Saturday, 23 April 2016

Day 14: Fowey to Salcombe

5th April 2016

The Polruan ferry at Fowey
The day began on the ferry across the estuary of the Fowey River to Polruan, a small village with narrow roads and steep hills up from the harbour.

As it was still early in the year one of the smaller, 12 seater, boats was in use and there were only two other passengers. One of these was probably "unofficial" as he was a boat owner sneaking a lift out to his moored boat with a can of fuel. The other was very definitely "official" being the local postman with a bag of mail to deliver. Either way, I was the only one who paid a fare!

The bus terminus at Polruan.
The 481 bus on to Looe was a minibus. It had to be, as nothing bigger could have got into Polruan in the first place, let alone turned round at the terminus. All sixteen seats were filled when we left the terminus, although roughly half of these were locals travelling up the steep hill to the top of the village. The service also attracts users from further afield. The elderly couple sitting in front of me held bus passes from Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, although they were obviously travelling together!
Most of the remaining passengers alighted at Polperro leaving just a couple of us, and a few more locals picked up en-route, to travel through to Looe.

Hessenford's miniature bus stop
Looe was very busy as it has half-term, something I'd overlooked when planning this leg of the journey and I only had a few minutes before getting the next bus - the 72 that was heading for Plymouth.  I was also heading for Plymouth, but the self-imposed rules of the trip required me to alight at the village of Hessenford and change to a more coastal route.

There wasn't an awful lot to do in Hessenford, where the 30 minutes I had to wait became 40 due to a late running connection. It left me plenty of time to admire this miniature bus stop, where I was waiting.

I'd given some thought as to how to make the crossing from Cornwall into Devon. I could have gone via the traditional lowest crossing point at Liskeard, or taken a bus over the relatively new bridge at Saltash. Or, there was a choice of not one but two ferries!
The Torpoint ferry, which was where the bus from Hessenford was taking me, was tempting as the bus actually crosses Plymouth Sound aboard it, but to do that would mean missing out the Rame peninsula and the Cremyll Ferry, which is the lowest crossing point of all.

My bus from Hessenford aboard the Torpoint Ferry

So I left the number 70 (which was, I couldn't help noticing, the seventieth bus of the trip) before it boarded the Torpoint Ferry. This ferry is obviously a major part of the local transport infrastructure with several traffic lanes for waiting vehicles and two boats, which haul themselves over the river by means of chains, in use at any one time.

It must be a challenge to bus companies to run timetabled services over ferries, but Plymouth Citybus seem to manage it, with my next bus - the 73 on to Cremyll, which was crossing from Plymouth - arriving bang on time.

The 73 could have been designed specially for this odyssey as it followed a series of narrow lanes across the Rame peninsula following the south coast to Rame itself, then north to Millbank and finally to Cremyll itself on the east coast.  The whole run was of interest, with spectacular views from the top deck across Plymouth Sound as we neared Cremyll itself.
You don't get these views from a car!

Just outside Rame the bus came to halt and the driver switched the engine off, which confused some passengers as we sat there for several minutes. But it was just another example of the intricacies of scheduling buses on country roads as the reason we were waiting was for a late running oncoming bus to pass - the place where we were waiting being the only suitable one for several kilometres due to the narrowness of the roads.

The Cremyll Ferry
The Cremyll Ferry is passenger only and rather different to that at Torpoint. It also deposits you at a somewhat anonymous part of suburban Plymouth, the situation for onward travellers being complicated by the fact that a one-way system means that there are bus stops on two parallel one-way streets from each of which buses can be heading either to or from the centre!

Fortunately I had enough time to work this out and reach the city centre before my next bus of the day, which would take me to Kingsbridge. This was a lengthy cross-country route that runs through to Dartmouth and follows a main "A" road all the way. Nevertheless, it still passes along several narrow end even single-track sections of road particularly in some of the villages. Perhaps because of this we lost time and were 8 minutes late at Kingsbridge, where I had a 10 minute connection. (Phew!)

Tally Ho! to Salcombe
I had a number of options for the last leg of today's run down to Salcombe, but it had been a long day and I'd had enough of single-track roads and high hedges so I went for the most direct - the 606 to Salcombe that was already loading on the adjacent stand in Kingsbridge's primitive "bus station".

Earlier in the trip I'd encountered my first place name that came complete with an exclamation mark at "Westward Ho!". Now, my last bus of the day also came with one as the Salcombe service is operated by "Tally Ho! Coaches"

Salcombe is another west country town where the road layout precludes buses from entering the centre. There were also extensive road works that diverted the bus from its normal route, but it all worked to my advantage in the end as I had only a short distance to walk to my B&B from the bus stop and I only discovered how far from - and how high above - the town centre we were when I walked into town that night.

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