RT3254 on 716 at Stevenage

Hertford, Hitchin & Stevenage

Sunday June 7th 2009

Prepared by Ian Smith, 12th June 2009.

Saturday 6th: Swanley to Hertford

Prelude: 233, Swanley & Eltham (1643)

I arrived at Swanley about an hour and a half before the rendezvous time. At the station bus stop on Azalea Drive I just missed Arriva's Dart 3261 on the 477, still in blue/cream. After a walk down to the main street, a 233 to Eltham was due, and after considering the time-table I realised that I had plenty of time for a trip to Eltham and back. The 233, now operated by Arriva Kent Thameside, duly arrived in the shape of Enviro 200 Dart No1643. I boarded and settled in for the grind north along the old A21 to Sidcup (after the initial twiddle round Swanley's Northview Estate. We passed the old Sidcup Bus Garage (now completely rebuilt as a technology centre) and headed into Sidcup. Station Road was being thoroughly dug up, with a one-way system in operation, so the bus was diverted. Eventually we returned to the originally-named Main Road, and continued past New Eltham Station to Southend Crescent, then west along Eltham High Street before turning down to Eltham Bus Station.

3261 on 477, Sidcup. 1643 heads north, Swanley.

At Eltham Bus Station I had to alight. The bus went off to the central stance to change drivers. After a while it ground round the bus station to the pick-up stop and we were away, back to Swanley. I was surprised to see two green RFs already on the forecourt of Swanley Garage, as I was still well ahead of the rendezvous time. I alighted and went to join them.

1643 at Eltham Station. 1643 heads south, Swanley.

Swanley to Hertford (RF679, RF633, RF429)

Colin Rivers and Peter Aves had already arrived from deepest Kent with RF679 and RF633, and were parked in front of Swanley Garage. This has been reclad very smartly, with new doors in the proper LT garage door blue. Even the Holden admin block appears to have been refurbished. But as yet it shows no sign of its new owners.

RF679 and RF633 at Swanley Garage. RF679 and RF633 at Swanley Garage.

I joined the other two on RF679 while we waited for the arrival of Ron with RF429 from Sussex. Ron duly arrived, and we set off together, out to the M25 and north to the Dartford Tunnel.

RF633 and RF679 at Swanley Garage. RF429 at Swanley Garage.

We passed through the Tunnel, and pulled in to Thurrock Services, for another rendezvous, this time with Roger Wright to confirm details for the morrow.

RF429, RF633, RF679 at Thurrock Services. RF429, RF633, RF679 at Thurrock Services.

That done, we were away again, heading north up the M25 and then the M11 to Harlow. Travelling on the motorways is always a rather nervous time, with a top speed in the forties and some huge trucks able to pull out into the next lane only at the last moment due to heavy car traffic in the other lanes. But eventually we could pull off onto quieter roads, and pull in for a refuelling stop. Several hundred pounds worth of fuel went into the three RFs. Strange how car motorists will patiently queue behind other cars, but grumble about the wait having chosen to queue behind a bus!

RF633 on motorway. RF679 fuelling near Harlow.

On our chosen route we did not see much of Harlow as we passed through: Harlow hides itself from passing vehicular traffic. You just know its there from all the roundabouts. We met one of Trustybus' Darts (EU04BZY). I cannot remember which service, and the digital displays often leave no record to photography. We joined the 350A route for the final leg through St.Margarets to Amwell Corner and on into Hertford. Another Dart SLF (P678RWU, previously with Armchair) belonged to S.M.Coaches, working the hourly 524 to Harlow.

Trustybus EU04BZY in Harlow. SMCoaches P678RWU in Hertford.

Passing the Police Headquarters in Hertford we met another of Trustybus' Darts, LN03AYL, on a Ware service. Showing that Arriva still does operate into Hertford, we met Trident 5424 heading east on the 310.

We met up with Steve Woods, with his Eastbourne Regent V No69, and Ken Eveleigh with RF627.

Trustybus LN03AYL in Hertford. Eastbourne 69 in Hertford.

Route-learning: 393 and 388 (RF627)

In previous years we had sometimes gone out in a double-decker to check the trees along the 341 route between Hertford and Essendon Mill, but these have apparently been cut back to a safe condition. This year we were introducing services to Welwyn Garden City, with routes 393 and 388 from Hertford connecting there. So a collection of drivers - and I - boarded RF627 for a foray out on the 393 to Welwyn G.C., and back to Hertford via the 388. We skirted Hertford on the inner ring road, and took the A414 west towards Hatfield. A left turn took us onto the old road via Hertingfordbury and Birch Green to Cole Green. There we left the by-now-familiar 350 route to continue towards Great Ganett. We crossed the A414 at a roundabout, and plunged into the spawling suburbia of Welwyn Garden City. We located the old bus terminus (for the 330) at Great Ganett, and continued in to cross the railway and turn in to the bus station.

There we found that Ken had the 388 return blinds already in RF627, so wound those up for the return. Reboarding the RF, we set off, back round the roundabout and over the railway bridge, then turning left up a new (temporary?) one-way system to Haldens. We left the town behind as we swept under the railway towards old Welwyn. At the Digswell Roundabout we turned right, back onto the familiar 388 route to Welwyn North Station. I enquired of Peter Aves, who was driving, whether any of the services used the short-cut up Station Road instead of going under the viaduct first. Turning up that way, perhaps to avoid the road-humps on the lower road, Peter informed us that some of the services turned by using Staion Road to get back to the station. From Welwyn North Station we headed for Harmer Green, and on to Tewin. After the narrow winding section and the green tunnel we emerged onto the main road to Sele Farm Estate and Hertford North Station, and were soon back in Hertford.

RF679 and RF627. RF627 at Welwyn Garden City.

Part Two: Sunday Morning Deluge

Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.

Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part Two: The Deluge