Monday October 19th 2009
Author Note: It being 2 years nine months since we rode this route we have lost the photos. I have plugged some gaps by borrowing photos off other routes which cross this one but gaps remain. If we find them we will add them later.
Our previous journey (the Number 36) had left us just opposite New Cross Bus garage, and we used the facilities at the New Cross Sainsbury’s - a site very much designed for the motorist with the need to cross a vast car park before you can enter the store and use its facilities – there are plans afoot to re-design this area and bring it down to street level, incorporating more Housing.
Refreshed, we crossed the road and boarded a double decker 343, which surprisingly for the first third of its journey goes through some comparative back streets. It starts by climbing up Pepys Road (which locals used to be in the habit of calling ‘Pepp-is’). The bus is the only permitted vehicle to do this, as there is some ferocious one wayery round here. Then up and over (Telegraph Hill ), passing both the Haberdasher Aske’s schools once we were past the park This is a substantial conservation area built in a planned way to include fine villas, schools and churches on a patch that was once a market garden until the railways came.
From there the route passes through the very large Honor Oak Estate, still in the process of being upgraded, and past Avignon Road where Mary had once lived with a deranged landlady who read all her mail and reported back to her parents so she eventually fled to another flat in North London. We hope the landlady stopped taking tenants. By the time it leaves Lewisham borough behind the 343 turns through the older bits of Nunhead and close to Stuart Road. Mary pointed out her allotment on a good south facing slope in Elland Road. From there the 343 skirts the edge of Rye Hill Park and Peckham Common, arriving at the crossroads junction formerly known as King’s on the Rye, and then up and into Rye Lane – this was a Monday afternoon and actually very quiet as some days there is no room left to walk so busy are the pavements.
The ‘Co-Op’ apartments are about the only new building round here and they are in a thirties tribute style and the rest of Rye Lane dates from just about every decade. The bus then turns left into Peckham Road, dominated now by the new Harris Academy, and a newly demolished pub. The bus does not stick to this main road, however, but works its way through the Aylsham Estate and to Burgess Park, once an oasis for Peckham but now in need of something of a face-lift. The former Camberwell Public Baths adjacent to Wells Way library are of course famed for the huge tile mural of the Camberwell Beauty butterfly which came from the demolished gummed paper works of Samuel Jones. This site offers a closer look at what else is worth stopping for round here. Special mention for the Chumleigh Gardens Almshouses a hidden gem with café!
This bus alone services the huge Aylesbury Estate but today there were not many takers. The Charlie Chaplin centre looked deserted and the Heygate estate now emptied – so we eventually arrived at Elephant & Castle (we need a tick-off list to count down the 26 routes passing through). Unusually the driver was hooting round the roundabout (perhaps he recognised some-one) before we drove up to the Borough complete with mis-spelt signs telling us of roadworks in Marshalsea, which made us think of ' Little Dorrit'.
The courts are close by in Newington causeway and we pushed on stopping only in the street for London Bridge station, and not up and down where most buses go. By now it was clearly lunch-time with all the office workers out and about to mingle with additional tourists heading for all the delights along here – Hays Galleria, HMS Belfast, the tacky London Dungeons beloved of school groups and the curious ‘Britain at War’ – I always wonder why pay when you get the same or better for free at the Imperial war Museum.
Anyway the bus stops behind City Hall – a name we struggle with as it’s NOT the town hall for the city of London but merely the administrative headquarters for the Mayor, who is Mayor for greater London? Anyway this part of London and the river offer unequalled photo opportunities to the bus passenger and pedestrian alike and this 343 only took 50 minutes.
PS Apparently said Mayor and others at City Hall receive more complaints about this service than many others, and I have to confess I have in my time stood alone and friendless in Frendsbury Road waiting over ½ hour for this particular number – when I don’t want it of course it runs in positive convoys…
PPS Quite a bit has changed in the nearly 3 years since we rode this route:
Boris has been re-elected as mayor, but you knew that.
Boris has been re-elected as mayor, but you knew that.
The roadworks and traffic re-alignment at Elephant & Castle have finished and make negotiating the double roundabouts easier.
The Heygate Estate is very empty, and the Aylesbury partially and both beloved of filmmakers who wish for a gritty location, to which the remaining tenants object, not wishing to be portrayed as crime hotspots. Some of the promised rebuilding is finished – ‘Strata’, notably – but other sites continue to languish
The Belfast has been closed and re-opened (following unplanned collapse of gangplank) The Imperial War Museum has been open but is about to close (planned rebuilding works for the first half of 2013)
Peckham has fairly continuous roadworks, the results of which are never very clear!
Burgess Park has been getting a make-over which is nearly complete.
John Lanchester has written a novel called ‘Capital’ whose characters live round New Cross…in Pepys Road .