Should you ever need to ride from Walthamstow to Barkingside via almost-Chingford, you need the 275 bus. Other than that, probably not. I'm starting to think I should have taken the alternative route viaChigwell instead.
ROUND LONDON BY BUS(xx)
Route 275: Woodford Green - Fulwell Cross Length of journey: 4 miles, 15 minutes
Shoots and buds in front gardens suggest that spring has already taken hold along The Terrace, a row of cottages across the top of Woodford Green. Winston Churchill looks down from the 'village' sign as I wait for a double decker 275 to arrive. When finally it does, it's not busy. Only two of us have colonised the upper deck - me and a teenage boy sporting a lived-in but borderline-smart hoodie. We follow Broadmead Road down gentle slopes from the ridgetop, past a huddle of Post Office vans, and with unexpected views right across to Havering... where I'll be heading later. A bridge over the Central line takes us inside the Hainault Loop, before we turn up a Tudorbethan avenue to Woodford station. If that's your cafe opposite with the name Lunch 4 u written in giant-sized Comic Sans, I hope you are so very ashamed.
The railway divides Snakes Lane into West and East, with no road linking one to the other, so our bus is routed only down the latter. First comes Jubilee Parade, which from its brickwork I'd guess 1935, and much later than expected the Railway Tavern. We're descending to the River Roding, whose valley is exploited, some would say despoiled, by the M11 motorway exiting London. Sensibly nobody's built any houses right up close on the flood plain, so the Highways Agency have set up a depot filled to the brim with dormant roadsigns. The residential cluster ahead is Woodford Bridge, so close to Chigwell that its shops have an air of chiselled blonde about them. Coffee culture and deli sensibility have settled in, while the pub on the corner was (until recently) Deuce's nightclub where the TOWIE clan frolicked. Two competing canine establishments face off on Manor Road, one for training police dogs, the other for training guide dogs. Throw in a sloping green with a pond, bookended by an old church and a proper pub, and it's proper nice hereabouts.
It's time to dip outside London for a mere half mile. The Essex border nudges inwards at the entrance to what used to be ClayburyAsylum, now several blocks of exclusive private housing. We may be here some time thanks to temporary 4-way control traffic lights ahead, which leaves me too long to inspect an ugly pink bungalow with a view towards Buckhurst Hill over its roof. Only the well-off have homes on Tomswood Road, whose gardens are an alternating collection of Mercs, Audis, Jags and BMWs, usually two at a time. Our red bus feels an interloper here, until we regain the border at a tiny stream and the housing instantly switches back to normal. On our gentle descent of Tomswood Hill I spot Docklands and the O2's spikes in the distance, which is an unexpected surprise, plus the less iconic upthrust of the Halo on Stratford High Street. With each passing bus stop the ambience gets less Essexy and more Redbridge, the interior of the Hainault Loop being essentially relentlessly residential. And finally down to my favourite London library, architecturewise, by the roundabout at Fulwell Cross, where I alight for the opportunity to stare. 247>>