Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Number 436 Route

Paddington Station to Lewisham Centre
Tuesday June 9th 2009

NB: You can tell by the date above, a mere three months after the Project started, that we were in our ‘early days’ of travelling, photographing etc. While the account below was written at the time, we seem only to have 5 photos actually taken on the day, which hardly does justice to one of the major cross London routes. You will also see that the journey took place on a bendy bus from which photography is most difficult (low, crowded etc). We also had rather older cameras, which tended to fade after a couple of bus rides. Cameras and buses both have been replaced by newer models- the LWB not.  
I have therefore augmented the pictures with a few archive shots, mainly of ghost signs, all of which can be found ‘en route’
Fairly grey and a bit chilly for the time of year. Jo had recently returned from Australia while Mary was entertaining an Australian visitor elsewhere (no connection), so there were just two of us.

Our previous journey (the slowish Number 15) having left us at nearby Paddington Basin, we crossed over the renovated canal basin and bridge and through Paddington Station to use its 30p toilets and buy Jo some lunch. The bus took a little while to come so we ate rather eagerly in the street. The 436 is a single-decker bendy bus, complete with old-fashioned hanging straps, and we sat near the back. Though the station is magnificent inside it has little or no outside presence.

This being lunch-time, the streets round Paddington were really busy with lunch time snackers and shoppers criss-crossing the street, which gave us time to note no less than two Hilton hotels (one the old Great Western Railway building) and the first of several pawnbrokers. We swept back round into the Edgware Road past Bechstein House,  where indeed you can hear an ‘underdamped’ piano even now!). We moved quite fast round Marble Arch and past the Animals at War memorial and the string of grand London hotels – Jo had actually attended a 21st birthday party at the Dorchester but it made no great impression on her. Hyde Park on our right was green but we were underwhelmed by the Queen Mother gates – a birthday present apparently, but better in the thought than the execution

The antipodean war memorials come thick and fast, with the NZ  ‘haka’ style posts apparently lit up like the Southern Cross at night. Grosvenor Place needed some re-surfacing as we bumped along, and Jo remembered she has shared a flat in Arlington Place. Unlike Paddington, Victoria Station looks the part, though we passed swiftly on, noting the Peak, a new building shooting up opposite to provide yet another retail and office opportunity! Neither Vauxhall Bridge Road nor the bridge itself detained us for long: Westminster has provided its residents with some good-looking housing and the private sector has colonised the south end of the bridge, though St George's Wharf has not won any fans for its building.  Many people got on at the Vauxhall station bus stops  (it’s a big interchange) and The Big Issue has its HQ just nearby on the ferocious, thank-goodness-I’m-in-a-bus-not-on-a-bike, one-way system.

The bus weaves its way round a couple of schools and alongside the Oval, where it was greeted by three inspectors and a back-up of 14 (honestly) community and other police officers, which seemed a bit of an overkill for what in the end was no more then a couple of transgressors. Still it sparked some lively debate for what had been, and continued to be, quite a quiet bus, with few mobile phone conversations. Just close to Archbishop Tenison school there was a nearly hidden blue plaque for Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who was apparently born here in 1887.

After Kennington, the Camberwell New Road does not have that much to recommend it – the bus garage where crews often change over and some quite modest but complete terraces of early Victorian houses before the less attractive buildings take over. Someone seems to have hung a random four face old clock from their frontage, and we also passed
Rat Records, which is really straight out of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, having graduated from Camden &Greenwich market stalls to the Camberwell New Road!

We shot across the Green, taking on ever more people, one of them grazing on Maltesers all the way, though trying hard not to…and along the Peckham Road and Queens Road, passing the Peckham Academy and wondering whether when it came to voting next time people would remember how many new schools had been built in the last ten years? Just further along comes the Bun House, which strangely is a pub not a bakery, though not exactly getting top marks from beer drinkers.  The Marbella Hotel on the Queens Road seemed an unlikely proposition, perhaps named in a spirit of escape?

New Cross has two rail stations, currently not offering the East London line, but still rail plus a substantial bus station, once you have negotiated the one-way system. Lewisham Way just misses Goldsmiths’ College but offers other educational delights such as Arthouse in the old Carnegie library and Lewisham College just opposite St John’s Station. We also passed the Celia Hammond Trust, much beloved and supported by an acquaintance  (who has several very cute rescue cats), and indirectly by us who supply items for the shop. That just about brought us back into Lewisham where the 436 snuggles down behind the Lewisham Shopping Centre offering a somewhat reduced, but perfectly OK shopping experience.

PS It is not surprising this was chosen as bendy route as it involves few turns or diversions from the straight. However since last year the double deckers are back in service and would offer anyone a really interesting cross London trip combining both tourist sites and local colour. 

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