Monday, 7 November 2011

Many Happy Day Returns

So, I’m now half way to getting a bus pass.

Just as well I was driving this weekend, on a little tour with friends to celebrate my 30th birthday. 270 KTA’s gift to her owner was to make it across the border to Cornwall and back without cause for embarrassment, and a jolly good time was had by all.

Our mission was a tour of the Rame Peninsula, often called Cornwall’s forgotten corner, which has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country and yet remains just a few miles from Plymouth. One of those miles is wet, and so provides an excellent excuse for a crossing on the Torpoint chain ferry – yes, with the bus...

After tea, cake and lovely presents, we travelled via leafy lanes to Plymouth, my home for the past three years and home to 270 KTA at various stages in her life, too.

Our official photographer was duly dispatched to get some atmospheric shots of us driving through the historic Barbican end of town. Here we are in Southside Street, flanked by pasty shops, ice cream parlours and pubs, with the chimney of the famous Gin Distillery as a backdrop.

One of the benefits of having the Met Office in Devon is that last minute requests for good weather are sometimes looked upon favourably, hence a very sunny trip around Plymouth Hoe, looking out onto “The Sound”.

The Torpoint ferry takes vehicles across the River Tamar between Devonport (Devon) and Torpoint (Cornwall). These days it forms part of a scheduled bus route, and SU coaches did use it on touring work in the 60s, but there’s nonetheless a certain amount of adrenaline as you board it. With clearance enough to drive on without losing any bodywork, here’s our friend enjoying the airs… and the fumes.

Once you're on, it's the one guaranteed trouble-free mile of the 70-odd mile round trip, and in the glorious sunshine most of our passengers took to the deck for a civilised stroll. And why not; it’s November!

You know it’s your Birthday when you’re allowed into the previously forbidden and hallowed territory of Torpoint bus depot – a long-held favourite of mine – for a pose…

… and given it’s my last 30th Birthday for a while, I thought I'd milk every moment. Had the depot foreman not driven past to see hoards of photographers in the middle of the road outside, we might have got away with it, too...

The five mile stretch along the cliff road at Whitsand Bay is breathtaking for passengers and drivers alike – perhaps for different reasons. A stunned silence filled 270 KTA as we looked down the 120m sheer drop to the beautiful sandy beaches, reachable only by foot and careless driving.

After a photo at Insworke (home to Conductor Farley, who was greeted by his Mum), we tackled a part of the bus route which has now been abandoned owing to tight turns. I can see why.

Journey’s end was Cremyll, geographically just a mile or so down the river from Torpoint, but about an hour by road at SU speeds. I say an hour, those speeds were to be greatly compromised on the return journey by the industrial quantities of roast dinner taken on board by passengers and crew at The Edgcumbe Arms – a fine terminus.

So fine, that by the time we emerged it was getting dark…

The journey home saw some beautiful sunsets, and I dare say a few contented noddings off. I know I caught up on a bit of sleep on the lanes just outside Antony…

It was a wonderful day in great company, and it was nice to hear 270 KTA filled with near constant laughter. (For all the right reasons.) No doubt she was practising for her own 50th Birthday celebrations next July…

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