I had confessed to Claire that I didn't know the 71 route, and didn't have any maps with me, but we decided we could muddle along. We loaded up with a half-load, and headed north. I remembered that we had to turn left almost immediately, but only had a hazy recollection of how to get onto the Hook road, having gone different ways at different times. We mistakenly followed the Kingston road signs at the first roundabout, turned left at the next and followed the A243 under the M25 up to the big roundabout. Now all was straightforard, and we rattled and roared northwards across the common to Malden Rushett. It brought back lots of memories of riding Bristol LHs in Northumberland and the Dales, back when United used them over half of Northern England.
We approached Chessington World of Adventures, and pulled in to the stop. Someone at TfL remembered that used to be Chessington Zoo, for this is stop Z.
We continued on from there, through a gentle shower of rain that required the use of the noisy and old-fashioned windcreen wipers. Claire turned them off so that I could take a picture of DMS1868 passing on a southbound 71.
Further on we met some of the modern buses on the 71: Polish bodied Scania OmniCitys operated by Transdev. SP25 went past, heading for the World of Adventures, and then SP54 on the short working to Copt Gilders.
We passed over the A3 at Hook roundabout, and I moved into unknown territory. I concentrated a bit on Claire's map-book. We curled down towards the river, and passed under the railway. I didn't know that we should have turned right into Victoria Road to visit Surbiton Station, until a passenger said so. One of our passengers had wanted Surbiton Station, but he was quite happy to go on to Kingston, and everyone else wanted Kingston. So we continued down to the river, and turned right along Portsmouth Road. We turned right again tio rejoin the 71 route, and were lucky enough to spot SP91 on the 71 ahead of us. We followed it past a bus stance where Go-Ahead London's WVL41 was waiting to return to the 85 and hybrid drive HDE2 rested between turns on the 371.
As we progressed into Kingston we met new EnviroDart DE24 completing a 371 journey, and caught up with Scania SP91.
We reached the Cromwell Road Bus Station and pulled up at the special journeys stop. Several of us went off to find the toilets. Coming back I snapped DE2 heading for Heathrow, and pondered just how much progress have we made in single decker design in forrty years, comparing it with the BL. The bus engines are quieter, and the buses less draughty, but they still rattle and the seats are SO uncomfortable!
WVL41 caught up with us, setting out on its north-eastward journey to Putney Bridge. Strangely, this eight-year-old was one of the oldest buses to be seen in Kingston today - the BL and DMS excluded, of course. Another of Transdev's new Scanias paused on the 65, the other route that used to reach Leatherhead, but which today only goes south beyond Kingston at night.
We reboarded BL49 and set off again, with a much better idea of the 71 route for the return journey. We negotiated the one-way system and headed for Surbiton. Strangely, older buses started to be seen: Dart SLF DPS600 on the K3, Trident TA211 on the 281.
We managed to locate Claremont Road and headed up it towards Surbiton Station. Metrobus EnviroDart 225 bustled down towards us on the modern southern section of the 65, the 465 from Dorking. We turned west at the station along Victoria Road, to find Brighton Road and head south towards Hook.
Transdev EnviroDart SDE6 passed on the K1 to Kingston, a round-the-houses route from New Malden.
As we climbed away from the river we met SP107 at Maypole, rolling downhill on the 71. Further on we met Dart SLF DPS653 at the terminus of the K2, where it pops out onto the main road at Hook.
We reached Chessington Zoo again, and made the right turn to stop. While we were taking photos RF486 arrived on a Kingston-bound 71. It gave a great chance to compare these two vehicles, both apprpriate to the route, with RF486 wearing Kingston garage plates, and BL49 Norbiton plates.
RF486 set off first - and almost left behind one of its photographer passengers. This was realised before the bus reached the main road however, and a reunion was effected. BL49 set off in the opposite direction, heading back to Leatherhead.
This time I did remember the proper route into Leatherhead: turn right at the big roundabout, then left into Old Kingston Road. We passed another Metrobus EnviroDart, blasting northwards on the 465. We sedately made our way round to the Randalls Road carpark, where Claire and I went for a well-earned cup of tea.
Part Five: to Great Bookham and back
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
Ian's Bus-stop 1 2 3 4 5 6