RF679 at Orpington Station

Sevenoaks Running Day

Sunday May 13th 2018

Prepared by Ian Smith, 17th May 2018.

Part 2: 403: Sevenoaks - Tonbridge - Westerham - Sevenoaks

RT3148: 403: Sevenoaks - Tonbridge

Whilst I was in the cafe on of the few normal Sunday services made an appearance, in the shape of Optare Solo YJ09MMU on the 401 to Tonbridge Station. Go-Coach acquired this after Kent County Council took it back from Arriva Southern Counties in September 2017. It had been Northfleet's 1504.

Other buses began to gather too, mainly RFs and RTs, but also Maidstone & District Reliance SC390. Red RT1798 was set up to work on the 402, at least as far north as Green Street Green. RT604, having worked in from Croydon on the 403, parked behind it, whilst its crew repaired to the cafe.

YJ09MMU on 401 RT1798 for 402

I walked down to the collection of four RTs: RT604, RT1798, RT3183 and RT3148. The latter two were set up for the 403, in opposite directions, both departing at the same time. Almost arbitrarily I chose RT3148 - that front nearside seat downstairs is nicely conformed to my backside after many miles! We were to head for Tonbridge Station first, with John Huxford driving and Les conducting. The final destination blind was wound up.

RT3183 on 403 to Westerham RT3148 on 403 to Tonbridge Station

Then we were away, first of all round the block and into the bus station. Elderly Arriva Dart SLF 3523 was at the entrance, waiting time before heading for Tonbridge Station on the 402. At least there is a 402 service, if only a remnant of its former self. We had a sight of some of those RFs: RF600 pulled ahead to park behind modernised GreenLine RF28 which had taken the parking spot where the RTs had been. We loaded up and headed south: back round the block past RF633, and south along the High Street.

RF600 RF633

Sevenoaks is an attractive town. We headed along the main road, which narrows past the entrance to Knole House and then twists down to pass between the grounds of Sevenoaks School.

Sevenoaks Sevenoaks

Then suddenly we were out into the countryside of the Sevenoaks Weald as we headed along Tonbridge Road past The White Hart. Then it was steep and twisting River Hill, as we descended from the heights of the Weald. We met the spur from the modern by-pass and headed down the long straight through Hildenborough. Go-Coach Solo YJ09MMU passed, returning north on a 401 for Westerham.

River Hill Solo YJ09MMU on 401

Houses took over from countryside, and we reached the junction with the road from Wrotham, a junction that created huge traffic jams before the days of bypasses. We rolled down the hill into Tonbridge, and over the Medway.

Tonbridge Medway Bridge

We climbed up over the railway bridge, past Tonbridge Station, and continued along to the roundabout, where we turned to run back to the station. In LT days no passengers would have been carried south beyond the station stop: this was M&D territory, and even running into Tonbridge was a concession, and meant that Rover tickets could not be used into the town. We met Arriva's Optare Versa 4227 on a northbound 402, and pulled into the station stop behind it.

4227 at Tonbridge Stn 4227 at Tonbridge Stn

RT3148: 403: Tonbridge - Westerham

We had a substantial layover at Tonbridge Station: John is good at travelling fast without stretching the speed limits, and RT3148 is a goer. It was long enough for Arriva 3523, that we had seen at Sevenoaks, to catch up.

RT3148 at Tonbridge Stn 3523 at Tonbridge Stn

We set off northwards, very soon meeting Streetlite 1657 in eco-green livery on a 218 to Tunbridge Wells Hospital. We climbed up through the town, and forked left towards Hildenborough. We met RF28 rolling into Tonbridge on a GreenLine 704 working.

1657 on 218 RF28 on 704

We climbed gently up through Hildenborough, meeting southbound RT604, looking good in its spring green livery. Then it was round the big roundabout at the foot of River Hill, and the long slow grind up the hill. First gear in places. But we reached the top and passed the local short-working terminus of The White Hart for the rumble onwards into town.

RT604 on 403, Hildenborough RT3148 on River Hill

At the bus station there were several backsides: RF600 was in front of us in our bay, loading for a 421 to Heaverham, and Brighton, Hove & District open-topper CAP229 was in the other, working local tours.

RF600 in Sevenoaks Bus Stn CAP229 in Sevenoaks Bus Stn

There were also fronts on view too: XF3 was on a Tonbridge-bound 402, and RT3183 was back from Westerham on the 403, also bound for Tonbridge Station.

XF3 on 402 in Sevenoaks Bus Stn RT3183 on 403 in Sevenoaks Bus Stn

But we could not stay long: we were on a through working to Westerham. So we rejoined RT3148 for the onward journey... We headed north to the War Memorial, then down St Botolphs Road to Sevenoaks Station. We went on over the bumps towards Riverhead. RT1798 caught me by surprise, so I only managed to grab a photo of half of it! But I was ready for RF271 on a Sevenoaks-bound 705 as we approached Riverhead.

RT1798 RF271 on 705

We turned left onto the A25, and climbed gently up through Bessells Green. We rolled alongside the M25/A21 junction briefly, then continued westwards through Sundridge and Brasted. The huge chestnut tree in Brasted was at its spring best. It did not take long before we reached the Edenbridge turn-off at the foot of Westerham. We turned uphill past the Green, with its statures of Wolfe and Churchill, to terminate outside The Kings Arms.

RT3148 at Westerham RT3148 at Westerham

RT3148: Westerham - Sevenoaks

The turning point was just up the Croydon Road. The street end is almost big enough to turn the RT in one sweep, but not quite. We returned to Westerham to stand for a minute or two before the return journey.

RT604 on 403, Sevenoaks Station RT3148 at Sevenoaks

I knew that I could rely on John to arrive early, and indeed I was in time to catch RF633 on a 413 to Ide Hill, which was booked to leave before our arrival...

Part Three: 413 to Ide Hill and back

Ian's Bus-stop One Two Three Four Five Six