Earlier this month I needed to travel to the North Devon town of Ilfracombe for a part-business part-pleasure weekend, and as is my normal preference, I elected to do this entirely by public transport, including the airport leg in Dublin.
For the first part of the journey I would be accompanied by “Donnybrook Observer” who was also flying that morning, while for the final leg of the tip I would be guided by an old friend and former Ensignbus colleague, John Burch, now Deputy Director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport in the UK, who had invited me to stay in his charming Ilfracome property, itself the former station master’s house of the long abandoned Ilfracombe branch line.
Taking the absolute minimum of baggage with me, and using only a Nokia camera-phone, I aimed to record as much of the trip and the various modes of transport seen and used as possible.
All these photos are available in fullsize mode – just click on the picture for the bigger view!
Setting off from Ballinteer on the 0900 14A
With our flights due to depart Dublin around midday, Donnybrook Observer and I decided to leave Ballinteer at around 9am, choosing the 0900 14A departure, so that we could get to sample the “via Palmerston Park” special working.
This diversion is less needed now that the 128 provides a regular service in the area, but when we arrived at Palmerston Park, the 128 at the stop was not yet loading, and so we took on around 15 of its potential passengers. Our bus was Volvo Olympian RV483, and was quite full by the time it reached Rathmines.
The diversion via Palmerston Park allowed us to steal some customers from a waiting 128
RV483 drops off at O'Connell Street, stage 1 of the journey over.
The early morning sun made photography of both the 14A, and the next leg of our trip on the Airlink Express difficult, as it was both bright and directly behind the buses in O’Connell Street. The shot of RV483 is interesting, in the the Spire is visible over the bus, but not through the windows, making it look as if the entire weight is being supported by the roof of the bus. This optical effect is caused by a high level of reflection on the condensation on the inside of the bus windows.
Arriving at Dublin Airport on the Airlink Express. 8 year old AV125 and its sisters will be replaced on this service by new Wright Geminis in the new year.
Arriving at Dublin Airport in good time, DO’s flight was without problems, but I was faced with a long wait for the FlyBe Exeter service, as the plane had been delayed for 3 hours earlier in the day due to a security alert at Paris.
The FlyBe Bombardier finally arrives at Dublin
The FlyBe Bombardier eventually arrived, and the flight to Exeter was uneventful. The arrival in Exeter International was in the middle of a downpour, and I sheltered in the tiny terminal building for 20 minutes until the Stagecoach service arrived to take me to the city centre. Bus waiting facilities are poor, and boarding involved a dash across windswept roadways in the pouring rain.
Arriving at Exeter International in a torrential downpour, it's time to make a dash for the Stagecoach
The Airport service seems to be worked by ALX200 bodied Dennis Darts.
Stagecoach service 56 arrives into Exeter Bus Station
In Exeter, a selection of buses in the bus station and city centre.
Stagecoach Enviro 400s can be seen working a number of Devon service
Olympians are also still in evidence, retrofitted with modern LED display
Independents Western Greyhound and Dartline add variety at Exeter
Amongst the earliest lowfloor double-deckers into service, a batch of S-reg Trident ALX400s new to East London, now working on park and ride services in Exeter. The yellow and blue livery looks attractive
In Exeter city centre, buses on local town services. Routes are lettered rather than numbered, a practice dating back many decades to the long vanished municipal operator.
The next part of the journey was by rail – a walk to Exeter Central station to meet John Burch, who was arriving in from London on a Stagecoach SouthWest Trains service, and then we would take the local “Tarka Line” First service to Barnstaple.
I was amazed to see that there were lots of Leyland-National derived class 142 units still in service – the last time I encountered one of these strange beasts was at Goole in Yorkshire, almost 14 years ago!
Exeter Central station, with a class 142 unit heading west
142067 at Barnstaple, showing the Leyland National body styling and bus-type doors and seating.
Arriving in Barnstaple, we had a walk to the town centre and time for a drink before boarding the bus for the final leg to Ilfracombe. John used his local knowledge to ensure that the bus trip was interesting – instead of taking the main Ilfracombe service on route 3, we took the Fridays Only 30E service, which takes a more direct but remote routing along tiny hilly laneways eventually approaching Ilfracombe and the Bristol Channel over the crest of a dramatic hill, giving a view of the lights of Wales far across the dark waters.
Heading along dark country lanes on the 30E.
We arrived at John’s house at 2100 – 12 hours exactly sice the 14A started my journey.
Also included below are a couple of shots taken the following day around Ilfracombe. I did try to get the local independent Filers, but they were elusive on the day! However the holiday camp buses were a real find, with thanks to John for his local knowledge!
Ilfracombe Bus Station with a Firstgroup Olympian on the main Barnstaple service
Two vanishing bus types, a Bristol VRT and a very elderly E-reg Atlantean PDR1A at the local holiday camp.