Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Number 146 Route

Bromley North to Downe (St. Mary’s Church)

Monday January 17th 2011

A bit of a preamble needed here as this is one of the few “one bus an hour” routes that terminates a long way from anywhere else, let alone another useful route, so we exceptionally decided to do it there and back. (This was in fact PLAN B. PLAN A had been to walk from the end of Route 138 in Coney Hall near Hayes to Downe Village along the Outer London Loop, which might have taken just over an hour. However the relentless rain and poor visibility put us off the walking bit.)

Preamble 2 (Don’t worry: it’s a very short route.) Given the rain outside and steam inside plus the speed of the bus, the majority of the pictures are fuzzy – now Jo would say this was due to the slow speed of the camera rather than the fast speed of the bus – in the interests of world peace shall we say both play their part. The 119 covers the earlier part of the trip but our 119 expedition had been cursed with similar though colder weather so no joy to be had in infiltrating pictures from elsewhere. I do cheat at the end though.

We boarded our single-decker 146 at 10.35 am outside the pretty but underused Bromley North Station. Like any other Bromley North bus the 146 heads down to Bromley South, a less handsome but altogether more useful station, via the backside of the Glades shopping centre and we did pick up a couple more passengers by then but never got into double figures (maximum of 7 people)

Down the bottom of the High Street is the pub commemorating Richmal Crompton, the yes she’s a woman, creator of ‘Just William’, in whose gang every Fifties school child wanted to be, even if only for the buns. Once she qualified as a teacher she lived the rest of her life near Bromley and Chislehurst, hence the pub named after her I guess!

Down Hayes Lane at quite a speed – the standing water was impressive (see photo of a rather swamp-like Norman Park) and from time to time we would aqua-plane through a puddle sending up a high spray – on the whole the good citizens of Bromley take to their cars so we didn’t inconvenience too many pedestrians as we passed by Hayes farm Trout Fishery . I thought it was the sort of fish farm where you could pick your supper out with a shrimp net but apparently for this one you need some skill (and patience). Given the weather you could almost imagine the fish swimming out onto the bus route.

The Temple Academy proves to be a performing arts venue, so by the time you put together the double fronted houses, the trout fishing and the very upmarket car showroom you get an idea of the aspirations and income needed to live in this part of Bromley. Having said that, the old village bits of Hayes are very charming with some fine old buildings – the George Inn, the Library and St Mary’s Cottages as well as the church of that name.

After Hayes village this route takes a very rural turn – you will have to believe me when I say we saw horses (albeit in raincoats, since when I ask?) and fields and mostly commons – firstly Hayes Common then Keston. The road names confirmed the country theme with Five Elms Road, Fishponds Road, Leafy Grove, Rookery Road and sundry others and there we were with never a Barbour jacket between us!

 We passed The Flint Research Institute  and while the rather antiquated website gives an idea of the countryside in good weather it’s a bit difficult to find out WHAT they research? Less obscure were the various farms and stables (Equine Therapy no less.)
These venues or businesses were built to overlook the valley – even on such a poor visibility day we could see across what we assumed was the Kent Weald.

New Road Hill, where the 146 is on its own leads into Downe Village, which has several very attractive looking pubs, including the Queen's Head , which was built for Elizabeth 1, and still going strong

The bus terminates at the church but the driver barely switched off his engine, as he turned round the village tree seat and set off back. Not only is he the one bus an hour he is the only bus on this route (I had visions of one either end) but as it only took him 25 minutes he can do the round trip in 50!

On a different day of the week and in different weather we might have paused at our final destination to visit/ re-visit one of the more evocative English Heritage properties: Darwin’s Down House (without a final E). It’s a real treat and feels like a family home not just a museum and makes Darwin come alive as a man. As for his theories you all know about those.

Back in Bromley Market Square there is a mural to the great man and his tree of life including an impression of his home in the background.

I can confidently say this is a unique route with an inspiring and pretty destination – it was just ***’* law we came to Route 146 on a wet winter’s day, but that’s The Project for you.

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