Thursday, 25 May 2017

Day 51 Barrow-in-Furness to Lancaster

22nd May 2017

Buses on the coast road from Barrow to Ulverston are infrequent to say the least; in fact they only survive due to the work of a small group of local people from the villages on the route who tirelessly raise funding to keep them going now that Cumbria County Council finds itself unable to provide any bus services.

Heading over the causeway to Roa Island
But there was a departure at 11.00 that suited me and it even produced a new operator for the trip  -Blueworks Bus.  The coast road bus, formally numbered "11" but known by all as "the coast road bus" makes a double run out to Roa Island over a causeway very similar to that which links Holy Island to the mainland (see Day 48), although unlike that the road to Roa doesn't succumb to the tide and access is possible at all times.  Despite that, you still get the feeling of heading out to sea as you negotiate it.

A badly parked car partially blocked the road in one of the villages and it took all the bus driver's skill and training to get through without damaging either his bus or the car. We did, at least, pick up two passengers in the village to bring the total to 7 (6 of us with bus passes), which illustrates the problem facing  the support group "Friends of the X112"

After lunch in the market hall in Ulverston I joined a much busier bus, Stagecoach's X6 for
Looking across the bay to home at Grange
the fast, main road run to Lindal and the narrower lanes to Grange-over-Sands.  The "over Sands" part of the name refers not so much to the town's coastal position (and in fact following changes in the channels of the rivers that enter Morecambe Bay the seafront is now covered in grass) but to the fact that until the railways came the most practical means of reaching this part of the Lancashire from further south was to cross the estuary on foot "over the sands" at low tide.  These cross bay walks, as they are now called, still take place, led by professional guides and Hilary had been on one, from Arnside to Kents Bank the previous weekend.

I had a decision to make at Grange.  To stick to the buses would involve a lengthy route via Kendal and Milnthorpe to Arnside where I would be forced to take a train to Silverdale and then a school bus to Carnforth, the whole process taking over three hours  or I could just get the train all the way in 20 minutes. At this stage of the excercise, with Lancaster clearly visible across the bay, there wasn't really any option and twenty minutes after leaving Grange I was in Carnforth, justifying my decsion by the fact that the railway runs much closer to the "edge" anyway.

Looking back to Grange from the bus at Morecambe.
Although there are plenty of direct buses to Lancaster from Carnforth and despite the fact that I was now on very familiar ground  I stuck to the plan and instead took the number 5, which runs along the coast to Morecambe and Heysham before continuing to the small village of Overton. Here another "tidal" road leads to the even smaller settlement of Sunderland, but there is no bus service, so I merely rejoined the 5 for the short trip back to Heysham, took the fast and direct (but "edgey") 2X to Lancaster Bus Station.

Entering Lancaster over the tidal river Lune on the 2X from Heysham

Boarding the 257th and final bus.

But I hadn't quite finished.  When I'd started - in April 2015 - I'd done so at the bus stop known as "Bridge Road" not far from my house  and so to complete the circle I had to get back there.
The 89 service has changed since I set off. It has a different operator and a less frequent timetable due to county council cutbacks, but I had only 15 minutes to wait before boarding my 257th and final bus for the 3km ride back to where I'd started over two years ago.

The bus stop at Bridge Road isn't much to look at.  No shelter, not even a timetable. Not
many people get on a bus here (it's mainly used by people coming home from Lancaster rather than setting off to Knott End) and I am fairly certain that I have travelled further from it than anyone else - even if I did end up back in the same place.

As Bilbo Baggins might have said

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, bus and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

T H E   E N D 

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