Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Excellent X53 (1)

Let's Be Positive
First Bus X53, started largely from scratch as part of a campaign to promote the "Jurassic Coast", ran from Bournemouth (later Poole) to Weymouth ...
... continuing to Lyme Regis and Seaton ...
... thence via Beer, the A3052 and the joyously named Newton Poppleford into Exeter.
For this season, First Bus has chopped the long (and difficult to manage) route into three sections.

X54 - Poole to Weymouth (two hourly)
X53 - Weymouth to Lyme Regis and Axminster (hourly)
X52 - Lyme Regis to Exeter (two hourly)

The X52 was something of a panic measure in response to Stagecoach's extension of their Exeter to Seaton service on to Lyme Regis. 

By far the best ride for scenery is now the core X53 between Weymouth and Axminster. The X52 is pretty between the A3052, Beer and Seaton; but otherwise is just a slog to and from Exeter. Likewise the X54 loses most of its beauty soon after striking east from Weymouth.

Thus it was that, last Thursday (19th May), fbb caught the 0930 from Axminster Station.
Loadings were light giving el chubbo first dibs at top deck front. On this type of vehicle the front seats are "knees under the chin" size, so the ability to spread sideways was much needed.

Information, in the form of complete timetables (no half-hearted departure lists here!) is available from First ...
... AND Devon County.
But, (excitement knows no bounds), one of there has appeared.
It remains blank at the moment; fbb will keep a wary eye open for switch-on.

We first pass the Minster on the Axe ...
... climb out of the river valley and then drop down to the delights of Lyme Regis.
Ther was no sign of the French Lieutenant's Woman.

From here the A35 runs up hill and down dale with sea views and picturesque villages. Charmouth offers a short walk to fossil heaven on the beach. Some of the downhills are protected by sand traps to mitigate against brake failure.

Chideock is also a picture postcard village with cute thatched cottages to admire whilst thinking about the cost of insurance and fire risk!
Then the timetable says we call at Bridport Coach station. (Pause for hoots of laughter). The bus actually pulls in to Bridport bus shelter ...
... where the caff is no more.
But other needs are well met!
Ladies, Gents and 24 hour unisex, the latter sounding utterly exhausting as well as a bit on the risqué side. The "coach station" is at the western end of West Street and East Street where bus stops take their names from nearby "retail outlets".  Bridport West Street Frosts adorns many a printed timetable.
Next we travel south to West Bay (not worth visiting for any architectural merit) where you can spot locations from Broadchurch.

But now the route becomes really glorious. On fbb's trip the weather was bright but misty, but with sunshine and clear skies the ride is one of the best in Dorset. Here fbb is dropping down to Abbotsbury ...
... with a "breath taking" vista of Chesil Beach and Portland, where Bill lives. The picture was taken on a better day and not by fbb! The building perched on the hill is St Catherines Chapel.
The Chapel was built as a place of pilgrimage and retreat by the monks of the nearby Benedictine monastery Abbotsbury Abbey, which the chapel overlooks high up on the hilltop. Its position on the top of a hill about 80 m (260 ft) high, overlooking the coast from Portland Bill to Bridport, meant that it was a prominent feature for seafarers. Only a handful of chapels of the same kind are located outside the precincts of the monasteries who constructed them.

And then comes Abbotsbury itself. Another extensive collection of beautiful cottages. Plus the swannery.
Plus the swannery

Once Chickerell is reached, the run into Weymouth itself is urban sprawl and lacking interest. fbb alighted outside First Bus' extensive depot ...
... also used as a staff changeover point,
fbb's photos, taken on a poor quality phone camera in poor quality weather by a poor quality photographer, do scant justice to such a marvellous two hours of splendid scenery. But this ride is strongly recommended. Axminster and Weymouth railway stations provide multi-modal access and, from the end of May there is the added delight of open top buses from Weymouth to visit Bill at the end of Portland.
The 501 is two hourly until mid July, then goes hourly until the first weekend of September. Yet another fbb "highly recommended" ride ...
... which fbb has only ever done by car. Shame!

Your esteemed blogger (!!) has not been altogether complimentary about the re-jig of the Jurassic Coaster service (about which more will be written tomorrow) but, taken as a stand alone, the new X53 is a fine example of a great trip by bus. Try it, and fbb is sure you will agree.

fbb's trundle eastwards had an additional purpose. He was due to meet this jolly chappie.
Tomorrow will complete the tale and report on a less satisfactory return journey.
fbb has no idea why, on some browsers, yesterday's blog appears THREE TIMES. You can have too much of a good thing.
 Next X53 blog : Sunday 22nd May 

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