Game 2, Group H (Walton): 350 v. 415  

For our sixteenth fixture we look at two more scenic bus routes via Oldham. One of them is the sole preserve of single decker buses due to a bridge it passes along the way. The other one is an important link with the Saddleworth villages.

More reasons to take the long way home from Ashton

In our previous piece we looked at the stultifying nature of the 409 route. Though The 9 Bus may be every 10 minutes, there is another longer, though more satisfying way of travelling from Ashton to Oldham. I’m about to bagsy the front seat.

The 350 service has a straightforward 15 minute frequency in the daytimes up to Micklehurst. Some, twice an hour, continue to Hey Farm Estate and Oldham – via Saddleworth. Once hourly by night, twice hourly on Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes. From The George Hotel, a right turn takes us into Friezland, Boarshurst, and Greenfield. On reaching Uppermill we see Saddleworth folk at play (if you are reading this now, some 50 people are probably sat outside Java). The Yorkshire stone houses dominate the view, all the way up to Delph.

On leaving Delph you would be foolish in thinking ‘it doesn’t get better than this’. Think again. The greatest section of the 350 route is between Delph and Waterhead. Even more so on a double decker bus instead of a single decker vehicle. The twists and turns allow for good moorland views and, in the distance, superb views of central Manchester and beyond.

Like the 343 and the 184, a journey on the 350 is pleasant enough to clear your mind of any worries. Another journey worthy of buying a FirstDay ticket for as well.

Industrial heritage and low bridges

The 415 and its predecessor operated by Oldham Corporation Transport Department and SELNEC fits into a rare category. It is one of a few Greater Manchester bus routes where you never see a double decker bus. One section, Middleton Junction bridge on Grimshaw Lane, isn’t only a single track road. It is also too low for the common and garden Volvo B9TL (9′ 9″). If you look closely at one side of the bridge, you can see white tile work, which formed a set of stairs to Middleton Junction railway station.

The 415 in its recent history has switched from terminating at Lees to Oldham. From there it continued to Oldham via Greenacres Road, served by today’s 340 service. West of Oldham, the route takes in Fields New Road which at one time was a thriving hub of the cotton industry. After Butler Green it passes The Sportsman pub, a one-time terminus for the 421 service (absorbed by today’s 81 service).

From there it continues towards the splendid Foxdenton Hall and Park, adding a rare touch of rural idyll on a mainly industrial route. Thereafter we see the Rochdale Canal, Middleton Junction bridge, and Greengate – home to JW Lees’ Brewery. Instead of a more direct route, it approaches Middleton via Alkrington Garden Village.

Besides terminus changes it has seen its fair share of cuts in its frequency. Only five years ago it operated every 20 minutes. Today it has stabilised at half hourly in the daytime, then hourly on evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays. For your industrial heritage needs, the 415 service is worthy of your consideration.

Full Time Score:

350 [Oldham] 4 – 2 415 [Middleton]

The views from Scouthead clinched this result for the 350 service. If you can play your bus times right, why not catch both buses and have a quick wander around Foxdenton Park?

S.V., 19 June 2018.

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