Well maybe I was slightly mad going from Cornwall to Ilfracombe and back in a day. I never really imagined it would take as long as it did! It is directly north of Cawsand. As the crow flies the 2 locations are only 50-60 miles away. Yet it took me near as makes no difference, 6 hours, to reach Ilfracombe after setting off with Jim at 07:47 from Cawsand.
It was then a routine trip on the 8:15 ferry, then onto a 133 to come upto Royal Parade. Down to the bus station my 86 service awaited to whisk us along to Tavistock. This was your usual not very interesting Volvo B6 so nothing really to report there. It was a nice easy trip there after the driver struggled to locate the First Day South West after the ticket coding had been changed. I think I actually delayed the bus by some 3 minutes so sorry to anyone who was waiting!
On arrival our next stead was already at the stand awaiting its 10:30 departure, this being a somewhat rare BMC Falcon run by Beacon Bus. Yesterday it was operating the 118 right the way to Barnstaple so was an ideal opportunity to see what they're like! I was warned about them by Ben Morroll but stepped aboard with an open mind, right up until the driver stated "Cohh this one always breaks down.." while talking to another passenger. My first impressions were of fairly poor ride comfort. This was very much not helped by the fact the seats are simply plastic with a piece of cloth draped over them! Sure this may be ok for a short town hop, but for a 2hr 15min journey on country roads, it was hell! At the end of the trip my back was severely aching with me associate having neck pains. The engine also seemed to struggle somewhat to power along the 11 ton beast. This was a real heavyweight thing not really suited to the narrow twisting roads of Devon.
So for the first time ever I was actually quite happy to step onto a Dennis Trident for the next and final leg of the trip into Ilfracombe. The X reg Trident felt like luxury after our affair with the BMC and gave a pleasant trip into Ilfracombe bus station which gave me time to have a quick look at the old depot building. This only closed around 4 years ago but the whole complex was looking very untidy, not well looked after at all which is quite a shame.
After that it was a short walk upto the Landmark Theatre with a stop for a pasty along the way to have a look at the glorious Davi.... Bedford Cinema Bus which was newly restored for this year. The bus looked immaculate and it was obvious that a lot of hard work had gone into bringing it back to this state after it was nearly scrapped along with 6 other similar vehicles.
There was time to talk to Shep and Jo and take in Ilfracombe for an hour before boarding the 5:15 3 back to Barnstaple with one of the 55 reg ELC bodied Tridents, similar to the Torpoint Tridents.
On arrival we amazingly ran into K614 LAE about to work a journey to Ilfracombe! Shame we didn't have this. It wasn't long ago that K reg vehicles had been expelled from Barnstaple in the form of the K-ORLs, but K614 has brought back the Northern Counties body to the town.
Also there was some of the newly arrived North Devon Wave branded Tridents from Oxford. These did look very smart with a well presented clear livery with little intrusion on the windows.
So for the journey back down to Tavistock, 'luckily' we had an Optare Solo. I must admit I don't think I've ever been to happy to ride on one of the dreadful things. This '56' reg example was very nice though, with plenty of nice padding on the seats!
And so arrival in Tavistock after a very pleasant journey with a lovely Beacon Bus driver met us with a Volvo B6. Though mensioning the driver of the Solo I must thank him for the very enjoyable ride. He was very happy to have a chat while he was at a stop. He also made sure all his customers were happy by opening and closing windows and the skylight for passengers, cheering up a sad baby, checking that we were warm enough when the sun went down, putting the heaters on, helping people getting on and off at every opportunity, and generally being exactly what we'd all love from a bus driver. He was a real credit to the company.
So into Plymouth it was a short wait before my final bus for the day, S764 RNE arrived to whisk me back to Cawsand arriving at 9:04. A slightly shorter return journey than the journey up, by some 20 minutes.
All in all the journey was quite a tiring one and not really one I'm going to repeat in any hurry!