Then the immaculate GreenLine-liveried RT pulled back out to the station stop, to load up for the trip to East Grinstead. We followed the modern bus route through Bromley, threading between the shopping malls, to reach Bromley South, where we made a further pick-up. Although the bus was not wearing blinds, we were following the old 410 route to Godstone. I sat in my customary seat behind the bonnet, and remembered Green Rover days, when an RT on the 402 or an RLH on the 410 were the only ways out of Bromley, wherever you were going. Later there was a short period of RTs on the 410, followed by the Godstone RMLs. These offered less character, but a much better view for passengers!
We headed out of Bromley, up Mason's Hill and south onto Bromley Common. Suddenly, beyond the Crown, we were in countryside. Other buses passed, including an EnviroTrident of Stagecoach on an inbound 61 (19131 I think).
We turned right up Oakley Road towards Keston. The RT made light work of the long grind up past Keston Mark towards the Ponds. We passed a northbound Metrobus Omnidekka on the 320 - modern equivalent of the 410 Biggin Hill short-workings. This one was heading for Catford, whereto the route was extended last year, cutting the frequency on the 208s.
We passed Keston Ponds, and swooped down the S-bends past the Wilberforce Scout Camping Area. In my teens I spent many a happy Easter here. The road to Downe turned off left, and we continued up the hill to Leaves Green. There we passed the Kings Arms, on the edge of Biggin Hill Airfield, for a while during the war the terminus of the route from Bromley while the route past the end of the runways was suspended.
We continued past the old RAF base and officer selection centre ("Getting a 410" is RAF slang for failing a course), with its guardian Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire at the gates, and passed across just below the immediate end of the runway.
We continued through bustling Biggin Hill Village, then abruptly dropped off the North Downs down the steep winding Westerham Hill. This takes as much care to descend in a bus as to climb, especially with a nasty little roundabout at the foot.
We passed the site of the much-missed Westerham station, and climbed the narrow little road up between typical Kent vernacular arcitecture to the main street. For once we didn't stop at the Kings Arms, but headed west out of the village on the A25. We made the gradual climb to Limpsfield Common, then swooped down past Oxted, under the magnificent railway viaduct. No, we did not deviate through Old Oxted, but ground up the main road instead to the Tandridge Roundabout, then headed west along the A25 on the ridge, in the sunshine, to Godstone Green.
We needed a crew change at Godstone Green, so the bus was taken right round the one-way loop to the stop by the Hare & Hounds. This gave crew and passengers alike a chance to take pictures and use the public conveniences.
All back aboard (even the conductor), we headed south down the familiar 409 route to Blindley Heath, Newchapel Roundabout. Heading past Felbridge we met XF3 already heading out on a 424. We continued in along the long strip of ribbon development by the A22 into East Grinstead. The High Street by the War Memorial was given over exclusively to the buses for the day. We negotiated a way past the signs and cones, and pulled up onto the eastbound stop. Opposite us was SNB340, which had come in from Crawley on a 473, and red RF429, awaiting a journey.
Now it was time to see what had arrived, buy a programme and work out where to go next..
Part Two: East Grinstead
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.