08 May 2009

The LEYTR Railrover: Part 3

Part 1 can be viewed by clicking here.
Part 2 can be viewed by clicking here.

29 June 2005 was our Day 4 and it started very early (for a Sunday) and the temperature was already very high in the centre of Avonmouth. The previous day's temperature hit 30C and was very awkward at times. We both got sunburnt while stood at Rhymney station for an hour awaiting another Class 37-hauled train, only to find we were to be conveyed back to Cardiff by Class 156!

We caught a First bus into the centre of Bristol, where we awaited another First bus service, this time route 672, which took a very circuitous route to its terminus at Cheddar Gorge. The route took-in some very, very narrow roads and some impressive gradients, which made it even more impressive that a simple Dennis Dart was allocated to the run!

With only an hour's connection at Cheddar Gorge, we did as much as could be done in the time and heat and an ice cream or two later we were back at the bus stop awaiting our next First bus service to Wells. From memory we caught Service 126 bound for Weston Super Mare, alighting at Wells where the temperature was still outrageously warm. We both took solace in the Tesco that was opposite the bus station purely for the much-welcome air conditioning.

Our next bus (you'd not know we had first-class Railrovers in our pockets!) was again operated by First and was Service 29 to Taunton.

We alighted at the rail station there and caught a Virgin CrossCountry train that theoretically left 90 minutes before we arrived; however, thanks to signalling problems earlier in its journey, we weren't waiting long at all. We caught the train to Exeter St David, where we swapped to another Virgin XC Voyager, continuing to its Penzance terminus. It was on board this train that we heard the most sycophantic announcement imaginable from the chap in the buffet car as he left the train mid-route. He thanked us all for our company and said how much he enjoyed the stories we'd shared with him and how he very much looked forward to meeting us all again.

We had a few hours in Penzance, though with Sunday bus timetables, found it impossible to visit Land's End. We instead chose to take a ride to Mousehole and back aboard a First minibus Service 6.

What a route! Wow! Streets so narrow even a Beaver-bodied Mercedes-Benz minibus struggled to negotiate. A bonus was that we were able to legitimately use out First Day Tickets that we'd purchased a good few hundred miles away earlier in the day in Avonmouth!

We were then to board the Cornish Riviera sleeper service to London Paddington. This is the only sleeper service in the UK not to be operated by ScotRail, though First as a company has cornered the market since it owns both ScotRail and Great Western (who operates the Cornish Riviera). The births, from memory, cost a couple of pounds more than the ScotRail sleeper and the complimentary breakfast was less substantial! That said, it really is a great way to travel from the far south-west to central London.

During the journey we were both asked to sign a petition against the withdrawal of the service, since First were then claiming the train was running at a loss and were after removing it. The staff who crew the trains (two operate at any one time) only staff the sleepers so were very conscious that their jobs were in the firing line should a full withdrawal be made. We both added our names to the petition and it was a year later I remember seeing that First had given the Cornish Riviera a reprieve. (GL)

To be continued.....

Part 1 can be viewed by clicking here.
Part 2 can be viewed by clicking here.

The entire LEYTR Railrover will be uploaded in its entirety to the LEYTRavels blog when the final part has been published on this site.