Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Number 470 Route

Colliers Wood Station to Epsom Town centre
Wednesday December 19th 2012

The last bus day before Christmas, and probably the last bus day of the year 2012, brought us to Colliers Wood where the three of us had assembled following different approaches to the Northern Line. The 470 stop was easily visible from the station and we duly waited about 15 minutes for the twice-an-hour service. This new, spruce double door single decker clearly has a loyal fan base as for almost its entire length we noticed how the passengers knew each other and even moved seats to be able to chat more comfortably.

Heading south from Colliers Wood, our first encounter was with a series of roundabouts and large industrial units – some having shops while others were of the storage variety and we noted quite few visitors doubtless wishing their stored goods the compliments of the season – or perhaps it’s the one time of year when you use the extra chairs?

The first landmark was the Merton Abbey Mills - for along here the River Wandle was used by earlier industries; today the industries are more of the cottage and tourist variety, though no doubt attracting a good crowd at a weekend.  Later on Morden Hall is another attraction, this time run by the National Trust.  Though the ‘Prince of Wales’ is a recently refurbished Young’s pub it was a bit difficult to tell from the pub sign which Prince was intended: the pub was too well established to be the current incumbent, and the picture looked too thin to be the Prinny one, so that leaves about 19 other possibles but Jo  thought it might be Fred, the one who never made it?

By now we were coming into the altogether more familiar Morden where the station is helpfully central to the High Street. What leapt out (of the deep gloom it has to be said) were the La Lavella CafĂ© and Relate, the latter with its sign cunningly showing two heads ‘talking it through’. This was a charity shop but may also have been a branch offering services. Once through Morden came the series of roundabouts and our option – Central Avenue – cut across the St Helier Estate quite neatly, one of outer London’s more ambitious social housing projects.  “The main building work being apparently done between early 1929 and the end of 1934. It was built by C.J. Wills and Sons for the London County Council, who had acquired for the purpose 825 acres which had been farmland, both arable and pasture. Much of this land had, in fact, been used for the local lavender and herb industry, to which the estate was more or less a final death blow.”  The planning did include 18 schools, a hospital and cinema with several areas left as open spaces.

Those early residents now have their own memories site which is quite evocative. It must be said, and this is true of the trip as a whole, that if 37% of current Londoners were born overseas on this trip the passengers definitely came from the remaining 63%. It is a very patriotic community and when last here, during the World Cup, all the St George’s flags were flying; today it was rather more muted with quite subdued Christmas decorations though a large flag for ‘the Help for Heroes’ charity.  Some stretches were ‘Hail & Ride’

Glenthorne has a football academy and approaching yet another roundabout we spotted a new library, economically though pleasantly built of metal and wood – Jo reminded us that it’s the staffing that costs, not the bricks and mortar (none of that here). This was but a brief interlude as yet more residential areas continued alongside Sutton Common Station and Sutton Green, which signalled our arrival at Sutton Town Centre. We progressed south round the back of the High Street as usual emerging at the top of the slope by the police stations and main station. Here we lost most of the passengers who had been with us from Colliers Wood including a chap who was off to see ‘his mates in prison’ this being the place to change onto the Route 80 prison bound.

Our route out of Sutton was more westerly, serving the very pleasant residential roads that merge effortlessly between Sutton and Cheam. If your main image of Cheam is based on Tony Hancock and friends in ‘Railway Cuttings East Cheam’ think again – this route took us past substantial detached properties well set back on leafy (not at this time of year, but you can tell) and largely quiet streets. Some of the houses had been turned into residential homes and this was seemingly the first site for the Christian Foundation of Eothen homes. By now we were into our second ‘Hail & Ride’ section. This is the only number route effectively between Sutton and Cheam and the locals took advantage of it to get them home from the shops.  The approach to Cheam Station is very narrow and controlled by one-way traffic lights so it is no surprise there are only 2 buses an hour passing through.

Cheam feels compelled to highlight its Tudor connections (see Nonsuch Park) and the High Street shopping parades are suitably half-timbered in tribute to the links with Henry VIII. To be fair the shops in Cheam do offer a more individual shopping experience than most suburban malls. Leaving Cheam, the roadside green space is variously Cheam Park but more properly Nonsuch Park, where  Henry VIII planned for a hunting palace, but died before it was completed. Its later history is equally louche with the property passing to Lady Castlemaine, the Royal mistress remembered mostly for her indiscretions as recounted by the inimitable Samuel Pepys

The Ewell Road offered yet more residential delights with even some new homes under construction – however at close to £¾ million each property we won’t be moving here in a hurry, though clearly the South East is more prosperous than many parts of the country. Smaller apartment blocks always signal there is a station nearby and sure enough we passed Ewell East, just outside Zone 6 and doubtless subject to imminent fare rises.

Grand houses, some again now residential facilities for older people, line the main road in and out of Ewell village, and the joy of both the park and these homes was the sight of so many mature trees, splendid even in the winter gloom.

The route into Epsom was somewhat depressing with at least three modern office blocks empty and for letting. Traffic funnels towards Epsom High Street and Jo, who was in photography mode, decided to snap a female driver texting on her phone.   Because the light was low the camera flashed (and actually failed to capture the scene) and we got in return the kind of ‘looks could kill’ stare. She returned to her phone though. Epsom has a one-way system so we swung round the back of Debenhams, Waitrose and the Playhouse Theatre before pulling up alongside the clock tower and our next, even rarer, bus. But you have already read the entry for the 467.

To be fair this had been billed as a 75 minute ride, and that is how long it took, but was a much more realistic estimate than they often are. It also had come from a station not yet at the end of the Northern Line to a town in Surrey well beyond Zone 6. 

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