Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The B15 Route

Bexleyheath Market Place to Horn Park (Alnwick Road)
Monday March 4th  2013

It was bright but surprisingly chilly as we found ourselves at the foot of the Bexleyheath Clock tower at the bus stop dedicated to the B routes. As the indicator board had suggested a 17 minute wait we went into M&S to use the facilities and came out to a 6 minute wait for this 3 x hour route. Like most of its sibling routes it was a small single door entry bus.  Also, like the B13 which we had already ridden today, the windows were exceptionally dirty save for the driver’s windscreen.

This would be our last time round the earthworks that characterize central    Bexleyheath; we shall need to return in the late summer to experience the transformation,  which talks of ‘shared space’  the concept originally tried round the Museums in South Kensington. These works are quite extensive and do cause something of a log jam, but the B15 broke free and headed on down towards the turn-off for the station . Much to our joy the office we had spotted some weeks ago was still offering free Alien Abduction Insurance, and the local barbers was sporting a twiddling red pole, In case you had forgotten barbers used to be surgeons too and the pole indicated they  would offer operations hence the blood and bandages logo. Twiddling poles were quite common when I was growing up but it seemed ages since I had seen one. 

Right towards Pickhurst means Bexleyheath Station and we lost the first of our passengers; the station is quite coy and tucked away though a cluster of local shops
(a second  barber’s pole !) has grown up around this stop. The last one in the parade offers ‘Soffits and Fascias’ which are the bits of roofing that tuck behind the guttering and make the roof ends neat – I would guess they do good business round here as  most of this route  was the type and age of housing that would require if not a new roof or windows then certainly replacements of one kind or another. Such is the lot of the home-owner especially in a country where there is often too much wet weather.

After a couple more turns, and avoiding the main roads, we turned down a broad street lined entirely with bungalows; you always see the odd one as fill-in but it is more unusual to have a purpose built road of them other than at the sea-side. With the blue sky today I could almost imagine myself there as these were well maintained and the road quiet.  By now we were entering the first of  several ‘Hail and Ride’ sections with people getting off in clusters.

As we turned into Elsa Road the bus stopped to wait for its opposite number to pass on what was quite a narrow stretch and we seemed to be looking at what was a truncated but not decapitated stink pipe – so half size and surrounded by no less than 6 large round drain covers and 4 small ones.We’re not sure but afficianados may wish to follow up for themselves.(And you thought we had an odd hobby)

Streets of semis continued, some with their garages tucked behind (with a narrow car access every 2 houses) but this did not seem to stop the locals parking in the street or on the inevitable front garden hard standing. The street opened out for the playing fields and buildings of Welling School. A Tesco Metro had opened on the corner and seemed to be doing good business courtesy of the school’s pupils.

Past Welling Station there came a wealth of niche shopping opportunities – hydoponics offering the chance to grow stuff in less soil, and then ‘Bites & Strikes’ a specialist pet shop for those who keep snakes and spiders, or amphibians and arachnids to give them their posh name.  As we progressed along the still quite active High Street it was interesting to note the re-cycling of buildings –  former cinema is now some kind of religious outlet (the Freedom Centre International), while Woolworths has morphed into Carpetright. Further along one of the corner banks is a Tesco Metro.

Leaving commerce behind we sped along Welling Way, noting how for every pair of steep roofed semi-detached homes one had usually had a second floor extension built – ‘waste of all that roof otherwise,‘ Jo muttered.

The bus speeded up along Oxleas Wood, with its sign for the Green Chain Walk, then over the Rochester Way A2 to pass Eltham cemetery. I had never thought much about the name of the local comprehensive school Crown Woods but seeing it perched on a hill looking down to Oxleas I see the sense in the name. I also remember it as one of the purpose-built pioneering Comprehensive Schools that was set up while much of  the rest of London was still rattling around in Grammars and Secondary Moderns so the buildings probably needed renewing; however I was interested to read this memorial  for the old school
Whatever the politics I am astounded that pupils are colour coded by ability??

Just past the school is both a Sports Centre and  Environmental Study Centre, which are slightly less contentious. 
From here the Bexley Road narrows down to turn into Eltham High Street and the pace slows.  As this offers one of the alternative shopping centres to Bexleyheath and Welling there was a changeover of passengers along here as we passed the familiar landmarks of the reservoir, lovely old Library and church at the crossroads, complete with the Eltham war memorial.  

Once past the shops the bus stops are a little more spread out and an older passenger dinged the bell but too late for the driver, who had accelerated along Eltham Hill, to stop safely. She continued dinging and started haranguing him (I thinks he expected him just to let her out there and then) finally getting off at Greenway shaking her fist and threatening to complain. It is worthwhile remembering that every stop is a request nowadays.

Once the B15 joined the dual carriageway that is Westhorne Avenue there was only one more passenger to board (I am not sure why as she looked a bit surprised when we turned off  by Horn park into Alnwick Road and stopped,  some 40 minutes after leaving Bexleyheath). Cleaner windows might have made this a better outing with the earlier relentless rows of homes giving way to the more open spaces of Oxleas, and the contrasts of older and newer Eltham itself. 

  Yes we are close to having sucked the goodness out of Bexleyheath and its environs – reduced as we are to admiring barbers’ poles and possible stink pipes…only 1 Busy B to go

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