On Bank Holiday Monday, Londonist strode out with readers and friends to celebrate the Year of the Bus. Our amble followed a route from Camden to Clapham plotted to take in notable bus-related landmarks, vehicles and stories along the way.
With a Chief Inspector Bus Conductor's hat in hand, we set out from Camden on a glorious Easter Monday morning. First stop, the Camden Bus Estate Agents where owner Charles Christie-Webb was catching up on some paperwork and kindly let us into his bus office for an admiring snoop around.
Onward south, we clocked an abandoned plastic-wrapped cucumber which caused meme musings as we skirted Mornington Crescent towards St Pancras, nodding at bus stops as we went. The churchyard at St Pancras Old Church was too glorious in spring sunshine to ignore, despite its lack of bus connections. Past Camley Street's Living Wall we met the hubbub enjoying the sunshine on Kings Cross Square and saw dozens of buses, dodging a few, as we crossed Euston Road and tried to remember where Smithy's was. Found it. It was shut. We all had to imagine the cobbled stable interior where the shire horses that used to pull London's Omnibuses were stabled.
Back across Grays Inn Road we stumbled across excellent pub The Boot. It was hot, we were thirsty, they were open and even better, just inside the door was a map of London bus routes. Having had a conversation about potential bus-themed cocktails that curdled so they could be called 'double-decker', we opted for a more palatable treat of Double Decker chocolate bars for all.
Next stop, a sombre one, the site of the 7/7 bus attack on Tavistock Square in 2005 and a quiet few moments reading the memorial plaque outside the British Medical Association. We continued through Bloomsbury and chanced upon the Red Bus Shop opposite the British Museum. Best bus-related item definitely this tea pot but he entrance mosaic is pretty cool too.
As rainclouds gathered we reached London Transport Museum and got lucky, missing the rain while we competed with the Bank Holiday crowds to get in the driving seat of a bus and explore all the splendid vehicles on show. The current wearer of the bus conductor's hat was several times mistaken for a member of staff, asked to pose in photos and lend it out to kids.
After a quick bite to eat, we headed to St Paul's where the bells were pealing and caught a busy heritage Routemaster on route 15 to the home of the Night Bus, Trafalgar Square. We took the hat up the Mall — somewhere it won't have been before as buses aren't allowed — and on to Belgravia where the exact site of the first solar powered bus stop in London on Eaton Square was temporarily vexing to locate. After another refreshing pub stop, we pushed on for Pimlico, along the route of the 24, the first New Routemaster for London route, and accidentally ended up in The Cask (well, it was very hot).
The final leg took us south across the river to Vauxhall and the striking 'ski jump' bus station which is currently under threat from the Nine Elms development. Beautiful Stockwell Bus Garage was next, with great opportunities to peer in and get photos of its wonderful roof and phalanx of parked up buses. On through Lambeth and a pleasant surprise for our final bus landmark — the Edible Bus Stop at Lambeth Hospital which is more wonderful than we'd imagined with thriving artichoke plants and herbs, flowers and trees and lots of seedlings to come — all cared for by community volunteers. This uplifting last stop carried us through to our final destination, Craft Clapham where there were no buses but most excellent beer.
Many thanks to London Transport Museum for the loan of the hat and for letting us in the galleries. Find out more about Year of the Bus events and activities at the Museum or Tweet your bus thoughts and photos using #yearofthebus.