Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The S3 Route

Sutton Hospital to Malden Manor Station 
Thursday October 30th  2013

And so to the middle of the trio of Sutton based routes – we thought for neatness sake there ought to be an S2, but it seems this number used to belong to a bus round Stratford but is no longer in use... 

Perhaps this is why the bus took some finding – hiding in the bushes perhaps? Gone for a stroll on the nearby Banstead Downs? Missing in Action? Run away to Stratford?

The bus map indicated the route starting at Sutton Hospital (of which more anon) so we presented ourselves at the Main Entrance and scanned the nearby car parks – a little shelter proved to be where you bought your car park ticket and nothing more so Jo asked an ambulance driver who indicated we needed to be right round the other side of the hospital and gave us a clear route through (‘or I could faint,’ said Jo, ‘and you could take me in the ambulance’ – a remark he wisely ignored). This allowed us to walk through what remains of Sutton Hospital and locate the bus, which was pretty much ready to go – there are three per hour. Boarding with us were two community police officers who sat either end of the back seat not talking to each other and finally got off very near the end of the route. How unlike us, the silence I mean.  Today Jo and I were joined by local Sutton resident Mary J, who provided gems of local knowledge and history for both routes. 

The still-working Sutton Hospital is part of the St Helier and Epsom Group and has some very key specialisms including eye treatment and pain management for chronic conditions, mainly on an out-patient basis. It was built later than the more deserted back buildings, where we found ourselves wandering.  This part has a long history, and the site was originally a workhouse known as industrial school for over 1000 ‘poor girls’ from London’s inner boroughs such as Lambeth, Southwark, Camberwell;  hence the name South Metropolitan Schools.

Still the contrast between Sutton with its empty corridors and boarded-up windows and the Royal Marsden, where the bus called in after its little detour to Belmont Railway station, was quite marked. The Royal Marsden is a state of the art research and treatment centre for cancer, and its buildings reflect its prestige.

From there we went along the ‘boundary’ between greater London and Surrey, but while catching a glimpse of Banstead Downs we were to head into a comfortable residential area known as Carshalton Beeches, including descending at some speed down one of Sutton’s steeper hills. It has its own period parade of shops, most of which are still thriving and would meet your every need.


Jo and I were back on project-familiar territory with our arrival in Carshalton village complete with its historic houses, pond and water tower. The bus passes along the substantial, and 'listed' brick wall that once housed Carshalton House and now encloses St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls. Philomena seems to have been a late arrival as saints go and a somewhat contentious one but the name remains popular as the release of this week’s film testifies.  Carshalton village is always attractive and with the glowing autumn colours even more so.

As is often the case with things called ‘new’ (think Pont Neuf in Paris) the Newtown part of Sutton actually indicates one of the older parts: building started once creeping industrialisation came. Sutton is far out enough to be on the ‘greensand’ border between the downlands’s chalk and London’s clay with the springs that came at the intersection of these geological layers allowing for the shape of the finger parishes including Carshalton and Sutton where we were today. Thus many of Sutton’s residents have chalk soil gardens.


Talking of chalk there were chalk pits here in living memory which explains why B&Q, so obvious on the one-way system, is so far below the road level. The S3 takes a rather back-streets approach to Sutton but inevitably joins the one-way system near B&Q and the police buildings, passing some rather empty (possibly due for demolition) office blocks, till we arrived at the station. What had taken Jo and me 20 minutes to walk seems to have taken the bus over half an hour, which tells you how convoluted was its route. Through Sutton town the transit was more conventional, taking St Nicholas Way along the back of the pedestrianised High Street where of course many shoppers, already sorted for the day, got on. This end of the High Street is obviously the go-to area for a wide range of ethnic eating which survive amongst some closed office blocks: Eagle Star Insurance are long gone, due for demolition and regeneration. 

This route, unlike many, does not climb up Angel or Rose Hills but takes a left hand turn into West Sutton, a more restrained residential area and another ‘Hail and Ride’ section of the route. Not only were the houses more modest but the streets much narrower and quite difficult to negotiate with cars parked either side. Though barely visible the map indicates the presence of the Pyl Brook, a 5 mile tributary of the Beverley Brook

We then emerged onto what Mary called the ‘by-pass’ – the rather swifter A217 which takes a curve between Sutton and Cheam. The S3 is not a by-pass kind of bus but needed to deliver and take up passengers at the large Tesco Extra store built on the site of a former  GLC Waste Station (thank you Ediths’s Streets) and with space also for a range of other industrial units. Again in a ‘Hail & Ride’ section we progressed more swiftly this time through an area where the streets seem to be named for places along the River Thames (Windsor, Henley etc) before emerging onto our second major road, this time the A24. The press may tell us there is a supermarket war on but the S3 was certainly not taking sides – having passed Morrisons in Sutton and stopped for Tesco the S3 now does a positive in and out loop to take on customers for Sainsbury’s, returning along the same stretch of the A24 before plunging for its last ‘Hail & Ride’ section into what is arguably Worcester Park.

I say ‘arguably’ as apparently Worcester Park lies in three rather contrasting local authorities: Sutton from where we were coming, Kingston, and Epsom and Ewell which is not a London borough at all. This might account for the rather bland feel of the area though the housing is solid with some newer fill-ins especially along by the Beverley Brook. Beverley Brook may be better known to some as the daughter of Mama Thames in Ben Aaronovitch’s 'Rivers of London' novels so it is difficult to be harsh about her ‘home patch’.


At Worcester Park and its train station we lost the rest of the passengers, including the somnolent police officers (perhaps they know more about Beverley Brook than we do?) and the bus, well into its second hour of travelling, headed into the hinterland that calls itself Malden Manor Station. Sadly it feels like a very desolate roundabout with few cheering features, the eponymous Manor pub having shut since the last time we were here (on a K route) and the station not much more lively as it only seems to get two trains per hour. Mary’s vegetable samosa rather matched the general ambience and the platform could only summon a half-hearted train indicator so our really quite intriguing (what was round the next corner of which there were many?) S3 ended on something of a down note. 

Apologies -- photos somewhat adrift of text.

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