RF633 at Kings Walden

Hitchin Route Creation Day

Saturday 4th June 2016

Prepared by Ian Smith, 19th June 2016.

386: Stevenage to Hitchin (RF633)

I had intended to be at Stevenage Station in good time to meet RF633 at the start of the afternoon, running the 386 from Stevenage Bus Station to Hitchin. But fate, or probably the signallers at York, decreed otherwise. My Transpennine Express came to a stand on the northern approaches, and waited for about ten minutes, before being allowed into a completely empty station (Sorry, there was one Voyager in platform 10). Anyway, we consequently lost our fast path to Leeds, and dawdled along behind a stopper, to judge by the pattern of signal stops. So an easy eleven minute connection into the express to Stevenage had evaporated: indeed, the train had gone. The express an hour later did not call at Stevenage. Yes, you've guessed, the Virgin improvements to the East Coast timetable means that London - Edinburgh times have improved, but intermediate journeys are worse. So after nearly an hour waiting it was off to Peterborough, and a slow all-stations train southwards. I had the wit to ring Peter Aves and tell him I was heading to Hitchin, where I hoped to catch up with him and the RF.

So I missed the first journey, from Stevenage to Hitchin on the 386. But on arrival at Hitchin, things looked up. I walked out of the station doorway and RF633 pulled onto the station forecourt!

RF633 on 386 at Hitchin Stn RF633 on 386 at Hitchin Stn

384: Hitchin to Kings Walden (RF633)

The blinds were changed for the 364 to Kings Walden via Preston. Kings Walden was only a terminus for one working - from the Luton direction - but like LT, we needed somewhere to turn, and Preston can be a busy little junction. So to Kings Walden we would go. The garage plates were swapped over too: the 386 was a Hertford duty, while the 364 was operated by Stevenage (and Luton).

RF633 on 364 at Hitchin Stn RF633 on 364 at Hitchin Stn

Then we were away, back into town, to St.Mary's Square, the official start point for our 364 journey. We continued past the site of the old Hitchin garage, now redeveloped but with a sensitive hint of the old garage front style. We climbed up through the cutting to the roundabout above, and took the quiet road south towards Gosmore and Preston.

It was green. Very green. The wet spring had had an effect. We drove through a green tunnel of trees and hedges. At Gosmore we squeezed through the chicane at The Bull, continuing past a field of cattle just beyond: a rarer sight than of yore. We made the right turn on the green at Preston, and pulled up for photos. Apart from the Red Lion Inn there was the remnant of an old village pump, plus an old-fashioned (but still popular) telephone box and letterbox. (Plus a reminder of the twenty-first century in the shape of a wheelie-bin).

Gosmore Bull Preston: phone box and letterbox

RF633 on 364 at Preston

RF633 on 364 at Preston RF633 on 364 at Preston

We headed west from Preston, down Church Lane and Back Lane - both narrow roads where one hopes not to meet anything coming the other way. We avoided the left fork labelled Kings Walden, but continued down to the crossroads at the pond, where we took the exceedingly narrow lane up to Ley Green Post Office. We turned left at the T, opposite the wooden bus shelter, and ran along to the junction with the more direct lane from Preston. Here was the Kings Walden turning point, just east of the straggling village. Remember, it was served by LT from the west, from Luton.

The bus was turned - a reverse turn into the lane southwards. The blinds were turned too, and we watched three red kites whirling above Ley Green.

384: Kings Walden to Hitchin (RF633)

RF633 on 364 at Kings Walden RF633 on 364 at Kings Walden

We set off back to Ley Green, where the bus was posed in front of the bus shelter.

RF633 on 364 at Ley Green

Then it was down the hill to the duck-pond, for another photo-stop, then up the hill to Preston. We turned left for Hitchin, but made another pause in Gosmore before continuing into town, to St.Mary's Square.

RF633 on 364 at Gosmore RF633 on 364 at St.Mary's Square

Temporarily the bus stops were clogged up with local services and a long-distance coach. Behind the RF was a Centrebus Solo, 309, off the 304 from St.Albans, while behind that was Centro 606, which must have followed us from Kings Walden on the 88 from Luton.

Centrebus Solo 309 off 304 at St.Mary's Square Centrebus Centro 606 off 88 at St.Mary's Square

After a minute or two the RF could be parked, for all to have a break and visit the market...

Part Two: East from Hitchin

Ian's Bus-stop One Two Three Four Five Six