Sevenoaks Running Day
Sunday May 13th 2018
Prepared by Ian Smith, 19th May 2018.
Part 4: 471: Sevenoaks - Pratts Bottom - Knockholt - Sevenoaks: RF429Earlier in the day RF429 had set out on a 471 to Scotts Lodge, a destination used by one of the Knockholt schools services once a day. Alan had only eight passengers aboard for the first trip, and made it to Scotts Lodge. But turning there had been difficult due to a large barbecue and attendant car parking. So he had decided not to attempt it again for the remaining two booked runs. He had headed back for Sevenoaks, down Star Hill, following the route taken for garage runs to Dunton Green. The bus was parked, and I had grabbed a picture before setting out on the 413 trip.
Arriving back at Sevenoaks, I just had time to snap RM1397 sitting at the same spot. As the Country Area did not borrow RMs at weekends like it had done with RTs, the RM retained its 61 blinds during the day.
RF429 had come round to the stand for the second trip, and I joined Alan Charman aboard. We took on some thirty-odd passengers. With that load Alan was not going to go up Star Hill! With the rare Scotts Lodge blind still displayed we set off, coming up behind RF406 at the traffic lights as it was going round the block to load for the next 413 to Ide Hill.
As we turned right Maidstone & District / Arriva Olympian 5928, in it hybrid livery, came along, arriving on a 401 from Farningham, substituting for an RML. I tried twice to take a picture, without success. We went down to the station and headed for Riverhead. RF679 came along on a 431A from Knockholt Pond via Halstead and Polhill.
We continued along through Dunton Green and up to the roundabout at the foot of Star Hill. This hill used to tax the GSs, RFs and RTs that climbed it on 471s and 431s. It used to tax me as a teenager on a bicycle, although I preferred it to either Westerham Hill or Polhill: the former was too steep, and the latter too dangerous (traffic). So with thirty-odd on and a nearly 70-year-old bus Alan let discretion be the better part of valour and headed up Polhill instead.
We passed the erstwhile Polhill Arms - now a business centre - and the Indian Restaurant, with its LNWR Semi-Royal railway carriage (of which more later). We headed down the old road from Badgers Mount to Pratts Bottom, and turned up the 471 route. We made a stop at The Bulls Head.
Those of you with a discerning eye will have noticed that the Scotts Lodge blind has Cudham as a via point on it, not Pratts Bottom. The Scotts Lodge School journey was an out and back from Orpington, just the one in the morning. But who is quibbling - we're getting a free ride and enjoying the trip!
We went on up the green tunnel of Rushmore Hill towards Knockholt Pound. At least this green tunnel is reasonably tall, formed with trees meeting overhead. Cudham Lane is just narrow, with tall hedges that steal the wing mirrors of RFs, and 4x4 drivers that don't know how wide their mini-tanks are. (Oooh, I am in a mood this evening!).
We reached the junction with the road from Halstead, past Bowen's Yard, and threaded a way up past the parked cars to the little triangle opposite the Three Horseshoes at Knockholt Pound. Blinds were changed for the return garage journey.
We turned left, on the garage run route from Knockholt Pound to the top of Star Hill. The hill Alan tackled carefully: an 8 tonne RF with 30-odd passengers is heavy on the steering. Alan recounted how one of the GS duties was particularly long, resulting in running out of fuel on the descent. Apparently by knocking it out of gear a GS could roll all the way back to the garage! This practice ceased after at least one went in the hedge on a corner: the duty schedules were altered so that the long duty was split to avoid fuel starvation.
We descended the hill uneventfully, and rolled on down into Dunton Green. Just beyond the motorway bridge we met RF28 toiling uphill with a GreenLine 704. The blinds and roofboards said London, but today the service was just to Farnborough. We continued down to the Dukes Head opposite the site of Dunton Green garage - now a retirement home (for people, not buses).
We went on down to Riverhead, where we passed RF679 on a 431C Fort Halstead works journey to Knockholt Station.
Back at Sevenoaks Alan tucked RF429 out of the way before its next sortie. My eye had been caught by the Malta livery on Swift SMS274, withdrawn on Malta for preservation in 2011 and repatriated in 2015. Now it works for Go-Coachhire at Otford. Lovely to see it.
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