Friday, 28 June 2013

The H 20 Route

Thursday 27 June 2013

Another day, and another brief trip on the H buses.  Linda and I met at Twickenham Station, in order to travel from the Twickenham Tesco's to the Civic Centre in Hounslow.  It was one of those days when the most that can be said for the weather was 'at least it's not raining', thouigh at least we had some blue sky.  We walked up past the stadium (yes!  heading in the right direction) to reach the Ivybridge superstore where, happily, a bus was waiting.  Sadly, Abellio does not regard cleaning their buses as a priority, so don't blame Linda if some of her photos are a little smeary.

We turned out of Tescos, and into the large estate behind it, which may still include some public housing, and admired the Ivybridge mural, created by the Children of the Ivybridge Estate, with support from Hounslow Council.

Then we headed along the main road towards Isleworth, passing the Isleworth Library and Leisure Centre, and glimpsing a blue plaque on a house to the right.  We think this may be to remember Ian Riches, a post-impressionist artist who moved into Isleworth in 1876, but I can't find anything else about him.

At the Royal Oak pub, we crossed The Duke of Northumberland's River, not a river at all, and frankly rather puny in the eyes of those of us who know the New River between Ware and Stoke Newington. Then, passing a small green space inhabited by crows (Linda does not like crows), we came into residential streets again.  Some are in the process of being improved, and we admired the punning nature of the builder's van, hoping the force was with him (or her);  some have already been improved, and almost all had hardened from gardens.

The small parade of shops as we came towards the railway bridge did at least have several food shops, of varying types:  too often we see dry cleaners, betting shops and kebab places, leaving people with no choice but to take the bus to the superstore.

By now the noise of aeroplanes was very loud, and they seemed to be flying much lower than they were last week.  Also the bumps in the road were extremely aggressive around here, and out bus was jumping in the air quite often.  We came to the Shire Horse Pub, which seems to have had a chequered past, and is apparently closed now.

The Sun pub, on the other hand, with its bright sun, looked fairly prosperous, and brought us into Hounslow.  We had not previously noticed that Hounslow has a market in its pedestrianised area, but we did not pause to shop, as our bus driver headed on towards the Civic Centre, a bit out of the town, where out journey finished at 11.05.

We gave him a card, and told him we were impressed with his handling of the Hounslow traffic calming bumps, and had time to look at the warning anti-rat signs around the attractively landscaped grounds of the centre, before hopping back onto the bus to get to our next route.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The H18/H19 Routes

Wednesday 22 May 2013

This, our second circular trip round Harrow, was again to be one of the two linked buses, which follow the same route but in different directions (if in doubt, please see the Rules Committee decision outlined with  the H8/9 routes).
Mary and I were thinking of Linda, having fun in the eastern counties of England though not, we suspected, sea bathing.

We were off at 10.32, and chose the H18 for its more convenient departure time. Our route took us past the St George’s Centre and towards North Harrow, passing The Harrow Hotel, as well as Shayona Sweets and Savouries. Our fellow passengers were predominantly British Asians, and we thought Linda, who loves Indian sweetmeats, might have hopped off and gone shopping. As we turned off the A 404 to go up Headstone Lane, we were into semi land again, with many hardened front gardens.  Headstone Manor Recreation Ground had signs to the Harrow Museum.  This link is to the Museum of London version, since we gave you Harrow’s with the H9.  We also noted Headstone Horticultural Society’s base  (it does not have a website to share with you). Sadly, the Headstone Inn  has closed, but their Waitrose seems to be doing fine, beside a Household Discount Store.

After this brief interval of commercial activity, we were back among the prosperous houses, several of mammoth proportions, and some with more cars than a carpark. 

Passing the Steiner Training Academy, we thought it might be a place where teachers learn Rudolph’s methods;  but no, it is an organisation for training and deploying fitness staff on cruise ships.  We passed All Saints Church, Harrow Weald, with its handsome hall next door, and then came to the Cemetery extension, before reaching the Seven Balls pub, embellished with those foliage balls (yes, seven of them) that people buy in garden centres:  a neat interpretation of the name, we thought.


The next place we came to was Belmont, where we spotted a tile shop which seemed to have strayed from its original home. There had been several parades of shops on this route which offered Asian wedding planning, Ayurvedic medicine, tutoring in maths and even a Post Office, but almost nothing in the way of food shops.

Near to Kenton Station, we liked the thought of the 'Gentle Dental' Practice. We were impressed with how close the golf course is to the town centre, and noted that last tee-off time was 7.30:  the light evenings being one of the few promises of summer.
As we came into Harrow from a different way, we were saddened to see that the Fat Controller, which shut near the beginning of our project (well, when we first visited Harrow on the 114), has still not  become anything.

We reached the bus station at 11.20, not exactly feeling giddy, but ready to chant ‘round and round the Harrow borough’ after our second circuit of the locality.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The H17 Route

Harrow Bus Station to Wembley Central Station
Thursday June 6th  2013

Real summer you might say and not before time. This was just as well as we had obviously just missed the previous bus on the 4-an-hour route that is the H17. However instead of being huddled inside the cheery red Harrow Bus Station we could wait outside, just glimpsing our destination – the spire of  St.Mary's and Harrow on the Hill. The church has a long history as a building which was added to over the years, most recently by Giles Gilbert Scott. We then boarded along with most of the rest of the queue. There may be exclusive sections on this route but this was not reflected amongst the passengers, who were all with their shopping bags or school bags empty and full.

Going in this direction the bus can pass through what remains of Harrow’s High Street and start climbing uphill fairly quickly – Peterborough Road being both steep and residential. Once on the crest, from where there are excellent vistas (I shall cheat here and add a photo taken last year whilst on the Capital Ring Walk) and more entertaining views of chaps in boaters and teachers in gowns moving between the various buildings of Harrow School, the one that is not Eton. If Jo were writing this you would get a rant about how these schools were originally set up for ‘several poor boys of the Parish’ or some such and continue to maintain charitable status and tax exemptions when they are no such thing (poor boys of the parish I mean). The High Street and the scattered school buildings are quite picturesque though, including the couple of pubs and restaurants clustered at one end. As you might expect no-one much got on.  ‘I escaped from the horrors of my boarding school on the H17’ does not quite cut it.

The bus then descends down Sudbury Hill, passing both the Cygnet Hospital, which would appear to be a private psychiatric resource, and shortly thereafter the Clementine Churchill Hospital, yet another private hospital. We like that it is named after Clementine Churchill rather than the Harrow old boy who has so much named for him.

Down the hill there are more schools, St George’s RC and the playing fields for John Lyon, an independent boys’ school.  John and his wife were buried at St. Mary’s, back up the hill.

At the major road intersection there was a reassuring sign to Wembley, but then somewhat disconcertingly the bus headed off along the Greenford Road, in other words to Sudbury. Sudbury has four stations, one a still smart Charles Holden Piccadilly line one with those parades of shops and residential streets fanning out, which are very familiar on the further reaches of the Underground (by now going very much overground) system.  Along with one other route the H17 follows Whitton Road East . At this point I spotted a road named Bridgewater, which puzzled me slightly as the Earl or Duke already has stuff (like a concert hall and a canal) named after him in Manchester and I did not really associate him with this part of Middlesex – however it seems if you follow that road (the H17 does not) you will find yourself crossing the Grand Union canal at Alperton.  By now were closing in on Wembley which means of course you see the arch more piecemeal and far less dramatically than from afar.

Rather as we left Harrow, we entered Wembley from below and what felt like the ‘back door’ passing the Fusilier Pub, which apparently offers B&B as well – as you can see from the attached  hatchet jobs it’s never a good idea to think you might sleep over a pub…

Chaplin Road had a brand new Wembley Health Centre in it which looked purposeful and busy and very soon afterwards we came to a halt in Ealing Road, a quietish side street. The station, which is Wembley Central, was more popular with one half of the party than the other, proving to be up a long flight of stairs.

We had handed the driver a card and he asked for feedback on his driving (lots of drivers think we are covert inspectors, little do they know I cannot drive) which we duly praised as parts of the route are narrow, congested and quite difficult.   

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The H 14 Route

Thursday 20 June 2013

The H14 starts at Hatch End.  I make this statement to explain why Linda and I began our trip today at 11.30 rather than earlier.  Hatch End is NOT EASY if you live in south London, and not brief, even if you live on one of the many branches of the Overground.

Still, having arrived at the station, and begun by walking in the wrong direction (my fault, of course, not Linda's), we were at St Thomas Drive and on the way by 11.50.

This was a single decker.  We headed back through Hatch End, passing the station, and noticing the varying types of housing in this leafy bit of north west London.  We came past the Harrow Arts Centre,  and headed along Headstone Lane for a while.  The Letchford Arms clearly had a shaky history before it was forced to close, in 2011, and now it is being sold, presumably to be converted into apartments. There were also properties which had once been publicly owned, but were now individualised.  As we came towards Pinner Park Avenue, we were into an area with flats, some of them with well planted communal areas.  We liked the masses of blossom on elder trees as well as ceanothuses and of course roses.

Once we were over the railway we came to the Kodak leisure centre, rather wittily named the Zoom Leisure Centre, but now clearly up for redevelopment with all the rest of the huge former works. I have not been able to find details later than 2011 about this part of the site.

By now we were coming into Harrow, and this was to be the last time, at least as far as the Project is concerned.  Many people got off at St George's for the shopping, including a young mother who had had to pay cash for her bus ride, and was delighted to find that her paper ticket offered £2 off in Macdonalds.  Everything conspires, doesn't it, to make unhealthy eating an attractive option.

I don't know whether we have missed the Bradstowe House signs before, or whether they have just gone up:  but that abandoned building, which we have passed ever since we rode the 114, is now clearly 'due for completion in 2014'.  We are pleased that it will be homes, as Harrow has plenty of spare office blocks as it is.  We went into and out of Harrow Bus Station, which we have got to know rather too well in the past weeks, and on through Harrow town centre.  We spotted the HQ of the Harrow Churches Housing Association, set up in  1967 to provide safe housing for vulnerable people :  then, young women, apparently;  now, elderly people and dementia sufferers.

We turned into Peterborough Road, and passed some strangely overgrown areas, almost like the countryside, before reaching Northwick Park Hospital at 12.10, after a journey of just 20 minutes.

Our bus pulled up outside the Maternity wing, so we spared a thought for the poor mothers and babies of Furness Hospital before heading off to the tube station to reach our other bus of the day.

Without wishing to insult the H14, I have found it quite hard to say anything interesting about the route so here, as they say with the lottery, is a bonus ball, in the shape of a picture of a bus shelter at Inveralligin in the North West Highlands.  It's there to remind us all how lucky we are to live in London:  this living willow construction is redundant because they have no buses in the village.

Friday, 14 June 2013

The H13 Route

St Vincent’s (Northwood Hills) to Ruislip Lido
Thursday  June 13th  2013

Mid flaming June – not. While Jo basked (according to the BBC weather maps at least) in seasonal Scottish sunshine I juggled in the gloom with this rather eccentric route on my own. I have included a map: as you will see, rather like the serpent which eats its own tail, the beginning and end of this route are very and almost certainly walkably close to each other but rules are rules so round the loops I went. 

I eventually made it to Northwood Hills – a rather rural and isolated station on the further reaches of one of the bits of the Metropolitan Line – and walked up to St Vincent’s from there. TFL is a bit coy as to what St Vincent’s actually is, hesitating between Hospital and Park?

This nursing home, for such it is, now catering for an ageing population, started life in 1907 in Clapham Park (SW London) as a home for ‘crippled boys‘ from the streets of London – how very Dickensian that sounds. In 1912 they re-located to an older property here and served as an orthopaedic hospital until 2008, through two World Wars and the founding of the National Health.   

I knew it would be tempting fate to ride a Number 13 route on the 13th June but there you are.  I was walking along Norwich Road having left Northwood Hills Station some 10-15 minutes earlier when I saw a clutch of people at the next bus stop and I’m afraid I got on – the prospect of waiting another 20 minutes (on my own on a not very nice day) did not fill me with joy so I went for a bus in the hand, rather than rounding the corner and actually seeing St Vincent’s – I had written the above paragraphs before leaving home, which is of course blatant fate tempting and I was to be punished for it further down the line.

There were quite a few passengers boarding with me and for most of the trip we had an assistance dog as I believe they are now called. The dog was fine though the owner seemed a bit erratic and kept changing places.   Also dogs and shopping trolleys do not mix in the narrow aisles that these buses have, but the driver was both considerate and careful and waited for the many elderly passengers to settle in their seats before setting off.

There are some quite interesting Art Deco type houses in Norwich Road, this one called ‘Le Phare’, and Art Deco was to be something of a running theme this trip. After we passed the Joel Street allotments we were soon back at Northwood Hills Station, next to which is the ‘William Jolle’ who (the pub being a Wetherspoons) the website is kind enough to tell me was a local landowner – Jolle being a corruption of Joel, or possibly the other way round. Doubtless a local jolly type.

After leaving the main 404 road the bus does a huge loop up and down hill round the spacious and gracious homes of the aptly named ‘Northwood Hills.’  On a fine day the views between the detached homes would be great. From my photos it is hard to believe that they were taken at mid-day in mid June so poor is the colour contrast!

Potter Street is the main thoroughfare: for the most part mainly between the wars building with some later bungalows, then more modest smaller homes clearly built on old farmland – Mill Farm Close. There are still some open spaces –  Hog's Back for one.

Before long we were back down closer to sea level and following the 404 this time in the company of the H11, so again passing those splendid Art Deco blocks that are the Elm Court gated (or arched)  development.

By now most of the front seats were taken (older passengers decline to sit at the back) but eventually a young couple (not yet actually a couple?) got on and flirted most of the rest of the trip – needless to say they had the back seat to themselves. The H13 pushes on through Pinner, which is well served by multiple bus routes that struggle a little through the narrower, more villagey bits. Better than the butcher’s rather clumsy name (see the H12) the 'New Leaf' bookshop is a much better stab at grabbing your attention and is of course an independent bookshop.

Just past the Pinner Library is the Milmans Centre, for which I have to give a plug; It’s a Harrow Council Older Persons Resource Centre and the staff have always been very attentive to my mother on the one day week she attends.   Interestingly it seems to be at the very border of the borough as soon there was sign telling us we had entered Hillingdon.

Eastcote Village has a fine sign (which I failed to capture) but I am also taken with the traditional white finger posts, which are still quite frequent round here.  I knew I would not be the only person to like these and sure enough here is a specialist website (it makes riding the buses seem positively pedestrian (huh) in comparison) but I see the web’s author has not ventured into Greater London.

A number of students boarded at Eastcote trying hard not to post-mortem the morning’s exams – never a good idea.   Most of them stayed on past Ruislip Manor and onto Ruislip itself, which as I discovered two weeks back is quite a bus hub, though for few weeks the buses have been ousted from the station approach while earthworks continue. I had rather assumed that everyone would get off at Ruislip and only the hearty few (that’s me) would remain till the end of the line, which is The Water’s Edge at Ruislip Lido. However the end destination is more popular than I thought and we pressed on slowly along the very agreeable High Street and somewhat faster past Ruislip’s more historic buildings – the rather charming Duckhouse pub, and the Barn which is the borough’s Heritage Centre, library, wedding venue, theatre group etc 
 If you were ever in doubt as to what a duck house actually looked like, when the rogue MP claimed for his on expenses, this pub dating from 1640 has a very good depiction on its pub sign.   

Leaving Ruislip behind the H13 continues (at some speed it must be said) over the River Pinn and along Bury Street until it takes a right turn up the hill along Reservoir Road to the headstop at the Water’s Edge watering hole with generous views of the Ruislip Lido.

The driver said it would be 20 minutes before he left which gave me time for a stroll round the grey water (no longer suitable for swimming) that was once a reservoir offering extra capacity for the Grand Union Canal.   I know the weather (grey gloom in June not good) was partly to blame but it all seemed rather drab and lacking in focus. I believe the original Art Deco buildings were burnt down some years ago and while the beach has been renovated the ubiquitous swans and Canada Geese did not tempt me to linger beyond my time. I expect some blue sky and bobbing boats with coloured sails might have been a better enticement.

However when I returned to the bus there had been a change of driver and clearly the new one was of the view there was something wrong with the exit door, so he called it ‘out of service’. As this is a 20 minute service anyway I did not relish another chilly wait so decided to walk back to Ruislip, allowing me closer looks at the afore mentioned pubs and barns, and was brisk enough to make it back before the next bus caught me up. The moral of that is clearly had I waited at the beginning of the trip and not cheated by 1 bus stop I would have been spared at this end.  Nor was I tempted to stride off away from the lido’s edge, cross back across Ruislip Common and arrive back at St Vincent’s rather more quickly than the bus journey had taken.   

PS Earlier this week I noted from our faithful Stat Counter that we had  105 hits, 21% of the total, from the USA!  London Buses seem like a rather esoteric taste, so I am puzzled as to why it is quite so popular with you guys - are you all homesick ex-pats? or are you those NSA eavesdroppers we've all been reading about recently?