Monday, 29 October 2012

The Number 417 Route

Crystal Palace Parade to Clapham Common Station
Monday July 26th 2010

This was the third leg of a journey which started in Camden but found us round Clapham Common three times in all.

To start at the beginning, however: we boarded our double decker – not a foregone conclusion when you are up in the 400 numbers and heaven knows how old we will be by the time we come to blog this one – and took the one way loop round the heart of Crystal Palace. Over the years the shops have changed considerably – once there were several shops serving the camping community (one of London’s few campsites sits below one of the relay masts) but now the focus seems to be on vintage shops of all sorts. 
Belle Coco caught our eye and we know there is a weekend market too.  The bus in line with all the traffic locked into this loop has to execute quite a tight turn to pass in front of  Sainsbury’s which is set well back from Westow Street with its more individual shops. Even the church was not run of the mill being a Greek church dedicated to Saints Helen and Constantine – it seems she was his Mum (must be a bit difficult having a saint for a mum?).

As the bus turns right into Central Hill the views down to Gypsy Hill and London are terrific – today the rain took the edge of this excellent panorama but on a good day it reminds you that Crystal Palace is the highest point of the old North Wood which stretches north from Croydon and at this point reaches 112 metres.  It is not surprising that there are two TV transmitters here also – here’s hoping they have improved as when we first moved to SE London in 1974 the TV reception in the lee of the hill was a bit intermittent: one way of discouraging your children from watching much TV was that the pictures were so fuzzy!

The views continue along Central Hill, now dominated by a Lambeth estate of that name, and up to Crown Point – as the name implies another vantage point. The 417 passes Norwood Park on the right and then the assorted buildings of the Virgo Fidelis School which has been established here for many years – the secondary department seems to be voluntary aided while the junior department is a private prep school.   

Up at Crown Point the 417 goes straight across as if for Streatham but soon after passing the embarrassingly  titled Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables (since renamed) heads right down Leigham Court Road, the only route to do so.

Just opposite is a large anonymous elevated green space, possibly a covered reservoir, though there would appear to be a total Internet/information vacuum about it; I suppose this is about keeping our water or something else secure?

Leigham Court Road seems to be a road of two halves and this link gives a more detailed history of this part of Streatham.  As the name might indicate a large estate with smaller cottages was developed, though there appear to be still those huge Victorian mansions with enough space for 6 children and as many servants but now mainly used as care homes or schools – the mid 19th century homes across the road are more manageable for today’s families. The height of the land is reflected in the street names hereabouts - Mount Nod and Mount Earl on the one side and Valleyfield on the other.

The main feature of this stretch is of course Dunraven School, occupying a site both sides of the road. As the only bus hereabouts I can imagine in term time the bus is humming – as it was the only other passengers aboard with us were a grandmother on child care duty playing an inventive game whereby spotting rare coloured cars gave you more points than the usual silver ones – hours of endless fun till they got off on the High Street. Not for long on the A23, the 417 branches down towards Streatham Place where we have been often enough on earlier routes. At night this route is served by the 137 so it was no surprise when we followed its route up the very wide and spacious King’s Avenue towards Clapham Park (where Wates were renovating Lambeth’s housing stock) and at quite a smart pace round to the right to arrive, pretty much within its designated half hour, at Clapham Common station. It is interesting there are two totally different routes with the same termini, this and the 322, but they barely overlap.

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