Monday, 18 March 2013

The C11 Route

Archway to Brent Cross (Tescos)
Thursday April 19th 2012

April was being true to form – frequent showers – and we boarded this route just outside the facility-free station of Archway: presumably it is assumed that anyone needing a loo would dive into the nearby Whittington hospital, which essentially provides the first and second stops on this very North London, very Camden borough route. For Linda this was a nostalgia trip taking her to places familiar from school days and school friends’ homes; for Jo it was a tour round parts of her ‘home’ borough. 

Leaving both physical and mental health services behind us we trundled down Dartmouth Park and I was expecting us to pass the covered reservoir. But no we were heading downhill to catch both the Highgate Branch Library, looking nicely clean, and the corner of Highgate Cemetery. For those of you who have not been, a guided tour is worth the wait and cost.

Dartmouth Park morphs into the rather less upmarket Gospel Oak which has an excellent combination of some of Camden’s older housing stock, some excellent and undoubtedly pricey family homes and a handy Overground terminus turning what was once the North London loop into an interchange. Three achieving schools are near neighbours and combine their 6th forms. William Ellis School used to provide actors for my school play’s male parts and thus access to useful male contacts, but I digress.

By now we were crossing the 214 and C2 routes as we edged past Parliament Hill Fields, always a popular end of Hampstead Heath especially for the views. Rather than an indifferent photo how about a more evocative poem from local hero Sylvia Plath.  She notes a river and of course one of London’s less lost but nonetheless not very visible rivers The Fleet wends its way along here – giving its name to Fleet Road, along which the C11 runs when going west, passing more delightful property then emerging at South End Green – precious little green but a fancy fountain. Then it’s our second hospital – the Royal Free (yes and keep it that way) – with a short nip past the The George (III we thought) down Rosslyn Hill till it turns down England’s Lane and the delights of Primrose Hill, beloved of the rich and famous.

Emerging at Swiss Cottage we noticed that Camden are planning to open the UCL Academy in September 2012. Today the buildings did not look all that complete (4 months to go) but by the time you read this it should be up and running – a very exciting new addition to Inner London schooling. The small bus negotiates the multiple lanes of the Swiss Cottage one-way system with ease and then skirts off the Finchley Road (it is most adept at avoiding main roads) behind the veteran Waitrose and along the red-bricked villa lined streets of South to West Hampstead.

More lost rivers lurk beneath – this time the Tyburn on its way from Primrose Hill through the West End to the Thames. Also nearby we spotted the entrance to Westbere Copse and though familiar with the area this was a new ‘green spot’ for us though apparently only open at weekends.

If its serious open green space you hanker after you need to wait the few more stops while the C11, pretty empty by now, trundles through the Clitterhouse Estate and Hendon Football Club’s former ground, now poetically derelict as captured in this silent film . The RIP notice clamped to the perimeter fence refers to the ground rather than Mark Lewis, the film’s maker.

From here, joining other routes heading in the same direction, we were able to cross over the North Circular in reasonable time and come to a halt in the so-called Brent Cross Bus Station. Jo’s theory was that when building London’s first 20th Century shopping mall they thought only a few routes might drop by. As things stand there are now 11 routes starting/finishing here and not enough room for any of them. 

For us it was time for a comfort break and then a chilly and damp dash across the mean footpaths that take any foolhardy pedestrians across the North Circular, the River Brent and London’s equivalent to Spaghetti Junction to the other side.

Our trip had taken some ten minutes over the 40 promised for this nostalgic but very interesting ‘rat run’ of a journey through NW London. 


  1. Finchley Road Waitrose is not quite such a veteran (only 32 years). It was originally the John Barnes department store, another John Lewis partnership member. The architecture of the block is classic London inter-war style.

  2. Indeed, i used to get my school uniform there.
    See Route 268 for links to John Barnes and its Art Deco interior.