Sunday, 5 June 2016

Day 20 Lymington to Portsmouth

24th May 2016
Confusing bus stop in Lymington
There was more "market day" confusion at Lymington this morning. The former bus station is now closed and a sign directs passengers to the "Post Office" to catch their buses. What the sign doesn't tell you is that there are two bus stops in the vicinity of the Post Office and both of them are marked for the 112, the bus I needed to get.  Admittedly one sign is marked "market days only" but as it is only 50 metres away from the other it seems unlikely that the presence of a street market could affect one stop without also affecting the other. In any case, there was no indication anywhere about when "market days" might be.

This stop, however, was the only one at which details of the 112 timetable appeared in the timetable case and two other would-be passengers appeared to be lurking uncertainly between the two, ready to run in one direction or the other when the bus appeared.

Bad news for Lymington

I, however, opted for the stop that was not marked "market days", even though the 112 timetable didn't appear there and I was proved right when the 112 arrived a few minutes before departure time.  Everything must have been so much easier before Lymington's bus station was closed by the bus company to save a few quid.

It was important that I got it right because the 112 to Beaulieu runs only four times a day and on only three days a week.

Thre was more confusion at the other end of the journey. I had been expecting the bus to run via the National Motor Museum as that was what the timetable suggested it did. I wasn't too surprised when we ignored a turn off to the museum - buses do this sort of thing all the time - and when we came to a stop a few minutes later that was obviously the terminus I still wasn't exactly sure where I was. It turned out however that we were in Beaulieu village and over a mile from the museum entrance. 

I planned to visit the museum, not least because I had over three hours to kill in Beaulieu before my next bus on to Hythe, so had no option but to walk.  I did send an email to the bus company by way of enquiry/complaint but they chose to ignore it!

The National Motor Museum, however, was well worth the effort to reach it - although a little on the expensive side (cheaper if you book online), It has over 200 cars from all eras of motoring (although only one bus!) and the visit prompted many comments from visitors such as "my dad had one of those" or even for us oldies "I had one of those".
My dad had one of those: An Austin A40 Somerset (ours was grey). . .
. . .and I had one of these (mine was green)
Neither of us had any of these!

and certainly none of these!
Back on the water

The next stage of the trip promised some more interesting forms of transport. From Hythe, reached by the still infrequent 112 bus, I planned to get the ferry across Southampton Water to the Town Quay.  Interesting enough in itself as this is a major commuter route and heavily used throughout the day, but to get to the boat you first have to use a very uncommon form of transport - a Pier Railway.

This rather ramshackle contraption dates from the 1920s but is still in regular use, saving ferry passengers a 400m walk along the exposed pier. At the Pier Head it connects with the ferry to Southampton, although the timetable displayed at the landward station is most confusing and doesn't make this clear. (It would still be confusing even if it didn't make the glaring error of confusing "20 minutes past" the hour with "20 minutes to"!)

Normally the ferry route takes you right past any of the Ocean Liners and Cruise Ships that happen to be in Southampton, but unfortunately I had chosen one of the few days this Spring when none were in port. So I had to make do with a walk into the town centre to find the bus to Gosport.  Southampton lacks a central bus station;  when Britain's buses were privatised in the 1980s the entrepreneurs that bought the local state-owned bus company discovered that the town centre combined bus depot and bus station that came with it was worth more than it had paid for the whole enterprise and promptly sold it off for retail development, moving buses to a shed on an industrial estate and the terminus to the city's streets. Fortunately I have a very useful "Bus Checker" app on my phone that allowed me to find the stop for the X5 to Gosport without too much trouble.

Not an "X-press"!
At one time, bus companies had a convention that services numbered with an X were fast and direct and only called at a limited number of bus stops en-route.  First's X5 had none of these characteristics, being slow, very indirect and stopping at every lampost. I was even tempted to bale out in Fareham and catch one of the plentiful direct buses on to Gosport, but that would have broken the rules as the X5, for all its failings, did keep closely to the "edge".  It's only virtue was that it introduced an additional transport mode - a toll bridge - but even here after crossing the bridge it turned off into a bus lane that by-passed the toll booths!

A two-ferry day
Approaching Portsmouth on the Gosport Ferry,
When the X5 eventually arrived in Gosport after a 2-hour run from Southampton I was at least rewarded by a trip on another ferry over the water to Portsmouth and one that performs a vital public transport service all-year-round. In fact the waters around Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight are criss-crossed by numerous ferry routes not all of which I could fit in but some of which I will sample shortly.

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