Sunday, 21 October 2018

The NUMBER 5 Route

Romford Market to Canning Town
Thursday October 18 2018

Having boggled at the way the Number 4 wriggles its way, somewhat illogically, round North London this route is the opposite experience as for most of its journey it carries straight on in a rough diagonal from Romford in the NE down to Canning Town, almost on the river.

Last time we were In Romford we got lost and the same happened today. As the buses are mostly on the perimeter, that is a ring road, or by the station, logic dictates you should be able to walk across the middle but somehow that never works out.  Jo asked a couple of shoppers who looked blank, Google Maps on my phone did not help either, thinking I was a car, so only the 2015 NE Bus Map saved the day

We completed the circuit from ‘Romford market’ (see comments from last time) and exited along something called the Rom Valley Way  The local authority (I think it’s Havering round this way, a fair description of our map reading) makes little of the source of its name and we barely saw water that might be the River Rom from the top of the bus. More arresting was a woman totally haranguing a bus inspector/controller by the station – she kept pointing at her watch so we presumed some delay had annoyed her.
The main divergence from the straight and narrow is into the Queen’s Hospital, mainly modern now with a car park; opposite are handy commercial outlets such as Mothercare so there clearly is a thriving maternity department.
With more and more passengers boarding , and by now we were passing some schools or colleges too, the area was quite built up, the numerous new builds of Romford giving way to older housing and the fringes of the Becontree Estate which now has its own historians -quite rightly. What was noticeable was that the estate seemed to have been built with few shops – there was a cluster at Wood lane/ Becontree and then again at Faircross. Hence we supposed the proliferation of cars in front drives so supermarkets can be accessed?
Today, unintentionally, was something of a West Ham FC day – having passed their substantive ground on the 339 we now passed their training venue at Rush Green and with some folk loitering outside we presume the team was practising?

The other feature of this part of the trip seemed to be the proliferation of Turkish shops, in particular Turkish barbers (DARTH FADERZ anyone?) offering a Turkish shave – apparently a wet shave with a ‘cut throat’ rather than safety razor – who knew?  Handy for their customers there was also a range of Turkish food and grill places. Inevitably we passed some closed pubs – now an advertising site for Hydroponics, swapping one stimulant/depressive for another?

As we approached Barking a sudden rash of EL buses appeared – all three numbers serve Barking so the Number 5 suddenly seemed very old hat. Barking has undergone some road changes and quite an extensive building programme – the Number 5 came behind the High Street and was briefly held by a 4 way light as the road was taken up by building works. It gave us time to notice the face-off between the Spotted Dog and the Barking Dog pubs, and that we were crossing the River Roding.

Apart from the barbers there was a range of churches – earlier St Botolph and Erkenwald may have had links to the erstwhile Barking Abbey though in fact it was Erkenwald’s sister Ethelburga who was the first of many abbesses here. At different points we spotted the Fullword Church and the Great Commission Church, not to mention a few Islamic Centres, or center as they seemed to call it. These all favour ‘shop-fronts’ as a starting point and thus populate many of the high streets along this route. In turn you see the travel agents – Hajj and Umrah (a year round Hajj trip) – the clothes shops and food outlets that would cater for the different congregations. Dieu voit tout seemed to be a generic grocery store but doubtless God had passed a benevolent eye over the goods for sale?

Upton Park was of course the former home of West Ham FC and as expected the demolition gangs had been in with several cranes in sight .  Barratt have the contract here but unlike the homes at the former  Highbury there seems to be no trace of the old stadium. So the statue of Bobby Moore and friends seems a little stranded?
Having negotiated Barking in a timely fashion we pushed on through Newham admiring the excellent Town Hall and adjacent library. 

The route from Newham into Canning Town was the most congested of the journey: although the major roadworks which had dogged our journeys last time round were now complete the roads are narrower and busy. Usually there is a good view of the Millenium Dome close to Canning Town – not so today (have they demolished it? asked Jo) but Canning Town Bus Station has had a slight re-furb.

It was passing through here back in the summer on the search for the Trinity Lighthouse that made us realise we rather missed the buses, which is why we have come full circle and decided to ride them again. .
Not a circular route today but an old established link between the families and generations who moved out east from this inner city corner to points East & Romford; for us a metaphoric coming home. 

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Number 4 Route

Thursday 11 October 2018

North of the river at last, and I get a turn to post!  Linda was not with us the first time (she was in paid employment back then in March 2009)  Instead, the journey was made with other family members, including four ninths of Nicholas.  Perhaps that is why he is still interested in London buses.

At Archway, we had only a few minutes to wait, though they were anxious minutes, because the bus stop said 'towards Highgate Village, Tufnell Park or Crouch End', none of which appeared to be on the way to Waterloo.  But we stepped bravely on board at 10.20, expecting (well, hoping for) a 76 minute journey, and at first went anywhere but south:  past the Whittington hospital (where I confessed to Linda that I had at first been puzzled by the cat images.  Do you think you could hear the bells of Bow Church from here, even if they were suggesting you should turn again?  Then we went along Dartmouth Park Road, and Tufnell Park Road to reach the Seven Sisters Road, heading east.  We passed what appeared to be a church, and indeed is, called The House on the Rock (see Matthew Ch 7 vv24-27 for explanation).  A whole block along here was once called 'The Drapery' though it is now many different shops, only one, Kiswah Textiles, being a drapery type business.  We noted that the new builds going up here are to be called 'The Cotton Works' so the industrial past will still have a trace here, in the 'just 22 one-bedroom apartments' promised.

Now, at last, we came to Finsbury Park Interchange, as the bus station is now called, with a TfL clock not telling the right time, and of course the Arsenal shop.  And we turned clearly south.

We knew we were near some football ground or other, because there were lots of pubs.  Not quite all of them were named for the Gunners.  We assumed that away supporters might drink at The Bank of Friendship

There were other interesting shop names as well: we liked the thought of 'Salvation in Noodles', Linda suggesting that it was to do with comfort food, and a coffee shop called Blighty.  Icarus Organic Supplements also caught the eye.  I suppose with the right supplements one could reach the sun with wax wings?

 Our road now went uphill and, as always, the houses became more handsome and substantial.

Islington does not have many parks, Victoria Park being a Hackney space, so we enjoyed Aberdeen Park.  We noticed that Highbury Grove School has a Special School called Samuel Rhodes School attached to it, but, unless Samuel Rhodes is a viola player, I can't find out how he merits getting his name on a school

 The entertaining shop names continued, with Cobblers and Vapes' appearing to refer to the twin functions of the shop, rather than being a value judgement.  We also liked 'Hairssentials, and the fishmonger and restaurant 'Prawn on the Lawn', which tells you we were getting to Islington Green. The Dead Dolls House seems a strange name for a 'venue' and restaurant:  all I can find is that they used to be in Hoxton. Nuff said.

Then we came to the Almeida Theatre, and St Mary's Church, and finally to Angel, an hour after leaving Archway.  We can see why people in a hurry take the Northern Line, which would take about 10 minutes to here.


 The Co-op bank on the corner deserves a quick mention.  It was once the Lyons Corner House, which is/was one of the named properties on the Monopoly board.  They have a modest sign to that effect inside, if you are ever passing.

We were somewhat depressed by the very slow traffic along the City Road, but happily we turned right to pass the Dogs Trust, and head down Goswell Road to the Barbican.  We noted that the Indian Visa Service has an office along here, rather than the High Commission . building at Aldwych.  We also passed the Italia Conti Drama School, and then the Museum of London, which is due to move from its traffic island, perhaps to somewhere with better cycle parking.

 The monstrous New Change Building is where the couple who had also got on at Archway alighted, we thought probably to visit St Pauls. We doggedly remained on board, to reach Finsbury Circus, where I muttered about motor cyclists making use of the tiny bicycle lane.

 Along Fleet Street the traffic was again slow, so we had time to note the former newspaper headquarters along here,


before passing the Churches of St Clement Danes (with RAF statues) and St Mary in Strand, which needed the services of a good window cleaner, and coming to the Royal Courts of Justice
 and crossed Waterloo Bridge.  With impressive self control, I am not mentioning the barriers.

Last time we passed the Imax, it was advertising Heinz Salad Cream, but it's now TalkTalk.  

And finally, we reached the bus stop near the Old Vic where this looping and wandering route terminates. We had taken more than 90 minutes to visit various interesting, familiar and not-so-familiar areas of North East London.  We shall be much further east next week.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The NUMBER 3 Route

Trafalgar Square to Crystal Palace
Thursday October 4 2018

The last time we did - this - the route started/finished at Oxford Circus, where it might have been easier to track down. Possibly some-one is beginning to evict a few routes from Oxford Circus with the intentions of going pedestrian only?  We had been slightly cavalier in our approach, coming as we did from Holborn (long story here) but it is no hardship to cross one of the few open plazas London has – there were more tourists than pigeons which can only be a good thing. TFL seemed to be contradicting itself with one source telling me the bus started by Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square though actually more credibly described as at the end of Whitehall. The bus was about to go and set off so fast and jerkily we missed photographing many of this road’s more famous sights. Sadly for the blog (and visitors to London) both Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are under, what the Russians always called their running repairs ‘under remont’ or в ремонте. it was also misty hence the ubiquitous grey..

We wizzed past the two memorials – the plain Cenotaph rather more gracious than the Women’s black plinth where the figures look like a cross between lynchings and dolls hung out to wash, but then I have not been close up. Though not the height of the tourist season there were very long queues for Westminster Abbey We had been lucky enough to have something of a preview of the Triforium,  which is now officially open.  For a quieter visitor experience the Jewel Tower opposite is interesting too.

Now that the rest of London is pretty much swamped with places to eat or ‘grab a bite’ it was quite refreshing to pass through this area which has so few commercial outlets. Essentially the number 3 parallels the river visible through the trees of the Victoria Tower Gardens and the barely glimpsed Buxton Memorial Fountain – a memorial to one of the founders of the anti-slavery movement.
The Number 3 is one of the few crossing Lambeth Bridge  giving us a clue as to where we were heading. The slightly mysterious building at the north end was also в ремонте but Mr Tradescant’s pineapples still top the end pillars of this modest bridge which crosses to Lambeth Palace and another refurbished museum – that of Garden History

. The advantages of travelling on the top deck include glimpsing some low buildings which I thought might be almshouses , but am struggling to identify. Jo was more interested to see why two bus stops had been suppressed – because of road works which seemed to indicate they (?) were adding two more islands for pedestrians – which must be a good thing. Jo enjoyed the strapline ‘Hire 4 Lower’ spotted under the railway bridge.

At this point an inspector joined us – perhaps because as we were riding one of those unlovely new Roastmasters there are several places to board and thus more scope to avoid paying ?
Passing the former site of Vauxhall Manor school reminded me how few of the old secondary schools remain. Michael Rosen makes several valid points here but I also think modern education benefits from being in sleeker premises which are more tech friendly.   

By now we had turned right and were heading down to Kennington – never a lovely road junction and again with an evangelist as part traffic island, this time St Mark. The park opposite looks pleasing enough but is not what you would call a ‘destination park’

There is also an impressively large hole in the ground fronting an equally large gap in the buildings through which we could glimpse the old gas holders at the Oval but not sure what to expect the fill the gap (better than minding the gap).

Just round the corner in the Brixton Road the drivers changed and the somewhat jerky first part of the journey was replaced by a much smoother style.  While we were waiting I noticed a postcard sized sign indicating the National Theatre Costume hire was somewhere round here. You would need to know. 

The Brixton Road was in good form with alternate swathes of fine late Georgian houses opposite the extensive Cowley Estate which interestingly has broken away from Lambeth Council to form its own management committee.  Other random touches we noted were: Amazing Grace: African Textiles, the North Brixton Cultural Islamic Centre and the Bay Tree Centre which claimed to be ‘Changing Aspirations into Realities’. The Jamm offers diverse music including 'the Alice band , which we liked.  Most cheerfully the route passes one of Brixton’s murals – Children at Play by Stephen Pusey on the back of the O2. Quite by chance I had picked up TFLs 'Brixton Mural Map' which is published as part of TFLs Art on the Underground Project, which a pedant might note is a slight misnomer for house-high paintings..

After this the mainstream outlets round Brixton Station seemed very mundane and I can report there was no graffiti visible from this side of the bridge (see the No 2 last week).  And so on down past the Ritzy, access to which is via an oddly ‘ritzy’? pedestrian crossing, then St Matthew again, after which the Number 3 turns left down more residential streets to Herne Hill and Poets Corner, an area which has gentrified beyond belief in the last twenty years or so.. Having the nearby Brockwell Lido and Park certainly tempted people down here.

Once past Herne Hill station in case you missed it EVERY lamppost and tall structure is hung with a different, very tasteful poster invoking the charms/spirit or whatever of the area: this continues the length of the Croxted, then South Croxted roads where the No 3 is more or less the sole route.

While we admired some of South London’s most cherished (in all senses) Edwardian houses and villas, each with their gardens, and Herne Hill gave way to West Dulwich (their banners were art rather than images of the area) we mused on CROXTED which does not seem to exist as a destination, nor can I find a Mr Croxted after whom it might have been named (it would not of course have been Mrs Croxted who was certainly written out of history). The frantic bannering , we thought. might be down to Lambeth feeling that Southwark’s East Dulwich had got above itself?

However we did discover that Leonora Tyson (born Wolff), after whom a side turning has been named, had been a suffragette fervent enough to have experienced both prison and force feeding. She did have some local links.

Once past the Gypsy Hill roundabout, where there is a very quaint but cosy looking bus shelter, the bus heads steeply uphill not stopping very often, until the Crystal Palace transmitter becomes visible.

From Crystal Palace Parade I pointed Jo downhill to the station (she did find her way home). We had boarded at 12.15 and got off just after the hour for a route that offers key London landmarks and the slightly less contrasting faces than they used to be of  South London’s Lambeth.