Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The E1 Route

Monday 25 March 2013

'E' is for Ealing, though I am not sure what Gove and his phonetic readers make of it, and we had arrived at Ealing Broadway, or at least round the corner at Haven Green at 3.45.  This was an afternoon trip, as I had a previous commitment in the morning, but Linda had tolerantly fitted in with the plan.

It was cold.  No, it was very, very cold, and the bus stop area of Haven Green was heaving with people, shoppers and schools students mainly.  There was good cycle parking, so some people were going to get home more easily than the bus passengers.  Linda's phone (at least one of us is modern... ) told us that two E1s were due, but the first one arrived at 4.05, and was besieged by about 100 people, so I persuaded Linda to wait for the second, and at 4.10 we climbed to the upstairs of a restfully quiet bus, and got the front seats.  This was to be a short trip, taking us only as far as Greenford.

We came rapidly into residential streets, several of them with attractive plasterwork and tilework details.  Some of these substantial properties have been divided, but several seemed to be single homes.  Some had optimistic solar panels on their roofs.

Going along Sutherland Road to cross Argyle Road made us assume that the road namers knew the old counties of Scotland, and then we turned right into Drayton Green, which has nothing to do with Scotland.

We saw the Ark of Noah Bilingual Nursery (it has taken me a while to ascertain that the two languages are French and English, as they don't seem to have their own website) and then Drayton Green Station and the Gurdwara next door to it.  There was a fine statue of a Sikh Warrior in the car park, but we could not get a photo as we were heading towards Drayton Manor High School and a fresh input of pupils who had clearly stayed a little later.  We came to Cuckoo Lane, and had time to notice that the Havanna Cafe offered Polski Kuchnie, which may explain the extra 'n' in the name.

We were heading down hill, now, with extensive views to the north. As we came past the smartly painted White Hart Inn, we caught up with the E1 in front, the one we had declined to squeeze into.

We went past Brentside High School, which we had visited from a different angle on the first bus of our afternoon, and over the River Brent, to get to the terminus on Greenford Broadway at 4.30.  The journey is meant to be 18 minutes, so this was pretty close.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The D8 Route

Stratford City Bus Station to Crossharbour (Asda) 
Wednesday  October 31st 2012

We had some fun finding the start of this route: we had expected to locate it at Stratford Bus Station – indeed there were several posters indicating it should start from Bus Stand C – but there was no sign of it on the stand nor any whisker of a time-table (bit late in the day, but we wanted to check frequency and length of trip) As you might expect there is an information kiosk and the operative told us

  1. the D8 leaves from Stratford City Bus Station – altogether a different beast, up and over the railway and nestling up against the side of Westfield and
  2. Yes the posters were wrong and they were waiting for new ones post-Olympics.
He also kindly gave us the newly issued October 2012 Bus maps for North East and South East .

We thanked him and gave him a card and took a little walk over and into Westfield to use their facilities before finding the small bus that is the D8. It actually does not stop until Abbey Lane, by which time it had taken us on a ‘nostalgic’ tour of the Orbit and the Aquatic Centre still sporting its wings.  . 

Just before the notorious (for danger to cyclists) Bow Roundabout we crossed the Three Mills Wall River and Bow Creek which sort of join up, and there was also a sign to the  Three Mills Heritage Centre
Though as we travelled this route on Halloween this might be a more appropriate tour.      

Once past Bow Church Station we headed left down Campbell Road, and essentially this route is very much that of the Stratford to Lewisham section of the DLR. En route we passed Langdon Park station and exclaimed in unison that we had never heard of it: well, it transpires it only opened in late 2007.

I had assumed that the Colman’s Wharf we passed might have something to do with the mustard people (though they are based near Norwich) but this site explains that the erstwhile factory produced dog biscuits!
This led me to remember their charming scottie-dog shaped logo (though that would not have been the word they used), but the website surrounds it with such ferocious warnings about copyright etc that I shan’t risk copying it here, so no free advertising for them…

Bow merges into Poplar and while there are remnants of the old Docklands area, especially in the very evocative street names, little of the pre-war landscape is visible to the passing bus tourist. The area is still densely populated with solid housing both sides of the road, but the Poplar of ‘Call the Midwife’ is long gone.  Remnants of an older era include the Poplar Boys' Club (foundation stone laid 1965) and now inclusive of girls also. Nearby is the Chrisp Street Market, which bills itself as the first pedestrianised shopping area in the UK (rebuilt 1951 on the previous Victorian site) 

All Saints Church seems to have survived Luftwaffe bombs and stands rather elegantly as a reminder of the wealth of the East and West India dock companies who sponsored its building . 
 Here are some better pictures than those we managed.

We had also on our trip crossed the Limehouse Cut and from the beginning this was a very watery journey – on the day when most of New York had ground to a halt because of catastrophic floods brought on by a surging storm the amount of water here led one to think whether London could ever be in a similar position – would the Thames Barrier hold?

Where there is water there may be fish and sure enough we were about to pass Billingsgate Market, still maintained by the Corporation of London though no longer within its boundaries.  It has been here 30 years so hardly counts as new.

As we know from our previous number routes, to enter the whole Canary Wharf / Canada Square business area by vehicle you need to pass through a security barrier – not a problem for the buses. After glimpsing the full width of the River Thames from Westferry Circus we moved swiftly through the business district with few takers for the bus and exited along Marsh Wall into where housing takes over from offices, though some less prestigious places were available to rent.

More water in the shape of Millwall Outer Dock was attractively apparent as we continued to follow the line of the DLR, passing Crossharbour and coming to a halt at the bus area of the massive Asda . This watery and historic, though very 21st century, trip and had taken us from the Olympic Site through the Isle of Dogs to nearly the Southernmost tip of North London in half an hour of well manoeuvred driving through a positive web of narrow streets.  

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The D7 Route

Poplar (All Saints’) to Mile End
Monday March 18th 2013

Our first job on exiting the DLR station was to find our bus stop but of course ‘All Saints’ proved to be the very handsome parish church for Poplar, just about ready to celebrate its second centenary. Our photography was a bit rushed as the double decker D7 arrived immediately, so naturally we hastened to occupy the front four seats, having our guest Blue Badge-hopeful Ricky with us. 

The D7 dives behind the busy main road to narrower streets, which it then shares (not very successfully) with Cycling Super Highway Number 3 also passing the rather mysterious Blackwall, where we boarded our Route 15 nearly four years ago.

This part of the East End, down by the docks, suffered very badly from the negative attentions of the Luftwaffe so most buildings are randomly aged post-war replacement housing destined for those bombed out of the East End. In amongst them some gems do remain – St Lawrence’s Cottages, for example, which look to have to have had some more modern additions. Blackwall was the favoured departure point for trips (probably 1-way) to North America, including Martin Frobisher’s journey of 1576, which I discover was financed by the Russians; no less of a gamble than backing a random football team I suppose.

The distant view of the Millenium Dome across the river told us we were approaching the Isle of Dogs. On our previous route Ricky had been chatting with a local passenger who told us a story of King Henry VIII having kept his hunting dogs at what would have been just across the river from Greenwich, though the real origins may be more prosaic. Whatever, it was a marshy, low lying area often cut off and that was certainly our follow passenger’s experience.   She said there was only ever one bus (every half hour if you were lucky) and if the ‘drawbridge’ (sic) was up, even longer. The Isle had only small shops so for her a railway line plus half a dozen bus routes and a supermarket to boot was sheer luxury. Part of the southern bit of the Isle is known as Cubitt Town for the builder, developer and Lord Mayor. According to Ricky most of Belgravia was built on the mud etc dredged out to make the docks, which feels like it ought to offer a symbol of some kind…  

Continuing round the loop that is Manchester Road, the late Arts & Crafts homes of Jubilee Crescent still look very desirable, and even more so now there is a handy DLR station nearby. The D7 paused a while at Island Gardens and peering through the blossom (at last) we could just make out the domes of the Wren buildings at Greenwich.

George Green School is the only secondary school on the Isle and two of Mary’s family taught here most successfully. Some of the older pubs remain; that they are called ‘the Lord Nelson’ and ‘The Ship’ is not really surprising and the nautical/maritime theme goes on – the Barkantine Pharmacy, for example, named for a type of ship and the Great Eastern Slipway from which Brunel’s ‘The Great Eastern’ was launched. Just to make sure the soul is not forgotten there is a rather incongruous Italianate Church now an Arts Space but still looking as though it had landed from another continent. 
Close by is Dockers Tanner Road, which ungrammatically commemorates the 1889 dockers’ strike for a ‘tanner’: 6d or 2½p in today’s money. The rather excellent 'Ripper Street' featured the strike as a background to issues of immigration/unionisation, and agent provocateurs (or should that be agents provocateur?).

The bus was stopping quite frequently, what felt like every few metres, so there was plenty of opportunity to take in our surroundings. Westferry DLR indicates we are close to the financial district and sure enough we snaked through the policed barriers and did a complete tour of the money-making island that has grown up where once bananas were offloaded from the Canaries. Strangely enough today what we noticed was a burgeoning of nature – a male swan batting off all comers while his hen sat on her nest (‘bit cold to have babies’, the ladies said in chorus) and forsythia and primulas brightening up the office slabs. We exited (do you suppose they counted us in and out?) the barriers past Cannons Wharf and the multiple clocks showing different time zones, straight past the dragon sculpture which alerted us to our arrival in Limehouse, formerly another Chinatown.

Today Limehouse is bisected by very busy East/West trunk roads, which can be no pleasure to live near. ‘The Star of the East’ is an impressively sized pub, presumably so big as it had to cater for the hundreds of sailors who would have overnighted here, and nearby are the various Missions built to offer them bed, board and a shot of redemption, one of them picked out by Caroline's blogspot
Further east in Limehouse is the Passmore Edwards Sailors' Palace, built in 1901 as the headquarters of the British & Foreign Sailors' Society. An inscription above the door still records the fact, although the building itself has been converted into flats.”

More philanthropy was evident as the bus headed up Burdett Road, named for the friend of Dickens whose wealth meant she could offer ‘salvation’, and hopefully ‘a trade’ to the fallen women of the East End. A crow swooping across the road and up to its nest at the top of a tall tree (courtesy of the ribbon Mile End Park) reminded us again that spring might be on its way and that indeed the crow’s nest of a ship is very aptly named.

The bus comes to a halt just short of the Green Bridge *and the numerous passengers spilled out with the four of us heading for Mile End Underground Station. The trip crammed with history and buildings took just 35 minutes.  
* Yes I know, Jo had this one, sometimes great minds think alike...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The D6 Route

Monday 18 March 2013

Linda and I were delighted to have Mary back with us after the snowbound adventures in Guernsey, and we also had the pleasure of Ricky’s company.

Although we had done a couple of D buses before, the Project had now reached the moment when we needed to polish them all off:  well, there are only four, of which this is the second.

 We met, after a bit of phoning, where Amhurst Road meets Dalston Lane, and were on our single decker by 10.03, bound for the Asda at Crossharbour.
Mare Street is a very Vietnamese area, and we notices a shop selling Vietnamese Baguettes, as well as meeting places, caf├ęs and money transfer places.

The Hackney Empire was looking fine, and the Town Hall is undergoing restoration.  We also noticed the newish Hackney Picture House, which seems to do more than just show films.

There is a stone announcing that it was unveiled by Princess Christian along Mare Street, though we failed to identify the building.  She proves to have been one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, and was called Helena, but when she married Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein, became known by her husband’s name.  She did a lot for children and war veterans, so this may have been the site of a hospital. Even the excellent Hackney local history website did not explain it for me, however. 

We were interested to see Keltan House, part of Hackney College, where Ricky taught at the very start of his career.  On we went along Mare Street, passing St Joseph’s Hospice, one of the first, as well as The Last Tuesday Society, so much more than a shop. 

The next Borough is Tower Hamlets, and we passed Cambridge Heath Station and Old Ford Road to prove it.  The enormous building, once a town hall, labelled Viajante, proves to be a ‘restaurant set in the beautiful urban landscape of East London’.  Some things you do not need to invent.

The Tower Hamlets Labour Party  office is also along here, as is a historical plaque to commemorate the great boxer, Daniel Mendoza. Those of us who read Georgette Heyer recognise the name as the young heroes of her Regency stories were always going off to watch sparring matches.

Evidence of the increasing poshiness of the area came with a line of shops offering alternative therapies and herbal remedies of various kinds, alongside the London Buddhist Centre, and also with a number of hire bike racks more than half empty;  there were some charming and well maintained 19th century terraces.  But this is predominantly an area of public housing, much of it dating from the 1950s,  when the Luftwaffe had helpfully cleared the sites.  We did, however, notice more modern buildings, one with rather patriotic brickwork. For a while along Roman Road, we were alongside the Regent’s Canal, and then passed the Green Bridge at Mile End. 

I was also interested to notice a shop calling itself an ‘Off License’ with an ‘s’ having just finished reading David Crystal’s explanations of English spelling, and why the verb (as here) is spelt differently from the noun.

Grove Road, of course, takes you past the Blue Plaque commemorating the first V1 to hit London, 13 June 1944 – just as the population expected that the Normandy Landings meant that the Allies were winning at last. 

The bus had been very full for almost all the journey, with people standing, and young  mothers with buggies deciding to wait for the next one.   As Canary Wharf loomed over us, and we entered Poplar, the passengers began to get off, perhaps to go to Chrisp Street Market.  We came to a statue of Richard Green,  a local ship builder and philanthropist of the 19th century.  He was the son of George, also a ship builder, whose name lives on in one of the local schools.
We turned right to pass the handsome All Saints Church, and Ricky got into conversation with a knowledgeable local lady as we turned into Poplar High Street.

Now, as we headed down Preston Road, we were almost surrounded by water,  bordered more by flats than by maritime businesses, and turned into East Ferry Road to reach Crossharbour DLR station and superstore at 10.45, having gone North to South through the East End.

Given the heavy usage of the bus, we were surprised that it as a single decker, the more so as our other bus of the day, the next you will read about, was much less busy, and yet was a double decker.

The D3 Route

Crossharbour (Asda) to Bethnal Green Chest Hospital 
Wednesday October 31st 2012

Well there we were at Crossharbour Asda, about to consult the timetable for frequency, when the next D3 bowled up. Four passengers (Jo and I plus two locals)  got on and that was about it until much later in the route towards Wapping, so our observations and mutterings went unheeded for much of this trip through the Isle of Dogs and north. This is such a tortuous route we found ourselves very disorientated to the point where Jo said ‘Have we crossed the river?’ as it appeared on the other side.

Cubitt Town  named for its developer /builder who decided the many dockworkers should be provided with suitable accommodation. There seemed to be some mellow red-brick homes set back from the main road: we failed to capture their name, but they post-date Cubitt Town being sheltered housing from 1935, pictured  here.

Having gone north only to go south again we rounded the whole curve that marks the watery edge of Isle of Dogs and managed to cross Marsh Wall three times in all.

There is a mixture of public housing and private enterprise I don’t know if the Prime Meridian runs through the Isle of Dogs but here were certainly enterprises named after it. We were also pleased to remember Jack Dash, a 20th Century Union leader, who has a council office named for him . Earlier struggles are also commerorated in Dockers Tanners Lane that we passed as we came back north before entering the Canary Wharf Complex.   Also catching our attention was the skateboard park now being used by young people on scooters,  which must be less manoeuvrable? Also hereabouts Thermopylae Gate – it was a Greek naval battle but seems an awful mouthful to have as your E14 address. Sir John McDougal Gardens  were given ?planted ?paid for by a member of the flour milling family leading Jo to mutter ‘Graded Grains make finer flour’. 

Nearby is Mudchute Farm  and the DLR station of that name (this was to be another D route which seemed keen to follow  a railway line) so soon afterwards we arrived at the rather windswept looking Island Gardens.   Island Gardens is also the other end of the  Greenwich Foot Tunnel and reminded me of cold winters where there seemed little else to do but have cooped up children run down the tunnel and then come home on the DLR.

Before entering  the enclave that is the financial district we noticed a white van being stopped by the security personnel, and were pleased we were on a bus. Down to 4 passengers there were no more takers from here as all the workers seemed intent on finding lunch without straying too far. Unfortunately photos from a single decker are very limited so no tall office blocks no glimpses of waterfront cafes and a mere hint of  the planting these bankers can clearly afford. .
Talking of affordable I am not sure what will happen to the Cannon Workshops  if the proposed new building goes through. I am still mystified by WHY people anywhere are still building huge office blocks – fine and understandable when computers were huge and we still needed filing cabinets and desks but all an office needs is a few meeting and working spaces; the rest you carry with you.

This bus route exits the financial complex via the Limehouse Cut and  cuts down to Shadwell passing Butcher Row – I have expended considerable energy trying to identify a barely seen Blue Plaque and it turns out to be for a Reverend St. John Groser who is described as priest and social reformer. I guess for any incumbent  to gain trust and respect of the local  community would have to address their issues in a forthright manner. Tea party vicars would not survive in Docklands.

The trip through Wapping was lively mainly as we bounced over the cobbles underfoot – and we could see they were relaying them not merely replacing them The streets hereabouts are such a tangle with many of them ending in wharves (disused for the main part) and stairs to the water that it was amazing a bus could pass anyway. Less developed and landscaped than the revamped Isle of Dogs Wapping to Shadwell has the feel of a more timeless riverside London. Gullivers Wharf  - Tobacco Dock -  Wapping Wall. Each name more evocative than the previous one. 

At the Wapping Health Centre the bus suddenly fills up and takes on yet more people through Shadwell . You might say the alternative name for Shadwell was St George’s named for the Hawksmoor Church of St. George in the East.

The bus pushes on through quite narrow streets with oncoming vehicles to contend with and also crossing two major arterial routes the A13 Commercial Road and past Whitechapel the A11 Mile End Road, where the volume of traffic comes a s a quite a shock after nearly an hour of quieter backwaters, with an emphasis on the waters.   The D3 passes by the back of the Royal London Hospital, considerably less glitzy than its front face, but just as busy with patients and staff beetling everywhere.    There was a large stand of blue hire bikes we presume provided for staff and able patients as parking is just about non-existent here. While Fahkruddin Street reflects much of the local population it was difficult to find out after which famous Fahkrudin (economist? 5th Prime Minister of India?) it might have been named as none of them seemed to have local connections  but then our  journey today had started close to a Napoleon Street and to my best knowledge the little  Emperor never lived in Clapton. 

Bethnal Green, which we were now approaching was an early example of population explosion as workers arrived between 1801 and 1831 to work the looms producing silk – they are remembered inWeavers Fields now a multi use park today at half-term being used by energetic footballers. The other half-term attraction in Bethnal Green is of course the Museum of Child hood just past the major crossroads.  By now the wind had really got up and there were leaves swirling all over the roads.
The last stretch to the London Chest Hospital was along streets lined with charming houses – perhaps the relative proximity to Victoria Park has enhanced the area  and the terraces remain largely unspoilt. The bus terminates at the London Chest Hospital lately made famous for saving the life of footballer  Fabrice Muamba in March 2012. With this East End of London so densely populated TB  and other chest conditions would have taken its toll amongst the locals so it was no surprise that  local philanthropists were keen to offer some treatment for the disease which accounted for 20%  of deaths. TB is no longer the death sentence it once was , though that is not to say that it has vanished, but the hospital continues to offer specialised treatments.

If you have continued to read thus far you have stamina which is something you might require to tackle this route as for all its path is along side streets they are nevertheless  packed with history interest and sights of all kinds – and think what we probably missed and have spared you!