26th May 2016
The day began at Ventnor on the 0942 bus over the hills and along the coast to Sandown. Some of the
|Ventnor, Isle of Wight|
operational problems the local bus comapny must encounter in the summer season were manifest in Shanklin where we were held up by a convoy of touring coaches queing up to negotiate the narrow bridge on the main road through the town.
Service 3 runs through from Ventnor to Ryde, but I needed to change to service 8 to take in the more coastal route via Bembridge and had an hour between buses, which was plenty long enough - including the 10 minutes I spent over one of the wor- st cups of coffee I've had since "proper" coffee outsed Nescafe and the like from cafes across the country. Even the entrance to the town's pier was so unwelcoming - a huge, dark "amusement" arcade designed to keep you spending money for as long as possible that I gave up and came out without ever reaching the pier itself.
I was surprised to find a double-decker on the relatively infrequent service 8, but the journey was enlivened by passing a long row of houseboats at one point, including a converted motor torpedo boat! (No photos unfortunately).
Highlight of the day was the first use of a hovercraft on this trip. I've used them before, in the 1970s
|Back to the future between Ryde and Southsea|
when they were the future of cross-channel travel but now the Ryde to Southsea service is the world's only scheduled passenger hovercraft service, making the trip back to the mainland in just 10 minutes or less than half the time the ferry over had taken yesterday.
Although several scheduled bus routes pass close to the hovercraft terminal at the Clarence Pier (an attraction in itself, none of the frequent ones quite get there (this is the UK after all). Hovertravel run a connecting bus to Portsmouth but I decided that with its use restricted to hovercraft passengers it didn't qualify for this trip. In any case, despite being advertised as a "hoverbus" I could clearly see that it ran on rubber tyres just like the rest.
From Porsmouth I took the 700 Coastliner service. This is the sucessor to a very long-established bus route dating back to the early days of buses between Southsea and Brighton - a four hour journey then as now. Stagecoach however has messed around with it recently and despite the "700" number being in use for the full route to Brighton, through passengers must change buses - sometimes more than once - to travel the full route. It's probably something to do with the way county councils pay the company for use of concessionary bus passes, I think.
As on some previous days heavy traffic in the late afternoon delayed the bus and we were ten minutes
late in arriving at Chichester, where further disruption to services was being caused by a town centre road closure. At least the necessary diversion took the bus past my hotel, so I abandonned plans to continue straight on to "The Witterings" and back and went and booked in first, delaying the Witterings excursion until the early evening. This was on a circular service, meaning that I didn't have to actually get off the bus at any point. When I could see that I was in danger of being the last person left on the bus as we approached the town centre I decided to get off more or less at random and was pleasantly surprised to find myself at the terminal basis of the long-closed but apparently still partly navigable Chichester Ship Canal!