Route B12: Erith - Joydens Wood Location: London southeast Length of journey: 8 miles, 50 minutes
London has some pretty obscure bus routes... unless they're your local bus route, in which case they're pretty important. For the folk of Joydens Wood, an estate on the southeastern outskirts of the capital, the B12 is their link to Bexley's high life. Just one catch, it only runs Monday to Saturday. Several bus routes around the edges of London do this - there's no demand on Sundays so the buses would merely be transporting air at unnecessary cost. The people of Joydens Wood said they'd be different, that they'd use their Sunday bus honest, but the funding just wasn't there.
And then suddenly last month TfL ran one of their consultations to determine whether or not the B12 should gain a Sunday service. More than 100 stakeholders responded, nigh all of them positively, as well you might expect. Oh go on then, said TfL, we'll give the full daily service a go. Normally these consultations take months or even years to come to fruition, but unusually the B12's renaissance took less than a fortnight. The first on-Sunday B12s rode round Joydens Wood yesterday, every half an hour no less, and the residents duly turned out to climb aboard. And so did I, not because I'm a sad bus geek or anything, but because it struck me I knew bugger all about Joydens Wood. And you probably don't either... so come along for the ride.
The most important thing you need to know about Joydens Wood is that it's in Kent. Only just in Kent, by a few hundred metres, but very definitely under the auspices of Dartford Borough Council. There are no especially old buildings here. The estate grew across farmland in the first part of last century, and has been topped up and infilled a few times since. A few thousand live here - in bungalows, in 60s townhouses, in nice semis, up detached avenues, inside gated villas, whatever. The property mix is quite varied, but generally on the more aspirational side. They have lovely gardens, indeed the magnolias at the moment are magnificent. But despite all the cars parked out the front of everywhere, there are still just enough residents you can imagine might still need a bus service.
The B12 enters Joydens Wood past Coldblow, which is just in London. The driver stops at St Mary's Road to wind the destination round to "Erith", then continues along a two and a bit mile loop around the edge of the village. The route is peculiar, possibly even unique, in that buses run one-way clockwise in the morning, then flip to run the other way anticlockwise after noon. That means Joydens Wood has two sets of bus stops, one labelled "AM journeys" and the other, on the opposite side of the road, "PM only". I have no idea why this split should be deemed necessary, but if you look in the comments box some clever soul will no doubt be able to explain. Please check your watch before you travel.
The bus I rode into Joydens Wood ran anti-clockwise. It wasn't especially busy, although the previous bus I'd just missed had been. We skipped past most of the stops, until at last I thought someone was flagging us down, except it turned out she was merely trimming her hedge. There was a lot of front garden action all the way round, including the digging out of dead daffodils and the hoovering of cars. I was pleased when another passenger did finally board, because it meant the driver wouldn't be lonely on the journey back. And then I nipped off to explore the village properly.
It's not easy to find a shop open in Joydens Wood on a Sunday. Denny's Sandwich Bar was firmly closed, as were the Indian restaurant and the petrol station up the hill. I had more luck at the Post Office, where the newsagent was mopping the floor ready to close up but hadn't quite. The needs of stay-at-home souls were served by the chiming van of Rossi's Spiderman Ices, although I didn't see anybody come out to meet it, perhaps because Nico's Ices had got their custom earlier. But my favourite shop in the locality was a business on Old Bexley Lane which went by the fantastic name of Modern Screws. Alas, its shutters were firmly down.
The best thing to do in Joydens Wood on a Sunday, indeed possibly on any day of the week, is to go for a walk round the ancient woodland on the hill. It's called JoydensWood, obviously, and its 300 acres are now under the management of the Woodland Trust. Conifers and broadleaf trees intermingle, the former a post-war intrusion, but the many tracks and paths make for a lovely place to stroll. There's a lot of up and down, and plenty of flowering spring ground cover, and even a 1km-long Saxon ditch called the Faesten Dic. This was built to keep Roman Londoners out of Saxon Kent, and is still very much intact, even today. Follow the red posts to track the Faesten Dic, or the blue posts for a general woodland walk. Indeed, head far enough in and the other side of Joydens Wood is actually in London. Just good luck finding your way out - it took me ages to find a gap in the back gardens that would allow me to escape back to the bus route.
The B12 that took me away was late, but it was also popular. There were about ten of us on board by the time we'd looped back to Coldblow, with the bus providing a most useful means of escape for local youth. They all alighted in Bexleyheath, where another tranche of jabbering youngsters boarded, because it's not just Joydens Wood benefiting from the B12's extended hours. I may have been the only passenger aboard by the time we reached Erith, but TfL's confidence in the new Sunday service seems well placed. Let Joy abound.