Monday, 28 January 2013

The Number 541 Route

Monday 28 January 2013

Linda and I took this modest little route on a bright and sunny morning.  The most difficult part of getting to Prince Regent DLR station, whence it departs for the Keir Hardie Estate, is fathoming the apparently inexplicable complexities of Canning Town Station.  Linda found Platform 3 (trains to Beckton) by trying a number of other options first.  I gave up when I followed signs which brought me back, panting, to the Jubilee Line Platforms, and then asked a very helpful young person, who saw me into the lift for the right place, saying that I should have stayed on the Jubilee Line and done a u-turn. Apparently improved signage will be part of the 'works' which are occurring at the moment.

Even with these difficulties we were onto the bus at 09.40, delighted to find it was a double decker.  The only other people on the top deck were two people from a French-speaking part of Africa.  One of them was amused at our photo taking, but then very helpfully told us when we reached the end of the route and assured us that we could ride the bus back.  We gave him a card, so 'bon jour' if you are reading this, sir.

At first we followed the DLR back towards Canning Town, but soon the complicated works were such that we turned right.  At first we thought 'it might be Crossrail', our default solution to any signs of disruption, but of course it's just the DLR upgrade. (But please see the very helpful corrective comment below.  I had not realised just how far the tentacles of Crossrail had spread) So we turned right to reach Freemasons' Parade, recognising the clear signage at which Newham excels, and then came to Ashburton Wood, which breaks up the public housing nicely.

The YMCA's George Williams College is here.  It specialises in degrees relating to Youth and Community work.  Then we dived down under the A13 to come into Chargeable Lane, a name which baffled us.  Certainly no-one asked us for a toll payment as we headed onwards, through mixed areas of terraced houses and more recent social housing.
We also thought that this was not an area that would have much demand for Koi carp, and the shop certainly seemed to have given up.  Custom, of course, for the fact that we were in the Custom House Area, rather than anything about the fish.

The Abbey Pub had rather a handsome sign, depicting the interior of an Abbey; but one lot of choir and lay-clerks' stalls look much like another, so I can't tell you which Abbey it is named for. The web seems to think it's called the Abbey Arms, but the sign clearly doesn't.

After passing Hitchcock's the undertakers, once famous for horse drawn hearses, which seems now to be part of a larger group called Albins, we came to Rokeby School.  It is displaying the excellent words of its Offsted report.  It would be great if their website explained the name, but it doesn't. Rokeby Place is a stately home in Yorkshire;  the name is also associated with a Velasquez painting of Venus in the National Gallery, notorious for being attacked by a Suffragette in 1914. Neither of these things appears to have a close Newham link.

Our journey went on, heading straight towards Canary Wharf, and passing the Masjid Al Habib - 'Habib' means 'beloved', by the way -, as well as a beautician called 'His' Grace.  We were not clear whether this was FOR men, or BY men.

We went back under the A13 to reach Canning Town Bus Station.  The planting that was done for the Olympics is still looking rather nice.  It may well be the only legacy that remains, since 'inspiring a generation' to sporting excellence may prove a bit difficult in the absence of funding.

The NHS advertising on the sides of buses also attracted our interest.  The temptation to leap out and graffiti 'unless you live in Lewisham' after 'is for saving lives' was successfully resisted.

The Canning Town Caravanserai is a community/craft/events sort of place and we passed it before turning teft and then right to enter the Keir Hardie Estate.  This is named for the great Socialist, who rose from the grimmest and poorest of backgrounds to become internationally famous and venerated.

The estate includes some very nice green space, as well as a range of housing types, and our fellow passenger told us that the actual end of the route is the Appleby Centre, which we reached at 10.05.

I nipped downstairs to give our driver a card, and we stayed on to get back to Canning Town.  It is a slightly different route through other streets of the estate, passing a house with splendid plastering embellishments, and a school and play centre whose mural included a pretty fine bus.

All in all, a pleasant little ride, which linked in parts with other buses we have known, as far back as the 5, as well as showing us some new parts of East London

Just to finish with, I'll repeat what our plans are for the next few weeks:  the 549 will occupy next Monday, and after that the 603 and the 607:  but no other 600 buses because they are clearly designated 'school journeys' by TfL and so are not for us.  And then it's on to the letters, starting, probably, with a foray into Bexleyheath for some 'B's.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Number 518 Route – or not?

Here’s an interesting thing.  If you go to the ‘Getting Around’ bit of the TFL website, select ‘Bus Maps’ and then enter 518 in the box, the poor little site gets all confused, and appears to think that the best help it can give you is, and I quote, “Showing routes near 518, Wembley, HA9.”

However, if you go to the ‘Live Travel News’ bit, select ‘Buses’, then go to ‘Live Bus Departures’ and enter 518, you get a helpful little map, showing a teeny weeny little route with all of three stops in one direction and only two in the other.  Ah, how sweet – to think they’d let a route like that out on its own…

‘What is going on?’ you hear us cry.

Well, the answer appears to be given on the London Bus Routes website, which has the following to say:

It also says: Temporary route introduced 12/01/13 and tells you that the expected journey time is a princely 4 (yes, four) minutes.

Well, we are sorry: a recently-arrived, temporary, free, two or three-stop bus journey, lasting less than five minutes and covering bits of London to which we are not exactly strangers?  We don’t think so.  But if one of our loyal followers would like to submit a guest posting, we should be happy to extend our hospitality.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Number 521 Route

London Bridge Station to Waterloo Station
Monday January 21st 2013

Given there had just been a weekend of major snowfalls in and around London it was just as well we had chosen these very Inner London routes to tackle today. We met at London Bridge Station which is still undergoing major works in order to accommodate yet more through trains.

The bus station, which has had its own modest upgrade following completion of the Shard, was taped off today. Jo had already spoken with an operative who told her the sewers beneath had given way; give Bazalgette his due, the Victorians were not expecting the height and density of building this century has seen.

This meant we needed to board at the first bus stop at the southern end of London Bridge, allowing Jo to photograph the Dragon which marks the boundary of the City of London. The 521, like its soul-mate the 507, is what I would call a bendy design bus without the bend – that is 2-door entry, no money and more standing than sitting room. In fact Jo stood forwards for most of the trip while I had a centre seat so our experiences differed somewhat. It has to be said quite emphatically this is NOT a route you would ever take to get from London Bridge to Waterloo, but it is bus that takes commuters arriving from the South to their City and Holborn desks and places of work.  Compared to better weather there were far fewer folk walking across the bridge, which often must prove faster.  Though we passed two lots of road works we progressed reasonably well.  

In a single-decker squeezed between many high rise blocks I cannot really say which companies or branches of capitalism we passed as most of what I glimpsed were the outlets which feed, and to some extent clothe, the toiling masses. No shortage of sandwich bars then or places to get suited and booted.  An advert for Superfoods rather puzzled me as all they seemed to be offering was porridge and scrambled eggs, which when all is said and done is breakfast.  The 521 passes Monument Station, really quite modest, and then the gleaming Cannon Street now open after its rebuild. If you enjoy high quality photos this site is for you, and it captures the sheen of steel. 

For a moment I had confused the atrium type build with 1 New Change which is the next landmark on this route. Of course every street name within the City tells a different story and that of Cannon Street is not quite what you might expect. Just behind the station are two of the City’s Guild Halls (not to be confused with the Guildhall) the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall and the Skinners’, where we are lucky enough to have visited.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is of course famously built of white Portland Stone and it was gratifying to see that it did not look too grey/dirty beside the recent snow. The 521 route is bordered by many other City churches of which I will only name the large and therefore hard to miss St Sepulchre without Newgate which has a long history including coming through the Blitz largely unscathed. It is known both as the Musicians’ Church and as the Regimental Chapel of the Royal Fusiliers; included amongst those buried here is Thomas Culpeper, beheaded for his extra-marital fling with Catherine Howard. The church, being outside the City boundary, also marks the start of Holborn and the 521 takes in both Holborn Circus and High Holborn.  
The Marine Stewardship Council’s offices caught my eye thinking they must be about registering mariners fit to sail/steam/manage a ship – I could not be more wrong – it’s all about the fish and responsible catches.

Still with the fishy theme is the statue to Sir William Walworth, another former Lord Mayor, this one with blood on his hands. It seems you get rewarded for defending the status quo against mob rule and the streets round here are still full of men in suits standing on kerbs hailing taxi cabs.

Once past Holborn we had the bus to ourselves and Jo could finally take a seat – we were lucky the windows were as clean as they were given the state of some bus routes we passed. The sweep round the Aldwych and along the Strand was surprisingly swift; we often pass King’s College with its famous alumni posted in the window – today Jo photographed Keats, who is easy but Charles Wheatstone needed to be further Googled. He seems to have been a Victorian inventor looking mainly at electrical applications, which facilitated the sending of telegraphs.

What an excellent bus this was – 2 bridges for the price of one trip and here we were heading across Waterloo Bridge able to look back to where we had started. The 521 stops in one of the back streets near the station and our totally unnecessary but very enjoyable loop had taken just over 20 minutes.   

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Number 507 Route

Monday 21 January 2013

Today Linda and I polished off two brief central London buses which ply between main railway stations, though they are mostly full of people getting out before the end.  The 507 leaves Waterloo, bound for Victoria, from the bus stops in Cab Road, alongside the handsome corner entrance of Waterloo Station.  There were about thirty people waiting to get on, not our customary experience at the head stops of buses so far.  We were on board at 10.50, passing close to the sad, disused former Eurostar terminus, for which no-one has yet found a use.  Actually, it seems that this may be about to change, according to this website.

We turned left along York Road,  and passed the HQ of the Duck Tours:  not an activity for this cold and overcast day, we thought, before coming to the roundabout hotel, which we noticed is called the Park Plaza, though which Park, and which Plaza, we know not, and of course this is the name of the chain, not the specific hotel.

As we turned onto Lambeth Palace Road, the bus stop was named for St Thomas' Hospital, and a number of hospital staff got off. (how do we know?  well, many of them already had their badges on, which might be thought to be against the infection control regulations)  We noted the signs for the Evelina Children's Hospital, now part of the same complex having moved from London Bridge, perhaps to make room for the Shard.

We had good views of Lambeth Palace, its grounds looking wintery and attractive.  I suppose the head of the Anglican Church is entitled to a palace and parkland in central London, though the head of the whole religion did have something to say about not having anywhere to lay his head, according to Matthew Ch 8 v 20.

Now we headed along the river, with parliament opposite, and the turned at the pineapples that guard its approach, to get onto Lambeth Bridge.  Some say that the Pineapples are a tribute to John Tradescant, who grew the first one in Britain, and certainly we were very near the garden museum
 where one can learn a lot about him. Then we were onto the bridge, and over into Westminster, heading straight along Horseferry Road.  This meant we passed Marsham Street, home of the Home Office and the Prison Services HQ, though of course also the site of Anson. This was the purpose built, bomb proof shelter to which Churchill refused to move, preferring the convenience of the War Rooms under the then Home Office in Whitehall.  So there is a certain symmetry in the history of the place.

Horseferry Road took us past the White Horse and Bower Pub, and we pictured a horse peeking out from a flowery enclave, before passing Channel 4's headquarters, still embellished with a model of the Snowman and his dog.

Then we took a right and left, with a brief glimpse of Westminster Cathedral, to get into Victoria Street.  There is a lot of building work going on along here, and as we approached Victoria Station, we could see the evidence of the huge refurbishment and upgrading that is going on here.  We said hello to Field Marshal Foch, not for the first time, before terminating our journey at 11.05

The weather certainly speeded things up: I have never before gone along Victoria Street so quickly, except on a bicycle.  Clearly many people have stayed home today, whether because of their children's schools or their own journeys, we could not tell.  But it was fun to be back in the middle of London one more time.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Number 499 Route

Monday 14 January 2013

The 499 is not an easy route:  it goes from the Heathpark Estate to the Gallows Corner Tesco, neither of which is particularly convenient for other transport links.  AND it does a little twiddle around the Heathpark Estate, returning by a different route from the one it arrives by (if you follow me).  But we LWB can cope with this kind of challenge, and so we made our way to Romford Station, well served by trains on the Shenfield line from Stratford:  and you don’t need us to remind you that Stratford is easy for those lucky enough to live near the Overground.

Thus it was that Linda and I (Mary being in Devon for the village pantomime) came out of Romford Station to find two stops for the 499 opposite each other and, Linda having risked her life to see which direction the first of them would take, we were off towards Harold Hill at 10.18, ready to tour the whole of that part of the route, and then head back and on towards Gallows Corner.

As we came out of Romford, we passed new but unoccupied offices,  something that we have seen across London:  and yet they keep building them. We also came to the new housing called ‘Reflections’  which we have watched grow from a hole in the ground.  Many are now occupied, but the protective fencing and the Tayor Wimpey signage suggests that the development still has a way to go.
We did not turn into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, though we have been on buses which did, and went on to pass the large circular objects across the road from Romford’s enormous cemetery.  My A-Z calls this a gas works and in 1994 there seemed to be a plan for a mixed development.  Certainly they do not look much like gas holders now. 

The Civic Centre is always impressive, if not particularly beautiful 

Passing through an area of decaying retail and business premises, we came to residential properties of all kinds:  flats and semis, almost all of which had hardened front gardens.  Then, turning left rather than crossing the railway, we were into Chadwell Heath, with a large parade of shops and a Post Office.  Here lots of people got on, perhaps having collected their pensions.  We also admired the vets’ large frontage and noted what had clearly once been social housing on our right, as our driver kindly waited for a lady who had been shopping in Morrisons.  Then we dived along Marston Avenue and reached the shops in Stansgate Road, where the destination of the bus was changed to Gallows Corner.  Here we paused for about five minutes, plenty of time to note that several of the shops had found it impossible to make a living; and we set off at 10.37.  The block of housing around here are named for some of the heroines of women’s rights:  Emmeline Pankhurst, and Ellen Wilkinson. There was also a block named for Mary McCarthy, but we cannot guess which one it is: novelist?  Bloomsbury group member? Here’s a list to choose from 

Our return route to Romford was much straighter:  indeed, we briefly shared the road with the number 5 bus, cause of our first ever visit to Romford.  We are pretty sure that the 499 is our last, at least as far as the project is concerned.

Rush Green had banners announcing the reopening of its football stadium which looks like an exciting development for football enthusiasts.

Now we were back into a residential area of the kind that  has a service road, pretty plaster work and even a segregated cycle track for a while.  Some people were having building work done (possibly solar panels, we thought) by  We were repeating our outward route, and were soon at Romford Station, heading past the Liberty Shopping Centre and the cafĂ© with the family statue outside.  Romford also has the Mercury Centre and certainly, on a day like this, indoor window shopping would have had its attractions.  Along Main Road is the Redeemed Christian Church of God for all Nations.  It says that it runs a school for autistic children, but it looks to be a bit insecure at the moment.

As we went north, we came to more prosperous areas and passed Marshalls Park School, an ‘improving’ school  but one which might be wise to think  about the readability levels of its dark backgrounded website.  This is mainly bungalow territory, with mostly parking spaces instead of front gardens.  We noted the fine tropical planting as we turned right along lower Bedfors Road, and lo! We were in countryside, or at least an extended green area. Linda was disappointed that no horses were to be seen, but we thought they might be snuggled down somewhere, avoiding the cold.  We were headed downhill, and did not stop for quite a stretch.  When we did stop, it was to lose our last fellow traveller. Though we picked up a few more in Noak Hill.  I was relieved to see rather a good looking convenience store, since this bus is infrequent, and not everyone owns a car (though admittedly it is hard to believe in this part of Essex.  We noticed that not everyone has houses which are well insulated:  this kind of light sprinkling of snow really shows up who allows expensive heat to leak through the roof and who doesn’t.
Down hill towards Harold Wood, we were again in mixed residential areas, until we came to the striking MyPlace building and its accompanying shops.

A young woman got on board with one of those enormous buggies.  Already slowed by the fact that she did not have an Oyster Card (why pay £2.40 for something which could cost £1.40?) she found she had to retreat and go through the exit doors as the machine was too large for the corridor between the seats.  Linda thought she was not a habitual bus user. 

We have commented before on the Pompadours Pub.  I still do not know whether it is named for a high class courtesan or a hairstyle, though I have been wondering from time to time since we passed this way in 2011.  This is an area that flaunts its ‘patriotism’ and I am not prepared to link to some of the websites I got offered when googling pubs in the area.  I can only think that some people never go into hospital or indeed have their prescriptions dispensed, rubbish cleared or streets swept.

By now we were getting very cold:  as Linda remarked in Heaton Avenue, it was more heatoff in our bus.  Still, we were almost there, as we came back into Straight Road, which we had left to twiddle through the housing.  Then it was left at a derelict pub.  This seems to have been the Bow and Arrow, and as long ago as 1997 there were plans and protests about its future, and nothing is happening on the site  now in 2013 
Thus we reached the mega Tescos of Gallows Corner at 11.25 (pic 14).  The carbon footprint of the store itself may be small (pic  14) but it is only visited by two small and infrequent buses, so I expect that the many cars compensate.

It was one of these infrequent buses, the 347 from Ockendon,  which whipped us back to Romford Station, much faster than the meandering 499.

Sadly, when we offered the 499 driver a card, he said he did not understand English, so we spared him the opportunity to study the blog.

The Number 498 Route

Romford Station to Brentwood (Sainsbury’s)
Thursday June 7th 2012

After a fairly slow start to the day due to a very infrequent service, a mere 15 minute wait at the lively bus stops by Romford Station posed few problems. It had not yet started raining and it was half-term so there was plenty of ‘people watching’ to be had. The buses come as thick and fast as the waiting passengers and when our 498 rolled up the throng (cannot be called a queue) surged and Jo and I found ourselves not only separated but she without a seat for the entire journey, so full was this route, running three times an hour. I guess it had been Market Day in Romford and most passengers stayed on till Brentwood. It was a smallish bus with a buggy getting stuck and having to de-board and re-board via the middle doors. Though mid-June the bus seemed full of germs with sundry heavy coughing going on – Jo later said that she overheard the perpetrator saying she had what can only be described as poorly managed asthma.

From this you will gather life on board offered rather more novelty than passing the familiar landmarks of the Romford one-way system and leaving by the roundabout with the hotel and Town Hall gracing it. By the time you read this the events will be long past but we were travelling in the week of the Jubilee Celebrations and flags and bunting were still very much in evidence. (As well as the indifferent weather)

But that is about all that was to be seen – this is a completely straight route out of Romford with post war housing where the front gardens have frequently been suppressed.  It’s also a while since we mentioned that favourite building material – pebbledash – of which there were some fine examples.  A novel use for a former petrol station was the Wax-on Centre with no fewer than three people polishing one car – hand-finished indeed!  The main landmark along here is the Gallows Corner retail park with Tescos tucked behind but noone was doing much retailing or parking (or indeed hanging) today. (The 499 account will tell you how we got out of Tescos, which is not well served by buses)

Thereafter we pretty much sped along with houses further and further back from the road by now became the A12 and dual carriageway, so by the time of Gubbins Lane (what a lovely thought) there were just some hedges and walls visible. The bus pulled in at various lay-bys to take on more passengers with occasional signs to the Marylands Golf Club or Old McDonald's Farm Park  – perhaps more Peppa Pig than Gloucester Old Spot. (or even, thanks Mrs Redboots, Giggly Pig)

The road signs were keen to offer us the Dartford Crossing but obviously this is a local bus. The ‘voice-over’ told of a stop called ‘The Bull’ but all I could see was a ‘Nag’s Head’ so not sure what was going on there – they looked the sort of pubs that might be good for a Sunday lunch or evening pint.

I was a bit confused that there was more than one reference to ‘South Weald’ (as in SW Luxury Care Home’ as I had always thought the Weald was down in Kent and Sussex, but further investigation indicates it is part of Brentwood Local Authority. 

Brentwood itself has a long and in parts historic high street including a memorial to a local martyr, William Hunter who aged 19 declined to adhere, even after threats and substantial bribes,  to the re-instated by Mary Tudor Catholic dogmas and was burnt for his beliefs. Brentwood School was founded on the site.  We rode  the High Street one way and partially walked back. Most passengers got off for the shops and this is the point to say that on both our Essex buses today every single passenger was of the same ethnicity, even this bus which carried the full age range of passengers, not just the Freedom card holders. In amongst some old-fashioned shops  there was also some street sculpture for which there was no visible explanation so clearly the locals must know what the pierced column carvings actually represent.

The bus terminates round the corner close to Sainsbury’s and thanks to some fast action along the road out from Romford took just over ½ hour.