Friday, 9 November 2012

The Number 428 Route

Erith (Bexley Road) to Bluewater
Thursday October 20th 2011

Exceptionally, we ran for this bus – there is a row of bus stops along the Bexley Road/sort of riverfront (just glimpsed through the built up bits) and of course the one we needed was furthest from the stop where we left the 469. Fortunately someone saw us coming and held the bus so we flopped into our fourth single-decker of the day at just 2 minutes to 1PM. A bus ridden in hunger (as opposed to anger) never produces the best results so we ate the rest of the Turkish Delight.  

Erith has a few tower blocks and we passed those on our way south and out of Erith taking the dual carriageway (A206) at some speed – this is the road that eventually leads to the Dartford Crossing so was busy with heavy traffic. Where there is dual carriageway there tend also to be roundabouts (do see Diamond Geezer on the first traffic roundabout built 1909) and we zipped round at least three.  This bus was far less busy than our previous three routes but then this part of the world is far less densely populated than inner London. Slade Green was familiar from Routes 89 and 99 and there is some overlap here as the bus passes the station.

The route follows the River Cray, a tributary of the River Darent which enters the Thames between Erith and Greenhithe, so it was not surprising that we went through both Barnes Cray, and more obviously Crayford, which retains something of the feel of a former village and river crossing.
Crayford itself makes quite a feature of the River, though hard to capture from a low bus (the above website has plentiful pictures) . Along with the upcoming Psychic Fayre (do read Hilary Mantel’s ‘Beyond Black’ for an insight into psychics) we also passed Manic Hair and Hair Flair – possible Crayford rivalry lurks among all these rhymes.

Crayford morphs into Dartford. Approaches by road into Dartford from most directions involve hills; not surprising really that an important river crossing will be at the lowest point and even today Dartford is strategic in the sense it is where the M25 crosses the river at quite a wide point – the bridge is very beautiful if a little scary to cross, but as far as I can see no buses do this trip. If you are keen for this experience try this link, but there is a pretty tedious lead-in.

We knew we were on the way into Dartford when we saw all the grammar school boys out in their lunch hour, perhaps tempted to pop into ‘Stars & Swallows’ for a quick tattoo?

This was the way through the one way system and we stopped for a while outside the Orchard Shopping Centre where the drivers changed… We later walked through the centre to get back to the station after our final bus and it proved to be just about surviving – difficult to sustain a viable shopping centre with Bluewater just down the road.

But back to bridges, as the signs told us about the Hanau bridge, which crosses the Darent and is hard to spot from the road .

At one stage we were on Watling Street, whose name goes back to Roman times and which continues north to St Albans and points beyond London; Jo guessed correctly that that the Romans had made their way up from Dover and found a convenient crossing point here…

Once out of Dartford town centre the bus behaved like a bird released from captivity – it is one of the few routes to make the detour loop into the Darent Valley Hospital, perched on a hill as it happens, and once it had delivered its passengers to health care belted down the access road to Bluewater at such a speed that Jo and I thought we might take off, so it was close on five minutes later that we stopped at the Bluewater Bus Station , 35 minutes from Erith.

It took us considerably longer to get home as the design of the bus station needs you to nail your colours to the mast instead of dodging from one stop to another and like in the post office we chose the wrong queue – the journey back to Dartford was gentler and the train to London even more so.

On the whole more a country than a town route but nevertheless one of the London bus routes to access Bluewater in its quarried out bowl. .

1 comment:

  1. Ensignbus Route X80 (hourly, from Chafford Hundred or Lakeside to Bluewater) will take you over the Dartford Bridge. Double-deckers, IO think, too.