Probus lies very close to Cornish Main Line but because of their nature, local residents were satisfied with its bus service and did not want a railway station.
We now press onwards and towards our next stop at Grampound. En route we pass yet another bus returning southwards from MOT in Plymouth, this time one of the open top Volvo Citybus models now used on the 300 service around the Land's End route.
Grampound with Creed lies in the centre of Cornwall, sheltered in the beautiful valley of the River Fal. Settled since prehistoric times, from within the ancient parish of Creed and the old manor of Tybesta, Grampound grew as the main crossing place on the Fal, a focus for travellers and traders moving between west Cornwall and England. Thus Grampound became one of the most important towns in Cornwall with a rich and vibrant history. The main A390 road now runs through the town, bringing with it the problems of traffic, but Grampound remains a beautiful location with a rich community life and spirit.
We now head northwards towards St Austell and pass yet another coach heading south. The A390 is quite busy now and on summer weekends must be quite a trial for drivers running to a timetable, such as our National Express service.
The old market town of St
Austell is just a few miles from the coast and is one of
Cornwall's biggest towns. It was for centuries an important
mining town but it was a discovery in the mid 18th century that
really put the town on the map.
William Cookworthy, a chemist from Devon, discovered massive deposits of kaolin (a form of decomposed granite), or china clay in the area. The mineral is used in not only the production of porcelain but a whole host of industries including paper, pharmaceuticals and textiles. The extraction of china clay became the mainstay of local industry and accelerated the growth of the town from the eighteenth century onwards. One estimate puts the value of the industry at the time at around £15 billion in today's money.
The china clay industry is now in decline with cheaper foreign sources now being used. However the industry not only changed the town itself but has left its mark on the landscape around St Austell. The Cornish Alps as they are sometimes referred to are the spoils from the clay pits which form large, originally white, conical mounds. Over recent years some of these have been lanscaped and flattened to from a less surreal landscape.
The nearby Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum is an interesting insight into china clay production with interactive displays based in a 19th century clay works.
Another long running industry in the town is St Austell Brewery. Founded in 1851 by Walter Hicks it has grown to become easily the biggest brewery in Cornwall with a string of pubs. The brewery is open to the public for tours
Perhaps the towns biggest draw these days is it's proximity to the mighty Eden Project, only 2 miles away. Eden is now, without doubt, the most popular single tourist attraction in Cornwall. Interestingly enough the biomes were built in an old china clay pit. There has been much written about the environmental and righteous motives of the Eden Project, however there is plenty of evidence to the contrary along with the fact that it has certainly increased traffic in the area!
The bus station, near to the railway station, is presently under reconstruction and should be ready this autumn. Until then buses use stands on the far side of the railway line which can be seen as one approaches on the coach.
Now some seven minutes behind schedule, after loading 13 passengers, we leave the town and head for Lostwithiel which is a hidden treasure, tucked away in the River Fowey valley, obscured by richly wooded hills, between the A390 and the upper tidal reaches of the river.
John Betjeman is reputed to have said “There is history in every stone in Lostwithiel”. The Black Prince called Lostwithiel "The fairest of all small cities". Truly metropolitan yet retaining all the features of rural excellence, Lostwithiel is a treat not to be missed. Once the Duchy Capital, this small town has a character all it’s own, proud of its heritage, independent, yet friendly and happy to share its many charms.
The next village we pass near is Dobwalls, presently being by-passed by a new road. These roadworks can cause delays as there is single line working but once complete will speed up the journey to the south west. However in looking for information on this village I chanced upon a fascinating miniature railway. There is a web page devoted to the line at the following link.
Having negotiated the Dobwalls roadworks, it is not long before we are in Liskeard approaching our stop in Barras Street. We are able to get onto the stop today and I am faced with the sight of a fish and chip emporium which does nothing for my hunger which is beginning to press on my mind.
We load more passengers in Liskeard and are now almost full, I can only see half a dozen spare seats, some of which are jealously guarded by those travellers who hate sitting next to anyone else. We will soon be in Plymouth where many passengers will change onto the 330 service to Nottingham and points en route. I say soon but we still have 50 minutes running time to Plymouth Bretonside. En route we come to the Tamar Bridge and take the very nearside lane which seems reserved for traffic having a prepaid status for the toll crossing.
We are now approaching the outskirts of Plymouth and will set down my travelling companion, a lady who joined at Penryn Bridge and who is visiting her son in Saltash for the day. It turns out that she is a keen county bowls player and knows so much about the towns and villages we have passed through.
On this occasion and since so many passengers were leaving or joining our coach, I stayed on board and resisted the temptation to take more photos. This also helped the drivers, we now had two drivers taking us on from this point. One driver, Peter was only going as far as Taunton Deane services where he would leave us and take over a southbound service and our new driver was then to take our coach through to London Victoria. They did change over near Exeter to comply with hours rules and then again at Taunton Deane.
No sign of that lovely lady, Kelly, who was so helpful on my way down two days ago but I managed a few more pictures from the coach of Plymouth before we were soon leaving the city limits and heading towards Exeter on the A38.
1/ Plymouth Bretonside and the Mayflower Link.
2/ Plymouth Bretonside and SCD 18303.
3/ Plymouth Bretonside and strange buildings.
Leaving Plymouth we retraced my earlier steps as I came into Plymouth on the Stagecoach X38 service. I had chance to take a few pictures as we left the city and also on the A38 as we headed towards Exeter.
Passing by Exeter on the A38 and heading northwards, having had a driver change, we press on towards Taunton Deane where Peter would leave us and take over a southbound service. I was sorry to see him go as he had been an excellent driver, making the job seem easy and somehow time never seemed to matter. Even so we were only a few minutes down at each stop. He always had time for the passengers and I liked his use of a piece of marker chalk to put the name of the stop each bag was destined for.
Nearing Taunton Deane I was reminded of some 8 years ago now when I used to visit Quantock Motor Services and Steve Morris with his wonderful collection of elderly buses and coaches. To see and hear those vehicles from the '40s and '50s was a real pleasure. Memories of years gone by when I started my driving career and AEC Reliances, Leyland Tiger Cubs and other such buses were new and all challenging. How we marvelled at the 90 or so extra coaches, on the Yelloway service, which left Manchester and the North West every Friday evening throughout the summer to far away destinations such as Bournemouth and Torquay. Coaching names such as Black & White, Royal Blue and Yelloway still Kings of the Road and one never imagined they would be but a memory within ones own lifetime, such was their seeming longevity.
We were soon on our way again and heading northwards on the M5 towards Bristol passing some interesting coaches and buses on the way. As we approached Bristol a large load had caught on the overbridge at one point and been dragged off the low loader carrying it. This meant only one lane was open southbound and we passed several miles of queuing traffic.
2./ Roselyn YDU556??: on the M5 near Bristol
3/ A school bus YIL4417 but whose??? - on the M5 near Bristol, I saw another similar bus on the M4.
4/ Eastville Coaches decker on the M5 near Bristol
We were soon at the junction of the M5 with the M4 and took the slip road to take us round onto the M4 and the final part of my journey to Reading - Calcot. Traffic was light and we made good time on this part of the journey. Some way along the M4 I saw a familiar coach on the hard shoulder and wondered what was wrong. We sped past the stationary Volvo B12BT Stagecoach Megabus 54001. There was no indication as to what was wrong. We then passed a couple of westbound National Express services and as we slowed to leave the M4 a Leigh Delamere services, the London bound Megabus passed us seemingly none the worse for wear.
1/ First 20460 working the 040 on the M4 near Bath.
2/ Trathens-Park's HSK658 working the 501 on the M4 near Bath.
3/ The London bound Megabus passed us near Leigh Delamere services, seemingly none the worse for wear.
Our service is scheduled for a 20 minute refreshment stop at Leigh Delamere service and we pulled in at 1503 and departed at 1535 which gave our near full load a nice break.
Leaving Leigh Delamere at 1535 we are timed into Calcot at 1620 and we still have 51 miles to run. We pass another few coaches which adds to my interest in this part of the journey.
1/ Kinch K11NCK on the M4 near Leigh Delamere services.
2/ First 23202 on service 040 on the M4 near Leigh Delamere services.
3/ First 23321 on service 412 on the M4 near Reading.
An interesting fact on National Express coaches these days is the encouragement for passengers to send a text message to a text number line concerning the journey. Comments on the coach, driver and service levels are asked for and passengers do use this facility. Each coach has a unique identifier in the form of a number displayed inside each vehicle. Our was FD16.
We are now close to Calcot and we headed up the M4 slip road and round to the large Sainsbury's Savacentre. We pulled into the stop at 1627 - 8 hours after leaving Penzance. We are just seven minutes late and I quickly retrieve my bag, thank the driver and hurry to the Reading Buses 26 service which was leaving. The kindly driver must have seen me in the mirror and I was impressed that he made a point of stopping to allow me catch his bus. It was a two year old Scania number 826 one of a large batch which work this route. Our journey into town was quick and efficient and I was soon deposited near the rail station.
I was impressed by the cleanliness of the bus, the helpful interior notices and the comfortable ride.
I now had a little time to look around before my Thames Travel X39 service departed to Oxford via Wallingford. I did also have the option of using the Arriva 800/850 service to High Wycombe but chose the X39 instead.
We had a fairly full load leaving Reading a few minutes down. As far as I could tell they use the X39 for driver changes on the 144 service. We were soon out of the Reading suburbs and speeding on our way to Wallingford. Pulling into Wallingford Square I espied a new Heyfordian Enviro 200 and nipped off to get a picture. At the same time I was able to get a shot of our M A N waiting time at this important interchange point.
We were soon in Oxford as the X39 misses Berinsfield and the road is quite fast towards Haydon Hill. I alighted in Castle Street at 1817 and had ten minutes to walk to Gloucester Green for the 1830 737 Stansted service which would drop me in Stokenchurch. Leaving Oxford we passed a number of inbound services and I include a couple of pictures of these below.
I joined colleague Dave Baker on the 737 service which left spot on time and dropped me in Stokenchurch at 1905 within walking of my house.
I did enjoy my four day trip and the journey home was somewhat different as I took only 11 hours compared to three days for the outward journey.
I will review the overall trip in the final instalment of this trip in Conclusions which I hope to publish next week.
Stokenchurch, 22nd August 2008
"Conclusions" will be published shortly.
Please note that any comments made in this news page are those of the Editors' and in no way constitute
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As a news page we reserve the right to make valid comments as seen from an editorial point of view.
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A note regarding photographs which show drivers faces.
Following one complaint from a bus driver in Oxford but considering the fact that the photographs are taken of the vehicle not any person,
I will blank out the face to avoid any discomfort to the individual concerned. If you are the person involved send me an email to have this action taken.
I am sure people will realise that to ask everyone in advance of publication, whose face may appear in a picture is wholly impractical in both time and practice.
I am sorry to have to mention such a matter but we now live in a world of human rights and political correctness which must be considered.