Sunday, 23 April 2017

By Bus to Bill

From Prayer to Portland
Mrs fbb attended a women's prayer and bible teaching day at Crossways, near Dorchester; to be precise at St Aldhelm's Church.
fbb provided a chauffeur service and then sought to entertain himself whilst the wife was doing what it said on the tin. A year ago he set off east to Bournemouth (read again).

This year he journeyed west ...
... to Weymouth. The main reason was to take an open top bus ride to Portland Bill as First in Wessex Dorset and South Somerset (slick and tidy name, eh?) had started some of its seasonal services much earlier than previously.

But when your eager and excited traveller arrived a Moreton Station things were not as they should be. An up train was just leaving at an unscheduled time ...
... and the down train (scheduled every hour) was two trains.
And yes, fbb had checked the timetable but, oh foolish one, not the disruptions page or the journey planner. The result, of course, was no indication that anything was up. The truth was revealed on a poster espied at Weymouth.
It showed a bus service (in RED) between Poole and Wareham and two trains an hour serving all stops between Wareham and Weymouth; double the frequency for insignificant little Moreton!

First have done a pretty good job with the Weymouth network as we shall see in due course. This, combined with some good displays at the station (just outside the building, near the taxi rank) ...
... should make things very easy. Confidently, without checking the station displays, fbb set off the Kings Statue to find his service 501; only to discover that there was no list of departures by stand in any of the shelters. A creaky stagger from K1 to K7 did not reveal any sign of route 501.

If in doubt as a man with "First" on his jacket. "K6, look here comes the bus now."
How had fbb missed the stand? Because the 501 is half-heartedly branded as part of the Jurassic Coaster network and the route number is relegated to small print at the corner of the poster.
Really, it would ave been easier if a map and list of services at each stand were available glued firmly to every shelter.

N528 LHG has had a varied history with a variety of owners ...
... but has been a Weymouth open topper for ten years. Despite its vintage, the bus performed well on the hilly route to Portland Bill. The route lacks some of the beauty of other OT services with a very strange nip off the main road to pass the National Sailing Academy. Sadly the pervading memory is of seedy works yards populated by old containers.
Another wiggle takes us via Portland Castle ...
... which looks a lot more attractive from the other side.
Nearby boarded-up buildings spoil the effect somewhat.
As far as Easton, the 501 almost mirrors the frequent First route 1 to Southwell ...
... both services offering glorious views along Chesil Bank. On its outward run, our 501 does a little wiggle at the top of the hill (The Heights) to allow views back to Weymouth.
A nice touch.
But our route now runs via the east coast of the "island". Portland always was an industrial area, with the detritus of quarries for Portland Stone being evident on both sides of this road.
 But soon, we arrive at the southerly tip, Portland Bill itself.
The lighthouse has a visitor centre but fbb had no time to visit as he needed to return straight away to Weymouth. Six open top riders travelled to Bill plus a smattering of locals making journeys equivalent to service 1. Of those six, four returned immediately to Weymouth.

Not a busy run!

Noting he other two (disused) lighthouses, namely the Old Higher light (in private hands) ...
... and the Old Lower light (restored, but non working) ...
... your author made his chilly top deck way back, as outward route reversed, to collect Mrs fbb from Crosssways.

One definite bonus is that all the Weymouth summer routes numbered in the 500s accept OAP passes. So, at £3.70 return for the train, nowt for the bus and just over a fiver for comestibles, the old man had a cheap and rewarding day.

More about timetables etc. tomorrow.

 Next Weymouth blog : Monday 24th April 


  1. Andrew Kleissner23 April 2017 at 07:39

    Presumably the Olympian isn't DDA compliant? If so, I'm surprised that it can be used on what is effectively a stage carriage service which accepts concessionary passes.

    There would be no problem, I understand, if it merely ran as an "excursion" service. Or has said bus been modified to comply?

  2. It's being used under the 20 day rule just for Easter whilst low floor Volvo B7tls are being converted.Also interesting is that this vehicle has half a lid from a A-VAF ex- Western National ECW Olympian!

  3. There are some further service changes to come in Weymouth from 21 May after which it is planned to update all the shelters with comprehensive network information.
    Ken - Traveline Dorset

  4. Very well-written post thanks!