Route 327: Waltham Cross to Elsinge Estate London's 2nd shortest bus route Length of journey: 1.87 miles (15 minutes)
Having toyed with the edge of London on previous journeys, this time we finally start beyond it, at the busy bus station in Waltham Cross. The 327 was introduced in 1997 as an experimental circular route to mop up shoppers from one particular estate sandwiched between the A10 and the railway. It also serves Turkey Street (which I wrote about just before Christmas so my apologies for the almost-immediate repetition). The 327 originally ran shopping hours only, but was extended into the evenings in 2008, then knocked back to 7am-7pm in 2018. Also last summer the frequency was reduced from every 30 minutes to every 40, ostensibly to improve reliability, but which has also made it much harder to remember the timetable. It's a 300-passengers-a-day kind of bus.
At Waltham Cross bus station you can tell which buses go to Hertfordshire because they still have a poppy stuck to the front, and you can tell which buses are going to Essex because they sometimes flash up Happy New Year on the dot-matrix display. Buses going to London are obviously red. Our 327 driver has been enjoying the lengthy layover the latest timetable affords, and slots in at the bus stop behind the 217 we'll be shadowing for the first mile. My fellow passengers are an old lady in a pink headscarf with a walking stick poking out of her trolley, a mother and daughter who've bought a carrierful of groceries and a middle-aged couple dangling a Vodafone bag.
Escaping from the bus station requires a spin round the bypass, so by the time we reach the first stop we've already travelled half a mile. We've also entered London, the precise boundary being the M25 which is disappearing into a tunnel directly beneath us. The advantage of being a minor bus is that our driver already knows nobody at this stop is waiting for him, so sails by and leaves the 217 to collect them instead. The crossroads by the Esso garage is a busy one, with each of the four streams of traffic afforded its own traffic light phase, so it takes a while to turn right into Bullsmoor Lane. And from this point onwards we're on our loop, so as likely to be picking someone up as dropping them off.
Lea Valley High School recently changed its motto from Achieve, Develop, Excel to Aspiration, Innovation, Respect, the three new buzzwords now proudly plastered across the front of the academy. Aylands Open Space is occupied by half a dozen goalposts, a minor game of kickabout, numerous seagulls and a pylon. Just beyond the railway we turn off into Lackmore Road, where a delivery van has shrunk the width of the road to just narrower than the bus can cope with. Thankfully its driver is at the wheel, so is soon able to nudge closer to the kerb and we squeeze through, but it would only take one badly-placed vehicle to bring the 327 entirely to a halt.
We have now entered the Elsinge Estate, a twisted ladder of streets lined by the epitome of Fifties council housing. We'll not be passing the lowly shopping parade, nor the local library, but instead threading down the eastern flank past a succession of flat-fronted brick houses. The easiest way to maintain the grass in your front garden appears to be to park two cars on it. Occasional hails bring passengers on board, and occasional dings allow them off. Our driver has to pause at Cockers Road because this is the officially designated 'Hesitation point' where blinds are changed and systems reset. Across the park I spot the 217 at a bus stop residents could easily walk to if the 327 were ever scrapped, but again social need decrees it hasn't been.
And then we turn into Turkey Street, which I've told you all about before, along which we accumulate a further drip of passengers. Two board directly outside the Overground station, one spooning pineapple chunks into her mouth from a plastic carton. UK Power Networks are digging up the pavement ahead, but two idiots have parked their cars much too close on the opposite side of the road creating a slalom course for our driver to negotiate. What follows is an absolute masterclass of manoeuvring, as the bus nudges left and then right without ever quite hitting anything. A woman in a pink spotty dressing gown pops out of her cottage to see what's going on.
The last side of the loop heads north up Hertford Road, where we are no longer the only bus route back to Waltham Cross so punters jump aboard the first that comes along. The bus stop outside Lidl still has a tile saying "327 Monday to Saturday shopping hours only", which must be more than 10 years old (and doesn't bode well for Bus Stop M ever being fixed). Four fat staffies waddle up the garden path of a narrow terraced house after their daily exercise. Freezywater's 'shopping centre' offers solutions to all your tool hire, kebab and barbering needs. And at the Bullsmoor Lane junction the 327's mile-long loop is complete, so you know the rest.