Friday, 28 October 2011

The Number 243 Route

Waterloo Station to Wood Green Station
Monday April 19th 2010

As this is trailed by TFL as quite a long route (in both senses – well over an hour and right across London), we did not expect it to be quite so popular but at 10.15 the very orderly queue stretched back quite a way so we decided to wait for the next one in order to be able to claim our favoured seats on top deck front.

Arguably this route offers most drama at the outset, when it goes straight over Waterloo Bridge (no stops as they are suppressed for road works) with excellent views in both directions. The Strand Underpass still seems firmly closed to traffic and quite soon we had passed the other end and the rather more hidden Tram Underpass which from time to time is opened for filming or art installation purposes.

Our driver seemed somewhat impatient, as demonstrated by his hooting more than once, and by the Theobalds Road we had already caught the 243 in front. From our vantage point we could see parts of Clerkenwell, but to appreciate all its quiet charms you need to get off and walk  – side streets offer some good restaurants, small jewellery and other craft workshops for those who cannot afford Hatton Garden off to the right. Apart from Clerkenwell Green there is the St John Church, the Stationers Hall and Grays Inns of Court, this being the last route number to pass this way. Inevitably the traffic was quite dense in these fairly narrow streets, with charming side streets such as Saffron Hill and Herbal Hill – not hard to guess what once went on here. There is also a plaque to Mazzini  and quite soon the bus is passing Mary’s old stamping ground and the back of St. Bart’s Hospital. Linda insisted that the pub sign for the Chequers Pub showed Stalin and Lenin playing chess, but no-one agreed with her.

Old Street is always slightly longer than you expect and moves from quite polished to slightly less smart as you progress and eventually negotiate the one-way system that gets you onto the route north and the Kingsland Road, which is full of features, most notably the Geffreye Museum, currently undergoing a certain amount of renovation.  Other interesting sights are the local mosque, modern and in an adapted old office block, the Shoreditch Library in a Passmore Edwards Building, and two hospitals: the St Leonard’s, now a day facility, and the Metropolitan, now no more but small business units. Edith Cavell trained here before nursing in Belgium where she was eventually shot by the Germans for helping allied soldiers evade capture. 

Dalston has been polishing itself up for the opening (shortly after we rode this way) of the East London Line and this is certainly one of the more impressive stations. Mary, who did some work at the old Metropolitan, was very positive about the Riddell Road market, just after you cross over the Regents canal. She also has equally fond memories of Kossoff’s Bakery which may or may not still exist.   The same might be said of Reeves Colour Works.

A young cyclist riding alongside got pushed off his bike and he fell towards the pavement – the driver stopped to make sure he was OK and before long the cyclist was again overtaking the bus. Though the cyclists have dedicated lanes these are often very narrow, and not always in the best place, making them more dangerous than not. 

We admired the huge school board edifice that is the Princess May Road Primary School, leading us to guess that Princess May was one of Queen Victoria’s daughters. Stamford Hill is famous for its Hasidic Jewish community and they were very much in evidence today though we did not think photographing them was quite the thing to do. One elder had objected to being snapped by a street photographer but the courts had found against him on the basis that the streets were indeed public though this has not prevented the police from recently stopping people taking photos when they think they might be terrorist suspects. Faith buildings abound in this area and we admired the local mosque, covered as it was by beautiful blue tiles. A helpful contact on the bus corrected us when we thought it might be a shop.

Between Bruce Grove and the full works which is Wood Green Shopping Centre we passed Bruce Castle Park, some well kept almshouses and the Crown Court, so we knew that Wood Green meant business as an area. Though we had passed several Overgound stations we were now back on the tube network.

Not the most original of routes – we had covered most sections of it before – but well worn and loved nevertheless. Mary, who had had a hard week juggling family births and deaths and the feelings around them, declared herself greatly cheered at the end of the route, which for her certainly was a nostalgic reminder of her early training and where her London-based life and career started.

There was also a plaque to the man who named the clouds: Luke Howard.

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