The weather in Weymouth was so beautiful this morning that I should have expected to see a few more people on the bus. In the event, I was lucky simply to get on.
When I got to my bus stand after a swift look around the harbour and backstreets of Weymouth, I was greeted with a lengthy crocodile of pensioners all along the pavement and across the seafront - and they were all heading my way. Still, I managed to squeeze onto the X53 and found a seat on the top deck (those steps really sorted the youthful from the not-so-youthful) and, in a gentle haze of camphorated oil and lily-of-the-valley, we set off.
I was bound for the historic town of Wareham, but I didn't have time to check it out because I had an onward connection to Swanage to make. This route – service no. 40 – was stunning. We sped out of Wareham and soon found ourselves staring that the gaunt ruins of Corfe Castle. Impressive stuff, but what was even more impressive was the village which appeared from behind it. Each building was crafted out of honey-colour stone, with Yorkshire Dales-like stone roofs, giving the effect of the village being some kind of idealistic to-good-to-be-true film set. You know, the kind of place Hollywood executives think we all live in. But this was for real and, yet again, I found myself quickly running out of superlatives.
The steep climb out of Corfe Castle offered stunning views back at the but I'd already run out of superlatives by this time so I just moaned gently. Didn't half give the old lady sitting next to me a fright...
Then we were down into Swanage, a bustling seaside town with its own preserved railway and, of course, its own preserved railway station (how lucky can some towns get). I changed to the service 50 – the so-called Purbeck Flyer – and we climbed out of Swanage and down to the open healthland of Studland and onto the narrow neck of Poole Harbour and the Sandbacks Ferry which plies it.
The ferry works in quite a smart way. It doesn't have propellers or anything, it simply drags itself through the water on chains which are attached to each bank, but that's not the weird thing about it. What is really weird is sitting in a double decker bus and watching powerboats and sailing dingys floating past the windscreen. Couldn't get used to that...
We were soon in Bournemouth, which at first I hated but then I discovered that it is possible to nip down away from all the shops into the bourne, or chine... you know, the grassy bit with the steam that runs through the centre of Bournemouth, and walk a few minutes past neat flower beds and blossom-laden trees and find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly on Bournemouth Pier, with miles of golden beach disappearing to left and right. Neat!
I resisted the urge to paddle (just) but had a quick play on the beach for old time's sake.
The X12 took me to Lymington at the foot of the New Forest and it turned out to be a pretty dismal journey, past cruelly expensive beachside villas looking for all the world like beached ocean liners, and street after street of wannabe detached homes which you just knew were expensive but which I couldn't find anything in them to like. It was all so competitive, so conservative, characterless, complacent. I tell you, if I ever upset the Big Guy and he decides to send me to hell to punish me, I reckon this is where he'll send me.
Lymington is... (sorry, had another superlative failure there) and what made it even better was the fact that the bus station was right opposite my hotel, which is an 18th century inn. I was so pleased, I marched straight up to reception and promptly ordered a pint of Ringwood Bitter and applied it orally. Well, what better way to end a day.
Actually, there is a better way. Sorry, I didn't mean to, honest, but somehow I found myself in an Indian restaurant. So I had a curry. Oh, bliss...