Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Number 398 Route

Ruislip Station to Wood End (Hemery Drive) 
Friday October 5th 2012

This route’s destiny is inexorably linked to that of the 395 (the one we thought did not exist) so it was fitting we should do them as a combo – less delicious than fish and chips but bound together nevertheless. In order to pick up this route at Ruislip station, a handsome exterior on the outer reaches of the Piccadilly Line, we had de-boarded the 395 at Harrow on the Hill and taken a slightly shabby tube to Ruislip: they seem to save the smarter ones for the Heathrow branch and it was a bit like getting your older brother’s worn out T-shirts.
However the single decker 398 made up for the Piccadilly Line rolling stock by being sparkly clean and nicely upholstered; we were also lucky to wait only  5 minutes for a service that only runs every 30 minutes.

This bus trip allowed us to admire several of the same stations  from the outside. 

We left the safety of the Ruislip station forecourt (more ordered than the chaos at King’s Cross muttered Jo) and turned right heading for Ruislip Manor – we were to do the road equivalent of the 5 stops on the tube albeit in a more wiggly manner. The parades of shop, all of a period with the inter-war era housing, were just about coping – we liked ‘Hair Sanctuary’ where perhaps you could hide away on a bad hair day.   

As we crossed the back streets between Ruislip and Eastcote Stations we had an encounter of the sexist builder variety. There was enough back garden patio or extension work going on in one house to warrant a large concrete mixer parked on one side and the builders’ pick up truck on the other side of the bus route road. The concrete mixer was in full swing so to speak but I saw no reason why the builders  (three in number) could not move their empty pick up a few spaces further down the road, but no, in complete contrast to their name (yes D’Arcy Builders I mean you, no Jane Austen heroes here) they expected the driver of the 398 to squeeze her way through with that exaggerated waving and signalling that men do to women drivers. She of course got through unscathed but we felt progress on the building would be very slow if they had to stop for a bus every 15 minutes or so, and moving one of their own vehicles would have been a much better solution.

From this you can see that for most of this trip the bus took us through residential areas but linking to the key stations – most of these stations, served by both Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, had generated genteel High Streets of their period., now somewhat less used. The Rayners Pub was firmly closed with its pub sign, now faint, swinging gently over the fenced off building. The local council had tried hard with its public area beds (think wide pavements with space for planting) and had opted this year for drought plants doubtless heeding the early warnings – unfortunately said plants looked a little sad after months of rain and little sun.
Opposite the plants the Zoroastrians have their Europe Trust Fund HQ housed in a rather good Art Deco former cinema.

After Raynes Lane came Corbins Lane then Eastcote Lane, which gives you an idea of what this part of London used to be like before the housing booms that followed the Underground lines.   The 398 does a deliberate loop into and out of South Harrow Station but in spite of the crowds at the various bus stops there were few takers for this route.

Tracking back along South Harrow’s High Street we noticed how easy it was to spot where Woolworths used to be – their buildings, nearly all from the Thirties, have quite a distinctive if not quite preservation-worthy look to them. Also most have gone over to Pound shops.

After the High Street we passed Eastcote Lane cemetery here described: I suppose 'small modest and dull'  just about sums up this whole route.

We also thought that  maybe we should introduce the  'We buy land' folk to the empty lot people as a sort of ghastly dating agency ?

Leaving South Harrow behind we turned into Wood End, whose various residential streets are named after a range of British Olympians.  I could set you a quiz and ask in which order and for which event the following won their gold medals, but to spare you here are some answers;

Chris Brasher               Steeplechase, 1956          (Brasher Close)
David Hemery              400m Hurdles, 1968         (Hemery Road)
Mary Peters                 Pentathlon, 1972              (Mary Peters Drive)              
Tessa Sanderson          Javelin, 1984                    (Tessa Sanderson Way)

If you are having Olympic Games withdrawal symptoms this site will let you linger in Team GB’s glory moments over the years.
It is fitting that great athletes are remembered in our suburban streets, and if only this government could be encouraged to build more affordable homes there would be no shortage of names from the 2012 Olympians to name new streets and avenues.

Notwithstanding the above, Wood End does feel a bit like the back end of somewhere else (Sudbury perhaps) and as we handed our card to the East European female driver and congratulated her on her management of the hazards en route she made it perfectly clear that she thought, like us, that female bus drivers were doing an excellent job. This bus takes about 30 minutes to cover its NW London route.  

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