The number 7 ‘Tiger’ service from Reading to Fleet in Hampshire is a relatively new addition to Reading Buses’ services. Highlights of the trip include travelling in the bus lane across the middle of the roundabout at Junction 11 of the M4, bouncing through Mary Mitford’s village of Three Mile Cross and, when you get to Fleet, there is an ironmongers and an ice cream parlour!
The route runs from Reading Station to Fleet Station but you can get on the bus at the junction of Milman Road and Basingstoke Road; this is the nearest stop to the Whitley Pump.
The bus doesn’t recognise the boundaries that apply to other vehicles and zips through the traffic over the M4 as if it wasn’t there; just as it wasn’t there when Mary Mitford lived at Three Mile Cross. The cottage where she lived from 1820-1851 is just before the Three Mile Cross post office stop.
The Berkshire/ Hampshire boundary is near Riseley at about the half way point of the journey. The bus is now on country roads and drives through impossibly pretty villages like Hartley Wintney, but this trip is all about the ride, not getting out and having a look round.
The approach to Fleet along Reading Road North is through the well-wooded, mostly Edwardian estate of large detached properties which are within the North Fleet conservation area.
Fleet Road is a long strip of a high street that starts at the junction of Reading Road North, Reading Road South and Crookham Road. It takes ten minutes from here to the terminus at Fleet Station which was built as ‘Fleet Pond Halt’ in the 1830s for day trippers from London.
We have reached our destination and can get out, have a look round and at the very least walk back up Fleet Road to one of the bus stops there before getting the bus back to Reading.
For Readingas who miss them, there is a Robert Dyas at the Hart Centre (a mini Butts Centre) and on Fleet Road there is a Peacocks. Fleet also has the luxury of a town centre Waitrose. Rendezvous Desserts, at the corner with Victoria Road, is an ice cream parlour better than anything in Reading now, although it might not match up to memories of Tutti Frutti at Reading Station.
There is also W C Baker & Son, a proper ironmongers, closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Fleet Ponds were a historic medieval fishery but the site of the town of Fleet was heathland until the 1830s when enclosure meant that it could be developed for housing. One of the first buildings was the Oatsheaf public house which was licensed in 1838.
Development continued in the second half of the nineteenth century when H W Brake bought land and mapped out building plots around Fleet Road for building. Between 1871 and 1901 the population increased from 380 to 2000 and is now about 36000. Fleet Urban District Council was established in 1904.
Bus timetable and fares
The number 7 runs about once an hour and the journey takes about an hour. Mondays to Fridays, the first bus is at 5.20am from Reading Station; 5.25am from Christchurch Gardens (junction of Milman Road and Basingstoke Road). The last bus in the evening that goes all the way to Fleet is at 6.50pm. On Saturdays the first bus 6.28am and the last bus 6.28pm; 6.32am and 6.35pm respectively at Christchurch Gardens. On Sunday buses only go as far as Riseley.
Coming back, the first bus from Fleet Station Mondays to Fridays is 6.10am and in the evening 7.06pm. On Saturday the first is at 7.28am and the last at 18.28pm.
Go early in the afternoon and do not miss the last bus home.
The adult return fare from Reading is £8.