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Avoiding the showers on public transport on a Summer weekend in Devon
Saturday dawned bright and sunny (top). Could the miserable weather forecast really still be true ? One check of the internet confirmed that in fact things were to be much worse. Thunder mid-morning followed by incessant rain all afternoon. We set off from the hotel in the rain with waterproof clothing, stout umbrellas and “The Beginners Guide To Building A Canoe” book. When we reached the bus stop in St Marychurch the rain went off and as the open top Dennis Trident of Stagecoach appeared the sun made a brief appearance. This was one of six newly converted vehicles which are wisely only half open-top. We went upstairs, wiped the rain from the seats and sat down outside to brave the elements. We were the only ones outside – everyone else was under the covered section. Once on our way the main hazard on journey soon became clear – when the bus brushed past low hanging tree branches they sprang back with a splash of raindrops in our faces (far left). The route to Torquay is mainly downhill and there was no sign of the sea until we reached the harbour at The Strand. Several passengers including ourselves alighted here most of them saying a cheery goodbye to Dave our bus driver who must be a regular on the service (left).
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We then began the almost impossible task of locating the pier which is used by the Brixham Express – our intended method of transport to head across Brixham Bay. All the other operators to Brixham had quayside huts with bright writing to entice prospective customers. The weather was turning threatening and from underneath a shop canopy I checked their website for a map – nothing. Surely they would answer their phone ? They didn’t. Fortunately I had travelled on this service many years ago when they used former World War II craft and I remembered that they left from the furthest point possible in the marina. Sure enough once we reached the outer limits I spotted the eponymous Brixham Express arriving (above left). Once boarded we headed upstairs to sit on the outside seats. We weren’t alone as a family were already there and we were joined by another family with their petrified dog. The crew warned us that they had left Brixham in torrential rain but as we started our mini-voyage Brixham came into view again from beneath the cloud. We sped across Brixham Bay and soon arrived at our destination just in time for our lunch at the Rockfish restaurant on the quayside (above middle). Remarkably we were able to stick to our plan and eat outside with a view of the trawlers (England’s largest fishing port apparently, above right) and Torquay in the distance. We split some fresh fish and monkish scampi followed by homemade key lime pie washed down with prosecco (what else?). Inside was packed and Brian Perkins reading the Shipping Forecast was broadcast in all the toilets.
Brixham to Paignton
There had been a few squally showers at lunchtime (aren’t all showers squally?) but once we started wandering round Brixham the weather took a turn for the worse. So we headed for our bus – the Hop12 – the regular service from Brixham to Newton Abbot via Paignton and Torquay (upper left). We were making for Paignton and those of us on board were relieved not to be outside as the skies opened and deposited a mammoth amount of rain during the journey (lower left). This was the mid-afternoon incessant rain and things looked very bleak. The multi-coloured reflective roof panels in the recently refurbished bus station in Paignton were designed for sunshine not slate grey skies (middle right). Having observed the Dart River bus (definitely not a good day for that trip, upper right) and a Stagecoach Fox (the bus not the animal) we crossed the road to the steam railway. A train had just arrived so the ticket hall/book shop was packed (lower right). We waited for the rain to abate and we were soon able to walk down to the sea front. Paignton is not the jewel in the crown of the English Riviera. The main street is packed with cheap amusement arcades and down market cafes several of which appeared to be serving luminous orange chips (no natural fats here). The esplanade is no better – not helped by the blot on the landscape that is the Festival Theatre – a 1967 brutalist concrete warehouse that must be on Prince Charles’ hate list. A walk up the pier (middle left) confirmed that you can never have too many amusement arcades in Paignton – judging by the grim clients there didn’t appear to be too many winners. It had turned chilly and we still had two more open-top bus journeys ahead of us.
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Back in the bus station we waited patiently for the open-top service which had been bunching for some reason earlier in the day. Awash with standard Dennis Tridents the Gold service from Plymouth to Torquay stood out parked on the stance saying “take me”. Should we wait in hope for the next open-topper or opt for leather bound luxury up the coast to Torquay ? Within moments the answer appeared in the shape of a rain-soaked yellow Trident from Paignton Zoo with a handful of passenger on board (above left). Our all day Torbay Rider pass was being well used – this was our third bus of the day. We sat outside upstairs again this time in splendid isolation. Without a doubt this is the section of the route designed for an open-top bus. The road sweeps up the coast passing massive hotels including the Grand Hotel (above middle) where Agatha Christie stayed (where didn’t she stay ? Ed). It cuts through and round the iconic Devon red sandstone cliffs, skirts the water and passes Princess Theatre (a quite acceptable 1960’s building) before arriving at The Strand on the quayside. There was just time for a final walk round the marina and an attempted visit to Torquay Pavilion which is closed for “restoration” (ie an enormous new hotel – the lure of filthy lucre). Our final trip of the day was another open-topper back (the same one we had started the day on) to our hotel in Babbacombe (above right). Amazingly despite the rotten forecast we had never used our umbrellas. Would we be as lucky the following day ? [Conclusion of the trip published next month]
|All photos taken in July 2017. Click to enlarge photos or play clips.|
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