Monday, 12 November 2018

The NUMBER 8 Route

Bow Church to Tottenham Court Road (St. Giles)
Thursday November 8 2018

We had arrived in Bow via the rather testing 205 all the way from Paddington in what felt like half a day’s travelling – we had failed to obtain our front seats and the bus had been busy and noisy – you will hear about it in due course. To be fair it had speeded up a bit through the East End. 

There was an Inspector/time keeper who came to greet our 205 driver so we thought we would ask him where to pick up the Number 8. He pointed straight ahead in spite of our protestations that London was behind us and we were not heading out of town. To be sure we saw one lurking and then pull away so the bus apps gave us a waiting time of 12 minutes. Fortunately for the time of year it was mild. Bow Church bus stop is just to the side of St. Mary’s Church. Last time of course we arrived here from Victoria!

I don’t pretend to understand the Bow Roundabout or Interchange, which seems to be a way of joining  the As 11 and 12, with perhaps  a couple of other local routes thrown in for good measure but people seem rather low on its list of users. You can see the Olympic (now West Ham) stadium seemingly not that far away but it would be a brave pedestrian or cyclist who would try to access it.

Happily the bus turns off the dual carriageway quite soon and finds itself trundling through much more human scale roads and housing – there are few towering blocks and this friendly scale of Bow made it feel very welcoming. There is no shortage of housing – low level flats, small houses old and new – and a new educational facility which appears to offer both vocational and academic sixth form courses. This route takes in the delights of Roman Road. I was a bit surprised to spot a somewhat over large and over pink Macaroon but clearly ‘La table de saveurs’ is aiming to bring French patisserie to this bit of London.  Roman Road offers some intimacy and must give a good local service to many people as th
is website illustrates.

But all good things come to an end and soon we were heading straight along the Bethnal Green Road which is of course wider and busier
Since we last passed this way (and this includes our underwhelming visit to the nearby Museum of Childhood )  the memorial has been  erected  to the many people crushed here during  one night’s false alarm during the war. Now called the Stairway to Heaven appropriately for the  overcrowded stairwell led to the multiple  casualties. This link elaborates both the story and the symbolism of the monument.  Though we were bowling along quite fast there was time to spot the range of shops from pawnbrokers to a tiny pub which somehow must have survived the war, and later demolitions, though whether it is still functioning is not clear. Definitely thriving is Brick Lane which is a turning shortly before we reach more recognizable  ground.

For us folks who use the Overground, Shoreditch High Street is a familiar station and the nearby BOX PARK always pulls in a crowd – I sometimes think the names are better than the products? Talking of names Jo spotted a group of ?Chinese tourists being given a  talk outside the  'Bull In A China Shop'
The expression has a very particular meaning – some-one blundering in a fragile environment either physically or metaphorically – but possibly the tourists saw this differently?

Broadgate, which I often think of as a fairly new addition to this part of London, seemed to be undergoing some kind of refit with hoardings covering the arched facades. The link The account here is very detailed but it seems the refurbishment has been prompted, how could I not have guessed, by the Elizabeth Line. It also means some disruption to the bus station – there’s a surprise. Still the Number 8 in this direction pushes on straight as the roads narrow through the City – of course the area around Bank is now buses and bikes only which seems very sensible.

More hoardings as we pushed on down Bishopsgate – 22 London seems to have had a chequered history and it’s not quite the same project that was happening when we were last along here.   Other barriers were already in place for the Lord Mayor’s show which will have happened by the time you read this. We hazarded that next year’s mayor might be a Mercer as they had hung a large banner from their first floor. As we learnt on our trip to the Mansion HouseThe Lord Mayor is self-funded so not sure whether he pays for his ‘Show’ as well?  The hoardings and barriers continue and are joined by diversion signs but on Thursday we were still able to get round St Paul’s.

I was feeling pretty confident the Number 8 would be completing its  journey within the time scheduled but I had of course forgotten about High Holborn – the earlier bit round the Prudential was fine and sunny and with lots people out questing their various lunches but once we had passed  Chancery Lane and Holborn stations progress was  reduced to sitting still behind a row of taxis .
‘Why on earth would you sit in a taxi in this stopped traffic?’ I said to Jo at which point we watched a father and son just get out of their cab and walk.  The Bus Project rules determine that we stay put so we had ample opportunity to admire the heraldry on Holborn Town Hall in detail and we could just about have popped into the pretty The Princess Louise Pub, bought a drink and got back on.

'Many shall pass through and learning Shall be Increased’  Library or Pub? - Looking down on a van that said ‘Mum you can find me on Google Maps’ was a bit confusing  but kept us amused while passing the Lego brick-like flats until we finally arrived at the end point – not strictly Tottenham Court Road but a point outside St Giles., he who saved a Hind from hunters - just what you need in London?  
It was great to be back in parts of the East End with sights old and new and through the City on a well-established route.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The NUMBER 7 Route

 East Acton (Brunel Road) to Oxford Circus  
Thursday November 1 2018

Here we were reversing the direction and therefore the order of buses we took in early 2009 close to the start of the Project. This means we had already travelled from South Kensington to Roehampton where we had a short but extremely wet walk to access the 72 for onward transit to East Acton. Fortunately there was no problem in finding the start of the 72 in Roehampton as we were kindly guided to it by a former resident of the large estate back to visit his mum. He seemed intrigued by our Project so we said we would mention his gallantry under fire (well rain) otherwise he won’t get mentioned for few months yet. So much  for the preamble.

The 72 & 7 share a terminus and stop and we did not have long to wait … That’s a nice clean bus, said Jo (the cleanliness of the windows affects the quality of our photos) so we climbed upstairs only to find it smelled strongly of wee… Some mouth breathing followed by an open window   helped a little but distracted us from the early stages of the route of which we had seen very little given the mistiness aboard  the single decker 72 that doubles up this early stretch.  

Once over the crossroads we passed both Erconwald  (whom we had encountered two weeks ago  in Barking on the 5), and Wulfstan   and here they form part of one of the LCC’s (London County Council) cottage estates. Both were early Bishops of London.  

Then on further to pass the series of buildings that belong to Hammersmith Hospital  – Queen Charlotte’s  has a nearly 200 year history offering maternity services though only here on Du cane Road since 2000. The hospitals come under the auspices of the Imperial NHS Trust.  We have always presumed that Nightingale House on the corner was some kind of nurses’ home, but it seems to have gained a modern Ziggurat style building over its shoulder.

It must be handy for Wormwood Scrubs to have a hospital nearby, we thought,  then on past North Pole Road – did I hear right? said Jo: yes. I suggested the smell of pee was dissipating but Jo thought we were just getting used to it...

Onwards to our next hospital, though no longer a full one – St Charles. There is a good history here
but we were both quite relieved that it is now more of a mental health resource on a hopefully smaller and cleaner scale than the ward we had visited in the  late Nineties. If it’s St Charles it must be Notting Hill and sure enough the other Saints come thick and fast: St Michael and St Laurence follow on before we arrived at Ladbroke Grove.  The facilities under Westway  have always been interesting though there seemed to be fewer fruit and veg than we remembered – and the Kensington Park Hotel, though brightly painted, looked shuttered., and has certainly closed since we were last round this way – another local pub bites the dust, and this one had some musical history

Perhaps this is why as you turn the corner the two stories over Nu-line builders have musical heroes in their windows – someone has given them a home after being evicted from elsewhere? Nu-line look to be an excellent local resource for paints, ironmongery etc. though not so new as they have been here since 1965.

I suspect some of their paints may have been used for the row of ‘ice-cream sorbet’ houses that we passed and which are typical of the now very expensive Notting Hill.

Having started at Brunel Road it was only fitting we should pass the famous engineer’s estate – once Westminster’s  it now seems mainly privately owned?  Continuing along Westbourne Grove with its range of small shops, galleries and eating places we passed the Prince Bonaparte so we could remember he was exiled, or expeditiously chose to move here during one of France’s several revolutions.

If we could see Bishops Bridge and Westway before us Paddington  Station could not be far behind. There is still a fair amount of Crossrail/Elizabeth Line building disruption here so it is hard to believe anyone thought it could have been ready last month.  Progress along Praed Street in front of Paddington and then St Mary’s Hospital is always slow and today was no exception. You can see the ‘dusty’ window of Sir Alexander Fleming’s lab from the top deck – a museum visit which is 

The traffic was no faster when we joined the Edgware Road and much slower than it had been last week – no matter, we could see other things.  The pub sign for the Old English Gentleman remains though it now adorns a Lebanese restaurant. Also ‘As Nature Intended’ is not quite what you might expect  (something for the English Gentlemen perhaps) but in fact a rather pricy looking health food shop.

Travelling this way the bus does not have to go right round Marble Arch (only the cavalry and royalty can go through) – on the contrary you get a rather good close up of the somewhat misplaced  ornate entrance originally designed for Buckingham Palace. Talking of good views from the top deck, we realised we had been riding alone  upstairs for the entire trip – either  there were very  few passengers or  the smell had percolated downstairs; then it struck us: suppose  other passengers thought it was us – two incontinent old ladies on the top deck. We promise you we are very clean , or as clean as you can be after crossing London twice.  

In spite of the road works we progressed well down this stretch of Oxford Street to stop just short of Oxford Circus in just under an hour, not bad given the 55 minute estimate for a run that really wriggles its way west through some of the most interesting and colourful bits of West London. Have a go but take an unsmelly vehicle!

Random mahonia I forgot to mention

Monday, 29 October 2018

The Number 6 Route

Thursday 25 October 2018

Our previous bus having dropped us conveniently round the corner, it was not long before we were on a 6, heading for Aldwych.  Willesden Bus Garage is spacious, but the buses pull out and around, so Linda thought we were heading in the wrong direction at first.

The weather was again splendid, with cloudless blue skies and, while there was a nip in the air, the bus was pleasantly warm.

The Global Co-operative University seems to be based here, but I have found it quite difficult to discover its actual status. It seems to have something to do with the actual Co-operative Movement.

The Willesden Centre for Health and Care was more identifiable, and we thought it might once have been the Willesden Cottage Hospital.

 We were pleased to see the green space around the Sports Centre, the more so because almost all the residents have hardened their front gardens.  Nobody designed these neat terraces for privately owned vehicles, nor indeed for the amount of traffic that pours past them at all times.

We passed the Lexy Cinema, with its message 'I am a Cinema: Love Me'  and then were able to add to our collection of witty hairdressing names.  We were clearly in a healthy area, what with Ayurvedic offerings and a vegan cafe, and we also passed Franklin Primary School, now an ARK Academy.  It was named for the scientist Rosalind (DNA) Franklin.


 After some very congested streets, we admired the pretty cottages of Kilburn Lane and went past the Fierce Grace Hot Yoga Centre, which struck us as a fairly terrifying concept.
Once we got into Maida Vale, we were back among what seems to be the single significant marker for these revisited bus routes: new build apartments in huge numbers, stretching along road after road.  Some are occupied, some about to be, and some just starting.

Down towards Warwick Avenue Station, we came to the attractive Sheepdrove Organic Farm shop, and then we were into the Edgware Road, for the second time today.  We had time to notice the interesting, and possibly political statement outside a restaurant serving BOTH Iraqi and Kurdish Food.

After Church Street Market, we came to more new build.

Linda and I are fairly sure that we saw this development being...well, developed, last time round in 2009, but the answer may be that it is a very large area. We are also pretty sure that the prices would not have been quite so remarkable back then.

 After this, we made quite rapid progress, under the elevated road, and past Nutford Place, where something rather small is being built by the interestingly named Deconstruct Company.  It seems to mean that they do the Project Managing.

Once we got to Marble Arch, we headed down Park Lane, past the monument to the Animals of War, with glimpses of Hyde Park across the many lanes of fast traffic.


 At Hyde Park Corner, this bus makes a left along Piccadilly, past the Royal Academy, and the many tourists at Piccadilly Circus, to turn down Haymarket and get to Trafalgar Square.

The fourth plinth has an Assyrian statue made out of syrup tins at the moment, which we glimpsed as we went past. Then it's only a short distance, though quite a long time, along the Strand, past the Church of St Mary, to turn up into Aldwych and end our ride, 75 minutes after we left Willesden.