Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Number 472 Route

Thamesmead Town Centre to North Greenwich
Monday December 20th 2010

This was our first trip to Thamesmead (though obviously one of the later numbers) and we were rather surprised to find that ‘Towncentre’ comprised half a bus station and a library. In fact Thamesmead seemed rather short on the facilities that daily living requires such as shops and cafes or pubs, though generously endowed with buses. When they extended the Jubilee Line Thamesmead was hopeful of getting its own underground stop, but Stratford won that particular prize and it does seem incongruous that an area housing up to 50,000 people does not have its own station.  There are as noted, however, several bus routes – including this one, which runs on a 24-hour basis. 
All we had needed to do on this very cold day was to get off our previous route, cross the road and immediately we were in our customary front seats on the top deck.

Thamesead North was large and densely populated enough without thinking about the other three points of the compass – in good socialist fashion the roads and some of the blocks are named after lots of DW(EE)BS (Dead White Britons): Dickens, Lister, Fleming, Bentham and Hawksmoor, a few of them more local boys than others; the list goes on. Off to the side there was a patch of wildlife naming – Curlew and Fieldfare leading us to wonder whether the increasingly ubiquitous green parakeets would soon get a street or development named for them? Parakeet Pass perhaps?  Anyway the town houses and newer flats were nicely arranged along little waterways – today all frozen, leading to some rather confused looking ducks and geese sitting on the ice rather than dabbling as they usually do. I imagine it can be quite pleasant to stroll along here on warmer days. Not surprisingly the bus was taking its journey quite carefully and quietly, given the narrow clearance it had between snow and slush banks, and it took on many passengers.

After emerging onto the main road, the bus then serves Thamesmead West, which is in fact an industrial/business estate that presumably offers employment to some of the residents of Thamesmead North.  Many of the businesses seemed to be to do with either car repairs or parcel delivery services – at this time of year there were plenty of vans nipping in and out of different units. Again we were not sure where the workers round here went for lunch as there seemed to be a great lack of eating places except for one McDonalds.  ‘Iron Mountain’ with its simple triangular logo was one of the main warehousing agents round here, but on looking into what services they might provide it seems they manage ‘data protection’ out of rather more upmarket addresses in town than a slab of metal warehouse in Thamesmead – can this be where all the confidential re-cycling waste actually sits then?? As ours was the only bus route trundling along Nathan Way there seemed little risk of having too many visitors anyway.

Our last bit of back street driving then finished by merging into the busy riverside main road between Plumstead and Woolwich, and we stayed Thames-side for the rest of the trip. Even from the top of the bus it is quite difficult to work out what you are passing on the opposite riverbank. By the Woolwich Ferry the last of Tate & Lyle was steaming/smoking away opposite and there was a strange array of huge satellite dishes much bigger than the domestic sort leading one to wonder where data protection ends and spying starts?? Having recently flown into City Airport at night it was good to see the river landscape by day. 

Talking of river landscapes we suddenly realised that the Royal Arsenal housing development  we had been passing on so many routes actually had some completed blocks behind the hoardings – not very inspiring was the conclusion, just oblong greyness …
( I promise I am not an agent for Berkeley but as developers go they at least rehabilitate existing sites of interest) 

We zipped along the riverside route quite smartly, with its reminders of seafaring past such a Hope and Anchor Lane,  and Horizon Way, and then turned off into Bugsby’s Way, which turned out to be our undoing. ( I think Bugsby must have been like Mr Gallion and family who owned stretches of the river down from the more expensive mooring in central London - a 'reach' is as far as a ship 'reaches' on a single tack .... apparently.)

We guessed there might be some kind of malfunction in the nearby Blackwall Tunnel as there seemed to be traffic everywhere but going nowhere so halfway down our driver evicted us onto the frozen pavements to wait for the next bus along. We were only within 6 minutes of finishing this route and getting home so it seemed a bit unreasonable but I suppose timetables are timetables. I suggested to Jo we might take the next bus along whatever the number, given that the routes were the same, but this is clearly ‘against the rules’ even in sub-zero temperatures. As it happened the next bus along was a 472 so we could complete the trip as it should be done.

Given the milling hordes it took longer than six minutes but we eventually left the Blackwall scrum behind and sailed past the gasworks/dome and housing mix to arrive back at North Greenwich where we had set off some four hours earlier.  By now the inside of the bus was like paddling due to the snow coming off passengers’ shoes but the 472 had taken us safely through the narrow and snowbound streets of Thamesmead back to the Greenwich Peninsula.

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