Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Day 7: Bristol to Burnham-on-Sea

Tuesday, 10th November 2015

If I'd delayed my departure this morning until after the start of bus pass eligibility at 09.30 I'd have run the risk of missing a vital connection and messing-up the rest of the day's itinerary.
For the first time therefore, I opted to pay a fare for my first bus journey of the day, although if I'd realised First Bus was going to charge me £3.50 for the relatively short jorney from Bristol city centre to Cribbs Causeway I might have decided to take a chance!

The bus, however, was modern and clean and was the first one I'd come across on this project that was fitted with "next stop" audio announcements. These are standard in London but still uncommon elsewhere despite the obvious advantages to people with eyesight difficulties or, indeed, strangers to an area like myself.

Cribbs Causeway with buses keeping out of the way of any passengers.
I needn't have worried about my connection. Not only did I arrive in plenty of time, but the bus I had considered as an alternative, the X7 from Bristol also arrived in time. Unfortunately I now had 42 minutes to spend at Cribbs Causeway, an execrable out-of-town shopping parade with a bleak and windswept bus station attached.

The 625 terminus. . . .
. . . .and where I expected it to be 

Although I had now made my connection on to Severnside Transport's 625 service to Severn Beach it was here that things started to go wrong. It was my fault; I'd planned this section in a hurry and had for some reason just assumed that the 625 terminated at Severn Beach railway station, which is where I needed to be for the next leg. I wasn't surprised when we approached the station without slowing down. There was no bus stop on our side of the road and I presumed that we would circle the mini-roundabout ahead and return to the stop, ready for the return journey.
Even when we turned right at the roundabout rather than making a U-turn I wasn't too distressed. The other passengers on board seemed relaxed and I thought perhaps we were going to make a short circuit of the housing estate before reaching the terminus. My out-of-date OS map was of no help in determining a likely route and before long we were so far away from the station that I thought I just stay on until we did get to a terminus and then come back again, as I had plenty of time to spare.
Eventually, the bus entered a large area of modern shed-like warehouses and light industrial units before coming to a stop seemingly at random about two miles from what I considered to be "Severn Beach"!  The rest of the passengers got off and the driver switched off the lights, and then the engine with a finality that suggested he wouldn't be going anywhere soon!

Shirley's timewarp cafe

There was nothing for it but to walk back to the station. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared as there was a network of signed footpaths that avoided busy roads and I was back at the station in half-an-hour with plenty of time for a few photos and a drink in the 1950s timewarp that is Shirley's Cafe.

The "Beach" at Severn Beach

Severn Beach: The End of the Line
The next stage of the journey was made by train and I had deliberately chosen to come via Severn Beach to ride on it. The line is a long branch-line from Bristol and a strange survivor, being one of those lines that you come across from time-to-time but can't imagine how or why they survived the Beeching era.  I'd ridden on it before so this was an opportunity too good to miss, justifiable because for much of its length it runs closer to the coastline than any bus. This line is also in a bit of a timewarp with fares that haven't gone up for 8 years and a single to Clifton Down cost me only 75p (with railcard). I was alighting at Clifton Down because after that point the line describes a long loop through the northern suburbs of Bristol before reaching the main station at Temple Meads, which is itself a long way out of town. I reckoned that I could get a bus from Clifton into town faster than getting a train to Temple Meads and then a bus or walk to the centre. However I'd reckoned without Bristol's traffic, made worse by road works, and eventually abandoned the bus at College Green and walked the rest of the way.

Buses on to Portishead were also being disrupted by the road works and there was some confusion as to whether the next one would be an X2 or an alternative service. This was important (to me) as only the X2 ran via the riverside village of Pill, and thus "the edge". Eventually we left Bristol bus station ten minutes late, not that the driver was bothered even waiting for some "runners" who would have missed it anyway. We lost even more time en-route to Portishead but it didn't matter as there didn't seem to be a lot to see there anyway.

When the next bus, the X5 to Weston-super-Mare that had come direct from Cribbs Causeway in a fraction of the time I'd taken arrived it was a double-decker fitted inside with green leather seats. It could almost have been a Bristol Omnibus bus from the 1960s. This bus too was delayed by traffic and we were ten minutes late into Weston.

I'd also failed to research properly the stopping arrangements for buses in Weston-super-Mare, which doesn't have a bus station. I assumed I'd have plenty of time and that it wouldn't be difficult but I was wrong on both counts. When I did eventually find a stop for the First Bus service 21 on to Burnham-on-sea I was foiled when it failed to stop, leaving me and two other passengers behind! I fired off an email to customer services and received a bog-standard response that my "alleged" complaint would be investigated. Whether it was or not I don't know, as I never received an explanation.

Still some trade to be had on Weston prom in November.
Whilst annoying to be stuck in Weston for another 60 minutes it wasn't the end of the world and it did give me an unexpected chance to have a look around the town and to find the terminus of the 21 service to reduce the chances of being left behind again.  My lack of preparation showed up again though, as whilst waiting for the 21 I noticed another bus - a 76 - also going to Burnham but from the other side of the road!  Obeying the "First Rule of Public Transport" (i.e. if it's there and it's going your way don't wait for the other one: just get on it!) I did indeed get on the Webberbus 76, which took a different route to the 21, missing out some of the coastline. However it did have the advantage of taking about 20 minutes less to get to Burnham and by now it was dark anyway. Having made a series of errors during the day's journey I did at least manage to get off the bus at the right stop in Burnham, just a short walk from my hotel.

Burnham-on-sea turned out to be an interesting little seaside town. It still has a functioning cinema but I contented myself with a meal in a pub, then a walk along the promenade viewing the bright lights of Barry Island on the Welsh coast opposite and ending in the "Waterfront" bar where an impromptu folk music session kept me entertaine

No comments:

Post a Comment