|St Ives bus station|
Today was the day. The day I would finally ride on one of First's open top buses to Lands End. That was the plan anyway, and a plan which I was insistent on carrying out successfully. It was my last day in Cornwall before I moved on so I only had one day to get it right.
I drove from my campsite in Summercourt to St Ives early that morning, parked on the outskirts of the town and walked to the bus station. Unfortunately due to heavy traffic and being unable to find a parking space straight away, I was already running late and risked missing the bus which only operate every two hours. I wasn't entirely sure where the bus station was in comparison to where I was, and making matters worse I had only been to St Ives a few times before that day. In my favour though I could remember the view from the bus station, which I then realised I was in, so after a quick look around I spied the rear end of a bus in the distance. I checked my watch and proceeded to break out into a jog in order to get there in good time. As I arrived at the bus station, I had about four minutes to spare but there was a long queue of tourists still waiting to get on the D reg Volvo. The top was filling up fast but fortunately there was one space left as I climbed the stairs so I took my position right at the back on the nearside...which would later come back to haunt me!
One of the first things I noticed when I sat down was a warning sticker telling me not to stand up whilst the bus was in motion, but due to the route's touristic nature, it was also in French and German so I had to take a photo!
The 300 operates from St Ives to Lands End along the B3306, until it reaches the A30 which takes it the last couple of miles to its destination via Sennen Cove. I'd driven the route last year, bus chasing, and it stood out in my mind as the most scenic and picturesque bus route I had ever seen. So as the bus I was on departed St Ives and begun trundling towards Towednack Turn, I just had to take a selfie! I tried to include the bus, myself, and the view in one stunning photograph so in years to come I can reminisce about how beautiful both myself, and the scenery was on that day.
Soon after that picture was taken I started to enjoy myself less and less. The initial excitement of where I was and what I was riding subsided and all I could think about was the cold wind. Yes it was August, but as you can see from the above photo the weather conditions werent exactly summery, and the fact was that I was now moving at about 40 miles an hour at an elevated height with no windows to protect me, meant I spent the rest of the journey wrapped up in my hoody and gilet, really wishing I had remembered to bring some gloves.
|the public cat|
Along the way we stopped in various places to pick up and drop off more tourists, inlcuding Zennor, where there is a museum, Morvah, in which there isn't much at all, and St Just, where there was what I can only describe as a public cat, which at the time seemed to be congratulating some high school students who had just opened their GCSE results at the bus stop. Other places visited before Lands End included Sennen Cove. This was an intersting part of the journey, and for those who are not familiar with the area Sennen Cove is pretty much, well, a cove, shoved at the bottom of a really steep, narrow and windy hill which the buses obviously glide down but really struggle to come back up. This makes it a very popular place for enthusiasts to photograph the bus as if you find the right place to stand, and frame it correctly, you can have the bus in the foreground to the right hand side, the road behind it sweeping over to the left hand side, whilst the village and the Atlantic Ocean are seen in the background. Thanks to the buses slow speed you would have to be very unlucky to end up with a blurry photo too! Here's my result from last year, in which the driver can be seen waving!
Arriving at Lands End, I had a choice. Do I get off and wait for the 300 to take me back the way I had just came back to St Ives? Or do I stay on the bus which changes into a 1A and heads off around the South coast to Penzance...tough decisions. Having had a quick look at my handy Kernow timetable booklet I decided to stay onboard to experience the full Open Top Cornwall experience. This is where it got interesting. Do you remember right at the beginning of this post where I mentioned my decision to take the last seat remaining right at the back of the bus would come back to haunt me? Well now you'll find out why:
Eventually I arrived in Penzance, with most of my hair still intact, and I spent an hour or so observing the bus activity there. I photographed plenty of ex-Eastern Counties buses including Volvo B7TLs 32202 LT52WTG, 32207 LT52WTN, 43867 EG52FHC photos of which can all be seen on my flickr, alongside the regular Kernow buses including Optare Solo 53701 LK05DYO which was wearing First's new standard Cornwall livery. It too having links to Norfolk as it used to operate in Kings Lynn before the services there were sold to Norfolk Green. To get back to my car in St Ives from Penzance I had to catch the 16 service as photographed to the left which is also a very scenic route.
Now, back at my car, I decided I needed one last scenic photo of a D reg Volvo before they are withdrawn from service (which has now happened). I remembered a vantage point I was introduced to by Western Greyhound's Mark Howarth last year, which looks out across the vast fields of green that Cornwall's countryside has to offer. I parked up in a handy layby nearby and climbed onto a stone wall to await the bus. Thirty minutes passed and still no sign of the bus. I was starting to get a little frustrated by that point but then lo and behold a double decker emerged into view. As I got my camera ready I realised the bus that was coming wasn't in fact a D reg Volvo, and just a regular Trident. Having sat there for so long though I wasn't going to miss the opportunity for a photograph. I'm glad I waited too as it turned out it wasn't a regular trident, but 32716 W716RHT which is kitted out in an allover green heritage Western National livery, which fits in with the background rather well I think.
After my bus spotting adventures that day, I met up with a friend at the train station who then accompanied me back to Lands End, before joining me on the second leg of my epic trip. Part 6 of #VegOnTour will be brought to you from Somerset, Part 7 from Bristol, Part 8 from the Lake district and Part 9 from Scotland so remember to check back soon for more bus spotting adventures!