Thursday, 31 October 2013

The S1 Route

Wednesday 30 October 2013

We reached the start of the S1 at Little Green East in Mitcham by complex and varied means, including a train, a tram and a bit of a walk.  The weather was sunny and bright after the nastinesses of the earlier part of the week.  There were three of us:  our own Mary was busy, but we were lucky enough to have another Mary with us, a resident of Sutton and so a fount of local knowledge as we headed from Mitcham to Banstead.

Little Green is really quite a good sized green, with both the Mitcham War Memorial and the Wandle Industrial Museum. We shall have to return to visit it sometime.

Our single decker set off just after 1.30, and we turned left to begin a circuit of Mitcham's famous one way system and come to the Three Kings Pond and the start of Micham Common. We were a bit puzzled by the signs on the bus stops saying 'cross here for A and E' until Mary explained that they were road safety warnings, since many accidents happen as people rush to or from their buses.

As we came over the railway, we encountered slow traffic, including a funfair on the move,  but happily everyone seemed to want to head along the Croydon Road so we speeded up and got to Mitcham Junction Station without further delay.  Past the Goat Pub, we were out of Merton borough and into Sutton.  Sadly the Queen's Head pub has died, but we were glad to see the Wandle, which makes a good walk into the middle of London, should you want one.

We had been going fairly straight since Mitcham, but now we took a turn through a residential area, mostly semis with hardened front gardens,  and came into the St Helier Estate.  This was built in the 1920s to rehouse people from inner London, and was helped considerably by the extension of the Northern Line to Morden, nearby.  Thus we came to the great white whale which is the St Helier Hospital.  It is an impressive thought, in these austerity days, that it was opened in 1938, during an earlier and greater economic downturn, and before a National Health Service existed.  Mary told us that during the war it had been painted green, to make it less of a beacon for the Luftwaffe as they headed northwards.

Our route took us uphill and down until we reached Sutton Green.  We could see the remains of a gas holder to our right, but Mary told us it was to be demolished.  I find this interesting, as the gas holder frames north of King's Cross are being carefully renovated and will become a 'feature' in a posh new group of apartments.

Now we came into Sutton, where the buses pull off the main one way system into laybys alongside, so that passengers can get off without risking the traffic.  One of these has the Doctors' Surgery, formerly the magistrates court.  We were travelling with one of the practice's clients.  It is not a very beautiful stretch of road, as it is flanked by the backs of the big shops in the Centre.  Uphill and then over the main road, to reach South Point, an empty office block which may be demolished, or turned into homes, as has happened elsewhere in the borough, but for now, just looks dismal.

The Cock and Bull pub, however, looked very cheerful and, as we went over yet another railway, Mary explained that a number of different lines meet, overlap and cross here in Sutton.  We passed a multi storey  car park, also due for demolition, and then turned uphill along Cavendish Road.  Here we noticed a very few of the large old houses, between the apartment block which had replaced the others.  Although Sutton has a fine library in its own right, we were pleased to pass the Mobile Library van, doing its work. We could tell we were coming into a really prosperous area when we saw a street named 'The Gallop', rather than anything like 'Road' or 'Avenue'. 

Some of the houses were enormous.  We were interested in Cavendish Church and the houses around it, since they were faced with flint, in a way which we associated more with East Anglia than with South London.  A banner outside the church said it was celebrating 75 years, but if it has a website, I have not found it.

Linda also admired a house with a green roof, and were were all amused to see a group of young Lib Dems ready to do some leafletting in this Lib Dem Constituency.  At least we assumed they were merely leafletting, as we thought they looked a bit young for doorstep confrontations about broken pledges. 

The foliage in these gardens and open spaces is turning and looking very lovely in the sunshine, as we came down to Sutton Hospital, though we did not go into the grounds, but headed straight on.  On the other side of the road were elderly railings, which Mary said were all that remained of the Victorian Mental Hospital complex.  This also included a home for pauper children from London (though the word 'home' might be a bit misleading in this context).  It is now a very dense housing estate, but the railings remain,

Actually, the hospital is in Belmont, rather than Sutton, and Mary told us why the area has that name.  She will not be hurt if I say that I haven't verified all these entertaining details.  It all began when a prosperous man, John Gibbons, opened a pub in the 1850s, and named it the California Arms, as a tribute to the gold fields where he had made his fortune.  So when a railway station was built nearby, it was called California.  It seems that a trainload of school furniture went missing, and was eventually found on a dockside waiting for shipment to California, USA, and so the decision was made to change the name, and the California link was maintained by calling the area Belmont.  Even the pub is now called the Belmont.  Now, I think the school furniture bit of the story may be a bit far fetched, but as John Steinbeck once wrote,   a thing isn't necessarily a lie even if it didn't necessarily happen.  Mary points out that there is some detailed information here

Turning right along Sutton Lane, we passed the entrance to High Downs Prison, starting point of the Number 80 bus, many project-months ago, and came towards Banstead, through green countryside.

After Banstead's War Memorial, we came into the high street, with its wide range of shops, including the amazing Boutique Cakery, as well as several charity shops for local charities.

The planters were also admirable!  

We had been on the road for just about an hour, having a very enjoyable ride in splendid sunshine.  The way the drivers of these buses cope with parked cars, narrow roads and convoluted routes, as well as staying good natured and cheerful, is remarkable.

Now all that remained was to get out of Banstead!  While it's not as difficult as leaving Esher, the railway station is similarly far away, and the buses back to Sutton comparatively infrequent.  But it had been worth it.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Book Review: Bus Pass Britain Rides Again (Bradt Travel Guides – £14.99)

As the route below is the third one to pass the offices of the London Councils, one of whose tasks is to distribute and manage the Freedom Pass  (which in London of course covers all forms of transport), it seemed appropriate to include a review of a guide to fifty routes round the UK (islands but not Ireland included).  In order not to demonstrate an overly Londonist view I did read all the routes up to Number 42  (short essay that is, not Route Number) after which, as I have not been as far as Glasgow there seemed little point. Mary took a broader perspective…

Firstly it has to be said the book looks lovely – its production values match those of any Bradt guide: good paper quality (makes it heavy!), acceptable fonts and schematic route maps attached to proper map references.  The colour photos are grouped together rather than integrated into the text as this was presumably cheaper. The cover, like that of its companion volume, ‘Bus Pass Britain’ would certainly make you reach for it in any display. It is however pre-eminently a volume for dipping, rather than reading end to end (which is of course what we do with our bus routes; ride them end to end).

To say some of these routes are rare is to put it mildly (Blue moons where there is an ‘R’ in the month springs to mind – a Londoner finds it hard to believe that a route that runs once a week constitutes a ‘service’, but the least London-y of the three LWB has a different perspective: see below).  Many cover areas of outstanding natural beauty, often within our National Parks, and it is easy to wax lyrical about the landscapes of the pretty Cotswolds or the dramatic Pennine passes.  In some ways therefore this helps the apparently ‘duller’ routes stand out – flat Fenlands with their ditches, or down at heel ex Pottery towns, so I guess the editors should be congratulated for making some judicious selections.

While a few of the authors are professional travel writers, most fall into the demographic of allotment holder/rambler/(former) teacher, the occasional spy (?) and of course bus user. It takes one to know one. The pieces are all a combination of local knowledge, local history with the ‘out of London’ Blue Plaque equivalent comments (sound familiar?). Few venture into the arena of politics and there is some deference given to local bus users/ fellow travellers as well as grand vistas. Strangely though many writers may exchange words with their bus drivers the skill of the operatives is rarely praised – only in Pieces 39 & 40 are there comments about dexterous manoeuvring around parked cars or over narrow hill-top passes. Where the writer is a regular user, warmth for their chosen route usually shines through while some others rather self-consciously over-egg the writing pudding.

For one of us the book evoked positive memories:

I enjoyed dipping into the Bradt guide very much.  I feel this is the best way to use it.

Uncannily it covered areas of the country that I know and love and it evoked good memories!   Stafford to Lichfield, my old "hockey" stamping ground.  Daddy's favourite pub ‘The Sun at Leintwadine, and the Welsh trips, some of which I have cycled and others I have driven. It also took us through Chagford where my daughter teaches, and around Sheffield where I walk with an old friend. 

The Scottish trips were good, and having driven the Jura bus route I know how invaluable the service is, taking groceries to people and children to school. I met the family near George Orwell's writing house whose children use the bus! I also know the route to Oban and certainly for me the guide will inspire me to travel further, hopefully to the Hebrides.

I know the lack of services frustrated some, but for both Scotland and Devon the winter weather is often dire and dangerous. I spoke to the Scottish bus company when I was planning to go to Oban from Glasgow and they explained the difficulties.

However having just been in Devon I know how invaluable even an infrequent service is and the bus companies do try to link up. It can be a daily lifeline. I also think we forget just how few people live in some of these country places.

So for me it was an enjoyable read, both for reflection and hopefully inspiration to travel the country more. I liked the personal approach to each journey, the differing styles and interests of the writers.  I think I will go and buy the first one and my own copy of this one as hopefully I may well start to travel more by bus than car!

Perhaps because we have ridden and written ourselves about the London routes we found these the least satisfying with the exception of the 277. Nostalgia is fine: we do it ourselves and it is hard to avoid if you have been riding the red routes from the age of 3 (no such thing as ‘buggies’ in the Fifties) but we do not necessarily think the Routemaster is the be-all and end-all of vehicles. A greater sprinkling of humour might have been welcome, and few observers reference street art, graffiti or street furniture.

While the Concessionary Bus Pass remains a reality this book reminds us that it affords us, the holders, the privilege of passing through some of the land’s loveliest scenery and most vibrant city and this book offers a good companion for a hopefully clean – if you can grab it – top-deck  window.

STOP PRESS: Bradt has agreed a 40% discount to blog followers, if you order direct from their website quoting the discount code LONDONBUSES

The RV1 Route

Tower Gateway to Covent Garden
Thursday October 24th 2013

There was some debate between the two of us (Mary having a prior commitment to help a daughter due to move overseas) as to what ‘RV’ might stand for – Random Vehicle was my guess, whilst Jo went for the more realistic River Valley.  I expect one of our helpful commentators will come up with a totally reasonable if less fanciful explanation.

In any case it seems to be a ‘Billy-No-Mates’ bus with no companions with  of the same rubric. Also notable about this route is that some vehicles are  hydrogen powered – ‘you mean I am sitting on a bomb?’ I remarked to 63 regular. ‘No more explosive than a load of petrol, came the reply.

In fact we found it much quieter – slight tendency to whine a little perhaps but that seems a small price to pay for all those non-carbon water emissions. Technicalities apart it is a splendid route, and as a tourist route it almost out-performs the faithful Numbers 15 and 100 into whom we bumped today.

There is a slightly inauspicious start under the rail bridge that carries the lines into Fenchurch Street station in a road now known as the Minories.  Jo thought they might be small as in lesser Monks but they prove in fact to have been Lady monks – ie nuns belonging to the order of St Clare and like everyone else were dispossessed during the reign of Henry VIII. On we glided  to Royal Mint Street but of course the Mint
moved to newer premises in Wales in 1967. I can remember a Primary School trip to the old coin works but little detail.

The same cannot be said of visiting the Tower of London (no Londoner ever calls it anything but ‘the Tower’) which is one of the most visited of the London sights; the view from even the single-decker RV1 was excellent and at one point we had the Tower, the Shard and an aeroplane in one photograph. From major fortification through to prison for many and execution site to major tourist attraction its massive bulk can just about compete with the looming Shard. From the other window a glimpse of St Katherine’s Dock, with its pretty boats.

Jo leaned hard to capture HMS Belfast, one of her former workplaces. Tower Bridge of course looks at its best from anywhere else (in front of City Hall for example) not crossing it but the views are excellent.  Turning right the RV1 follows the Thames as close as vehicles can but as every inch of land is built on we did not really glimpse water again until the next bridge. One of the developments going up is 1 Tower Bridge, (not to be confused with 1 London Bridge and 1 Blackfriars Bridge also on this route) which had taken over an old red-brick building  ?(a courtroom) for its Sales centre just adjacent to Potters Field .  We had not been along here since the infamous 343. It is something of a blessing that this open space has been retained and not built on, though some websites maintain these were previously burial grounds for the poor.

Just outside a hotel a guy got onto the bus and told the driver that there was a family of five coming – rather nobly, we thought, the driver waited as the raggle taggle family loaded their luggage bit by luggage bit. Perhaps the RV1 drivers have special ‘Be nice to tourists’ training, tourists seeming to be the daytime mainstay of this route.
Tooley Street is of course rich in history and places to visit – Hay’s galleria, a former tea warehouse and wharfside depot, has been quite sympathetically converted and gives a good idea of how the buildings would have looked when dock activity was at its height. The Old Fire Station, which is now a trendy bar bistro etc (small plates/large drinks) called Brigade, reminded us that the people down the Road at City Hall had decided London did not need quite so many fire stations, though I would guess this one was de-commissioned some time previously. The RV1 which had kept up quite a good pace was beginning to slow as the street narrowed towards the end of London Bridge and the driver had to cope with pedestrians spilling everywhere as they went from London Dungeon to the London Bridge Experience to London Bridge Station  (having a makeover) and even trying to cross London Bridge. It is strange to think that for much of London’s history this was the only crossing point and accounts for much of the area’s history as folk hung around waiting to cross or selling beer and victuals to those crossing into the City.

The railway lines do dominate quite a bit and Borough Market , which in a very few years has gone from a genuine ‘buy your loose vegetables here’ kind of market to a street foodie destination in its own right is very much squashed under the arches.  Not surprising then that the bus was really busy here.

Still following the river, we continued along Southwark Street passing what must be a ‘new’ pub ‘The Barrow Boy and the Banker’ which cliché kind of sums up the area. Just past the The Hop Exchange, which we thought had been cleaned since we last came this way (August 2012 on the 381), is now a party venue (corporate events!) 

We had been invited to coffee with the folk at the London Councils at their offices at 59 ½ Southwark Street and  who have been very supportive of our efforts, rides and blogging, and who of course administer the excellent Freedom pass scheme. Last time we were here there was a certain amount of media activity so it was nice just to sit and catch up.  We also heard about Stephen who has retired, but is walking and blogging about our city, post code by post code, here 

Refreshed, we boarded another Hydrogen bus and continued along Southwark Street – it does cross Southwark Bridge Road but the river is too far at this point and Southwark is a very retiring crossing only hosting 1 bus route. If the Hop Exchange had smartened itself up for corporate functions we guessed that the ubiquitous RBS might be one of its customers --- though quite why they need a huge building here as well as the one in Bishopsgate I am not quite clear??

There was plenty to glimpse down the side streets – The Oxo Tower, Tate Modern (with the new extension already underway) and just past  the Blue Fin Building, a glimpse of an older Southwark – Hopton's Almshouses still providing sheltered housing for more vulnerable residents and complete with a cattle trough in front!

By now we had arrived at Blackfriars Bridge with a major interchange to negotiate. At this point we were on a diversion as correctly the bus should run along Upper Ground, closer to the river and Royal National Theatre (Happy Birthday: 50 this week but not quite old enough for its Freedom Pass) but instead took the Stamford Street route, now largely colonised by King’s College from across the water.  The residents of Coin Street had to fight hard to retain their right to residency and their now not so new homes have weathered slightly better than the theatre buildings.

At the south end of Waterloo Bridge the RV1 rejoined its rightful route and trundled along the nearly (but not quite) pedestrianised Belvedere Road, taking in South Bank Shell,  Nelson Mandela in statue form, the Festival Hall (recalling the original Festival of Britain) and the BFI; film always being a bit of an afterthought it has a rather low level – underneath Waterloo Bridge – but we all know film buffs live in a permanent twilight zone. 

Once the RV1 reaches the old County Hall  – a fine civic building – by way of magnificent views of the London Eye it turns back on itself down York Road and heads across Waterloo Bridge, as so many bus routes do. I’ve raved abut the views at least 14 times before so will leave the photos to speak for themselves.

We crossed the Strand and should have pulled into Catherine Street pointing more or less at he Royal Opera House but current roadworks meant we stopped, rather to the surprise of those tourists on board, along Aldwych itself.
Handy for the India Office though. 

A fine October day had given us 25 minutes of sheer London pleasure – a tourist route to rival the famous Number 11 but with an altogether more South of the River perspective that takes you from St Katherine’s Docks to Catherine Street .  Doubtless we had missed innumerable other points of interest along the way but we shall just have to ride it again and almost certainly have an equally enjoyable if different experience.


Friday, 18 October 2013

The R70 Route

Thursday 17 October 2013

The R 70 runs between the Sainsbury's near to North Sheen Station and the Sainsbury's at Nurserylands, Fulwell.  On the TfL website map it looks like a one-way bus, but on the back of the paper map it is clear that it is circular.  So Linda and I resolved to ride it from North Sheen to the far end and then back to Richmond Station.  Richmond Station is normally a brilliant end point for me, because of its Overground connections, but alas, not today.

Still, that's the end of the ride, and we need to begin at the beginning.  

Having left Sainsbury’s and got onto the main road, we headed straight into Richmond, past the station (with some graffiti on the right, possibly a picture of the Queen) and on towards the Quadrant.  We spotted that the Paul shop I had mentioned in the R68 was still claiming to be a Paul, but it was too early in the journey to disembark and test an éclair.

Now we turned left, passing the triangle building site we had seen on the 68, now a wholefood shop with apartments above.  This brought us to St Mary Magdalen Church and the modest bus parking area known as the bus station.  We did not pause for long, but did notice a second bus stop.  Maybe they had read our blog….

Turning right, we crossed the Thames over pretty Richmond Bridge. Turning left to Cambridge Park and St Stephen’s Church, we passed the Aleksander pub and restaurant on the right.  Linda’s theory is that the unorthodox spelling is to do with meerkats, but we have no way of improving this hypothesis.

As so often, we caught glimpses of marble Hill House, but a combination of speedy single decker and buoyant tree foliage meant photographs were impossible.  Orleans Park, and its school, were looking similarly green.

We have mentioned bfore that the proximity of the river means lots of pubs, and we liked the green baskets of The George more than the begonias of the Old Anchor (but then Linda and I don’t care for begonias, despite our late mother/mother-in-law’s fondness of them)

By now we were into Twickenham, signalled by The Rugby Shop, as well as Sapori, an Italian restaurant with a very wispy font as its signature.

Twickenham Green still had its cricket pitches marked and its sight screens ready for us, and we liked the picture of Bertie on the side of the Prince of Wales pub.  It came just after a Prince Albert pub, to remind us that Queen Victoria always blamed Albert’s death on the behaviour of their dissolute son.  This is where the side streets are named ‘First Cross Street’, ‘Second Cross Street’ and so on.  A surprising lack of imagination at the time of the development of this aspiring area, with its large houses.  Our progress along here was slow, thanks to the parked vehicles, despite the fact that most front gardens had become parking spaces.

Fulwell Station and Fulwell bus garage were next, reminding us of the transport links developed as London grew westwards.  Although the river was invisible to our left, we knew it was near as we passed the Bloated Mallard pub and came into Hampton Hill, with its theatre and glimpses of Bushy Park.  Now we turned right, along Uxbridge Road, with a brief pause after we had crossed the little railway bridge, and forked left along Broad Lane.  We were in an area with enormous properties on either side, but also the more domestic sized Hampton cemetery.  We turned right along The Avenue, and reached the Nurserylands shopping centre, with its Sainsbury's supermarket, at 11.00, barely over the 37 minutes advertised on the timetable.

Our uncertainty about whether the route was circular or not was removed when, after the briefest of pauses, the destination sign changed to 'Richmond, Manor Circus; and we were off again, taking a different route for some way.  We set off along Acacia Road and then took a sharp left into Hanworth Road to reach a multitude of schools, none of them in the control of the local authority.  There was a girls' private school, named for its 18th century founder, Eleanor Holles, who hope to produce 'women of grace and integrity; then Hampton School for boys, which has had various incarnations, including a spell as a state school;  then the Hampton Academy, which is tax-payer funded.  I guess the R70 is busier a couple of times a day than it was for us.

We were impressed by some fine sunflowers in a garden, and then saw some tree pruning going on.  We turned into Swan Lane, and passed the war memorial before heading along a pleasant green lane, with horses in the field nearby.   A couple more twiddles brought us into Old Farm Road and thus to the main road, just by a stinkpipe.  Linda told me that there is a blog all about these Victorian relics, and indeed there is. This brought us, finally, back onto the outward route, as we swept past The Avenue, where we had previously turned right.

From now on we were repeating our outward route, but had time for some new sights. We had thought that the waterway might be the Duke of Northumberland's cut, but it is in fact The Longford River, with a remarkable history and course, including getting in the way of Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

We admired a fine crenellated house with a plaque commemorating John Templeton, a tenor who sang in the first English productions of some of Mozart's operas.  We also liked the modern Catholic Church of St Francis of Sales,  a saint who was canonised for converting people back from Protestantism.  (I had thought he was the one who helped the poor, but that is St Vincent de Paul)  Then we came to Fulwell Station and bus garage, where we had a very brief pause for a change of driver, before we came back into Twickenham, passing the Green and the Prince Albert Pub.  The houses along here are very attractive, but the road is busy enough to make them uncovetable.  We were a bit surprised by an eatery called the Blah Blah Blah, which proves to be a gourmet vegetarian restaurant.

We were rapidly through Twickenham, and glancing to the right to glimpse Marble Hill House, but the speed of the bus again made photography unviable.

Linda keeps a close eye on our statistics;  when we have an abnormal number of visits, she scans our text to see what could possibly have attracted so many people.  She is usually able to find some phrase which might have a double sort of entendre.  With this unwanted consequence in mind, I am not even going to speculate about what might be drawn and painted onto the mugs and plates if one were to have a hen party at the Pottery Cafe which, we noticed, is something they offer.

Soon we were back across the river, with the sun still shining, and a pleasure boat heading towards London from, we thought, Hampton Court.  On the way back we did not have to detour into (and therefore comment upon) the bus station, but went straight to the station, where we climbed off at 11.55.  The journey is advertised as 37 minutes each way, so we were not too much over the allotted time.

After the unpleasant weather of the past few days, we were pleased to have had a sunny trip.  Next week we shall be in Central London before heading back into the southern suburbs.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The R 68 Route

Thursday 22 November 2012

This was our first R bus, not that there are as many as you might think from the numbers.  Indeed, the two R buses around West London have nothing to do, routewise, with the Orpington marathon of the Rs 1-11.  We speculated that these Rs might be named for Richmond, and this one passes through Richmond on its way to Hampton Court.

Linda and I had walked through the National Archive, having arrived at Kew Gardens Station, and were delighted to find reassuring signs to show us where our bus would be. A number of people were waiting, as was the bus, and we were off at 11.46, just as the timetable said we should be.  Only a single decker, but you can’t have everything.

 We came out of the car parking areas which separate the Archive from the retail park, and turned left to skirt the edge of North Sheen cemetery. The low flying aircraft reminded us that we were in West London, as we headed along the A 316: to our left, offices and warehouses; to our right, attractive little terrace houses, not to mention a rather good segregated cycle lane alongside us.
 We forked left along the A 307 to enter Richmond, where they were having road works, which gave us time to note the slightly dull but probably robust planting.  Linda is very fond of bread shops.  (But of course, since we made this journey, Paul's has vanished, gobbled up by Patisserie Valerie, a shame as far as I am concerned, because they fill their eclairs with yucky 'fresh cream' instead of the proper creme patissiere.) 

We also noticed that we were passing the Orange Tree before we twiddled round to reach Richmond’s bus station.  Actually, this is such a misnomer.  We know what a bus station should be, and a haphazard parking area, served by ONE bus stop, is not it.  Still, it did not detain us, and we went on, past the Fat Boys Thai Restaurant and then on to pass Marble Hill House  well worth, as M Michelin says, a detour.  But we LWB don’t get off our bus for tourism, perhaps as well on this route, since we were also to pass the ferry to Ham House, as well as Strawberry Hill, before rounding off our trip at a third large stately home.  But we’re not there yet.

 We came to what we think are the Offices of Medea Media, but we can’t find a website to expand on this bare and rather startling name.  Medea did, after all, produce poisoned garments which killed a number of her relatives, including her own children  which makes you wonder what kind of media services are on offer.

We were also passing a number of pubs, of course, since we were by the river:  the Old Anchor was followed by the Ales and Tails Bar and the Alexander Pope (though I think he did most of his quaffing at home)  We barely noticed Twickenham, as we sped along to Teddington Lock and with views of the river.
The Landmark Arts Centre is a former church, just across the road from what we take to be the current church, of St Mary with St Alban.  We were making this trip the day after the Church of England had produced its bizarre decision about women bishops. Neither of us is particularly concerned about career prospects in the Church; but an Established Church with a woman at its head must have had to do some fairly contorted thinking to decide that women may not be bishops. 

Through Teddington, we had time to marvel at the strange angled Christmas trees, which embellish the street, as well as envying the denizens their hardware shop.

An odd little building apparently on the railway bridge called itself The Powder Rooms, which led us to suppose it might be a beauty shop:  but it is in fact The Architect’s Gallery.  It’s obviously bigger and more modern than it looks!  Next we came to Teddington Memorial Hospital, the poppies around its monument still bright and eyecatching on this slightly murky day.

We had a change of driver outside the National Physical Laboratory which gave me time to tell Linda that when Andrew was trying to check his late mother’s pocket barometer, he found a bit of the NPL website which told him how and added ‘there is no need to tap the screen of your computer’  I don’t know if that joke is still on their website. 
We carried on along Hampton Hill, passing more pubs (The Bloated Mallard, the Rising Sun) as well as a number of charity shops, including Fara, which is a Romanian children’s charity 
Dazzling Dogs, ‘Excellence in Dog Grooming’ is also along here, suggesting that at least the pet owners may have a few pence to spare.  

We skirted Bushy Park and, as we came back to the river, we admired the amazing house boats around Taggs Island and Ash Island.  We were slowed down by two police horses plodding along in front of us:  as we finally passed, we read the tabards and noticed that one rider was a trainer, though whether of horse or accompanying rider we did not know.  A few hundred metres further on, we were again slowed by two riders with three horses.  One of the riders was school age (year 10 work experience, said I; huh, you’re very charitable, said my companion.)
By this time we were very close to Hampton Court Palace, and crossed the river to reach the railway station, where our journey ended at 12.50, just an hour after leaving Kew Retail Park.