Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Number 395 Route

Westway Cross Retail Park to St George’s Shopping Centre 
Friday October 5th 2012

We almost failed to realise this route existed as we had put together our ‘Master List’ six months before the Route 395 started running… So after some hasty re-planning, here is the route that we nearly skipped over… 

It was the sort of weather day where you might chance leaving your washing outdoors and not taking a waterproof – we had done both, and luckily the weather gods stayed on our side. Linda could confidently lead the way from Greenford Station as she had recently come this way while walking a chunk of the Capital Ring (which takes you nicely up nearby Horsenden Hill). So we found Westway Cross, the sort of shopping centre which is really a string of industrial units with no focus or centre – and as far as we could see no bus stops. We asked three different people (which was quicker than Linda juggling with her new phone) and found our 395 lurking by a traffic light. At 11AM the two services per hour turn into four (which tells you that it serves shoppers rather than commuters) but we were lucky (again) as it just was about to go – straight back to Greenford Station but as you know rules are rules.  The erstwhile Railway Pub  now rather shrillily (I’ve just made that up) proclaims itself as a Flaming Grill so it’s a recent refit for a pub nearly 100 years old. As its website announces it serves the local population and the employees from the extensive Greenford Industrial Units – storage depots etc are a prominent feature of Outer West London wedged as it is between Paddington and Heathrow, and a long established trade route. 

Once over the Grand Union Canal, now more scenic than industrial, we entered an extensive housing estate, probably we guessed built through the late Thirties and Forties, with interruptions for the war. The layout is generous with a daisy chain of roundabouts linking avenues of semi-detached homes. The route became quite busy here, though it’s not hail and ride as you might expect, and after emerging past Northolt Green and the Underground Station, a predictably popular interchange, we passed the petite clock tower built for the 1937 coronation and dived down Eastcote Lane, which has a mixture of homes, schools, centres etc.

This website explains the strategic significance of Northolt adding that Ruislip came from Islip  a once local and presumably important family. The other local worthies were called Mandeville, which makes me wonder if they only had one eye?  (I was not a fan of this Olympic mascot but he does have his own Facebook site.)  Well into Northolt we discovered ‘Racecourse Estate’ through which this route runs. Unsurprisngly there had a been a pony and horse track here but the land was needed for homes, which were erected in the Fifties.  

From here the run through South Harrow seemed more familiar: the High Street that mixture of struggling but surviving shops, nostalgic glimpses of previously ridden bus routes clustering round South Harrow Station, and a very large hole next to John Lyon School leaving us unsure whether they were selling off their playing fields or relaying them – a touch of astro-turf might not come amiss if the weather continues wet.

The double roundabout at the top of the hill was looking particularly derelict with a clutch of abandoned half-built blocks; difficult to tell whether they were going up or down but either way something of an eyesore. 

Paul Talling, who records derelict buildings, considers office blocks more likely to come down and be replaced than stand empty for a while so our guess is these shells were destined to be something (I bet there was an ‘iconic’ in the building spec) but the money ran out?? 

The bus then comes to an abrupt halt outside St George’s Shopping Centre and all the passengers look somewhat startled and a bit miffed mainly because the route was previously listed as going into the station which is presumably where we all want to go. Quite why the 395 has become such an outcast and is not allowed to wait at the cosier bus station but must linger on a one-way system, is not clear.  Fortunately for Jo and Linda the walk on to the station was so obvious even they could not go wrong.

Thanks to quite a lot of good luck with our timings, at just over the 30 minutes from end to end this very local route turned out OK, especially as we had only sussed its existence at the last moment.

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