I'm returning to my round Londonbus journey at a point on the border between Harrow and Barnet. The next bus heads out of the capital to serve the Home Counties, then heads back in again, which is unusual. Along the way I'll pass Albert Square and the Big Brother house, an unbuilt tube station, a synagogue in a pub and a windmill...
ROUND LONDON BY BUS(xvi)
Route 107: Stanmore - Barnet Length of journey: 9 miles, 50 minutes
They call it Canons Corner, the roundabout on Watling Street where I'm waiting for the next 107 north. It was named after the old manor house at Little Stanmore, though were it named today it'd probably be called Tesco Metro McDonalds Drive-Thru Corner. I'm not overkeen to hang around. When my double decker arrives there is plenty of room upstairs, but I can only sit up front if I remove an empty box of three Superdrug perfumes from the seat. The hill ahead is part of Watling Street, now the A5, and swiftly exits suburbia for more open country. We pass fields and a farm atop Brockley Hill, along with the umpteenth hospital along my journey, the Royal National Orthopaedic.
The next roundabout marks a major road junction, it's where the A5 meets the A41 meets the M1, except there's no access to the motorway at this point. We've just passed into Hertfordshire, or 'County of Opportunity' as the boundary sign has it, and right on cue a massive post-industrial trading estate appears to our left. This used to be London Transport's main busrepairdepot, the AldenhamWorks, built on a site safeguarded but never used for the extension of the Northern line. Had all gone to plan a tube station would have been built in the field opposite, called Elstree South, but the usual WW2/GreenBelt combination stifled development and so we were denied a rather swish Charles Holden design. As it is, rather than a serving an important rail hub, our 107 zooms through without stopping.
Ahead is the village of Elstree, which I'd always imagined was larger than it really is. The name 'Elstree' has had a good press, with its own film studios and prime position in the name of the local Thameslink station. But both of those are actually in Borehamwood, today by far the bigger partner, while Elstree is little more than a crossroads on a hill with a few residential avenues tacked on. It's very nice, though. I have plenty of time to admire Elstree, almost ten minutes, thanks to the temporary traffic lights at the main road junction. A 3-way filter means we have to wait our turn, denied forward progress even on green every time one of the cars in the stream ahead wanted to turn right. The delay allows a few bonus passengers to leap aboard, before we we're finally off down Elstree Hill past parish church and Shtiebel, the latter until recently the village pub.
Allum Lane starts off green and horsey, ideal if you need livery facilities or a swimming pool in your back garden. But Borehamwood rears up soon enough, kicking off with a brief loop to pull in at the station. Opposite is The Crown, an institutional pub, or rather was because it closed down last year and is now lined up to become lots of flats. The west end of Borehamwood's high street has more than its fair share of boarded up shops, but things pick up a little as the lengthy parade continues. At its heart is the 3-month-old "state of the art" library at number 96, an imposingblocky construction that incorporates the town's invigorated museum. I've made a note to visit. And at the far end of the street is the behemoth that's sucking trade from the smaller traders elsewhere, a very big Tesco, and it's telling that many of the passengers on board wait until here to alight.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed in the supermarket car park, close to where the 107 pulls up. This used to be half of ElstreeStudios, which lives on and thrives nextdoor, and where the Big Brother House now resides. You can't see that from the bus, neither is Albert Square visible, but that's across the other side of the street beyond Malden Road. They have pink and purple buses out here, and the borrowed vehicle heading to Watford has "Thorpe Park Express" emblazoned across the front. Our eastern exit from the town isn't going to be pretty, with a considerable number of bland commercial buildings lining the main drag of Elstree Way. I'm joined upstairs by three well-wrapped Eastern Europeans, they've been to Wickes, and the one in the biggest hat insists on sitting next to me at the front. I don't see much as we rattle from trading estate to ex-council estate because it's suddenly pissing down. Rain splatters across the upper window, obscuring all but a blur, but that may be for the best.
Outer London is regained at Stirling Corner, a huge roundabout on the Great North Road. Morrisons have swallowed up one quadrant, while a garage, a Harvester and a tightly-packed housing estate have claimed the others. My apologies but there are going to be a lot of Harvesters along the route of the next few buses - for some reason North London is riddled with them. We ignore the dual carriageway and head on up Barnet Road, a steady climb with fenced-off scrub to one side. Arkley is one of the highest points in North London, which is probably why there's an actualwindmillhere, briefly visible through the trees, now resident in someone's back garden. Only the rather rich have houses along this retirement ridge. Norman Wisdom and Humphrey Lyttleton used to live here in Arkley, Tony Blackburn still does, but alas there's no sign of anyone famous waving a Freedom Pass as we pass through.
Past Barnet Gate the run of big houses opens up to reveal a brief but broad panorama towards the centre of the City. I'm hoping for a better look, but at this precise point Fur Hat Lady leans across to take a photo of her two fellow travellers, focussing on their grinning faces rather than the vista behind. Her loss, and alas mine. Off to the right is Quinta Drive, one of the more oddly named destinations on any London bus, but we pass by. I spot geese and chickens close to Whalebone Park - there is a lot of green amid these suburbs - as we start the run-in to the centre of Barnet. I need to alight outside St John The Baptist, so prominent locally that it's simply known as Barnet Church, after what's been an especially interesting ride. 84>>