diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 21, 2016

 Route 493: Tooting - Richmond
 Length of journey: 13 miles, 95 minutes [map]

My next random London bus route is relatively new, hence the very high number. Its single deckers started threading across southwest London as recently as 2002, during which time the 493 has been run by as many as five different companies. The route is long and indirect, in places tortuous, and there is no logical reason why anyone other than the driver would ever want to ride the entire length. So to avoid looking a bit weird I decided to get off a lot, and take a look around before boarding a later service with a different driver. That is still pretty weird, isn't it?

St George's Hospital: The 493 launches inside the grounds of Tooting's biggest hospital, between the breast clinic and the oxygen silos. It's not an uplifting spot, the interiors of the buildings perform that function, and it's best the NHS's money isn't spent on architectural flourish. High above, a new helipad serves the London Air Ambulance; down below, a girl emerges from the wards in a wheelchair so her mum can have a smoke. A Spaniard called Guillermo has taped his phone number to the pay and display machine beside the bus stand, hoping to hook up with anyone who'd like to improve their language skills. A few nurses walk by, a few vans go past, the daffodils are doing their best.
The driver seems a little surprised to see me, because anybody boarding here hasn't thought things through. The bus is about to orbit the hospital once, then orbit it again, so I'd be much better off walking a short distance down the road and catching the bus ahead. He has a danish pastry stashed away in a plastic bag on the ledge behind the steering wheel, and is revving the engine for the off. We follow the narrow service road around the medical fortress, sealed off on more sides than seems strictly necessary, (not) stopping at four further stops on the circuit. The visitors' car park is rammed full, but seemingly nobody takes the bus. Escape comes a few steps away from where I got on, emerging into streets of Tooting terraces where a traffic warden is busy eyeing up potential offenders. Our first passenger flags us down by Doris Florist, Mothers' Day a speciality, on her brief trip to the shops on Tooting Broadway. At Sainsbury's the bus suddenly gets busy, and stays that way, as we drive on down the Cycle Superhighway (which is of the original useless "totally blockable by a bus" design). Turning right yet one more time our outer circuit of the hospital is almost complete, indeed we passed within 30 metres of the next bus stop over ten minutes ago. My word Lambeth Cemetery is long, we shadow it all the way to Summerstown before actually turning left for once, where we become the only bus along Plough Lane.

Wimbledon Stadium: The 20th century lingers on, for now, in this light industrial corner of Merton. This is the last greyhound stadium in anything vaguely resembling inner London, still running the hare every Thursday and Saturday night, and hosting regular stock car and speedway racing to boot. Its exterior looks less appealing in the middle of the day, rising behind a car dealership, the main entrance concealed off-road up a tarmac expanse. The stadium's car park is vast, recalling long-gone days when size was important. The top end is now used for a Saturday car boot sale, nigh all packed away by the time I arrive, not that the gentleman with the collecting box was ever going to let me in for nothing. Expect all of this to be swept away soon. The stadium is part-owned by a housing developer, and they have plans for 600 homes to be crammed onto the site as well as a complete revamp of the stadium to allow AFC Wimbledon to move in. It'd be a true amateur triumph to bring the Dons home, but only at the expense of three sports London looks likely to see the back of.
This is the driver changeover point for route 493, a manoeuvre swiftly completed allowing a new contingent of passengers to board. One has three large bags, which is slightly optimistic in the circumstances, and makes a not exactly hilarious comment about Tooting being the other way when he hears a car horn outside. Immediately across the River Wandle we pass the site of Wimbledon FC's original stadium, now very much flats, although the six constituent blocks are at least named after former players, managers and a chairman. On the back seat of the bus a father is busy indoctrinating his five year-old son into The Football, drilling into him "the last time we were in the 4th round" and "that time we beat Cardiff". Crossing the District line we pass a long thin Waitrose (and a long thin car park) hemmed in beside the railway, because 21st century building land round here was evidently scarce. Which brings us to Wimbledon proper, and a minor tour of the one-way system whilst almost entirely avoiding the main shops.

Elys: Wimbledon's independent department store landed on St George's Road in 1876, and hasn't stumbled yet. Elys could still be 1996 inside, in a good way, if you'd ever feared that the traditional department store experience had disappeared. In prime position on the ground floor are the smellies, and the immaculate ladies who'd like to tempt you to buy a bottle, along with seasonal reductions on unfashionable hats and a selection of Spanx power panties. Those interested in children's footwear should make a beeline for the Tots To Teens Shoe Lounge, while the facially substandard may have need of the Eye Candy Brow and Lash Bar. Valentine's giftware is at half price or less on the second floor (in most cases you can see why), alongside the Pots & Pans department whose finest wares hang from the ceiling in a metallic cloud. Watch out too for the full-size Lego R2D2 at the top of the escalator, and perfectly folded piles of on-brand knitwear, and the helpful staff in smart jackets - you don't get anything like the Elys experience sat shopping online.
Back on the 493 the retail crowds are gathering, with Wimbledon Hill Road enough of an ascent that many take the bus rather than climb it on foot. One boy boards carrying a racket, because this is SW19, except it's for badminton so doesn't properly count. As the bus fills up one semi-elderly gentleman hogs his double seat by facing away from the aisle and defiantly holding the Daily Mail magazine he's reading above the vacant space. At the top of the climb is bijou Wimbledon Village, because the upmarket often live uphill, their local shopping parade packed with antiques, boutiques and everything chic. Even The Ivy is on its way, their new cafe outpost due to open near the clocktower in June, all perfectly timed for the tennis. And that's where we're heading next, veering off into the adjacent residential avenues and speeding down to the epicentre of game, set and match.
Wimbledon Tennis Club: Alighting outside the main entrance, I reckon I should have time to walk round the club before the next bus arrives. I reckon wrong, an entire circuit on foot takes half an hour, perfectly long enough to miss the next two buses and face a miserably wet wait for the third. A tale I'll save until tomorrow, because there's still well over half of the 493's journey to go, if you can bear the wait.

» route 493 - route map
» route 493 - timetable
» route 493 - live bus map
» route 493 - route history
» route 493 - route history
» route 493 - The Ladies Who Bus

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
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