Saturday, 29 September 2018

The NUMBER 2 Route

West Norwood Bus Garage to Marylebone Station  
Thursday September  27  2018

Jo was a little anxious that as I was blogging three routes on the trot people (our followers) might think she was dead. Far from it – she may shortly be due an upgraded eye but it just so happens that I had not ridden the original 2009 numbers 1-4 and was keen to rectify this, but she is raring to go.

As was the Number 2 – we barely had time to swop cameras for pens and board the frequent service that starts just outside the bus garage. Jo remembers being quite worried about where she might land up when she first rode this route alone as for North Londoners it does seem quite remote. It starts uphill and from the top deck there is a good view of the various taller London buildings we have acquired over the last years. It also passes close to St Luke’s church, the first of the Evangelists (2/4 today) which now forms something of a traffic island just opposite West Norwood cemetery. Counting as one of the Big Seven the latter is well worth a visit. I see the tour includes some catacombs – the ultimate in spooky experiences.

The inward bound route was much busier than our earlier 68 including a mother and daughter going quite a long way. This southern approach to Brixton has smartened up somewhat since we were last round this way – evidence of gentrification included Brockwell Blend. From this route, as opposed  to routes 3 and 68, it is not obvious that Brockwell Park is nearby as both sides of the road are well built up – the extensive Tulse Hill Estate and  its opposite numbers  masking the access to the park.  Considering they date from 1939 in the sunshine the flats were looking quite sprightly and quiet. The run in to Brixton itself passes the second Evangelist (or the first if you are blessing the bed you lie on) Church, whose clock we found less legible. Developers were taking advantage of the venue Brixton Electric to build some flats called Eclectic Electric. Considering the  large numbers of routes that come through Brixton  we transited  fairly fast – Jo spotted some graffiti (sadly itself graffittied)  on the railway bridge which  told us:  Clapham that way< you 2D Flat White Tepid Colonialist Yuppy, which tells you how the area continues to change.. .

We headed left towards Stockwell and again much had changed – previously the Portuguese pastry shops had taken over from the old second hand car dealerships, now many of these had in turn been displaced , even demolished, in favour of new blocks as can be seen adjacent to the skateboard park which won a reprieve, and  is promised a repair courtesy of the developer building the overlooking ‘luxury’ flats.
We made good progress to Stockwell and its war memorial roundabout – looking distinctly shabby was the memorial to Violette Szabo with the colourful murals peeling somewhat.

We enjoyed the stretch to Vauxhall – many of the older houses are still intact and well maintained and it is easy to see why parts of it are in a conservation area.

We were a bit puzzled by the bus stop named Tate Library (does the Museum keep its books separate from its artworks?) but this in fact refers to  a small Victorian local library named for the man who made his money from sugar courtesy of his slaves..

As we approached Vauxhall  the buildings get taller and more modern, including some that look as though they are clad with random Lego bricks – nasty we agreed – not that we dislike Lego but we’d  rather not have something similar on a building. Still we were cheered by the site of Vauxhall Bus Station where pedestrians and  buses are kept well in order under a wavy canopy – this building in turn is mocked by many but at least it is more cheerful than the gloom that is Vauxhall railway station  which is dark and muddling without the cheerful bustle of Clapham Junction.

We crossed the river with the tide so far out the mud flats looked like a  beach.  The little girl passenger got quite excited and said ‘Mummy, there’s a big river.’ Indeed. Once over I always feel Pimlico lacks  personality , at least the bit you cover between the bridge and Victoria Station , perhaps because the buildings date from so many eras, though of course that is usual in London. The once black-only London cabs were lined up thus exemplifying ‘cab ranking’ in its truest form.

Talking of lack of cohesion, approaching Victoria from this way you are faced with a perplexing jumble of new builds where clearly no one took an overview: there is a red wedge-shaped thing alongside a greeny glasshouse , and they both tower over  some small Edwardian era red bricks  just across the road from the theatre where ‘Wicked’ is still running. In contrast to this the exterior of Victoria station appears self-contained.

Passing Grosvenor Place and the small gardens we could see it was nearly lunchtime by the number of people enjoying the sun ... and their lunches. Lunch al fresco in a London green space always strikes me as truly democratic as your hard-hatted  builders are just as likely to be  relaxing as the  junior bankers. Jo couldn’t resist pointing out the Queen’s trees to our other passengers, which is just about all you can see of Buckingham Palace gardens even from the top deck.

There is building too at Hyde Park Corner - another  Grand Hotel . We did not remember our visit to No 1 London  (the Dukes of Wellington residence) with great fondness as we found it a dark and rather fossilised  experience.

Park Lane, in spite of its bucolic name, is really rather a heavy duty road, so we only just glimpsed the several memorials along here – the rather over ornate Queen Mother gates, the by contrast nicely simple 7/7 posts, and then the Animals at war. More building at Marble Arch – a whole corner is under construction.

This route barely trifles with Oxford Street before heading down Gloucester Place – the houses round here are most attractive so it is not surprising that there was at least one blue plaque to be spotted. More arresting was a yellow diversion sign but the Number 2 kept to its course and turned left to leave us by Marylebone Station. Such faded grandeur I always think: dignified, still functioning, quietly getting on with being a station and not shouting about it like King’s Cross.

Our trip from modest outer SE London to costly Marylebone had taken 75 minutes.

PS This is a far cry from my ‘school bus’ 2A which did the Marylebone to Finchley bit….


  1. Very much enjoying your return to the buses ladies. Number 2 is my local and it is fascinating to see the route blogged. Didn't know the history of the Tulse Hill estate. The Violette Szabo mural does look a bit shabby- not sure if you knew there is also a plaque dedicated to her in Lambeth Town Hall which has recently re-opened (we did a tour there and found it interesting). On Henry Tate - he was a local. As well as his rather splendid mausoleum in West Norwood cemetery- his house (now turned into fancy apartments) is very occasionally open for garden tours - Park Hill was built in 1829 for the Leaf family. Never made it on one of the tours yet, but on the list for things to do. It's now called Henry Tate Mews and is very near to the Rookery Gardens off Streatham Common.


  2. West Norwood feels a little remote to me as well, and I live in Croydon! I think it's partly because the station is so hidden away. The first time I got a train from there, I'd just got off the 486 at a stop labelled "West Norwood Station" but had to wander around and ask two separate people before I managed to actually find it.

    Agree re the lack of cohesion around Victoria.

  3. Did you notice - you will, perhaps, on a subsequent visit - that Stockwell Roundabout isn't, any more? It's a straight-through crossroads, which isn't obvious headed north, but if you head south on, say, an 88 or P5, it's very obvious as you don't have to go all round the houses any more. Also, I think Marylebone Station has had a new lease of life since you were last year - you can get trains to Oxford from it now, which you couldn't before, and the trains to Birmingham are more frequent and faster. I thought it would close at one point, but it seems not!