diamond geezer

 Friday, February 07, 2014

Today I'm returning to my orbital London bus ride. It's my tenth bus, and already the second I've blogged about before, way back in 2003 as part of my Cube Routes project. But I've tried very hard not to re-read that post, and entirely different things happened on my 2014 trip anyway, so what follows should be original.


 ROUND LONDON BY BUS (x)
 Route 216: Kingston - Ashford

 Length of journey: 11 miles, 55 minutes

The 216 is one of those London buses that heads for the border and then keeps on going. It runs roughly along the edge of Surrey, so is ideal for my purposes, although I'll be alighting before the final destination in Staines. The first stop is at the larger of Kingston's two bus stations, a busy well-laid out place where buses of all sizes and colours arrive and depart. The 216 gets its own bay so an incoming driver can rest, with three seats out front for waiting passengers. Our driver let us on early, which was kind, or rather he took pity on two cold ladies who'd been shopping, and the rest of us bundled politely behind. The bus kicked off by turning right below an overhanging cinema (headroom 15'9"), then took the concrete ring road before picking up a full complement of shoppers outside Bentalls. It being a weekday morning most were retired, including some in full hat and gloves combinations, although alas I got the uber-sniffling youngster sat in front of me.

The 216 exits south London across Kingston Bridge, with a fine view over the Thames (which may or may not be almost overflowing when you pass). This is a very green way out of town, sandwiched between a royal park and the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, both part-hidden behind a low brick wall. Slowly the umpteen chimneypots of the palace draw nearer, with one stop optimal for the maze and the next for the main visitor entrance. Former owner Cardinal Wolsey has a pub named after him on Hampton Court Green, appropriately enough complete with banqueting and conferencing annexe, while Christopher Wren is commemorated by a blue plaque on the row of houses nextdoor. Traffic was busy on Thames Street, so when the speed sensor flashed up "9mph" I wasn't surprised to see an electronic smiley face light up alongside. A Heal's delivery lorry escaped to cross a narrow bridge to an island in the Thames, here smothered with houseboats and expensive cottages where sailor types might live. Nobody considered boarding, or alighting, our bus.

Just beyond the end of Bushy Park is Garrick's Villa, with its riverside temple, and the edge of the suburb of Hampton. Their residents don't get to live by the river, because that strip's taken up by a set of reservoirs and water treatment works. We plied the main shopping street, the sort of place that sells fireplaces and where the local caff is fully licensed, and where several of our older passengers alighted. The road beyond Waitrose was then London's last hurrah. The 216 turned back to the river at the border with Surrey, just before Kempton Park racecourse, to enter the village of Lower Sunbury-on-Thames. It still had that village feel too, with quaint terraced cottages along a narrow riverside high street where you really wouldn't want to meet another 216 coming the other way. Each bend brought sight of another flood meadow, one with a properly flooded bench, another with ducks, and another beside an 18th century walled garden (plus Millennium Embroidery). How swiftly our semi-rural idyll then changed.

At The Three Fishes we turned inland to enter more ordinary suburbia, a landscape of retirement avenues and recreation grounds. A pair of life-and-soul pensioners boarded the bus, she gossiping broadly, he with a folder under his arm that no doubt contained the minutes of some community meeting. We passed over the railway and under the M3 to enter Sunbury Cross, and its uninspiring high street of Mary, Mungo and Midge architectural vintage. It was here that the buggy wars began. A small pushchair had boarded earlier, but now a megabuggy entered, bags hanging from every extremity, forcing its smaller cousin to shift. Maternal glares were exchanged. When we diverted to Tesco shortly afterwards, and an old man settled into a front seat with his shopping trolley blocking the aisle, negotiating around the bus suddenly became extremely difficult.

We followed an arterial ribbon, a world away from Ye Olde Thameside, past a water treatment works with a peculiarly repetitive roof. London was still only a couple of streets away, but we were officially in Spelthorne, one of those local council districts with an eminently forgettable name. On Feltham Hill Road another pushchair entered, this time leaving mum trapped at the front of the bus while twins Luke and Robert squeezed through to grab a seat further back. Both were dressed in Thomas the Tank Engine garb, topped off with blue stripey woolly hats, and both had the most disarmingly cute smile. The bus collectively melted as they toddled by.

Somebody's failed to maintain the roads on the approach to Ashford, so we jolted over a set of potholes on the way in. A larger jolt came in the high street as a set of traffic lights changed and our driver braked fast, sending the twins' mother almost tumbling. "Sorry about that, you all ok?" asked the driver, and the entire bus mumbled back an apologetic affirmation. Ashford's shops were good enough for several passengers to alight, including the twins who maintained their cute quotient to the bitter end. Ahead at the station one man disappeared fast out of the front of the bus to catch a 555. That's one of those high-numbered Surrey buses that runs into the Home Counties hinterland, of the kind that most Londoners never need to explore. I'd be taking one next. I stepped off by the Harvester and awaited my fate. 441>>

» route 216 - timetable
» route 216 - live bus map
» route 216 - route history & RF heritage
» route 216 - RF photos from the 1970s
» route 216 - 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
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17
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