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.|
|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 My out-of-date OS map was of no help in determining a likely route and before long we were so far away from the station that I thought I just stay on until we did get to a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|
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.|
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