Sunday, 29 September 2013

The R4 Route

Thursday 26 September 2013

As the sun came out and the day warmed up, Mary, Linda and I stepped off our previous bus at the Princess Royal Hospital in Locksbottom, to see the R4 drawing up immediately behind.  So we were able to hop on at 11.50, bound for Paul’s Cray Hill.

 Coming out of the hospital grounds,  we turned right and then right again, the first of many wiggles on this 40 minute journey through some of the residential areas of outer London.  We passed the British Queen Pub, which was closed and shuttered, but I can’t find out when it collapsed or what is planned for it.  Happily, we did pass other much healthier looking pubs. 
 As usual, we admired Bromley’s municipal planting as we headed onto the main road, and then off it again at Tubbenden Lane.  We took a turn through the estate here before returning to Tubbenden Lane, noting that this bus provides a pretty useful service to residents wanting to get into Orpington or, well, anywhere really. The driver was patient, waiting for elderly passengers to secure themselves before setting off from each ‘hail and ride’ point.  We were passing many bungalows, mostly with hardened front gardens.  Mary wondered where everyone was, since the place seemed empty except for the people getting onto and off the bus.

Before long we were into Orpington, and admiring the rather fine bike racks in the High Street near the Walnut Shopping Centre. While there are a number of shuttered shops, and several charity shops, we felt that on the whole the High Street looked OK, the more surprising since there is that huge supermarket with the flats above it on the way to the station.  This is not the first time we have passed the stalled building site that was to have been Churchill Retirement Homes before the council turned them down.  We know that the application went to appeal 12 months ago, but clearly these things take time….

Passing the pond where the Cray begins, we were again into residential areas, including what we thought to be a most atypical block of public housing, but also lots of bungalows.  Many of these properties have hardened front gardens which, given the narrowness of the road and the number of motor vehicles, is unsurprising. 

But as we came down Waldenhurst Road, suddenly there was nothing but green ahead of us and we turned left and into the green belt, with actual crops growing, and we briefly felt ourselves in the country before reaching  St Mary Cray, and going for another loop through residential streets

 St Mary Cray Primary School looked like a real village school, though we could not help wondering where they would accommodated the children from the various large new-build projects which we passed.  We also noted  St Mary Cray’s  large Baptist Church, HQ of both the Girls’ Brigade and the Boys’ Brigade for the area.

Now we came under the railway viaduct at St Mary Cray, and travelled alongside the River Cray for a while.  The street was named ‘Mill Brook Road’,  a reminder that rivers were put to use in more ways than one before they became little more than recreational facilities. 

Along Main Road, we passed some new build housing going up, with impressive numbers of solar panels on their roofs.  

We had not realised that Paul Cray Hill would be such a hill, but we climbed steeply up, then down, then up again, with fine views over Kent, to reach the terminating point at 12.35.  We were far from anywhere, except houses, and so merely stayed on the bus as it turned back towards Orpington, giving us a further chance to enjoy the varied gardens and views of this entirely residential area.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The R3 Route

Chelsfield Village Centre to Princess Royal Hospital Farnborough
Thursday September 26th 2013

Time to get on the bus again … or more accurately stay on the R3 which we had picked up immediately (in spite of its mere twice hourly appearances) on exiting Orpington Station off a fast train. As we had the bus to ourselves for much of this section we had already explained to the driver that we would not be getting off at Chelsfield Village but STARTING our journey there.  He was slightly bemused and  like last week’s driver thought we might have enjoyed the Open Day at Orpington Bus garage. The driver only has 2 minutes pause, which is just about enough to change the blinds to show the correct destination. We had entered Chelsfield via a narrow winding lane and past a rather weedy (in both senses) pond to take breath at the 'Five Bells'.

Chelsfield feels like a real village (I believe the more modern buildings are closer to the station not on this route) and therefore it is not surprising to know it was the childhood home of the author of the ‘Miss Read’ books which always seemed to take up a lot of space at the library when I was growing up. The books seem a world away but the village only a short bus ride now! The lanes are slightly sunken so today’s photographer Mary was not able to capture the horses in the fields, nor can I describe the smell other than to say it was ‘rural’.  On the corner of the lane was the 'Bo-Peep' a rather humbler pub serving the hop pickers and farmers but the current licensees have tried to compile the history of the inn which goes back to the 15th Century. The route is also handy for Hewitts Farm where you can ‘pick your own’  this being the best time of year.

Out onto the main road we continued to be the sole passengers and with a clear road and no one wanting to board we licked along averaging about 40 mph.  From what could be glimpsed the corn had grown well and Westcombe Park seems to be a local rugby club sitting somewhere in the 3rd league…

At Christ Church the R3 leaves the main road and dives along Charterhouse Road through an area where most of the roads are named for boys’ public (ie private) schools which just about dates the era of building to mid 20th century. Quite spacious it has to be said and well tended gardens with pyracanthus the stand out shrub today. Personally I think they are so spiky a fall into a lively bush could kill you, but viewed from afar the colour is lovely.   This route cuts across and delivers you to Orpington along the Sevenoaks Road past the Conservative HQ (lucky Bromley returns the other Johnson boy, but unlike the 'Other Boleyn Girl'  neither will lose their head. ' )

You can tell my mind had wandered as we entered the familiar route round the very handsome Orpington war memorial, up the hill and under the railway bridge to the station entrance. Here we paused as the drivers changed and our original chap explained to his female colleague why we were on board. She in turn told us she had been driving buses for 26 years (very hard to believe – Jo reckoned she must have started under age as she looked so youthful) while her other half used to drive the Number 1.

Orpington High Street manages both to thrive and always be busy even with a huge Tescos which must have drained much of the business from the shops. What remains is an eclectic mix of shoe repairs, charity shops and pawnbrokers all seemingly well patronised.  

By the time we had emerged onto the Cray Road the bus had filled up considerably. with shoppers of course. The Cray is supposed to start in those rather dingy ponds by Perry Hall, and we certainly criss-crossed it both on this route and the next… It does dominate the topography with very clear routes following the Cray Valley or climbing out of it as we were about to do, along a road called Poverest for which the whole area seems to be named.  This site seems to think it was named for a former landowner which is fairly common. As we climbed the hill the bus filled with a smell of newly baked bread which I can only think was drifting in from the mega bakery down on the Orpington bypass?

As we headed up towards Chislehurst, the houses, already quite spacious, became bigger and bigger, then diminished again in size – right down to avenues of bungalows – as we arrived at Petts Wood.  Having missed last week’s trip I had not been here since the 273 route and our discovery that Petts Wood is where the originator of   'daylight saving' came from. Four weeks from this weekend as it happens.

We had plenty of time to admire the village centre as the R3 was trapped, unable to pass between a badly parked white van and a larger lorry delivering new wheelie bins – even this small bus could not squeeze through (23 seated 24 standees) but finally the lorry driver made way for us. Our driver was forbearingly patient.

A further loop followed through another residential area – this time the former Coppice Estate – “Coppice Garden Estate built by Bromley Council in the 1950's to house some of London's overspill. Beautiful mix of red brick cottage style dwellings and green areas. Now a mix of social and private housing.”
This infrmation came from Wikimapia but we had rather guessed that the area had once been public housing because of the road lay-out (and lack of shops) . The bus loops somewhat and then comes out at the top of a hill at Crofton School which covers quite a large site and for a Junior and Infants has large numbers of pupils.

By now we were back on a more major road and after the shops which probably belong to Locksbottom the bus does quite a sharp turn to access the car park and bus stops laid out in the modern surrounds of the equally modern Princess Royal Hospital. (For photos of same see R4)

Our trip from true Kentish village through some more post-war suburban areas was one very much designed to link the residents of Bromley’s more outlying districts with its shopping and transport hubs, in a trip which took an hour and which required some skilful manouvring and driving.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The R2 Route

Thursday 19 September 2013

Linda was not able to make this trip, so Mary and I met at London Bridge to find our way to Petts Wood, from whence the R2 was to take us to Biggin Hill Valley. We arrived at the centre of attractive Petts Wood, and a helpful young man on the railway bridge pointed out the bus stop to us.  We were on board our single decker by 10.32, heading into the residential streets around Church Hill and Sefton Road.

We looped around and came to Cray Valley Road, where we crossed what we assumed to be a branchlet of the Cray, and admired some fine allotments on the outskirts of Orpington (though, as Mary says, all allotments are looking pretty good this autumn).

We have always liked the doodled inn sign of the White Hart, and today were able also to admire the rowan trees which grow around it.  We thought the mix of yellow and red berries particularly fine. Though I shall here insert a reminder to anyone of the 'food for free' generation:  rowan jelly is pretty tasteless, and the amount of sugar it needs makes it less than free (sorry, Richard Mabey) 

Mary and I were tempted to leap off the bus when we saw that The Fabric Place was having a sale.  It was also pleasant to see a shop selling actual things in amongst all the eateries.

We again noted the excellent hanging baskets, before heading out past the war memorial to reach and pass the station, which is a bit of a step from the centre of the town.  It is, however, right next door to Crofton Roman Villa, which is worth a visit.  

On up the hill, we were back in residential streets, with houses which must command fabulous views over the countryside.  Some of them were enormous;  I suppose that, as the planning laws are relaxed, there will be more of this stuff in the green belt.

We soon came to Locksbottom Village centre, a change after all the housing we had admired, and saw signs to the Princess Royal Hospital, which Mary knows well.  We travelled on past Keston's fine garden centre and then its handsome Parish Church.  We had been going uphill, and were rewarded with excellent views across the Kent countryside.  On the other side of the road was Biggin Hill Airport, once at the Heart of the Battle of Britain, but now a commercial airport, specialising in business and private travel.

We came down into Biggin Hill Village, passing the Black Horse Pub and the Post Office (we noted it for our next bus as we swept past).  Heading first down Stock Hill and then steeply up we travelled through more residential streets to reach Melody Road at 11.20 and finish our ride.

We had much enjoyed this tour of a prosperous area of commuter Kent.

We got into conversation with the driver (as we wanted to ride back to Biggin Hill Village).  He was politely impressed with the Project, and told us that Green Street Green Bus Garage is having an open day this very Sunday (23 September), with fun for all the family. There is information about how to get there here.

Sadly, I shall not be there, having a prior engagement to watch Wiggins, Stannard Cavendish and the rest of them as they finish of the Tour of Britain.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The R1 Route

Wednesday 11 September 2013

I had spent some time wondering why the next few routes should be 'R' routes.  It was my clever sister-in-law who pointed out that you could not have bus numbers prefixed with an 'O' because people might think it was a '0':  so these are the routes around Rpington.

Thus it was that the said clever relative and I found ourselves in Green Street Green, looking for an R1 to take us to St Paul's Cray.  We optimistically headed towards the Royal Oak pub, following signs that said it participated in the 'community toilet scheme' but at 11.30 the pub was not open and thus it was a hollow promise.  Still, undeterred, we reached the bus stop in the high street at the same moment as our bus, and were on board the single doored, single decker by 11.40.

We rolled out of the village past another large pub, which we thought was called Ember, though it seems also to be the Queen's Head.  Almost immediately we turned right and headed uphill, past many bungalows, and into residential streets of varying size and classiness.  We were the only bus around here as we wriggled up and then down, to reach Chelsfield, with its railway station and pub (though not much else, we thought).

Chelsfield turns into Orpington without much of a break and we soon reached the War Memorial, which has the words 'Pro Patria' on each of its faces, above the lists of names.

Then we came to Orpington Station.  The exterior is fairly unprepossessing, considering what a railway hub it is. but it has a handsome bus station behind it, which we visited briefly.  We shall be back, as several of the R buses start and/or finish here.

We thought Bromley's hanging baskets were looking splendid.  It has been a very good summer for petunias and geraniums, and the rain in the last couple of days has meant that they were not looking at all dry.  We passed the Walnut Shopping Centre, and also the White Hart pub, whose doodled inn sign we have commented on before.  As we left Orpington, we passed a huge building site which claimed to be about to become 50 retirement apartments to be built by Churchill.  But it seems that the signage is out of date as they will not now be built.

We headed on, to note Priory Gardens on our right, where the River Cray rises, before joining the Darent and, eventually, the Thames.

The outskirts of Orpington are occupied by a business park, with Allied Bakeries, Sun Chemicals and other concerns, and opposite is a retail area, with all sorts of lovely shops.  I particularly noticed Cotswold, because members of the Ramblers get a substantial discount in Cotswold shops - yet another reason to join the organisation which protects our footpaths.

Soon we were back into residential roads: clearly this estate had been named by an exile from South West Hertfordshire, as we passed Croxley Green, Chipperfield Road, Chorleywood Crescent and others streets named for my former home area.  This was all 'hail and ride' so we trundled rapidly up the hill and down again, to reach Midfield Way and School.

We came past St Mary Cray Station, and headed on into St Paul's Cray, admiring the modern church, and noting the high rise public housing, comparatively unusual for the Borough of Bromley.

We reached the small parade of shops where is route ends at 12.20, after an exact half hour.

This had been a modest journey, through mostly residential areas, and although it was a grey day, we had had no rain, so we had been about to enjoy the gardens.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Routes PR1/PR2 (NOT)

Willesden Junction to Fryent Way (Wembley) 

On the whole we have not been blogging entries for ‘missing routes’ as through the letter prefixes there are too many of these; in addition to permanent numbering gaps routes come and go, are split and joined as local needs increase or diminish.

However faced with a three-week lull and the PR2 appeared on our original project-planning master list I thought I should track it down. The mystery is not that it no longer runs but rather what it was doing on our list of 2009 altogether, given that it had been discontinued by then. I quote, with thanks, Ian Armstrong of London Bus Routes History:
‘I have done my research and the route was actually withdrawn in March 2007, the whole route being absorbed into the Current 226.’

The 206 also comes close. 
Fryent Way is a stretch of wide fast road ostensibly linking Wembley and Kingsbury but strangely devoid of London Bus Routes. It is a country park and may be there is wish to preserve the rural feel  but without a car access is difficult.  I presume the PR stood for Park Royal or even Preston Road.

PS We shall not be riding any buses until mid-September due to a combination of jam-making, birthdays weddings and visits out of London, but will be back for a run of 10 or so routes round Orpington