Three retired ladies attempt to ride every London bus

Some of the sights captured on bus journeys since 2009 Some of the snapshots captured from London buses since 2009 by the "ladies who bus"

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A Freedom Pass entitles Londoners to free travel from the age of 62. But few exploit the potential of free travel across the entire capital, from Hillingdon to Havering, Barnet to Bromley, quite like three retired ladies.

They have set themselves the challenge of travelling on every bus route in London from end to end and blogging about it in numerical order.

Later, the self-styled "ladies who bus", Jo Hunt, 68, from Camden, north London, Mary Rees, 68, from Peckham, south London, and Linda Smither, 65, from Forest Hill, south-east London, will take the 381 bus which passes the Freedom Pass office.

'Completely gobsmacked'

They started their challenge in March 2009 and aim to complete every journey up to the number 549, plus the 600 routes which are not school buses.

Mrs Hunt, a former History teacher at Watford Girls' School, said: "It was probably my idea. I'm not a Londoner like the other two and I was completely gobsmacked how far the buses go.

Linda Smither, Mary Rees and Jo Hunt Linda Smither, Mary Rees and Jo Hunt on the 381 bus

"It's amazing how lovely they are."

She said she had long been intrigued by destinations such as Creekmouth and Ponders End and the question: "What would happen if you didn't get off the bus?"

But she added: "We could still be doing this on our zimmer frames."

Before they retired Mrs Smither, Mrs Hunt's sister-in-law, was a social worker in Wandsworth and Lewisham and Mrs Rees, Mrs Hunt's cousin, was a doctor in Lambeth.

They usually do one journey a week but six is the most they have ever completed in a day.

Each trip since the first one on the number one bus on 5 March 2009, which took them from Canada Water to New Oxford Street, has been chronicled on the ladies' blog.

'Mary, boiler trouble'

It features musings on horticulture, historic buildings, blue plaques and house prices, plus snapshots taken from inside the buses.

Freedom Pass facts

A bus painted by two-year-old Nicholas Love, inspired by the travels of his grandmother Jo Hunt
  • Started in 1973 by the Greater London Council
  • Over 300 million journeys are taken by Freedom Pass holders a year on London buses
  • Valid at all times on London Underground, London Overground, bus, tram, river and Docklands Light Railway services
  • You are eligible if you live in a London borough and were born on or before 5 May 1951 or have an "eligible disability" such as profound or severe deafness
  • Mayor Boris Johnson plans to reinstate 60 as the age at which Londoners are eligible
  • For 2012-13 boroughs are paying £317m to fund Freedom Passes

Source: Transport for London and London Councils

The "rules" are that any one of the three ladies must be on the trip (on the route number two Mrs Hunt went it alone, writing "(Mary, boiler trouble, Linda, house guests)), they must sit on the top deck at the front where possible and they must not travel in rush hour, taking up seats.

They have marvelled at Brent's "excellent" hanging baskets, "handsome street art" seen from the number five between Canning Town and Romford and the high level of fare evasion on the 18 through Marylebone as revealed by a Freedom of Information request.

According to their blog, the number 37 is heaving with buggies, Gower Street seen from the 14 is "stiff with Blue Plaques", and City firms as spotted from the number 43 "go for cyclamen and winter pansies in their window boxes".

Asked what the highlights have been so far, Mrs Hunt said: "We did enjoy watching the Olympic Park take shape.

"We kept going in and out of Stratford because an awful lot of east London buses go through there.

"It was amazing to see it growing and changing."

They have found that London bus drivers are "extraordinarily good" and "'yoof' not that horrible - people just think they are".

Asked what her favourite route is, Mrs Hunt said: "I love the 274. It wiggles from Angel to Lancaster Gate and passes where I live in Camden."

She says the project has taught her how London "joins up" and given her an appreciation of the concessionary card.

Later the 381 bus will take the ladies past the London Councils office in Southwark Bridge Road near London Bridge where they will stop to meet the Freedom Pass team.

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