Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Number 406 Route

Epsom High Street to Kingston Bus Station (Cromwell Road)
Friday November 5th 2010

This route started with a lot of rain and a modicum of tension as our various tools for planning trips had seemingly given contradictory information.  Jo was under the impression we could pick up this route across the road from our previous one – however ‘only at school times’ was the important minor detail there, so we started with a short walk back from Epsom General Hospital to Epsom Town Centre.

Epsom is these days famous above all for racing though it has also in its day been something of a spa (Epsom Salts anyone?) as it graduated from village status. There are also strong links with Lord Rosebery who famously said he would ‘Be prime minister, marry the most beautiful woman in London and have a Derby winner’ which he achieved if not in a year in very little longer.

The bus stops are central to the High Street and you cannot miss the 1842 built clock tower (public loos are a later addition).  At the far end of the High Street is Lester Bowden, which we thought might be a pub named for some obscure (to us) jockey. Not quite – it’s a gents’ outfitters founded 1896 but occupying the premises of the Spread Eagle pub. If you are desperate for horsy gear  this is your place.

Leaving Epsom behind we headed back to Ewell past the range of retail parks. This means their Sainsbury’s is hidden from view and back from the more historic bits of town. We enjoyed the sign for the King’s Arms showing NOT a set of heraldic but rather physical arms complete with hands? It's probably a Henry VIII tribute because of his local connections at nearby Nonsuch Palace. 

Ewell village, the next landmark, is altogether a smaller version of Surrey living with village scale shops, including a store front looking for all the world like a very old drapery shop, though I suspect the prices are very 21st century.

Though we were on the top deck sadly the rain precluded decent views of Ewell village, which, however, we can say on the basis of other visits is very pretty with cottages and village church and even its own prison or ‘lock-up’. Running alongside also is the River Hogsmill and this bus route passes some of the old mills, which have been converted into offices or homes - that is those mills which remained as gunpowder was the commodity  being manufactured and the explosions many.  The bus heads on past Beggars Hill, wonderfully evocative (you think: poor chaps, when the bottom dropped out of milling there they were on the streets). 

And suddenly there we were on a dual carriageway passing rather featureless office blocks, often empty and plastered with ‘TO LET’ signs, the despondent look exacerbated by the very heavy grey skies. We spotted ‘Unparalleled Hair’ – can they cut straight we wondered? Also the ‘Queen Adelaide’ pub – a German princess who was married off to the much older and hitherto rather playboyish future King William IV. In spite of numerous miscarriages she outlived him to have many a pub and an Australian city named after her.  This one dates from 1931, which sort of sets the period for the area. 

After the unlovely Tolworth interchange the bus continues straight ahead passing through Tolworth and ultimately Surbiton. A large group of young women in matching sports kits boarded the bus and spent the rest of their trip forecasting their weekend’s alcohol consumption – excessive was the way they were planning it.  Another empty block just after the road junction did at least have shops and a Travel Lodge occupying the lower floors. We also spotted our first Christmas trees on the move but failed to capture them.

By now the 406 driver was stepping on his accelerator and the ride became somewhat unnerving as we pelted down the road that is Surbiton Hill, whacking the overhead trees and heavy rain notwithstanding. What looked like a rather handsome old police station en route turned out to be a Boxing Gym and Fitness centre – perhaps not such a change of use as all that?

Surbiton is in any case a sort of Kingston suburb and we were soon back on familiar territory, coming into Kingston from the south alongside bits of the University (where the hockey team or whatever they were got off) and County Hall – most impressive –and the more modern Crown Court.

Kingston too was starting to put out its Christmas decorations and perforce the bus slowed as we entered the shopping zones but the trip from Epsom had only taken some 45 minutes: the shortest and certainly the quickest trip of the day. We got off at one of our favourite bus stations – Cromwell Road. It is well organised and labelled, with clusters of seats near each starting point. 

PS In truth many of our photos from this trip was so blurry they make Jackson Pollock look like a realistic painter, so I have CHEATED and added some photos taken on another trip to Ewell.
Many thanks also to Mary J. for providing a local history tour both in Ewell and Carshalton 

Cottages  in Ewell Village and the war memorial at the foot of the gates to Bourne Hall - the pond marks the source of the Hogsmill. 

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