Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Number 414 Route

Maida Vale (The Chippenham) to Putney Bridge Station
Monday June 13th 2011

For summer it really was not that warm and neither of us had shed our ‘Ladies Who Bus’ hoodies… .

We strolled round the corner from our last Maida Vale/Hill etc bus and boarded a double decker just after 12.00. The clue to this number is in the 14 bit, as for much of its journey it shadows the very excellent Number 14 – we were surprised how major a route this proved to be as most of the 400s we have tackled so far are fairly parochial local routes in Zones 3-6 while this could be a Central London tourist bus.

Almost immediately the bus passes the pretty pastel blue Amadeus centre, which you might think was about music but is actually a venue for hire with profits going to charity

Nearby is the building that housed the Warwick Farm dairies, which reminds you this was once active farmland providing the locals with their milk.  Organic and local provender has clearly come back into favour as we could tell from the ‘golden sheep’ emblem advertising the organic butchers. Nowadays this kind of outlet is indicative of the prosperity of local residents. 

In spite of stiff competition from a variety of routes down the remainder of the Edgware Road up to Marble Arch this bus remained pretty popular. For less affluent shoppers Church Street market was open – unusually as our Monday trips usually involve ‘Closed Market’ days. At one time in its history this had been rivalling Covent Garden in size and prosperity but the development of the railways (and by the look of it Mr Hitler) rather changed the area, which lost a significant music hall also. Jo says it mainly sells shoes.
The very large Hilton Hotel, which overlooks Westway, is now looking shabby and combined with a run of potholes it is easy to see how an area goes down as well as up.

We always try to avert our gaze at the horse’s head statue at Marble Arch – we had understood it to be a temporary exhibit but almost two years down the line here it still is – our hope must be that the vegetation will grow up to disguise it.  The whole thing is essentially a large traffic island and does not do great justice to a piece of Nash design.

Traffic was flowing well down Park Lane which means we missed the details on a blue Plaque triggering the usual rant about the inadequacies of the official Blue Plaque site – there are limited options for typing in an address, rather than the name of someone. Various people have tried to set up their own web-sites, often beautifully designed, but faltering after a few posts – perhaps this should be our next mission??

Needless to say many passengers boarded hereabouts, including several school parties heading we presumed for the Museums.

Hyde Park Corner – another traffic island, though rather more accessible and well planned – is really a tourist destination in its own right, between the Wellington Arch and the views you can get from the top of it and the series of memorials including that to the New Zealand forces (emblematic warriors), the Artillery Monument and the more controversial Machine Gunners.  For both we owe a debt to Charles Sergeant Jagger. There is also Number 1 London, Apsley House, to visit.

Like its earlier relative, the 414 pushes on down Knightsbridge passing Harvey Nicks, which today was remembering the late Alexander McQueen’s designs in its windows, the Kuwaiti embassy, more hotels and of course Harrods.  All this high-end retail (though there are plenty of affordable chains to compensate the tourists who come to look and not buy) is what makes Knightsbridge what it is.  High-end retail is quickly followed by higher-end real estate – or large expensive mansions to you and me.
We noticed that the road works at South Kensington continue – this makes two years now, though more modest and less obstructive than when we started the Bus Project. It seems to have been a scheme long in the planning and the execution, but demonstrates the concept of  (planned) shared space.
(There are of course endless examples of cars encroaching on pedestrians’ space in an unplanned way)
(PS Completed by 2012)

The large properties round squares have communal gardens which are frequently private but sometimes opened to the rest of the world. We noticed that individual tenants (perhaps not the right word) also have some very attractive trees and topiary on their street-facing balconies.       

Further along the bus passes the first in a series of hospitals.  William Marsden, from humble beginnings himself, founded a dispensary for the poor – later to evolve into the Royal Free and a venue for treating/helping cancer patients, now of course the Royal Marsden is of international renown for its cancer treatments. Close by is the Brompton, its specialism hearts and lungs. 

Between this institution and the next hospital – the Chelsea and Westminster – there are some small but interesting shops: another branch of Daunt Books and a touch of brass. I thought the latter might sell handles and such like but seems to specialise in ‘decorative grills’ otherwise known as burglar proofing and security… 
I am sure the buildings being renovated along here will be sufficiently high end to feel the need for such security.

Further down, before Chelsea Football Club, you can just catch a glimpse of the Brompton Cemetery, which is one of the' Magnificent Seven' and clearly worth a visit.

Fulham Broadway does not do what it says on the tin as it always seems quite narrow and a bottleneck, perhaps because of the bends along it and heavy pedestrian traffic around the Town Hall, library and station.

Between the earlier Brompton Oratory and now the Servite Order this is a good route for serious Roman Catholics too.

The rest of Fulham Road and the short stretch of Fulham Palace Road are in the main very charming – the smaller houses you can imagine having been built for the potters and merchants who would have once lived here have another type of owner now. Our trip had started with a rather magnificent gold sheep and was to end with a cow on the pavement advertising the ‘Parson’s Nose,’ another organic butchery. So before very long and just before Putney Bridge the bus turns off to come to a halt in the small space allowed it, leaving us to thread our way home via the elevated station that is Putney Bridge.  The trip, which lives up to the 14 route while sharing its core journey, but with different though equally interesting beginnings and ends, had taken us across London though not across the River in just over an hour.  

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