diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 29, 2022

As we approach the middle of the year it's time for...

A Bus Ride Along The A2022

That's a significantly-numbered road traversing the outer London suburbs with reportage from six bus journeys.

It even starts precisely on the Greenwich Meridian.

It might be the most diamondgeezeresque post ever.

The A2022 runs for 13 miles along the southern edge of London. It starts near West Wickham, ticks off three outer London boroughs and ends in the Surrey town of Epsom. Along the way it passes through Addington, Selsdon, Sanderstead, Purley, Little Woodcote, Banstead and Nork, and skirts that nice field with the lavender for good measure. Almost all of it is doable by London bus, which is unusual, and the remaining gaps I did on foot. All aboard for a two-part journey.

353 - Coney HallAddington Village Interchange (1½ miles, 5 minutes)
Welcome to the Coney Hall roundabout, the only roundabout in London to span two hemispheres. The A2022 launches off from the southwest arm with the first bus stop a few metres down at 0°0'2"W. I have two bus routes to choose from so obviously I pick the double decker 353 because the broader the view the better. I'm beaten to the front seat by a flirty couple who've been tweaking bra straps and swilling Coke beside the bus shelter for the last five minutes. The vehicle appears to be making an annoying electronic beeping noise every few seconds, which we all try to ignore, and off we sail past the first set of Nice Outer Suburban Homes. There will be a heck of a lot of NOSH during what follows so I'll try not to go on about them. Instead best focus on the upcoming countryside, a parched cornfield and a shaggy pony grazing on the hillside. On the right is Spring Park, a wooded ridge above a linear meadow and also home to the questionable delights of Enchanted Village Adventure Golf.

Nobody's going to be getting on or off out here, the sole attraction being an isolated pumping station, but someone once added a lonely bus stop else there'd be a whole mile without. We rattle along the foot of a very long field with the uglier edge of New Addington peeping over the hilltop, but we're aiming for the original (and much smaller) village of Addington instead. It has an 11th century church, a Harvester restaurant and a petrol station where a litre of diesel costs 197.9p. The roundabout by the tram interchange is sponsored by Shuttered Up, for 'beautiful plantation shutters', should wider louvres be your thing. And as we pull round into the bus station the flirty couple stop checking each other's phones and I have somehow got two paragraphs out of a five minute bus ride.

Addington Village Interchange is busier than usual because there are no trams. A red-faced resident with gelled hair and a neck tattoo is cursing the strikers just loud enough to make sure everyone else can hear him, then cursing some more. Today of all days a spider map would be really useful but there aren't any anywhere, only diagrams showing which bay the buses leave from and where they terminate, not where they go. The information kiosk is staffed but stocked with wildly out-of-date leaflets, and the shelter for my next bus appears to be the only one without a Countdown display. You can see why the trams caught on.

64 - Addington Village InterchangeSelsdon (1½ miles, 10 minutes)
The driver of the 64 has already done 1½ loops of the bus station and has one more to go before escaping. Look, there's an 11th century church, a Harvester restaurant and a petrol station where a litre of diesel costs 197.9p. We cross the tram tracks without interruption and aim for the next roundabout which has been kindly sponsored by the adjacent funeral directors. Local food options include the Number One Chinese restaurant, Capone's Pizza Parlour and a former pub that's now currytastic Planet Spice. In one of the seats behind me a girl is engaged in a phone conversation with the volume turned up so loud that I can also hear the girl on the other end. "I am literally so close to you it's like the next stop", she says, and it becomes unnervingly clear that an imminent rendezvous is planned. At Featherbed Lane yes, up she bounds, and their conversation continues unabated at an even more irritable level.

Here's John Ruskin College, home to a 'Construction Skills Centre' and other positively-branded vocational courses. Also the diesel here is only 195.9p so if you filled up earlier you probably should have waited. The 64 is traversing the boundary between interwar semis and slopes of postwar townhouses, and all the time slowly climbing, and I wish they'd shut up back there. The approach to Selsdon includes an Aldi, a Coughlans Bakery and 'The Village Club' where private members can play darts, pool and cashpot poker under the auspices of Sharron, the Stewardess, and her Deputy, Donna. Selsdon's retail offer is pretty good for a suburb and remains bedecked with jubilee bunting because it lingers longer out here. Best hop off by the Wetherspoons.

Beyond the crossroads is a massive modern Sainsbury's, coupled with a library, a community hall and a "please come downstairs for the cafe". Outside is a triangular traffic island large enough for trees and grass and a clock where SELSDON replaces the numbers from 9 to 3. My next bus treats this as a roundabout, deviating off course to spin round once and pick up any shopper, or other resident, waiting to depart. Two Jehovah's Witnesses have rocked up with a trolleyful of Watchtowers and are holding them at arm's length along a quieter stretch of path, to no effect, until the clock reaches L o'clock and they pack up to go.

412 - SelsdonPurley (3 miles, 15 minutes)
The A2022 continues on its steady climb up Addington Road. It's totally NOSH along here, bar one new development that's had to erect signs saying 'beautiful back gardens' because the front looks drab by comparison. At the eventual summit is Sanderstead Plantation, the highest point in the borough of Croydon, and a lovely old 13th century church proudly flying the flag of Ukraine. The contours drop away pretty sharpish in its Lower Churchyard. Meanwhile the rectory by the pond has been fenced off and its land awaits transformation into a 30-strong retirement home because good land is like hens' teeth round here.

Ahead lies a switchback through quintessential NOSH country - houses with names not numbers, copious shrubbery and surplus off-street parking. At one point we sweep down the side of a golden meadow, at another the towers of central Croydon and even the Shard can be spied over the rooftops. I also spy council operatives busy strimming the verge, a church that looks very much like a church hall and the unexpectedly steep alleyway down to Riddlesdown station. The prettiest moment, assuming scenic suburban despoilment is your thing, comes as we swing out onto Downs Court Road and see the white semis of Kenley slotted in multiple rows across multiple hillsides. But the view doesn't last long and at the foot of the slope we filter into traffic on the A22 which duly delivers us to Purley Tesco (where diesel is 199.9p, eek). Three bus journeys down, three to go.

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