There were interesting sights to be seen amongst the crowd of "normal" buses: a VDL SB200 / Wrightbus Pulsar on SB8 was not displaying a fleetnumber: it is Arriva Kent Thameside's 3751.
Centrebus Solo 389 pulled round to the end of the stance, under the shade of the tree, to stand for a few more minutes before leaving on the 44. A few minutes later it was Centrebus Dart 595 under the tree, off the 22.
RF633 started up again, and pulled round onto the stand, for the long winding 386 journey to Hertford via Ardeley, Buntingford and Hare Street..
We set off out of Stevenage, making our way north-east past Pin Green and Chells, bypassing these estates in the way that Stevenage's main roads sensibly do. Beyond the town limits the broad main roads suddenly gave way to winding narrow country roads, that we followed on to Walkern. We noticed that the old London Transport wooden shelter there has been replaced by a modern one.
At Walkern our route diverged from the 384, turning left instead of right. A couple of miles north, at Cromer End, we turned off the relatively wide B1037 onto the narrow lane to Ardeley. We stopped at the bus stop before the corner, opposite the red phone box and the massive thatched roof (The Rabbit's Foot pub?). I suggested that photographers went round the corner and reboarded after the bus had made the tight turn.
If the roads before had been narrow, the lane north from Ardeley is distinctly car-sized. Fortunately we met no traffic. We paused for photos on one of the open sections. Leyland Nationals were used on this route: they must have had wheels on both verges.
We climbed back aboard and headed north, on up the lane across the fields.
After a while we met the B1037 again, and continued on to Cottered, where we met the main road and today's 700 bus route. It seems that today's residents get eight buses a day to Bishops Stortford, Buntingford, Hitchin and Stevenage - but not Ardeley (which may get a school run). Cottered is pretty. We paused at the bus stop.
We motored on along the A507 to Buntingford, passing on the outskirts the terminus of last year's route recreation on the 351, at Greenways. We continued into town, turning right onto the old Ermine Street, here Buntingford High Street, and pulling up at the stop.
Now the route taken was new territory for me. On my previous 386 trip we had returned from Buntingford to Hertford as a 331, but now we were on a full 386 journey. We turned off Ermine Street and headed east to Hare Street, where we turned south onto the B1368 for a trundle through Dassels, Hay Street and Braughing. We passed Braughing Station, and rejoined the Ermine Street route at the edge of Puckeridge. We negotiated the narrow village street, turning left onto South Road to reach Standon Station, where we paused briefly.
This is where the Hertford and Bishops Stortford arms of the route diverged. We turned right for Hertford, rejoining the old A10 at the current A10 roundabout. We motored south down the old Roman Road, through Colliers End and past The White Horse at High Cross. Although straight, the road undulated across the Hertfordshire hills. The bridge at Wadesmill, closed last year, was open again, so we could continue south towards Ware. We crossed over the modern A10 and descended into Ware. We had a request for a station call, as a London-bound train was almost due, so made our way round to the station. We dropped a few passengers, then waited at the crossing for the train to pass. It was a white-painted unit demoted from the Stansted Express.
Once the barriers had opened we headed for Hertford, along beside the New River, then up and under the A10 viaduct. We trundled into Hertford past Fairfax Road (the old garage site), and terminated at OLd London Road, where we had begun.
As a postscript, Peter Aves was taking the bus away to an overnight bed and breakfast at a farm outside Hertford, but kindly dropped some of us off in the High Street in Hertford to shorten our walk to the hotel.
It had been an excellent trip. Many thanks to Colin Rivers for organising it, and to Peter Aves for doing the driving.
Part Four: Early Morning at Hertford
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
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