RF679 at Letty Green

Hertford Running Day

Sunday June 5th 2005

Prepared by Ian Smith, 15th June 2005

Part 1: Getting there on RF627

364: Markyate to Hitchin (with omissions)

I had been invited to journey to Hertford by a different route this year. Ken Eveleigh was bringing his RF627 down from the West Midlands, and would welcome my company and navigation, as this was his first venture into Country Bus Running Days. So I left home promptly at 6 a.m., and drove south to meet up with Ken.

The RF was immaculate. We were soon away, heading for the A5 as our chosen route south-eastwards. We paused for fuel, and rolled onwards, the RF showing a good turn of speed for a Country bus version. We even had to slow down for occasional 40 mph zones! We wriggled through Milton Keynes without really noticing it very much. I did comment to Ken that he shouldn't try racing Pendolinos. Other buses were notable by their absence, until we reached the fringes of the old LT Country Area at Dunstable. I realised that the A5 intersected the old LT 364 route at Markyate, and asked Ken if he was game for a bit of real Country Area driving. He agreed, and we turned off the old Roman trunk route onto a decent B-road to head towards Luton. Not wanting too many wiggles on our way we left out the loop to Woodside, and proceeded through Slip End to Luton. There we made our way towards the Vauxhall Works, passing on the way Lutonian's J920 UNA, a 1992 Mercedes Benz 709D / Plaxton Beaver, busy on Luton route 19.

RF627 fuels near Coventry 75 near the Vauxhall Works

I did not expect to meet any service buses on the old 364 route across from there to Hitchin, in very rural narrow lane country. Little did I know! Ken was just getting used to wriggling along the narrow lanes when round a corner came a 9.8m Dart: Centrebus' P501 VRO in St Albans District livery. It was on the 88, today's equivalent of the 364 between Hitchin and Luton. At least we met it on a wide junction, and the driver waited for us to pass. We missed out the ultra narrow section of the 364 via Cockernhoe and Tea Green, (although the long Dart doesn't). Then we met another service bus, this time Grant Palmer's H390 OHK, another little Mercedes Benz. This was operating on service 44, from Stevenage via Knebworth, Codicote and Kimpton, heading for Luton. It may have been tiny, but squeezing the RF past wasn't that easy! So we missed out the out-and-back to Breachwood Green, and continued to Kings Walden.

Centrebus 501 on 88 Grant Palmer 390 on 44

We passed up through the village of Kings Walden, and on past the terminal point for short workings from Luton: a junction of roads with parking room under the trees. The lanes through Lye Green were very narrow. We turned down past the post office into the valley bottom, and climbed up towards Preston. There we made a stop for a few minutes, to look round the green with its old well machinery, phone box, letter box, bus-stop and pub. It gave Ken a breather too, after quite a few miles of wrestling with 4x4s on tight bends.

RF627 at Preston RF627 at Preston

From Preston into Hitchin the roads were wider (a bit). We passed through Gosmore, and came down to the junction at the south end of Hitchin. Our objective was Hertford, so we eschewed the delights of Hitchin garage and St.Mary's Square, and turned south.

329A: Hitchin to Knebworth Station

We headed south from the Hitchin roundabout on the old Bedford-Welwyn road. Just outside the town we passed another service bus, this time Centrebus L954 MBH, another Mercedes-Benz 811D with Beaver body, in St.Albans District livery. It was heading in to Hitchin on the 304, another route survival from LT days.

We steadily climbed up the Welwyn Road, past the bifurcation of the old 304 route via Kimpton, with Stevenage glimpsed away to our left in the distance. We passed through Langley, and on up to the parkland of Knebworth House, at Tower Lodge. There we pulled off the main road onto the very narrow lane to Nup End, along which we fortunately encountered no oncoming traffic. We did not stop at Nup End, but rumbled down through this outpost of Knebworth, and down to the station, where we paused again.

Centrebus 954 on 304 RF627 at Knebworth Station

329: Knebworth Station to Hertford

We pulled out of the station yard and under the low bridge. I nearly directed Ken to turn right at the wrong junction, but we made it onto the main road, and wound up out of Knebworth towards Woolmer Green. I nearly missed the turn there too, but we made it round the corner onto the lane to Datchworth Green. We wiggled round past the duck pond, and on along the lane. We paused for a photo with the cricketers just starting to play, and continued to The Plough, where we turned right onto the Hertford lane.

RF627 at Knebworth Station RF627 at Datchworth Green

This lane, on through Bulls Green towards Bramfield, was also narrow enough to cause problems in places with passing cars. In many places it was a glorious green tunnel. We made steady progress, although I frequently had to adjust the nearside trafficator. We passed through Bulls Green and Bramfield, and soon emerged onto the Stevenage road just above Hertford North Station.

The Plough green lanes

We wriggled through Hertford, and went to park the bus. We found GS2, RF633, RF679 and RT3148, with Eastbourne 69. It was time to check in at our hotel and have some lunch, so we accepted a lift into the town centre, parking on top of the Bircherley Street Car Park above the bus station. Below us ex-London Olympian L215, alias 5840, was awaiting a return to Enfield on the 310.

RF679 and RF672 at Hertford L215, Bircherley Green

A group of us went for a late lunch in Hertford, and discussed what needed to be done in the afternoon.

Part 2: Tree-spotting

All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.

Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: Tree-spotting