Then the 339 arrived. It was Saunders RT3062. It was a little early, so pulled up on the lay-by, for the driver to polish the windows and mirrors - low December sun can be tricky even with these precautions. It was good to see that the bus has been decorated with period adverts.
I went and joined the bus, getting a prime seat upstairs.
We pulled round the turning circle. Thanks to the local taxis it took more than one swing. We turned left at the top of the approach, and passed the gaggle of photographers who were waiting another hour for the Cravens RT. We went into Epping, then headed north for Potter Street, where we turned in to central Harlow, to find the bus station.
We headed back east out of Harlow, visiting Old Harlow then winding out towards Hatfield Heath, The sun climbed in the sky and the sunshine grew stronger across the flat Essex countryside as we rumbled along. Hatfield Heath looked like a good spot for some photos, with the sun on the front of the bus for the first time. The crew pulled up at the bus stop by the Village Tearoom, and most of the passengers alighted to take photos.
We went on, along the winding road to Hatfield Broad Oak, then north to meet the old Roman Road from Bishops Stortford to Colchester. We reached it at Takeley, turned right, and motored eastwards. We met the new A120 near the Banana Factory at Easton Lodge. We didn't call, byt crossed over the dual carriagway and continued along the old road into Great Dunmow. There we met a road closure. The bus had to be turned, for us to return to a roundabout and divert right round the village on the old by-pass, to return to the Post Office in Great Dunmow from the "wrong" direction.
We pulled up at the War Memorial, and the conductor went off across the road to the eastbound stop to explain to passengers there why there were no eastbound buses! He returned with some for us, and the bus was turned by the war memorial. We headed off eastwards again. We soon turned off the Roman Road again, into Little Dunmow.We continued along the lane to Felsted, where the size of the church reminds us that this bit of the country was once both prosperous and god-fearing. Opposite the pub the Boote House reminded us that George Boote built the house in 1596. Outside the pub modern Essex man blocked the bus-stop with his oversized 4x4.
Once the road was clear we rolled on to Watch House Green, and turned sharp left there to make our way back over the dual carriageway to the old Roman Road. We headed on east to reach Braintree, where we made the mandatory circuit of the town to reach the bus station. There was RM298, waiting to set off for Harlow.
Other buses visited the bus station too: First had a Dart SLF (42487) on the 352 to Chelmsford, and Stansted Transit had a shorter version (EU06KPA) on the Bishops Stortford run.
We followed various minor roads down the Brain valley to Cressing, and on to Witham, where we made some back-road connections to wriggle down through the surprisingly industrial town to reach the railway station. Our driver did NOT turn off the engine!
We wriggled our way back out of Witham, through Silver End and along the lane to Cressing. Coming into Braintree Bus Station I had my first sighting of the newly-restored Cravens RT1499, which was heading south for Witham Station.
I lost my upstairs seat on RT3062 at Braintree, but settled onto the long offside seat for the journey west to Great Dunmow and the Banana Factory. We trundled west through Rayne, then crossed above the dual carriageway for the lanes to Felsted and Little Dunmow. I glimpsed a Routemaster coming, and snatched a photo through the offside rear window as RM85 passed.
We by-passed Great Dunmow, and crossed the highway again to reach the turn for Easton Lodge Halt. We made our way down to the old station yard, where several banana-ripening sheds are located. Many photos were taken, then the bus was turned - and more taken.
I secured the front nearside seat behind the bulkhead for the return to Braintree. It was one of the warmest (or least cold) places on the bus. As the crew said, one of the problems with the Saunders was that only one received heaters - and that wasn't this one! We called in at Great Dunmow again, and headed for Little Dunmow. Some folk alighted there to wait for the next bus west. It was RM85 again, heading for Harlow. I had a more studied passing shot this time!. We were soon running into Braintree, passing the massive White Hart Inn before making our way down to the bus station, where it was time for the crew - and me - to take a break.
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: the afternoon (RT1499)