Friday, 11 October 2013

The R7 Route

Aquila Estate to Orpington Police Station** 
Thursday October 10th  2013

 Jo & I (Mary  was on extended grand parent duties) had managed to ride the train from London in adjacent carriages (not all doors  open) and therefore met on the platform at Bickley to be told quite firmly ‘there were no toilets round here’.

‘Round here’ turned out to be very upmarket and before long, having of course turned the wrong way, we found ourselves walking down an unmade-up (ie private) road with fairly new fake-Tudor detached double garage sort of homes.

**  I noticed that our master list of routes, which we downloaded end of 2008/early 2009 shows the R7 as going from Bickley  Station to Orpington station whereas a more up to date bus map told us we needed to get ourselves to the Aquila Estate, hence the opportunity to gawp at some of Bromley’s million pound residences.  Given the name ‘Estate’ Jo was expecting to find our bus lurking in an area of social housing – but very much not so.  The Aquila turns out to have been something of a controversial development with already established residents not wishing for green belt land by Blackbrook Wood to be built over. But here it is now with its own bus service (albeit but once an hour) and looking pretty deserted at 11am, the local residents being on the whole not habitual bus users.

The R7 panted up Hawthorne Road and turned round – we boarded immediately as it was slightly behind schedule, quite possibly because, as we were soon to discover, it was having something of a diversion.

Big houses also means big trees and plenty of room both for several cars and for mature front gardens so we had time to admire the various types of hedges - holly and pyracanthus are neither of them very friendly but do look quite jolly on a grey day. The route crosses Blackbrook Lane, continues round three sides of a square and then rejoins the lane to head south along the Jubilee Country Park (which Jubilee is not clear: 25, 50 and even 60 are possibilities) and eventually, with property sizes reducing gradually but gracefully, finds itself approaching Petts Wood.  Prior to Petts Wood shops were non-existent and community facilities likewise though there were a fair few care homes all built quite recently.

In Petts Wood  there were a few more passengers who had completed their morning chores and wanted to head home, but a brief exchange with the driver made one passenger shrug and change her mind – ‘I’m not going past St John’s’ she said ‘there’s a diversion’.   Looking at the TFL map, we should have turned off for the station and the rather attractive station square/green, but instead carried on, taking on three more passengers who seemed oblivious to the driver’s words of warning which meant there was a certain amount of frustration when the bus sailed straight on and missed their various stops for home.

Having not been into the town square we saw another side of Petts Wood (Purrfect Pets for Petts Wood anyone? – I’ve waited nearly 500 routes to be able to do that.) And there’s a Cat Rescue Centre just up the road.  The colourful frontage of  Niuco offered a less easy to pronounce name challenge but proves to be a gallery and café. Meanwhile the nearby Thai Moom (not a typo here) offered cookery classes for children and adults, and the Memorial Halls were also signposted, though some way off this route.

By now our trio of ‘swept away’ passengers were muttering of the driver ‘She’s on a racetrack’ so they eventually got off as we re-joined the substantive route in Crofton Lane. Shortly afterwards the driver received one of those over-the-speakerphone messages telling her to stick to the diversion until 12.00.
 The next little loop took us round a more modest (than Bickley) residential area where a few more passengers boarded – this time with empty shopping trolleys. Back onto Crofton Road and it’s a straight run down the hill to pass but not pull into Orpington Station.  When on the double-decker Route 61 the views over Kent from here are pretty superb, but this was never going to be more than a very modest shoppers bus and as such let some such off at the mega Tescos past the station. From this point we could have closed our eyes, the sequence of sights and stops by now being so familiar on this our 12th or so trip from station past war memorial along High Street and, in the case of the R7, turning into The Walnuts. Evidently the other supermarket had not paid for a mention on the bus signs so we made do with a final resting place designated Orpington Police Station, which turned out to be a very bland building seemingly part of the Walnuts complex of council offices and leisure facilities.

The trip through some of the richer parts of Bromley on what is not a heavily used service took us just under 25 minutes and left us ready to board what was going to be our last R route.

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