Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Number 55 Route

Monday 9 September 2019

In order to do each route in the other direction from our first project (if you follow me), we had relied on the 56 to deliver us to Leyton, Bakers Arms, in order to take the 55 to Oxford Circus. So we were glad to make use of the facilities of the large Tesco, and had time to admire the terra cotta bas reliefs of the items they sell before we set off at 11.20.

The weather was damp and nasty, and as we all know the ghastly Boris Buses do not have good sight lines, but Linda managed some good pictures, as you can see.  We turned left past the Bakers Arms Benevolent Institution. The gate says it was founded in 1832, but the Italianate Almshouses are somewhat later than that.  I admired the remarkable cycling facilities of Waltham Forest.  They just show what a borough can do when given £30,000,000 to spend by TfL. 

Passing both the Lee Valley Riding Centre and the Ice Centre, we crossed the River Lea and came to Millfield Park. This green space on both sides of the road has been in the (local) news lately because a court order had to be sought to force out some Traveller families who had established themselves there.  We did notice some caravans which had not yet departed. 
This brought us to Clapton Ponds, and from there the route goes along Lower Clapton Road, passing the Round Chapel as well as the handsome Church of St John at Hackney, dating from 1792 and designed by James Spiller.

After coming past Hackney Central Station and the Hackney Empire as well as the town hall, we noticed rather a good anti-smoking ad: 'you're paying a fortune to wreck your lungs'.

Other interesting things spotted through the rain were the flower-covered Hare pub, an art-covered house, and a strange building with a clock tower, which I have been unable to identify.

We also spotted a hairdressers which claimed 'no gender, no texture, just hair'. Another one, later, suggested 'Life's too short for boring hair'.
The former Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children is now apartments, though we thought they had kept the balconies where sick children were exposed to fresh air. These were not the only new-build we passed, and at one building site, the previous building was still being knocked down.

This area of London has a large number of hoardings (there's a surprise) which are attractively embellished by artists happy to sign their names.  So we were interested to see (later)  an agency which offered such a service:  'You say it, we'll spray it'. They are the Global Street Art Agency, should you want any graffiti.

Now we were heading slowly down to the Old Street Roundabout, which is a mess at the moment while they 'create a better environment for walking and cycling' which, Heaven knows, would not be difficult, given the horrors of this multiple interchange.  I was interested in their phrasing. It has long been my view that some of the vitriol addressed to cyclists is because they are personalised as human: cars are cars, HGVs are lorries, but cyclists are people, so somehow their crossing of red lights or being on pavements is worse than similar offences committed by motorised vehicles. So I liked the fact that it is the activity, not the people, identified here. But I digress.

The Shoreditch Grind was offering 'Brunch not Brexit' an antidote, perhaps, to the known view of the proprietor of a certain pub chain, whose 'Masque Haunt' was nearby.

Meanwhile, we had come past LSO St Luke's, a former church being put to good use, and headed along the Clerkenwell Road to reach the Crossrail Works at Farringdon, as well as a cafe called Fidelio, which offers classical music as well as the more usual cafe fare.

The Inns of Court have attractive walled gardens which we passed on the way to the Conway Hall. The route then crosses Southampton Row, to pass the HQ of the Unite Union.  

Some fellow passengers, who had been commenting on the various Brexit references we passed, were interested to see the name 'Sicilian Avenue'. Linda and I remember when it was full of furniture shops and such:  now it seems to be all about food and coffee

We came past St George's Bloomsbury and the James Smith Umbrella shop into New Oxford Street, where demolition is in progress right next to Centre Point. We can't remember what the building was which is due to come down.

This brought us into Oxford Street, past Tottenham Court Road Station, still incomplete and still awaiting the arrival of Crossrail.

Oxford Street was closed Eastbound for some distance, because of building works, but we were going west and so did not mind.  We reached Oxford Circus at 12.50, having had a straightforward east to west ride, only slightly marred by the gloomy and damp weather.

Friday, 6 September 2019

The NUMBER 54 Route

 Elmers End Station (Elmers End Green ) to Plumstead (Woolwich)
Wednesday August 28 2019

This short planned trip, while Jo was off blackberrying , was going to be so easy – a quick train to Elmers End and pick up the 54 in the large car park that adjoins a huge Tescos. However that was not to be: a six week gas works seems to have disrupted several routes and the trams, with few pointers as to where I might find the nearest 54 – walking in the wrong direction twice I found some folk up by Beckenham Crematorium (no jokes please) who kindly pointed me back in the right direction – to Elmers End Green, where there were some more road works but also a 54.

Today was a day for ‘Shopping Parades’ with Elmers End still retaining a short one and between there and the more generous ones of Beckenham the 54 passes Croydon Road Recreation Ground and the newly listed David Bowie bandstand and this route will bring you right to the entrance of what is a very ordinary municipal park.

Beckenham still has a village feel but it is a well provided for suburb with a listed cinema , an extensive High Street, some old established pubs, and a central Church and churchyard somewhat enhanced as a sitting area, plus well-served station and trams (when they run).  Because it was a Kent village the through streets are quite narrow for this the only double decker that comes through but today there was little to detain us so we were soon passing the range of residences that border the road leading gently downhill to Catford, and for this stretch the 54 is the only route.

I was rather taken with the bus stop name ‘Stumps Hill Lane’ thinking it might be something to do with tree stumps – the nearby Beckenham Place park is well endowed with trees and shrubs – but it may have more links with its other end (a private road) which abuts the Kent County Cricket Ground.  Some rain at this point made the park even less visible, which is a shame as it has had a major makeover.

The big crossroads with Southend Lane marks the start of Catford – this area has seen some major rebuilding – mainly bland blocks replacing sprawling pubs.  Homebase remains a constant, though it has never been the same after some Australians bought it and over-invested in outdoor furniture and fittings, forgetting perhaps that most Inner London garden owners have to choose between a dining set, a paddling pool or a barbecue, not all three.

As we approached the Catford hub that is the Town Hall complex many more passengers boarded for the run straight ahead to Lewisham – the next major centre along here.  Catford now seems to have at least three rival (night) clubs , which I suppose counts as the night time economy.

It was a little ironic as the smell of cannabis grew stronger as we passed the fake trees with their little messages pleading for cleaner air , but I think they were referring to a more environmental aspiration. 
Talking of air quality the driver(s) left their engines running while they changed over at Catford Bus garage earlier ; a slightly more leisurely experience than usual .

More unknown than lost in the world of rivers, the 54 had been following (and crossing ) The Ravensbourne  River since Beckenham (and the poor little Beck too)and this was the case as we passed Lewisham Hospital, scattered over several differently aged buildings, and the parish church of St Mary’s, making it the second parish church of the day.

What used to be Lewisham’s premier swimming pool has disappeared since the Project last came this way and the space is now taken with some innovative homeless family housing units homeless family housing units that went up quickly and will I suspect, in the way of these things, be around for longer than anticipated.
On the next corner there has been some demolition and the former Pool Hall is also fenced offperhaps indicating some kind of  'master plan'  for this end of Lewisham.

Lewisham, unlike the previous shopping clusters, lacked the cohesion of the Parades we passed back at the start of the trip, mainly due to much more severe bombing and destruction and somewhat hasty rebuilding.  However the lively market stalls in front do compensate for this and certainly bring in the shoppers.

The 54 takes a more familiar route round the back of the Police Station and up towards Blackheath thus avoiding the increasingly confusing (railway) station area .  Once past the Bowling Alley (and how many of those remain in the UK?) things become strictly residential again, with a bus stop named ‘The Squirrels’ being very memorable, and the attractive St Margaret’s Church and its extensive graveyards.

Blackheath has no qualms about calling itself a village though there are enough bus routes that serve it.  I assumed Pizza Bianco had set up in the former Bank (o). The 54 emerges at the top of the hill and gives a good view across Blackheath – there are now too many roads and too much traffic to imagine it as a hangout for highwaymen but it is still a sizeable area of open space. The 54 does not head down to the river but calls in at the Blackheath Standard, a local bus interchange, and continues to Charlton. Though Blackheath managed to preserve many of its larger older houses Charlton must have been in line for more bombing as there are several high rise blocks of social housing so several more passengers boarded.  Charlton Village has a historic pub and Charlton Place which seems to be a combination of historic house and community resource, situated in a park.  This part of the route duplicates that of the 53, which unchronologically I am due to ride to ride next week, but about which you will already have read.

Close to Artillery Place a bus stop was closed due to a Bellway Building work contraflow, but it did not detain us for long at this time of day so soon we were heading down to Woolwich and the river flanked by new buildings on both sides, some completed and some yet to get above ground level.
Woolwich has certainly smartened up since the original Project.  

What I always thought of as the Building Society Square  is in fact named after General Gordon and I am not sure what the very ethnically diverse residents of the Royal Borough would make of the invader of China and Sudan. The eponymous Building Society is now ‘mixed use’ with eating on the ground floor and a mixture of homes and offices above. The square has been landscaped and seems well tended.

Half expecting the bus to sneak on to Plumstead (though the front and the announcements clearly said Woolwich) I was a bit slow to get off earning a baleful look from the driver. According to the bus stop the additional three stops are peak times or possibly non peak times only.

However Woolwich proved to be the place to start my next adventure on the 178.