Monday November 30th 2009
**Apologies for poor quality photos due to bad visibility and dirty windows – we could almost certainly find some shiny sunny photos of parts of this route but that would be cheating… it was wet.**
The three of us assembled easily outside King’s Cross having admired the newly opened King’s Cross Underground ticket office which though large and swish soon looked very busy – ‘in on time and on budget’ they said – here’s hoping for equivalent upgrades to the Mainline station. Though we never got wet the trip seemed rain soaked and soggy after the deluges of the past week or so and there was plenty of evidence of standing water, often in large puddles close to the bus stops. It is only right that the underground station with the greatest number of interchanges should also be served by a wide range of buses and that’s where we were headed for today.
Not surprisingly this bus was very popular out of King’s Cross, though it never got that busy upstairs, leaving that for passengers on a longer journey. We swept down the length of the Gray’s Inn Road, once home to ‘The Guardian’ offices. I must say I was slightly distracted from my task of observing and taking notes as Jo regaled us with tales and details of the (subsidised as she knows the sous-chef) St John Bread & Wine dinner menu she had had over the weekend – we were close to the parent restaurant in Smithfield, but not quite close enough to include it on this trip. From the top there were good views of Great Percy Street and we have a great fondness for the pub sign ‘The Queen’s Head’ depicting as it does the image from the famous Penny Black stamp.
Other delights of the Grays Inn Road include the Eastman Dental Hospital, a Mecca for all things oral, and London Welsh Centre. We speculated as to whether Lloyd George may have attended but as it was opened in 1937 mandated to be both non-political and non-sectarian we think it unlikely! The bus was fairly slow round here – about the only part of the journey that was – so were able to note Roger Street and another pretty pub – the Yorkshire Grey. The bus of course takes you past the Verulam Buildings and all the other legal chambers that are in Gray's Inn (the ‘Estate’ page of this link will offer some excellent panoramas but beware if you tend to motion sickness!!).
Very soon the unmistakeable red brick of the Prudential offices came into view, meaning we had reached Holborn Circus – a short stretch along Charterhouse Street and then we re-joined the yet-to-blog but very familiar 63 route.
The Crowne Plaza hotel close to Blackfriars is a standalone hotel unlike the ‘clusters’ we saw on other parts of the journey. Blackfriars bridge is still very much shrouded while undergoing its station-extending makeover. Though ‘commuter chaos’ was predicted we are now over a year into the 3year closure and things seem to be going pretty well. Perhaps when we come past on the 100 we will be able to see the completed job?
All in all this is very rail-related route as it passes close to many mainlines and along the Blackfriars Road there is also the ‘ghost’ of an older station. The driver skilfully avoided drenching the many waiting passengers at the Elephant bus stop and the traffic was flowing pretty smoothly – the 45’s route south is along the Walworth Road. Coming at the Newington Library from this side it was interesting to note that the war memorial is built into the foundation stone of the building and still had several wreaths standing there.
Very close is the Baldwins Natural Products shop, which has been going since 1844, which must say something about the ongoing popularity of ‘natural remedies’. The top end of East Street has a plaque to Charlie Chaplin (though building demolished). Nearby is a long-standing Marks & Spencer, which looks to be a rather old-fashioned branch – closer inspection indicates it stocks sizes to suit the ’traditionally built’ woman. ‘Lashes & Brows’ on the other hand, testifies to the need to keep every inch of yourself in tip-top grooming. South of the river, much of the route was in Lambeth – very familiar to Mary who used to work here.
We crossed the major junction at Camberwell Green and then rather surprisingly did a little snicket down Orpheus Way in order to cross over and down Coldharbour Lane. The Sun & Doves pub is apparently very popular. Past Loughborough Junction – more rail – and past Brixton’s Mosque, Police Station and Market onto the very busy High Road, where there is a constant but friendly competing tension between the number of pedestrians and the number of buses. From the top we had a good view of the Ritzy Cinema and the nearly completed Lambeth / TFL regeneration works on the Windrush Square, and now the first time down Brixton Hill, where about 7 other routes will follow in time.
The road is wide and the buildings on the left all well set back behind grass and trees so it was not long before we reached that major road junction where the A23 meets the A 205 – also known as the South Circular. The bus in fact takes the latter option for a couple of stops in order to serve the very densely populated area that is the Clapham Park estate and the end of the line – just under an hour as it happens.