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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A group of us went for a late lunch in Hertford, and discussed what needed to be done in the afternoon.
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: Tree-spotting