diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The 166 is a most peculiar bus route. It runs from Croydon out to Purley and Coulsdon before nudging beyond the edge of Greater London. It then serves villages along the Surrey border, generally only as far as Banstead, but intermittently extended all the way to Epsom. It's a proper London bus, funded by London taxpayers, but spends up to nine miles in alien territory. It serves, or very nearly serves, a dozen commuter-friendly railway stations. And it's also a jolly good ride out into the country, including one hill that's a genuine struggle for bus and driver alike. I enjoyed this one.


 ROUND LONDON BY BUS (vii)
 Route 166: Purley - Epsom

 Length of journey: 11 miles, 50 minutes

If you're heading round London by bus you have to time this one right. The 166 runs three times an hour but only one of these runs all the way to Epsom, and then not evenings or on Sundays. You may end up waiting rather longer in Purley than you expected, in which case a cup of tea and cake in the Downlands Shopping Precinct might suffice. I almost got to watch some 'healers' in the precinct entrance, but arrived just as they were rolling up their healing mat with their healing hands, and packing away all their healing bits into a healing box. Several buses to Caterham and Coulsdon pulled up before my 166 arrived, a bus which was already half full from its run from Croydon. Almost precisely half full, as it turned out, with each double seat occupied by a 'selfish' single traveller, forcing me to squeeze into the legroom-free corner of the back row.

We headed south past a run of big gabled houses, most of them dentist-sized, and past several waiting passengers who weren't interested in our bus. Ahead lay Coulsdon, London's southernmost town, located at the point where three dry valleys meet. The main Brighton Road now diverts from the town centre via a sweeping bypass, but our bus turned right down the old coast road via the shops. I kept an eye open for the Bang & Olufsen where I once spent a very dull afternoon being forced to find hi-fi interesting, but I think it's finally closed after half a century's service. We rode the Chipstead Valley Road out of town, the houses here a little more mundane, and home to the little girl sat in front of me's grandma. She stopped playing with her pink tablet just long enough for her mum to pack it away, zip up her coat and bundle the pair of them off the bus. Then just beyond Woodmansterne station, and just before the railway bridge, those of us still on board exited London and headed into Surrey. I'm sure only I noticed.

A few hundred metres beyond the border is the Midday Sun, which for many years was as far as this bus went. There was a definite sense of terminus about the place as we swung off the road to wait outside what used to be a proper pub, but is now part of the Hungry Horse chain and looked like it sold as many chips as pints. And then came the most memorable section of the journey. The most direct route ahead isn't used because the lane's too narrow, so instead the bus diverts up the residential incline of Chipstead Way. Initially I didn't think the hill looked that steep, nor was our vehicle overloaded, but the bus's engine took great exception to the contours and wheezed up really slowly. Cars parked all the way down one side of the road didn't help matters, so oncoming traffic was forced to retreat into whatever spaces it could find as our snail-like juggernaut approached. A 12% section down was followed immediately by another slow chugger up, with one brief break in the houses revealing rolling downland beyond. It wouldn't have been half as much fun riding the other way.

At the top of the hill, 50 metres higher than we'd started, lay the centre of the village of Woodmansterne. The flint church had an attractively squat wooden steeple, the post office doubled up as a Londis, and there looked to be a nice pub down the lane but we didn't go that way. Instead we continued north, past a bus stop called Merrymeet, and unexpectedly nipped back into London again. We didn't linger, staying just long enough to turn left round the edge of a nondescript field. Had this been high summer it would have been ablaze with purple, because this is London's largest lavender farm, formerly an outpost for Yardley, now very independently owned. As well as gifts your gran would love it's seemingly impossible to take a bad photo here during the months of July and August, so best pencil in a visit via the 166 for six months time.

Having skirted a bit of Sutton we ploughed back into Surrey, along a winding lane lined by the occasional farm, several bungalows and somewhere to buy your kindling. Before long we reached the town of Banstead, a veritable cluster of middle class niceness complete with Waitrose and M&S Simply Food. They've still got a Bang & Olufsen, I noted, and a proper family butchers called Bettameats. As I said earlier, most 166s terminate here and head back to Croydon, but I was on the extension version and we still had several miles to go. I was particularly excited to see a gentleman in a wheelchair waiting to board with his young granddaughter in tow. Firstly, this proved that London's accessible bus fleet was doing good things even on the fringes of Surrey. But mostly I hoped I'd be able to get at least a paragraph out of the pair's exploits, and so it proved as the journey continued.

Grandpa sat backwards in the wheelchair space, a pink ballet bag draped over the arm of his vehicle, while Lizzie (not her real name) sat on an adjacent seat playing with his phone. Conversation proved difficult. She was engrossed playing Shoemaker, a game which I later discovered involved sticking jewels and lacy bits on a pair of digital high heels. "Can I have the phone when you've finished?" asked Grandpa. "It just made a noise, which means I've got a message." Lizzie played on. "Music's boring isn't it?" he tried. No reaction. Every opening gambit was batted back with a muted grunt, until eventually Grandpa insisted and was allowed to check his text. "It's from Nanny," he said. "Hello We Need An Onion For Our Cottage Pie." Suddenly the pair's journey had a purpose, which made Grandpa very happy, and one-sidedly more talkative, and then suddenly conspiratorial. "Don't tell Nanny about the Creme Eggs!" he said, three times, as if she didn't know her husband was a soft touch. And then the conversation faltered, as smartphone absorption kicked back in, and Grandpa returned to looking suspiciously at the bloke sat by the window writing notes.

During all this we'd progressed some considerable distance - past the outpost of Banstead station, up a brief detour to Drift Bridge (which sounded exciting, but proved to be a used VW dealer), and round the edge of Nork. This is surely one of the best place names in the London area, although alas Nork Way lies fractionally outside the border, and the 166 merely passes a sign to "Nork Village". It was around here that a small child called Ollie alighted, silver scooter in hand, and padded off. On any normal journey his earlier remonstrations with mum demanding to sit on the front seat would have been a narrative highlight, but Lizzie's mute defiance had stolen that crown.

A five-way roundabout heralded entrance to the Downs, and to the "Borough of Epsom and Ewell, Home of the Derby". I was surprised to see a roadsign pointing to the village of Grandstand half a mile away, then realised this was a feature of the local terribly well-known race course, its upper levels now visible across the grass. We headed nowhere near, veering right to pass close to Epsom Downs station, the not very accessible terminus of a minor commuter branch line from Sutton. And then we started the run-in to the town centre, past the college and a "Sorry driver, it's the next one!" wrong stop. I had, somehow, never been to Epsom before, but my first impressions were coloured by the major jam in the high street where everything queued to negotiate a single crossroads. I alighted here, followed closely by Grandpa and Lizzie on their onion quest, leaving the long distance 166 to complete its epic journey a little further on at the hospital. 467>>

» route 166 - timetable
» route 166 - route history
» route 166 - live bus map
» route 166 - The Ladies Who Bus
» map of my journey so far


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Sunday 2nd October (8.30-6.30)
Thames Barrier Closure
Annual all-day test, peaking around high tide at 3pm.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv