Dorking to Kingston (Cromwell Road Bus Station)
Thursday October 25th 2012
A shameful preamble – I decide to come clean rather than lie. So fixated were we to get to Dorking Station (50 minutes from Waterloo and a ticket under £3) that we failed to check the exact start of the route and assumed, like dorks, that the 465 would of course be waiting on the station forecourt. When we found the stop it said: for buses to Kingston please use Stop A. Some bemused taxi drivers, having watched us get off a London train, then watched us leave the station where they indicated the stop was. Unfortunately this involved crossing the six lanes of the A24. Jo had researched the bus as going every 12 minutes so we were a bit surprised to find only 2 an hour at this time of day. Yes, this means we had looked at the timetable and STILL failed to recognise that this was NOT the start of the route. Then to our consternation we saw a red (‘red is right’) bus turn into the station.’He’s using it to turn round,’ said Jo. NO. This was the point we realised that Dorking Station is in fact some SIX stops from the start of the route but by this time it was too late to walk into Dorking and do things properly. We had been joined at the stop by a woman, with whom we could confirm she was just in time for the next bus. ‘You have to get out of Dorking sometimes’ she said, using the pretext of shopping for upcoming birthdays, and like us she rode this route all the way into Kingston. She explained the route had recently been taken over by another company, who had provided passengers with new vehicles rather than the previous bone-shakers.
So there you have it: all we saw of Dorking was the station forecourt, and rather as people say that someone is ‘two sandwiches short of a picnic,’ this entry is six stops short of completion.
The first stretch goes fast along the generously wide A24 with the North Downs gently bosoming to our right. At the Pixham Lane roundabout we spotted two metallic cyclists which we guessed (correctly) had been added for the Olympics as one of the road races had taken place at nearby Box Hill. In fact this roundabout was our signal to turn off the busy road onto the old London road, which crosses the River Mole at Burford Bridge close to the National Trust area. There is lots to enjoy round here and several walks on offer in this area which has been enjoyed since Jane Austen's day.
It is possible to take a car to the top but the bus wriggles round the bottom of the hill along the aptly named Zig Zag Road past some well appointed homes (Jane Austen is ‘catching’ I’m afraid) and the Juniper Hall Field Centre.
As the lane narrows further the 465 comes into Mickleham – the simple church looked quite old, and in fact there are some Saxon elements amongst the Norman bits and 1842 improvements. As you might wish, the pub opposite is equally picturesque. After the detour through this Surrey village the bus route rejoins the more robust A24 continuing along what must be the Mole valley as we ran both alongside and across the river more than once. Mole Valley
Many of the recent references on the web are to the floods which took place in June 2012, though I am not sure this immediate neighbourhood was affected. The National Trust has another property, this time a house with garden, which is signposted from near here.
Once back on the A24 speed picked up and with few bus stops we made swift progress along to Leatherhead, rapid transit making photography difficult. The bus got progressively busier from this point picking up passengers having done or intent on doing their shopping later on. The bus takes a little detour to the station (through which we had already passed on our way down) and Leatherhead has its rather fine Town Hall standing proud on a hill, and the Pumping Station which could surely stand in for a Nazi HQ in some (budget) war-time film?
Once through town there were few halts or requests for stopping so once we reached Leatherhead Golf Club the driver paused for a while, presumably so that he did not get ahead of schedule. This gave us a chance to appreciate some autumn foliage.
We rather liked the ‘Shy Horse’ at Chessington, and then later spotted the more usual ‘North Star’ at Hook. The Hook Road crossing is unlovely, though the 465 takes a less travelled route through Surbiton: as a small bus it is able to go down Surbiton High Street, which today seemed very busy. We stopped by the ‘Surbiton Flyer’ pub, whose continued existence is presumably guaranteed by having a position both on the High Street and close to the station as its sign implies. The ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ colours are a far cry from South West trains but I expect the sign painter was allowed some artistic licence. Surbiton Station itself is Grade II listed and had surely been re-whitewashed since we were last here, today looking gleaming and pristine?
The run into Kingston is quite familiar and I had already put down my pen when I realised we had deviated off the Kingston University approach and taken the older riverside and High Street approach into central Kingston, one of the few buses to do so. This approach crosses the Hogsmill River over the lovely old Clattern Bridge just before it joins the Thames (the Mole doing so closer to Hampton Court), and the 465 disgorges most of its passengers close the Shopping Centre – we wished our Dorking acquaintance good luck with her grandparental shopping and passed on more slowly, seeing on the way ‘Bo Concept’ which I took to be a trendy bar but was told is high concept Danish design furniture. A mere bus station may come as something of an anti-climax after that but not the lovely Cromwell Road, where we has an altogether reasonable wait for our key bus.