Sunday, 19 January 2020

The NUMBER 78 Route

Nunhead (St. Mary’s Road) to Shoreditch (Curtain Road)
Thursday May 2 2019

With Jo’s Thameslink cancelled and a tricky back street route from Nunhead station this Journey started a whole hour later than intended.  Fortunately the area around St Mary’s Church included a small garden with benches useful for anyone waiting to board the 78 bus. This route does not pass the excellent,now restored Pioneer Centre  but those and other flats are doubtless the reason a bus route penetrates to this very residential area, beautifully quiet at this time of day.  The church has obviously been rebuilt with a component for community outreach – I had hoped this would include some public loos but Thursday proved to be a day of closure!

We set off once Jo arrived and twirled round the back streets to emerge into Nunhead Lane – there are many attractive period houses and smaller scale blocks fill in.   At one end of the Green the almshouses remain and at the other the redevelopment  seems to have been dragging on for a while.

The 78 cuts across the bottom of Peckham Rye quite smartly and then runs into what is a 14 months massive road closure – not only is there deep digging and I hope both gas and water mains replacement but also some of the older buildings are taking the opportunity to have a face lift. There is no access so all the buses go round the back of the High Street – in some ways this is quicker as less risk of random shoppers toppling into the road with their overloaded trolleys, especially towards the weekend . Not that this diverted route is without its roadworks...

Soon we were round by the Library, next to which the Mountview Theatre is almost complete, having moved down from the lofty heights of Highgate.  So good that Peckham will have access to a purpose built theatre space, offering teaching alongside.

Just as you think the 78 might just be a 63 clone it heads right in order to serve the many differently aged blocks of social housing.  There have been improvements here since we last came round 
With a new adventure playground on the site where footballer Rio Ferdinand once played.

Remembering that this was once a single decker it often keeps to lesser roads so after a few metres along the Old Kent Road it turns right at the big Tesco’s and heads down Dunton Road where they seemed to be building a hotel.

The section from here through to Bermondsey was quite slow, possibly as the streets are narrow but still well used – we passed Bermondsey Spa Gardens which do indeed commemorate a once nearby Spa, developed to rival the more famous (and ultimately more accessible) Vauxhall Gardens. The current Spa Gardens prosaically date from bomb clearance in 1954 but have been revamped, along with much of Bermondsey, which we could see as we passed yet more Sales Suites .  (At one point before re-starting the Bus project we had thought we might try our hand at visiting the various show flats to view in London but sadly many require more serious punters than a couple of ‘day trippers’.)

These seemed to come thick and fast as we came past Bermondsey Square and approached the Tower Bridge Road, and past the Caledonian Market (and yes, Jo, it had originally been up at your Caledonian Road).  No-one much buys middle range antiques any more and younger generations are apt to reject their parents’ offerings …

As the road narrows towards the bridge we spotted the Pommelers’ Rest – as Jo said since it’s a Wetherspoons Pub they will explain the history of the name even if they make it up.  In this case the area was known for the leather trade and the guys who pommelled the leather ... presumably needed the odd rest and drink?

There was a splendid wisteria totally entwined in the fire escape of one of the older blocks, which probably invalidated its primary function.
As we crawled across Tower e Bridge (just as well there are barriers to keep traffic and pedestrians apart) we remembered how scary it was walking across the glass platforms up on the Bridge Experience.

At Peckham we had been joined on the top deck by a young couple who got justifiably excited as we crossed the bridge and just as delighted as we went alongside the full length of the Tower of London, with a good view into the moat . The gutters were replaced in Victoria’s time said Jo, spotting her insignia.  Our ‘Museum’ visit had coincided with the Poppy Display and ever since the moat has looked strangely empty.
After Tower Bridge Gateway Station (the furthest west the DLR seems to reach) come the Minories – named for ‘second rank’ monks otherwise known as nuns.

After this the 78 does a kind of circuit with a short dash into Tower Hamlets and then along by St Botolph and the City’s only public secondary school – Sir John C ass
 This blog is a labour of Love whose starting point was Sir John Cass, and his enormous legacy

The rather handsome building just by St Botolph’s has served various educational institutions in its time though I am not sure what it does today as the School bearing his name is now in Stepney.

It seems it’s a long time since Goodman’s Fields was ever anything but built up, as there have been three ‘theatres’ there in its time and its now lots of shiny flats…  After some lesser known corners of the City /Tower Hamlets borders we were back along Broadgate, bustling with folk this lunchtime, and then round some more wriggles to the left into Shoreditch and the final resting place in Curtain Road.
It was to be but a short walk to the Number 35 but somehow we landed up on Great Eastern Street rather than Shoreditch High street, a tale Jo as already told on the 35.

After our late start we really enjoyed this bus from its modest beginnings in Nunhead over Tower Bridge to the working heart of the City in 55 minutes, rather less time than you might expect.

Monday, 13 January 2020

The Number 77 Route

Waterloo Station to Tooting Station
Friday January 10 2020

Our 76 had left us round one side of Waterloo so we cut through the station, using the free facilities on the way, and located the T Bus stop (which I would have called slip road to South Bank rather than Waterloo Station.  There was a very muddy dusty bus waiting and when a much cleaner looking one drew up behind the first one and opened his doors, we got on as the only passengers.

It takes a series of roundabouts to get clear Waterloo, passing the Imax with the creepers gaining ever more of a hold on the circular cinema.  More venerable buildings look over the circulating traffic: the once Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children & Women, and St John’s Church .  More building on central plots is evident when you pass the Park Plaza hotel after scooting along York Road, where the Belvedere Gardens development may offer stunning views to the front (balconies overlooking the Thames and the Eye) but from the back have a rather oppressive impact on the road.

Some of this development was previously the UK headquarters of Shell, while the hotel next door was once County Hall – as the bus stop is still known.  Opposite is another former hospital whose history is well documented here and which is now also a hotel.

It’s good to know therefore that St Thomas’s and its Children’s Department at the Evelina are still functioning as hospitals and have not been turned into hospitality centres.  St Thomas’s has a long history in London and the Florence Nightingale Museum is worth visiting. 

Across the road some works on a church building slowed the traffic somewhat so we coasted slowly round Lambeth Palace and the adjacent Garden Museum, Garden Museum which I believe has had a makeover since we visited.  We believe the pineapples atop the supports for Vauxhall Bridge are there to remember MR Tradescant who imported many new species.

The Albert Embankment runs along a fairly straight stretch of the River looking very grey today... There are plans afoot for the listed building which was the former HQ of the London Fire Brigade but it all looked deserted today?

Jo was pleased to locate the small theatre ‘Above the Stag’ for which she had been filing programmes but before we could take any photos the bus had started its tour of Vauxhall – in order to enter and exit the bus station in the correct direction the 77 does a complete circuit of the unlovely (and difficult to navigate) Vauxhall one-way system.  Even there we gained few additional passengers.

The ‘new’ Covent Garden, which has been here for about 43 years is part of a huge regeneration project.  The rehousing of Flower Market, down the road from the vegetables, the relocation of the American Embassy (hence housing called Embassy Gardens) and finally the transformation of Battersea Power Station have all made Nine Elms an extensive building site but today’s excitement was to spot Nine Elms (tube) station, now nearly complete. 'What line is that one?' said Jo –' the extended Northern', I answered, which looks to be a deal more ready to go than the Elizabeth Line, although of course only it consists of two stops – this and Battersea Power Station, though there could be plans to link into Clapham Junction.

By now we were on the long straight stretch of the Wandsworth Road, along which there are two impressively large areas of social housing: Lansdowne Green and the even larger Springfield Estate, both wonderful 

examples of the grand scale and aspirational ideals of the then London County Council building homes for families. There are a few shops at this point but the numbers increase as we approach Clapham Junction; the Battersea Arts centre continues in the pretty former Town Hall and was showing ‘Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers’ a novel mash-up?  Clustered around are  more community facilities from chapels to police, and a generous sprinkling of pubs up to including the Falcon.

If you wanted to catch a train you needed to get off before the 77 turns left down St John’s Road briefly – we wondered how long this branch of Debenhams on the corner was going to survive.  Wandsworth workers were up on their mini cherry pickers removing the Christmas decorations so we squeezed past and right up Battersea Rise, always a slow ride as a narrow stretch of road that is both the A3 and the South Circular – ouch.

Still the 77 turns off in a SW direction, essentially the only route parallel to the railway, which is at first visible but then less so, for a long stretch past the more open area of Wandsworth Common . A stop named for Windmill Road led me to find out whether a mill remains – it was built as a pump for the railway which runs in quite a deep cutting and presumably was prone to flooding, which must still be a risk for this busy line.
(At this point we were driving directly into the sun thus rendering photography difficult)  

At the end of the common the bus turns down Earlsfield Road which is bordered by sizeable Edwardian homes with never a handy shop for the residents.  A couple of ‘ghost sings’ provided evidence of previous small newsagents but the locals will now have to head to Earlsfield or further away for their milk etc.  The 77 joins long Garratt Lane about halfway down and in time for other passengers to catch a train at Earlsfield Station, which forms the hub of local shops and pubs of all kinds.  We noted that the Sailor Prince pub had been reborn as the Wandle, after the river which runs nearby.  There is a theatre too, the home of Tara Arts which for more than forty years has been promoting the  varied culture of South Asia and now has a permanent home here.  The nearby and strangely named Hallowed Belly proves to be a pub with food, and then the shopping and eating opportunities peter out somewhat as Garratt Lane continues to wind its way down to Tooting passing through Summerstown struggling to maintain a separate identity between Earlsfield and Tooting.

I always think the cemetery and the nearby almshouses are near the end of Garratt Lane but in fact there a couple of stops to go and for once I was able to observe the street numbers which go up to 1085 – pretty high for an English road.

We had been somewhere between amused and irritated by a back seat passenger who was planning his weekend with a friend on the phone (though the friend did not get much of a look in) starting with going to bed later today, waking up at 10PM, going out then getting in at 3-4 AM, and starting again Saturday after a modest lie-in...  The 77 will be tucked up in its garage so he will have to take a N44 or the tube to keep those hours, but definitely not our problem.  Like most of the other passengers, he got off at the Broadway (where there is also a college) while we carried on down Tooting past Amen Corner to the altogether shabbier and less used Tooting Station.  We had been hopeful about a promised regular Thameslink service but hit a 19 minute wait on one of London’s more derelict seeming stations – not withstanding the mural.  Our journey had taken 10 minutes over the hour to solid SW London after all the novelties of Thameside buildings.

Friday, 10 January 2020

The Number 76 Route

Friday 10 January 2020

Today was going to be a really logical day as we were to go from Tottenham Hale to Tooting on two, consecutively numbered, buses.

Linda and I met at about 10.00, at Tottenham Hale, which is undergoing serious alterations, with new buildings going up all round, and of course, demolition going on as well.

It's being provided with a much better bus space than Euston or Kings Cross, though it's not quite sorted yet. There are no 'facilities' at the tube or bus stations, but you can find what you might need on Platform 4 of the Rail Station.

We headed out and left, and were very soon at Tottenham Town Hall and Holy Trinity Church.  This was built in the 1820s and, according it its website, was modelled by the architect, Savage, on King's College Chapel in Cambridge.
We also noted the plaque for John Williams, a 19th century missionary who died a violent death on one of the islands near Australia.  His plaque is on a cafe called The Post, almost next door to another, called The Blighty.  The name seems to reflect their commitment to the Commonwealth of Nations, rather than to the former British Empire.

The route continues straight, so we passed the College of North East London and the Catholic Church with the inspirational posters against knife crime which we have previously mentioned.  Stamford Hill was busy with shoppers getting ready for the Sabbath, and then we were at Stoke Newington Station

We also passed the handsome entry to Abney Park Cemetery, which is part of the Capital Ring and a pleasantly green place to walk through. By the way, the word cemetery, which seems a long way from Graveyard, or Friedhof, has its roots in Greek and Latin words about lying down to sleep, which seems appropriate.
We had noticed that Hackney had not yet removed all its Christmas Decorations, so we were impressed with the forethought shown by planting a large conifer on the road heading down towards Dalston, which can be dressed and undressed as the season requires.

The route passes into the very Turkish area of West Hackney, so we could admire the attractive mosque, as well as the enormous HQ of 'Beyond Retro'. Princess May Primary School is named for the wife of George V. who tends to be known as Princess May of Teck, that being the part of Germany she came from.

Not for the first time, we came through Dalston, passing its two Overground Stations, and its busy and vibrantly coloured market.  I was puzzled by the Inn sign of the Talbot Pub, which showed a dog with wings.  Talbots were hunting dogs (without wings) now extinct, presumably because there's not much demand for hunting dogs these days. It's also the surname of the family of the Earl of Shrewsbury: none of which explains the wings....

We next headed through the De Beauvoir area to reach and run alongside the Regent's Canal before turning left to cross it.  Here we paused for two minutes 'to regulate the service', which confirmed our view that we had had a very smooth journey so far. It gave us time to note the huge amount of new accommodation being built here as everywhere.

And then, of course, it is the road works at Old Street.  The 'gyratory' has gone, and traffic seems to be moving smoothly.  We were somewhat puzzled by the large castellated building we passed here but, of course, Londonist explains it all.

We came on down past Moorgate Station, getting ready for the persistently delayed Elizabeth Line, and past Finsbury Square.

The Barbican, looms over this part of London, as does the about-to-move Museum of London.  We wonder what will happen to its extensive buildings when it goes.

We were interested to note that a bar at the Globe Pub was called 'Keats at the Globe' but it seems John Keats was born in the stables next door where his father was employed.
Down at the end of Aldersgate, and with views of St Pauls, we were delighted with the angels on swings which are a part of the decorations here.

Then we swung right to head past St Pauls and along a strangely uncongested Fleet Street.
Queen Anne is outside St Paul's because, although we tend to think of the new cathedral as a Charles II thing, it wasn't completed till 1711 (35 years is not bad for a building of this size and complexity, though)

As we came along Fleet Street towards the Strand, we noticed a small bust outside numbers 72-78.  Thanks to the modern miracle that is the web, I can tell you that this is of T P O'Connor MP, an Irish Nationalist.  I suppose he's along here because he was a journalist as well. We also passed the International Arbitration Centre, which proves to be a place where people can hire a room for mediation, or maybe just discussion.

Then we were past the former Aldwych (or Strand) Tube Station.  You can book a tour of the place, or just have a look at this website.  Among its uses during the Second World War, it stored the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

The makeover at Somerset House seems to be taking a long time, but we were soon crossing the river, and nearing the end of our journey.

We came past Waterloo Station, and then did a long loop round the former County Hall to get back to the rather dingy end of Lower Marsh alongside the wall which screens the platforms.  We arrived at 11.20, ten minutes faster than the advertised length of this route.  It had been a remarkable North-to-South trip, and we had a short walk to get to our next bus, the 77.