Here's another long one. I'll be riding almost all of the 313, which sweeps across the top of London from Potters Bar to Chingford. That's the equivalent of Paddington to Stratford, were this a few miles further south, only through rather greener scenery. The 313 journeys so far that I'll be missing out on a potential borderline deviation near Waltham Cross, but that's probably for the best because I ought to get to the end of my orbit sooner rather than later.
ROUND LONDON BY BUS(xviii)
Route 313: Potters Bar - Chingford Length of journey: 9 miles, 50 minutes
I have a long time to wait, outside what used to be the Potters Bar Lion, for my 313. The view's not great, with a tall office block blighting the crossroads and an abandoned business HQ behind. I'm sharing the shelter with two local wideboys, they far more geezer than I. At one point they spot a mate they know driving by and yell "Sweet!" as he winds down his window. Neither has Oyster so they pay by cash, the driver at first not noticing that one of the pair has already boarded. I take up my favourite seat on a single decker, above the rear left-hand wheel arch, affording views all around including through the front window. To begin with all I see are houses, but before very long we're out of Potters Bar, more precisely at junction 24 on the M25. From the roundabout I can look down over roadworks on the motorway - the cones are out and traffic's passing through in contraflow. Just a couple of hundred metres more and I'll be back inside London again.
The Ridgeway is an amazing road, for London at least, because it truly lives up to its name. It runs along the top of a ridge between two streams, the larger of which - the Salmon's Brook - flows unspoilt along the groove below. I enjoy what's anentirelyatypicalview from a London bus, all hedges and sky, as we speed onward through Enfield Chase. The landscape is astonishingly agricultural, just field after field after field, with the only buildings for the next mile a quartet of farms. Those and two independent schools, built so far from anywhere that it's fortunate Mummy can probably drive. Those and a single cottage called Windrush, an Art Deco home so remote that the adjacent bus stop has been named after it. Where the road starts to dip is the hamlet of Botany Bay, allegedly named to mirror the remoteness of Captain Cook's first Australian anchorage. The cricket club doubles up as a jazz venue, while the RobinHood pub boasts 'great food', and judging by the busy state of their car park they might well be right.
I recognise the end of the ridge from London Loopsection 17, but not the tractor we're suddenly stuck behind. Beyond the fields is Chase Farm Hospital, whose casualty department was itself a recent casualty of NHS restructuring. A big sign out front alerts parents-to-be that the Maternity unit closed in November 2013, but it was undoubtedly a PR error to illustrate this with a photo of a smiling mother. Hospitals bring custom to buses, and as a result of the influx my forward view is suddenly part-blocked by a rather large Afro. Further passengers board along the built-up end of The Ridgeway, but this lot look like they're off shopping, as we descend down Windmill Hill into Enfield proper. Meanwhile my two fellow geezers are busy bantering in the back seat about an upcoming 21st birthday and how Smithy's not been invited. There will be proper hassle later.
Because we're heading east we get to follow the one-way system up the main drag, that's ChurchStreet. A mass changeover occurs outside McDonalds, as most of those aboard pour off and a brand new contingent pours on. The two rows behind me are now filled by a clutch of smartly-dressed teenage girls, who continue their outside gossip in this more confined space. "Pizzas are changing at school to thin," says one, to an immediate response of "Nooooo!" Another is struck by the slogan above EnfieldMarket - "How is that vibrant?!" she mocks. Nobody points out the site of Britain'sfirstcashpoint on the front of Barclays, nor the New River in its artificial channel opposite the station.
Ahead is Southbury Road, a long Victorian terrace which leads gently downhill to Southbury. This suburb'll become more well-known capital-wide when its station appears on the Overground next year, but North London folk are already familiar and are queuing to visit in large numbers. A truly massive retail park has grown up alongside the Great Cambridge Road, easy to reach by car, and my God don't they? First up are all the mid-range chain restaurants a community could need - a TGI Fridays, a Harvester and a Pizza Hut - the latter the destination of choice for the six schoolgirls sat behind me. Beyond the A10 come the megasheds, including an orange B&Q and various furniture warehouses, where several more passengers alight. I'm impressed by the genuine choice of a Morrisons or a Sainsburys, both enormous, plus a huge Tesco on the other side of the railway.
We pause awhile outside Ponders End bus garage for a driver changeover - a delay I've experienced only rarely on my round London journey. An inspector can be seen hanging around outside, keeping tabs, while the sweet smell of a carwash, or maybe a launderette, wafts aboard. It's good to return at last to a street with actual houses, though not so good for the 313 stuck in a very long queue of traffic (not) heading the other way. Only seven of us remain aboard the bus, though one of the departees has left behind a crushed coke can and a Subway wrapper on the floor. Two chatty old ladies then alight at consecutive stops ("Bye Maria, bye") after what may have been a grand day out, or may just have been tea somewhere.
We're approaching the Lea, close to where Ponders End's fourtowerblocks rise in pastel harmony. The 313 is the only London bus to cross this far north, taking advantage of a gap between the two King George reservoirs which otherwise form a three mile barrier between east and west. The viaduct crosses four threads of the river in close succession, plus another Harvester in case somehow the Southbury branch is too far away. Beyond the sailing club is Kings Head Hill, the king in question being Henry VIII, at least according to the pub sign. It's a steady climb into Chingford, quite relentlessly so to reach the old village centre at ChingfordGreen. The wind is whipping the trees in the churchyard, which is annoying because I'm getting off here a smidgeon before the shelter of the bus station. Nine miles nearer my goal, and definitely getting there. 179>>