The last stage of my train journey to Sevenoaks was on a forty-year old train, appropriate to the day perhaps: 4-VEP 3805. These too, like Routemasters, were planned for the scrap-heap some years ago, due to regulations involving doors. They too, cheap and reliable compared to their fat and plastic replacements, have had one life-extension after another. It certainlty got me to Sevenoaks on time.
Then the wait began. There was a half-hour anyway, in which I bought some sustenance at the convenient shop across the road. But at half past nine there wasn't a green bus in sight. Ten minutes later there still wasn't. A group of four coaches rumbled past, one Autocar, two in Greenline livery (Arriva Kent and Sussex 2903 and ex-The Shires 4055).
And then a small green shape appeared at the top of the hill - not the expected RT or GS, but RF633 on the 0945 service to Knockholt, having run up from Tunbridge Wells as a 704.
The gathering at the bus-stop boarded RF633, and we headed north, out of Sevenoaks to Dunton Green. GS1 came up behind as we passed the site of the old garage (now a housing development). The GS was still wearing its Hertford blinds as it followed us out into the countryside towards the North Downs and Star Hill.
The RF left the GS behind at the roundabout at the foot of Star Hill, and dug into the climb. Star Hill assaults the North Downs escarpment frontally, and the 471 and 431 routes came this way on their forays to and from Dunton Green garage and/or Sevenoaks, while the 402 and 704 in the old days kept to the main road up Polhill, which sneaked up the side of the corner with the Darent Valley. (I used to prefer Star Hill on my bicycle - steeper but much shorter! - but I never saw a bus on it in my teen years.) Richard went down the gears with RF633, and we ground up the hill, enjoying the views. After a while GS1 came creeping up behind through the blue cloud.
We eased our way into narrow Knockholt Pound, and promptly went the wrong way, forking right rather than left. We emerged further down the hill than we should, with no possibility of turning left. But a little way down the hill, past the Halstead turn-off we came to Bowen's Yard, our bus-park for the day, where we could turn in order to go back up the hill to the Three Horseshoes.
There we found GS62, GS1 and RP21 already ensconced, the latter having come in from New Cross as a 704.
I bought a timetable at the tent, and noted that some services were not running due to last-minute vehicle problems (Two GSs and an RT went hors de combat in the three days before the event). Never mind, I was going to have a busy day anyway. RT3148, the bus I had intended to catch up from Sevenoaks, now rolled in to join the busy throng around the tiny triangle of green outside the pub. I looked for GS62 - my first priority was a trip round the 471 before it got too busy...
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: Journeys round the 471: GS62, GS1, RT3148