After five minutes of silent chomping, the silence is broken.
Colleague: So, big match tonight eh? Arsenal have to win to go forwards in the Champions League but only if Bayern win and then we win by two clear goals in the last match, a draw isn't good enough, then Bayern and Olympiakos both go through and then it might be better if we lost tonight otherwise we might end up in the Europa League... DG: Uh huh. Colleague: But if we win tonight at home and then again next time we can still go through, we always go through it's been 15 years maybe 16, but it can't ultimately be a tie, in the end it all comes down to them beating us last time even if we get a really good goal difference, so tonight is crucial... DG (thinks): If only he knew I was actually going to the match tonight, he'd be really jealous, but I shall say nothing otherwise I'll never hear the last of it. Colleague: I think Ramsay might even play...
Act I, Scene I: The pub on the Holloway Road
An hour and a half until kickoff. The pub's not busy, but isn't quiet, with groups of drinkers dotted around at the bar and tables elsewhere. A few are wearing obvious Arsenal attire, but most are merely drinking and/or talking about the evening's football. Sky Sports News is churning out a diet of pre-match updates and speculation in the corner, along with transfer news from Bishops Stortford and regular promos for a boxing match later in the week. Many eyes are intermittently glued.
There is much to discuss. Arsenal have to win to go forwards in the Champions League but only if Bayern win and then we win by two clear goals in the last match, a draw isn't good enough, as per. Several of those in attendance will be attending the match later - there are season tickets in attendance - while others are staying put. The pub doesn't have BT Sport, which is a pain these days, but the game's on RTE the landlady reassures, so there's no need to shift.
An informed air exists, based on shared collective experience and speculation, sometimes gabbled ten to the dozen, at other times more restrained, even slurred, depending on how many pints have been consumed since entering. Several genuine Highbury characters are in attendance, including devoted disciples who go to every match and have for years, be that Norwich away or a tour of the Far East, and with anecdotes from each. Friendly to a fault, even to an obvious newcomer, a shared footballing history keeps the discourse flowing.
Top of the specials board by the bar is the culinary classic "Steak done in the oven", and for less than a tenner, but thus far the kitchen is quiet. For most a tall chilled lager is the drink of choice, again very reasonably priced, and we're outside the exclusion zone so it's served in glass rather than nasty plastic. A young man from the Far East sits alone at a neighbouring table, pristine red and white scarf around his neck, tapping furiously into his phone and (very) occasionally sipping his Stella.
The team news, when it comes, is greeted with shrugs. Best Arsene could have done in the circumstances, what with all the injuries, is the general consensus. Intelligence beamed from contacts at the ground suggests that security has been ramped up, what with you know what recently, so there are police everywhere and more checks than is usual. We might need to leave early so as not to get stuck in a queue, but there are still beers to finish off, and best visit the Gents before walking to the stadium. Is he still in there, come on, the time's ticking by.
Act I, Scene II: Outside the Stadium
With kick off imminent, the streets outside the Emirates are still teeming with fans. The locals always delay arriving until the last minute, because getting in's usually easy, except not tonight. An extra ring of police surrounds the stadium, roughly where the bollards are, and the team's stewards are out in great number. Those with bags are checked, which surprises many, then surprises nobody when they stop to think.
There are long queues at the gates. I am reliably informed that there are never queues at the gates, but tonight there are. Strings of fans billow out from the rim of the stadium, while police stand around in static supervisory mode. There's no sense of danger, nor even of frustration, merely resignation as the matchtime whistle sounds from inside the sporting garrison.
As is always the way, we find ourselves in the most persistent line. When nobody's come to stand behind you for a good five minutes, you know you've played the queueing game wrong. The Gunners'd better not have scored already, although the crowd noise from within suggests as yet not. At least we're moving.
My patdown, when it comes, is a token gesture designed to look as if something is being done. Directed forwards I attempt to work out how my ticket works, waving it ineffectively across a panel beside the turnstile. The turnstile refuses to move so I try again, and still nothing, and again... and this time I push with such force that the gate spins round and thwacks me in the head. Welcome to the Arsenal. Game on.
1) Visit Alexandra Park
Though Northolt Park contains no eponymous greenspace, its recreational sensibilities are satisfied by the extensive amenity of Alexandra Park. Opened in 1928 on the site of the legendary Paddocks Pleasure Grounds, it was named after Queen Alexandra who frequently visited this delightful locale. Sinuous avenues of trees lead up the hill towards a verdant summit, where a notched sawtooth sculpture holds court and starlings roost. Bring a picnic from Mama's Kitchen or the Spicy Night Tandoori - the opening date for the organic independent cafe remains some time off - and spread out on the benches by the Millennium Garden. Some of London's finest breeds of dog can be found snuffling and squatting in the longer grass, while younger residents ride their bicycles from one gate to another enthralled by the possibilities created. Why slip up the road to South Harrow when everything a great day out needs is right here?
2) Join the Northolt Park Social Club
The beating heart of everyday nightlife in UB5 can be found in the midst of the Racecourse Estate. For eight pre-war years these fields were a national centre for pony racing, with crowds flocking to the grandstands from far and wide to bet on four-legged frolics, before the council ploughed the lot and built thousands of houses instead. But that early buzz and excitement lives on at the Northolt Park Social Centre, whose drab prefab exterior belies the warm welcome offered within. Conveniently located just up the road from the Harvester and Travelodge, a full range of activities from Zumba to Taekwondo are offered on a regular basis. Or come for the Bingo, renowned in the locality from Goodwood Drive to the flats, every Wednesday and Friday evening from eight. Annual membership is excellent value at £15, and much coveted, because where else in London can you watch every BT Sport live football match simulcasted as it happens? The spirit of Ascot is alive and well at the NPSC.
3) Dine out at Station Parade
When discerning visitors alight in Northolt, direct from the Aerodrome or elsewhere, Station Parade should be their natural destination. This run of exquisite eateries and boutiques serves the local neighbourhood with aplomb, from Hollywood Pizza to the House of Elliott salon. The cuisine of the subcontinent is a particular speciality, with an Indian hybrid flavour brought to life at the Golden Sip restaurant, and the Chautari takeaway offering the authentic taste of Nepal. If all this has tickled your tastebuds, pop into the Everest Supermarket where you can recreate all your favourite dishes at the drop of a shopping basket. Or venture differently east at the Gucio Polish delicatessen - of course it's an off licence too! And if any hipsters feel the need to opt out there's a quirky Asda immediately adjacent to the funeral directors, because that's the way Northolt Park parties.
4) Arrive in style at Northolt Park station
But how to get to this outer London hotspot? The powers that be haven't made it easy, indeed some would say deliberately difficult, by restricting travel options to minimal service levels. Chiltern Railways, holders of the Bicester Village franchise, run just one train an hour to this zone 5 outpost - miss that and miss out! The station that bears Northolt Park's name is a brief halt between two streets, crossed by a footbridge that affords a glorious panorama of the surrounding rooftops. As one of the dozen or so least used stations in the capital, the pop-up ticket office is regularly staffed and of an especially atmospheric vintage. A padlocked portakabin in scarlet and blue, the interior is laid out with low occasional tables and some leaflets, while faded colour prints on the exterior depict happier days when the Green Arrow steamed through. Alight here for The Top Shop newsagents, and adventure.
5) Walk to Northala Fields
If your visit to Northolt Park has taken its toll, take a brief stroll south to the banks of the A40. Here four huge conicalmounds have arisen, seemingly inspired by Madonna's brassiere, their summits looming above the traffic on the silver thread of dual carriageway below. These sylvan hills date back barely a decade, constructed from the spoil removed during the reconstruction of Wembley Stadium, whose elegant arch resembles an ivory rainbow on the northwest horizon. Various footpaths curve around this quartet of grassy peaks, but only one spirals sufficiently to rise to the highest crown. Follow the gabions anti-clockwise, or use the wooden benches aligned as stepping stones, and pray that bitter winds have cleansed the summit of local riffraff. The view is genuinely one of the finest in west London, from Horsenden and Harrow round to Heathrow Airport, interrupted only by the occasional hovering bird of prey. And in the distance espy the City and the Shard, their retail and cultural delights impossibly out of reach, but when you have all of Northolt at your beck and call, why rush to leave?
On Sunday afternoon I walked the Thames Path from Tower Bridge to North Greenwich, a fascinating eight mile stroll mostly alongside the river. I've walked it before, so this time I thought I'd do a little survey along the way to sharpen my senses. Every five minutes I took a look around me and rated my current location (out of 5) for Gentrification and for Busyness. My scoring was terribly subjective (I mean, what is gentrification anyway?), but what the hell, at least it was consistently subjective. You've read this blog before, you know I do peculiar things like this, just go with it. [map]
[0m] Tower Bridge (G0, B5) The famed Victorian bridge helps to set the ends of my two scales. Zero marks for Gentrification, because this is an original, but full marks for Busyness, oh stop taking photos and move out of my way.
[5m] Shad Thames (G5, B4) One of the original gentrification hotspots, but still tastefully done, and the cobbled canyon draws the crowds. [10m] New Concordia Wharf (G4, B2) Slipping across the creek, this old warehouse hasn't quite gone the way of its surroundings. Few tourists get this far, preferring to turn back at the Design Museum. [15m] Chambers Wharf (G3, B3) Now passing inland, one side of the street is utterly be-flatted, but the rest remains vacant (for supersewer work). [20m] Bermondsey Wall (G3, B3) I'll be using code G3 a lot along this stretch of the walk, there being loads of flats that are not too old and not too new. [25m] King Stairs (G3, B3) Rotherhithe didn't take long to get to, and the Angel pub is a refreshing survivor of the old days. And it's busier again too (OMG, that's the actual Matt Berry from Toast of London, walking past in dark glasses on his phone). [30m] Cumberland Wharf (G3, B1) One catch with only checking-in every five minutes is that you sometimes miss somewhere important, in this case the historic residential heart of Old Rotherhithe. That was charming, this is more apartmenty.
[35m] Pacific Wharf (G3, B2) Have you noticed how all the flats around here seem to be called Something Wharf? A poignant reminder of how much trading heritage has been lost. [40m] King and Queen Wharf (G3, B1) Few people walk this section of the waterfront behind Rotherhithe Street. Across the river on the Tower Hamlets shore, only a brief section of Narrow Street has any historic character. [45m] Sovereign Crescent (G3, B2) These Georgian-style terraces are so very much of the post-Thatcher era. Nobody would ever build something so lowrise overlooking the Thames today. [50m] Sovereign View (G3, B1) "This major riverside development was formally opened by Sir George Young Bt MP, Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction, 25th November 1993" [55m] Hilton Docklands (G3, B3) A posh hotel ought to score higher for gentrification, but it's so nondescript, and the neighbouring residential streets so ordinary, that I can only rate this spot as a G3. [1h] Durand's Wharf (G2, B3) They used to build mundane council-style blocks out here at the inaccessible tip of the Rotherhithe peninsula. Now Docklands glistens on the opposite shore. Coming up imminently, Surrey Docks Farm is a delightful urban/rural hybrid, and definitely more G1, B2.
[1h 5m] Barnards Wharf (G3, B2) Unbelievable as it sounds, a plaque confirms that this lowbrow residential development was opened by "Actor and Television Personality Fraser Hines" on Friday 10th July 1992. Thames-side walkers are low in number now, but not insignificant in number. [1h 10m] Greenland Dock (G3, B2) Again my five minute rule skips an area of contrasts (deluxe New Caledonian Wharf faces bog-standard flats on Odessa Street) to hit the very-1990s edge of a major marina/dock. [1h 15m] South Dock (G3, B2) You can catch a Thames Clipper from here to Westminster, but the nearest station's a considerable walk, so house prices have only been yanked up so far. [1h 20m] Aragon Tower (G2, B1) This council tower block was reclad to boost its desirability to incomers, but a close look at the upper floors reveals a thin veneer. The neighbouring Pepys Estate opened in 1966, in an era when London built for workers rather than investors. [1h 25m] Upper Pepys Park (G2, B2) I've just passed the first proper old riverside buildings for miles, the bricky remainders of Deptford Dockyard at Drake's Steps, but the modern playground in Pepys Park ups the gentrification quotient a notch. [1h 30m] Grove Street (G1, B2) Oh my word. Forced inland, the Thames Path hits working class Lewisham and streets utterly untainted by thoughts of cappuccinos. How terribly G1.
[1h 35m] Sayes Court Park (G2, B2) The Evening Standard's property supplement does not yet come here, but graffiti on the park fence reads "No More Homes For the Rich", because it will. [1h 40m] Convoys Wharf (G1, B2) What remains of Henry VIII's Royal Dockyard is huge, and fenced off, and awaiting transformation into 3500 new homes. Further graffiti suggests local residents are less than happy - security vans patrol the interior to keep protesters out. [1h 45m] Wharf Street (G4, B2) Look at that Gentrification score suddenly leap. The first street in Greenwich has been transformed into offices and apartments with water gardens, pretentious sculptures at ground level and a "pop-up eatery" serving "Truffled Tentacled Croquettes". Sheesh. [1h 50m] Millennium Quay (G4, B2) They've gone full whack towards apartment-building around the mouth of the Ravensbourne of late, including a new tidal footbridge to increase accessibility. I nearly awarded this G3, but the two local shops are a wellbeing centre and a cafe-cum-florists, so G4. [1h 55m] New Capital Quay (G4, B3) Another very modern blocky waterfront development, piling up the profits, with gyms and restaurants to save the residents having to mix too much with citizens elsewhere. The Thames Path is not signposted, this being a private 'public' place. [2h] Meridian Estate (G1, B3) Immediately adjacent to Maritime Greenwich proper, this very ordinary council estate holds its prime location in the face of commercial pressure.
[2h 5m] Old Royal Naval College (G0, B4) The one Greenwich location you're bound to know is the piazza around the Cutty Sark, now scarred by gold-coated Byron and Nando's restaurants (G4, B5), but my five minute timecheck has hit the untainted historical waterfront beyond. [2h 10m] Trinity Hospital (G1, B3) Again I've missed the newer stuff (past the Trafalgar Tavern), this time checking in outside a 17th century charitable foundation. [2h 15m] The River Gardens (G4, B2) Here we go again, with massive characterless flats recently crammed into a 'prime location' on the sanitised riverfront. Alas, as yet nobody seems to want to occupy the empty restaurant space beneath one of the blocks (if you're interested, ring Harry Cody-Owen). [2h 20m] Enderby Wharf (G1/G4, B1) Barratt Homes have high hopes for this 40 acre development beside a proposed cruise liner terminal, although the artist's impression painted on the hoardings looks unspeakable. Until the first block opens, this remains the back of nowhere. [2h 25m] Morden Wharf (G1, B1) This is even more desolate, a post-industrial walkway wiggling around crumbling premises, and the first double-1-coded location on the walk. Later, expect (slightly inaccessible) flats. [2h 30m] Victoria Deep Water Terminal (G0, B1) And this is about as wonderfully desolate as it gets. Sand is piled up on a waterfront still used as a cement works, in the shadow of a gasholder, with a footpath still inexplicably passing through. Long may it survive.
[2h 35m] Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range (G4, B1) Hang on, what?! A driving range has been laid out on land that's five years off being flats, its extensive astroturf splattered with thousands of white balls hit from 60 heated grandstand bays. The attached wine bar is called Vinothec Compass and looks beyond pretentious, but an upmarket clientèle evidently exists. [2h 40m] InterContinental London Hotel (G1/G4, B1) Due to open next month, this intrusive mega hotel has its eye on business travellers and wealthy conference stopovers. Until then, tumbleweed rolls down the western edge of the peninsula. [2h 45m] The O2 (G5, B5) And finally, almost three hours after leaving Tower Bridge, this teeming teflon tent is the ultimate in gentrification. Formerly a gasworks, yesterday it hosted tennis's ultimate world final, and served a lot of burgers. Thankfully not all of London's Thames-side has yet been devoured by money.
Most model villages are rural idylls. A row of cottages, a parish church, a duckpond, that sort of thing. But yesterday I visited a model village that's anything but, in a railway arch off Southwark Bridge Road. You might have seenit at Dismaland in Weston-Super-Mare over the summer, as part of Banksy's seaside bemusement park. And now it's come to London, rather closer to the environment it represents, and you have two months to take a peek. [10 photos]
The creator of this dystopian model village is Jimmy Cauty, one of the members of 90s pop collective the KLF. He's morphed from successful bandsman to artist with a social conscience, with a particular focus on the rule of law. In 2011 he placed model police and protesters inside glass to create A Riot In A Jam Jar, a concept which latergrew into an entire installation. Entitled The Aftermath Dislocation Principle it covers the equivalent of one square mile, but at 1:87 scale, from a cluster of tower blocks in one corner to a bleak country lane in the other. There are cars and buildings and houses like any other model village, but here represented in the aftermath of a riot so generally wrecked, empty or rolled over. And although there are no residents - they've either fled or been taken away - over 3000 police officers are standing around in hi-vis jackets and collectively wondering what to do next.
Naturally it's excellent.
The whole thing's quite dark, both in tone and in illumination. A roving spotlight moves above the town, but it's the combination of sodium lamps and blue flashing lights which provides most of the atmosphere. But keep looking carefully, because the attention to detail is spectacular. The billboards have twisted slogans for multinational brands, the Meat Rendering Plant is named Slaughterhouse 22, and there's even a proper scaled-down road sign showing the turnoff for the Model Village. Ah, the irony of a poster urging you to join the Bedfordshire Police, in a neighbourhood seemingly inhabited by nobody else. Poor old Bedfordshire has been selected for this fictional dystopia, I'd say more likely Luton than the county town itself, but the location is never further narrowed down.
At Weston-Super-Mare the village was so popular that visitors started walking off with the figures, so a fence was swiftly erected around it, and here in London that's been taken one step further. The entire board is surrounded by a hoarding drilled with holes, and visitors can only peer inside through one of these. Rather than scanning the whole thing far too quickly you find yourself forced to view each tableau in turn, taking in each set piece with a smile. A car stacked up in a pyre of branches. A lorry toppled from a traffic-free overpass. A Burger King restaurant entirely overrunwith police officers. And my personal favourite, a roadblock on a flyover where the media have pulled up in outside broadcast trucks to hear a speech from the Home Secretary, who's standing on a podium and has a big black cross on her back.
I'd not have realised it was the Home Secretary if I hadn't read the map provided on the way in, so make sure you check this out or you'll miss some visual treat. That stage erected in the midst of the tower blocks is for some X Factor-style competition, although the gallows alongside suggests elimination has been taken over-seriously. The helicopter hemmed in by an army escort supposedly contains the Duchess of Cambridge, her destiny never to evacuate. And the McDonalds drive-thru has suffered a particularly appropriate vehicular accident... actually yes, I spotted that one without the need for the map to point it out.
What's more, the model village still isn't finished. The main S-shaped board, yes, but an additional zone is under construction in the front half of the arch. The latest creation is New Bedford Rising, a gold-encrusted pyramid inside which the police force is building a fresh crime-free society. Officers can be seen ferrying supplies inside, either through a ground level portal or up steep external staircases, Egyptian style. Even better, you can watch the miniature construction project unfold at the workshop benches alongside, where a small team of model makers are busy cutting material and painting fresh policemen. All the materials are laid out, including boxes and boxes of not-yet-yellow human figures, with a full-size Bedfordshire Police caravan behind to act as store and bolthole.
You might even see Jimmy himself, as I did yesterday afternoon, continuing to treat his pet project with the seriousness its subject matter deserves. The model village is open between noon and six at weekends, and noon and seven from Wednesdays to Friday, and continuing until 28th January. Admission is £4, which is about right assuming you hang around and take a proper look. And it's not busy, at least not yet, the arch in America Street being far enough off the beaten track that you'll not walk past by accident. To find the entrance follow the railway line west from London Bridge station (or walk in from Borough, or catch the RV1), and look for the postered entrance beside the car valet. Excellent both in its construction and as an incisive satire on the way we live today, Jimmy's model village is well worth a look.
I've never seen the need for them myself. I never wear one, and I've never wanted to be a person who wears one.
Hats only get in the way. They perch on your head in a peculiar manner. They muck up your hair, which would still be pristine had no hat been applied. They potentially obscure your vision, which could be a danger to others including children. And they feel a bit funny, as I'm sure you'll agree if you've ever tried wearing one.
I wouldn't want to be a person with a hat. Covering my head in an artificial way. Having to carry it around everywhere in case of need. That awkward brushing sensation against the ear. Being judged by others for my choices. It must be so difficult.
To me, hats are unnecessary. I can live my life perfectly well without a hat, and so can everybody else. There is no situation in which a hat is essential, save for safety reasons, so I don't see why anyone else should wear one.
And yet people still wear hats. They place them on their head in public and sometimes even wear them indoors. If questioned they'll claim it's part of who they are, that it makes them feel good, that it goes along with their beliefs. I simply do not understand why this should be the case. I don't wear a hat, so surely there's no need for anybody else to.
Why is it so important to these people that they be allowed to wear hats? If you look around, it's not the normal state of affairs. The vast majority of people in this country today are not out there wearing a hat. But still this subgroup exists amongst us, encouraged by certain sections of the press, as if the wearing of a hat were somehow fashionable.
I often feel personally offended when other people choose to wear a hat. I never wear one, but they insist on parading in front of others with a hat on their head. Why should I be forced to look at people doing something I would never do, and without me having any say in the matter whatsoever? These people are from a different world to me.
There's something unnatural about hats. We're not born with them, neither are they something that we choose to wear unaided. Many people are introduced to wearing hats at an early age by fellow sympathisers. They start off with entry-level hats before progressing to stronger hats, and before long they've been sucked into the world of extremist hat wearing, while society does nothing.
When I see someone has started wearing a hat I always look at them in a new way. Why are they doing that? How are they different to me? What gives them the right to wear a hat in public? And if they can do all this, what else could they be capable of?
If a member of my family got involved with someone wearing a hat I'd be uncomfortable. What they do under their own roof is up to them, but I wouldn't want to have to invite them into my home. I don't want hat-wearing to take root in my family, it wouldn't be right. It's not the future I want to see.
Wearing a hat makes people think differently. There's a swagger, even a bravado, that comes from within once the hat is on their head. It's clearly dangerous to allow such thoughts to prosper. These people should be registered so that we know where they are at any time.
A lot of people overseas wear hats, and yet our borders are powerless to stop them passing through. Meanwhile more and more new converts to hat-wearing are recruited from within our own communities. Our liberty is increasingly threatened by weak and impressionable citizens.
I don't want you to think I'm anti-hat. Some of my best friends wear hats, and they're of perfectly reputable character. But we've all read the news and seen what people who wear hats are capable of. What I expect from others is respect. And if it takes new laws to impose that consensus, so be it.
We cannot tolerate people so fundamentally different to ourselves. We need to protect the rights of the majority. We must not lose our country to the hat-wearers.
(feel free to adapt today's post to your own ill-founded prejudices)
(Note to self: try to write a post soon that isn't about TfL)
The Ruislip Lido Railway is a fantastic miniature railway line in northwest London operated entirely by volunteers. It runs for a mile around the edge of Ruislip Lido and is Britain's longest 12 inch gauge railway. It runs afternoons only during the school holidays and pretty much every weekend (including this weekend, if you're interested). It has two stations, one at Woody Bay near the beach and one at Willow Lawn near the car park. It's a great little trip as part of a fun afternoon out. It's very reasonably priced. And back in July TfL added it to their Journey Planner.
They were very proud of the fact, and rightly so, publishing a special post on the TfL Digital blog announcing what they'd done. They explained that the Ruislip Lido Railway and associated places of interest were "now available in our Journey Planner solutions". They said this meant customers using the TfL website could now plan their trip from home to Woody Bay without the need to navigate to another website to plan other legs of the same journey. They alerted app designers that the new Ruislip Lido data was now available in the Open Data API used by developers. And they summed the whole thing up as being able to "catch the big train, to the little train!"
And it almost works. If you'd like to play along and give it a try, get yourself over to the TfL Journey Planner and have a go. You'll need to make sure you've set the date and time to a weekend afternoon, say this Sunday at 2pm, because the RLR doesn't run on Thursdays. TfL's web developers have been clever enough to incorporate the proper timetable into the Journey Planner, so it will indeed deliver a correct result.
But good luck working out what precisely to type into the destination box. Typing 'Woody Bay' doesn't seem to work, it brings up a point which doesn't seem to exist and then the error message "Journey planner could not find any results to your search". Typing 'Willow Lawn' does bring up 'Willow Lawn Station, Ruislip, Greater London HA4 7TS', but this turns out to be 5 minutes walk from the station and is no use in planning a follow-on journey. Typing in 'Ruislip Lido' doesn't help, and neither does 'Ruislip Common'. Only if you think to type in 'Ruislip Lido Railway' and then do a search do the relevant points of departure appear. And then it's all brilliant.
And I bring all this up, four months late, because of the cablecar. Bear with me on this.
When it's a bit windy, services on the cablecar have to be suspended. TfL never use the word 'suspended' on their Status updates webpage, because in one sense of the word a cablecar always is, and gentle mocking on social media would ensue. But neither do they use the word 'closed', preferring instead to describe closure as a 'Special service'. Is this euphemism because winds could ease at any minute and the cablecar come back on line, or is it that TfL would rather not frighten off any potential passengers who might be on their way to visit? And look, there's even a contradictory message underneath which says 'Good service', when the service is clearly anything but. What is going on?
High winds cause another inexplicable issue, as you can see from the screenshot below, which is that the adjacent map clearly states 'There are currently no major line disruptions reported on the network'. There clearly are such disruptions when the entire cablecar 'network' is closed due to high winds, but the line diagram on the website seemingly chooses not to mention this.
Full details of the closure are only made clear if you choose to click on the box that reads 'Emirates Air Line - Special service' to read the current status. And here's the truth... EMIRATES AIRLINE: No Service due to high winds. This state of play can last for hours, indeed last Sunday it was mid afternoon before gusts diminished sufficiently to allow cross-river travel. Only if you've decided to dig this deep is the cablecar's non-functional status finally revealed. But have you spotted the truly mysterious thing about all of this? Also uncovered at the bottom of the fully-opened status box is an extra line of information which concerns the RLR, or Ruislip Lido Railway!
For reasons which don't entirely make sense, the Ruislip Lido Railway has been added to the rainbow board on the TfL website Status update page. The designated colour is black, which is a bit dull, but presumably all the other good colours were already taken. This kind of modal presence isn't entirely without precedent - click on another tab and each of Croydon's tram routes appear, while six different river services are shown elsewhere. But the inclusion of the RLR under the Emirates Air Line tab goes beyond rhyme and reason.
What's more, the RLR status update always shows a Good service, even when the railway is closed. This is partly because it's not a TfL service, but mostly because nobody in Ruislip is providing TfL with regular updates on the status of the line. If a family of ducks wander onto the lido-side tracks this will never be displayed as 'Minor delays', and if a derailment causes trains to turn back at Haste Hill Halt we'll never see 'Part suspended'. Whilst it may be utterly charming to see a London-based miniature railway given prominence on the Status updates page, it is alas also entirely pointless.
The RLR's status is seemingly a permanent presence on the cablecar tab, you may even have spotted it earlier on in today's post. That contradictory message saying 'Good service' had nothing to do with the Emirates Air line having a Special service, it was instead the service update for the Ruislip Lido Railway. Indeed if you're on the Journey Planner and you drag your cursor across the blank space at the start of the 'Good service' line, the three letters RLR can be revealed. White writing on a white background doesn't generally show up, indeed it's quite a good way of hiding text, but the three letter acronym is absolutely definitely there.
It's fair to say that TfL are fully aware of this 'RLR' issue after it was pointed out to them on social media yesterday. They also tweeted yesterday to apologise that the cablecar's status update "isn't correct and is being fixed" - it appeared to be showing Special service no matter what, although this morning it's being better behaved. It's not a great state of affairs when you get a far better idea of the cablecar's operational status from Twitter than from the TfL website itself, because these things are supposed to be reliable. So it may be that by the time you read this the whole thing has been cleared up and the RLR aberration has disappeared. Aww, shame, it was a delightful idea while it lasted.
(Note to self: well at least it wasn't about buses)
If possible could I have a list of all stops where busses can terminate. For example I know the bus route 188 terminates at Russell Square and North Greenwich, but the 188 can also terminate at Canada Water and Waterloo.
TfL always respond promptly and politely to each request.
Thank you for your email received on 20 October 2015 asking for information about Terminating Bus Stops.
Your request will be processed in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy.
A response will be provided to you by 17 November 2015. We publish a substantial range of information on our website on subjects including operational performance, contracts, expenditure, journey data, governance and our financial performance. This includes data which is frequently asked for in FOI requests or other public queries. Please check to see if this helps you.
In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
They then have 20 working days to dig deep into their corporate resources to search out the information requested.
Please can I have copies of all documents and correspondence (including emails, meeting agendas and minutes, and press lines) created or sent between 01 October 2015 and 18 October 2015 that relate to, or mention the bus stops E, G and/or M on Bow Road.
TfL got back with the usual reassurance, then waited a whole month before responding thus.
Thank you for your email received on 20 October 2015 asking for information about Bus Stops E, G and M on Bow Road.
Your request has been considered under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and our information access policy. I can confirm that we do hold the information you require. However to answer your request would exceed the ‘appropriate limit’ of £450 set by the Freedom of Information (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.
Under section 12 of the FOI Act, we are not obliged to comply with a request if we estimate that the cost of determining whether we hold the information, locating and retrieving it and extracting it from other information would exceed the appropriate limit. In this instance, we estimate that the time required to do this would exceed 18 hours which, at £25 per hour (the rate stipulated by the Regulations), exceeds the ‘appropriate limit’.
You have requested copies of all documents and correspondence (including emails, meeting agendas and minutes, and press lines) created or sent between 01 October 2015 and 18 October 2015 that relate to, or mention the bus stops E, G and/or M on Bow Road. Whilst we believe your request relates to changes made as part of the Cycle Superhighway, you have not limited your request to this, or any other topic. Therefore in order to fully respond to your request we would need to carry out searches for any documents which mention these bus stops in any way, across many different departments within TfL.
To help bring the cost of responding to your request within the £450 limit, you may wish to consider narrowing its scope so that we can more easily locate, retrieve and extract the information you are seeking. For example you may wish to reduce the amount of information requested by refining your request to concentrate on matters which are important to you.
Although your request can take the form of a question, rather than a request for specific documents, TfL does not have to answer your question if it would require the creation of new information or the provision of a judgement, explanation, advice or opinion that was not already recorded at the time of your request. If you have specific questions relating to these bus stops we may be more easily able to respond to these than to a request for any information held.
If you are not satisfied with this response please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.
Unless the complainant replies to clarify their woolly-framed query, we may never discover what's been being said about my three local bus stops, dammit.
See how important it is to narrow down your initial question to something the administrators can't wriggle out of.
Be precise, pinpoint what it is you really want to know, and ask carefully.
Before I leave TfL's database of 19937 bus stops well alone, allow me to reshuffle one last field. Every bus stop has an official title, a Bus Stop Name, displayed on the flag beneath the roundel. By rearranging these into alphabetical order, it's possible to uncover the complete A-Z of London bus stops. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the first stop on the list was only a short walk from home...
The first London bus stop in alphabetical order: Abbey Lane [bus stop ID: 54140] [routes served: 25, 108, 276, 425, D8] [borough: Newham] [postcode: E15 2SE] [map]
If you were hoping for Abbey Road, apologies. There are seven Abbey Road bus stops in London, but Abbey Lane in E15 pips the lot. You'll find it about halfway along Stratford High Street, approximately where the Greenway crosses, at what'll one day be the southern gateway to the Olympic Park. Abbey Lane heads off across the marshes to towards the site of Stratford Langthorne Abbey, once ecclesiastically huge in these parts, and the reason why this particular bus stop tops the alphabetical list. Alongside is Albert Bigg Point, one of the few tower blocks round here erected as long ago as the 20th century, while elsewhere a febrile state of developer-mania has taken hold. Stratford High Street is fast becoming a skyscraper boulevard, with one particularly lofty beast attached to the former Yardley factory fractionally up the road, and a brand new pile of flats shooting up immediately across the road on the site of a former tyre depot. Where once this bus stop served a minor council estate surrounded by light industry, it's now the departure point for thousands of professional incomers in concierge-served studios. And joy of joys, it's also slap bang on Cycle Superhighway 2. This bus stop was one of the first anywhere in London to get a bus stop bypass, indeed the design's barely changed since, with the carriageway narrowed to provide room for a bike-friendly chicane, and passengers waiting patiently on a thin island midstream. A thoroughly modern patch of pavement, every other London bus stop follows on behind.
The last London 'bus stop' in alphabetical order: Zion Road [bus stop ID: -] [route served: 198] [borough: Croydon] [postcode: CR7 8RG] [map]
The very last entry in the TfL bus stop database, alphabetically speaking, is in Thornton Heath. But the details listed in the database are sketchy - the stop doesn't appear to have an SMS code, nor a postcode, neither does it show up as a dot on the TfL website. So I had a theory what I'd find when I reached Zion Road, and on arrival my suspicions proved correct. Zion Road is a terraced backstreet parallel to the main drag, and brief enough that no scheduled bus service would choose to pass this way. While homeowners bustle in their doorways on one side of the road, the other is taken up by Strand House, the Croydon Adult Learning and Training Centre. It's big and blocky, but has the major advantage that nobody lives here nor needs to park a car outside, so there's plenty of room to park a bus instead. When double deckers on route 198 have finished their haul from Shirley they pull in here, one way only, and stack up in the bus stand painted on the road. There's room for at least three. TfL have even provided a tiny cubicle for ablutions, locked by PIN code, on a scrappy patch of grass at the street corner ahead. And then at the appointed time drivers accelerate off to the first official stop in Nursery Road, and start the entire circuit again. So as I suspected Zion Road is a Bus Stand rather than a Bus Stop, and entirely off-limits for passengers. So it doesn't count. So let's go travelling again.
The last TfL bus stop in alphabetical order: Zig Zag Road [bus stop ID: 51477] [routes served: 465] [district: Mole Valley] [postcode: RH5 6BY] [map]
Here's a turn-up, the bus stop at the other end of the alphabet to Abbey Lane also has an Olympic connection. It can be found at the bottom of Box Hill, specifically at the bottom of the the hairpin ascent that gave the 2012 road race some oomph. The gradient on the Zig Zag Road is approximately 5% throughout, which thoroughly tests the thigh muscles of the besaddled, and offers a stunning view in the upper reaches of the ascent to boot. I loved it as a walk, so long as I kept out of the way of puffing bikes. But in November I suspect it's less fab, so I was relieved to have already visited earlier in the year, and taken a photo of the bus stop at the bottom of the hill because that's the kind of guy I am. Not only is this a remote spot on a country lane, serving a handful of hideaway villas, but it's also a very long way away. The 465 runs further south than any London bus, beyond Leatherhead, beyond Westhumble, all the way to Dorking. Which means of course, that Zig Zag Road lies far beyond Greater London. So it doesn't count. So let's go travelling again.
The last London bus stop in alphabetical order: Zangwill Road [bus stop ID: 76899] [routes served: 386] [borough: Greenwich] [postcode: SE3 8EL] [map]
If we can't accept a bus stand, and we mustn't accept somewhere in Surrey, then the last London bus stop in alphabetical order is that at Zangwill Road, SE3. And this is more like it, a mundane turn-off from a better known thoroughfare, very close to the top end of Woolwich Common. The street name you'll know is Shooters Hill Road, here running down to the foot of the aforementioned hill in the approximate vicinity of Hornfair Park. Also close by is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, whose out-of-town presence demands the services of at least half a dozen buses, one of which is the 386. This tortured workhorse follows a perversely convoluted route from Woolwich to Blackheath, seemingly ticking off every housing estate it passes, in this case suburban avenues to the east of Kidbrooke. Zangwill Road mixes postwar semis with even poster-war flats, and is seemingly named after the Jewish author Israel Zangwill. Somewhat appropriately for an end-of-alphabet feature he was a keen Zionist, indeed a leading light in paving the foundations for the nation which bears his name. And so now does the bus stop at the end of the road, although this wasn't always so. Until relatively recently this stop was called The Brook, after the pub on the corner, but when this closed (and was bought up by the Co-op) TfL were forced to rename it after a local road instead. So Zangwill Road is now the final valid entry in the alphabetical bus stop database... unless, bugger, does Z space S come before or after Zan?
The last London bus stop in alphabetical order? Z S L London Zoo [bus stop ID: 49306] [routes served: 274] [borough: Westminster] [postcode: NW1 7SX] [map]
As you may know, every London bus stop has its own identifying number. That's a five-digit code posted on a panel beneath the roundel, which you can send by text message to receive up-to-the-minute next bus information by return. This system was almost cutting edge in2011, before virtually everyone had a smartphone, but has been outclassed since by the advance of transport-friendly apps. Passengers almost never stand at bus stops and send text messages to '87287' these days, especially when they get charged 12p for the privilege. But as many as nineteen thousand London bus stops still have their own SMS code, and TfL's bus database lists the lot.
You'd expect the lowest five-digit SMS code to be ten thousand and something, but no, none of them start with a 1. None start with a 2 or 3 either, with the lowest individual code launching partway through the forty thousands. London's lowest bus stop code is 47001, then 47002, but then 47004 because these codes irregularly skip numbers. The fifty thousands are very popular, then the whole of the sixty thousands are omitted, then the seventy thousands terminate at 77999. Only one London bus stop has a code beginning with an 8, that's 87898, which (for some reason) you'll find at Briant Street on the New Cross Road. There's then a leap to the ninety thousands, with fewer than half a dozen SMS codes scattered above ninety-five thousand. Meanwhile there's seemingly no geographical rationale here either. Bus stop 50000 is in Wandsworth, for example, but 50001 is in Lambeth, 50002 is in Hounslow and 50003 is in Barking and Dagenham. Or to look at this the other way round, wherever there's a cluster of bus stops in the same place then their numbers are invariably wildly different. The five bus stops at Canada Water bus station, for example, are numbered 48366, 50307, 54675, 58185 and 77739.
Before your eyes glaze over, let's visit the lowest and highest numbers in the list.
The London bus stop with the lowest SMS code: : East Street [routes served: 12, 40, 68, 176, 468] [bus stop letter: F] [borough: Southwark] [postcode: SE17 2DJ] [map]
Seemingly randomly, the lowest numbered London bus stop is in Walworth Road, a couple of stops beyond Elephant and Castle. There seems to be no reason to begin here, the stop has no qualities that would place it at the top of any list. Walworth's high street is about as average as any London high street gets - there's a Boots and an M&S nearby, but also a Poundland and a Chicken Cottage. This particular stop is named after East Street, the pedestrianised street market round the corner where the stalls sell handbags, watch straps and seafood, plus yesterday the particular bargain of remnant baseball caps for £2. Stooping ladies drag baskets across the street in gaps between the traffic, while folk born beyond these shores carry home enough for a meal in a blue plastic bag. There's still something of the late 20th century about this place, in a good way, with gentrification as yet held back to the demolished Heygate up the road. I'd swap these shops for the so-called delights of Roman Road back home in Bow any day.
The London bus stop with the highest SMS code: : Victoria Station [route served: 24] [bus stop letter: U] [borough: Westminster] [postcode: SW1V 1AA] [map]
Equally randomly, the highest numbered London bus stop is outside Victoria station. Nor immediately out front in the bus station, amongst the maelstrom of roadworks, but over to the east on Vauxhall Bridge Road. Two well known theatres lie across the road, with Wicked playing behind the the austere wall of the Apollo, and Billy Elliot at the rather more ornate Palace. This particular bus stop sits beneath a brick cliff of mansion blocks, immediately outside a Carphone Warehouse and an Internet Cafe - so very Victoria. There's also something about the stop that looks temporary - the roundel and timetables are affixed to a lamppost rather than a proper pole - which might explain why the SMS code is top of the shop. It's also top of the shop by some considerable distance, the second place bus stop (in Cheam) being 98360 and the third (at Canning Town station) being 97500. It's numerical madness - there appears to be absolutely no pattern to these SMS codes whatsoever. Unless, that is, you know better.
The northernmost, easternmost, southernmost and westernmost bus stops in London may be well defined, but the centremost is harder to pin down. There are various ways to define the middle, and many kinds of average, so I approached the task with caution. Opening up TfL's database of bus stops I calculated the mean of all 20000 easterly coordinates and the same for the entire column of northerlies. This generated a location approximately halfway down Lambeth Palace Road. Hang on, I thought, I'm only supposed to be considering bus stops in Greater London, so I deleted all the bus stops outside and recalculated. And this gave me a location barely 200 metres away, at the top of Lambeth Palace Road, so I was willing to believe the truth of my calculation. So what follows may not be 100% verifiable, but if you believe the most central bus stop in London is anywhere else, feel free to write your own post about it.
The centremost bus stop in London: St Thomas' Hospital / County Hall(eastbound)
[bus stop ID: 73922] [routes served: 12, 53, 148, 159, 211, 453] [borough: Lambeth] [postcode: SE1 7PD] [map]
The heart of London's red bus network, if averaged bus stop coordinates are to be believed, is almost exactly where you'd hope it is - at the eastern end of Westminster Bridge, within clock-reading distance of Big Ben. What may be harder to come to terms with is that it's in south London, on the wrong side of the river, if only by a few hundred yards. We're in Lambeth, on the approach to Waterloo, somewhere around the middle of Westminster Bridge Road. County Hall is only a few steps away, emblazoned with gold lettering commemorating this as the centre of London local government 1922-1986. On the opposite side of the road looms St Thomas' Hospital, relentlessly utilitarian in style, the nearest building also housing the Florence Nightingale Museum. And just down the street is the former roundabout which used to hold an ugly administrative concreteziggurat and now holds a swooshy grey luxury hotel. Sounds very central London to me. Even more typically, this bus stop sits outside an independent supermarket stacked with Pringles and cola, namely A. P. Food Express. But this is not the store's true modus operandi, which won't surprise you given the location... an outlet branded 'Westminster Souvenirs'. An entire embankmentful of tourists spill over onto Westminster Bridge a short distance away, and enough make their way down here to ensure that 'My Mum went to London and all I got was this lousy t-shirt' t-shirts sell reasonably well. And there's another reason that this tack-bazaar exists alongside the bus stop, which is that this stretch of pavement leads a double life. As well as serving half a dozen TfL services and three nightbuses, it's also an official stopping off point for The Original London Sightseeing Tour. Its open-topped double deckers stop several times an hour, as customers swap the commentary and complimentary rain poncho for the opportunity to visit the London Dungeon and Aquarium. A company representative in red jacket lurks by the postcard rack hoping to flog £30 daily tickets... or you can pay 20 times less to take an ordinary bus all the way to Plumstead or Streatham. Swipe your Oyster and, from the centre of London, you could end up almost anywhere.
And there are big changes afoot. Last week TfL announcedplans to remodel streets around the area they describe as Westminster Bridge South. Essentially that's the Park Plaza Hotel roundabout and roads on the approach, creating freshly segregated lanes for the benefits of cyclists. There's a lot of this going on in London at the moment, so perhaps it's no surprise to discover that this almost-random bus stop is about to be transformed too. What's currently the spot where buses stop will be paved over to become where passengers wait, what's currently the middle of three lanes of traffic will become where buses stop, and a bus stop bypass for cyclists will be driven safely behind the lot. That's unless the consultation decides otherwise, of course. Expect major transformation next year.
I've never submitted a Freedom of Information request, but I like to pay attention to those that reveal fresh facts. One of these has recently caused TfL to release a full list of bus stops and their geographic locations. The database is massive, containing 19937 bus stops in total, but also highly intriguing and ripe for interrogation. So I shuffled the coordinates columns to discover the northernmost, easternmost, southernmost and westernmost bus stops in Greater London. And yes, I've visited them all.
The northernmost bus stop in London: New Cottage Farm(eastbound)
[bus stop ID: 55129] [route served: 313] [borough: Enfield] [streetview: EN6 5QT] [map]
This bus stop stands on Plumridge Hill, a remote ridgetop on the winding road from Enfield to Potters Bar. London's proper rural out here, hence the nearest building is a farm, closely followed by an independent prep school surrounded by fields. Its pupils probably form a large proportion of those who use the stop, the walk to any neighbouring built-up area being both too long and too dangerous. I made the mistake of visiting in the middle of a storm, the driver giving me a second look as I alighted in the middle of almost nowhere in conspicuously inclement weather. The view must be lovely at other times, the land dropping away beyond the hedge to reveal a rolling landscape of Green Belt fields. A public footpath crosses the road here, descending a steep incline to follow the headwaters of the Salmon's Brook before climbing the valley to Stagg Hill. I looked at the mud, and then at my footwear, and decided against. In the opposite direction the footpath heads north where it swiftly meets the M25, and ducks beneath, the motorway here marking the edge of Hertfordshire. My best means of escape on foot should have been west along the pavement, a couple of hundred yards to the Greater London boundary and then on to the huge roundabout at Junction 24. But the rain had created a large puddle in the roadway, and almost as long, and I realised I risked almost certain drenching as the steady stream of traffic sped by. So I got to wait 20 minutes for the next bus, enormously thankful that there was a shelter, but less so that the rain was still driving in from the one unsheltered side. Lovely spot, wrong time. The northernmost TfL bus stop is outside London, but only just, within the confines of Waltham Cross bus station. Hertfordshire Council believes in using its own bus stops, rather than TfL interlopers, so none of the stops in Potters Bar, a mile or two further north, are roundel-topped.
The easternmost bus stop in London: Home Farm Cottage(southbound)
[bus stop ID: 76169] [routes served: 347, 370] [borough: Havering] [streetview: RM14 3PS] [map]
Most Londoners don't realise just how far east their home city goes. Past Romford, past Upminster to the village of North Ockendon - the only settlement inside the capital but outside the M25. It's rural in a slightly drab way, a landscape of flat fen fields and kennels, of pylons and lacklustre golf courses, as befits somewhere that by rights should be in Thurrock. The heart of the village is rather nicer, with a 12th century church and the remains of a moat, but that's down a dead-end lane inaccessible by buses. Instead traffic doglegs round more ordinary lanes, taking in cottages and the local pub, and importantly for us, the occasional isolated homestead. Home Farm Cottage is the last building before the Greater London boundary, a suburban-style farmhouse built right up to the road beside the speed bump and the Welcome to Havering sign. Its leaded lights and irregular wall would look more at home on a housing estate, but the long barn out back looks more appropriately ex-agricultural. TfL have kindly put in a pair of bus stops solely for the residents and those of the house nextdoor, in Thurrock, though their fleet of fenced-off vehicles suggests they rarely avail themselves. Two red bus services stop here, which is damned good for what by London standards is essentially nowhere, but one of these is the 347, TfL's least frequent bus service (running only four times a day, Sundays excepted). The other is the 370, a double decker which heads onwards to (considerably larger) South Ockendon and thence to Lakeside, and hence is often quite busy. But here on North Road, surrounded by ploughed-up fields and hawthorn hedge, not so much. The next two bus stops down the road, at Grove Farm Cottages and Grove Farm, are fractionally further east. But (by a squeak) the easternmost TfL bus stop is rather further north in TOWIE country, outside Brentwood Sainsbury's, at the end of route 498.
The southernmost bus stop in London: Westerham Heights(southbound)
[bus stop ID: 52732] [route served: 246] [borough: Bromley] [streetview: TN16 2HW] [map]
Not only is this the southernmost bus stop in London, it's also the highest above sea level. And that's convenient because it meant I'd already been, as part of my quest to visit the highest points in every London borough, and I'd taken a photo. My latest journey between the northernmost and easternmost bus stops had already taken me over two hours, so it was a relief not to have to reach this distant Bromley outpost before nightfall. My target would have been on the main road between Biggin Hill and Westerham, specifically at Hawley's Corner, a sixway junction below the brow of Westerham Hill. More specifically that's at the southern end of the hamlet of South Street, hence the need for a bus stop. A line of detached homes and large bungalows spreads widely behind fences and well-trimmed hedges, leading down to a garden centre on the corner, this marginally into Kent. But the most interesting place served by this southernmost bus stop is the Shampan Indian restaurant, or more specifically the cottage at the front of the car park. There's quite a refreshment-based history. Until a few years ago the main building was a pub, The Spinning Wheel, part of the Brewer's Fayre chain. In less commercial times it used to be a tearoom serving light luncheons and cream teas, the tiny thatched cottage apparently accommodation for staff. And if all that sounds charming, you're probably too late. A rather more scenic view is available just up the road, at the top of Westerham Hill, where the high ridge of the North Downs drops suddenly away revealing miles and miles of wooded Weald. The twin bus stops just before the steepest gradient are in Kent, and go by the less glamorous name of Graham Hall Coachworks - a former motor repair yard (behind which is the county's highest point). As many as ninety TfL bus stops are located to the south of Westerham Heights, specifically on bus routes to Dorking, Redhill and Westerham. The southermost is at Pixham Lane, just to the north of Dorking station (the 465's stop-offs in the town itself being roundel-free plates).
The westernmost bus stop in London: Harefield West / Belfry Avenue [bus stop ID: 57560] [route served: U9] [borough: Hillingdon] [streetview: UB9 6HP] [map]
And thankfully I didn't have to make a special visit to this one either. It's 35 miles from North Ockendon, the full width of London - by bus a five and a half hour journey! It's also the starting point for section 13 of the London Loop (and the endpoint for 12) so I've been more than once. The stop in question is in the Colne Valley, a rather scenic spot, down a steep lane heading west from the centre of Harefield. The road starts out built-up, then passes a well hidden council estate, then opens out to reveal fields of grazing horses stretching down to the Grand Union. On the far side is the M25, getting its third mention in today's post, and a string of of water-filled gravel pits at the southern tip of Hertfordshire. These don't need a London bus service so the U9 stops short, which also avoids having to cross the narrow twisty bridge across the canal at Coppermill Lane. There's only one bus stop at Harefield West, a pull-in and turn-around for the U9, which ventures this way in one direction only. Outbound buses drop in briefly before heading back up the 1 in 10 hill to Harefield Hospital, where they pause awhile before returning to Uxbridge direct. Alight here for a handful of outer London cul-de-sacs, various minor commercial units and a vintage pub named after a misspelt Japanese fish. At least there's a metal London Loop plaque should you randomly disembark and suddenly decide to walk five miles to Moor Park. Of the four compass points west feels the least remote, but it's still a long way home. Staines and Denham are also served by London buses and both are further west. But the westernmost TfL bus stop is nowhere near any of these, it's in the centre of Slough outside the Queensmere Centre. Don't feel the need to visit specially.