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.
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.