Friday, 14 September 2018

The NUMBER 1 Route

Tottenham Court Road to Canada Water Bus Station
Thursday September 13 2018

Though our arrival at Tottenham Court, via the 176, had been disrupted by some kind of ‘event’ further along the Strand, the Number 1 seemed happy in its skin and starting from where it is supposed to.

Firstly a shout out to Costa on New Oxford Street who kindly opened their toilet for us (no purchase necessary but always our preferred choice) and there we were with but a 3 minute wait for our starter bus, this time fully equipped with note books, pens and cameras. (Should we be moving onto tablets?)  Our photography skills as bad as ever, even more so on the move, but lovely sunny September weather made us very happy to be on our way though our combined families think we are deeply deranged. Quite a lot has changed personally since 2009 and the ‘first time round’ : Linda has moved house and borough (Lewisham to Southwark), Jo does lots of voluntary work, and we have between us scored three grandchildren but lost a mother and brother in law, both of whom had joined us as guest passengers the first time round…
But the real changes of course are in London, the city that never stands still. 

So off down Oxford Street the No 1 came in at just under two minutes so then hovered a bit along the way. The first surprise was the standards on the lampposts announcing the arrival of ‘Midtown’ when I thought we were travelling from the end of the West End through Holborn and on. We don’t normally link to the Daily Telegraph and no, we haven’t gone soft in ten years, but I thought this was a suitable summary of what’s happening 

We are all for restoration and upcycling , which is what has happened to Centrepoint (under which this route lurks while it waits) and further along we passed the Post Building
A former sorting office – we wait with baited breath for the affordable homes. If you peer to the left (we were of course on the top deck front seats) you can just see the British Museum – as in our previous Project.

The Number 1 passes alongside Bloomsbury Square past St George’s Church (available for worship and concerts apparently) and the Swedenborg Premises.

From upstairs it is easier to admire the ornamentation on the older buildings and the odd niche statue such as that of John Bunyan in Kingsway where it adorns a chapel. We had of course visited the Baptist Museum. From here on, and right over to the south side of the Thames, there are multiple buildings belonging to King’s College London. Spreading out from their original foundation next to the river by Somerset House they now have premises along Kingsway, round Aldwych, including Bush House, and along the Strand 
They have continued the tradition of putting up posters of famous alumni/ae and clearly have enough to cover a few more blocks!  We weren’t aware of Wellington’s role in the college’s foundation but it seems it was quite a colourful one. Prime Ministers duelling: whatever next?

Jo, who likes to preserve the integrity of London’s cycle lanes, is not very happy with the bollarding (new verb, sorry) of Waterloo and other bridges in the wake of the terrorist attacks as they do push the cyclists further into the roads and mess with the bus stops. When they first appeared, within weeks of the attacks, they were said to be temporary but unless someone comes up with a more cunning alternative, this is how it’s going to be.  The King’s campus adjacent to St John’s, one of the 4 South London Evangelist churches, had a small protest camped outside. It seems the dispute, over unfair working conditions for the privately employed cleaners, ongoing since early 2017, has not been resolved – here’s hoping for some firmer legislation for the benefit of gig economy employees.

The Number 1 follows a well-travelled route past Waterloo Station , the Old Vic ( under new management since we last blogged this way) and actually quite swiftly past the South Bank University, also with new building works behind, to Elephant and Castle. The pavements have been widened to accommodate in part a rather bizarre cycle route and the road layout radically changed to eliminate the notorious double roundabout. Whilst the work was ongoing the traffic was a nightmare: on the whole the new layout works well, but the bus stops along London Road are still a bit challenging – so many buses, so little space… 

‘I want a photograph of the vertical wall’ I said to Jo who promptly replied that all walls are vertical and either I wanted the vertical garden or the green wall which has been lavish throughout the difficult (for plants) summer . It adorns the Bakerloo exit to the Underground. We continued to make good progress to the Bricklayers Arms, now very firmly in Southwark, and in fact the Number 1 skirts the route of the ‘lost river’ Neckinger, which we have both walked. 

After turning off Tower Bridge Road the streets do narrow and the bus options decline rapidly; having said that it was never busy upstairs and for most of the trip we were on our own. Espied from afar the Hartley jam factory is now flats and Bermondsey shows many signs of gentrification – cafes and bike repair shops for example. Densely populated as it is, and with much of its older housing stock, round here Southwark does have its green spaces such as Bermondsey Spa Gardens and then, on past South Bermondsey station, Southwark Park.

I have included a photo of a tree as we must have been thumped by at least four overhanging branches and leaves once we were south of the river, proving perhaps that in spite of its populous nature Southwark is pretty green . As we swept past the Seven islands leisure centre we noticed it had been spruced up and indeed the swimming pool has had a £1m+ refit.  Historic buildings are fewer round the Docks, for that is indeed what Surrey Quays are, but we noted the Dock Offices are still in use re-purposed for Education.
We had, I think, lost most of the passengers through the busier streets of Rotherhithe’s local shops so by the time we pulled into Canada Water Bus Station we were among the small group heading for the   This very handsome station certainly brought housing and commerce to the area and there has been additional building including the rather excellent library. This seemed a good place to finish our first expedition.

We have always had a small but attentive following for which we are grateful – we realise bus enthusiasts are not necessarily the same as museum lovers but hope the latter will give us a chance. 


  1. Ha, yes, I remember the Midtown thing! We've had a few similar rebranding attempts in Croydon, but I'm not sure any of them have really stuck.

    I agree with Jo re the bollarding.

    I have often been very grateful for the Canada Water library toilets when travelling with my small nephew...

  2. Looking forward to following this rebooted series. There's a few of those rebrands around London. As well as Midtown, that -ahem- North Bank springs to mind.

  3. There's also 'Shoho' for Shoreditch - along the lines of 'Soho' in the West End. And 'Silicon Ditch' is Shoreditch, the home of graphic design.