Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The P12 Route

Surrey Quays Shopping Centre to Honor Oak Park
Monday March 16th 2009

Glorious spring day with temperatures in the teens so floor level heating in the bus seemed a little superfluous. It arrived at the stop before I had a chance to capture the moment and was off happily through the very many estates of Southwark – in part retracing the Number 1 but then veering more south-west round the Millwall football club.  This area, squeezed between all the railway lines is somewhat bleak industrial – paints – pumps – pallets and the like till you get to the more colourful Peckham, boasting peppers and chillies in bright colours. Being 3.00 PM or thereabouts most of the passengers were primary school parents and their charges from the schools named after local heroes – John Donne and Pilgrims Way. The two large secondaries were more business-orientated being Harris and City of London academies. After Peckham the bus starts climbing through Nunhead with the only drama a run-in at a roundabout where a lorry left us (a mere single decker) no room to turn ‘knock his wing mirror off’ yelled a passenger – ‘he doesn’t give a b****r about us’ – sense prevailed and we finished at the head stop beyond Honor Oak Park station – home for this one.

PS As you can see I rode this route, without companion or camera in about the third week of the Project’s start back in March 2009 before we had really got into this blog thing. I had joined the Project for Route Number 3 and as I spent my school commute on Route 2 did not feel compelled to repeat it but did ride the Number 1 alone, then taking the P12 home. The photos date variously from subsequent travels and are from a phone camera.

August 2013: There have been changes – if you really wanted to get from one end of this route to the other the Overground will do it for you in a quarter of the time – 12 minutes as opposed to 60 plus. The first big loop round from Surrey Quays Shopping Centre to Canada Water always feels a bit like going back on yourself.  Clearly the poor little P12 is not allowed to play with the big boys at the Canada Water Bus Station but is relegated to waiting in the outdoors by Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.

There has been much building in the intervening four years, including a brand new library for Southwark just by Canada Water train and bus hub. It’s as lovely inside as out with excellent views. 

Old and new alternate along this route with several of Southwark’s older mid-20th century estates, erected in haste to house the post-war homeless and then the later ones built with half an eye of being ‘sold off’. Although the P12, along with some other routes, follows Southwark Park Road you do not get a very clear view of what is quite precious green space along this route. It’s more a case of crossing or running parallel to railway lines - 
It was ever thus – even before the railways there were horse depots and horse hospitals with still stables remaining – we were mocked by Russell Howard on his Good News show about a year ago but to find horses (and thus horse manure) in such a built up area does seem startling. Between the main trunk roads the route can be quite peaceful and Caroline Gardens by Asylum Road, used in the sense of safe abode rather than its more modern meaning of residence for the psychiatrically unwell, has some very attractive buildings.    For fans of almshouses there are more to be seen later on the route once past Peckham and into Nunhead.

The pride of Nunhead is undoubtedly the cemetery; the P12 does not actually pass the gate, but you can easily walk through some of Nunhead’s quieter streets for an alternative approach route.

Along Brenchley Gardens the P12 does give direct access to both the Camberwell New Cemetery and the adjacent Honor Oak Crematorium. It’s quite a common sight to see black-clad mourners pelting out of Honor Oak Station to stand frustrated at the bus stop opposite – it is only a 12-15 minute service which is enough time to miss the funeral slot…and you cannot just hail a passing taxi…so leave plenty of time.

At the risk of repeating the P4 lost river theme much of this route follows the Lost River Peck starting as it does up on One Tree Hill and finishing where Surrey Quay meets the Thames.
(A nice website if you like things watery…)

Last year the P12 got a whole new fleet of buses with capacious standing capacity above the 38 seats so I feel, in spite of the fact the Overground does it quicker, there is still a bright future for this route.

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