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A busman’s holiday with Gavin Francis & Malcolm Crowe

Friday 29th May 2009

To see the pictures full size just click on the thumbnail

I hope my readers will enjoy this story of the day when Gavin and I took the bus for a trip around our area. I have tried to add interest so that it is not we saw this bus, that bus and another bus. I think it shows that even a local day out can be interesting and there is more than just going from A to B.

Part one - before lunch

(Part two - after lunch)

Readers may be aware the your Editor took some of his annual leave recently and a few Friday's ago this coincided with Gavin having a day off from his labours on the Oxford Tube.

After discussion we determined to spend our day looking in more detail at Hemel Hempstead & Aylesbury, both places we see from time to time but do not spend quality time at these points.

We planned with care the buses to use, bearing in mind the need for Gavin to be able to use his Stagecoach Staff Pass and for me a mixture of that and my concession pass.

Our first bus would be the 08:05 Line 40 from Stokenchurch to High Wycombe and this could then be followed by the 62 from High Wycombe to Chesham at 08:45.

Well, here was the first change in our plans. Gavin, being a well ordered fellow, was out bright and early and did not miss the 08:05 from our village, since this actually goes at 07:50 rather than the regular interval timing prevalent for the rest of the day. I received a phone call, just as I was leaving home, at 07:55 from Gavin who advised me that he was on the bus heading for Wycombe!

How embarrassing, since I would claim to be a professional and not some berk who can’t read the timetable. Another problem was that it was half term at the schools and so the 08:05 651 was not running.In order to catch up I had no option but to persuade my sleeping wife to raise her loins off the bed and take me into Wycombe.

My wife and I actually arrived in Wycombe just minutes after the Line 40 operated by Solo 2497. I was thus able to join the day out with my friend who, needless to say, had a few choice words to say – Bless!

We had decided to take the 62 as far as Chesham and then after a thirty minute break the following 52 service to Hemel. We now spent a pleasant half hour catching all that was on offer on our digital cameras but being careful to stand at different points to give variety to what we achieved.

Carousel’s latest acquisitions, the EVLs from London General, were much in evidence and looked rather splendid, since most were fitted with full blinds and their bodywork was typical of their old home, Sutton, where I know the depot turns out immaculate buses. In fact it was and may still be the best garage in TfL. The company also had a couple of Metrobuses and some Citaros in service adding to the overall variety.

Carousel EVL8 on line 4 to Chesham - picture by M Crowe

Carousel MB52 on 36 route to Bourne End followed by Carousel M336 on route 2 - M Crowe & G Francis

Arriva had a great variety of buses in service, including the Olympians transferred from Hemel Hempstead, two still carrying the branding for services 5 and 6 in their old home town, the remainder painted in Interurban livery which I do like a lot. The Olympian with Palatine 1 bodywork and branding for driver recruitment was much in evidence as were the Volvo/Wrights buses usually found on the 31 to Penn. The Darts provided for services in Wycombe when Oxford Bus held sway are still much in evidence, carrying a red and cream red route livery with suitable branding. The still look good buses and all but one still remain in service at Wycombe. The Citaros used on Line 300 are of course much in evidence and on the day we chose to use this route were the only buses in service. Sometimes an Enviro 400 or the unique Volvo B7L – Arriva’s bus of the future – appear but not today. One of the old Volvo B10M/Alexander PSs was in use as were numerous Scanias including 3146 in the latest Blue Route 32 livery.

The Olympian with Palatine 1 bodywork and branding for driver recruitment was much in evidence. G Francis.

Bucks Trip 290509 - Wycombe Arriva 3919 on r 300 to Aylesbury followed by Arriva 3331 on r 37 to Maidenhead
and Arriva 5148 coming in from Reading on the 800 pictures by M Crowe

As it was not a school day the number of buses on offer were restricted to normal service buses and we missed out on the several operators who perform school runs in and out of the town.

All too soon it was coming up to 08:45 and the time when our 62 service to Chesham Pond Park was due to depart. We made our way to its departure stand, number 5, where we found Olympian 5153 ready to take us Chesham Broadway. Gavin told me that the 62 was an old London Transport service, the 362, which for many years was worked by RTs and RMLs in customary Lincoln Green and it is only just about 6 months since the revised timetable was introduced, bringing Hemel based buses into Wycombe on the 52. As we took our photographs one of the VDL buses, 4523, arrived from Chesham and Hemel on an early 62 service and we would, if our plans worked out, catch this bus from Chesham to Hemel.

The departure board shows our service will leave from gate 5

Quite a few people were boarding our 62 service but most turned out to be short riders and after Hazelmere we had the top deck almost to ourselves.

Boarding 5153 we climbed the stairs to the upper deck and spot on 08:45 we backed off stand 5 and started our journey towards Chesham. The route takes us through the main shopping centre of Wycombe and on towards the station. There is one stop near Frogmoor, once the main terminal for local bus services dating back to the ‘20s and ‘30s, before passing through the traffic light controlled narrows which is Church Street, then up past All Saints Parish Church.

Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester consecrated the first church on the site over 900 years ago, at about the time of the Doomsday survey.  The builders used some materials from an even earlier age - it is still possible to see Roman stone in the walls, from a nearby 2nd century villa. The building was extended during the reign of Henry II, when the church was bestowed on the Abbey of Godstow. The church was rebuilt in 1275 but by 1509 the central tower was causing concern, and was taken down. A new tower was completed in 1522, and the pinnacles were added in 1755. The tower now contains a fine peal of thirteen bells.

Onwards now along Castle Street and the rail station and at the end of Castle Street the left turn into Crendon Street takes time as much of the traffic ahead wants to turn right down the hill towards the Library and Police Station. After picking up a couple of passengers we get on our way, turning left up towards Amersham Hill, a mile long steep climb out of the town towards Hazlemere.

As we climb out of Wycombe we pass Arriva 3482 on the 31 M Crowe

As we pass the station to our right, Gavin remarks that the first accommodation occupied by he and his wife, after their marriage, is just up the hill on our right in a block of flats. It seemed a jolly good place to see and hear such delights as RMLs climbing out of Wycombe on the 362.

Soon afterwards we pass Godstowe Preparatory School on our left which since its foundation in 1900 in High Wycombe, has been at the forefront of education. It has a distinguished tradition as the first British boarding preparatory school for girls, in a foundation that includes Wycombe Abbey, Benenden and St Leonards.

Further still and indeed near the summit of Amersham Hill, the Royal Grammar School can be seen on our left. This is a very old school founded in the middle of the 16th century out of the medieval Hospital of St John - a semi monastic house “founded for the relief and comfort of poor people.” The Hospital was dissolved in 1548, and its building was used to house a schoolmaster and his pupils. A royal charter was granted on 21st July 1562. We have missed the remains of the old school building since we need to go out along the London road rather than up Amersham Hill to see them.

Today in the 21st century the school is highly successful, with the most recent OFSTED report rating the RGS as “outstanding”. Places are highly sort after and it retains its Grammar School status despite changes in the way such schools are viewed by many in this modern world.

The climb up the hill has been equally outstanding for an 11 year old bus, giving no hint of exertion on this steep climb, making seemingly effortless work of the hill.

Terriers and we pass Carousel L534 on CL inbound to Wycombe M Crowe

We now head onwards towards Amersham and the next main stop at Terriers. We pass St Francis of Assisi's, Terriers on our right. The church building was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and dedicated on 11th October 1930.

Hazlemere and we pass Arriva 5151 inbound to Wycombe M Crowe

Leaving Terriers we head towards Hazlemere which sits at the top of the hills overlooking High Wycombe. As we carry on towards Amersham we pass sister Olympian 5151 inbound to Wycombe, also on service 62.

We are now heading for Holmer Green having left the main Amersham road taking in a quite large area of housing, thus providing passengers for this frequent service.

Historically, Holmer Green was a small hamlet in the parish of Little Missenden, in Buckinghamshire, England. Today it is considered a village in its own right even though it looks to the casual observer like a far corner of High Wycombe. It is next to Hazlemere, about three miles (5 km) south of Great Missenden but unlike Hazlemere, Holmer Green is part of both Little Missenden parish and Chiltern District – a reflection of its origins which lie in Little Missenden.

We pick up and set down a few passengers passing through this area, one lady comes to sit on the upper deck to enjoy the views ahead, she is going to Chesham Broadway.

Approaching Amersham we pass Carousel L556 on Line 4 - M Crowe

Amersham and the stop for hospital is under bridge - M Crowe

Old Amersham and Arriva Scania 3167 passes Wycombe bound on the 52 - M Crowe

We rejoin the A404 for the run down to Old Amersham passing the Crematorium which serves much of this area of Buckinghamshire. The scenery is superb with the rolling hills of the Chilterns spread out before us. As we drop down towards Amersham we turn round the roundabout ahead and back on ourselves to take the side road leading down to Amersham Hospital. We pass an elderly Leyland Olympian of Carousel which is most suitably decked out in Thames Valley livery and working Line 4 from Chesham to Wycombe.  As we approach the hospital the road runs under the A413 by-pass road and we actually stop under the bridge for passengers to alight. We then continue down this road towards Old Amersham passing a Wycombe bound 52 service operated by Arriva Scania 3167 which waits for us to pass by the busy road where there are always cars parked in awkward places. At the end of the road we turn right to head for the stop outside the old Amersham & District depot which has survived unlike the wonderful London Transport garage built in 1935 at a cost of £23,500 and by 1939 the allocation at this garage was Leyland Cubs (C class), AEC Q (4Q4), and Green Line coaches of the AEC Q (6Q6) and AEC Regal (10T10) types. Indeed it is of note that this garage was the first to operate the RLH class in 1950. The garage closed in 1989 and the area is now occupied by a Tesco’s supermarket. Is it really 20 years ago that the garage closed?

There is an excellent society devoted to The Amersham & District Motorbus Society, who apart from many features of interest, hold an annual running day based on Amersham.

Another relevant link is to the Amersham web site which includes a page on country buses around Amersham.

I take the opportunity, thanks to a kind driver, to hop off and take a picture of the stop with the old depot in the background.
Old Amersham and Arriva 5153 on the 62 M Crowe.

We now continue towards Amersham following the A413/A404 towards Stanley Hill via the Ridgeway, making an odd turn into Stanley Hill Schools (Stop S1), before rejoining the A404 and turning left under the railway bridge into Woodside Road. Our driver is most careful when he goes under the bridge since there are only a couple of inches to spare. Indeed it was this bridge, then 13ft 6ins which required the use of low bridge double decks such as the RLH (AEC Regent with Weymann low bridge bodywork).

We now head into Amersham turning left towards the rail station and passing the site if the annual bus rally. The railway is now on our left and I am minded to remember that there will be an Amersham Heritage Day 1938 tube train & ex Metropolitan Railway locomotive Sarah Siddons running between Harrow-on-the-Hill, via Watford to Rickmansworth and Amersham. A linking service using classic London 1950s buses including the LT Museum's prototype Routemaster bus RM1 will run from Amersham Station to Amersham town heritage day events. The date; Sunday 13th September 2009. This event is well worth attending. I have included some pictures from this event last year.

For those who like railways - M Crowe

Pure nostalgia - an RLH brings to life days of half a century ago - M Crowe

Once again I had time to nip off and take a picture of our Olympian at Amersham Station before we continued towards Chesham. The bus was still lightly loaded and we could have managed with a GS! As we head up Hill Avenue we can see Dr Challoner’s School to our left at the junction.

We stop in Amersham and time for a picture of Arriva 5153 on the 62 M Crowe

We turn towards Chesham on the A416, which for a short distance is Chesham Road becoming Amersham Road after a suitable distance from the town. We now wend our way down a wooded cutting towards Chesham, views of which open out before us. The town, with a thousand year history, is in a valley in the Chilterns, standing on the River Chess. A most interesting walk can be taken using a very helpful and downloadable guide from the town’s web site.

Our bus will set us down in The Broadway, more of square but not to be confused with The Market Square. Here there a few coffee shops, one of which provided a welcome hot drink for a very reasonable 80p. (Sadly not Café Nero!). We spent a very pleasant half hour taking pictures and capturing the atmosphere of the place. There were a number of services to see including a town service (3) operated by Jason Tours using an “S” registered white Vario. Additionally both Arriva, Carousel and Woottens Tiger Line serve the town with a variety of services radiating to Hemel, Wycombe, Aylesbury, Chartridge, Watford, Beaconsfield, Slough and of course Amersham. Indeed Carousel seem to have the lion’s share of local routes but Tiger Line does offer a useful link to places such as Great Missenden and Wendover.

Photographic interlude in Chesham

Chesham and Jason Tours S391HVV on the 3 with the Olympian we have just come from Wycombe on. M Crowe

I liked the War Memorial which had a poignant figure of a soldier looking out on the hurly burly of modern life. M Crowe.

Chesham and route 373 operated by Carousel DMS13 -  M Crowe

Chesham and two 353s pass - M Crowe

Chesham and Carousel Line 4 produces EVL5 -M Crowe

Chesham where the Carousel 336 is operated by the one remaining DAF - 976 - M Crowe

Chesham again and our 52, taking us to Hemel arrives operated by Arriva DAF 4523 - M Crowe

The half hour seemed to pass quickly and the sun came out giving us a really warm and pleasant morning. Our coffees pleasurably drunk, we were soon boarding our next service, the Arriva 52, running between High Wycombe and Hemel Hempstead. This is a comparatively recent innovation, in that travellers can use a through local bus between the two towns. Previously the only through service was by National Express 737, which generally will use the M25/M40 routing. However with widening works now causing delays on the M25 between junctions 16 and 18 it is possible that one will see the 737 passing through Chesham. It makes a pleasant change from the motorways and takes no more time than using the M way routing.

The 52 leaves Chesham Broadway turning towards Berkhamsted but soon diving off to the left , up Bellingham Road, heading to Pond Park. This is a large housing estate and is well served by both Arriva and Carousel on line 4, 52 and 62. A couple of turns in the estate are tight and at one point we have to wait for a line 4 EVL of Carousel. We soon drop back down to the main road where we will head up to Lye Green. As we turn on to the main road we can see away to our right the sad remains of The British Legion recently destroyed by fire.

we have to wait for a line 4 EVL of Carousel - M Crowe

We now turn up Nashleigh Hill and then right into Lycrome Road which will take us towards Bovingdon. As we head along that road we soon pass the premises of Woottens and see several coaches in their yard. Only too soon we are past and with a left turn onto Rushmere Lane. We take this road for some distance passing the entrance to Bovingdon Saturday market, held on the old airfield, after which we round a left hand bend and head down to the left turn into the Mount Prison. This is somewhere I’ve not been before but I did go to this site in my working days shortly after the RAF base closed.

We soon pass the premises of Woottens and see several coaches in their yard.

Heading into the prison area I notice a sign “all traffic turn right except for those entering prison” and I find myself keeping my fingers crossed that our driver turns right!! We go “round the block” and stop at a small bus shelter with the main prison building as a backdrop. Knowing the present situation where you can find yourself being questioned for taking pictures of buses, especially in the outer environs of London, I ask the driver “can I take a picture of the bus?”. He smiles and says “of course”. I leap off and do the job quickly not wanting Gavin to explain if I don’t arrive home! “Well Mrs C, it’s like this. He was only taking a picture but visiting hours are not too bad and it only takes about 45 minutes from home by car”.

I notice a sign “all traffic turn right except for those entering prison” and I find myself keeping my fingers crossed that our driver turns right!!

The stop at a small bus shelter with the main prison building as a backdrop

We leave The Mount and at the end of the approach road we turn right. This is a big surprise to both of us. We thought the bus went left. We then turn left on Western Avenue before a left turn into Green Lane. This road is quite narrow and shortly after going into this road the bus comes to a stop. Several regulars can be heard saying “he’s waiting for The Tiger Line” which shortly appears and we squeeze past to head into Bovingdon village.

Several regulars can be heard saying “he’s waiting for The Tiger Line” which shortly appears and we squeeze past to head into Bovingdon village.

I am fascinated to see where we are going as I have seen the village main street when driving the 737 but have not had to go down. There is a stop where a large family group boards and having been spot on time until this point, the driver now has to explain about family tickets and where to get off etc etc. We eventually get away some 3 minutes down, up to the B4505 – Hempstead Road. It is not long before we are into Box Lane, with its rather splendid large house – one with a garage and clock tower in the front garden and approaching Boxmoor and the old A41. There is a sharp right turn on to what is now the A4251 and our road into Hemel Hempstead. We pass under the new road bridge and then under the lower and rather narrow railway bridge before coming out in front of Hemel Rail Station.

To our left are common grazing fields where one can see sheep, horses and cows at various times. We take the left fork shortly after and passing over the Grand Union Canal make the final run of our journey to the magic roundabout, always a talking point for those visiting this town for the first time. We pass HH Town Cricket Club, where a new pavilion has been built alongside an old building which has served the club for many years. (This old building was demolished in the week ending 13th June). The club currently runs 5 senior teams in the Home Counties & Hertfordshire Leagues on Saturdays, 3 senior Teams on Sundays including a Development XI. To our left is, overlooking the 'Magic Roundabout', is Hemet’s tallest building; the 19-storey Kodak building. Built as the Kodak Company’s UK HQ the tower was vacated in 2005. It was then temporarily reoccupied in 2006 after the Buncefield explosion destroyed Kodak’s other Hemel offices. It is now being converted into 434 apartment homes. This does seem to be taking forever.

We swing round the magic roundabout and turn into the bus only lane by Debenhams where a number of passengers leave the bus. Heading on towards the town centre we pass the final remains of a flyover which served a car park and which has recently been demolished. We pass over a small bridge we allows water into landscaped gardens and water features formed from the River Gade known as the Watergardens.

We pass the final remains of a flyover which served a car park and which has recently been demolished.

This area is the home of many birds of varying types, including Swans, Canada Geese, Ducks and many others. One pair of Swans had three cygnets last year, two now remaining and which still have their young grey feathers. They are now over a year old and still live with their parents.

We pass by this water and turn into the shopping area, the main shopping street, Marlowes, was pedestrianised in the early 1990s. This is now only passable for buses, coaches and taxis. We leave our 52 bus here and quickly grab some pictures before going round the corner to the bus station. This an interesting place as, unlike many modern bus stations, it retains a very much free flow type of operation with a large central layover area. New drivers are often confused with the rule of the road in the station, although to be honest there is no real rule at all. Local buses park or load in the bus station and National Express services pick up on Waterhouse Street outside at stop 8.

Hemel Hempstead bus station and only Arriva in sight. M Crowe.

Gavin and I spent just over an hour here and were well entertained with an ever changing variety of buses and coaches. Operators here include Arriva, Centrebus, Red Rose, unoBus and National Express. On Arriva buses there are several variations to be seen including Vario in Tesco livery, Darts in red and cream livery for a specific route, route branding on various buses for route 2,3,4,5 and 6. National Express surprised us both with a revised branding for Stansted-London services on a passing 787 service, this being operated out of Start Hill, Stansted. I took the opportunity to say hello to the Arriva lady, Carol, who runs the Arriva office where National Express bookings can be made.

Photographic interlude in Hemel Hempstead

The bus station provides an ever changing variety for the enthusiast and photographer alike. - M Crowe.

uno Bus operates an hourly service to Stevenage, the 634, which normally is operated by Scanias. On the day we were there it was Citaro operated. - M Crowe.

The newest deckers in the town are Enviro 400s operated by Arriva on route 6. - M Crowe.

The latest operator to join the rank of local bus is Tiger Line provided by Woottens of Chesham. - M Crowe.

A Wycombe based Scania comes into the bus station for the next 52 service. - M Crowe

Other operators to serve Hemel include Red Rose whose presence in the evenings and on Sundays is significant. G Francis.

Another operator whose presence is very strong at weekends is Centrebus whop now operate a tendered weekday service
recently gained from local incumbent Arriva. G Francis.

National Express operate several routes through Hemel and passengers can reach Cambridge, Oxford, Northampton and the airports of Luton, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted on regular interval services operating 24 hours per day.

The 737 serves Oxford, Luton and Stansted Airports. M Crowe.

The 787 serves Cambridge and Heathrow, though the branding on this Scania tri-axle might be a bit confusing. Gavin Francis.

Once gain time had passed quickly and the 500 service to Aylesbury due to depart at 11:47 was almost due. A moment or so behind schedule DAF/Plaxton Prestige 3277 arrived from Watford and we took our turn to board. I remember travelling on one of these buses from Glasgow Airport into the city when they were gas run. I’m not sure which one I travelled on.

Departing services in most cases take a trip round the block in order that they can pick up in Marlowes where we pass a Dart on local service - M Crowe

Soon everyone had boarded and we were on our way. Departing services in most cases take a trip round the block in order that they can pick up in Marlowes and our service takes this route. We do indeed pick up several passengers and our bus is by now quite well loaded. We take the return of the inward journey on to the A4251 and under the rail and road bridges towards Berkhamsted. The road ahead is quite busy but we soon pass the turning on our left for Bovingdon and head westwards along the A4251 (A41) towards Berkhamsted crossing the new A41 before entering the village of Bourne End where we set down and pick up a couple of passengers. Once on our way and spot on time we stop in Berkhamsted and at this stop the number of passenger alighting and boarding is quite a few more. I notice the lady at Modus Vivendi Kitchens busy cleaning the window of her shop. She is really working hard to remove all traces of dirt and the result really is a credit to her. However my attention is now taken by small Solo 2482 from Arriva working the 32 service towards Hemel. This little 24 seater is a regular on this route. As we leave Berkhamsted we pass another interesting item, a Tuk Tuk, gracing the pavement outside the blue orchid restaurant. I wonder if they come and collect you from home if you live locally?

I notice the lady at Modus Vivendi Kitchens busy cleaning the window of her shop
before my attention is taken by small Solo 2482 from Arriva working the 32 service towards Hemel. M Crowe.

The main street in Berkhamsted is narrow and congested with parked cars and traffic. One wonders how they managed before the A41 by-pass was completed but of course this applies to so very many places in the 21st century.

As we leave Berkhamsted we pass another interesting item, a Tuk Tuk, gracing the pavement outside the blue orchid restaurant. M Crowe.

We are soon on to the Tring Road and headed for the small town of that name. We get glimpse of the new road to our left and it is not long before we make a right turn down Cow Lane where we edge slowly past an eastbound 500 service operated by a Aylesbury based Trident 5422. We turn left into Station Road, the actual rail station – on the west coast main line – is some distance to our right, not very convenient for the residents of the town. This road comes into Tring from Aldbury and Ivinghoe and carries quite a lot of traffic considering it is not even a B road. However after a short distance, we turn right and back on to the old A41 into Tring itself.

I take the chance to get a picture of our DAF near the Rose & Crown Hotel. M Crowe

Arriving in the centre of Tring I take the chance to get a picture of our DAF near the Rose & Crown Hotel. A goodly number of passengers alight and board at this point and by the time we get away we are 8 minutes down on our schedule. Heading towards Aston Clinton we pass a Red Rose Metrorider on the 387 service and shortly afterwards Gavin tells me where the old London Transport garage was. The building can be seen from the road, if only briefly and was opened at the end of October 1935 being finally closed on 1st April 1977. The new facility had replaced an existing building on the same site. It is worth noting the this garage received the first post-war Country Bus RTs in July 1948. If only one could step back in time! We would see Green Line RFs on the 706 to Westerham or the 707 to Oxted, both routes emanating from Aylesbury but worked by Tring garage from the northern end and RTs on routes such as the 387 bringing these fine buses into Aylesbury, quite a long way from London. To dream………………….

The old London Transport garage can be seen from the road as we pass. M Crowe

Back to reality and the inner man calls. Gavin and I are both delighted to be nearing The Crows Nest on Tring Hill, a hostelry on the old A41 near the new junction with the Aston Clinton by-pass, part of the new A41. We have planned to leave the bus here, have lunch and join a following service about one hour later. Our bus heads towards Aylesbury leaving us with a short walk into the restaurant, now a Premier Inn. The Beefeater Restaurant offer excellent fare for £7.95. This allows two courses and we found not only the food but the views from the restaurant windows really excellent. As we were not driving a pint of the best was in order and we settled down to a pleasant and fulfilling hour.

Our bus heads towards Aylesbury leaving us with a short walk into the restaurant. M Crowe

.....after lunch to be published shortly.