Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Day 21 Portsmouth to Ventnor

25th May 2016

Unusual forms of transport
Wightlink ferry Portsmouth to Ryde
The day began with a rather usual form of transport. The ferry from Portsmouth across to Ryde of the Isle of Wight was the tenth of the trip so far, but a little different in that it was a high-speed catamaran.
This is a really serious form of passenger transport for residents and visitors to the island who have no fixed link or air service alternative (although other ferries are available).
But it was nothing to what awaited me at on arrival at Ryde Pier Head.  The Isle of Wight once had a
Where else can you see a tube train on a pier?
Especially one that is nearly 80 years old!
comprehensive steam-operated rail network that was predictably decimated by Dr. Beeching (or rather by the politicians who employed him). Only one line remained - and not all of that - with the Ryde to Ventnor service being curtailed at Shanklin. At Ryde the line projected onto the pier and ran along it to the pier head, where it connected - as it still does - with the ferry to Portsmouth and onward connections to London.  At some stage it was decided to electrify the line but the only suitable electric trains available turned out to be superannuated ex-London tube trains, which still run the service today.

I wasn't sure whether to count this as a "train" or a "pier railway" as it has a lot of similarities to the pier railway at Hythe, but the fact that it continues off the pier for several miles and that Ryde Pier once had a separate pier tramway led me to classify it for what it is - a tube train.

Missed connections

No connection at Binfield Corner
Because I had waited for the train rather than just walking down the pier I had missed the direct bus to East Cowes by a minute (buses are never late when you want them to be). The alternative to waiting an hour for the next was to take a Newport-bound bus to "Binfield Corner", which is every bit as remote as it sounds, and connect there instead. It didn't work - but I can't really complain. The "connection" was only a three minute one and traffic delays leaving Ryde combined with the East Cowes bus being bang-on time left me kicking my heels at Binfield Corner for twenty minutes.

Another Oddity

On board the "floating bridge"

I had chosen to go via East Cowes to take in another form of transport - described and recorded as a
"floating bridge".  It's really just a chain ferry - a ferry that is hauled across the water by chains which lie on the river bed. I've no idea how old the current "bridge" is but it appeared to be of a similar vintage to the tube train encountered earlier.  Judge for yourself in the photo.

As close as you can get to The Needles without paying
During this tour I've attempted to take in as many of the well-known coastal features - such as Land's End, Portland Bill etc - that I can and I was looking forward to "The Needles" off the south-west coast of the Island. I remembered visiting them, and nearby Alum Bay on a holiday over twenty years ago. What I didn't remember was the funfair / retail park at Alum Bay and The Needles being accessible only by paying over a huge sum to the National Trust to walk down their footpath. Fortunately they were visible through a fence in the car park but this is as close as I got.

Bus Catching Skills Needed at Totland

From Alum Bay I had only a five minute ride back to the village of Totland to connect into service
Where service 12 really goes from in Totland
12, which returns to Newport via the south coast route.  There are only two bus stops in the village, situated more or less opposite each other.

My service 7 bus dropped me at the stop in the foreground and I at first I confidently expected service 12 to arrive from Newport at the stop opposite, disgorge its passengers and then turn around the roundabout behind me to pick me up where the 7 had left me. I wasn't surprised to find no one else waiting for it there, but what did puzzle me was the small group of passengers waiting at the opposite stop. There wasn't a number 7 due and even if there had been it would only have gone to Alum Bay, not a likely destination for the locals.  But of course, only the stop opposite has a bus shelter and seating - on my side of the road you just stood on the pavement - so the locals wisely wait in comfort and, the bus drivers being in on the act, they get picked up there instead.  Fortunately I had worked this out before the bus arrived and after taking the photo I walked across the road to join them for another coast and countryside ride to Newport changing there for the seventh and final bus of the day to Ventnor.

1 comment:

  1. The reason there are Tube trains (1938 vintage) on the Island Line is that the Ryde St. Johns tunnel can flood, so the track is higher than otherwise. This restricts headroom, so Tube trains (1923 stock) were the answer until they finally wore out.

    The Isle of Wight Council is involved with trying to find a suitable operation to replace the Tube trains, because the service loses money. The Independent leader of the Council just happens to be a distant cousin of mine, Jonathan Bacon. I would advise him to look at the redundant first-generation Metrolink trams (high floor) or Midland Metro trams (low floor).