Sunday, 25 September 2011

2011 - Day Out 24: Kinver

Date: Sunday 25 September 2011

There's me on the start line!Back in August, I noticed that a race was being held in Kinver, and teased John, a colleague at work, he didn't take the bait, then I did something mad......I entered myself for it, all this to get John to take part.

Back to today, I wake up and prepare for the run ahead, I dig out my gear I wore when I did the Dudley Action Heart 5 in February this year, and get dressed. I go downstairs ready for the off, and trying to calm my nerves, I turn the television on, what's on? Only the Berlin Marathon. Mr UKBuses kindly gets up early on a Sunday morning, and just after 08.30am, he picks me up and drives the few miles to get to Kinver, we park up at Kinver Leisure Centre getting a prime spot on the car park.

We take a walk to the finish line, and I feel a bit out of place as I am the only runner dressed up ready to go, there is just under an hour to go yet. I prepare myself by having a bottle of energy drink, and we have a walk back up to the leisure centre, so that I can have a pre-race bladder stop. As I make my way outside, I bump into John, who has the same idea. Mr UKBuses and myself wait in the corridor for John to appear.  After he comes out, we hang around as we know that we will have to visit the toilet again before we make our way to the start line. Our predictions were right, we needed to go again, it must be the nerves or psychological. Bladders emptied, we all make our way down to the starting area, and Mr UKBuses does me and John a favour by looking after some of our belongings, I'm a bit nervous by now as I pass him my BlackBerry, which he hates, and John is even more daring, by giving him the keys to his car (Well the company car really), will we see Mr UKBuses at the finish line later? We are near the start line and me and John both have a dreaded sensation, we both need to use the loo again, so a quick jog to the toilets and back before the race gets underway is needed.

The Course Map
It is nearly time and John and myself make our way to the start, and Mr UKBuses crosses the road and takes a few photographs, and I'm sure I saw him looking at John's keys to find out how to work them. Last minute warnings from the race organiser, and then the klaxxon goes, it is time to run. John was a bit ahead of me in the line up, and as we run, he moves further forward, after about 1/2 a kilometre, I lose sight of him. It is now a left turn into Wigley Bank Road, this is where I see the 1Km marker, I'm sure it is further than the 1 Mile marker when I did the Dudley run, it doesn't put my mind at ease. I get to the end of Wigley Bank Road, and it is a left and virtually after, a sharp right turn, a turn I am dreading.......

It is just under the 2Km mark and I have turned into a lane called Sheepwalks Lane, and I've also heard a bit about this part of the route, so as I carry on running, the road becomes steep, and then I turn a corner along the lane, and it gets even steeper (see the gradient by clicking on the course route, right), and this is where my legs tell me to run no further, even though I try my hardest, it feels like someone has hit my legs with a cricket bat, so I have to walk the next 1Km or so due to the sheer gradient. I do have a little try as I carry on along Sheepwalks Lane, as I think I have got to the top, but as soon as I start a gentle jog, another bank appears, and my legs just aren't having any of it. As I "walk" along a bit further, one of the runners states that this is the last bank and it is mainly downhill from then on, so I decide to not even try running as I see the size of the gradient ahead, I tell myself to just walk this bit and then once I'm at the top, it gets easier, so I walk even further, and once I get to the top, I prepare myself for the run ahead with a big gulp of energy drink. Gulp taken its time to run, and as I pass Hollies Lane, I turn into No Man's Green, and I'm loving this bit as it is downhill. I run for about a kilometre and I'm at the end of No Man's Green Lane and it is also at this point that as I turn into Heron's Gate Road, I see the 5Km marker, which means that I am at the halfway point, just under 3 Miles done.

I look at my watch and I have done about 35 - 40 minutes, so I think I need to do a bit of catching up if I want to beat my time limit of an hour, something that has been compromised due to "The Sheepwalks". I carry on along Heron's Gate Road, a nice bit of this route as it is a flat road, and I pass Pigeonhouse Farm, which means as I reach the next corner, it is also the four mile mark, after another half a mile, I get to a crossroads, which means that it is the end of Heron's Gate Road, and the marshall informs me I have to turn left, and left I go into Bannuttree Lane, this road has a slight gradient but nothing as bad as "The Sheepwalks", and as I head up to the next turning, it is the five mile mark, which means there is a mile left and just under one and a half kilometres left, and I am starting to feel it now, with my ankle deciding to start to go to sleep on me....

At just under the 8.5 km mark, I turn right into Bath Lane, and I'm glad I did, as if I went straight on, this would bring me back to the beginning of my now worse nightmare, "The Sheepwalks", and I prefer Bath Lane as it is nice and even as I go along, I reach the 9Km mark, and it is a left turn into Rocky Wall, well a little part of it, as I reach the next corner, which brings me to the top of White Hill, I know that I haven't got too far to go now, even though my ankle does not agree. As I run down towards Potters Cross, there are residents on their driveways, and marshalls along this last kilometre, all clapping and egging me on (I think they are or they are just telling me to hurry up as they want to go home), and as I continue further down White Hill, a welcome sight is approaching, Potters Cross and the finish line. I'm near enough at the bottom of White Hill, and as I reach the bottom, my ankle has totally seized up, and everyone must think that I am doing an impression of Quasimodo as it feels like I am dragging it along. I'm turning the final corner and Mr UKBuses is there and as I cross Enville Road, into the local playing fields I can see the finish line, and I get closer and closer, my smile gets wider and wider, and the photographer is there ready to take a picture. At this point, John and family are waiting there and give me a final shout of encouragement, at which point I get a final burst of energy and go faster, and I think as I cross the finish line, I am sticking my tongue out at John just at the moment my photograph is being taken!

My run over, I come back down to a walking pace, and get a fresh bottle of much needed water, and collect my race t-shirt, and off I go to find John and Mr UKBuses, albeit with a slight limp. As I find them, I enquire as to what my time was, and it was just over one hour and seven minutes - (John completed his run in 56 minutes), a shame about the seven minutes, but I'm happy with that, and I think if it wasn't for "The Sheepwalks" gradient that slowed me down to a crawl, I might have been under the hour mark. We all make our way back to the leisure centre, but not with the same pace as I had earlier, it is here that John says his goodbyes, and it looks like Mr UKBuses has given him the right set of keys. I take this opportunity to have a quick change inside the facilities and then it is back to Mr UKBuses car. We make our way out of the car park, with John passing us just before we move, and Mr UKBuses drives back to Stourbridge, whilst I rest my legs. We decide to have a quick one in The Gigmill, a drink that refreshes me as I have definitely earned this one. I also find out that while I was mountain climbing, Mr UKBuses had returned to his car and had a nap. Drink finished, we make our way out and off home I go. Mr UKBuses then kindly tells me to get in the car and he gives me a lift to the front door, even though it is in the opposite direction from the way he was going, but I'm glad he did, my legs were now starting to seize up.

A lovely energetic day was had by myself and am happy with what I achieved. A big thank you to Mr UKBuses for the lift there and back (very much appreciated), and also to John for the encouragement, and a big thank you to them both for the support throughout the morning .... Cheers guys!

More information on Action Heart can be found at their website:, Photographs from the event can be seen by clicking here.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

2011 - DayOut 23: Worcestershire

Date: Saturday 17 September 2011

It is our second time out in September, and it is a welcome return for Mr D9, who has not been seen on a SBI day out since July. Today's day out will be a Whittle's Day covering Worcestershire and a little bit of Shropshire.

Fist of all, I meet up with Mr UKBuses outside the shops along The Broadway in Norton. From there we have a little walk up to the main Stourbridge to Kidderminster Road, known locally as Norton Road, where we get to our bus stop for the first journey of the day, after seeing two National Express West Midlands Service 276 buses nearly having a fight as they come out / enter the nearby Whittington Road, our bus is behind and pulls up to our stop and we board. We catch Whittle's Service 125 from Stourbridge to Bridgnorth which operates via Norton and Broadwaters, we are only catching this journey as far as Kidderminster and our section follows Midland Red's old service 305 route between Stourbridge and Kidderminster, a bit of route that Mr UKBuses is relishing. We arrive in Kidderminster at around 0945, so as we alight in Kidderminster Bus Station, we have the opportunity to take a few photographs, mainly Whittle's vehicles, before we decide to have a quick look around the town centre before the arrival of Mr D9. We make our way back to the bus station and Mr D9 duly arrives on a service 192 bus, also operated by Whittle's, albeit about ten minutes late, and as we walk around the bus station to greet him, he is nowhere to be seen as we near the bus, he has walked around the bus station to greet us, in the opposite direction, but as we turn around he is at the other end of the bus station and he duly puts his arms in the air. The ARM (Andy, Roger and Mark) gang is now complete, and we have a little time to wait for our next journey, so we go to a nearby Cafe Nero, where I opt for the standard coke and a "Portuguese Custard", basically a normal British egg custard which has been hit by an hammer! Mr D9 opts for a normal black coffee, and Mr UKBuses seems to have gone upmarket and opts for a Muffin with a Cappichino. A quick visit to the toilet before we set off (which seems to be located in the Stourbridge branch!), we head back to the bus station for our next bus. We have time for a quick cigarette before our bus arrives and Mr D9 asks me for a light, before I look up and realise he is smoking on a plastic cigarette, loaded with a supply of nicotine!!

Cheers! In the Jewel of The Severn at Bridgnorth
It is now just before 1045am, and our next bus arrives, Whittle's Service 125, which will take us to Bridgnorth, which means we have covered the whole of the route today. We head through Bewdley, Button Oak, Highley and Eardington before arriving at our destination of Bridgnorth. As we head into the main town, we pass the Severn Valley Railway station, where we also see one of their trains heading out of the station towards Kidderminster. The journey has taken just over one hour and also a spot of D9 driving has been shown my Mr D9 himself. Mr D9 has also broken the rules on the bus along the way by having a "plastic" cigarette, but has he, as there is no smoke! We alight just before the main high street in Bridgnorth High Town, and we decide it is time for dinner, and we head to our first J D Wetherspoons of the day, and we duly head to Bridgnorth's "Jewel of The Severn", see picture left. We get a round in first, and it is indeed a first as Mr UKBuses decides to purchase the first round, I hope he isn't coming down with anything. Drinks purchased by Mr UKBuses, we find a seat and peruse the menu. Mr D9 and myself have a little wager that Mr UKBuses will have his Chicken Tikka Masala, and he proves us wrong when he opts for his now standard BBQ Chicken Melt (without the cheese!), whilst Mr D9 fuels himself for the rest of the day opting for the Gourmet Burger, and I have my now standard Beer and Burger. We don't have to wait too long before our food arrives and we tuck in. We are now fed for the rest of the day, and Mr D9 has eaten his onions, so his gas tank is full for the rest of the day, which is bad news for us. We make our way down toward The Bear public house, which is where we have to catch our next bus. As we wait, the sky goes dark and it duly starts to rain. There is no shelter nearby so we have to wait in the rain, but Mr UKBuses seems to be standing in someones doorway, and as it rains faster he further edges towards the front door, which means I can take a little shelter from the rain, but Mr D9 is still stuck in the downpour, but as he waits he looks in the front window, and is surprised that Mr UKBuses isn't comfy sitting in the unfortunates house owner's armchair, with his feet up in front of the fire, whilst puffing away on a pipe, as I look round he is virtually in their hallway!

Mr UKBuses pointing out the good old days!
Ten minutes later than planned, our return bus arrives and we board Whittle's service 125 again, but this time we will only be travelling as far as Bewdley. The bus makes his way out of Bridgnorth, with Mr D9 deciding to wave at someone out of the window as we leave. We make our way back through Eardington, with the driver trying to catch up time and doing his impression of Jenson Button along the way. We reach Highley, where the sun is now shining away and as we arrive we decide to stop on the bus as we don't find the village "Highley" interesting, the only good thing about Highley during our time on the bus as we pass through it is the smell from the chip shop, but this is quickly masked by Mr D9's "gourmet gas", which has started pumping from his body. We make our way out of Highley passing through Button Oak before arriving back in Bewdley. We have a quick browse around whilst making our way up Load Street, where we arrive outside our second J D Wetherspoons location "The George Hotel", and as we arrive at the bar, Mr D9 decides it is time for him to buy a round, and I'm not complaining. We head towards the front of the pub and we find a nice comfy settee to rest our legs, which is situated between the entrance to the hotel and the hotel reception. Before we get comfortable, Mr UKBuses decides to move the empty coffee cups off our table and places them amongst the display advertising the Christmas Fayre that will be available over the coming months in the run up to the main event. Before we get comfortable, I try and get a "Cheers!" photograph, but I have the wrong setting on my camera and duly get a video instead, results which can be seen below. Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses reminisce about their time at National Express West Midlands before we have to make our way to the bus stop, Mr D9 removes the empty coffee cups out of the Christmas display before we leave. Mr UKBuses must have a vision from his previous life and the explanation on the sign says it all, see picture above right. We make our way down Load Street to the bus stop for our next journey. We wait and wait, and it looks like we will be missing our connecting trip in Kidderminster, but our bus finally turns up, twenty minutes late.

Cheers! The ARMS in The Queens Head, Wolverley
We board Whittles Service 125 again and it takes us the short distance between Bewdley and Kidderminster, as we arrive in Kidderminster, the bus takes us to the stops situated outside of the Swan Centre, so I come up "with a interesting plan..." It is just before 1500 hours, and our next bus is due to leave the bus station at 1500 hours, we decide to have a little gamble and get off Whittle's service 125 at the Swan Centre, and after looking at the timetable on the stop, our next bus visits here, and after a minute our next bus, Whittle's Service 7 arrives, which takes us to Wolverley via Huscott and Sion Hill. As we pass through the little estates en route, Mr UKBuses decides to point out a few of the old Midland Red clay bus stops, and when we are around the Sion Hill area, I notice a block of flats that I think was residence to my auntie when I was a little toddler all of them years ago. We make our way through Sion Hill, and arrive just outside of Wolverley, and we alight outside of The Lock, a pub which is situated right next to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and as the name says a big lock. My round now and the barmaid has to wait as Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses decide to visit the toilet at the same time and the choices are made after they made their visit, Mr UKBuses opts for the Boondoggle and Mr D9, Banks's Bitter. The weather is good at the moment, so we decide to sit outside of the pub, which is a pleasant choice as we have the canal boats going by and the traffic on the main road. We finish our drinks and decide to use the emergency plan and spend more time in Wolverley. We walk around to the other Wolverley pub, The Queens Head, see picture left, Mr D9's gas is coming through aplenty en route. Mr UKBuses recovers from buying his first round today, and then tries to make me pay for this round, even though I have just brought a round in, it seems Mr UKBuses is back to his normal self! We have a bit of time to spend in Wolverley, so we decide that a few games of pool are needed. Mr UKBuses and myself go first, and after a game full of snookers thanks to Mr UKBuses, I win. I head outside the back door after this for a cigarette break and find out that there is a lovely beer garden towards the rear of the pub, something that I have not noticed before. Whilst I have my cigarette, Mr D9 plays Mr UKBuses at pool, and Mr D9 is victorious despite Mr UKBuses using "tactics" by snookering him - well he did have an easy attempt of doing this as most of his balls were still on the table, Mr D9 decided to use tactics of his own and the help of his bottom with the gourmet gas causing a stink. I finally get to play Mr D9, and after a game where Mr UKBuses is creeping around with his camera, Mr D9 beats me. Pool over, a further round of drinks are purchased and with still time left, we swap the pool cues for darts, where Mr UKBuses and Mr D9 play against each other, due to my lack of darting skills, I opt to keep the scores. Mr D9 wins again. We have a few minutes to spare, so we have a quick "bullseye" game of trying to score 101 in six darts or less. I'm afraid none of us were able to manage it, so we were awarded with our "BFH - Bus Fare Home". And as we collect our BFH, we make our way to the bus stop, where more gourmet gas is escaping and our Whittle's Service 7 arrives to take us back into Kidderminster. We pass through the estates on this newly operated route, with Mr UKBuses playing "spot the clay post" along the way, and this starts me D9 thinking about a new hobby and looking at researching the old routes of Kidderminster, to see where these clay stops would have been located. We arrive back in Kidderminster with a few minutes to spare before catching our Service 125 back to Stourbridge, Mr UKBuses and myself try and get off the bus quickly as Mr D9 has "dropped one" and smelt the back of the bus out.

Cheers, The Boys are Back in The Bell, Stourbridge.
We use the time waiting for our next bus, by taking some more photographs around the bus station in the dying light, with Mr D9 having a little run to the nearby Tesco's to relieve his bladder for the journey ahead. Considering that the Whittle Service 125 has been behind time for most of the day, Mr D9 should have plenty of time, but disaster nearly strikes and our bus turns up on time. After a little plea with the driver (and contacting Mr D9 on his phone at the same time), the driver helpfully waits, and the passengers keep an eye out to see why the bus is waiting at the station, and Mr D9 emerges from the Tesco car park and into the bus station, doing a bit of limbo underneath a fence along the way, and he bounds across the bus station and onto the waiting service 125 to a howl of cheers from the other passengers as he boards. After Mr D9's jaunt across the car park, he takes a few minutes to get his breath back, and we make our way towards Stourbridge, and there are a few people aboard this bus, which must be one of Whittle's main earners considering the number of people that have been aboard the service throughout the day. We make our way past Broadwaters, and along to Norton passing The Old Waggon and Horses, and also The Crown at Iverley along the way. As we head towards Norton, Mr UKBuses points out one more clay post, this time in Stourbridge, hidden in a bush behind the Norton sign. We pass The Old White Horse and down Worcester Street and onto the ring road, where we alight and make our way to The Bell, see picture right. Drinks purchased we make our way into the old pool room, and take our seats. Mr D9 and myself seem to choose the correct sofa, whilst Mr UKBuses decides to opt for one that likes to eat him as we see his legs in the air and being pulled towards the back. Mr UKBuses and myself have another reminisce about our time working in The Bell years previously, deciding the layout of the present Bell seems to have been improved since our time, but the decor has lost it's traditional feel with current bright wallpaper / paint on the walls. It is nearly time for us to head back home, but we decide to have one last drink and something to eat, so we walk up Stourbridge High Street, before finally ending up in our last Wetherspoons of the Day, "The Chequers Inn", where we order drinks and Mr UKBuses and myself opt for the beer and burger deal with us both having the Chicken Burger variety. As Mr D9 orders at the bar, his "gourmet gas" is still pumping which makes me head quickly towards our seats, the bar is a no-go area for the next five minutes. Our meals arrive and as they do, Mr D9's taxi has arrived and so we say goodnight to him. Not long after we have finished our meals, Mr UKBuses and myself head towards the temporary stops in Birmingham Street, stopping along the way to look at the progression in construction of the new Stourbridge Interchange. After a ten minute wait, our final bus of the day, Black Diamond's service 276A arrives and takes us home to rest our feet.

Another good day out has been had which is due to the good company of Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses (Thanks!!), and who have made the day go by with the funny antics, stories and laughter throughout the day. We will all meet again in October, where we hope to make a visit to the capital of England, London, and if today's trip is anything to go by, it will be a stonker.

Before I go, it is time for one last thing.........

Andy's Bald Cranium (ABC)

The Bald Spot in Bridgnorth

Bald Spot One: This is taken in Bridgnorth, this would have been a classic shot, but the rain stopped play.

The Bald Spot in Bewdley

Bald Spot Two: This is taken in Bewdley, a shot taken with the help of Mr UKBuses, who kept Mr D9 talking.

The Bald Spot in Wolverley

Bald Spot Three: This is taken in Wolverley as we make our way from the bus to The Lock.

The Bald Spots in The Queens Head

Bald Spot Four: Here we are in The Queens Head, Wolverley, where Mr D9 seems to have grown another head and treats us to two bald spots, in which his skin on top of his head(s) seeming to appear a lot smoother, oh hang on I've just realised where this is, I must have been slightly knocked out whilst taking a picture of Mr D9's bald spot and about to hit the ground when he gassed us with his "gourmet gas".

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

2011 - Day Out 22: Torbay Bus Rally

Date: Sunday 04 September 2011

The 3rd Annual Torbay Vintage Running Day
It is our third day in Torquay, and as I wake up and decide to pop down for a cigarette, to see what the weather is doing and as I head out of the front of the hotel, it looks like it will be a glorious day. Today is the Third Annual Torbay Vintage Bus Running Day, and it looks like I will be able to take some photographs today, something I didn't do in June when I visited the Weymouth Running Day, an event which is organised by the same group who has organised today's event, The Devon and Dorset Group. First though, I meet up with Mr WME and Mr UKBuses to have our breakfast. I opt for the English grill again, washed down by Cranberry Juice, but Mr UKBuses seems to be having a problem this weekend and cause more problems at the breakfast table. He asks for coffee, and ends up with tea, and also he doesn't get what he asks for in his English grill. Mr WME and myself have no such problems. After consuming our first meal of the day, we have a quick freshen up in our rooms, and then make our way to Torquay, and the car park at Shedden Hill, acting today as rally HQ.

We arrive just before the start time of 10.00am, so we take this opportunity to have a look around the stalls, before the crowds appear and make it hard to get to look at the photographs. We also make this an opportunity to get photographs of the exhibit buses on show today, just in case the heavens start to come down during the day. It is now just before 10.30am, and the rides today will be boarding along the sea front, so we make our way to see what we can catch. Below is a summary of the trips we caught:

Journey One: 10.40am - Service 28A Torquay Seafront - Hesketh Crescent.
This is being operated by a Ex-Stagecoach Volvo B6LE Alexander ALX200 bodied (P701 BTA - Owned by James Pratt), one of the first low buses to be preserved for future generations.

Journey Two: 11:10am - Service 28A Torquay Seafront - Hesketh Crsecent.
Another visit to Hesketh Crescent but this time in a smaller vehicle. This is being operated by a BayLine Liveried Ford Transit / Carlyle (C526FFJ - Owned by Adam Shuttle). This bus is not a stranger to Torquay streets, as these used to operate in the town as late as 1996.

Journey Three: 12:05 - Service 50 Torquay Seafront - St Marychurch.
This is being operated by the ex-Stagecoach Volvo B6LE Alexander ALX200 bodied bus that we caught for our first journey. As we take our seats, we are told that the owner has to come down from rally HQ to inspect a leak. Upon arrival and a quick engine check, we are told that this journey would be cancelled, due to a problem with the bus, a fair decision as this would have to be repaired by the owner at his own expense, keeping it in service may make the problem worse and more expensive to repair.

Journey Four: 12:10 - Service 109 Torquay Seafront - Preston Down Road (Occombe Farm).
This service is being operated by a Leyland National 2 (FDV 829V - Owned by Graeme Selway). I am no stranger to this bus, as this picked us up at a wet Weymouth bus stop, saving us from getting drenched even further, and it was a pleasure to catch this bus again today. Even the spare tyre is still on the bus by the back seat. This was also a pleasant service it was operating on, going up the Paignton hills enabling us to view splendid views across Tor Bay before reaching Occombe Farm.

Refreshment break during the rally at The Belgrave
We arrive back at Torquay, and the driver informs us that he is going back to rally HQ, and that we could stay on if we wished. We took this opportunity to stay on the bus and take some more photographs around the Sheddon Hill Car Park - it also meant that we saved some shoe leather walking the distance from the sea front bus stop. We do indeed take more photographs, and it was a good decision as there are more vehicles available to photograph since more have turned up since this morning. The sun is still shining and we are also a bit thirsty, so before we make our way down to the sea front, we decide to use the short cut on the car park to the Beefeater pub, "The Belgrave" situated next door to wet our whistles, see picture right. We all order a coke which is more refreshing than alcohol, and was much needed as the sun was now shining away. There is a service due out at 14:05, which we want to catch, but this morning were unable to as the bus operating was jam packed with no room left for us, so we decide to make our way down to the seafront to ensure that we get this journey. It looks like everyone else has the same idea as there is quite a few people gathering. When we were at rally HQ, we found out which bus would be operating, so we keep a look out for the vehicle to come down to the stop. We are standing right at kerbside, and we spot the bus coming, so we ensure that we are at the front, and it works out that the bus pulls up with the door right in front of us. There are quite a few people on board already upstairs, they shouldn't really have been let on at rally HQ, and this means that there are less seats available. Everyone else has noticed this too, and as we are about to board, we are push and shoved around, but the trio manage to get on and find a seat, even though it is a bit of a squash. The behaviour of some people trying to get on has put a little bit of a downer on a good day so far, and cannot believe that people will resort to that kind of behaviour. This was also the same type of behaviour of an open top vehicle a few minutes previously, which could have turned out badly and ended in an injury as a woman had tried to get on the bus by trying to jump onto the open platform before the vehicle had stopped, she nearly ended up flat on her face. After ensuring that all the places were filled, the bus departed:

Journey Five: 14:05 - Service 118 Torquay Seafront - Kingswear
This popular service is being operated by a Bristol VRT / ECW Bodied vehicle (ATA 563L - Owned by Terry Bennett). This is another vehicle that is no stranger to Torquay streets, as it has operated stints with Devon General whilst in passenger service.

We arrive at Kingswear, and after having being squashed in for a while, we take the opportunity to have a breather off the bus before we have to make our way back to Torquay. At this point Mr WME decides that he wants to spend a bit more time at Kingswear to have a further look around the town and get a few more photographs. So, Mr UKBuses and myself say goodbye to him for a bit and will meet up with him upon his return to Torquay. Kingswear is a distance from Torquay, so we head back through the country lanes offering splendid views as we go, and after approximately forty minutes, we arrive back at Torquay, where after alighting, we head back to the stop at the seafront, and we decide to catch the next bus that turns up.

Journey Six: 15:45 - Service 135 Torquay Seafront - Broadsands
Waiting for WME's return from Kingswear
Considering that this is a Vintage running day, what turns out to be our last journey of the day, the bus running on this service turns out to be one that has been supplied by the rally sponsors, Stagecoach South West, and is a MAN 18.360 / Alexander Dennis Enviro 300 (WA59 FWW) which entered service in 2009, this bus is currently sporting a park-and-ride livery for Exeter, and after stopping at Broadsands, where a photograph is taken, the bus returns back to Torquay, it is just after 16.30pm, and the rain has started (which has held off whilst the rally has been taking place), so as we pass the hotel, the driver kindly drops us off and we have a little sprint to avoid the drops and arrive back at the hotel. We decide to have a drink in the bar, see picture left, and at about 17.20pm, Mr WME returns from Kingswear and joins us as we finish off our drinks. We decide to go back to our rooms to freshen up before we meet up again and visit Torquay for some food.

We meet up back in reception, and we head outside to the bus stop, with the bus arriving shortly after, we board and Mr UKBuses and myself purchase a Stagecoach NightRider ticket, which turns out to be cheaper than buying a return ticket from the hotel to Torquay. With the tickets purchased, we expect to see KITT and Michael. We arrive in Torquay and first on the agenda is food, so a curry is decided and we have a look at a restaurant that I spotted earlier in the day when we caught one of the rally buses, and decide to have tea in Curry Ocean. The restaurant is situated by the harbour in Victoria Parade, so we have splendid views whilst eating. After taking our seats, we all order and Mr UKBuses ensures that he gets his poppadoms tonight. Food finished, we head a few steps down along the harbour and into a pub recommended by Claire at the hotel, Seamus O'Donnell's. This pub is an Irish themed pub, with memorabilia placed all over the pub, and also seems a popular place. We find a seat in what seems to be an alcove / snug, and looks like it is being redecorated seeing as there is no carpet on the floor in this area of the pub. We finish our drinks and have a walk around to the other side of the harbour. The temperature has dropped and as we make our way back to The Strand, we decide that it is a good time to head back to the hotel, so we wait at the bus stop for our last Stagecoach South West Service 12 bus on this holiday. Whilst waiting, the Bristol VRT we had caught to Kingswear earlier, decides to pull up, where the driver and a few people on the bus decide to alight and take a few pictures of the bus parked up in the stop, and it is a good sight to see this bus in the dark illuminated by the interior lights. Our bus turns up, and we head back to the hotel, where we decide to have a few drinks in the hotel bar before heading up to bed. Before I go to sleep, I decide to pack my suitcase, so that I don't have to rush around last thing in the morning.

After a good night's sleep, I wake up to have my morning cigarette outside the hotel, a view that I have liked over the last few days, looking over Tor Bay, and we all meet up to have our last breakfast, another thing which I am going to miss. Mr UKBuses doesn't have any problems with his last breakfast, after eating our breakfasts we all head off back to our rooms to finish packing and we all meet up in reception, passing our keys to Claire for the last time. We head out of the hotel for the last time, and we make our way to Torquay railway station where a lot of people must be heading back home as there are quite a few passengers waiting to board. I ensure that I am okay for the journey, by having my last cigarette outside the station. It is 10.12am and our train arrives and we board and our seats reserved are the same seats that we came down on. There are people in our seats but we let them off as they are getting off at the next station, and after they have alighted we jump into our seats for the journey back. After a few hours we arrive at Birmingham New Street, where we say our goodbyes to Mr WME who is staying on the train to Wolverhampton. Mr UKBuses and myself alight and luckily, we only have to walk a few stops to the next platform where a London Midland train will take us to Smethwick Galton Bridge. Upon arrival at Galton Bridge, we head to the upper platforms, and wait for our connecting train to Stourbridge Junction. The new Class 172 trains start operating today, but as we see our train pull in it is sadly a Class 150, so our shiny new train experience will have to wait. We arrive at Stourbridge Junction where mommy SBI pulls up and gives us a lift back home.

I've had a lovely weekend with glorious weather, glorious hotel (and staff), glorious settings, glorious area and lastly glorious company. I will definitely be coming back to Torquay in years to come, it is just sad that we have to come back at all.

Monday, 5 September 2011

2011 - Day Out 21: Torquay, Totnes, Dawlish and Exeter

Date: Saturday 03 September 2011

Our home for the weekend, The Corbyn Bay Hotel
Day two of our weekend in Torquay, and I am awake early, so just after 7.00am, I have a little walk around the area close to the hotel, and after spotting a shop open, I get some supplies and head back to the hotel. On the way back I see this strange bloke in the distance coming towards me, but it turns out to be Mr WME who has the same idea before breakfast, so I leave him to it. I get back to the hotel and go back to my room to have a read of the paper. It is just before 08.30am, I make my way downstairs for a quick cigarette before heading to the breakfast room for our first fuel of the day. I meet up with Mr UKBuses and Mr WME, and we take our seat, and we order our English grill, and the food portions do not disappoint, this will keep us going for the morning. Breakfast over, and a quick freshen up in the room before we catch our first bus of the day, and we make our way to the stop opposite and just as we arrive, so does our bus, Stagecoach South West's service 12. After we make another purchase of the £6.90 Explorer day ticket, we have a short ride before we arrive in Paignton.

Strange people lurking at Paignton Bus Station
Upon arrival, in Paignton, we have a short wait for our next bus, so we have a little look around, Mr WME has a walk to the library, whilst Mr UKBuses and myself find a shop to get some refreshments. We make our way back to the bus station, enabling us to take a few photographs, a good photographing location, but watch out for stange people lurking, see right. We see a queue forming at our stand, so we make sure that we guarantee ourselves a spot by joining the queue. Our bus arrives and is operated by the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company, operating the 100 service to Totnes. Our vehicle is called Molly, an open topper, so upon boarding we make our way upstairs and get our seat. The bus is getting quite full, and a stranger gives birthday greetings, but I'm not sure it was meant for the birthday boy, Mr UKBuses. We leave the bus station and as soon as we get on the open road, there seems to be movement in Mr UKBuses hair, it looks like he hasn't got the strong hold Brylcreem this weekend, a bit of touching up will need to be done after this journey. Mr WME is quiet as he is sitting to someone who looks like F1 pundit Eddie Jordan, and I'm using the fresh air to wake me up. We arrive close to Totnes, and meet up with the river boat waiting for passengers that are on this bus, and we have a short ride into the town centre. It looks like Mr UKBuses seems to be attracting the plants again, a fetish that started on our Leamington Spa trip, as he suddenly gets a face full of tree along the journey, which messes his hair up even further.

After Mr UKBuses brush with the plant life, we arrive in Totnes town centre, and we have a little wander along the main High Street, with Mr UKBuses feeling the strain today as he is pinched on the bottom by an old woman, but be assured, she came away with her arm intact and not lost in Mr UKBuses orifice. We decide to search for the railway station, which is roughly about a third of a mile out of town. We find the station with no problems, and after a few photographs, we head back into town, where Mr UKBuses has earned a drink so we pop into The King William, where Mr UKBuses gets yet another shock, when his pint of coke cost £3. He makes sure that he drinks every last drop, and I make sure that I am okay bladder wise by having a trip to the toilet before we leave. I'm in mid flow and this women accidentally pops into the gents mistaking it for the ladies, but to make matters worse, instead of going straight out, she stays and enquires where the ladies are! It is nearly time for us to catch our next bus, and we walk back through the town centre, with no sign of Totnes pounds, and we soon arrive at our stop.

The birthday boy with his birthday pint
Our next bus arrives and it is Stagecoach South West's service 88, which we rest our feet at the back of the bus. This journey takes approximately fifty plus minutes, but it feels like ten minutes, and also the driver seems to have morphed into a different person, this is only because I catch up with a little sleep by having a little nap. We arrive at Newton Abbot, home to the horse racing course. We have a bit of time to spare, and we decide to have a few minutes at the bus station taking some photographs, and we have a little walk around the corner, where we decide to pop into The Jolly Farmer, a splendid pub with friendly staff, this is also where I purchase a birthday drink for Mr UKBuses, he is looking good for an old 'un (only joking Mr UKBuses) - See picture left. After a relaxing time in the pub, we make our way around the corner back to the bus station, where we only have to wait a few minutes for our next bus, Stagecoach South West's Service 2, which, after a journey of just over thirty minutes, we arrive in Teignmouth.

We are still feeling the effects of our big breakfast, so instead of a pub lunch, we decide to have a snack, and we find located close to the bus stop, the "Central Fish and Chips" shop, where a portion of chips are ordered and with tables laid on outside, we consume them in the fresh air. We finish our chips in time, as we put our wrappers in the bin, our Stagecoach South West Service 2 pulls up, which takes us on a journey of approximately 15 minutes to our next destination, Dawlish. We have a bit of extra time here, so as we alight our bus, we spot an amusement arcade, Mr UKBuses has a "Need for Speed", but rest assured, his real driving is not as bad as he demonstrated on this video game. Mr WME took the opportunity to take a few photographs of Dawlish Railway Station, but as he returned we moved onto another video game, Guitar Hero. We all had a go, Mr UKBuses came last with 26 percent, Mr WME came a well deserved second with 41 percent of the song completed, and myself came first and was the guitar hero of the day with 52 percent completed. With my guitar skills put to one side, we popped next door so we could all have an ice cream, which is acceptable when you are by the sea, and it was now time to go the bus stop so we could go to our next destination.

After a little wait, our Stagecoach South West Service 2 arrives and takes us onto the last leg of this route, and just under an hour later, we arrive in Exeter. We spend a bit of time hanging around the coach and bus station, where we can take some photographs, and after these are taken, we have a little walk around the town. Along one of the main streets, we see what we can come up with by playing a game of "Bus Spelling". Exeter operate a number of routes with a letter in place of a service number. We came up with some "long" words and the best we came up with was "Bad" or "Dads". Also I wasn't left out as there is a service "F1", but panic over as it was operated by a normal bus, driven at normal speeds. We have a bit of time before we can catch our next bus, so we decide to have some food, luckily we spot a KFC, and we all order a Zinger Meal, and we sit down and enjoy our spicy chicken burgers, and quench the fire with a Pepsi. After our food, we head back towards the bus station, we make sure we are alright for the journey by using the station toilets, and we find the stand we need to catch our bus from. I decide to have a little treat for the journey back, so get some white chocolate buttons from the vending machine, and please Mr UKBuses when it looks like my snack may get stuck in the machine, but panic over as it does eventually pop into the tray at the bottom. Mr WME decides to purchase some chocolate for the journey ahead, and as he goes to get his snack from the tray, he seems to get his hand stuck, or does he attempt to try and get a few freebies from the bottom row, he does eventually free himself. We have a bit longer to wait as it seems as our bus is running late, so a local man spots Mr WME's attire to enquire about the cricket score, and it also looks like he has had a few to drink when he does a little dance for us, our wait is over, as the bus does eventually arrive.

Stagecoach South West Service X46 turns up to take us back to Torquay, but we also spot that this bus goes past the hotel, which saves us having to swap buses in Torquay. The bus is running about twenty minutes late, but it looks like the driver of the "F1" service in Exeter is driving our bus, as when it gets onto the main dual carriageway along the route, he opens the throttle to try and claw back some time. After about an hour we arrive back in Torquay and eventually arrive at our stop, with the bus only running a couple of minutes later than the allotted time, so the driver has done well with his impersonation of Jenson Button. We head back to our rooms so that we can have a little rest and freshen up before we go out for the evening, and we all meet back up in the reception an hour later.

Back in The Hole In The Wall
We decide that tonight we would go back to Brixham, and have a look at how "The Hole In The Wall" is on a night time, we do have to wait a while for our Stagecoach South West Service 12 to turn up, but eventually it does and for the time of night, the bus is packed, which is not bad considering that this bus service has a twenty minute frequency during the evening. Stagecoach South West must be doing something right for this to be a popular route. After about forty minutes, we arrive in Brixham, and we make our way through the town to get us back to our pub that we visited the day before. We enter "The Hole In The Wall", see picture right, and considering this pub is small inside, the pub is filled just right, and it looks like there may be some live entertainment happening in the corner in a while. Pints ordered, but Mr WME's pint has to be changed as it looks like it is at the end of the barrel, and with the friendly staff in this establishment, they swap it over with no problem for another ale of Mr WME's choice. Mr UKBuses wants some music on the jukebox, so I put a pound in, and I seem to time it right as the live entertainment is about to start, but at least the landlord is kind enough to reimburse the pound from the jukebox. We spend a while listening to the live entertainment, and after a handful of songs, we decide to head back.

We walk back towards the bus stop to get our bus back to the hotel, but it looks like someone has it in for me, as I slide and then nearly trip in two separate incidents along the way, but we time it right as a bus is about to pull off. We make our way to the top deck, and start our journey back. We arrive in Paignton, where a few youngsters get on, and as we head back to Torquay, they decide to sing happy birthday, all these strangers seem to know it is Mr UKBuses birthday, but alas it is one of their gang who are celebrating. It is dark outside now, and we misjudge the stop so we get off a stop earlier than planned, but at least it is all down hill. We arrive back at the hotel, and it seems that either age is setting in for Mr UKBuses, or he is still trying to get over his near decapitation on this morning's open topper service, as he makes his way to bed. Mr WME and myself decide to catch a little bit of the hotel entertainment, a singing husband and wife entitled "G and T" or "Gin and Tonic" for their proper stage name, who aren't too bad, but we find out why Mr UKBuses has gone to bed early, as it seems to us that he has written the terrible jokes that the pair are coming out with. After a handful of songs, we decide to go outside for a last cigarette before saying our good nights and going to the land of nod.

Another cracking day out, and we look forward to another big breakfast in the morning and a visit to the Torbay Bus Rally on day three of our trip. The weather did us proud today, will it stay for the most important day of the weekend?

2011 - Day Out 20: Torquay

Date: Friday 02 September 2011

The view of Torquay from The Corbyn Head Hotel
After a weekend away in Weymouth in June, The WRP's (Woody, Roger and Paul) decide to spend a weekend just down the coast in Torquay, for the annual Torbay Bus Rally.

It is an early start and I meet up with Mr UKBuses just after 8.00am, where we get a quick lift of Mummy SBI, to Stourbridge Junction. We only have a few minutes to wait before a London Midland local service takes us to Smethwick Galton Bridge, to transfer to the Birmingham New Street London Midland Service. We make our way to the first carriage, where we meet up with Mr WME, who fails to notice us as he is checking his mobile phone, so he is shocked to see us as he looks up, and was expecting to meet us in Birmingham City Centre. With the weekend gang complete, we make our way into Birmingham New Street, where we decide a quick walk is needed through the Pavilions Shopping Centre and to McDonald's, where we all opt for a Bacon Roll to fill us up for our journey ahead. Breakfast over, we make our way back into New Street, where I get a "fresh air" break in and a visit to WH Smiths before our long journey down to Torquay.

Refreshments for the journey sorted, we make our way to Platform 3A, and as the train pulls in, Mr UKBuses realises that we are at the wrong end of the train and a quick rush to coach F, which is the other end of the train, is needed to get to our seats. We board the train and Mr UKBuses and myself find our seats, but Mr WME upsets a woman who is in his seat. He asks politely and she does move, but the look on her face wasn't nice. It is 09.42am and we make our way on the Arriva Cross Country service to Torquay where we will pass through Bristol Temple Meads, Weston-Super-Mare and Taunton along the way. We start off our journey by having a read of the newspaper, Mr WME opting for The Metro, and myself The Sun. Mr UKBuses has brought along a book to read, "My Story" by Ronnie Kray, and he does find the reference to our London Regular, "The Blind Beggar". The journey is going quite good, even though a passenger boarded along the way and nicked a seat of a mother and child whilst she was in the toilet, and refuses to give her back the seat when she points this fact out, and these old people wonder why the young don't respect their elders. We know the end of the journey is in sight when we pass through Dawlish and experience a pleasant part of the journey when we have a ride along the coast. It has taken three and a half hours, but we do arrive at our destination, Torquay Railway Station. I soon make a dash to the front of the station and have a well deserved "Fresh air break".

We have a little walk and after about a five to ten minute walk we arrive at our hotel of the weekend, "The Corbyn Head Hotel", where we are checked into our rooms by the receptionist, Claire, who decides to laugh out loud when we tell her where we are from, it turns out she comes from Dudley, so no wonder she laughed. We make our way to our rooms, where we have a freshen up before meeting back in reception for a little look around the area in the afternoon.

Vigilant in The Vigilance!
Luckily, the bus stop is situated right across the road from the hotel, and we will be catching Stagecoach South West buses throughout the day and opt for the Stagecoach "Explorer Ticket", which is priced at £6.90. We catch the Stagecoach South West Service 12, which will first take us to Brixham, and after a journey time of about forty minutes, we arrive at Brixham, and after a few photographs have been taken, we have a little walk around the town. A newsagent is found enabling Mr UKBuses and myself a chance to purchase a Euromillions ticket, which hopefully after the draw tonight, we could be a £100 Million pounds better off, we can only wish. Before we become a multi-millionaire, Mr UKBuses soon finds a JD Wetherspoons, "The Vigilance", see picture right, we take our seats by the open window looking out onto the street, with the fresh air breeze keeping us awake. Whilst in the Wetherspoons, a local seems to be interested in Mr UKBuses hair, he stands up and walks across to look out of the window, but he seems to be interested in looking at Mr UKBuses hair and then giving Mr WME a strange look, perhaps he has found out why there is a Brylcreem shortage in the area. We make our way into the town and walk up the main high street, and we find a public house that Mr WME is on the lookout for, a little corner pub, called "The Hole In The Wall". We enter and it is a nice cosy pub inside, and seems to have a good atmosphere. The time of day we were in, approximately 3.00pm, it is a bit quiet, but seems that by the evening, it will be a busy establishment. A quiz machine is found in the corner, and after a quick game of Bejewelled Blitz 2, we have a go at the pub quiz, unsuccessful, Mr UKBuses decides to have a flutter, and he hands me his wallet, I seem shocked at this, and as he looks at my response, he soon realises that national security has been breached, and quickly takes it back out of my hand twice as fast as he put it in, I was also shocked at the weight of the wallet, so he must have had a good few days previously spotting discarded penny's. After a thirty pence flutter, his heart can't take anymore expense and we soon leave the pub and get some fresh air to restore Mr UKBuses colour. On our way out we pass by the harbour, before walking up a street to takes us back to the bus stop.

As we arrive, our bus is waiting for us, and we make our way to Paignton back onto Stagecoach South West's service 12, and after twenty minutes we arrive at the bus station in Paignton. A few photographs are taken by Mr WME and Mr UKBuses, whilst I try and find a toilet as Mr D9 seems to have lent me his bladder. There are none in the bus station, so I make my way to the railway station opposite only to be told by a member of staff that I can't come in as it is now being locked up. I make my way towards the town, and I realise that there is a pub opposite, "Winston's", and sneak in and out to use the facilities without purchasing a drink, Mr UKBuses would have been proud! We make our way into the town and find our second Wetherspoons of the day, "The Talk of The Town". We are asked if we are drinking outside, but decide not too as we would be drinking out of horrible plastic glasses. A relaxing drink, we make our way opposite the pub, where Mr UKBuses has spotted refreshments to cool him down, so Mr WME and Mr UKBuses sample an ice cream, we are by the seaside, so it is a good reason to indulge. Whilst they are cooling themselves down, we make our way back to the bus station, where our bus is waiting for us again, Stagecoach South West's, Service 12.

We board, and make our way to the top deck, Mr UKBuses sits at the front of the bus, and as Mr WME and myself are making our way upstairs, a standard "toot" is given by the driver, signalling that he is reversing, and Mr WME makes his way to the top deck, but is starting to move involuntarily down towards the back of the bus, and I seem to make my way back down the stairs. After clambering back to the top deck, Mr WME and myself settle into a seat close to Mr UKBuses. Just under twenty minutes pass, and we also pass the hotel, going for a quick wander around Torquay. We walk round the corner and we catch Mr UKBuses outside of his shop, before looking above the shop to find our third Wetherspoon's of the day, "The Green Ginger". Drinks ordered we grab a window seat looking down onto the main street, sipping from our plastic glasses, a bit of a let down for a Wetherspoon's establishment, something which I think takes the taste away. Drinks finished, we make our way back downstairs and towards The Strand, where we catch, you guessed it, Stagecoach South West's Service 12, for a couple of minutes journey back to our hotel.

We have a freshen up, and after an hour we meet back in reception, to go back to Torquay for a bite to eat. We don't have a long wait before our "12" takes back for the short journey into the town. We alight at Cary Parade, and I spot a toy crane machine, where I try and "grab" a "Woody", a pound after, he is unable to be pinned down, must run in the family!. We have a short walk along The Strand where we spot our fourth Wetherspoons of the day, "The London Inn", a good classic Wetherspoons pub with decor that is the chain's standard, we realise that "The Green Ginger" is probably an ex-Chicago Rock Cafe style of establishment. We seem to make our way to the sky, as we are on the top level of the pub, up in the heavens, and after perusing the menu, we order our standard Wetherspoons fayre, with Mr UKBuses returning to his Chicken Tikka Masala, but after half hour of waiting, our grub arrives and Mr UKBuses doesn't seem to be happy as there is a lack of poppadoms on his plate, and he has paid for these!!! We soon finish our grub, and we make our way back on to solid terra firma, and virtually opposite is Mr WME's pub that he was after, our second visit of the day to another "The Hole in the Wall".

It is a little climb up a side street, and we are in the pub, a bit bigger that the Brixham version, but there isn't a lot of room as the pub seems to be a popular establishment. We make our way outside where it does seem to be a bit windy, but we are not talking the weather here, Mr UKBuses seems to move a lot outside of the pub, he must have ants in his pants, see picture left. We soon finish our drinks and we head back towards Cary Parade with Mr UKBuses still muttering about his lack of poppadoms, and decide to make a second visit to "The Green Ginger", but before we do, we visit the pub opposite, just to check on the score of the England Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria, I think that we are through as we are toward the latter stages of the match, with the score being 3-0 in England's favour. We are on the lookout for Mr UKBuses "Uncle Dave", who is in the area on holiday, but alas after checking this Wetherspoons he is nowhere to be seen, and so we seem to be forgetting something as we are still being served in plastic glasses, which also does nothing to enhance the flavour of the purchased "Abbot's Ale", which is half left as we decide to go back to the hotel.

We make our way to the stop opposite in The Strand, where we wait for our final Service 12 of the day, but Mr WME decides to opt for the journey on foot, and after a short wait, Mr UKBuses and myself catch the bus. We keep a lookout for Mr WME along the way, and as we pass The Pavilion Theatre, Mr UKBuses spots Mr WME, who is waving at the bus, I don't know if he can see us, but he still waves. I don't spot him however, as when I turn round into the direction of Mr WME, we are half a mile up the road and all I can see is pitch black. Mr UKBuses and myself arrive back at the hotel, where we grab our room keys, and Mr UKBuses decides to call it a night, I go outside for a "fresh air break", and Mr WME appears walking out of the darkness up the hotel drive. We get a drink to end the night being served by Sylwia, and opting for seats in the quiet coffee lounge, sitting in the window overlooking a dark pool area. A little while later I decide to pop out for my last "fresh air break" of the day, and since the temperature has dropped considerably, we spend the last ten minutes sitting in the bar area, before we decide to go back to our rooms to catch up on some much needed sleep after a nice relaxing day and introduction to the Torbay and Brixham area, hoping that the glorious sunny weather of today will stay for us over the weekend - Night Night!