Sunday, 7 August 2016

Under Hills And Over Woods

The 389 and 399 are two strange routes running to and from Barnet, The Spires to the Underhill Estate and Hadley Wood Station respectively. They run from Monday-Saturday and in shopping hours only, as they source the bus from another route. Some sort of E200 spends the morning peak on route 299 (running between Cockfosters and Muswell Hill) and then it flips it blind to become a 399, starting from Hadley Wood and running round to Barnet. It then changes it blind to become a 389, which also happens to be the shortest route in London at 0.9m and goes to the Underhill Estate and back. It then flips it blind to become a 399 again and it repeats this process five times until 15:03, where the last 399 of the day terminates at Hadley Wood Station and then becomes a 299 again for the evening peak. The two routes both run every hour and they run to ensure the communities around Hadley Wood and Underhill have a link to Barnet High Street. The two routes sounded very interesting and on Saturday 6th August I decided to give them both a ride.

The first bus that leaves The Spires is the 389, at 10:17.
After a few minutes of waiting, the 399 pulled into the bus stop, with Hadley Wood residents eagerly alighting the bus and walking straight into the shopping centre. After a change of destination and blind, the 389 set off from The Spires with no one else on board. Eventually, one person got on at Barnet High Street, giving me a puzzled look, as she probably normally has this bus to herself. The 389 follows many regular routes down to High Barnet Station, such as the busy 263, 34, 307, 326 and 234. However, the 389 doesn't stay mainstream and it takes a sharp right turn onto Underhill, a road shared with the 326, which serves Dollis Valley Estate. However, the 389 takes another left turn onto Barnet Lane, a road shared with school route 606, which serves Totteridge Academy. However, travelling to the school means going straight ahead and the 389 doesn't go that way, so it takes another left turn before finally turning right to reach Underhill.

 The whole of the estate is hail and ride and lots of Barnet-goers boarded every 10 seconds or so. Underhill is quite a deprived area and I do think it's disappointing that a dense estate like it has such poor connections, with only five trips a day to the town centre. However, it is also a very friendly and closed community, with almost everyone on the bus knowing each other and a couple of people greeting me as they got on the bus! After just 10 minutes, the bus was back on its way to The Spires with an average load and after the Hail and Ride section finished SEN23 ran non-stop to Barnet High Street, where most of the bus got off. I enjoyed my ride on the shortest route in London and I was looking forward to riding the 399, to check out the differences between these two routes. After alighting SEN23 through the rear doors, I got straight back on again and sat in the exact same seat, to make a good comparison.

The process of changing the blind in action, SEN23 on the 399.
The bus stood for a few minutes, where lots of Hadley Wood residents got on again after their shopping trip. As they boarded they greeted the driver nicely, even knowing his name. One person said "someone told me we had the nice driver," which shows that sadly not all Northumberland Park drivers were as brilliant as Kofi. All of the people on the bus were very well-spoken and I was intrigued to see what Hadley Wood was going to be like. Unlike any other London bus, the 399 heads north from The Spires and quickly takes a right turn onto Dury Road, by Hadley Green where the hail and ride section starts. The 399 then passes through a huge white gate, which was probably used many years ago to stop intruders entering the village that is Hadley Wood. I bet some of the residents wish they could close it on the bus... 

Before Hadley Wood, the 399 passes through a small area called Monken Hadley, which consists of a playing field and the longest iBus announcement I've ever heard; "Hail and Ride Monken Hadley Church Of England Primary School". No one got off until after Camlet Way, where the 399 starts a one way loop. It was at this point where the houses started to become mansions and my theory of the whole bus being middle class was correct. One of the fellow passengers was talking about putting a sun dial in their front garden! The 399 then turns right onto a very steep hill, to serve Newman's Way and Greenbrook Avenue, which is a popular destination as half of the bus got off there. Another amazing factor was that the driver actually knew where people lived and pulled up right in front of their house even though they sometimes didn't even ring the bell!

Eventually the 399 goes back onto Camlet Way and continues running in a straight line until the end of the road, where it briefly turns left onto Cockfosters Road, providing an interchange with Sullivan Buses route 298, running between Potters Bar and Arnos Grove, although they don't share a stop for whatever stupid reason. However, the 399 only spends a few seconds on the main road and it turns left onto Lancaster Avenue, where the final passengers got off and it was just me and the driver again....For a few seconds, as two people hailed the bus 10 yards down the road! After a couple of minutes SEN23 arrived at Hadley Wood Station, which is served by Great Northern's service from Welwyn Garden City to Moorgate. Strangely, no one boarded here and the bus remained empty until passing through the white gate again, where a couple of people got on for the short trip down to The Spires, where my adventures on the two routes ended.

Overall, I loved my experience on the 389/399. They are both strange in completely different ways and the contrast in the places they serve is brilliant, considering they share a vehicle! I highly recommend that you try out these two routes as you'll definitely have fun on them! Thanks for reading!