0815 on a Sunday morning in Hertford. It was quiet in the county town as I walked through the centre from the hotel to the bus station at Bircherley Green. I had travelled up from Swanley with GS2 and RT3148 the previous day, and had a trip out on Eastbourne Regent No.69 to check the tree-dangle on the 341 west of Hertford. Now I had decided that as most of the activity did not start until 11 o'clock I had the opportunity for a trip out to Hitchin and back on GS2.
GS2 and GS62 were already on the stand in the bus station, blinded for the 329 to Nup End and the 308A to Little Berkhamstead respectively. They were unloading the gear for the Country Bus Rallies sales and information point. RT3148 arrived too, ready for a round trip on the 395. But as a reminder that we didn't have the bus station to ourselves, one of Arriva's little DAF/Wrights came through, working on the modern 395 (the old 395A) to Ware (Fanham Common).
0830 arrived, time for our departure to Hitchin. Three or four passengers joined us for the early morning jaunt. Somehow this really captures the feel of the old Country Area days, with a few passengers on a leisurely journey. We set off, Peter Aves driving, and passed round Hertford, which was closed off in the centre for the Fun Day. We paused at Hertford North Station, then began the climb out of Hertford. A short way up the Stevenage road we turned off for Bramfield, and were very quickly out into rural Hertfordshire.
At Bramfield we stopped for photos outside the "chocolate-box" thatched post office.
We went on, past Bulls Green - the once a week short-working terminus for shoppers - and on to Datchworth Green, where we turned left at the crossroads and drew up for a few minutes.
We went on across the green, and along the country lanes to Woolmer Green, where we turned right onto the old Great North Road for the run in to Knebworth. There we turned up the steep climb up under the main line railway, with its double-decker prohibiting low bridge, passed the station and ground up the hill to Old Knebworth. We turned left past the way to Knebworth House and passed through the village. There was a gymkhana or horse-show in a field on the right, and a small traffic jam of horse-boxes waiting to get in. We threaded our way past, and ran on to the end of the village at Nup End. There we turned on the complicated triangular four-exit crossroads, and parked for a few minutes, oddly out of the way on the central section of road. This was the 329 terminus, so Peter changed the blinds for the 329A to Hitchin, as was done in the old days.
Now we had to negotiate the very narrow lane through to Tower Lodge, praying that we would not meet a horsebox halfway! We reached the main road at Tower Lodge just in time! There we turned right, and bowled down the old Welwyn-Hitchin road. Soon we met John Clark in GS32, coming in to Hertford in service from Hitchin. Stevenage was visible a couple of miles off to the east. We joined the old 304 route from Whitwell, and continued down into Hitchin. We negotiated the roundabout and descended the cutting to reach the old bus garage, and continued into town to St Mary's Square.
In St Mary's Square Peter backed round into the taxi rank, then reset the blinds for the return journey - this would recreate the old market-day 329A journeys from Hitchin out to Datchworth Village.
While we were there several other buses came and went. Sovereign's 316 - a Volvo B10M-2 with Plaxton Premiere 320 body - was working in to London Victoria on one of the vestiges of the old GreenLine system, the 797.
Another of the Country Bus Rallies' services was provided by United Counties Leyland National 587, ploughing a somewhat lonely furrow around the northern fringe of the day's system, operating three routes linking Baldock, Stevehage, Letchworth and Hitchin.
On time, we left Hitchin, now with just two passengers, and headed back south along the Welwyn Road to Tower Lodge. A large horsebox followed us up to the junction, where a driver emerging from the lane seemed a little flustered by the two large vehicles wanting to get into the lane. Anyway, we escaped into the lane successfully, and didn't meet any other traffic until Nup End, when another horsebox went past us to enter the lane. Pondering the probable confusion behind us we paused for quick photos, then continued through Old Knebworth towards the station, the first 329A to head this way for many years. We paused at the station bus stop for more photos.
From Knebworth we turned off up Swangley's Farm Road, which rapidly became a lane barely wide enough for the GS. That took us to Datchworth village. We ran down past the church, and found a layby to stop in to change the blinds. The old 329A returned from here to Hitchin, but after the 329A was taken off a revised 329 operated to here from Hertford. Now the 329 blinds were rolled up on front and back, and we headed off, through the rest of the village and back to Datchworth Green, where we turned back on the road towards Bulls Green and Bramfield.
We paused again at Bramfield, then hot-footed it for Hertford, to ensure that our passengers were back in time for the one-off eastern loop of the 350/35A.
RF633 was still there when we arrived, and had not yet even pulled onto the stand for the 350A journey. But next to us RMC1476 had pulled onto its stop ready for the 1100 341 service to Hatfield and back.
I went across to the bus park on GS2, to take a short break before my next journey.
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
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