Approximately three-quarters of London's nineteen-thousand-or-so bus stops have a letter on top. About five hundred of them have a D on top, and about four hundred have a G. But only five of them have a DG on top. I've been to all five.
n.b. Regular readers will already have realised this is not a post about bus stops.
Bus Stop DG: CHAPTER ROAD Location: Dudden Hill Lane, Dollis Hill, NW10 1DG
London Borough of Brent Buses: 226, 302, N98
All of London's DG bus stops are in southeast London, except this one. It's in quintessential northwest London, on the outskirts of Willesden, outside a chicken shop and a Polish delicatessen. The chicken shop has bright orange frontage and also does pizzas, plus a special "1 piece chicken, 2 lamb ribs, regular fries" deal for £3. The deli looks rather more decrepit, with a faded sepia sign and several sheets of card in the window shielding goodies from abroad. Other delights in this parade include the Supersavers off licence, Tech Dry Cleaners and the Two Wheels motorcycle shop. No branded coffee outlet has contemplated digging in anywhere nearby.
And yet. Just across the road one corner of the Sapcote Trading Estate has been knocked down and is rising again as The Verge Apartments, a discordant development of panels, balconies and glass. Without wishing to belittle the existing residents of Dudden Hill Lane, there is no way that this downbeat street "nestles in a buzzing cosmopolitan corner of North West London", neither is this in any way "the perfect area to escape from the hustle and bustle of city living". But the Jubilee line from "Dollis Hills" is indeed only just round the corner, so I wonder how long before the neighbouring tyre-fitters, MOT garage and plant hire depot go the same way. A special message to The People Who Update Bus Stops: The timetable for route 302 is missing. An out-of-date poster for Jubilee line replacement bus service D fills the third space instead.
Bus Stop DG: UNDERHILL ROAD Location: Barry Road, East Dulwich, SE22 0HP
London Borough of Southwark Buses: 12, 197
I've crossed London to another Victorian district, but what a contrast. The streets of Dulwich are cosily affluent, with Barry Road fractionally one-up on its neighbours. This leafy avenue runs from Peckham Rye Park to Dulwich Library, the elusive destination often seen on the front of a central London bus but rarely visited. Sturdy villas line the street, the number of constituent flats easily approximated by dividing the number of bins out front by 3. Several, it seems, have still never been subdivided. One has been transformed into the local British Legion HQ, so has a Union Jack fluttering outside, while others have giant lanterns in their porches and/or wine bottles in their recycling.
Bus Stop DG, however, sits outside a large block of mansion flats, presenting a face of decorative brickwork towards the street. One of its tiny balconies is bedecked with hanging baskets and miniature globes of privet, another with twin satellite dishes, according to the tenants' priorities. Barry Road is one of those streets where the bus stops have been built out into the road, narrowing the carriageway, in this case merely reducing the space for parking cars. This being almost-Peckham there's a barber shop at one end of the road; this being almost-Dulwich there's a boulangerie a little further down. A special message to The People Who Maintain Bus Stops: The lime tree beside the bus shelter is in such fine fettle that the top of the bus stop pole has been entirely smothered by the foliage, making it really difficult to read which two buses stop here, and nigh impossible to read the point letter on top.
Bus Stop DG: KINGSMAN STREET Location: Woolwich High Street, Woolwich, SE18 5QE
Royal Borough of Greenwich Buses: 161, 177, 180, 472, N1
A regenerative nucleus is blossoming on the Woolwich waterfront, as well known names in the world of housebuilding move in and stack up flats in lustrous towers. This bus stop lies just beyond the developmental boundary, past the triple-header at Mast Quay, on the start of the run down to Charlton. There has been no redevelopment here. Instead the council estate sweeping back around Woolwich Dockyard station holds sway, and the glory days of the pub adjacent to the bus stop are long past. Happy Hour at the Greyhound now means 50p off a pint, while the 'Weekend Entertainment' promised on a fading painted board is now merely Sky Sports.
As for Kingsman Parade, I might have explored the shops further had there not been a herd of teens holding court outside the bookies and lurking loudly by the chippie. I'm not generally put off my explorations by the local subculture, but here I decided to make a special case. Instead I took a closer look at the mural on the long ramp down into the subway, which I think depicts boatbuilders on a galleon, and waited for a bus to whisk me somewhere, anywhere else.
Bus Stop DG: BROMLEY COURT HOTEL Location: Bromley Hill, Plaistow, BR1 4HZ
London Borough of Bromley Buses: 208, 320, N199
That's Plaistow in Bromley, rather than Newham, as my southeast London tour continues. Bromley Hill climbs gently up from Downham, with a decent view back down from the bus shelter towards one of Lewisham's greener hilltops. This Bus Stop DG doesn't immediately look like it serves any local houses, but a drab bungalow is hidden up a driveway opposite and numerous For Sale boards confirm the existence of several dwellings behind the screen of trees. It's also the second Bus Stop DG with an advert for McDonalds emblazoned across the shelter, this drive-thru in Downham supposedly new and 'freshly prepared'.
The hotel in the bus stop's title is located off the main road up what appears to be a driveway but actually leads to a separate suburban street. The Bromley Court Hotel are keen to point out that this is a private road, which they've emphasised by draping shrubbery over both pavements forcing any pedestrians to walk in the traffic. It's quite a building, though, knocked up around the turn of the 19th century as a government minister's country estate, hence the Italianate gardens which survive (for guests only) round the back. £35 will get you a seat at their Rod Stewart tribute night in September, although step back fifty years and the real David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd once played here.
As is usually the case if you head on a random journey across London, one of the locations comes up trumps. What I wasn't expecting is that that location would be St Paul's Cray, the postwar overspill estate to the north of Orpington. But this particular bus stop is out on the more affluent fringe, where Arts and Crafts style detached houses rub up against the edge of Chislehurst Common, and that was much more pleasant. One one side of the road is a large patch of thistly flowery meadow, and on the other an expanse of fresh-mown grass leading down to a wall of trees. And that's where I went.
Hoblingwell Wood is a remnant of once-ancient woodland, occupying several acres around a dip where a spring feeds a stream. The name does indeed refer to 'the well of the hobgoblins', as evil spirits were once thought to live here, whereas lizards and foxes are now more common. I traced a newly-laid path round the rim of the green bowl, then a narrower, older track back, startling a cat who thought this was her private domain, and avoiding acorns falling from above. Despite being peak summer holidays no other humans were to be seen, the adjacent recreation ground generally getting all the attention, and I relished the opportunity to explore nature alone. This is the Bus Stop DG I'm most glad I made a (brief) pilgrimage to. A special message to The People Who Pick Adverts For Bus Shelters: Nobody in outer Bromley is interested in the Santander Cycles app, it does not Unlock Their London.