Friday, 14 June 2013

The H13 Route

St Vincent’s (Northwood Hills) to Ruislip Lido
Thursday  June 13th  2013

Mid flaming June – not. While Jo basked (according to the BBC weather maps at least) in seasonal Scottish sunshine I juggled in the gloom with this rather eccentric route on my own. I have included a map: as you will see, rather like the serpent which eats its own tail, the beginning and end of this route are very and almost certainly walkably close to each other but rules are rules so round the loops I went. 

I eventually made it to Northwood Hills – a rather rural and isolated station on the further reaches of one of the bits of the Metropolitan Line – and walked up to St Vincent’s from there. TFL is a bit coy as to what St Vincent’s actually is, hesitating between Hospital and Park?

This nursing home, for such it is, now catering for an ageing population, started life in 1907 in Clapham Park (SW London) as a home for ‘crippled boys‘ from the streets of London – how very Dickensian that sounds. In 1912 they re-located to an older property here and served as an orthopaedic hospital until 2008, through two World Wars and the founding of the National Health.   

I knew it would be tempting fate to ride a Number 13 route on the 13th June but there you are.  I was walking along Norwich Road having left Northwood Hills Station some 10-15 minutes earlier when I saw a clutch of people at the next bus stop and I’m afraid I got on – the prospect of waiting another 20 minutes (on my own on a not very nice day) did not fill me with joy so I went for a bus in the hand, rather than rounding the corner and actually seeing St Vincent’s – I had written the above paragraphs before leaving home, which is of course blatant fate tempting and I was to be punished for it further down the line.

There were quite a few passengers boarding with me and for most of the trip we had an assistance dog as I believe they are now called. The dog was fine though the owner seemed a bit erratic and kept changing places.   Also dogs and shopping trolleys do not mix in the narrow aisles that these buses have, but the driver was both considerate and careful and waited for the many elderly passengers to settle in their seats before setting off.

There are some quite interesting Art Deco type houses in Norwich Road, this one called ‘Le Phare’, and Art Deco was to be something of a running theme this trip. After we passed the Joel Street allotments we were soon back at Northwood Hills Station, next to which is the ‘William Jolle’ who (the pub being a Wetherspoons) the website is kind enough to tell me was a local landowner – Jolle being a corruption of Joel, or possibly the other way round. Doubtless a local jolly type.

After leaving the main 404 road the bus does a huge loop up and down hill round the spacious and gracious homes of the aptly named ‘Northwood Hills.’  On a fine day the views between the detached homes would be great. From my photos it is hard to believe that they were taken at mid-day in mid June so poor is the colour contrast!

Potter Street is the main thoroughfare: for the most part mainly between the wars building with some later bungalows, then more modest smaller homes clearly built on old farmland – Mill Farm Close. There are still some open spaces –  Hog's Back for one.

Before long we were back down closer to sea level and following the 404 this time in the company of the H11, so again passing those splendid Art Deco blocks that are the Elm Court gated (or arched)  development.

By now most of the front seats were taken (older passengers decline to sit at the back) but eventually a young couple (not yet actually a couple?) got on and flirted most of the rest of the trip – needless to say they had the back seat to themselves. The H13 pushes on through Pinner, which is well served by multiple bus routes that struggle a little through the narrower, more villagey bits. Better than the butcher’s rather clumsy name (see the H12) the 'New Leaf' bookshop is a much better stab at grabbing your attention and is of course an independent bookshop.

Just past the Pinner Library is the Milmans Centre, for which I have to give a plug; It’s a Harrow Council Older Persons Resource Centre and the staff have always been very attentive to my mother on the one day week she attends.   Interestingly it seems to be at the very border of the borough as soon there was sign telling us we had entered Hillingdon.

Eastcote Village has a fine sign (which I failed to capture) but I am also taken with the traditional white finger posts, which are still quite frequent round here.  I knew I would not be the only person to like these and sure enough here is a specialist website (it makes riding the buses seem positively pedestrian (huh) in comparison) but I see the web’s author has not ventured into Greater London.

A number of students boarded at Eastcote trying hard not to post-mortem the morning’s exams – never a good idea.   Most of them stayed on past Ruislip Manor and onto Ruislip itself, which as I discovered two weeks back is quite a bus hub, though for few weeks the buses have been ousted from the station approach while earthworks continue. I had rather assumed that everyone would get off at Ruislip and only the hearty few (that’s me) would remain till the end of the line, which is The Water’s Edge at Ruislip Lido. However the end destination is more popular than I thought and we pressed on slowly along the very agreeable High Street and somewhat faster past Ruislip’s more historic buildings – the rather charming Duckhouse pub, and the Barn which is the borough’s Heritage Centre, library, wedding venue, theatre group etc 
 If you were ever in doubt as to what a duck house actually looked like, when the rogue MP claimed for his on expenses, this pub dating from 1640 has a very good depiction on its pub sign.   

Leaving Ruislip behind the H13 continues (at some speed it must be said) over the River Pinn and along Bury Street until it takes a right turn up the hill along Reservoir Road to the headstop at the Water’s Edge watering hole with generous views of the Ruislip Lido.

The driver said it would be 20 minutes before he left which gave me time for a stroll round the grey water (no longer suitable for swimming) that was once a reservoir offering extra capacity for the Grand Union Canal.   I know the weather (grey gloom in June not good) was partly to blame but it all seemed rather drab and lacking in focus. I believe the original Art Deco buildings were burnt down some years ago and while the beach has been renovated the ubiquitous swans and Canada Geese did not tempt me to linger beyond my time. I expect some blue sky and bobbing boats with coloured sails might have been a better enticement.

However when I returned to the bus there had been a change of driver and clearly the new one was of the view there was something wrong with the exit door, so he called it ‘out of service’. As this is a 20 minute service anyway I did not relish another chilly wait so decided to walk back to Ruislip, allowing me closer looks at the afore mentioned pubs and barns, and was brisk enough to make it back before the next bus caught me up. The moral of that is clearly had I waited at the beginning of the trip and not cheated by 1 bus stop I would have been spared at this end.  Nor was I tempted to stride off away from the lido’s edge, cross back across Ruislip Common and arrive back at St Vincent’s rather more quickly than the bus journey had taken.   

PS Earlier this week I noted from our faithful Stat Counter that we had  105 hits, 21% of the total, from the USA!  London Buses seem like a rather esoteric taste, so I am puzzled as to why it is quite so popular with you guys - are you all homesick ex-pats? or are you those NSA eavesdroppers we've all been reading about recently? 


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