South Harrow Station to Willesden Junction
Monday February 14th 2011
Our last route finished at South Harrow station and as just as we drew into the rather badly designed bus station we spotted a 487 raring to go – another seamless trip starting at 1PM.
Once into the High Street we picked up large numbers of passengers and very soon it was standing room only on this single-decker route. As we had not had to wait there was no way of telling how much time passed between buses. It was clear that these folks, mainly the elderly and three young women with buggies (I leave you to imagine the problems in accommodating these), had all boarded with their shopping as the first quarter to third of this trip was through residential areas with rows of semi-detached off street parking homes with never a shop in sight.
The other feature of this trip was a series of roundabouts, many of them sponsored by local businesses, which certainly kept the moderate amounts of local traffic flowing. Rather surreally we passed the Ofsted roundabout, as the actual sponsoring nursery seemed to think being Ofsted-rated was a better advert than their name! So on past homes with well-maintained grass verges for dog walkers and for once front gardens that had not been bricked over for cars.
As we passed over Whitton avenues East and West there was a view over towards Horsenden Hill, which proves to be quite a high point hereabouts in more ways than one.
We passed both the smaller Alperton cemetery and later on the route the Acton one – it’s not that we’re obsessed with death or disposal, it’s just that on inner urban routes, especially ones such as these, they often provide a bit of greenery to break up otherwise solid housing or business areas. With up to 10 people standing it was interesting to see where they were heading: the route passes three Underground stations all on the Piccadilly Line – Alperton, Hanger Lane and Park Royal – but this did not seem to be the main attraction, and going round the Hanger Lane gyratory in a small bus can NEVER be an attraction, though clearly this driver, possibly a bus driver, disagrees.
The 487 turns off the multi-lane Western Avenue at Gypsy Corner, a rather romantic name for an unromantic spot. The very extensive Park Royal trading estate essentially occupies a vast triangle of land bounded by major railway lines (in and out of Willesden Junction), the Grand Union canal and the major trunk roads of the North Circular and A40 roads. This makes perfect theoretical sense, as goods historically and currently can be transported out to the airport, into town or just warehoused, but in a recession rather less immediate sense with many units unoccupied. The main draw for the passengers seemed to be a vast Asda not far from the Central Middlesex Hospital. There also seemed to be some brown site rubble areas (demolished old hospital bits?) waiting to be recycled into affordable if not altogether desirably located housing. Mary swears she has seen giant ‘food’ blenders having bricks fed in at the top with fine rubble exiting at the bottom.
After a brief turn through the heart of old Harlesden, where cluster a couple of primary schools (complete with ‘Comic Sans’ lettering on their boards) and vast and ugly churches, and we pulled in alongside Willesden Junction station. This was my first exposure to a station seemingly on three levels hosting three different kinds of line and with an unending stream of goods trains shunting through. A bit like the pedestrian equivalent of the Hanger lane gyratory – one false step and you are heading in the wrong direction. I noticed there was a station employee seated at the intersection helpfully directing lost passengers the right way through the maze of stairs and passages.
On such a crowded bus it was difficult to get a full view but this was a journey that fell into very defined and delineated sections – firstly purely residential, then purely trading and finally a little mixed area round Harlesden. This trip through different worlds will take you about 50 minutes.