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.

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