Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Number 440 Route

The Number 440 Route
Stonebridge Park Station to Gunnersbury (Power Road) 
Thursday November 22nd 2012

This is one of the few routes that the Project has ridden twice...

Back in the early days, in August 2009, Linda rode this route alone. There were 5 rather mean little photos and we also discovered that in January 2010 the route had been extended by about 6 stops to Gunnersbury. On the whole it seemed easier to re-ride though I have included my original impressions at the end.

For ease of start we met at the rather unlovely Stonebridge Park Station, nestled – that sounds too cosy, let’s say squashed as it is between various North Circular underpasses, access roads and indeed bridges: there seemed to be a series of five or so massive bridges which made me realise one of them must have given its name to the area, Stonebridge, though the total lack of greenery made me wonder where the Park bit came from. The first (and only) non-industrial unit type building along this unlovely service road to the North Circular was the Ace Café complete with its Blue Plaque for Screaming Lord Sutch – in fact as the attached clip shows it is a very recent celebration.

Though the bus route crosses over the main dual carriageway A406 the industrial themes continued with the West London Waste Authority, which in a way was a comfort as I thought West London exported all its waste to South & East London.  Arco had one of those inflatable life-size dummies to promote their wares, whatever they might be, who was whipping around in the wind. After passing through the Tudor Trading Estate.
We emerged somewhat diffidently at the back entrance to the Central Middlesex Hospital, where we have called many times before. Again due to the wind perhaps we noticed the little oaks planted in the central reservations and wondered whether they had been specially trained or selected to stay slim, rather than bush out. Inevitably this also brought us to the back of the huge Asda, where the drivers changed – this took longer than you might think as they were having a good chat which would have allowed a passenger to get off, buy a coffee and get back on!

More Park Royal followed, through very many narrow streets already full of delivery and more likely collection lorries, so progress was slow. The Chase Centre turned out to be yet another industrial unit where many passengers got on. Nowhere could we see any cafes or shops that might sell lunch so we supposed workers needed to get ‘off-site’ if they wanted to eat. We emerged finally by North Acton Station passing the rather small Acton Cemetery, which feels a little constrained by the major roads and six-lane Gypsy Corner junction nearby.  Also familiar from an earlier trip was the ‘homage’ to Elvis Costello who had once worked at Elizabeth Arden, now the Perfume Factory.

Uniquely the 440 then heads into a triangle of housing, almost entirely surrounded by railway lines, and takes three sides of a square round North Acton Playing Fields where the prohibitions included: ‘The Playing of Golf is not permitted in this Park’. 

West Acton follows and soon we were back where we had boarded the 427 a few weeks ago, round the back of the Town Hall. This being one of the main thoroughfares, many more passengers boarded.  We were amused to see a notice proclaiming ‘Floreat Actona’ as there is more than enough of ‘Floreat Etona’ to go around at the moment and the latter needs putting in its place. Nowhere but Acton has quite so many stations to its name.

By now were closing in on the few visible pointers to the River Bollo, one of London’s many lost rivers, running from Park Royal/Ealing Common down to Chiswick, as we drove slowly along Bollo Bridge Road and Bollo Lane, which also follows the twinned Underground lines – District and Piccadilly.  Chiswick Park Station apparently stands on a hill, which once overlooked the river, though nowadays it does not really appear until the grounds of Chiswick House.   Shortly thereafter the 440 crosses a level crossing, which is not what you expect in a heavily residential area. Here for a real time crossing experience.

By now we had arrived at the bit of Chiswick called Turnham Green, which has a delightful open space crowned with a  Giles Gilbert Scott Church, and this is where the 440 had previously stopped. Also, finally, some more appealing shops.  Since January 2010 it has continued behind the church and green and past Gunnersbury Station, re-crossing Chiswick High Road and turning into Power Road, where it passes two lots of studios – regrettably, though Power Road studios were previously used by the BBC, it has been difficult to pinpoint their history, and current usage seems something between art and design studios and small industrial units.You can see from this that I was hoping to finish the 440 trip on a slightly glamorous note, having endured the early stages of the grey North Circular and waste disposal grime through more Park Royal Industrial Estate then you might wish for.To finish close to the M4 and North Circular Junction was not great compensation, especially when my travelling companion with the next route to write about was to benefit from 2 river crossings, 2 stately homes and 1 palace… Compared to such treats, one might deem the 440 as rather a utilitarian route.

Turnham Green to Stonebridge Park Station
Monday August 25th 2009

I was on my own for this single decker ‘hopper’ bus, the sort only comes four times an hour and steers clear of main roads. From Chiswick High Road it immediately turned off down a side street and went along the service road of the main shopping street, but tucking down an alley called Fishers Lane then emerging onto the really very nice Acton Green. Acton proves to be quite extensive, with Central, North and East stations all of which we passed (though not in that order).  We did skirt the rather lovely Bedford Park Estate, one of London’s better kept secrets, but the theme of the trip was industrial estates, so no shops except another Morrisons and a huge Asda towards the end (and this was where the passengers got on and off).  Instead there were endless warehouses, pallets and marble stockists, bookbinders, purveyors of slate and other building materials. Acton Town Centre is now dominated by the Morrisons and signs to the Ukrainian  / Episcopal Church, which looked to be a newish building. We were promised Acton Tram Depot but this turned out to be the Uxbridge Bus garage.

The bus was pretty busy with passengers whose first language was not always English, but all focussed on their children and their shopping.  Towards West Acton the bigger houses gave way to smaller 1930s semis and even a few bungalows, which are quite rare in Inner London, and by the time we came to cross the A40 some of the buildings looked quite abandoned, especially the high rise ones. Past Gypsy Corner we hit the third trading estate, this time the very extensive Park Royal Trading Estate.  A local caff has sportingly named itself the Café Royal. At ASDA the drivers changed (I suppose if gives them a good place for a proper break), and almost immediately the bus heads to the front of the new-build Central Middlesex Hospital – however the bus also skirts round the back, where the laundry functions much as it ever did.  By now we were definitely heading North and slightly East, so we glimpsed the Wembley Arch before skirting the Tudor Industrial Estate and crossing the North Circular.

Stonebridge Park is deeply unlovely, wedged as it is between multiple railway lines and the North Circular, but it apparently offers a free shuttle to Ikea! I eschewed such temptations and headed back south via the Bakerloo line. The 440 had taken somewhat over its predicted time of 35 minutes, being a combination of suburban back streets and crossing some of the busiest roads in London.   

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