Monday, 18 March 2019

The NUMBER 26 Route

Hackney Wick to Waterloo Station
Thursday March 14  2019

 Last time we rode this route was in lovely summer sunshine and with a guest photographer riding along which is my way of excusing  the standard of today’s photography – quantity yes, quality ?

We met at Hackney Wick which always strikes me as something of a no man’s land, cowering as it does under the elevated A12. The early part of the route is dominated by swathes of Hackney homes, some older but certainly more numerous than ten years ago. Dotted amongst them are a very few remaining pubs, which somehow must have survived various eras of demolition deliberate or otherwise. 

Hackney also seemed to be laying (?) new cycle paths – not usually a feature I comment on but I was quite taken with these sandy looking lanes which I find more attractive than the blue of the Superhighways – I gather the ‘super’ bit is to be dropped in order to discourage a certain kind of cyclist who viewed them as an invitation to race ? Between the many new blocks you can see some remnants of older cottages in what once would have been Hackney Wyke village.. As Hackney’s own site  says the regeneration has been extensive and noticeable.
The emphasis on providing space for artists is more obvious as you approach central Hackney and we passed both the London School of Architecture and a newly built Arts Space. This one had some slightly strange plastic cladding which Jo thought served as double glazing but which looked to me like the kind of packaging which invites puncturing.
In contrast just in front was a rather well preserved cattle trough of which, according to this website, Hackney has several. And did you know that Samuel Gurney whose statue we passed last week was one of the founding members of this association?

New local ‘industries’ along here include the ‘Five points Brewery’; however I have failed to find out what the five points might be? Even more cringe worthy was a beauty shop called ‘Crème Beau-le’ .

Once we were over the Regents Canal we were heading down the Hackney Road – there are some new builds along here but the older shabbier outlets were very much as they were 10 years ago, namely bag/leather shops . This seems to be one of the older industries that has survived or been partially resurrected – we spotted Boris Bags, Dill Bags, United Bags, Face Bags, and no doubt missed many more.

The Hackney Road leads the 26 into even trendier Shoreditch, famous for its varied graffitti,   past Columbia Market, and what I thought was a cycle /launderette combo called ‘Powder to the People’, which is apparently a  dance song. 

Interestingly there were also several hoardings advertising ‘Containerville’ which offers nearby workspace for creatives presumably at a lesser cost than the office and living spaces going up just close to Liverpool Street station.

The 26 slowed down along Broadgate – the rather Mannerist block which went up about 30 years ago is being renovated doubtless with some additions. We were not clear whether this is the cause of Liverpool Street’s bus station not being in use but more likely Crossrail, whose changing end date rivals that of Brexit.

Just past here where Wormwood street crosses we had our second (still rainy) viewing of the little cabin perched on the overhead footbridge – an artwork from 2018’s Sculpture in the City.

St Botolph’s , whose  plan was to welcome all comers, nestles between the newer buildings with another building site further along  so it was quite a relief to be coming down the side of the more familiar Bank of England  where access is now restricted to buses and cycles, and of course pedestrians.   

There followed the slowest part of this trip today, slow enough for the weather to go from grey to rain to sun  in the way only London spring weather can as we passed St Paul’s , St Mary Aldermanbury  whose  garden
 is one of the welcome oases in the City, and then even more slowly down Ludgate Hill . I sometimes envisage Sir Christopher Wren looking at the traffic in a totally bemused way and thinking how to walk must be faster than this – on the other hand had he lived nowadays he might have had a mid-life crisis and bought himself a useless sports car…

Inevitably as we still had to get considerably further west Fleet Street was the preferred route.  No longer the hub of the printed word it boasts many fine public clocks – we thought to remind reporters of their deadlines.
All things considered  the timings were not bad: just on an hour from far east Hackney Wick and clearly this 26 was ahead of schedule  as he stopped on the bridge to ‘regulate the service’  though with only one stop to go it was more likely he was waiting for his  space where the 26s rest up before they turn round. The final stop is of course in front of Waterloo Station side entrance, handy for us to step inside, use the now (since March 1st) free loos and admire Waterloo’s new platforms 20-23, once the home of Eurostar and finally refurbished.

But this is a bus blog so on we went to find our 381 to get us (nearer for some) to home.. after the 26 full of innovation and change from the last time we rode it.

Monday, 11 March 2019

The Number 25 Route

Thursday 7 March 2019

When we last travelled the 25, it began (or ended) at John Lewis in Oxford Street. Now its start point is said to be City Thameslink station, but is actually Holborn Circus, really quite a way from that station. Ah, the wonders of the TfL website.

Still we headed off, past several of the little blue markers for vanished buildings: Newgate prison, Christ's Hospital and Greyfriars' Monastery (though this one was destroyed by Henry VIII and not later)

The Christchurch Greyfriars garden was embellished with a work of art depicting, perhaps, scholars on the way to the school which once existed here.  But I haven't found anything about it on the web.

The area is still rich in churches, and once we had passed close to St Paul's, we came to St Mary le Bow, from where Bow bells still ring out, though the church is undergoing restoration.

Our journey through the City continued past the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, with views of the Monument as well as some of the new buildings going up, causing us to wonder if the world really needs new offices.

The Offices of the Honourable East India Company, which controlled oriental trade from the Reign of Elizabeth I to the end of the eighteenth century, are long gone, but the pub round the corner is still there, and clearly doing good business among the modern traders.

The route carries on eastwards, past Aldgate Station and St Botolph's church to pass the Whitechapel Gallery, absolutely next door to the tube station, and also bearing a blue plaque to say that Isaac Rosenberg studied at the Gallery and lived nearby. The poet who 'pulled the parapet's poppy' and refers to a 'queer sardonic rat' might have achieved greater fame than just as a war poet had he lived beyond the age of 28.

We also passed the site of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which we were lucky enough to visit before it closed in March 2017, and then the splendid East London Mosque, with its attractive tile work.
Booth House, former HQ of the Salvation Army is empty, but the Blind Beggar Pub is still up and running, as is Queen Mary University, formerly a college of London University.

We've been impressed by the art work on the side, suggesting rather a remarkable curriculum, but the 21st century is more accurately reflected in the huge student blocks opposite.  We also passed a building with the name 'Spiegelhalter' written on it,  This was once a jewellers, but the family changed its name to Salter when anti-german feeling became a problem in 1914.

Crossing the Regent's Canal meant we knew we were at Mile End, and we went under the lovely green bridge to reach the site of the former St Clement's Hospital.  

Last time, it was about to be developed, and now it is being so.  We had remembered that it would be part of a community land trust, ensuring that it would provide homes for local people, but it is in fact mostly going to be privately owned.

Shortly afterwards, having passed two of Bow's many stations, we came to the Bow Bells pub with rather a good mural of a Pearly Prince on its wall.

Bow has a statue of Gladstone, as well as Bow Church, but what is most noticeable is the huge amount of new housing going up around here.  We were, of course, very close to the Olympic Park, and soon we were at Stratford Bus Station.

From there, but still going east, we passed the Old Town Hall, as well as the obelisk memorial to Samuel Gurney.  Linda thought he might have gone to Widdecombe Fair, but that was of course Peter Gurney. This person was a banker and philanthropist from Norfolk, whose fellow parishioners put this up (it's a drinking fountain, by the way) in 1861

We were also impressed that the Old Dispensary has survived, the more so as it was constructed in the mid 19th century out of ships' timbers.

Also remarkable was Manor Park's red brick Carnegie library, which is becoming a beautiful art and community space.  By now we really felt as if we were getting out of London, as we reached the valley of the River Roding, and saw a magnificent tree palm in somebody's garden.

And there ahead of us were the tall buildings of Ilford, so we had only to trundle round the edges of the town, passing the alms houses and chapel which are said to be the oldest buildings in the borough of Redbridge, to arrive at Hainault Street where thie trip ended.  It was 11.20, which means we had actually be slightly faster than the advertised route time.

It is a splendid route, passing many interesting buildings and taking passengers across a great swathe of East London:  parlticularly pleasurable on a sunny day.