Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The H3 Route

Golders Green Station to Finchley Top End Circular Route
Thursday May 16th 2013

Apologies for this late posting – a combination of overlapping holidays and house guests plus an elderly mother means that there has been little time to ride many routes and even less time to blog them, so some 2 weeks after the event here is the H3.

Red writing on the bus maps, we learnt as we reached the higher numbers, means select and infrequent service so we had to time our arrival for the once an hour departure (mid-day only) that characterizes this route.  This would also be our last departure from Golders Green Bus Station.

Like its companion bus this was a small vehicle (too small to be taken from its mother, we thought). Bravely it circles the clock tower war memorial (‘Justice Honour Loyalty Courage’ being the key words) and then started its journey up Hoop Lane, doubtless to offer transport for folk headed either to the Jewish cemetery or the crematorium. Three of my four fourbears (or do I mean forebares?) are buried on the left hand side and I’ve been to several cremations on the right hand side; the red brick is quite startling and also forbidding but actually quite harmonious. It was the first purpose built crematorium and thus set the model for many to follow. In comparison the Jewish cemetery is rather flat and a bit featureless with plots at a huge premium.

Enough with death and disposal and back to Hampstead Garden Suburb – we are most grateful for the comment informing us that garden hedges have to be retained as we certainly enjoyed the greenery today. Unlike its companion route the H2, once we had come past the wisteria-laden roundabout at Meadway we headed off uphill along Hampstead Way * and what is effectively the Heath Extension. (Meadway is the answer to another obscure question - its first three letters being the original pre-numbers only dialling code for this area.) Given today's trip perhaps they (BT's predecessors) should  have gone for WISteria as a possible code.
The Heath Extension is altogether another beast from the much better known and more popular main hilly heath with its famous views over London. This part was more lately acquired and has several designated sports areas, where we were taken as pupils to play rounders in the summer; certainly the most pleasurable of compulsory school games.

As is often the case in prime residential areas the higher we went the larger and more detached the properties became, so the more modestly-hedged properties of Meadway (thanks for explaining about the building/gardening restrictions) gave way to the altogether grander double fronted detached drives-holding-more-than-one-car homes along Hampstead Way* (see below) and Wildwood Road. The route does a brief sortie out onto a more main road with a chance to visit Kenwood House, currently having a makeover, before diving back down the Bishops Avenue, where electric fencing smacks of ambassadorial and similar abodes. Needles to say most of this section is ‘Hail & Ride’ and we reckoned many of those travelling were ‘servicing’ the big homes in on way or another.

Unlike the H2 this route strays out of post code NW11 and into both NW3 and N2 to merge the other side of the busy trunk routes at East Finchley Station complete with its lone rooftop archer (not to be confused with a lone assailant assassin) and renowned Phoenix Cinema currently running, it must be said, a rather mainstream choice of film.  We briefly shared the road with a couple of other bus routes before peeking off into the unknown (for us) territory of East Finchley’s hinterland. The other landmark to be spotted from the bus is the Bobath centre, offering physiotherapy particularly for those people with cerebral palsy.  After the ‘dry’ stretch that marks out Hampstead Garden Suburb as an alcohol free zone (presumably also part of Dame Henrietta Barnet’s vision of ideal living) the ‘Five Bells’ pub with its flaming orange frontage could have been more attractive.   I cannot actually establish that her town planning was as explicit as that but as a woman who set out to rescue young women from prostitution (and put them into service) she would surely have advocated gardening over drinking as a pursuit?

This and the Old White Lion were the only pubs we saw on this trip, and East Finchley had two sets of shops – those round the station inevitably offering fast food and dry cleaning, those two staples of the Underground user, and the few further opportunities towards Ossulton Way.  We enjoyed 'Amazing Grates' and  the later 'Dr Hunger Cafe'. This part of Hampstead Garden Suburb seems to be of a somewhat later build and includes some more modernist houses as well as the more ‘stock in trade’ Arts and Crafts homes – lots more hedges of course!!

As we reached Hill Top the bus indicator board briefly flashed up the message, ‘Hesitation Point’, which proves not to be a postal street, but in fact the driver pauses briefly before turning around and heading back.  So back we went – through East Finchley, across the A1 (easier than you might think) back along the Bishops Avenue, past Kenwood and – this time more poised to photograph – the Heath Extension and entrance to the Jewish Cemetery.

The H3 is a little more daring than the H2, branching out beyond NW11, and on a late spring day we really appreciated the greenery that characterizes much of the area. It all looked so respectable that it seemed difficult to imagine that I had passed some of my not very mis-spent youth trolling its streets for likely parties to gate-crash, and sometimes getting lucky… Today it passengers were few and the round trip achieved in the 53 minutes promised – our guess being that the odd minute covered the 'hesitation'.  
In theory a route which gets  you from one branch of the Northern Line to the other without going back to Camden should be useful, however at 5 buses a day total perhaps not?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The H2 Route

Thursday 16 May 2013

The 'H' routes go in clumps, and we began, as you might expect, with the low numbers, which are based at Golders Green Station and its recently beautified bus station.  What, you may ask, about the H1?  Well, despite not being numbered in the 600s, it is a school bus, going to and from Henrietta Barnett School,  Our second bus driver of the day did indeed ask us, and when we explained our aversion to school buses, said, with what we thought was a slight shudder,  'you should try it in the afternoon'.

So our H buses begin with the H2, a gentle circular route around some of the richer areas of North London.  This was a very small bus, of the kind with one door, and an Oyster reader made almost inaccessible by the opening of the door.

We turned out of the little side area of the bus station at 11.15. The War Memorial on its island has the four words 'Loyalty, Justice, Honour and Courage' around its top, all words worth fighting for, if only one could be sure of the 'justice' one.

 We noticed that Golders Green had become less prosperous, judging by the number of charity shops, and the closure of some others, such as the ice cream place. We noticed JAMI, which is a charity dealing with mental health issues in the Jewish community, a reminder of the predominant ethnicity of the area, as well as the other more common charity shops.

Turning up Hoop Lane, we passed the crematorium and the various graveyards which line both sides of the road, before entering an area of residential streets.  We were heading into Hampstead Garden Suburb.

The area is very pretty, or course, and green:  we thought perhaps residents had to have hedges rather than fences or walls, but I have not been able to confirm this.  What is clearly the case is that Henrietta Barnett's vision, that people of all social classes should live together, is long gone.  These are the homes of the very wealthy, who get to enjoy the wide roads and green spaces, as well as the substantial gardens.  We saw a number of striking wisterias, as well as lilacs just at their best, and some acers and azaleas as good as anything at Kew.

We are not sure what Ms Barnett intended about shopping:  perhaps cheeky errand boys on bicycles;  but there are no shops here, and few people took advantage of the Hail and Ride of our bus.  The first sign of commercial activity came when we turned into Falloden Way and had a brief stretch of main road and shops, before turning back into  Bishop's Avenue and more enormous houses.

Some were clearly not good enough for their current owners, as we saw a considerable amount of building work going on.  In Willifield Way, there is a plaque to mark where the composer, Eric Coates lived, though it is not an English Heritage plaque (he has one of those in Selsey)  Here's a bit of the London Suite for you.  We also glimpsed another blue plaque as we turned along Meadway, but I have not been able to pin it down.

Soon we were back along Hoop lane and passing the church of St Edward the Confessor, with the chequered stonework at the top of its tower

This brought us back along Hoop Lane to return to the Bus Station at 11.40: a pleasant little ride for a warm day when, if we had not known better, we might have thought that Spring had finally arrived.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The G1 Route

Wednesday 8 May 2013

This looks, doesn't it, as if we were about to embark on a sequence of 'G' Routes, taking us, perhaps to Guildford, or Godalming, or Gospel Oak or Green Lanes, or somewhere.  But no!  The 'G' stands for St George's Hospital, and, while there used to be a G2 as well, this is now the only 'G' Route. It goes from nearly Battersea to beyond Streatham, and takes 95 minutes to do it.

Mary and I (Linda being at work) met at Clapham Junction, by the miracle which is the London Overground, which had brought us from different directions, and we walked along to the Shaftesbury Estate, arriving in time for a bus predicted for 9.39.  Alas! no bus appeared until 10.20, so there was time for convivial chat with the people at the bus stop.

 When at last the bus (single decker, single door) set off, we collected more passengers as we passed through the charming terraces of the estate, deliberately designed to provide variety with uniformity.  By the time we reached Lavender Hill and its oppressive police station, there was standing room only.

Several bus stops were closed as we headed towards the Falcon Pub, and turned left into Northcote Road.  This is such a posh area now that we had barely time to record all the smart shops:  a Waitrose, certainly, and a Jamie Oliver, but also a Neale's Yard Remedies shop and a couple of Peppermint furniture places.  And of course, the provision for what is, after all Nappy Valley: a Jo Jo Maman Baby, a Petit Bateau.... enough!

Many of the houses had their lovely tiling intact in the porches, but the speed and size of the bus and the less than clean windows meant that even Mary could not provide a clear photo.  A turn right along The Avenue, brought us to the Common, and the handsome conveniences opposite Clapham South Station.

We were heading along the appalling Cycling Superhighway 7, a few blobs of blue paint, interspersed with parked cars, supposedly providing a trunk route into central London.  But the lovely houses and the striking cherry blossom made up for CS7, and we were soon alongside Wandsworth Common, and past more remarkable shops and restaurants, including Chez Bruce, which Mary says is well worth a visit.

Then we went through some gates into the grounds of Springfield Hospital, to loop round and re-emerge past the golf course.  We came to Burntwood School, which seems to be having massive building work done, and then we turned into St George's Grove, and came to a substantial area of new apartments, including Horton Halls, which are home to students at St George's.  A number of young people got on, and rode with us past Streatham Cemetery and the almshouses opposite, before getting off at St George's Hospital.  We admired the planting around the hospital, the combination of wallflowers and tulips giving an almost 'Olympic Park' density of colour.

Coming out the other side of the hospital grounds, we came into Tooting passing The Joint, which offers 'artisan burgers'.  I don't quite know what that means, so here is a review.  There was also a Bulgarian Breakfast Bar, as well as South Thames College, perched on top of Sainsbury's.  Through this busy area, CS7 is narrower than the handlebars on my bicycle, so not very useful, then.

Soon we were passing Edward VII as he stands outside Tooting Broadway Station; until the recent 150th anniversary of the Underground, this must be the closest any royal has ever been to the tube.

As we turned into Mitcham Road, we were into an area of pound shops and pawnbrokers, in contrast to the shops of a few miles back.

Our next Common of the common-filled trip was Tooting Bec, and we were once again among large houses. before coming into Streatham and to St Leonard's Church, where so many buses pause.  Then we were along Streatham Green, with the handsome Dyce Water Fountain. We came past the building site which will soon be Streatham's new Leisure Centre, as well as the HQ of Lambeth Social Services, and alongside Streatham Common, to reach the end of the route in Hermitage Lane, pretty well into Norbury, at 11.35.

This had been a lovely journey, our driving wiggling skilfully and politely through residential streets solid with parked cars, returning to mainer roads from time to time.  It linked the various villages of South West London, which I had always thought of as separate entities, and I am not surprised that it is Alice's favourite bus.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Route Random Wapping

Sunday April 28th 2013

The observant amongst you will note that the heading relates to no known bus and Sunday is not usually a day we choose to go travelling…

However, there we were, boarding and re-boarding an elderly and number-less double decker red bus and sidling along Wapping High Street and Wapping Lane, routes more officially assigned to the single decker Numbers 100 and D3. What was going on?

The folk/staff at the London Councils, who had organised some publicity for us back on Route 381, wanted to make a little film about the eligibility for and benefits of the Freedom Pass, and had recruited, alongside a group of extras, the Ladies Who Bus to take part. 

So at the unearthly hour (I am not a morning person, as they say) of 8AM we, alongside some sprightly dancers, assembled at Tower Bridge Studios.

While the dancers went off to perform and record the Bus Stop Zumba (don’t ask, we never really saw what they were up to) Mary, Jo and Linda had some light make-up applied. Amie too was a volunteer for the day and kindly stuck around to retouch her handiwork after we had spoilt it by eating lunch and drinking tea. Amie, we learned, combines make-up with her other career as an illustrator, but most interestingly she does the make-up for the Madam Tussauds waxworks, both UK models and overseas ones too. As you might expect, she works from very high-resolution good quality photographs in order to reproduce the flesh tones of David Cameron et al. However if you want a glimpse of her artwork do look here.. We were very grateful to her for covering our flaws but not making it look artificial.

Once the Zumboids returned, somewhat chilled and in need of coffee, we set off down Wapping Lane so that we could be filmed waving from the back top deck of the bus; this shot was to be enhanced further by opening the window, and leaning out but sun reflection problems for the camera man put paid to that ‘vision’. The bus London Councils had hired was clearly an ‘older model’ and I think quite venerable – can you imagine the health and safety implications of having an outward opening upstairs back window on a bus without CCTV?

Having re-assembled the extras who were skilfully distributed throughout the bus as ‘passengers’ we were filmed doing what we normally do which is photographing the passing sights/sites both and making notes for later blogging. I suspect when all is edited together what we will be passing will be a series of ‘iconic’ London shots, though quite why this is necessary we are not sure as we are not a tourist service.

The places we passed in Wapping are a delight and everyone was very taken with the area. Whether the area was taken with us is another issue. Both Wapping High Street and Wapping Lane are very narrow, the one cobbled the other as you might expect curvy, and both served by two legitimate routes, which are small buses used to passing each other. When we were parked up, or moving very slowly to film they both had problems squeezing past, but much patience was displayed by the 100 and D3 drivers as well as by ‘our’ driver Eddie, who had to do conduct intricate reversing manoeuvres, much to the alarm/annoyance of some local residents.

Along the High Street is the 'Town of Ramsgate' Pub, close to Wapping Stairs, and the Pierhead houses. Whether you walk or ride along the narrow street, so tall are the blocks it is hard to imagine and impossible to see the river behind, so it is in the names such as Pierhead, or   Chandler Street (chandlers did and still do provide all those ropy hooky things for boats) that tell you it’s there.  Most of the warehouses have been very sympathetically converted with high loading bays now balconies. 

Jo had had occasion to visit the week earlier, having a family member doing well in the marathon. 30 years ago another relative ran the same stretch and was able to say how the former dereliction had been greatly improved. The area seems quite mixed also with some Tower Hamlets social housing and community centres down Wapping Lane and a sizeable congregation coming out of the Sunday service at St Peter’s C/E London Docks. As London churches go it is pretty new (built 1856 as an Anglican mission for the poor and just in time to bury the victims of the latest cholera outbreak) and its website enlightened me as to who Stanhope Wainwright might be as we later passed his Blue Plaque – a local one I think, commemorating a local priest who had worked for 50 years for his then very impoverished parish. 

St George’s are the company developing the old Fort  at Wapping , so called partly for its high dock walls and later for its defences against police and rioters. (Murdoch’s Sun and Times had all been here)  I suspect the resulting dwellings in the Tower block, whose planned height is still up for discussion, will be on the more expensive end of property prices.

Rather than doing yet more loops for filming purposes, our Random Route struck out for Shadwell and Whitechapel, even running into the Number 15 –one of the heritage routes. Our director wanted some ‘shots’ of the words ‘BUS LANE’ so we went way out past Cable Street, Tower Hamlets car pound and the beginning of Whitechapel’s rag trade stretch of road.  Once the requisite shots were ‘in the can’, or more likely digitally captured, we headed back to the studios to deliver the extras for their lunch after which most were free to go.

Meanwhile the three of us were filmed climbing the stairs, then boarding the bus and finally (in grand reverse order) beeping our Freedom Pass on the Oyster reader, except of course it neither beeped nor was an active reader. For reasons of technical fuzziness this last shot took longer than you might think so were pleased the others had left us more than enough sandwiches.

After lunch we returned for what was to be a brief chunk of filming on the bus with each of us saying one piece ‘to camera’ after a morning of pretending Will (the cameraman) wasn’t really there. Some people were better at this than others - I mention no names. The real drama was when a large lorry hailing from Scotland and transporting 'Udderbellyto a venue came the other way to add to the minor bus jam we had already created on the curviest bend of the lane… After some negotiating and further skilful reversing from Eddie we managed to let the legitimate buses (and Mr Udderbelly) through. Eddie got us all safely back to base and was allowed to go. We had just some indoor shots of Jo ‘writing up the blog’, as it were, and a public information caption for the London Councils.

There was to be some location shooting on Monday, but this did not require any people or buses. We are not quite sure how long the editing of this film will take – it is intended to be 2 or 3-minutes long – but we promise to provide a link when it is complete. It is planned to launch it onto the London Councils website, Youtube and Twitter. 

We, as indeed all Freedom Pass holders should be, are very grateful to the London Councils for their administration of this scheme and the funding which allows us and so many of the elderly and less able to travel independently round London, and while we would normally avoid publicity, we do feel we owe London Councils  for their tireless support for (and defence of) the Freedom Pass.