diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Eight buses round my orbital route, and this is the fourth whose route number begins with 4. There is a reason for this, which is the numbering system first introduced by the London Passenger Transport Board in October 1934. Numbers below 300 were allocated to buses in central London, the 300s went to Country Area (north), and the 400s to Country Area (south). This rigid structure didn't last, but its legacy lingers. Today's first bus in fact started life as the 568, a Surrey Council route, but entered the London fold in the 1990s and earned an opening 4 for its trouble.

 Route 467: Epsom - Hook

 Length of journey: 6 miles, 30 minutes

Epsom is the non-London location served by the greatest number of London buses. Six different services flood the High Street, along with a multitude of Surrey buses in blues and greens and yellows heading elsewhere. The bussiest spot is on the High Street in the shadow of the Clocktower, where the pigeons circle in swooping loops from the roof of the Ashley Centre and back again. They don't have London bus stops here, they have white rectangles, and all the timetables look home-produced too, for which read "printed in Surrey". The 467 doesn't turn up very often, only every hour, and then not after seven in the evening (which is typical for a proper provincial bus). But the route still merits a double decker, which is extremely rare for an hourly red London bus. Or "Basic Useless Service", as the teenage boy in the smurf-like woolly hat delighted in telling his dad as they filled their time waiting for the 467 by coveting passing cars.

Escaping the first set of traffic lights took a while, then it was on down the dual carriageway High Street with the borough arms emblazoned on the central railings. Across the road I noticed a board advertising Famous Dave's Famous Cookware and Linen Sale, although that was the first I'd heard of it. And then we were off up the East Street on the way to Epsom's sister settlement of Ewell. My fellow passengers on the top deck were already being a little noisy. Smurf-boy's family had nabbed the front seats and were chattering merrily, while the mother sat behind them became increasingly animated into her phone. "I'm on the bus," she began, then berated her friend Shelley for not having taken some important object to a timely place. "So now I've got to go all the way home," she moaned, and continued to sigh frustratedly all the way to London.

We passed a weeny 470 minibus near the end of its long distance jaunt from (seriously?) Colliers Wood. And then we were rumbling into the centre of Ewell, a more characterfully compact affair with redbrick Tudor shops and the odd old pub. We rode round Bourne Hall Park, at the centre of which is a most unusual flying saucer shaped community hub (library, museum, meeting rooms, that sort of thing). What with all this weather we've been having lately the spring at the source of the Hogsmill River had overflowed out of its pool and across the pavement, extending the surface area available for ducks. Our exit through West Ewell, past Ewell West, was accompanied by the tinny sound of a YouTuber who didn't believe in headphones. Thankfully she wasn't joined by the band of sullen teenage girls with piled-up hair waiting at the next bus stop. They wanted the 418 to somewhere real, not the dead end outer suburbs.

You don't expect to see a crazy golf course packed with punters in January, but Horton Park's Jungle Adventure Golf is something else. Ten foot waterfalls tumble from fibreglass rocks while a fake snake gyrates, as if Indiana Jones might putt through at any moment. Ahead at the Bonesgate Stream, a tributary of the Hogsmill, our bus entered London for the first time. I noticed the housing estates change subtly, becoming a little less leafy, as we crossed. This council-ish outpost is the delightfully named Copt Gilders, named after the 181 acre farm it replaced, and a corner of the actual Chessington. Yes, there's not just a cripplingly expensive World of Adventures, there's a whole commuter settlement here with a history dating back to the Domesday Book. The 467 doesn't go via the zoo and theme park, but it does pass the bunker-like entrance to Chessington South station, and it will drop you off at Lidl.

By this point our driver had exhibited great community spirit by waiting a little too long for a nan and her pushchair, then got stuck behind an unovertakeable cyclist for longer still. On the main Leatherhead Road the frustrated mother from Epsom was finally getting ready to alight. "WAIT!" she screeched at her pink-wellied daughter, who'd reached to press the button before the bus had left the preceding stop. But during the pause that followed it was Mum's hand that slunk round to press the button, thereby denying her daughter the treat she'd so clearly been looking forward to. I spotted one properly old building amongst the residential sprawl, a pretty white cottage dated 1669, but I missed Enid Blyton's old house - she lived here in Hook at the start of the 1920s. The final stop came unexpectedly, because the timetable said we'd terminate at Ace Parade, and I was expecting somewhere more brilliant. Instead I got a shelter on a dual carriageway beside a recreational ground near a funeral directors. Thankfully my next bus whisked me away in under a minute. 71>>

» route 467 - timetable
» route 467 - live bus map
» route 467 - The Ladies Who Bus
» map of my journey so far

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