I introduced myself to Norman and Dot, and travelled "round the block" to reach the stops in the bus station to form the 1047 454 service to Chipstead. The 1039 departure to Green Street Green was leaving as we went round to the traffic lights, with modernised Green Line RF28.
We pulled in to the bus station to find that tiny Maidstone and District Albion Nimbus SO308 had arrived. We pulled past onto the stop to load up for the 454.
The usual route via St.Johns and Bat & Ball was not available due to extensive roadworks with attendant temporary traffic lights and delays, so we forked left by the War Memorial and turned down St.Botolph's Road towards Tubs Hill Station. As we emerged at the bottom of the hill I spotted two Green Line double deckers at the station stop: RT3228 overtaking stationary RCL2260.
We headed north to Riverhead, where we turned left onto the Westerham road. We climbed up from Riverhead past Bessels Green, then as we left the houses behind turned right to enter Chipstead at the west end. We found a bus stop on the High Street to pull up, take photos and change the blinds for the trip to Tonbridge Station. The bus attracted much favourable attention as we paused, and as we continued on through the village.
We could not continue straight through on the old route to Riverhead (which has a width restriction), but had to turn right through the Witches Lane chicane to return to the A25. We returned through Riverhead, and past Sevenoaks Station, and climbed up onto the top of the town.
We met RT3148 pulling round by the traffic lights on a 403 to Westerham, while ahead RT3183 disappeared in the opposite direction with its counterpart heading for Tonbridge.
We turned in to the bus station, and exchanged some of the passengers. We took on almost a full load for the trip south to Tonbridge via Sevenoaks Weald. We pulled out of the bus station past RCL2260 and RT3228, which were receiving blinds for the day's duties.
We went round the block and away south along Sevenoaks High Street and out along the Tonbridge Road. But we quickly turned right up Weald Road, and climbed into a tree-girt landscape. We met RF633 coming down the road with the 413A return from Four Elms to Chipstead. We continued to head for Sevenoaks Weald, soon decending Hubbards Hill across the spectacular bridge over the A21 cutting, with far-ranging views to the south. We forked left down Glebe Road into the village of Weald.
We turned east in the village centre, to cross the railway and climb up towards the big roundabout on the A21. RF315 stalled on the climb. We had to let back down the hill, and try again, this time successfully.
We crossed the roundabout and took the old main road south-east into Hildenborough, on the way passing Arriva's Dart returning from Tunbridge towards Chartwell on the 401.
Then going in to Tonbridge it was just like the old days: a monumental traffic jam held us up before the traffic lights, across which one car at most, many times none, were escaping during each sequence. RT3183 came scurrying the other way on a 403 for Westerham. Then suddenly the jam cleared and the traffic moved freely again. We drove down therough Tonbridge, past the station, to turn just beyond at a roundabout and return to the terminal stop.
We exchanged a few passengers, actually taking more back than we brought. We set off across the River Medway and climbed up through the town, forking left onto the Hildenborough Road. At the big roundabout we turned down into Sevenoaks Weald, where we stood for a minute in the village centre. Then we turned right into Glebe Road and began the long climb up onto Hubbard's Hill, over the great arched bridge. Would we make it? Just! The gradient eased beyond the bridge and we heaved a sigh of relief as Norman could go back up the gearbox.
We met red RF429 this time, heading up Weald Road towards Four Elms on the 413A.
Turning into Sevenoaks, we met MB90 heading south on the next 454 working.
Back at the bus station was SO308, loading up for a local journey.
Following us into the bus station was RF679, back from Brasted on the 413. That was my next ride, after driver Colin Rivers had a lunch break, and I went to give him a break from watching the bus...
Part Three: 431: Orpington
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
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