Thursday, 28 November 2013

The U4 Route

Wednesday 27 November 2013

The U4 is a double decker route, our first for ages.  Sad, then, that it was a murky, grey day, so that views were limited in the extreme.  But Linda and I did enjoy the trip to Uxbridge Station.

We started at Prologis Park, Hayes,  a strange and slightly alarming building. It is accessed through one of those gates which lifts when an acceptable vehicle approaches.  The building has no identifying marks on it, though it does have some dire warnings about trespassing and guard dogs.  Our charming bus driver told us that even the security guards are not allowed inside the building. Lack of chimneys convinced us that the secret was not vivisection;  we could not see the roof, but there appeared to be no aerials or satellite dishes.  Only when we returned home was I able to discover that it had once been a Ministry of Defence Archive, though plans for its transformation don't seem to have got far since 2004.

Anyway, we set off at 10.35, out of the clever gates and into residential streets, where Linda was able to admire the pampas grass.  We soon came to a small parade of shops and the Music Box pub, and turned right, to run alongside Pinkwell Park, as well as a plethora of schools, Youth Centres and other educational facilities.  The streets were narrow, and there were many parked cars, as well as two coaches manoeuvring.  We thought they must be for a trip, at 10.45 seems rather late for pupils arriving to start the day.
Our route took us on towards Hayes itself, with the handsome HMV building dominating the view.  It used to press vinyl, but I think that the only remains of the industry around here is the EMI archive.

We came along Station Road to the Great Western Pub, and noted that the pedestrian crossing at the main road was called the Ashvin Auchambit Crossing.  While we very much approve of Hillingdon's personalising of crossings, we should love to find a website which told us who these people are, and why they are so celebrated.  As good as a blue plaque, we thought!

At this stage, the bus was apparently busy downstairs, but we were still the only passengers upstairs.  We are at a loss to understand why this route is a double decker; I suppose it may date from the days when many MOD archivists, their cloaks firmly wrapped around them, and their daggers hidden, used the route.  

We came up to Hayes and Harlington Station, and wondered at the large derelict sites either side of the railway bridge.  As we crossed the Grand Unioin Canal, we remembered that, when we first came this way, the large block of flats which overlooks it was barely under construction.  The distant views of the Nestle complex were, however, unchanged.

Now we turned left, to pass the Hayes Muslim Centre. Their website appears to be down, or I should be able to tell you more about them,

Botwell Common appeared to have lots of mounds of earth and machinery on it, and Linda and I wondered if the council was planning improvements, like more swings and skateboarding.  But it turns out that we were passing the perimeter of a major local planning dispute which has roused a great deal of local anger.

We came past Hayes Amateur Boxing Club and the reached St Jerome's Church.  He is not a very common saint for parish churches, as he preferred life as a hermit after a rather riotous time as a student in the 4th century;  but then he did improve the latin bible and help a lion which had a thorn in its paw.

We had one more burst of rural life, with a couple of horses in a field, as well as some allotments, before coming to Hillingdon Hospital, where there was a lengthy queue of traffic waiting to enter the grounds.  Happily the U4 doesn't do that, and we were able to move on towards the university.

We are getting to know Brunel University quite well.  The Picture this time shows the Mary Seacole building, which is - quite rightly, we should say - listed.

The we came past the cemetery and the mortuary, onto the Hillingdon road, knowing we were getting close to the end of our trip.
Coming into Uxbridge, we passed what appeared to be some  almshouses - or possibly an ex-school - with modern wings attached; but even from the upper deck we could find no notice board or name.  

We did , however, note that Uxbridge is about to have a pop-up ice rink.  I just hope the weather is the right combination of sun and chill for skating to be a pleasure.  Then we were passing the huge frontage of Randalls, to tour the road around the centre and pass the War Memorial.  The figure is a winged angel holding a laurel wreath.  It has a verse on the plinth which we could not read, though you can see it here.

It was 11.15 when we reached Uxbridge Station.  We had not realised that 'this bus terminates here' was actually Belmont Street, and were nearly swept into the garage, but the driver kindly let us out for the short wait until our next bus arrived.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The U3 Route

Uxbridge Station to Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3
Thursday November 21st 2013
Uxbridge Bus Station (there is a garage with some emergency vehicles tucked into a corner also) is usually pretty busy with passengers waiting for the wealth of buses on offer and today was no exception with 12 of us on board the U3 right from the start. The Underground Station is Grade 2 listed but the back exit to the buses is the less decorative approach.

Uxbridge was formerly known as a ‘coaching stop’ – the four horse variety – which might account for the number of routes which still pass through here. Additonally, there are two rivers (the Colne and the Fraye) plus the Grand Union Canal. Nowadays several large companies seem to favour it as a location for their company HQs and there are numerous modern office blocks, mainly occupied, as you leave Uxbridge via a series of roundabouts.  Close to the Civic Suite an empty office block sported a large ‘NO TO HS2’ banner, a controversy we have already alluded to.

After a nifty spin down the aptly named Greenway and a couple of corners we found ourselves approaching Brunel University from the other, less grand side.  There is a red-brick building named in honour of Marie Jahoda.  I confess I knew nothing of this eminent social psychologist whose story I found interesting because of some parallels with my mother’s (Viennese birth, imprisonment for political reasons, escape to England…). Marie was born in 1907, became radicalised researching the impact of unemployment on a small rural community and so incurred the displeasure of the regime and was gaoled for a while. Leaving Austria in 1937 Marie spent the war in England, and after a spell working in the US returned to the UK in the mid Sixties and worked at Brunel setting up its social Psychology Department, hence the departmental building named for her.
On the other side of the road there was a small water feature; as it happens the River Pinn seems to run through the middle of the campus but this was just an ornamental pond. The U3 is the only route to approach from this side. 

Abandoning our students to their studies or whatever we returned to the residential streets of Cowley and Pield Heath (No that is NOT a misprint for Field).  Jo was puzzled that the area seemed to be called Cowley (are we in Oxford?) but this name seems to refer to an area closer to the canal.  Just after the historic St Lawrence Church Jo saw a sign for the Robbie Bell Bridge which does actually cross the River Pinn.  Quite who he was I have not been able to find out.

Nor am I any the wiser as to who Margaret Jo Larkin might have been to have a pedestrian crossing named for her – as it was just by the main entrance to Hillingdon Hospital maybe she was a long serving hospital employee?  Anyway, we shed and gained passengers in just about equal measure at the hospital and the U3 shadows the U1 in taking a right hand route down Violet Avenue (and all the pink and purpley roads as well).

Yiewsley and West Drayton kind of blend, with the former having the canal as its focus and origin and West Drayton clinging more to the mainline railway. Yiewsley High Street is still very popular with bus users though perhaps struggling a little since the large Morrisons store arrived.  We liked ‘Hairport’ which showed good local loyalty though ‘Ladycare School of Driving’ suggested they had diverted via the pharmacy and beauty counters…

Jo also remembered  Hydrodragon from an earlier trip, mainly because their website has a real treasure trove of  pretty green objets. In quick succession we passed two boarded up building sites but while I could identify the developer information about the actual development (ie more housing) seemed lacking, perhaps indicated another stalled project.

The U3 very much on its own here takes a turn first past the pretty Green where there was a sign to the Benjamin Franklin House – here was another mystery as though the famous American inventor etc travelled variously through the UK West Drayton does not seem to figure on any itinerary?? An attempt to lure US tourists to outer West London? This route has strangely produced more questions than answers.

Next our bus took us along Swan Road and Wise Lane, quite rural in appearance – we guessed some farms had been sold off for more housing stock but there were still signs of animal life along here, free ranging chickens and some Gloucester Old Spot piglets.  At least the fact we saw them from a bus indicates there were not entirely indoor reared (or force farmed) as so graphically seen on last week’s ‘Borgen’.  The map shows we were very much at the borders of TFL territory with rural Bucks just over the road, hence the space to farm albeit on small scale. 

We had to double back somewhat in order to turn onto the Harmondsworth Road and thus cross over the M4 just before it starts thinking about joining /crossing the M25.

We glimpsed our last few fields before emerging onto Skyport Drive and one of those approaches to Heathrow Airport more than slightly obscured by the Perimeter fence. By now the bus was pretty empty; I had thought it might be a possible vehicle for Uxbridge folk to get to work at the airport but perhaps they prefer to do a dog leg on the Piccadilly Line?  Whatever, this was a busy local route, taking in some watery landmarks en route but finishing at one of the world’s busiest airports. Not that the Heathrow Bus station is a very auspicious first view for arrivals by air or bus.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The U2 Route

Thursday 21 November 2013

Perhaps we should start by saying that this bus route has nothing to do with the elderly pop group of the same name.  No, it is a simple single decker which took Linda and me from Uxbridge Station to Brunel University.  After a brief visit to the facilities of the Pavilions Shopping Centre, we were on our way at 10.35.

The bus was very full from the start, with standing room only.  This is not something we are used to, since usually buses are either frequent or unimportant.  But the reason soon became clear when we reached Uxbridge College, and many young people got off, to pursue learning.

We turned left at the TA Centre, which we noted particularly because this was the day after the government's plans to rename the TA became newsworthy.  We were now in residential streets of a prosperous appearance, and crossed over the River Pinn as it makes its way from Pinner Park towards the Grand Union Canal.  It makes a very pleasant walk, though when we walked it the gate at the end was locked, forcing a lengthy road detour. Here is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated description of the Celandine Trail

We took a turn out of the  houses and onto the main road to visit Hillingdon's amazing greenhouse of a station, but were soon  back out to Hillingdon Circus, and then more housing, many of the properties having hardened front gardens.  We were the only bus along these roads, and picked up a number of passengers as we went along.

Indeed, our route took us through street after street of housing, ranging from bungalows to substantial detached properties.  We admired the autumnal creeper on one semi.  I am almost sure it is a clematis, but the web offers either pictures or names, but seldom both.  There were also some lovely acers.  The peculiar weather of 2013 has certainly brought us a lot of autumn colour.

Passing a school with an overgrown beehive at its front, we were unable to ascertain whether this was merely a playground object, or whether it was a school which keeps bees.  Brunel University, which is after all quite close,  does have a research department concerned with the declining numbers of our bees.

After we had passed Crescent Parade, with its multiple charity shops, we  noted another school, this one being either extensively rebuilt, or newly built, but could not catch the name. Hillingdon is clearly building many new schools, and this might be one, but I am not sure.

The bus was gradually filling up again, with a mainly elderly clientele. As we headed along Pield Heath Avenue, we entered a brief Dickens patch, with streets called 'Micawber' - doubtless occupied by people expecting that something will turn up - and Copperfield.

When we paused by Hillingdon Hospital, the bus once again emptied, leaving us with only one fellow passenger for the last few metres.
We soon reached Brunel University's spacious sports fields and handsome buildings, though we were surprised to note its proximity to Uxbridge's mortuary and cemetery.  We stepped off the bus at 11.05, after a journey of precisely half an hour through the residential areas around the south of Uxbridge.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The U1 Route

Ruislip Station to West Drayton Station
Thursday June 13th 2013

(Linda alone whilst others on holiday…)
Due to a faulty bus my previous route, the H13, had abandoned me and others up at Ruislip Lido; still, though hardly ‘flaming June’, it was pleasant enough to walk down from the reservoir, and along the High Street, which in Ruislip usually feels welcoming and well used. By the time you read this the station forecourt works will probably be finished but when I travelled most routes were starting at different points along the High Street, and that is indeed where I plus several others boarded this U1.   Interestingly (for us bus geeks at least) the E, H and U routes all cross over at Ruislip. 
We headed south to the Ickenham Road by doubling back along Church Avenue, where I did not really spot a church – a Beefeater Grill, the White Bear and one of the Mormon churches of the Latter Day Saints, but UK roads are not usually named for them.  More interestingly many of the homes and fences sported posters saying ‘No to HS2’. When I tried to follow up these links my web searches landed me on two different ‘Whoops’ pages leading me to wonder whether the anti-campaigns have been hacked as the only one still active refers largely to the Chilterns where indeed HS2 might go underground. Quite why we need a new train line, which will only save 20 minutes and seems set to deliver yet more people into London rather than encouraging business in the Midlands I don’t know.  Anyway as this is quite a desirable part of outer London I can quite see why people around here would dislike the idea of building and living with an extra railway line.

Ickenham still has the heart of an old village complete with village pump (it’s an official bus stop) though I was the wrong side to photograph it and by now wedged in on a busy bus, largely full of students. The inter-war housing is well set back from the road and today we passed council workmen busy strimming the verges, so the bus smelt gently of cut grass (the green variety), which is a lot more pleasant than some summer smells when passengers over heat or even over eat.

Once over the Swakeleys roundabout and watching the A 40 speeding below the U1 also picks up speed heading towards Uxbridge – I fleetingly glimpsed a sign for the Dogs Trust, where they re-home abandoned canines. I suppose they maybe exercise them on Uxbridge Common, which we were crossing. The students who were as noted the majority passenger group all got off along here, which I thought might be Brunel University but in fact is more likely Uxbridge Technical College. 

The U1 must of course call in at Uxbridge – of all the eight U routes this is the only one which does not start or finish at Uxbridge but merely ‘passes through’ as indeed we did using the tight roundabout to access the correct bus station stop. Most of the rest of the passengers left at this point, but we gained some new ones keen to get to Hillingdon Hospital.  All buses through Uxbridge have to follow quite a complicated one way system as parts of the High Street are totally car–free and the vehicles are sent round the back, which allows you to see the various companies which have their HQs here and are doubtless boosting the local economy. Hillingdon seems very proud of their Civic Centre and the building appears to be standing up well even after nearly 40 years of use. Let us hope the council are not as strapped for cash as Lewisham where its 60s Town Hall in Catford has been emptied of staff with a view to selling it off. But back to West London and our route out of Uxbridge, by now very familiar, took us first past the tall spire of St Andrew’s Church then back past the now defunct and being ‘developed’ Uxbridge Airfield and the little hut that is the Battle of Britain Club. Again we crossed the River Pinn.

Just before Hillingdon Hill the U1 takes a turn left down the narrow but rather scenic Kingston Lane and this was to offer me my first glimpse of Brunel University. What I saw looked modern and clean but already deserted (has university term finished?) and was probably the reception end of the campus. We shall be returning. Further down Kingston Lane are the university’s extensive sports fields and how lucky they are to have them so close by.

No sooner have you passed the academic campus than the bus empties for Hillingdon Hospital whose buildings, by contrast have seen better days. Most visible from the bus was a large sign proclaiming Hillingdon to be a ‘NO SMOKING ZONE’. I wondered how far this extended as most hospitals I have been to have a steady clutch of patients, often still attached to their drips and bags, smoking outside the ward areas. The Child Development Centre did look more inviting and purpose built.

After the hospital the bus leaves the busier roads to head into a large area of social housing named for pink and purple flowers – thus Violet Avenue, Lavender, Heather and Campion ditto. Many of the properties must have been sold off as there were several ‘For Sale’ boards dotted around.

This route then rejoins the West Drayton Road in what I learnt was Yiewsley where I was promised a new Morrisons – yes – Yiewsley Library – yes – and the Grand Union canal, more difficult to spot but historically very key to what is now a quiet corner of West London.

At one point there was a sign saying  John Ralph Crossing , which proves to have an interesting story behind it. So local boy makes good both in his chosen career as an engineer and a successful competitive cyclist but experiences ostracism in both areas due to his Communist Party affiliations and loyalty. In spite of this he has been remembered in a road naming.

The High Street which (where it narrowed) was over the canal eventually brought us to West Drayton Station, a somewhat forgotten stop on the London to Reading or Oxford route and as good a place as any to finish a journey which had brought us a good distance south from our starting point in just on 40 minutes.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The T33 Route

West Croydon Station to Addington Village Tram Interchange 
Thursday November 13th 2013
We chose to arrive at West Croydon, a train stop easily reachable from our three different home addresses and just across the road from the West Croydon bus station with the tram stops squeezed in between. The T in these services stands for Tramlink and they do pretty much what it says on the tin.  Mid morning however is clearly not a peak time for catching the trams anywhere so were amongst the only passengers in this single decker for much of the route. West Croydon Bus Station, though full of  piped classical music, seemed to have most of its doors, including those to the toilets locked.

All three T services are branded as frequent and indeed having missed one in a fruitless quest we easily boarded another. In my view if you look at a map West Croydon is really to the north and so to get to an area largely to the South East of where we started involved doing to what amounts to Croydon’s ring road, in other words the dual carriageway that sweeps through the tall buildings and past the Whitgift Centre. Not really the loveliest stretch of road but looking mellow in the late autumn sunshine.  Close to East Croydon station there were signs of buildings having disappeared since our last trip here. There were no architects or building firm signs but it may prove to be part of the Croydon Gateway scheme which is attempting the area’s regeneration. The station itself is certainly very busy and makes little old West Croydon look like a sleepy village halt in comparison.
Once past South Croydon we broke away from the tramlines we had shadowed briefly and followed the line of Croham Valley and Farley Roads into Selsdon; this is one of the more affluent areas of the Croydon conurbation where several large houses were built in the inter-war years and showing some Art Deco influences.   Those earlier buildings that had remained intact after the heavy bombing of this part of London, now seemed destined to end their days as either small private schools or care homes.

The area is green because of sundry Sports Grounds, playing fields and even golf clubs. Detailed photography was fruitless as we paused hardly at all as nobody seemed to want the bus. In fact at one point I thought we might be on one of those ‘Express’ routes such as the X68 with only a few intermittent stops, but it was just a case of no one wanting to board. Travel had been pretty much in a straight line, thus affording a huge contrast to the twists and turns we had been experiencing in Sutton last week. 
The combination of Sainsbury’s and the Seldsdon Library gave us a temporary breathing space in what seemed a very rushed trip but even so this was where the few other passengers got off, leaving us alone to enjoy the streets of Forestdale – a large private development built on the edges of Selsdon Wood. As Jo put it, we now started ‘tweedling’ amongst the side streets all named for British birds – Kittiwake, Peacock Mallard etc. between the family friendly homes and leafy streets. Part of Selsdon Wood was preserved and is now administered by Croydon Council.

Soon we were to emerge at the roundabout close to Addington Village and take that circuitous route into the Addington Village Interchange and the long promised tram line, Number 3. The trip had been billed as 29 minutes though it felt quicker. There are lots of bus stops at the Interchange and I’m sorry to say we stood there flapping our paper bus map until an amused controller took pity on us and pointed us in the right direction for our next route. This was the seamless interchange. The next one would prove more tricky.