Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Number 407 Route

Caterham Station to Sutton (Marshall’s Road)
Wednesday October 17th  2012

The attentive driver of our previous route (the 404) had told us how to walk down from Caterham on the Hill to what he said they all called ‘the valley’, which is indeed what this bus route follows. We managed not to get lost and once in Caterham proper, the bottom of the hill variety, the equally attentive driver of the 407 let his passengers wait on the bus rather than at the stop. As this is a 4 x hour service we had time to admire Caterham High Street – there is the usual quota of charity shops and yet another pub commemorating the local ‘hunt’ as in the ‘Old Surrey Hounds’. Other echoes of the valley were also in evidence in ‘Valley News’ and the defunct ‘Valley Pub’. In spite of a year of wet weather this ‘valley’ remains largely dry though there is a hidden River Bourne, which joins the Wandle. The valley of course now carries a Southern Railway line into Victoria and this bus calls at most of the stations on that route. But enough of trains and valley and on with the bus which was already half full as we set off. At some points you could see the steep hills, wholly residential, heading up towards the chalk downs, while along the route were periodic clusters of small shops and businesses with the occasional pub. With cars parked either side it was quite a difficult course to drive. 

Whyteleafe, whatever else it may lack (much of a history seemingly as it came with the railway/gas and water) has a football club with the local supporters hanging out a sign saying ‘Welcome to Guernsey FC’. There was also quite an extensive Travel Lodge, which the visitors would almost certainly need.  Close by on the industrial Estate was what looked like the HQ or distribution centre for Ann Summers products: we were quite surprised at its size given that surely by definition flimsy underwear cannot take up much space?

If fresh air is more to your taste nearby Riddlesdown Open Space offers a site of scientific special interest and is maintained by the City of London which has ensured that it would not be sold off for yet more commuter flats. 

Nearby Kenley, from where there is a clear view of the chalk hillsides even from a single decker bus, was formerly an RAF Station dating from the First World war so more than ready and prepared for its key role in the Second World War.

The underlying geology clearly lends it self to supplying water and the Kenley Treatment Works are just one aspect of the Sutton and East Surrey Water Company’s business.

Past Riddlesdown Station the 407 continues in its straight line heading by now for Purley and passing a pub offering Psychic Nights for Halloween, which seems the right night to arrange this sort of event. Purley High Street seemed to be hanging in there, perhaps having two stations and a hospital means there is enough pedestrian traffic to maintain some smaller shops. Jo disputed there was a hospital but in fact we were both right – there is one, but it seems currently to be in a limbo somewhere between a closure and a rebuild/refit.

The very neo-Georgian building for Milk & More turns out to be a distribution centre for Dairy Crest products  (what the milkman used to and in some areas still does deliver to your door) though this time-line showing the evolution from Nationalised Industry to private company is one familiar across all major industries – Rail, Post Office, Utilities and so on.

After the ‘Swan & Sugarloaf’ the run into Croydon via its newly designated Restaurant Quarter was very similar to last week’s Route 405, already blogged.

So today I will be Croydon ‘lite’ so that I can focus more on the parts of the route not covered elsewhere.  Most of the 407 is a straight east west route, with a slight hook north into Croydon being the only deviation, and we were soon out again on a southerly route passing the back of Centrale and more significantly Reeves Corner. Jo was very excited about the history of the store depicted on the hoardings until she remembered that they were enclosing the empty space formerly occupied by the firm burnt down in the 2011 riots. 
Like the Reeves family  the rest of South London is waiting to see whether Westfield go ahead with their plans to redevelop Croydon’s Shopping Quarter.

On the route to Waddon certain former office blocks have been taken over by charismatic churches, leading Jo to dub this the ‘God Quarter’ of Croydon, which might just catch on.  The bus drives on through Waddon, which morphs into Beddington/Wallington. The ponds pre-date the Thirtes era housing developments with their periodic parades of shops. One such parade we passed had just fast food outlets with never a place to buy a fresh vegetable or any kind of cooking ingredient. While Jo was ticking off the different fry-ups you could buy the passenger behind us said ‘and the end one should be an undertaker as by the time you have eaten all that you will keel over with a heart attack.’  And she had a point.

Even the large warehouses round here seemed vacant and up for sale which must affect local employment somewhat.

After this somewhat depressing interlude Carshalton comes as quite a treat; I confess to having had a guided walk the previous weekend by Mary J, a Sutton-based friend who was able to point out some of the local history and landmarks.   John Ruskin is to thank for rescuing a well close to the ponds which also marks one of the sources of the River Wandle, whose trail you can join here. Just across the pond you can see the bridge known as the Leoni Bridge as supposedly designed by the Venetian architect who had been commissioned to build a grand mansion for Carshalton Park – interestingly landscaping the Park was given first priority and the money ran out before the house could be started, but you can visit several remnants of the grand designs.  

Also just visible down West Street is the Water Tower, a garden feature from the same era. Inside you can see a bath area and some fine tiles.  After all this the rest of the route is something of an anti-climax but the 407 has to negotiate the narrow roads round the extensive red brick wall (that must give the Head Teacher some sleepless nights, said Mary) sheltering  St Philomena’s School as it follows the aptly named Carshalton Road into Sutton, where all traffic – buses included – has to follow the one-way system in order to leave the High Street truly pedestrianised.  We did the tour to the end of St Nicholas Way and started back uphill coming to a halt in Marshalls Road.

This had been a long route and we had come along the ‘valley’ as far as Croydon and then through older and newer parts of outer London or Inner Surrey, the trip taking slightly over an hour.   

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