The latest London bus map shows that the 477 has turned into a GREEN service and is no longer a London bus, though we are pretty sure that it was when we took it, or at least, sort of. So, while we could ignore it, we won't: here we go.
This was the third bus of a four bus day. We were, I suppose, carried away by the long days of summer. And anyway, once you are at Bluewater with no intention of serious shopping, you have to do something.
We had a long pause at Bluewater: first of all, buying a sandwich, and then waiting for the 477, which is, to say the least, infrequent. When it came into view, it was only to park so that its driver could take his break, so we were not on our way till 2.50, more than an hour after stepping off the 96. This was not a red bus; nor did it have an Oyster reader. Not that it matters to Linda and me, since a supposedly cash strapped government lets us travel on any bus anywhere for nothing. But it did cause us anxiously to check that the 477 – THIS 477 - is actually on the London bus list, and it is (and wasn't then in that odd section at the end of the list). Indeed, once we got out of Kent and into a London borough, the bus stops reverted to the type we are used to.
We headed onto the dual carriageway and then off again to travel along Watling Street, green on both sides, with Bluewater below us. We turned into the Darent Valley Hospital and then out again. We were going towards Dartford Town centre, noting that there appeared to be plenty of room in the Watling Street cemetery. We went over the motorway that leads to the bridge, the first of several motorway and main road crossings of this route. There are attractive linear gardens along the Darent Valley, as described in the 96 blog, and we again admired the clock in the centre of Dartford. If I have a weakness for cycle tracks, Linda, it must be said, loves a public clock. Huge numbers of people got onto our little bus in the centre of Dartford, and reminded us how slow it all used to be before the Oyster.
We also watched, but did not report, some young men hand their ticket out of the window to a friend so he could board without paying. Traffic was slow as we left Dartford, and travelled through residential areas, where we gradually shed our fellow passengers. Then we were into Heathland, along a very lane like road, with countryside between the villages.
In Wilmington, we admired the bus shelter, roofed with tiles somewhat like a lych gate. Then we were in the country again, until we reached Hextable. Linda, amazingly, has visited many of these places: some years ago she supervised a foster placement in Hextable. But she had not visited the Row Hill Hotel and Utopia Spa. We took a loop to get to the huge Asda in Swanley, where many people got off, and admired the war memorial . We have since learned that the first officer to be killed in the First World War, Staff Paymaster Joseph Gedge, is commemorated among others here. The Lullingstone Castle Pub is named after the local stately home and garden in Eynsford.
After turning into Azalea drive to drop people off in their estate, we were back onto the main road and into the country. As we left Crockenhill we were the only people on the bus, and our arrival into the borough of Bromley was signalled by the London type bus stops mentioned above. At this stage we met a 477 going in the other direction: the only one we saw, confirming our view that a bus from Bluewater to Orpington does not get many takers for its whole route. We were joined by various ‘R’ buses on the road, and a couple more passengers in the bus, before picking up the 51 route and reaching Orpington. We were delighted by the flowers around the war memorial roundabout, because we had seen it being planted up when we were on the 51. We reached Orpington Station just before 4.00pm, after a journey of over an hour, and with just about enough commitment to climb onto one more bus, the 358.