In 2017 the 402 bus stopped serving Farnborough.  This is but the latest of the many moves to isolate Farnborough from the bus network that once linked Farnborough directly to central London and beyond.

In the old days the people of Farnborough could visit the Queen. On a Sunday they would queue for the 704 Green Line and travel all the way to Windsor to visit her Majesty and have a picnic in her back garden. That is, Windsor Great Park. It was harmless fun and an extra sandwich was made just in case she popped out to join you, though there is no record that she ever did.

Unfortunately, not all the visitors were particularly good in collecting up their litter and taking it home. This bad practice use to irritate Prince Philip, her husband, especially on a Monday morning when he was out driving his horses and carriage across the park; the litter got caught up in the spokes of the wheels. Eventually, he had had enough and ordered the bus company that if the people wanted to see the Queen they could do so at her place of work.

The 704 stopped going all the way to Windsor and terminated instead at Victoria. This was annoying to the Royalists of the village, but Victoria Bus Station is only a ten minute walk to Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official place of work. It also provided two parks, Green Park and St James’ in which to enjoy one’s picnic. Of course the Queen also held her own Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace, so the people of Farnborough would dress up in their Sunday best, although it was mid-week, just in case they were invited to join the Queen in her garden owing to an official delegate being unable to attend. The invite never came.

  However, all these well-dressed country folk attracted the attention of the local people, better known as Londoners, who were intrigued to find out where Farnborough was. With the assistance of the number 47, they arrived in droves on a Sunday to wander the fields behind St Giles and to enjoy a picnic if they were unable to afford an afternoon tea in the Cosy Nook. On Mondays it was the turn of the locals to collect the litter blowing across the fields.  

The journey from and to Central London on the number 47 proved quite arduous and slow, consequently the Londoners were drawn to moving nearer to Farnborough. In response to their needs the LCC built for them the Tramway estate, better known as the Downham Estate. It was nearer to Farnborough, but not as green despite Durham Hill and Downham playing fields. The Londoners still kept travelling out on the 47 to Farnborough, whilst during the week Farnborough royalist travelled on the 704 to Victoria to wait at the gates of Buckingham Palace on the off chance of an invite to the Queens Garden Party. It never happened.

Inevitably, the villagers’ of Farnborough were fed up with collecting the litter of the visitors and the Queen was embarrassed by the dated dress of the country people outside Buckingham Palace. Something had to be done, and it was. They stopped the 47 to Farnborough and replaced the 704 with the 402, which ran only to Bromley. Life settled down. The Queen got on with her work and entertained the locals with the occasional celebration of an air show over the Palace or worse, a pop concert on the roundabout opposite. The Cosy Nook in Farnborough closed, and visitors, now folk from the Kent countryside, usually preferred to travel all the way to Bromley for the modern fashions, especially when the new Glades Shopping Centre opened. Occasionally, a few visitors from the countryside would stop at Farnborough, in order to ramble to Charles Darwin’s house.

Then English Heritage enlarged the car park at Downe House to allow room for coaches to park and the number of ramblers travelling on the 402 bus dwindled.

Now the 402 bus has stopped, allowing us only to travel on the 358 to Crystal Palace, which is not a Palace but a TV Ariel, or to Orpington Station, which is definitely not a Palace. Have you ever tried enjoying a picnic at Orpington Station when the fast train to Sevenoaks shoots through!?

Bob Donovan

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