Routemaster bus RM1204 at Westbourne Park garage  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Routemaster bus RM1204 at Westbourne Park garage Photo: © Michael Fisher

I have written before about Routemaster buses and the modern version introduced by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson and built by Wrightbus in Ballymena. I mentioned that the original buses were still being used on the heritage route No.9. Tower Transit are the operators since June 2013 and the buses run from Kensington High Street to Trafalgar Square.

Routemaster bus RM1204 at Westbourne Park garage  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Routemaster bus RM1204 at Westbourne Park garage Photo: © Michael Fisher

I was therefore delighted to spot RM 1204 all on its own in a corner at Westbourne Park garage (X) in West London, as I strolled along the towpath alongside the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, a walk I described yesterday. I should explain that I did not enter the garage at any stage but remained on the public footpath in order to take these photographs.

Routemaster bus RM1204 at Westbourne Park garage  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Routemaster bus RM1204 at Westbourne Park garage Photo: © Michael Fisher

Buses on the route operate every twenty minutes and the journey from start to finish takes up to half an hour. Kensington High Street (Holland Road) – High Street Kensington Station – Royal Albert Hall – Knightsbridge Station – Hyde Park Corner Station – Green Park Station – Pall Mall –  Trafalgar Square. On 13th November 2010, route 9H was extended from the Royal Albert Hall to Kensington High Street and curtailed to Trafalgar Square (instead of running from Aldwych). The extension was at the request of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which wanted to boost the number of visitors to the High Street (source: Wikipedia).

Towpath at the Paddington Arm, Grand Union Canal   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Towpath at the Paddington Arm, Grand Union Canal Photo: © Michael Fisher

As I looked into the garage from the towpath I could see that major engineering works are in progress. It seems that the multi-million pounds Crossrail project has for the past four years taken up a large proportion of the Westbourne Park yard for its huge tunnel-boring machines, Phyllis and Ada. This is the exit where the spoil is taken away by rail for disposal elsewhere. Crossrail’s seven giant tunnelling machines are (November 2013)approaching 25 kilometres out of 42 kilometres of new train tunnels that will link east and west London. Another 14 kilometres of new passenger, platform and service tunnels are being constructed below the new Crossrail stations.

Image of new rolling stock:  Crossrail website

Image of new rolling stock: Crossrail website

The rolling stock and depot contract is expected to be awarded in Spring 2014. Delivery and testing of trains is scheduled to start in 2017 ready for the opening of the new Crossrail tunnels to passengers in late 2018.  It will transform train travel across London and South-East England, delivering faster journey times, boosting London’s rail capacity by 10% and bringing an additional 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes travel of the capital’s major business centres. Over 200 million passengers will travel on Crossrail each year. Meanwhile along the canal opened in 1801, many boats are tied up for the winter.

Boat moored near Little Venice  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Boat moored near Little Venice Photo: © Michael Fisher


Paddington Arm at Blomfield Road Photo: © Michael Fisher

Paddington Arm at Blomfield Road Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal accessed at Great Western Road near Westbourne Park and heading towards Little Venice is a nice area for a walk in West London.

Bridge at Little Venice  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bridge at Little Venice Photo: © Michael Fisher

On reaching Little Venice at Westbourne Terrace Road there is a bridge over the canal with the Paddington Borough crest on both sides.

Crest on bridge near Little Venice close to Warwick Avenue  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Crest on bridge near Little Venice close to Warwick Avenue Photo: © Michael Fisher

Not far from the bridge at Clifton Villas you will find Clifton Nurseries in the midst of a residential area. It has a nice café in the conservatory.

Clifton Nurseries  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Clifton Nurseries Photo: © Michael Fisher

Clifton Nurseries  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Clifton Nurseries Photo: © Michael Fisher


Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick

The statue of Saint Patrick at the Sacred Heart Church in Kilburn, London, stands as a reminder of the large Irish community who used to worship here. The chapel at Quex Road was built in 1878/9 and there had been an Irish presence in the area since 1841. In the 1950s and 60s there was an influx of Irish labourers as the suburb was redeveloped, and it became known as Ireland’s 33rd county. But the Irish nature of the parish has now diminished, following the arrival of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere.

The parish is run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and the parish priest is from Waterford. But his assistants are from areas as diverse as Sri Lanka, the Congo and the Philippines, along with one local man from Willesden, who was ordained in Ireland.

Sacred Heart Church, Kilburn

Sacred Heart Church, Kilburn

The priest from the Congo said the Mass I was at on Sunday morning. The three servers he had on the altar (two of them girls) were coloured and I noticed only a few people in the congregation who seemed to be Irish or were of Irish extraction. But on Sunday March 17th there will be celebrations for the feast of St Patrick.

Irish Papers

Irish Papers

Go out onto the nearby Kilburn High Road and you will still see an Irish influence. Not far from the former State cinema that once house the National Ballroom, I came across a newsagents shop, with a wide selection of Irish provincial newspapers for sale. The last time I saw such a selection was in Easons in Dublin. I was disappointed that among the papers missing were the Northern Standard (Monaghan), the Anglo-Celt (Cavan) and the (Carlow) Nationalist and Leinster Times.  But I’m sure if you went in and asked for any of the other titles, the newsagent would probably order them for you.

Many of the Irish emigrants who came to London never got the chance to return home. There are still some who are living on their own, who were never married and who have lost touch with Ireland. To provide accommodation for them, the Irish Centre Housing (ICH) group has developed a new hostel, close to the Sacred Heart church.

Conway House

Conway House

Conway House was originally the site of a nursing home, acquired from the Sisters of Hope in 1973. The new building costing £4 million contains 60 en-suite rooms for single people. There is an annexe with six flats for renting for family acommodation. The first new residents moved in two months ago at the start of December.  ICH provides accommodation and support for the homeless and those with alcohol, drug and mental health issues, as well as affordable housing for those on local authority waiting lists. The development was financed through Clydesdale Bank and was carried out in association with the London Borough of Camden’s Hostels Pathway project.



A draw tonight for the Dons but if you are looking for a match report, look further down! I am going to reflect first of all on how my past was catching up with me today, taking in Dublin, Belfast and of course London, where the League Two match was played. I started the day in Dublin and as I began my journey northwards this afternoon, passed Milltown Park, where the Jesuit Provincialate is based. The complex used to be used for the training of Jesuit priests but now many of the buildings are leased. The Irish School of Ecumenics has its headquarters there. I was investigating the story of William Carleton, which I will be writing about on Saturday when we visit Sandford church.

I was on the trail of a Fr John Carbery SJ, who was based at Milltown Park and was in touch with Carleton, a neighbour, before his death in 1869. I was given some helpful information about the Jesuit archives. As I left the building I saw a rugby pitch which is now leased to nearby Gonzaga College, where I went to school for two years. In those days, the school rugby pitches were beside Glenmalure Park, home of Shamrock Rovers FC. I have written about their history and revival at Tallaght here.

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon

In conversation with a Jesuit brother, I discussed how the order has decided to withdraw from the Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon, where I grew up, owing to the shortage of priests. It was during my schooldays at Wimbledon College from 1963 that I started following Wimbledon FC at Plough Lane, then in their last season in the Isthmian League, having won the FA Amateur Cup thanks to Eddie Reynolds.  The following season they entered the Southern League first division as semi-professionals. Tonight as I followed them live on Sky Sports, I was wearing a Wimbledon supporters’ badge dating to the 1974/75 season when they were Southern League champions.

I went to (the) Chelsea to watch the match: my local bar on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. Another London connection! Anyway the televisions were showing some music channel but the bar staff kindly offered to turn over to Sky so that I could see the Dons in action, minus the commentary. I was delighted to see Jack Midson getting the opening score and then making it a double strike thanks to a penalty. His was one of the few recognisable names as the players came out of the tunnel before the kick-off. AFC Wimbledon were then unlucky I thought to concede a goal to Port Vale just before half time, making it 2-1. A lucky bounce on a well-struck drive eluded the keeper Neil Sullivan.

Jack  MIdson

Jack Midson

The second half saw some good chances for AFC Wimbledon including an effort by Midson that could have brought his hat-trick but was ruled offside. Then a bad back pass by Mat Mitchel-King and a mistake by Sullivan saw Port Vale equalising 2-2. The Dons held out against the league leaders and manager Neil Ardley will be pleased enough to come away with one point. But the Dons are still perilously close to the bottom place in the table and need to start winning a few games if they are to escape relegation back to the Conference. A full report on the match “Plucky Dons Deny Vale” can be found on the club ‘s website.


heinekencupimagesI heard it first on RTÉ Radio sport: the possibility of an Irish rugby invasion of London at the start of April. And so it has come to pass. The remaining Heineken Cup pool fixtures this afternoon have deprived Ulster of a home draw in the quarter final. Instead Mark Anscombe’s team will be travelling to play Saracens on the weekend of April 5th/6th/7th just after Easter. They have been coached since 2009 by Mark McCall. He used to be in charge of the Ulster side so he will know the squad well and what to expect from the opponents. Their home games up to now have been played at Vicarage Road, the home of Watford FC. But they are about to move to a new stadium at Barnet with an artificial pitch. If they are to use the Allianz stadium at Copthall for the game, they will require permission from the local authority to increase the capacity from 10,000 to 15,000.

The other Irish side in the quarter-finals will be Munster, who will be up against Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins, coached by former Irish international Conor O’Shea. They had home and away victories over Connacht in pool 3. Their matches are normally at The Stoop at Twickenham, beside the RFU headquarters. Meanwhile the Heineken Cup holders Leinster despite a win yesterday are out of the competition but now get a place in the Amlin Cup. They will play another London side, Wasps, who play at the Adams stadium in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Stand up for the Irishmen! The semi-final draw made at Leicester this evening produced the following pairings:-

Semi-final 1:  Saracens or Ulster Rugby v Toulon or Leicester Tigers
Semi-final 2:  ASM Clermont Auvergne or Montpellier v Harlequins or Munstermckennacuppowerni images

It was also a busy afternoon in Gaelic games and at the Athletic grounds in Armagh (attendance 4155), the line-up was decided for the McKenna Cup final at the same venue under the floodlights next Saturday evening at 7:30pm. Monaghan beat Down 1-12 to 0-12 and Tyrone beat Fermanagh 2-09 to 0-07. So Monaghan will get a chance to win their fourteenth McKenna Cup if they can manage to beat neighbours Tyrone.


Zebra crossing at Abbey Road studios

Like most of my generation I am a Beatles fan. So I was delighted to find out from my fellow tweeter @EamonnMallie that the iconic zebra crossing at Abbey Road in St John’s Wood, London has received listed status, albeit Grade II. The Liverpool lads recorded most of their output at the studios in Abbey Road. Their final album as a group was recorded there in April 1969.  ‘Abbey Road’ became their best selling album and the front cover consisted of a picture of the four members of the group crossing the road at the zebra crossing beside the studios. Zebra crossings in Britain are usually distinguished by belisha beacons on either side, named after a former Transport Minister who introduced them in 1934. These are the flashing amber globes on top of poles with black & white stripes.

Since the Abbey Road photo was taken, zigzag lines at the kerb and in the centre of the road have been added to all zebra crossings to indicate the no-stopping zones on either side. The band Shriekback’s album Sacred City contains an entire song, “Beatles Zebra Crossing?”, about the famous zebra crossing and its status as a tourist attraction (Wikipedia).

The scene is still very much a tourist attraction. When I visited it four years ago I met a group of Japanese visitors waiting to take their turn crossing the road at the same spot and also taking photographs.

There is also a live webcam accessible on the Abbey Road studios web page.

The initiative to list the crossing came from the studios who approached the Department of Culture, Media & Sport. They say the crossing is the first of its kind ever to be listed, reflecting the cultural and historical importance of the crossing and the studios. Some 41 years after the photograph of the Beatles on the crossing outside the studios was taken, it continues to be a must-see destination, attracting thousands of music fans all over the world. Artists have also paid tribute to the iconic image, from the infamous Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album art to Kanye West and Seal. In a statement the general manager of the studios Jonathan Smith said when the Department listed Abbey Road Studios in February, the zebra crossing had been excluded from the listing. As an important cultural landmark and icon of British culture, he said they believed the crossing should receive the same protection as the studios and were delighted this has now been granted.

Abbey Road zebra crossing now a Grade II listed structure


Returning to London in early September it was interesting to see the Boris bikes in operation. At St Pancras where I had photographed an empty stand waiting for bicycles in July, the docking station now had several machines available and I spotted one man returning his. During the first two months of the £140 million scheme over one million journeys have been made. According to the Mayor of London Boris Johnston only three bikes have been stolen in that period (speech to the Conservative party conference: BBC News).

I have not yet had a chance to try one of the bikes. But they are becoming an increasingly popular form of public transport, it seems. Mind you, this was one area in which Dublin beat London, as the public hire scheme in the Irish capital is now well used. For anyone thinking of using a Boris bike in London, the full details can be found one the Transport for London website, which also has a very useful journey planner  to get you from Wimbledon to Islington or wherever (new window)  http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14808.aspx



I grew up in London in the 1960s in the era of the trolleybus. The service from Wimbledon literally went out with a bang as the last journey was made and the vehicles were sold off to other operators or sent to a museum. Returning to London over 45 years later I noticed a new form of public transport was beginning to appear. Streaks of blue were evident along some of the city’s main roads (not a celebration of the Tories’ return to government). These are the new cycle routes designed to encourage pedal power. Each has its own marking eg CS7, which stands for “Cycle Superhighway”. The paint was still fresh when I passed one in Colliers Wood. Further into the city, there were more signs of a return to two wheels instead of four.

St Pancras at entrance to congestion zone

Docking stations have been set up at various locations, where people will be able to hire a bike in a new initiative promoted by Transport for London (new window). It’s nice to think that for once, Dublin has been ahead of London in introducing this form of transport. There are plans for up to 400 such stations for bicycles but only 300 will be ready for use next week when the scheme is due to begin.

St Paul's Cathedral
TfL bike hire

Each station holds 20 bikes and only those cyclists who register from Friday will be able to use the bikes next week. According to the Evening Standard (new window) most users will have to wait until the end of August while the docking stations are completed. The first superhighway from Merton to the City was officially launched yesterday. But judging by the state of roadworks at Colliers Wood and at Southwark Bridge at the weekend, cyclists are going to have problems tackling the route, especially beginners. I can recall cycling along some of these roads heading towards the centre in the mid 1960s when there was much less congestion. But the way things are now, I don’t think I will chance it again for the moment! I will leave that to my daughter, who occasionally cycles to work in the centre of London.

Latest: She has now signed up for the scheme, received her key in the post, and has made her debut on one of the TfL bikes!

Bikes outside University College Hospital