Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Number 320 Route

Biggin Hill Valley to Catford Bridge Station
Wednesday March 28th 2012
I have to confess to having a soft spot for this route as, after its being stretched to include Catford as the end point (a late 2010 decision), it served me very usefully to get down to Bromley and points beyond, and relieved the crush on the 208s. Clearly, however, this decision was not popular with everyone.

The driver of our previous route – the even more remote serving 464 – let us off at what he said was the first stop for the 320; however, when this venerable double-decker arrived with about five passengers already on it we knew we had somehow missed the absolute beginning. The first haul is to climb Stock Hill to serve Biggin Hill village – more folk on. Though at the very edge of Bromley’s domain they seemed well provided with a Leisure Centre and swimming pool, though the council may need to trim the overhead trees a bit more soon – if they bang in early spring what will they be like by high summer? The Black Horse pub faces the War memorial so all quite compact.

This route allows for a better view of. Biggin Hill Airport as it follows the perimeter fence: we spotted a helicopter taking off and other small aircraft. There are also the remains of the former RAF Base, which has a very illustrious history having served in both World Wars. It also hosts an annual air show which commemorates the history and commercial potential of the area.

No big excitements today so the 320, now filling up, steamed straight ahead to the aptly named Leaves Green, which seems to be part of Keston Common. There was an excellent view over to the left, presumably towards Hayes and Bromley and SE London. Young's pubs always present themselves well and while we had seen better drawn doves (like Picasso aged 6 or so could draw) it seems to be a regular, not over prettified country pub. Apart from the statutory one- way wriggle in Bromley this was essentially a straight SE to more northerly SE diagonal so did not stretch the driver’s navigational skills overly.

At the end of Oakley Road we spotted at least four people fishing. As this review indicates it is pretty close to a main road and indeed we were about to join the A21, here known as Bromley Common – the traffic can be slow here but today was fine and stragglers from the hospital and even more potential students boarded for the short ride remaining to Bromley College. This is clearly a well-used bus, and for those at the more distant Biggin Hill end presumably the only way of accessing a train line into London.

Not far from the fishing pond we saw a little lodge house, which seems to give access to a banqueting suite
 ( wedding venue ) further back on what remains of Bromley Common. 

Nearly opposite – and I expect they hope to attract some newly weds – is the Trinity Village development , where large numbers of new homes have been and continue to be built.  One website says this was a former Blue Circle Cement site though on the map it looks as though it may have been more of a green than brown field space. 536 new homes makes for quite dense housing and will surely impact on the road also?

The bus took on a disabled young person plus parent and a several more students from the college. Bromley had the usual landmarks on offer: both South and North stations and a glimpse down the pedestrianised High Street before taking the route round the back of the Glades shopping centre, complete with the central reservation beds fully planted up and glowing with colour. 

As it happens Bromley describes itself as the ‘greener borough’ and today fairly made this true; it is also London’s largest borough in terms of area covered and probably one of the more affluent. On reflection, and I do not pretend we spotted this en route, we were sort of following the River Ravensbourne, which starts down in Keston and is still going strong by the time we entered Lewisham on the last leg of our trip. Here’s some more information if you like river rambling…

The bus was busy again through Bromley, so filled with a new load of passengers we progressed up the London Road and Bromley Hill to Downham and Catford; the latter was visible on the horizon and by this time already under a slight haze. Catford in Vaseline lens soft focus is quite a positive experience, so we were quite mellow by the time we stopped alongside Catford Bridge station, barely an hour after we had left rural Biggin Hill over 8 miles away.

Completing this route also marked the end of our passing through Catford as we have already ridden the 336 from here on a trip we prepared earlier…so here is Catford’s most spectacular magnolia.


  1. The Biggin Hill Air Show seems to have passed into history due to a change of management policy. In 2010 we took a Japanese airline captain who was delighted to have seen so many historic aircraft 'in the flesh'.
    The Blue Circle Cement connection is that this site was the company's sports ground, so it had the correct greenfield origins.