• Leopards Prowl around Southdown and Beyond, by Paul Llewellyn, ISBN 978-0-9564802-2-4.
Paul Llewellyn, a bus enthusiast since the age of eight, has written a book about Southdown Leyland Leopards which were run in the Uckfield area until the late 1970s.
He has created a history of each of the 166 vehicles run by Southdown in the 1960s, from their delivery to disposal, in the book which is called Leopards Prowl around Southdown and Beyond.
Paul grew up in High Hurstwood and was fascinated by a green single decker bus that regularly passed his parents home.
One day he stopped the bus and asked the driver for a timetable for the service, the 120 Crowborough, via High Hurstwood, to Uckfield, later 150 and then 149.
The driver not only gave him a timetable for service 120 but also handed over his copy of the East Sussex timetable, dated June 2, 1968, which Paul still has today.
The timing point of ‘Chillies Lane’ was mentioned and Paul was told that if he stuck his arm out the bus would pull over.
Paul said it was that one kind Southdown driver, on a country bus service that ran three days a week, who started his interest in the company.
Eventually the lad persuaded his grandmother to take him out on the 120 to Uckfield one Saturday afternoon and by the time he was ten his parents allowed him to travel on the bus on his own.
Paul became friends with the Crowborough drivers and was known as the chatty little boy from the farm who was always asking questions.
When he started at Beacon school in Crowborough in September 1971 he travelled by bus from school each day – the Maidstone and District service 90 from the White Hart at 1550 to the Broadway, then Southdown service 219 from the Broadway at 1616 to the Crow and Gate – finishing with a two mile walk home.
Paul’s fascination grew as he noticed different types of vehicles and liveries. For example the Crowborough local service 116 and service 120 normally had a ‘CUF’ Leopard, or a Northern Counties DP Leopard.
On Saturdays the enthusiast would buy Wanderbus tickets from the driver on service 120 to Uckfield and go on to Eastbourne, Haywards Heath, or Lewes, and explore, learning more about Southdown’s Leyland Leopards and bus routes and taking photographs as he went.
After a time he found the Crowborough depot in Western Road and spent many a happy hour after school riding around on the Crowborough local service, also sweeping the vehicles out, and taking photographs, creating happy memories.
But during the late 1970s the Leopards were being replaced by Leyland Nationals. Service cuts, and a decline in passenger usage followed.
The Crowborough depot closed on May 17, 1980, and that was the end of Paul’s ambition to be a Southdown driver at Crowborough, while driving Leopards in service.
A few years later he did join Southdown as a driver at Uckfield and Haywards Heath depots. He became a revenue inspector in East Sussex, and inspector in charge at Haywards Heath.
He said: “Although no manual Leopards were left in service in 1985, I had an opportunity to get involved, with Norman Stanbridge, a Storrington driver, to become part owner of Leopard 199 KUF 199F, the last remaining manual box Leopard in Southdown fleet.
Paul has been a member of the Southdown Enthusiast’s Club since July 1974 and has kept good records on the Southdown Leopard saloons.
He said: “Growing up with the Leopards, travelling miles on them, and my friendship with Crowborough drivers, and many other drivers, from other depots too, who drove them so well, made me want to do a book on these ‘work horses’ and pay tribute to the staff at the Crowborough depot.”
Copies of Paul’s book Leopards Prowl around Southdown and Beyond – his third book about Southdown buses – can be ordered from him by sending a cheque for £25, made out to Paul Llewellyn, to 19 Burwash Park, Fontridge Lane, Etchingham, East Sussex, TN19 7DE.
Paul can also be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.