|A Stagecoach London Enviro 400 pulls up at the Hornchurch stop.|
The 372 stopped for the first time since the beginning of the route here, suggesting that this section of the route isn't particularly well used in the off-peak. In rush hour, I suspect that this route can get very busy, full of commuters travelling to/from the tube station and their homes, especially if the more frequent route 365 fails to show up. The 372 prefers to twist and turn through the residential area rather than carry on in a straight line, so after two turns the bus travelled along Rosewood Avenue, where a few more people boarded, but no one dared to venture upstairs.
Elm Park Baptist Church stands out from the dreary housing and the building was greatly appreciated, as I was already starting to feel a little bored staring at the same old buildings with the sun glaring in my face. After a few more minutes of housing, Scargill School provided a nice alternative view whilst two more people climbed up the stairs and sat down on the upper deck, ready to visit Lakeside. Mungo Park Road consists of a Co-op and that's about it, until the 372 turns onto South End Road, where a few more people boarded the very empty double decker. At this point I noticed that the 365 and 165 follow this route all the way from Hornchurch Town Centre-Rainham, suggesting that the 372 really is a back-up for these two routes, if Romford Town Centre becomes congested, as both of the "65" routes serve there.
However, on Cherry Tree Lane, the 365 can't take endless housing and turns off onto Stanley Road South, to terminate at Orchard Village. I'm sure the destination was Mardyke Estate a few years ago, so the new name merely exists to make the residential area sound more upmarket than it actually is.
|The new name looks particularly glamorous on the refurbished Scania OmniCity vehicles allocated to the 365.|
Before serving the town centre, the 372 completes a double run into Rainham Tesco Extra, where a surprisingly large amount of people boarded. Presumably these passengers came from other routes in the area, where this mini bus station creates an easy opportunity for interchange and a hopper fare, rather than travelling from one retail centre to another. Rainham Town Centre consists of a reasonable amount of shops, just enough for a suburb on the edge of the London boundary. The c2c rail service calls in here once every 30 minutes at Rainham station, the terminus of the 103 from Chase Cross and Romford.
The 372 is the only London route that travels along the B1335, where a few more people boarded the bus. This route just can't get enough of housing, but soon after the view out of the front window changed dramatically, from a fairly urban environment to the rural countryside. To the right all I could see was grassland, with a few remnants of an industrial estate in the far distance. A sign welcomed my bus to Wennington, a rural village in the heart of Thurrock. Not long after, around 10 terraced houses stood all alone in the countryside, like a tight-knit friendship group, with cars parked in a ditch on the other side. After the bus negotiated a priority scheme, open countryside dominated the view outside of the bus, which is very unusual for a TFL service. This section allowed my worn out Enviro 400 to gain some speed, reaching 40mph after some sluggish acceleration. My driver was pushing the boundaries for my bus, which was crying out for some rest, after the strenuous journey through Wennington. A much bigger cluster of housing followed the thrash section, all concentrated on the right-hand side of the road, so the residents can stare at the countryside out of their bedroom windows. Unusually, at the end of the cluster one house was situated on my left, with about 6 cars in the driveway.
After the small village residential area, the road continued to twist and turn towards Lakeside, through more greenery, until a junction with an A-road. I was slightly surprised to find a Premier Inn in Wennington, although it may be useful for ramblers, or for when there is a Darts competition on at Lakeside, seeing as it's a mere 15 minutes away on the bus. The 372 briefly turns right, but gets back on track at the next roundabout, where the bus started to pick up speed again, on the longest countrified section so far. The final town before Lakeside is the small residential area of Aveley, the last pick-up point that passengers actually use before Lakeside. The bus got substantially busy at this point, with most of the upper deck seats taken, showing that this route must have been heaving with single deckers, especially with hundreds of shopping bags on the return journey.
Lots of teenagers use this route in Aveley over any of the other three services, taking advantage of the free travel provided by TFL on the 372 for them, unlike any of the other routes there. After negotiating the narrow streets, the 372 uses Ship Lane, which provides a stunning view of the countryside on either side, with the contrasting hubbub of the M25 visible in the distance. The bus crossed a fairly tall bridge over the A13, a road that was also visible back in Rainham. The 50mph section provided more high speeds, with another world of industry present in the far distance. The stop for the Thurrock Hotel was the last for a while, with the approach to Lakeside next. Pylons ran alongside the West Thurrock Arterial Road, where I witnessed hundreds of cars parked up next to each other and a beautiful lake, on the side of the retail centre. Arena Essex, the Karting centre, is the last attraction before Lakeside Bus Station, where the Enviro 400 terminated and let off around three dozen eager shoppers, desperate to buy new things or eat in one of the various restaurants found in Lakeside.
The red London bus certainly looked odd alongside the blue and white livery of Ensignbus, but I hope that the 372 and other cross-border services continue to serve these out-of-town locations, even with the upcoming review, involving cuts to routes 465, 167 and possibly more routes. It's a real shame, as these TFL services are needed, proven by the busy 372 in the off-peak. I award this route 7/10, for redeeming itself after the tedious first section. If you like residential or countryside routes, this one is for you, but if both of them are unappealing to you, stay away!
Thanks for reading.