diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 09, 2014

Some fairly unglamorous bus routes hug the edge of the capital. Today's bus is one of these. A local service plying the outermost estates, linking to hospital, university and the shops. It's also the busiest bus I've ridden so far, because Uxbridge is where the action is.

 Route U3: Heathrow - Uxbridge

 Length of journey: 8 miles, 45 minutes

The northern edge of Heathrow Airport is a strange place, and feels like it exists solely for economic reasons. Amongst the big bland buildings are Chinese restaurants solely for visitors bored with hotel food, domestic airline hubs and business centres for gents in suits to discuss freight deals. My first bus stop overlooks a parade of shops featuring a massage centre and an off licence, for the benefit of a handful of local residents and many more passing through. A huge car park lies opposite, from which cabin crew and ground staff occasionally emerge to break out from their current roster. And yes there are planes to watch beyond, not far away, either taking off or landing parallel to the Bath Road. There's plenty to watch while you wait for the U3 to arrive.

Pinglestone Close is the penultimate stop in the Heathrow Freeflow Free Fare Zone. A scrolling message rolls by - "Please ensure you have a valid ticket" - for the benefit of anyone who's been on board for nothing since the central bus station. They'd have to be off by Skyport Drive, which sounds the most fantastically futuristic name for a bus stop, but the adjacent reality looks more 1990s. Ahead, across paddocks and farmland, is the one of the most threatened landscapes in London. The U3 serves the village of Harmondsworth, or the ex-village of Harmondsworth if one of three possible airport expansion plans is selected. The entire village would disappear under the north-west runway plan, including the 12th century church and the medieval tithe barn. The latter is the largest timber-framed building in England - Betjeman called it the Cathedral of Middlesex - and would be reassembled elsewhere to make way for hangars and tarmac. Think on that as you ride between the fields on Holloway Lane.

Across the protective barrier of the M4, suburbia is secure. The U3 has been specially selected to deviate round an estate on the outskirts of West Drayton, where Laurel Lane and Wise Lane have been augmented by more modern residential avenues. These homes are the natural habitat of "people who take buses" so the seats slowly fill as our circuit completes. You can see their point. The only retail offering at the far end is a parade of seven shops seemingly selected for their mundanity. A pharmacy, a convenience store, a Chinese takeaway, a dry cleaners... everything you could possibly need, and yet nothing. A few hundred yards ahead is the River Colne, and the boundary with Buckinghamshire, but the U3 pulls back to serve Londoners in London. In amongst the postwar ordinariness is a bungalow with chickens and a small piglet running loose in the front garden, before we advance to an older nucleus of housing around a church green. There are 30 on board our single decker now - it's been a justifiable loop off the main drag.

The lady texting beside me is one of those infuriating souls who's never worked out how to turn off the beep every time she presses her phone, or else never realised how annoying this can be. The sound effects continue into West Drayton proper, and a high street retaining Metroland-style character. A sign of the times is the pound shop called "One Pound Plus", while Granny Satchwell's bakery looks slightly more appealing. We pull into the station forecourt - every bus hereabouts does - which involves negotiating a narrow teardrop turn outside the main entrance, then pulling up to a) collect rail passengers b) almost block the road. Beyond the canal the high street switches suddenly to become Yiewsley, London's last suburb, alphabetically. Its fine parish church was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, best known for his Gothic St Pancras, but the real attractions hereabouts are the shops. Almost every passenger disembarks at Morrisons, or else the combined Aldi/Iceland, or hangs on for the mega Tesco.

And that's it for the near-border of London. I should have switched at this point to the 222, but instead I stayed aboard the U3 as it veered into Hillingdon. Ahead a very 1930s estate, with roads tweely named after trees that blossom. On Apple Tree Avenue our U3 driver stops to chat with the driver of a passing U1, and for slightly too long, causing a cacophany of car horns to erupt from behind. A map in a shelter on Violet Avenue is entitled Buses from Colham Green, which I realise is another London place name I've never heard of before. More well known is Hillingdon Hospital, revealed from alongside as a hideous tall block of stacked wards with further lower blocks dumped all around. I bet the view from the eighth floor is great, but the amount of parking space down below is clearly inadequate, hence those that alight from the bus here are doing the place a favour.

Cowley's next, across the River Pinn, with a lovely listed church and the most expensive houses along the route. Many are probably owned by lecturers at nearby Brunel University, outside whose modern campus the U3 next pulls up. We're the only bus that serves, so a mass of students who'd rather not walk three quarters of a mile to Uxbridge town centre are waiting. Almost 20 climb aboard and spend the rest of the journey chattering about debt, essays and the unfair allocation of college car parking permits. On The Greenway a mother and daughter board, or try to because mum's Oyster card has no money on it. She fumbles in her handbag for change, in a way she'll be denied this summer when the buses go cashless, but never mind eh, the next U3 is 20 minutes behind. Her daughter Daisy's a real live wire, announcing "I don't like Chinese" and "look at the old women" as we enter Uxbridge High Street. Anyone with any sense - that's all the students - bundles off here rather than slowly touring the one-way system to end up on the other side of the pedestrianised bit. Daisy dings the button prematurely and too frequently, to earn a smiling reprimand, before we're all chucked off before the bus station. 331>>

So that's me, finally, halfway around London by bus. Last time I crossed town from Bluewater to Uxbridge it took four buses to cover 42 miles in just over four hours. Round the edge it's taken 12 buses to cover 80 miles in six and a half hours. Plus stops, of course, and there have been rather a lot of those. When I return I'll be taking a bus I've ridden before, but only part of the way. I wonder how long it'll take to get back?

» route U3 - timetable
» route U3 - live bus map
» route U3 - The Ladies Who Bus
» map of my journey so far

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards