I met up with the Country Bus Rallies crew deep in Sussex. When I arrived the bus was already out of the shed with blinds installed and the engine ticking over. We set off in the early morning sunshine, with the first stop at a filling station.
Then it was north through Tunbridge Wells and on to our terminus stop at Tonbridge Station, where we were due to pick up our first passengers. The ultimate destination blinds were altered from the "Tonbridge Station" that they had worn so far, and passed through "Sevenoaks", "Chelsham" and "West Croydon" before settling on "Wallington Station".
Having waited well past time for some folk we expected, we set off on the long 403 haul. At first I settled in the front downstairs seat, behind the bonnet, as we passed through Tonbridge, but then moved upstairs to a front seat. We rumbled northwards from Tonbridge. I was surprised at how familiar the route seemed, after all those years. I suspect that the rerouting of the main A21 away from the old road has helped preserve its old charm. We passed through Hildenborough, and suddenly we were climbing up River Hill towards Sevenoaks. We went down the gears and roared up the hill.
Sevenoaks was quiet at this early hour on Sunday morning. We passed the entrance to Knole Park, and forked right, passing by the modern bus station (on the right) and the site of the old one (on the left).
We turned left at the War Memorial, and choggled down St.Botolph's Road towards Tubs Hill Station. There we were greeted by our usual group of supporters.
The next stretch - Sevenoaks to Westerham - was rather more familiar to me. But I haven't travelled it on the top deck for many years. We curved our way through to Riverhead, and turned left along the A25, passing through Bessels Green and Brasted. Soon we were at the start of Westerham, where the Edenbridge Road goes left. We turned right, up the sharp little hill past the green with its statues of Churchill and Wolfe, and pulled up outside the Kings Arms.
But there was no time for a breakfast stop here this morning. Nor was there a brace of RLHs awaiting with connections on the 410. We took our photos and climbed back aboard.
The biggest problem about Westerham is that it lies at the foot of the North Downs escarpment. For the 410 that meant Westerham Hill. For us it meant the less savage but just as tall Botley Hill, We took the Croydon road out of Westerham, and almost immediately began the long diagonal climb up the face of the Downs. The views South were stunning. RT 3148 went very well up the hill. By no means was it a second gear crawl, let alone a first gear struggle like Westerham Hill.
At the top of the Hill we met the road up from Limpsfield, up which GSs used to struggle every day, and began the long run down the shallow but elevated north side of the North Downs to Chelsham Garage - or Warlingham Sainsburys as it is now. The Downland gave way to ribbon development, and there we were.
At Chelsham we changed drivers. Alan Charman took his seat on the cushions, and John Huxford arrived to take the driver's perch. We were operating through to Epsom, so the opportunity was taken here to change the blinds for the 470.
Then we were ready to set off on the second stage:
Part Two: 470 to Epsom
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part Two: 470 to Epsom