Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Day 13: Helston to Fowey

5th February 2016

Another pre-0930 start meant another £2 to pay on First's 35A service to Falmouth, which followed a rather more direct - and hence less coastal - route than I'd hoped. At Falmouth I was due to take the ferry across the mouth of the Fal River to St. Mawes, but it appeared at first not to be running with the boat unattended and the booking office closed and shuttered so I spent some time researching an alternative route although the poor standard of bus stop information in Cornwall didn't make this easy.

Having eventually worked out a route I then thought I ought to give the ferry another chance so returned to the harbour for the 11.15 sailing to be rewarded with the sight of the boat I'd earlier seen tied up in the quay now approaching from St. Mawes.

It's a Bit Choppy Out There

The St. Mawes Ferry at Falmouth Quay
(note the steep and slippery steps!)
"It's a bit choppy out there" said the ferryman as he came round to collect the £6.50 fare before we left (no concessions for bus pass holders here!) "you'd better keep hold of that bag!"

He wasn't joking. Shortly after leaving the shelter of the harbour at Falmouth we sailed into the incoming tide with a very strong wind behind it. Seated on the open deck I had both hands gripping the boat rail, one foot wedged against a stanchion and the other holding down my bag and I was still being thrown out of my seat on occasion.

Thankfully after about 5 minutes of this we turned the corner and headed directly for the harbour at St. Mawes. With the wind and tide now behind us things were much calmer.

"Do you have to do this all day?" I asked the captain as we disembarked in St. Mawes. "Yes", he replied, "and they say it's going to get rough later on!"  Personally, I've never been so glad to get aboard a Dennis Dart bus.

I left St. Mawes on First's service 50 bus that was heading for Truro. In theory it was possible for me to alight in the village of Probus (an appropriate name for this trip?) but the connection time for the bus on to St. Austell was zero minutes and I had no way of knowing if the other bus had gone or not. Rather than risk having to wait an hour in the village I continued on to Truro, even though I was now heading in the wrong direction, and of course we passed the St. Austell bus on the outskirts of Probus, meaning I could have caught it after all.

What's This:  A Queue?

The queue for the 27 in Truro
Many of the buses I've been on during this trip have been lightly loaded, particularly in Cornwall, so I was surprised to see that a queue had formed in Truro Bus Station for service 27 to St. Austell, that would take me back through the village of Probus, where I noted that the bus from St. Mawes had arrived before we did and offered another connection. If I'd known that I might have risked a change there earlier.

Fortunately the 27 was a big double-decker so there was plenty of room for everyone.

St. Austell is a rarity in the UK in having a combined bus and rail station, making connections easy, but the downside is that it is located well outside - and up a steep hill from - the town centre, so despite having over half-an-hour before the next bus I didn't explore the town.  My destination for the night could now be reached on just one more bus, but it was still only early afternoon so I decided to take a side trip to Mevagissey. 

The working harbour at Mevagissey
Mevagissey is on the coast - and hence on "the edge"  but it's on a dead end as far as bus routes are concerned, so the self-imposed rules of the trip meant that I didn't have to go there, but could do so if I wished. So I did. The village is yet another Cornish destination at which buses have to terminate on the edge of the build-up area due to the narrowness of the streets, leaving passengers with a walk, but I had an hour until the next bus and there was plenty to  see in the village and the harbour before it was time to return to St. Austell.

Cornish "elf 'n safety"?

Fowey Bus Terminus
In fact, the service 24 from Mevagissey ran through to Fowey, my planned evening stop over, where we arrived just as it was getting dark. Yet another place that buses can't fully penetrate, the bus terminates at the top of the hill leading down to the harbour by pulling across the road, waiting until passengers alight and then reversing around a bend to stop again, this time in the middle of the road, until it's time to go back.  It's a manoeuvre that has probably been made for as long as buses have run to Fowey but which if it was suggested today would never be contemplated!

Fowey marked the end of the February portion of the trip and in the morning I caught a bus to Par station and a series of trains back to Lancaster.  I plan to resume the trip in April.

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