Wednesday 16 October 2019

Adventures by Bus

Stagecoach Gold bus. Stop buttons, reading lights and USB
sockets are on the back of the seat in front of most passengers
I have always liked travelling by bus. I suppose it takes me back to childhood when every journey anywhere always had to start that way, and probably end that way, too. The vehicles were very different then and buses always carried conductors to collect the fares and look after the passengers. From a practical point of view, it is good to be able to do things while travelling (which I cannot do when I drive my car) and I get a great view from the bus - even single-deckers are higher than most cars. You can read about some bus rides as part of my rail adventures in this blog.
Before we moved to Stamford we did not have a railway station within walking distance, so many of our trips then began with a bus to and ended with a bus from Peterborough. I used to use buses quite a lot then, even for local shopping, even though we were then a two-car family: it is part of the way I prefer to live, only using my car when I really have no other option. On days off I sometimes took a round trip on a rover ticket, visiting both Peterborough and Stamford to do odd tasks and enjoying the scenery on the way. Most bus companies offer “day anywhere” rovers which provide a cheap day out if you’re at a loose end.

Since I acquired my senior concessionary pass the incentive to use buses has grown by the fact that it is free at any time of the day within Lincolnshire, and after the morning peak anywhere else in England. Unlike most day rover tickets it is not restricted to just one bus company.
A couple of recent trips are worth describing (I hope!) for readers’ interest.

The Long Way Round to Kettering

 One Saturday I needed to go to a function in Kettering. Now Kettering is about a 45 minute drive from my home in Stamford but on this particular day the car was not available to me because it was needed elsewhere by the family. I had time to make the trip by bus but only just, and even then I had to use a train for part of the way back because bus services no longer go on late enough. I enjoyed the ride and was in no hurry, but it would have been all the same if I had been!

My bus to Kettering, a Stagecoach Gold X4, was due to leave from Peterborough Queensgate bus station at 13:12, so I left Stamford on Delaine’s 12:00 service 201 which would give me about half-an-hour between buses in Peterborough. I took a packed lunch with me which I intended to eat while sitting at the bus station. Going into Peterborough my bus was delayed by roadworks and then again by cars queuing for access to city-centre car parks - this city desperately needs bus lanes, and I do not understand how it can call itself “environment city” when it is choc-a-bloc with cars! Anyway, in the event I did manage to make the connection but had to eat my lunch while queuing to board the bus rather than in a civilised, leisurely fashion.

The Stagecoach Gold bus was very comfortable and had on-board WiFi and USB ports for device-charging, being intended for lengthy journeys. I sat on the top deck and spent some time catching up on reading some documents I needed for later in the day, combined with some gazing out at the countryside and the towns. The way we passed through Oundle was amazing, a circuit of the town in some residential streets, following Peterborough-bound bus through the market place. Although this is a limited-stop inter-urban route it plainly serves as a local bus service for Oundle, too. In due course the bus arrived at my stop on the road into Kettering - whatever else this service did it dropped me right at the end of the street I needed, and I could not have asked for better than that.

At the end of the day I caught the bus back to Peterborough from the opposite side of the road. This time it was about ten minutes late leaving, but the timetable allows some slack at Corby and the driver also managed to make up some time between towns so that we arrived at Peterborough Queensgate bus station on time. By this time, however, the bus service to Stamford had come to the end of its working day; there are no bus services into the evening in Stamford. The train service goes on for several more hours, though, so I walked across to the rail station and bought a single ticket home to Stamford and travelled back on the train. Total fare, then, for the day's adventure was that of a single for a short train journey at Senior Railcard rate, the bus fares being zero for me as a concessionary pass holder.

Going for a Ride

Free entertainment for senior citizens: bus rides for fun! It is quite possible to set off by bus for an adventure not knowing where you will end up, but with services finishing early in the day in most places (see above!), it is a good idea to have the bus times with you to ensure you get home. Our local operator, Delaine Buses, publishes pdf downloadable timetables on its website, and it is easy to keep those on a smartphone and refer to them as needed. I began my little round trip with the 203 service towards Spalding and got off at Deeping St James where I used to live. I was not sure how much time I wanted to spend there and when I consulted the timetable I realised that there was a bus to Peterborough due from the opposite side of the road in about two minutes, so I thought I'd move straight on with that. Ominously, the bus passed on its way from Peterborough at about the time it should have been at this stop on its way back. It turned up going the right way about fifteen minutes late, having been held up by roadworks in Peterborough. I rode right through to the Queensgate terminus and spent a little while in the shopping centre before having lunch at the brilliant Pizza House in Colgate. Do try it if you are in Peterborough at a mealtime; run by an Italian family this restaurant has been there since I worked in Peterborough in the 1970s and has recently been enlarged by taking over the shop next door to its original premises and knocking them into one.

Market Deeping Market Place seen from the front of
the top deck
After lunch I caught a city bus to a trading estate which I wanted to visit and from there awaited a bus towards Stamford. The roadworks were playing havoc with bus running and the first Delaine bus to come along was for Deeping; a quick look at the timetable on my phone showed that I could connect there for the next bus back to Stamford from Deeping, so stopped the bus and boarded it, spending a pleasant while in a little café in Market Deeping chatting to someone I used to know there long ago. Soon it was time to get my last ride of the day. This bus was the one that schoolchildren use to get home from The Deepings School to Stamford or the villages in between, and there were many children aboard, all of them extremely well-behaved. I was very impressed.

I must plan a proper trip and take a picnic, on a warm sunny day it can be a great day out and the buses stop in some lovely villages on the roads between Stamford and Bourne or Stamford and Peterborough, some of them still having pubs. Even if paying for a rover ticket it is amazing value for money, and for those of us who are old enough, it is a very cheap day out indeed!

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