Monday 1 September 2014

Three Options for a Funeral [1]

Episode 1 : The Challenge

Leicester chum David lives at Groby near Leicester (hence his title "Leicester Chum"!)
He is invited to a funeral here ...
... at Vinters Park Crematorium which, as we all know, is at Maidstone. So the first task is to find out where in Maidstone this sombre structure is situated. It is run by Maidstone Borough Council whose web site gives an address ...
...  and a Google Maps extract.
This shows the M20 and three station logos which leads David to two main option choices. Car is easy (in theory) with M1, M25 and M20 running almost door to door. There is the possible complication of "baked meats" afterwards ...
... and a number of problems to overcome if public transport is chosen.

Maidstone is a problem.

There are three stations:-
Maidstone East is pretty near north of the town centre. Maidstone West is more southwest ...
... and Maidstone Barracks is due west from Maidstone East ...
...  but closer than Maidstone West. Local maps are not very good at identifiying the bus station ...
... which isn't close to any of them. Google shows all three stations ...
... but no Chequers. This one, from a non transport web site, shows only two stations and no buses.
The map from a Park and Ride site is similar ...
... and is too small to read anyway! For once we might be half-heartedly thankful to network rail, although fbb found it by searching for Maidstone maps.
It shows all three stations and "Chequers Shopping Centre". It is possible that Chequers Bus Station might be somewhere near the identically named shopping "mall". Except it isn't. The shopping mall been re-branded ...
... and now trades as "The Mall" (see also the Arndale Centre in Luton).
This might explain the absence of any reference to Chequers on most maps, although that name, until recently at least, does still appear on the wall outside!

So the four possible public transport "nodes" are at four corners of a slightly deformed rectangle with the Chequers bus station beside the Mall shopping centre being, arguably, the most central.

So which station is best for a bus to Vinters Park Crematorium? Indeed IS there a bus to Vinters Park Crematorium; and is Vinters Park a park? Back to the confuser.

It used to be a private house in substantial grounds in 1890.
It now has a nature reserve ...
... and an Indian Tandoori Restaurant.
It also has a Business Park, home to an independent television studio company ...
... which fbb thinks was a TVS base, once the home of childrens' Saturday morning TV show "No. 73" later "7T3" which introduced an unsuspecting world to Sandi Toksvig and The Sandwich Quiz!
Vinters Park also appears to be a housing estate.
So our next task is to find bus timetables and see which route to the Crem passes which station and, Robert is your father's brother!

If only it were so easy.

 Next bus/rail blog : Tuesday 2nd September 


  1. Firstly some historical comment on why the stations are so spread out.

    The earliest proposal for a railway in the area envisaged a 'direct' (more or less) line from London to the coast with a station in the centre of the town. What they had not however allowed for were the burghers of the town whose wealth came primarily from trade relating to the river Medway. Its banks were lined with factories and warehouses served by fleets of river barges. They were concerned that a railway would destroy this trade and the allied wholesaling businesses which by a large network of carriers delivered goods to the wider rural area including much of Kent and parts of East Sussex. Dutch cheese reached parts of east Kent via Maidstone!!

    Proposals for railways that would involve bridges on the River Medway were fought to a standstill as they would obstruct the use of the river by the fleets of high masted barges that were involved in this trade.

    The South Eastern Railway found a way in by building a branch line from Paddock Wood, on the mid Kent line, in 1844 which initially terminated at Maidstone West - on the west bank of the river so that no bridge was necessary. It was to be another twelve years (1856) until this was joined with another line from Strood which similarly kept to the west bank of the river.

    These were the days when the South Eastern Railway and the London Chatham and Dover competed for every penny of business and built competing lines even where they were not needed. They devised a line from Otford, on their Swanley to Sevenoaks line, to Maidstone but had to cross the river at a high level and terminate to the north of the town at what is Maidstone East. Unfortunately this was being brought forward at the time of one of the financial crises and instead of being constructed on a 'straight line' was built on the cheap with bends and road crossings etc. Inbitially trains operated to/from Sevenoaks as a branch line until a curve was added to permit trains to operate to/from Swanley. Even today the construction of the line causes a problem with very slow journey times to London (an hour or there about - Colchester should consider itself lucky). This line was extended to Ashford in 1884.

  2. So you have the two railway lines and the stations on the edge of the town centre. Historically the main shopping area was the High Street from the river to the centre of the town and Week Street from the centre going north to Maidstone East. Most of the roads were open to traffic (and buses) up until the late fifties/early sixties, which had enabled the corporation bus services to penetrate the town centre. However the road closures meant that services to/from the East Station direction were moved one/two streets to the west with outbound buses picking up by the river bridge at the bottom of the High Street. The through services from the south of the town to the west which stopped in the bottom of the High Street were also shifted due to highway changes to stop by the river bridge.

    Quite a walk from the bridge to the top of the High Street or Week Street though the East Station bus stops were accessible from Week Street.

    The out of town Maidstone and District services did however have two bus stations on Palace Avenue (just to the south of the town centre). The one at the western end called Mill Street bus station was reputed to have been the first bus station in the country. They and the corporation buses did not mix having separate bus stops on the roads into town and protective fares.

    The big change came when the Chequers Shopping Centre was built which had the effect of shifting the shopping area to the east, destroying trade at the river end of the High Street and the further end of Week Street.

    The corporation buses then introduced a more convoluted routing through the town centre to include the Chequers bus mall or bus station (whatever it is or was called).

    Whilst the Mill Street Bus Station became unworkable the
    Palace Avenue one kept going until after de-regulation when the company, like others, sold off the family silver closing its depots and offices in the town.

    But that's getting on a bit too far..............