Wandsworth (Southside Shopping Centre) to Kensal Rise Station
Thursday March 28 2019
Well here’s a thing – I can remember when I just started work that the Route 28 took me very neatly from home (Golders Green Station ) to Wandsworth Plain. When did this all change?
Well, according to this website in 1999, which shows you how often I have taken this route in the last twenty years, so today was a (partial) nostalgia trip.
We had left our last route, the 87 in quiet Wandsworth Plain and crossed the South Circular to use the facilities in the Southside Shopping Centre – not a resource that had been here when I worked by the Town Hall; there had then been a somewhat gloomy indoor market. Next door to the handsome library was a local plaque for the Biograph Theatre, which would of course been a cinema.
The 28 now starts at the top end of Garrat Lane and weaves its way back to Wandsworth Bridge trying to avoid too many major roads. Wandsworth and Battersea Riversides have changed considerably with mainly luxury blocks going up where local industries – Prices candles, Gin , cement etc used to be. There may be traffic-caused pollution but Wandsworth is a lot more fragrant than it was in the early Seventies.
The 28 is only one of three routes to cross the rather unremarkable Wandsworth Bridge to arrive in what was once the very working class area of Fulham, with smaller homes for the pottery, brewing, laundry and other workers who lived (and shopped here). Times change however and even in twenty years gentrification has spread. This can be seen in the number of small shops offering design services for interiors and special tiling/flooring etc. These quite narrow roads are often tree lined and certainly the borough responsible was taking care to keep its Plane trees down in shape and size by means of pollarding.
The North End Road , which the 28 follows faithfully for its entire length, has long been a hub for this area, and famed for its market, which today seemed to consist of a few trading stalls more or less on the pavement. The council seems very keen to retain and promote the character of this district but with modern habits of shopping/cooking less and eating ready-made meals more this may prove an uphill struggle. There are plenty of lamppost banners supporting their aspirations.
The other hangover from the more thriving street market days is the number of pubs: some have gone but others continue such as ‘The Barrow Boy’ – very aptly named as it's thirsty work getting your voice and wares out there - and ‘The Goose’ (less so but offering a secret garden). The ‘Live & let Live’ pub in spite of its name died in 2016…
We also enjoyed the Fish & Chip shop with its slightly dated fascia to which a new owner had perhaps added ‘and Kebabs’ as an afterthought?
By the time Fulham morphs into West Kensington the character of the North End road changes too – instead of a wealth of side roads with small houses (and the occasional grander villas round Walham Green) you get the drabber area round Olympia – here there are those mansion blocks, larger subdivided houses and plenteous densely packed social housing. The large church is also being restored with an awning which delivers the same façade!
This includes the Lytton Estate – I could not find for whom it was named but did discover it was built on the site of a former grand house 'The Grange' where both the author Samuel Richardson and the artist Edward Burne Jones lived – though not at the same time.
Very soon we started smartening up as we were now on the same route as the 27 last week and heading along Kensington High Street passing the Design Museum, which we had not visited for our previous Project, after it moved here from Shad Thames. Between the modern square blocks you can just see the curves of the old Commonwealth Institute, whose site it took over.
There is a ‘chicken & egg’ conundrum – were the travel outlets here first and because they offered exotic locations this attracted the outdoor sports clothing shops such as ‘Columbia’ and ‘Kathmandu’ or was it the other way round? Whatever they cluster at this end of Kensington High Street .
Today we were turning left up Church street with no demonstrations to slow us down – in fact so smartly I could not capture the lovely flower stall by the parish church of St Mary Abbots.
Once round the corner exclusivity is the name of the game with many quiet looking shop fronts specialising in different kinds of antiques from round the world and to suit well lined pockets only…
I had remembered the Churchill Arms from ten years ago because of its stand out display of flowers, though somewhat surprisingly it does not have street side seating.
The roads stay narrow as we crossed over by Notting Hill passing the Portobello Road, once famous for its street stalls of vintage clothes and fittings – many of these seem now to have moved into permanent shops along Pembridge Road, even attracting school parties?
When the shops stop the gracious white painted villas start and our steady progress was only halted by a skip lorry trying to reverse across and an adult on a scooter, in either case illegal. The blossom trees were lovely along by St Stephen’s .
By the time we are heading towards Westbourne Park Station the housing is much denser and the Brunel Estate lines one side of the road after which in quick succession the bus dives under Westway, over the railway lines, and then over the canal passing also Westbourne Park Bus Garage where the drivers changed so seamlessly we barely noticed. The bus garage nestles nicely under the flyover – not surprising as it was built at the same time.
This last part of the journey seemed the strangest to me as I recalled the 28 working its way through Kilburn and West End lane and home to Golders Green but here we were striking along the Harrow Road with the canal to be glimpsed through the water side buildings; it was also clear that this was an area (previously) home to the Irish community.
There are quite a few new homes and a Westminster-run gym along Kilburn Lane and then the bus takes a dip below the main road to stop close to Kensal Rise station, now on the Overground, which was very handy for both of us. This very interesting, slightly wiggly SW to NW bus trip had taken just four minutes over the hour and though often on busy and narrow roads had avoided much of the heavier central London traffic.