to each other.

Linda, with a cheerful disregard for cost in these unpleasant circumstances, used her phone (20p, by the way) to ascertain when the next 391 would arrive, and we braced ourselves for the 10 minute wait.  Guess what?  When the bus arrived, it was only going as far as the Chiswick Roundabout.  Still, we climbed on, and headed through the Lytton Estate as well as much private housing.  Coming past the Live and Let Live Pub, we saw what we took to be the imposing HQ of the St Mary’s Protestant Mission.  But no, it is now offices, and I can’t discover what the Mission was, to be building such a fine edifice in 1895.

Heading along the Hammersmith Road, we came to Colet Court  - formerly the junior schools of St Paul’s, but now offices.   We also passed the offices of SONY before trundling into and then out of Hammersmith Bus Station and along King Street, with the Mall that has suffered rather from the proximity of Westfield.  We liked the embellishment of the Fuller’s Salutation Inna listed building with, as it says on the listed buildings website, ‘lustrous finish faience tiling’.

Ravenscourt Park Station brought us towards Turnham Green; there are innumerable places to eat around here, but several of them are closed, to let and so on.  The Ballet Rambert HQ  is here, as is ‘The Old Cinema’, now an antiques shop but apparently really a picture palace in the 1890s 

Continuing the theme of changed pub names, we saw that The John Bull is now The Gunnersbury.

At 13.30 we were turfed off again.  Now you can see what we don’t like this route.  But Linda’s phone again worked its magic, and we were on another bus by 13.36, heading under the M4, and past the enormous Brentford Fountain Leisure Centre which looks almost enough to make one take exercise.

Then we were over the river, and along to Kew Green, where a funfair was setting up, ready for the bank holiday;  also the Botanist Pub and the little Romanesque church.  The Maids of Honour Tea Shop reminded us that the actual things are sort of up-the-road bakewell tarts  and then we turned left to swing past Kew Gardens station, for District Line and Overground services.  We were a bit concerned that a lady with whom we had had a brief conversation had ignored our advice and got off too soon to visit the National Archive but maybe she wanted the walk.

 We came to TikkiPatchwork, which Julie might have visited had it been open last Monday.  Linda would never visit it, however, as its website is all in Comic Sans to which she has an acute aversion.  It looks a good shop, though. 

The pretty and well maintained terrace houses of Kew brought us to Sheen and then Richmond. Past the station (Overground again!) and the Quadrant.  The branch of Jigsaw had metal corsets on its wall though its website does not explain why.  That was the last excitement before we arrived, finally, at Richmond bus station at 14.00.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Number 390 Route

Monday 24 September 2012

Linda had very kindly changed the date so I could use the latter part of the week to visit the chicken pox ridden areas of the East Midlands:  I should not have liked to miss this route, as it is one of the two that pass near my house, and I had never travelled all of it.

So, 'what larks', as Joe Gargery used to remark to Pip, and we met at Notting Hill Station in what can only be described as pouring rain.  We set off, bound for Archway, at 10.10.  I stood aside for some people who were already at the bus stop, and they grabbed the front seats;  but there were fewer photo opportunities than on a sunny day so we were not too unhappy.  We thought they might be Finnish, since we could not glean any words from their conversation, whereas most other European languages have some familiar sounds.

Very smoothly, we reached the southern side of Hyde Park, retracing the route of the Central Line which had brought us to the start,  and admiring the handsome terraces with their modern sculpture. (Actually we thought this one looked a bit like one of those take-apart models that were used for anatomy lessons in the days before modern IT)

We got to Hyde Park Corner rapidly, noting the Tyburn Shrine at the convent there.  Those executed by Queen Elizabeth I are known as the English Martyrs, though they had of course sworn allegiance to a foreign power which had authorised the death of the sovereign, in a sort of 1571 version of a fatwa.  The shrine's website makes no mention of the 300 Protestants executed in the previous reign.  But I digress.  

We noticed that the strange horse's head sculpture was still at Hyde Park Corner, but were happily unable to photograph it as we headed rapidly into Oxford Street, still following the Central Line.

Selfridge's windows were spotty enough to make me think of the grandsons again.  The Yayoi Kusama windows are rather good, and you can see them being constructed here.

At least as interesting was the new build which as filled that hole where the dinosaurs were for so many months.  It isn't finished yet, but should be soon.  And, of course, Cross Rail is now busy with Bond Street Station, though the huge space down by Tottenham Court Road Station isn't finished yet.

The London College of Fashion is logoed as part of the University of the Arts, but we suspect that they would not want to move to King;'s Cross and away from the rag trade hub where they are now. 

We turned left to go up Tottenham Court Road, and the interlopers in 'our' front seat got off, presumably to go to the British Museum. We made rapid progress up  here, as we had along Oxford Street.  We were not sure whether it was recession, or wet Monday, but were pleased to get this route completed before Christmas shopping begins.  Passing the former entrance to the Second World War deep shelter at Goodge Street, we saw that it was now called 'Recall'.  It was the Eisenhower building for some years, as it had been one of his D-Day planning bases.

Past Heals, with its attractive plasterwork details, we reached the Euston Road, and University College Hospital.  Clearly those modernistic building materials were of high quality, as it looks pretty spruce.  I regard it as 'my' hospital since an encounter with a taxi took me off my bike and onto the pavement some years ago.

 Close by is the Wellcome Collection, always worth a visit, and the large chunk of real estate that is the Friends' Centre.  We speculated that frugal living and industrial prowess had made the Quakers rich enough to buy and hold onto this prime site.

The underpass was occupied by stationary traffic, but thanks to the blessings of the bus lane, we were soon into and out of the congested space which is Euston's Bus Station. I felt nostalgic as I spotted the 68:  my second journey of the project (number 2 to West Norwood,) enabled me to do the 68 back to here.

On along the Euston Road, past the British Library and the St Pancras Hotel, the rain meant that pictures were simply smears, and we turned right up York Way, where there isn't even a pretence at a bus station, despite the large number of buses which pass this way.

On up York Way, we went past Kings Place, the excellent concert venue with  the Guardian attached, and crossed the Canal.  
Next we passed the huge and forbidding new housing which is going up on the railway lands.  Will there be enough foreign students to fill the block close to the railway bridge?  Is £200,000 for a one bedroom flat 'affordable'?  Only time will tell and, of course, I may have identified the wrong block.

The night club along here, which used to be called 'Egg' is now 'The Apothecary' but still has bouncers mixing with the commuters, whatever time you go past.  

After 'not getting off' at the stop for my house, we were in the Camden Park Road one way system which means that I cannot talk about the whole food and Italian delicatessen shopping opportunities of Brecknock Road, but can mention Lord Stanley, for whom the pub along here is named.  He the one who helped to cause the Tudors, by changing sides with his substantial forces at the Battle of Bosworth.  On we went, past the houses built on the old site of the Jewish Free School, and so to Tufnell Park Station, famous for there being no Park nearby.

Signs to the Whittington Hospital told us that we were near to the end of this journey and sure enough, we arrived at Archway at 11.10, exactly an hour after leaving Notting Hill.

The Number 389 Route

Barnet (The Spires) to High Barnet (Western Way)
Wednesday August 29th 2012.

One way or another we were having a day out in Barnet, and when our previous scenic route (see 384) finished in Quinta Drive we decided to ride it back – a wise decision as when we reached the bus stop at the Spires it transpired (pun intended) the 389 was a once-an-hour service that was about to appear – and so it did at 20 minutes after the hour.  Lucky timing. You would have thought we should have learnt by now that red on the 4 key maps, which we use for our bus day out planning, means an infrequent service…

The 389 spent what seemed like the first five minutes of its scheduled 8 minutes trying to turn right into the High Street after it had worked its way round the Spires Shopping Centre, so called not because of St John’s Church (which we were about to pass) but because it had incorporated bits of the Methodist Chapel spires – this might also explain why the Wesley Hall round the back is quite as new as it appears – presumably what the Methodists got for selling out their original buildings to Mammon afforded them a new centre.

What did catch our eye on a High Street depleted by said Shopping Centre was the Victoria Bakery, still maintaining a more traditional shop front, though I was depressed by the thought they are already planning their Christmas Puddings ...

The High Street is not short of bus routes, playing host to 11 of them along here as far as High Barnet Station, so the familiar landmarks could be ticked off – the 1916 Court House and presumably new ‘Red Lion’ with a resplendent larger than life-size red sculpture (or 3D as they would say today) as we were soon to pass the ‘Old Red Lion’ with an altogether more humble painted sign. One seems to offer all week roast dinners, while the other has both Psychic Nights (shades of Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black’) and offers succour to both Barnet football and visiting team supporters. 

10 minutes underway and we arrive at Barnet Football Club – they have a long (founded 1888) if not altogether illustrious history, having been professionals since the mid-Sixties and on this Underhill site since 1907. Today all looked quiet as the season has only just got underway. Passing the stadium the bus does a narrow loop along an area squeezed between the Northern Line Underground and the Dollis Brook Valley and at some point goes into what the route indicator calls the ‘Western Way Hesitation Point’ making it sound like a cross between a geometry puzzle and an invitation waltz? Thus far had taken 11 ½ minutes and the route then returns along the only alternative – Grasvenor Road (and no that is not a misprint)– to climb steeply uphill back to the Great North Road. While I can see that High Barnet might conceivably be considered elevated, the ‘Hesitation Point’ seems very low?

Along this stretch of ‘Hail & Ride’ the passengers (and driver) all know each other and this route is clearly needed and used to get to and from the shops during the day, as we had not passed a single food or other outlet since leaving the High Street.

Back onto the Great North Road we passed both Red Lions again and made much swifter progress in this direction, completing the circle of this route in 20 minutes.  

Technically an even shorter route than the previous record holder, the Route 346 round Upminster.