Friday, 17 May 2019

The Number 38 Route

Thursday 16 May 2019
Well, now, this is a strange route.  Although the bus stop at Waterloo says that it terminates at Lea Bridge Road, the front of the bus said 'Hackney Central'. Please hold this thought till we get to the end.

The head stop is actually in the inadequate bus space in front of Victoria Station, whereas our previous bus had abandoned us some was away.  So we headed off at 11.00, and made amazingly slow progress. First it's up Buckingham Palace Road and past the Queen's back garden, and then to Hyde Park Corner, where we had ample time to admire the Royal Artillery Memorial in its brutal splendour and the rather less aggressive Machine Gunners' Memorial.  The quote from the book of Samuel which so annoyed other branches of the army was not within reading distance of our camera s you can read it at the IWM register link.

We turned into Piccadilly, a welcome change from Park Lane, but the traffic was even slower, had that been possible, not particularly because of what appeared to be pavement works. Just the number of motorised vehicles.

 Still, this gave us ample time to admire the green wall at the Athaneum Hotel, and the attractive new look of Green Park Station, as well as the Ritz, the Caviar Shop, the Burlington Arcade, the Royal Academy, the HQ of BAFTA and St James' Church (beautiful Grinling Gibbons Screen inside: we could pretty well have got off, popped in, gazed at it and got back on the same bus).

We were also interested in GROM, a gelato shop whose strap-line is 'Il Gelato come una volta' which we think is sort of 'as mother used to make'. Interesting, they say they contain no flavourings, which I take it means that vanilla is an ingredient not a flavouring. Again, th the costly Boris buses worked as they were intended to, we could have stepped off the back, checked, and got back on.

Finally we came to Piccadilly Circus but this did not mean we increased our speed, because this route next goes along (or parks along) Shaftesbury Avenue. Slowed by works to renovate the Japan Centre, as well as by all the cars and cabs, we passed all the shows and eventually emerged at Cambridge Circus to go left along Charing Cross Road.

Any increase in speed?  Surely you know better than to ask: because here we are in Crossrail land.  As we turned right into New Oxford Street, we had ample time to note that the Dominion Theatre is already advertising its next Christmas Show.  I wonder how many shopping days are left?

 Still, 35 minutes into our journey (15 minutes on a bicycle, by the way) we were finally heading east, to pass the umbrella shop and the Conway Hall. We also passed Swedenborg House. Swedenborg believed, amongst much else, that, for salvation, good deeds were essential as well as faith. I only mention this because in the film of Little Women (the one with Winona Ryder, not the Elizabeth Taylor one) the March family are said to be Swedenborgians, although this is not in the book. But I digress.

Gardens to the right meant that we were passing close to the Inns of Court, and then I pointed out this excellent wheels on a passing shopping trolley: I had seen these in Venice, where delivery people have them to facilitate going up steps, but I have never before noticed them in London.

We passed over a little viaduct, from where we could see that the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office (where the wonderful Postal Museum is) has reduced its van parking area and clearly new apartments are going up.

Up Rosebery Avenue, we reached the gardens of the the Water HQ which marks the formal end of the New River, and then came to Sadler's Wells, which meant we were effectively at Angel.


The Old Red Lion Pub has pages and pages about it on the internet, but I could not find out why its inn sign depicts a dog.  No doubt an explanation is in the cloud somewhere.  Linda was interested to see the Lime hire bikes, which are electric, as there are not many of them in South London.

So then we saluted Sir Hugh Myddleton and continued up Essex Road, noting a taxidermy shop called 'Get Stuffed' whose website has galleries displaying their amazing work.

A former cinema is now the Resurrection Manifestation centre, and, we assume, religious, while the Walter Sickert Centre is named for a former local Islington resident, though he was part of the Camden group of artists.

Turning right into the Balls Pond Road, we passed the Metropolitan Benefit Society Almshouses, now rebranded as 'retirement cottages' but still with their pretty garden.

I thought the Duke of Wellington'a pub sign was probably taken from the portrait in the National Gallery, a picture I know well as I have it on a mug. 

Anyway, we were now firmly in Hackney, and a series of residential streets brought us to Mare Street and Hackney Central Station. It was 12.25, a bit over the 78 minutes promised by the timetable.  BUT, of course, we were not at the end stop as marked at the start of the route (I asked you to remember this). So when the driver and the bus announcement both said that this was the last stop, we obediently got off. And THEN! the blind at the front changed to read 'Clapton Pond' and the bus rolled on: without us.  So what's this about?  In the olden days there used to be what were called 'fare stages' and the price changed in various places. But this is no longer the case.  So we are baffled, and all we can do is promise that we shall ride from Hackney Central to Leabridge Road at some future date.

It had taken a long time, but it is a rather enjoyable trip, nonetheless.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

The NUMBER 37 Route

Peckham to Putney Heath (Green Man)
Thursday December 13 2018

I met Jo off her punctual Thameslink and we used Morrisons’ facilities before cutting through to Peckham Bus Station behind; this fortunately offered a waiting area generously provided with seats and shelter – a welcome contrast to last week’s hell hole that was North Finchley, which was unavoidable and where  the Number 13 stops.   

Hardly any wait and there we were off at 10.00.  Jo pointed out that the front left side seats are comfier than the right side ones which are above the driver – well you learn something every week.

Peckham of course has a well-established one way system and in order to escape West we looped the half of it until we were heading down two way Peckham High Street,** always slow because it’s narrow, congested and the site where many pedestrians practise their guerrilla tactics. One of the signs of gentrification is the presence of  John the Unicorn .  This apparently is an Antic Pub, a small chain who re-purpose large empty High Street buildings Not sure this one was as grandiose as those listed by the Londonist.

Somewhat to our surprise there was a change of drivers at Nigel Road.  Then it was left to go straight ahead passing Peckham Rye and the now slightly weather-worn totem pole, a fairly new addition on our first trip

To head towards the seasonal Goose Green – I say seasonal as we rode this route shortly before Christmas and legend has it that the poultry farmers used to walk their geese down to here for selling on – and that they provided them with little bootees to safeguard their irascible investments.

You would need to get off here if you wanted to explore Lordship Lane further as the 37 cuts across it to head towards Dulwich Village - an altogether staider experience. By now the bus was filling up nicely.
The imposing red brick Dulwich Hospital was already in decline on our last trip
So it was heartening to see some new resources arisingthough of course they have kept the Tower.

The bus turns right at the village crossroads (the village feel is maintained by white finger posts and picket fences along the grassy strips) and opposite the Victorian North Dulwich Station more passengers boarded. Like the hospital this was another Charles Barry building – not surprising as he was the surveyor for the major local landowners Dulwich College and built much around here – fortunately the Estate is still rich enough to keep the buildings looking smart. Of course one of the downsides of living on Dulwich College lands is the lack of shops and transport – this route misses the village shops so essentially there has been little commerce since Peckham. There are also strict rules as to what you can do with your homes on Estates land.

Continuing along to Herne Hill we passed the Judith Kerr Free School which is certainly a new addition since we last passed this way – and a bilingual one at that: the author of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit has given her name to a German school.  Another refurbishment is the large Half Moon Pub which is now a hotel. We were puzzled by a shop called White Feather (the emblem given to men not in uniform to indicate their ‘cowardice’ in the First World War) which seems mainly to stock German brands of designer clothes – between this and the Judith Kerr School I must be missing something about London’s German population?
Brockwell Park offered us our second generous expanse of green along this route and then we realised we had perhaps joined part of the route of the lost (mainly underground) River Effra. Sure enough after passing Poets’ Corner we came along Brixton Water lane.  This southerly approach to Brixton is characterised by religions various, the most striking example being St Matthew’s , which like most of his fellow evangelists has become something of an island in a one way system! Brixton had its civic decorations up but by now the rather cold bus was steaming up due to the upstairs passengers breathing!

Lambeth Town Hall was looking very spruce for its 110 years and so it should as it only recently re-opened after its facelift .
Acre Lane is not the most interesting of routes but it does connect Brixton with Clapham Park (and eventually all the other Claphams) passing a mixture of old and newer housing and a couple of supermarkets, but it lacks a personality. Clapham Common on the other hand has a clear focus, the Northern Line station and the triangle it sits on, an old style multi-story pub and a road junction. It is also the ‘gateway’ to Clapham Common, our third area of green open space for the trip.

Lovely though the winter sun was, we were driving straight into it which made photography very difficult (I know we always have excuses, but therefore got lucky on the 14 back) so we failed to capture the very pretty church. There are grand mansion blocks the length of Clapham Northside plus some prep schools, doubtless prepping pupils for nearby Emmanuel College.

At the corner of the common there is very often slow traffic as you join with travellers coming west along the South Circular, but this morning things seemed fairly fluid and we made our descent towards Clapham Junction in good time.  The commerce round here has always been a bit variable
(however if you go left here down Northcote it’s a different matter) with Arding & Hobbs/Debenhams looking poorly.

We knew we were passing the huge station that is Clapham Junction but its entrance on St John’s Hill is really quite discreet. St John’s Hill has certainly smartened up in the nine years since we passed this way – not so much new building as use of what’s already there even if at a very rarified level: ‘Distinctive Chesterfields’ anyone?  These are amazingly chunky sofas requiring amazingly chunky rooms and houses to sit in – need I say more...

We just had time to glimpse the next bit of green area – namely Wandsworth Common – before we descended again into Wandsworth.  More down to earth, it was good to see the students flooding into the rather austere South Thames College.  In many ways this was the part of the trip where most changes had taken place. The Ram Quarter (built round the listed buildings of the former Young’s Ram Brewery and along the Wandle) has been a long time coming but is beginning to take shape, and by the look of it has had an impact on the Arndale centre opposite .And was that cladding being removed from an older block? 

Straight on along towards Putney Hill involves our third incline of the day and we pass more large houses, mainly converted into flats and interspersed with purpose built blocks, and so on up to Putney Heath where we had absolutely no time to linger as we scrambled onto the Number 14 just as it was leaving the Green Man which seems to survive.

This is an East/West London bus route that takes in many and varied a London hub as well as some common lands, and we were interested to see progress on several projects that dated back some 10 years or so....

PS We rode this route in December; from  January 2019 all traffic is now sent round the back due to extensive gas works which will take up to 14 months.