Monday, 29 October 2012

The Number 418 Route

Epsom Clock Tower to Kingston (Cromwell Road Bus Station)
Tuesday May 3rd 2011

Fortunately it was a bright, sunny if windy day as we had nearly an hour’s gap between buses, most of it spent in Epsom. Our last route (the 166) had left us by the general hospital, and while the walk back is short it runs along some main roads on a rather mean pavement so we decided to catch an Epsom/Surrey bus, which eventually came looking like something from the Sixties & Seventies.  It was only a 6 minute journey and we disembarked on Epsom High Street to discover we still had nearly 30 minutes to wait for our alternative route to Kingston – the 406 also joins the two centres, but by a different route.  Jo had already watched me spend money today so we avoided further temptations and ‘people watched’ instead, observing the extraordinary number of men whose girth made them look about seven months pregnant.

When the 418 arrived there were more passengers boarding than you might expect and we left Epsom by passing down the side of Epsom Station, which looked close to destruction – research indicates it is only the ticket office which is being redeveloped, there having been a station here since 1859.  Redevelopment in this day and age will of course include shops, flats and doubtless offices. By the time you read this the transformation should be complete.

Roads round Epsom tend to be named after vaguely horsy things, so were off down Chase Road, being one of the only buses (there is a private E5 which does NOT ACCEPT  Freedom passes). We passed the usual providers that lurk on the periphery; namely the Orchard Care Centre & Longmead Business Centre, property tending to be cheaper, but reminding us that MAYBE for older folk it might be more stimulating to live in town rather than on the fringes? Here too was the Epsom & Ewell Bus Garage, where we certainly stopped even if not to change drivers – difficult to tell from upstairs on a double decker.

What we did note was the greenery of Horton Park – whilst researching what happened to the old psychiatric hospital (I do remember escorting a patient here from Wandsworth in the Seventies just before it closed) I fell onto this website – a trifle purple prose (I know I’m not one to talk) which gives both a historical and green perspective to the park.

Having taken on more nomads the bus moves on into Ewell,  whose Jubilee Parade neatly gives us a date – 1935 – for when this bit of suburbia got developed, doubtless swallowing up the farmlands which would have still been hereabouts.  The Jubilee was George V, whose death a year later led to the abdication crisis and all that ‘King’s Speech’ stuff…

Leaving West Ewell behind we joined a significant dual carriageway, the Chessington Road, before branching off through more residential areas – the roads were called Riverview and sure enough some of their back gardens may run down as far as the Hogsmill, a pretty local river famed as the setting for Millais’ Ophelia…

Though many have given over their front gardens to hard standing there was enough spring greenery to lift our spirits.

From the sublime to the more prosaic – we passed just handily close to Tolworth Station an off-road track for motorcycle enthusiasts and learners. The Tolworth roundabout is dominated by a somewhat empty office tower block and by now we have rejoined and stay with the companion route 406.

I believe Kingston borough, which we were just entering, is trying to regenerate Tolworth though I am not inclined to read the 130 pages they devote to their proposals – I just hope things move past the planning stages.

It is pretty much a straight run into Kingston from here and as such there were plenty of passengers – the route was intended to take 45 minutes and clearly the driver was making good time as he waited for stragglers to join his load. We noted that Kingston seemed to be something of an aspirational borough with several private teaching academies ( ? crammers? Private tutors? Coaching) so there is clearly much at stake at the key 11+ and GCSE and A Level stages.

The hill up into Surbiton, and then Kingston is noticeable even in a bus though presumably the views over Surrey are better going in the opposite direction.

We had to make do with what we passed – in Surbiton there seemed to be a clutch of antique and bric à brac shops – ‘vintage’ if you like – plus the run of now underused civic buildings: the Library, Fire Station and Telephone Exchange now a Fitness centre. 

We liked the fact that though on a main and busy road the owners of Casa Viva had bothered to put no less than 24 (3 per window-sill) terracotta pots with baby bay balls) on their upper storeys – a touch of Sicily in suburban Surbiton.

We knew we had entered Kingston proper when its little lion Logo appeared on the bus shelters and soon we were sweeping past the Penrhyn bit of the University of Kingston campus. 
And the handily placed (if you are a student and comic afficionado) the Holy Goat Comic Store  – since Facebook has taken over from Websites there is considerably less information to be had.

Our run into the centre of Kingston followed the usual course, which today seemed to include many ‘To Let’ Office blocks then over the river and round the shopping core to come to rest and relief at the Cromwell Road Bus Station.

Looking quieter than usual    >>>>>>>>>>>>

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