Thursday, 1 September 2016

'If I was going there, I wouldn't have started from here'

No time to blog yesterday as Sue and I went to the National Archives, Kew ... and our journey back was somewhat exhausting.

We live in south east London and Kew is situated nineteen miles away in south west London. To get there (and back) we have to drive across London. Now to people who have never been to or driven through London, this might not seem too daunting a task, but to those of you who have, you will know that such a journey is likely to be difficult at best ... and almost impossible if there are any traffic problems.

The most obvious route is around the South Circular Road. This is – in truth – not the dedicated multi-lane highway that its name implies, but is actually a collection of local roads that follow a vaguely circular route around the southern part of inner London. It meanders through a number of notorious traffic choke points (e.g. the Catford Gyratory System, the Wandsworth One-way System), and we have found that the average drive time is two hours ... giving an average speed of 8.5 miles per hour!

The South Circular.
(Click on the map to enlarge it.)
Recently we have used the CoPilot GPS Satnav application on my iPhone to help us to navigate our way across London, and it has generally improved our travel time to ninety minutes ... increasing our average speed to 12.6mph. This morning we had not reached the end of the road on which we live before the dreaded 'Traffic Incident Reported' announcement appeared onscreen and the route automatically changed. Instead of going around the South Circular we made our way towards central London along the route of the old Roman road from Dover to London ... but when we reached Deptford Broadway we were diverted towards the road that runs parallel with the River Thames. When we reached Surrey Docks, we were had to take another diversion towards the Old Kent Road ... and then through numerous narrow back streets to Kennington Oval.

The Satnav then directed us towards Vauxhall Cross (where the headquarters of MI6 is located), across the River Thames via Vauxhall Bridge, and along the northern side of the river until we reached the World's End area of Chelsea. We then made our way past Earl's Court until we reached the junction with the A4. We turned onto the A4, which took us in the direction of London Heathrow Airport(!), but when we reached Chiswick we turned south and re-crossed the River Thames via Kew Bridge. From there it only took us a few minutes before we reached the National Archives. Our journey time was just over ninety minutes even though the distance we travelled was actually over twenty five miles.

Our route to the National Archives.
(Click on the map to enlarge it.)
After doing our research we left to return home at 3.45pm. Our route back was nothing like our route there, and took us around the South Circular until we reached Clapham Common. We then followed a route that took us via Brixton, Camberwell, East Dulwich, and Brockley, and then back to Deptford Broadway. From there it should only have taken us twenty minutes to get home, but thanks to a holdup on the road from the Blackwall Tunnel towards Kent we had to take yet another diversion, this time past Greenwich Park and through Charlton.

Our route home from the National Archives.
(Click on the map to enlarge it.)
We finally arrive home at 5.15pm, having travelled just over twenty miles in two and a half hours. By then we were both exhausted, and spent the remainder of the evening sitting and resting.

26 comments:

  1. Sounds absolutely horrendous!

    I live on the far southern edge of London. Years ago I used to regularly drive north-south across the city but once the M25 opened I not only gave this up but decided I would never again take my car within – or even near to – the north or south circular. Your account only confirms that this was a very good decision and one I should stick to. Faced with your journey my natural inclination – given my reluctance to drive in inner London - would be to head for the district line and take the tube but I’ve no idea whether this is practical from your point of origin.

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    1. Mike Hall,

      I have tried driving around the M25 to get to Kew ... but it still took nearly two hours thanks to the awful traffic around Heathrow.

      We have tried going to Kew by the Underground, but as our part of south east London only has one tube station - North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line - getting to Kew still took nearly two hours and was more exhausting than driving!

      I hate having to drive across London ... but at least my car is air conditioned, unlike public transport.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Could you got to Woolwich and catch a Thames Clipper or the like???

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    3. Steve-the-Wargamer,

      During the week the Thames Clipper - which is an excellent way to travel into central London - only runs to and from Woolwich during the rush hour. We can get to Woolwich Pier in about twenty minutes from where we live and the trip to the centre of London would take a further fifty minutes, but we would still have to transfer to the Underground to get to Kew.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. One of the many things I do not miss about living in the UK is the traffic. We lived in Salisbury, and had not driven through London for more than 40 years. But I worked in Southamnpton and found that commute bad enough. Now we live in a sleepy village in Spain, where our biggest problem is the occasional cyclist or a tractor and trailer. However we are close to the much busier coastal road from Alicante to Denia, where I have only seen two traffic jams in ten years, both caused by traffic accidents. Out of the summer season five or six vehicles is considered very heavy traffic.

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    1. Paul Leniston,

      It actually only takes just over two hours for us to drive to Southsmpton ... which is one reason why the trip Kew seems to be so slow and troublesome.

      We have friends who live near us and who have a holiday home not far from Denia, and they have also said how much better the traffic is in that part of Spain than it is south east London.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. I also do not miss London. I never ever drove in or through inner London in the 48 years before we moved to Newbury. We lived not a million miles from Kew, just the other side of Hounslow. I sympathise but next time try to use the Tube or rail link.

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    1. Simon Jones,

      We have tried getting to Kew by the Underground, but because we live four miles from the nearest station, it takes as long for us to get there by public transport as it does to drive.

      Once Crossrail/the Elizabeth Line is opened next year, the situation might improve.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. You have my v deepest sympathy. My teenage daughters seem to go to a lot of things at either Excel or the O2 and are endlessly saying can't you just drive us there or pick us up. As I live in Windsor the concept is totally bonkers and I have always refused outright. I imagine the round trip would take hours. I try only to drive into London on a Sunday when I can avoid the congestion charge and park on a single yellow line.

    Guy

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    1. Guy,

      As both the O2 and Excel have excellent public transport links - and are not geared up for peopleto drive to and from easily - not driving there makes great sense. Drinking there from Windsor - even on a Sunday - would take hours.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. It is almost physically painful for me to try and understand the traffic in London. I have only ever visited the capital a couple of times...certainly it makes travelling here in the North West seem like a pleasure. Sorry to hear about your exhausting trip, I have filed this new knowledge away should I ever go south again.

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    1. Solo wargaming-on a budget!,

      Driving in any city can be problematic (e.g. Bristol's one-way system is mind-boggling to infrequent visitors!) but London has particular problems of its own. As most of the transport links radiate out from the centre, trying to go across London can be a nightmare. Add in the fact that the number of river crossings east of Tower Bridge can be counted on one hand, and living in south east London and trying to get anywhere can be difficult.

      If I was you, I'd stay away from London; amongst other things, the air where you live will be far less polluted than than the air I have to breathe.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. If I lived in there, I would sell my car and hunker down and teach my wife to game (I would have to first chain her to the table. OR I could learn to fly a helicopter!

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    1. Dick Bryant,

      If only that was possible! We live on top of one of the highest points around London and need a car to do basic things like shopping as there is only a single bus service that operates in our area ... and that follows a very odd route that connects us to the local hospital and the Belmarsh maximum security prison.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  7. Bob,
    I understand your frustration, I'm so glad I don't have to drive into London every day now. My journey to work used to take me via many of the places you mentioned, starting from Plumstead, Blackheath, down the side of Greenwich Park onto Deptford, along the Lower Road, Elephant & Castle Roundabout, Kennington past the Oval and onto Stockwell where I worked. It was a steady crawl most of the way, but I got used to it and I got the journey down to around 45 minutes, luckily we all started early 7am and finished at 3pm we then did an hours overtime until 4pm and I was back home before 5pm! On Friday's we finished early at 2pm so I could get home in time to pick my children up from school at 3pm. I did that for many years, a sensible employer making life easier for employees where a 9 to 5 would have been an absolute nightmare on that route. As for the South Circular, Catford brings back memories of being stuck in terrible traffic jams, even at weekends when I would make my trips to Bill Brewers little shop in Peckham to buy my figures.

    Enjoyed your recent posts re local cemeteries as I know the places well.

    All the best,

    Lee.

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    1. 'Lee,

      I know that route quite well ... at least the first part. Some years ago I worked in the centre of Greenwich and enjoyed driving through the Park on my way to and from work.

      My last job before I retired was in Brockley, and I had to drive across Blackheath, through the big junction at Deptford Broadway and then through minor roads to Brockley Cross. On a good day this took thirty minutes, but the record for getting home was three and a half hours to drive the seven miles back! This was due to a hold up in the Blackwall Tunnel, a crash on the A2 at the Black Prince, and roads works on Blackheath. It took me thirty five minutes just to get from one side of the Sun-in-the-Sands Roundabout!

      The Catford Gyratory is still bad, and prone to major hold ups for very little reason.

      I am very pleased to read that you have enjoyed my blog entries about the local cemeteries. My wife and I hope to go to Eltham Cemetery/Falconwood Cremetorium in the near future as there are supposed to be some interesting graves there.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  8. Wouldn't it be easier and quicker to get to Kew by train? DLR to Tower Gateway then District Line to Kew?

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    1. Mike,

      We have tried the DLR and District Line combination on the recommendation of Transport for London ... and it took over two hours door-to-door. We had to stand for most of the journey, and were exhausted by the time we got to Kew. On the way back there was a serious delay and the journey took nearly three hours. At that point my wife refused to ever go by DLR and the Underground again.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  9. I feel your pain. We live in Shepherds Bush and I dread having to drive East to your side of town, it's bad enough going West to get to the M25, which can take 45 minutes for about 12 miles.

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    1. Ashley,

      I suspect that the overstretched road and public transport links in London are one reason why people who live there so rarely travel from west to east or north to south and vice versa. For example, I have been through Shepherds Bush quite a few time on my way somewhere else, but never actually been there.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  10. Yeesh! And I thought Los Angeles traffic was bad!

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    1. Fitz-Badger,

      It was recently stated that the speed of traffic in central London is now the same or less than it was in the Edwardian era ... when most transport was horse-drawn!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  11. I live in the SW corner of the metropolis and for several years commuted into town. I've heard of places such as Plumstead, Blackheath and even the mystical Barking Over-the-River, but I'm not sure that they even exist or if they do they hide some terrible secret.

    One day when my children are grown up and the mortgage is paid off, no people depending on me and I have nothing to lose, I might travel to those parts.

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    1. Nundanket,

      If visiting the east side of London I strongly urge you to be inoculated against all potential diseases, to carry your passport at all times, to engage a trustworthy local guide (if you can find one), and to carry lots of money for 'gifts' to the locals. Trinkets such mobile 'phone covers are a useful thing to carry as local tribes will often trade their loved ones for such trashy gifts.

      All the best,

      Bob

      ;^)

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  12. On the same day, but completely by coincidence I was going home from London Bridge to Kent and my journey was about 2 and and a half hours longer than expected due to to an earlier train breakdown.

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    1. Nigel Drury,

      A train breakdown on South Eastern ... I can hardly believe it! ;^)

      All the best,

      Bob

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