Monday, 24 September 2012

The Number 389 Route

Barnet (The Spires) to High Barnet (Western Way)
Wednesday August 29th 2012.

One way or another we were having a day out in Barnet, and when our previous scenic route (see 384) finished in Quinta Drive we decided to ride it back – a wise decision as when we reached the bus stop at the Spires it transpired (pun intended) the 389 was a once-an-hour service that was about to appear – and so it did at 20 minutes after the hour.  Lucky timing. You would have thought we should have learnt by now that red on the 4 key maps, which we use for our bus day out planning, means an infrequent service…

The 389 spent what seemed like the first five minutes of its scheduled 8 minutes trying to turn right into the High Street after it had worked its way round the Spires Shopping Centre, so called not because of St John’s Church (which we were about to pass) but because it had incorporated bits of the Methodist Chapel spires – this might also explain why the Wesley Hall round the back is quite as new as it appears – presumably what the Methodists got for selling out their original buildings to Mammon afforded them a new centre.

What did catch our eye on a High Street depleted by said Shopping Centre was the Victoria Bakery, still maintaining a more traditional shop front, though I was depressed by the thought they are already planning their Christmas Puddings ...

The High Street is not short of bus routes, playing host to 11 of them along here as far as High Barnet Station, so the familiar landmarks could be ticked off – the 1916 Court House and presumably new ‘Red Lion’ with a resplendent larger than life-size red sculpture (or 3D as they would say today) as we were soon to pass the ‘Old Red Lion’ with an altogether more humble painted sign. One seems to offer all week roast dinners, while the other has both Psychic Nights (shades of Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black’) and offers succour to both Barnet football and visiting team supporters. 

10 minutes underway and we arrive at Barnet Football Club – they have a long (founded 1888) if not altogether illustrious history, having been professionals since the mid-Sixties and on this Underhill site since 1907. Today all looked quiet as the season has only just got underway. Passing the stadium the bus does a narrow loop along an area squeezed between the Northern Line Underground and the Dollis Brook Valley and at some point goes into what the route indicator calls the ‘Western Way Hesitation Point’ making it sound like a cross between a geometry puzzle and an invitation waltz? Thus far had taken 11 ½ minutes and the route then returns along the only alternative – Grasvenor Road (and no that is not a misprint)– to climb steeply uphill back to the Great North Road. While I can see that High Barnet might conceivably be considered elevated, the ‘Hesitation Point’ seems very low?

Along this stretch of ‘Hail & Ride’ the passengers (and driver) all know each other and this route is clearly needed and used to get to and from the shops during the day, as we had not passed a single food or other outlet since leaving the High Street.

Back onto the Great North Road we passed both Red Lions again and made much swifter progress in this direction, completing the circle of this route in 20 minutes.  

Technically an even shorter route than the previous record holder, the Route 346 round Upminster. 


  1. Although most of the bus routes that you have and will be riding on have fairly good frequencies you do seem to get caught out (or nearly so) by those that are rather more obscure. You probably know about these links, but you can look them up in advance (or is that against the rules?)

    There are two places - TfL's website will give you departures:
    and then select timetables and the route you want.

    or you might find Mr Munster more helpful -

  2. The "hesitation point" is a quirk of the fact the route has no stops on the loop after Underhill. I-Bus has to have a point at which the route "returns" so the "hesitation point" is a pseudo terminal point. And yes it is one of those fun routes where everyone knows each other and "strangers" are, no doubt, the topic of tomorrow's on bus conversation amongst the regulars. I look forward to reading about the 399!