Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Day 49 Berwick-upon-Tweed to Carlisle

4th May 2017

I had thought long and hard about today's route. There appeared to be two options for the journey from Berwick to Carlisle, which I had categorised as the "English" or "Scottish" routes. Bearing in mind that this is a trip "Around the Edge of England" you might wonder why I was considering the Scottish route at all, but the actual border (and therefore the "edge") runs through a lot of empty countryside and on the English side at least a long way from any bus services.

To stick to "England" would effectively mean re-tracing my steps through Alnwick and then through Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the Tyne Valley to Carlisle, with the need to make a decision as to whether to follow a number of dead-ends that ran towards, but didn't reach, the border.

The Scottish route in contrast was straightforward and direct and for most of the route was nearer to the border (and therefore the edge of England). Of the three buses I needed to use, only one ran wholly within Scotland and so, with the obvious disadvantage that I would have to pay bus fares, I opted for Scotland.

English bus passes are valid for cross-boundary journeys such as Berwick to Kelso and passes issued by Northumberland Council can be used after 0900, but my pass was issued in Lancashire and therefore not valid on the 0910 to Kelso, something that cost be £4.70. In fact the journey to Carlisle cost a grand total of £17.40 and made me realise how expensive this whole exercise would have been without the pass.

Perryman's 67 service sticks to the English side of the border at first, passing Northam Castle and only crossing the Tweed to enter Scotland at Coldstream. Timetables were such that I had the option of spending about 90 minutes in any two out of Kelso, Jedburgh or Hawick today and I decided to decide as I went along.  Kelso looked interesting, with the entire town centre being cobbled and with some fine civic buildings. It turned out to be well worth the time spent there, even if the proprietor of the coffee shop I ventured into seemed surprised when I ordered, er... a coffee!

I then decided to pass on the chance of a look around Jedburgh, although the town's showpiece abbey is clearly visible from the bus.  The Kelso - Jedburgh - Hawick bus doubles as a town service in Jedburgh and through passengers are treated to a tour of a local hillside housing estate before the bus continues to Hawick.

The various timetables for the routes serving Hawick all seemed to have a series of different timing
The Hawick Horse
points. I was intrigued by one that was merely described as "Horse".  In a different timetable this was shown as "Hawick, Horse" and I assumed it was named after a nearby pub.  It was, in fact, a horse - albeit a stone one.  I nearly missed my bus to Carlisle here. There were a number of people waiting at or around the bus stop and I was sure that some of them at least would want the Carlisle bus.  I therefore concentrated on photographing it, assuming I'd have plenty of time to join the queue of people waiting to board.  But the bus paused only briefly and nobody else wanted it!  The driver was just about to close the doors and pull away as I rushed up, full of apologies for not being ready.

The X95 to Carlisle sticks mainly to the A7 and is therefore a fast, but very scenic, ride all the way to Carlisle.  Not far from the city however, an incident occurred that made me realise,paradoxically, how safe bus travel is.  A large bee had got into the bus somewhere along the route and had been flying up and down inside for some miles. There were only four passengers on board and we all kept a wary eye on it, one young lady changing seats when it came too close for comfort.  Another passenger at the back of the bus was attempting to catch it in his copy of the timetable leaflet and usher it towards one of the open windows but without much success.  Finally, at the roundabout that forms the junction with the M6 just outside Carlisle he managed to persuade it to fly out of the bus and turned to acknowledge the thanks of the other passengers. Just at that moment the driver accelerated the bus onto the roundabout and the passenger lost his footing and fell full length in the gangway!  He wasn't hurt - or so he said - although he did suffer a minor nosebleed, leaving drops of blood all over the gangway!  It did, however, make me realise than on 240 buses (at that point) and several thousand passengers this was the first time that I had seen an incident of any sort involving passenger safety.

Over the marshes to Port Carlisle. This was a daily
 bus journey for me for a while back in 1976
I finished the day with an out-and-back run along the Solway coast. In 1976 I lived for a year in Port Carlisle - a tiny village about 15 kilometres from Carlisle and I even commuted to work in the city on the bus for a while.  So I had been looking forward to this trip "down memory lane". Obviously there had been changes - mainly for the worse with village shops, pubs and even garages having disappeared, but I saw my old cottage and much else that was familiar.  The level of the service to the area hasn't changed very much in 40 years although the route has been combined with another that ran nearby, making for some very lengthy journeys for some of the villages served. One couple boarded the bus with me in Carlisle at 16.30 and alighted in their home village at 17.50, where they would be only four miles from the city in a straight line!  Such are the lengths that bus companies have had to go to to maintain a service in a county where the council finds itself unable to spend anything to support local buses.

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