Thursday, 18 March 2010

Phase 2 – The Long, Northward-Pointing Bit

The second part of my journey starts where Phase 1 left off - in London.

There’s such a lot to see, do and experience in the capital that I’ll struggle to get through everything I want to do. However, I hope to squeeze in a ride on the longest escalator in Europe, travel through the first tunnel to be built under the River Thames, visit the London Transport Museum (obviously), visit the grave of the inventor of the bus…. Luckily, I’m only travelling as far at Watford on the first day (actually Day 9 of the trip) and I’ll be doing so by travelling on the world’s first underground railway.

Day 10 will see me battling northwards to Northampton. I say battle because while this looks easy on the map, the bus timetables seem to tell a different story and there are few obvious routes. Looks like I will be going via Aylesbury and Milton Keynes but I suppose anything is possible. Day 11 will take me from Northampton to Coventry, so its out of the Home Counties and into the West Midlands.

Day 12 is a fairly short day, so I’ll try to squeeze in a visit to the Coventry Motor Museum before setting off for Meriden, which is the exact centre of England, and then onwards to Birmingham. I’ll be spending the next day, Bank Holiday Monday, in Brum visiting the city’s 2 bus museums on a day when they wheel out their exhibits and use them to run services between the two museums. Brilliant idea!

Day 14 will see me travelling by tram to Wolverhmpton, then onwards by bus to Bridgenorth and a ride on the only funincular railway in Britain in genuine passenger service (ie, not a tourist attraction or a fun way of getting to the pier!) Then its through the cradle of the industrial revolution at Coalbrookdale and an overnight in Shrewsbury.

The next day I will be looking for some of Thomas Telford’s original milestones along the route of the old A5 before diving headlong into the Welsh borders, hopefully to end the day in Wrexham. Day 16 and I’m on the road to Chester, then to Birkenhead and a tram ride to a nearby transport museum before boarding the eponomous ferry across the Mersey (possibly to the strains of Gerry and the Pacemakers) to one of my all-time favourite cities, Liverpool

From Liverpool its bus to St Helens, where I am hoping they will pretend I am a school party and open the bus museum specially for me (its closed during the week!). Then its onwards to Warrington and Eccles (Eccles cakes will be eaten) and then by tram via Salford to Manchester.

Day 18 will see me leaving Manchester for Glossop for the next day’s Sunday only service up the spectacular Snake Pass deep into the heart of the Peak District. Then its Sheffield, Holmsfirth (Last of the Summer Wine country), Huddersfield and Bradford. If I’m lucky, I’ll meet some new chums of mine and if I’m really lucky they’ll have a preserved bus with them! This will be a long day so I expect I’ll deserve a curry (what else?).

Next day its off the Skipton, then across the Lancashire border to Preston’s brutal concrete bus station/car park and another bus, this time to Blackpool. If there’s time, I hope to visit a vehicle restoration business dedicated to restoring old buses.

Another long day on Day 21. It’s a Blackpool tram to Fleetwood, ferry across the river, bus to Lancaster then the spectacular 555 service deep into the heart of the Lake District. Just time to whiz across to Penrith for a bus down the Eden Valley to Kirkby Stephen and a much-needed rest.

Day 22 is one I’m really looking forward to. It starts with a journey by vintage bus over the Pennines to Barnard Castle, then by bus to Darlington and Middlesbrough, across the Tees on the mighty and unique Transporter Bridge, then up the coast to the Tyne and home for more clean socks and a glass of ale.

And a rest!

Details of the final phase to follow.

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