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.