Tuesday, 8 January 2019

The NUMBER 17 Route

London Bridge Station to Archway
Thursday October 10 2018

This trip was to access the Number 4 at Archway and to reverse the journeys taken by Jo and her family back in early 2009.
Since then London Bridge has become a transformed station albeit with some cosmetic and commercial stuff still to come. Improvements already complete include a makeover of the Undercroft linking rail to tube, where lurk some currently free and fine loos.

Above ground there is a bus station too, admittedly not nearly as smart as the revamped train one but rebuilt nevertheless. BUT the poor old 17 has been ostracized and starts from outside the fitness centre in London Bridge Street. As you can see from the picture he had not changed his destination board.  Getting on,  we asked the driver why was he excluded; he looked bemused and said ‘they don’t like us?’ and we drove off turning right to cross the bridge. We had plenty of time (like nearly  10 minutes ) to admire the  neighbouring bridges,  the river at low tide again and such  riverside buildings as the  Glaziers Hall at the south end and the Fishmongers' Hall at the North as it took that long to cross due more to an overflowing building development  than to road works. Some of the construction appeared to belong to Wells Fargo
. ‘It’s a stagecoach’ said Jo thinking perhaps of the right to drive sheep across London Bridge. I believe it’s a bank… but a very recent arrival in the City. It would be nice to think they might drive a stage coach with a sheriff and gold on board? 

Once past these works and the poor invisible Monument we headed left past Cannon Street, and apparently the back of Bank Station – can they really need 12 more escalators at this station? As it is you wander in endless circles trying to find the right exit.
The main roads apart,  one of the attractions  of the City of London, not yet obliterated by all the building, is the charming  names of some  side streets – Plumtree Court or Bread Street (not far from Pudding Lane of course)
Leaving the financial sectors behind we made swifter progress along past St Paul’s and briefly along Farringdon, for once open to traffic,  carrying on through Holborn, the untrendy end of Clerkenwell.  I thought it was interesting that the Staple Inn (which is as old as it looks) now houses the HQ for the Actuaries opposite the once thriving Prudential Assurance Company whose unmissable red brick building now houses a variety of bars and other firms. Actuaries, and their close relatives,  auditors, have not performed well recently with several big firms going under despite having seemingly healthy balance sheets, which had supposedly been fully audited?? The Prudential Building is currently housing the Grenfell Enquiry.

But we were leaving big business behind and heading into the more Dickensian parts of Clerkenwell with legal firms and the Foundling Hospital, all off to the side  of the Gray’s Inn Road , which also follows a similar  North South route to the River Fleet.

My notes, which can be both illegible and out of order, referred to Hubbards Cupboards which at a swift glance looked like the sort of slightly down at heel shop that might be found on the Caledonian Road but research indicates it is indeed on the Grays Inn Road and actually sells better office furniture!

Our journey round King’s Cross was remarkably smooth and we sailed past the waiting buses (joys yet to come) and a sharp right and left took us through to the Caledonian Road, generally known as the Cally, as various cafes, swimming pools and even the station call themselves (I have a son who takes exception to the misuses of reflexive pronouns but there you go). Cosprop more or less does what you might expect  

The cafes and pubs give this sometimes shabby road a cheering aspect – who could resist the Rabbit Hole café, New Rook café, the Owl and Hitchhiker Pub (Owl for Edward Lear, youngest of 19 or 21 (Jo couldn’t remember) and Hitchhiker for Douglas Adams – apparently they sell pan- galactic gargle blasters…) probably best of all is the Breakout café opposite Pentonville  which looks grim and run down rather than forbidding, the prison that is not the café.

Shortly after this we arrived at what Jo assured me was the Nag’s Head junction with the Holloway Road – I could see no pub after which it was presumably named but then it went in 2004. The route from here is definitely uphill and not very far to our finishing point for this bus, namely Archway, another major road interchange. Somehow we missed the last stop and were swept on to the number 17’s resting place alongside the oldest bits of the Whittington Hospital so we apologised to our patient driver after a trip which had taken closer to 1½ hours rather than the 1¼ expected.

We admired all the pedestrian-controlled crossings which took us safely back to the departure point of the Number 4 which I maintain, out of Jo’s earshot, is a pretty crazy route.

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