diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Orpington's 'R' bus network is unlike that anywhere else in London. It was created in 1987, around the time of bus deregulation, as a pilot scheme creating a "midibus" network from scratch. Old routes were replaced by new, supporting a mostly rural area with smaller buses running more frequent services. The 'R' in each bus's designation has nothing to do with ORpington, it stands for Roundabout, the name of the first company charged with running this pioneering franchise (much more information here). Today's route started out as the R2, but was renumbered R8 in 2004 (much more information here). It's also run, I think, by the smallest buses in London, little minibuses barely seven metres long. My orbital journey has hit the jackpot here.

 Route R8: Orpington - Biggin Hill

 Length of journey: 7 miles, 25 minutes

As many as 17 different buses pass the stop at Orpington War Memorial. Some run regularly, others spaced much further apart, so the Countdown display is particularly important. If yours isn't due you can nip into the McDonalds alongside, many do, or try your luck in the pawnbrokers nextdoor. It's a splendidly ordinary bit of High Street, this, a dual-facing parade not yet bereft of shoppers, though somewhat diminished by the enormous Tesco round the corner. With so many waiting the shelter can get a bit crowded, but numbers flush out when one of the long distance double deckers pulls up. This helps when it's chucking it down, as you might be able to squeeze in at the back in front of the margarine ad and keep dry. Is that a tiny minibus I see?

The R8 runs every 70 minutes. It used to be every hour, but the buses kept being held up round the lanes so the service became unreliable. They've been having similar issues on the joint R5/R10 route which runs out to neighbouring villages on the edge of Kent, so TfL recently held a consultation about reducing the frequency. Don't take our buses away said the locals, we rely on them to connect with the real world, any anyway the single decker you're using is too big for the narrow lanes. Thank you for your feedback, said TfL, but we're going to reduce the frequency anyway, and now the single deckers arrive every 75 minutes instead of every 60. You have to know the timetable on the edge of rural Bromley, you can't just turn up and go.

Eight of us boarded the Solo SE minibus that pulled up outside McDonalds. The vehicle could have fitted double that, plus the same again standing had it been some sort of extreme rush hour. The R8's entire fleet consists of two buses, only one of which is in service at any one time, with the other always there as backup. It's a dinky little vehicle, though still with plenty of space for a wheelchair, such is TfL's commitment to step-free access. It's also a bit dark aboard, with the whole back of the bus covered up, but a skylight acts as an emergency exit which sheds some light. Enough space on the back seat for three girls heading home from shopping, one asking their mates if they'd ever tried advocaat because "it makes this really nice drink called a snowball." I blame the parents.

For the first five minutes or so nothing geographically unusual happened. The street past the War Memorial is very ordinary, very residential, and served by rather more buses than you'd think necessary. As if to prove this one retired couple alighted after only a few stops and huddled off into the downpour towards some local Shangri-La. They could have caught any of the five services down Green Street Green High Street but merely caught the first that turned up, our miniature rarity. We passed a 'Frigidaire Equipped' launderette, and a pub called The Buff (no doubt full of drinkers making "I'm in The Buff" jokes). Our journey nearly got as far as Waitrose, then hairpinned back towards Farnborough - another London village most Londoners have never heard of. And then it got unusual.

Hang on, we've just turned left down a country lane. London buses don't tend to do this, mostly because London isn't the country, but this entire corner is. Shire Lane is a proper hedgerow wiggler, with woodland and fields stretching off to each side. That I think was the entrance to High Elms Country Park, not that there was a bus stop or anything useful, our vehicle just kept ploughing on. And then we turned left again, and that's when it got really unusual.

Hang on, we've just turned left down a single track country lane. London buses really don't tend to do this, because there might be something coming the other way, but this bus does. There are passing places every so often, if required, but thankfully there was absolutely nothing coming as we sped on. I swear my subconscious recognised one brief stretch of the lane from walking the London Loop, not that I realised I was walking 100 metres of a bus route at the time. A wholly abnormal route down an entirely atypical road in a wholly exceptional vehicle, and still more to come. Which bus driver wouldn't enjoy this switchback ride more than a bumper to bumper crawl down Oxford Street?

The village down the lane is called Downe, which at first looks like a hamlet, then reveals itself as a pretty rural hub with parish church and a couple of pubs. Again I had to pinch myself to think 'London', but this lot pay their council tax and vote for Boris just as much as the rest of us. They don't catch the bus, though. Nobody alighted, and nobody flagged us down outside the village hall, as if we needn't have bothered coming. But I was glad we had because we were about to pass one of the most important houses in London, nay the world. Down House was the home of Charles Darwin, it's where he assembled his theory of evolution, and the R8 passes right by the front gate. English Heritage only open up at weekends in the winter, but I can strongly recommend a tour (entrance in 1971 was 25p, today £10). Ding and the driver'll drop you off, it's Hail and Ride for the next couple of miles.

The next village past Darwin's back garden is Luxted. This is much more diffuse, essentially a long string of detached houses along a single track road called Single Street. Each house sprawls rather than hides, in that carefree way that rural residences do when the owners think that almost nobody's going to drive past. Nobody got off here either, most probably because they had a choice of cars to use instead. We met one of these coming the other way and had to employ the Passing Places Protocol, but other than that we kept strictly to timetable.

At Berry Green there were actual bus stops, because Jail Lane is actual civilisation. There was even actual pavement shortly after as we started the long run in to Biggin Hill. Technically this is Cudham, yet another barely-London village, or at least this is where the primary school is located. Further up the road is the secondary school, named after you-know-who the local scientist, and the R8 brings not many of its pupils to the front gate daily. Bungalows, bungalows, bungalows... this was no longer the rural idyll our half dozen passengers had enjoyed earlier. And while they stayed on board to ride to the heart of Biggin Hill proper I had no need, so alighted early by the war memorial, and dripped some more. 464>>

» route R8 - timetable
» route R8 - route history
» route R8 - live bus map
» route R8 - 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
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  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

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

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
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

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
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

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
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards