Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Number 424 Route

Putney Heath (Green Man) to Fulham Football Club (Craven Cottage)
Monday May 9th 2011

This was never going to be a straightforward route and sure enough as crows fly this trip would have taken about a quarter of the time, but for bus interest it was excellent value, though a single decker only running twice an hour.

We (Jo, Mary & Linda) were lucky with the weather, so watched the bees busy in the nettles round this rather deserted little bus stop away from the real business of the Green Man interchange where there are serious bus routes like the 14 and 37.  Not sure whether chicken or egg but the 424 is a little used route and for much of the time we were the only passengers.  The others who boarded only did so for the convenience of taking their shopping home – they could easily do this as this was a ‘hail & ride’ route for much of its length.

In order to face the right way the bus takes a turn round the very rural parts of Putney Heath with Wildcroft Road cutting straight across the green bits – we noticed some houses tucked away which look almost like farmhouses down private lanes and complete with an equally discreet pretty country pub

Once back on the road called Putney Heath we turned smartly into the Ashburton Estate, which was looking in much better shape than the Roehampton Estate which we had passed through earlier: not sure why – fewer tower blocks? More small houses more likely, because the area is still quite mixed with several private developments and homes altogether.  The local comprehensive school, Elliott, though the (now Grade 2 listed) buildings are showing their age, also has a very lively music department which has produced a few winners in is time, and this combination seems to keep the area looking quite cared for. 

Back along Chartfield Avenue the combination of us, a bus, running into the building vans and lorries for the   Putney Square development meant something of a traffic stand-off but we progressed in the end. 

To be honest the descent down Putney Hill and then Putney High Street is often very slow and the narrow streets cannot really cope with the volume of traffic; we stopped outside Putney Station while the changing drivers bantered a little and then moved on.  It’s a two-sundial route with the more modern ‘Time like an ever rolling stream’ at the crossroads and the bright blue one atop St Mary’s Church just before you cross the River. Crossing the river was a stately progress too and we noted a funfair on the move in the opposite direction, not to mention the Hammersmith & Fulham dustcart heading away from the borough.  We believe that by the time you read this H&F’s rubbish will be heading downstream to the newly built Crossness where they take on not just H&F but other central London boroughs.

I did just glimpse the kiln  but had to use some-one else’s photo – though the famous  Fulham Pottery, specialising in ‘salt ware’ is no longer operating from this site.
The bus takes  a right turn down the New Kings’ Road towards Parsons Green and  the shops become more exclusive – a range of antique shops, interspersed with bespoke outlets such as ‘Profeet Ski Boot Lab’ – think about it. On the Green you find the ‘Duke on the Green,’ a Young’s pub, which has lost half its name having once been the Duke of Cumberland, but as he’s not from round here he might as well remain anonymous.  The bus does a little loop down Peterborough Road and from a small bus we could not quite see what lay behind a high wall – not the private Hurlingham Club but in fact the more public South Park (there’s one of those in Ilford too but I have exhausted my They Killed Kenny joke). There’s a school along here with the murals by the artist (1903-1992) more famous for his stained glass windows at Coventry – these continue to stand out.

By now the bus was on ‘hail and ride’ and although there was little hailing we still progressed slowly due to the narrowness of the streets, often double parked, and the number of corners to be turned – a most intricate route. We followed the line of the River along what would have been the old industrial wharves (we saw one very derelict factory building) but what is now a regenerated brownfield site, which even has its own Overground station – Imperial Wharf.

  I worked on  this patch briefly  about 40 years ago when it was firmly working class, dominated by the Power Station, the Sunlight laundry and the gasworks as the main employers – times have changed somewhat but we were pleased to see that some social housing remained round the Pearscroft Estate.

Completing out loop meant that we re-emerged onto the New King’s Road with a very difficult right turn – this gave us time to observe four men watching and one bricklaying on the road junction – admittedly his brickwork, a blend of new and re-cycled London stocks, looked good but even so Jo spotted ‘management’ as the bloke with the coffee and the beer belly.

Passing the lovely shop front that is the Gutlin Shop is a real joy and then over the King’s Road and back along towards Fulham Broadway – the sights come thick and fast with the side entrance to the West Brompton Cemetery (one of the magnificent seven) and then the first of our football clubs Chelsea FC.

But this was not a main road bus and soon we turned off again – into the Fulham Cross area complete with another excellent range of shops – we had fun with their names which included:
Indian Summer
Dolce & Banana
Naked Nosh
Sales@getagrip (door handles)
and whirled round a few more residential streets crossing the Fulham Palace Road one more time to get back down to the river in Stevenage Road. Our arrival was further impeded by the fact that four large outside broadcast TV vans were laying cables all over the place, possibly to prepare for the football match between Fulham and Liverpool due to take place that evening.  Not sure this would be my bus of choice to get to football but for all other reasons if you like a route that has more loops than unravelling wool and a delightful combination of cottages now homes of the wealthy this is certainly the route for you. 

Not quite sure why it’s called Craven Cottage (Mr C. had a home here once?) but one way and another it’s been here since 1896, and looks its best from the other side of the river …

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Number 423 Route

Hounslow Bus Station to Heathrow Terminal 5
Tuesday August 10th 2010

This was the third leg of a journey, which started in Northolt, but found us round Hatton Cross three times in all.

However, to start at the beginning: we boarded our single decker, as it happens the only one of the day and from the offset pretty crowded. Although billed as starting at Hounslow Bus station, ‘they’ who run said station do not welcome passengers so we were directed round the corner and onto the start of the High Street.  Hounslow seems popular enough as a shopping centre to sustain both an indoor centre ‘The Treaty ‘ and an old High Street, which is now all but pedestrianised with just a small gap for smaller buses. We threaded our way along the chicanes between the widened pavements, where today the passengers were shopping in the dry patches between the quite heavy summer showers.

With only three buses an hour we were lucky not to wait too long and again a diverse crowd joined us, most laden with bags, and on their way home. We are used to passengers with buggies, dogs, even wheelchairs but today we had a lady with her Dyson, which seemed rather better behaved than the average dog. The bus itself made more noise then usual – squeaky as it pulled off and with a shrill noise as the doors opened, not the most soothing of rides.

But most people who boarded at Hounslow were for the ‘short hops’ that this bus offers, initially turning its back on Hounslow Heath and heading down the quaintly named Beavers Lane, where we were rather startled to find extensive and crumbling barracks. I am not sure, as suggested above, that locating soldiers ‘in transit’ here has been thought through unless the Army plan a shuttle service to the nearest Underground stations – whole platoons on the 423 does not compute! Also the local facilities, like the 18th century barracks, have seen better days: for example the local pub, also named the Beaver, is no more. Hardly homes for heroes?

By now most of the local residents had taken themselves home so by the time we swung into Hatton Cross Underground Station bus forecourt there was space to take on what were clearly employees heading in for their next shift at the area’s prime employer – Heathrow Airport. Hatton Cross still looks quite smart and modern having only been completed in 1975 and on the whole is the tube station the workers as opposed to the passengers use.

By now we are firmly under the flight path and find ourselves ducking involuntarily from time to time as the planes are coming in so low, and especially today where the low cloud hides the planes till the last minute.

After passing the farm (the various horses and sheep clearly by now immune to aeroplane noise) we zip along the Bath Road aka the A4 and the north perimeter of the airport.

When the warehouses, depots and support services for the terminals peter out there is a stretch of more upmarket hotels including the Radisson, which were presumably built in anticipation of increased passenger traffic around Terminal 5, and then somewhat surprisingly the bus dives off onto a country lane through the village of Longford, with its most attractive pub.

 From the quaint to the glass modernity that is Terminal 5, though by the time you read this it will probably look dated – if indeed the concept of extensive air travel still exists?
Even in 2010, the drama around the opening of T 5 is nearly forgotten but reminded me that in mad moment back in the winter of 2007 I volunteered to be a T5 guinea-pig, which involved being checked into and disembarking from a variety of ‘imaginary’ flights and transfers so that they could test the check-ins/hand-luggage scanning/passport control etc. before the airport went ‘live’.   We were then de-briefed on our experiences and in turn offered suggestions. What of course they did NOT dry run was the luggage check-in and collection, which is what quickly seized up when the airport opened. Still BA has survived several more crises since then and will doubtless survive some more.

T5 is spacious, so we were able to take a break before boarding our next bus out.   

The Number 422 Route

North Greenwich (O2) to Bexleyheath Bus Garage
Monday December 19th 2011

Although I live much closer, Jo had whistled down from North London amazingly fast so had time to explore the lovely North Greenwich bus station, which is all a bus station should be – spacious, clearly marked, with an Information kiosk clean and offering shelter. Though chilly we did not have time to freeze before our double decker 422 arrived – there is another bus which covers the same destinations but in a less circuitous manner.

We wheeled out of the station passing the usual landmarks: Millennium Dome, now O2, the offices and Lego like flats, the Millennium school already closed for the Christmas break, and then at the second or so roundabout we ground to a definite halt, so definite that our driver switched off his engine.  It seems there was some kind of backlog/backing up from the Blackwall Tunnel and though the 422 was heading East not North it needed access to the right sort of traffic lane.  After some careful edging past a few fairly selfish drivers (‘If I position myself here I will be all of two cars further ahead’) we broke free down a bus lane and headed off towards the Woolwich Road – this is a rather soul-less area. Soulless too for walkers following the Thames path and Capital Ring, which are diverted away from the river here. Greenwich has many Multiplexes so it was no surprise that the old Odeon on the road junction is now a betting shop with club upstairs.

Sadly there was a ghost bike at the junction of Vanbrugh Hill, and we noted the site of the former hospital remains weedy rather than a work in progress. Spare a thought for Vanbrugh, who spent much of his married life further up the hill (Maze Hill) – a man of many talents: baroque architecture and Restoration comedies which he threw together while being kept in the Bastille as a political prisoner (?spy).  Greenwich and Charlton Park must have seemed quite tame in comparison.

The bus takes the steep route up Westcombe Hill to arrive at the Royal Standard in Blackheath but then heads deeper into Charlton village complete with its own House, which has had a rather recent chequered history under cash-strapped Greenwich council. The Bugle Horn looks more like a country pub and perhaps echoes the fact there used to be a Horn fair held here until the land was enclosed – some of its renown was due to lewd and licentious behaviour.

None of that today as the 422 rolled down the hill. We know there are fine views on fair days but today was not one of them.  We both spotted the Woolwich Centre (which must have been shrouded in scaffolding on our previous passages this way).  Jo was worried about all the jutting out  roofs and whether they would wear well but it seems it is about rainwater harvesting and other sustainability.  
Other improvements were also noticeable in Woolwich Town centre – the central square is now complete: half is turfed and the other has a gentle sloping water feature. Sadly on a wet day it looked merely like running rainwater…

Today we had a swift passage through Woolwich and even the Crossrail works did not halt our progress. The cornus bushes in the central reservation were looking their fiery best but we were passing too quickly to photograph them properly.

Plumstead High Street has some slightly unusual shops – the Sangeeta Silk Emporium and the Big Man 2XL-6 XL sizes – giants only need shop here. We also noted the van promising to 'deal with foxes'. However there seems no similar service to 'manage' squirrels, which are even more destructive.  

After a long stretch heading east the 422 takes a right towards East Wickham along Wickham Lane. By now we had left most other routes behind (some companionship was provided by the B11) and so the bus filled up quite significantly – most passengers bound for our final destination. The roads hereabouts are all named for Devon places – Okehampton, Axminster, Charmouth – the roads were generous and lined with some fine Hornbeam trees, which we are now rather good at recognising.  On one side of the road the houses were raised up, on the other dipping down. By the time we arrived at King Harald’s Way (I thought he was an Essex man but Jo thinks he might have passed this way en route to lose to the Normans at Hastings) the houses had given way to bungalows, almost all of which had sacrificed their front gardens to concrete or paving, a choice the owners may regret if there is heavy rain.

The roads had the feel of a ridge or crest leading up to Northumberland Heath with some rather strange road names – Dry Hill next to Stream Way – make up your mind!
Having made the detour nearly to Northumberland Heath  I was interested to find out that this area was once known as Spike Island – ‘spike’ being the familiar name for the workhouse and the one round here was apparently notorious.

However the 422 drops down through some more residential areas where the builders clearly had pretensions – The  Pantiles and Chiddingstone being the road names here – and soon we were on Bexleyheath High Road. We finished our trip with a clutch of interesting pub names.  First up was the William Camden close to Bexleyheath Station. He seems to have been a Tudor historian and geographer and lived latterly in Chislehurst, which is not that far away.  Then came ‘The Wrong ‘un’, a Wetherspoons pub whose name apparently refers to a particular kind of cricket bowling – a googly being the other name for it. Last but not least the bus passes the Furze Wren, which we thought might be a subspecies of wren but is more probably just any old wren that lives in a furze or gorse bush.

Not that there was much wildlife either botanical or ornithological to be seen in Bexleyheath Broadway – more a frenzy of pre-Christmas shoppers before the rain set in. This route just trundles past the shopping centre and clocktower and stops opposite the depot where we were very much the last to leave the South East London service. As there were no great sights to focus on we were reliant on pub and street names to keep our, and hopefully your interest along the way. 

The 420 and 421 Routes - not

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Bus routes that don't exist are growing in number as we move along.  We suspect that when there is a new route they usually work from the lower end of the available numbers:  there were only 3 non-routes all the way from 1 to 300.  Though when they extended the 10 they called it 390, though 310 was available.  Strange...

Anyway, the 420 used to figure on bus lists as a London Country bus, but is now clearly a Surrey bus, run by Metrobus with the funky electronic display on the front which tells you that it goes from Sutton to Redhill (or, of course, Redhill to Sutton).  Apparently in 2010 it was renamed the 820, which had been its number for school journeys since 2004

There was also a 420, a red bus, but not a Red Bus, if you follow me, which ran to Bluewater.  We Ladies who bus are always aware of the huge privilege of the Freedom Pass, but particularly so when we read how complicated other concessions are, especially  outside London 

There are several 421s.  Here’s a Kent one

Speaking of Freedom Passes, as we so often do: you may remember that when the Freedom Pass  for TfL services in London was extended to ‘all hours of the day and night’ rather than ‘after 09.30 like on the railways and elsewhere in England’, the reason the Mayor gave was ‘so that people could get to their hospital appointments’

Only one of us has ever felt ill on a bus, and that was half way along Oxford Street, and not serious.  But a bus is not a bad place to fall ill, since many buses run to and from and around hospitals. We have visited a startling number over the years of the project.  Some of them are destinations in their own right, and are on the front of the bus, like the West Middlesex Hospital, where both the 110 and 117 start or finish.  Another 'alighting only' and start point is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, destination of the 244, 291 and 469.  Hospitals can be useful places to change buses, since they have convenient facilities, and are good for people watching.

Sometimes buses call without terminating:  St Helier being an example

Other hospitals happen to be at places where buses go:  the Whittington at Archway, for example, or University College Hospital at Warren Street. 

It’s as well that buses do serve hospitals, since car parking at hospitals ranges from impossible to extremely expensive.  Though both at the Whittington and UCL there is plenty of cycle parking.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Number 419 Route

Friday 26 August 2011

Our third bus of the day took Linda and me (Mary being in Wales) from Hammersmith Bus Station to Richmond.  We left a little earlier than the advertised 12.03, and were surprised that the first part of the trip was ‘hail and ride’.  Seeing a notice that said that Hammersmith Bridge was to be closed for a day next week, we were glad to be heading off today.

Slow traffic accompanied us as we travelled along under the flyover, zo that we could admire the garish 'black' cab alongside us and then we  turned left towards the bridge, passing the Irish Cultural Centre 
Approaching the river, we spotted the sign that told us we were leaving the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Britain’s Council of the Year, 2010. 

The river was very high and running fast, and we did not envy the canal narrow boat which we spotted up river.

There are attractive cottages along the route, reminding us that Hammersmith, and Fulham, and the other districts we passed through were once separate villages, many of them attractive to families 'weary of London' and looking for a quiet life. As Posy Simmonds said of Cornwall, it's very easy to 'love a place to death', or at least to turn it into a suburb

We came to the playing fields of St Paul’s School (founded in 1509 ‘for 153 boys… to be taught free’, not what it does these days: but you probably know my views on ‘charities’ like this).

We saw a blue plaque for Edouard Espinosa, one of the pioneers of modern ballet: there was another on the same building, but as we know and have mentioned before, the English Heritage site is not the most helpful when you know approximate address but nothing more.  Nonetheless, this is a good route for Blue Plaques, as we soon passed both Gustav Holst (who has a website all his own)  and Ninette de Valois

The ‘Hail and Ride’ was working well along here, as we sped parallel to the river towards Barnes Railway Bridge, which features in the Boat Race commentary every spring.  Barnes becomes Mortlake, which becomes Sheen, without boundaries discernible to the passing stranger, other than the names of the railway stations.  We saw a less than helpful, though high tech road works sign, possibly hinting at future problems with Mortlake Road, but we were unaffected.

The Stag Brewery, once belonging to the Watney family, now produces Budweiser.  But there are some good shops round here: for example, we noted that Jane Taylor Millinery, famous from Ascot to Vogue and back.

Along here, the council has planted sweet chestnuts as roadside trees.  Though still small, they were already bearing fruit, and we made a note to come back in a few years around turkey-stuffing time.  Past North Sheen cemetery, we came to Richmond Railway station, and the narrow, interesting streets of Richmond, with signs to the excellent Orange Tree Theatre, to arrive at the bus station, round the back, at 12.35.  The trip is listed as 25 minutes, and we had doubted the possibility, but this was not bad.

The Number 418 Route

Epsom Clock Tower to Kingston (Cromwell Road Bus Station)
Tuesday May 3rd 2011

Fortunately it was a bright, sunny if windy day as we had nearly an hour’s gap between buses, most of it spent in Epsom. Our last route (the 166) had left us by the general hospital, and while the walk back is short it runs along some main roads on a rather mean pavement so we decided to catch an Epsom/Surrey bus, which eventually came looking like something from the Sixties & Seventies.  It was only a 6 minute journey and we disembarked on Epsom High Street to discover we still had nearly 30 minutes to wait for our alternative route to Kingston – the 406 also joins the two centres, but by a different route.  Jo had already watched me spend money today so we avoided further temptations and ‘people watched’ instead, observing the extraordinary number of men whose girth made them look about seven months pregnant.

When the 418 arrived there were more passengers boarding than you might expect and we left Epsom by passing down the side of Epsom Station, which looked close to destruction – research indicates it is only the ticket office which is being redeveloped, there having been a station here since 1859.  Redevelopment in this day and age will of course include shops, flats and doubtless offices. By the time you read this the transformation should be complete.

Roads round Epsom tend to be named after vaguely horsy things, so were off down Chase Road, being one of the only buses (there is a private E5 which does NOT ACCEPT  Freedom passes). We passed the usual providers that lurk on the periphery; namely the Orchard Care Centre & Longmead Business Centre, property tending to be cheaper, but reminding us that MAYBE for older folk it might be more stimulating to live in town rather than on the fringes? Here too was the Epsom & Ewell Bus Garage, where we certainly stopped even if not to change drivers – difficult to tell from upstairs on a double decker.

What we did note was the greenery of Horton Park – whilst researching what happened to the old psychiatric hospital (I do remember escorting a patient here from Wandsworth in the Seventies just before it closed) I fell onto this website – a trifle purple prose (I know I’m not one to talk) which gives both a historical and green perspective to the park.

Having taken on more nomads the bus moves on into Ewell,  whose Jubilee Parade neatly gives us a date – 1935 – for when this bit of suburbia got developed, doubtless swallowing up the farmlands which would have still been hereabouts.  The Jubilee was George V, whose death a year later led to the abdication crisis and all that ‘King’s Speech’ stuff…

Leaving West Ewell behind we joined a significant dual carriageway, the Chessington Road, before branching off through more residential areas – the roads were called Riverview and sure enough some of their back gardens may run down as far as the Hogsmill, a pretty local river famed as the setting for Millais’ Ophelia…

Though many have given over their front gardens to hard standing there was enough spring greenery to lift our spirits.

From the sublime to the more prosaic – we passed just handily close to Tolworth Station an off-road track for motorcycle enthusiasts and learners. The Tolworth roundabout is dominated by a somewhat empty office tower block and by now we have rejoined and stay with the companion route 406.

I believe Kingston borough, which we were just entering, is trying to regenerate Tolworth though I am not inclined to read the 130 pages they devote to their proposals – I just hope things move past the planning stages.

It is pretty much a straight run into Kingston from here and as such there were plenty of passengers – the route was intended to take 45 minutes and clearly the driver was making good time as he waited for stragglers to join his load. We noted that Kingston seemed to be something of an aspirational borough with several private teaching academies ( ? crammers? Private tutors? Coaching) so there is clearly much at stake at the key 11+ and GCSE and A Level stages.

The hill up into Surbiton, and then Kingston is noticeable even in a bus though presumably the views over Surrey are better going in the opposite direction.

We had to make do with what we passed – in Surbiton there seemed to be a clutch of antique and bric à brac shops – ‘vintage’ if you like – plus the run of now underused civic buildings: the Library, Fire Station and Telephone Exchange now a Fitness centre. 

We liked the fact that though on a main and busy road the owners of Casa Viva had bothered to put no less than 24 (3 per window-sill) terracotta pots with baby bay balls) on their upper storeys – a touch of Sicily in suburban Surbiton.

We knew we had entered Kingston proper when its little lion Logo appeared on the bus shelters and soon we were sweeping past the Penrhyn bit of the University of Kingston campus. 
And the handily placed (if you are a student and comic afficionado) the Holy Goat Comic Store  – since Facebook has taken over from Websites there is considerably less information to be had.

Our run into the centre of Kingston followed the usual course, which today seemed to include many ‘To Let’ Office blocks then over the river and round the shopping core to come to rest and relief at the Cromwell Road Bus Station.

Looking quieter than usual    >>>>>>>>>>>>