Monday, 22 February 2016

Day 12: St. Ives to Helston

4th February 2016

In summer, I could have made the first part of this trip in one go, on a coastal open-top service from St. Ives all the way to Land's End. That option is not available in February, although I could have come close to replicating it - and stayed true to the ethos of the trip - but only be spending 90 rather damp and cold minutes in the tiny village of Zennor early in the morning.

Back at the Malakoff to start today's travels.
Instead I chose the soft option, which still involved leaving St. Ives  at 08.40 and travelling via Zennor, but staying on the bus through to Penzance. At least with First offering a special £2 flat fare to Bus Pass holders before 0930 the financial penalty wasn't that great.

St. Just "bus station"

The service 10 bus from Penzance to St. Just was a double-decker, but there wasn't much to be seen from the top deck through the gloom of a damp and foggy Cornish morning.

I'd been intrigued as to why the apparently small village of St. Just should have a "bus station" (as described in the timetables).  It turned out to be nothing more than a bus shelter in the village car park.

There wasn't a lot to do whilst waiting 45 minutes for the next bus, which was to be the first "community bus" of the trip.  Community buses are usually run as "not-for-profit" operations in areas where commercial bus services are not viable. The are administered by voluntary orgaisations and often use volunteer drivers, who are exempt from the need to hold a bus driver's professional licence.
Nevertheless, the West Penwith Community Bus operating service 7 on to Land's End turned up on time and was easily recognisable as a bus service, despite being run using a 14-seater minibus.

I had the bus to myself all the way to Land's End so was able to ask the driver how the community bus principle worked. It turned out that service 7 is run under contract to Cornwall Council and the money the council pays allows a professional, paid driver to be employed. This was the second talkative driver I'd encountered (the first was between Dulverton and Tiverton on Day 8) and between us we put the world to rights, on everything from the merits of the Welsh rugby team due to play Ireland at the weekend (I was struggling a little there!) to whether wealthy politicians such as Vladimir Putin and George Osborne are really aliens in disguise engaged in a plot to take over the planet.

This is the only picture I took at Land's End.
 You won't catch me paying to go in to take a selfie at that signpost!

I'm sure the driver was being helpful when he took me all the way up to the entrance to the theme park that now occupies Land's End, but it meant that I had to make my way swiftly back to the far end of the large car park, where the bus stop is located, to find my next bus - service 1 back to Penzance.

In contrast to the 14-seater I'd arrived on, First's service 1 back to Penzance was a 73-seater double-decker and painted in an approximation of the old Western National bus company livery from pre-privatisation days.

Back in Penzance I had just five minutes before my next bus, service 2 on to Helston. Yet another First double-decker from which to enjoy some fine coastal views including St. Michael's Mount from the top deck.
St. Michael's Mount at Marazion from the top deck of service 2

No sooner had we arrived in Helston than it was time to leave again - this time on service 37 to the Lizard. Despite the fame of Land's End Lizard Point is actually the most southerly part of the English mainland and has this signpost to prove it.
Lizard village signpost
I could have stayed on the bus and gone straight back to Helston, but it had been a hectic day with very little time between buses (apart from St. Just), so I opted for an hour in Lizard village, guessing correctly that even in the off-season there would be somewhere for a cup of tea and a cake.

The day's journey was due to end back in Helston anyway and my B&B was situated immediately next door to the famed Blue Anchor home-brew pub, which I naturally had to visit that evening.

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