Thursday, 16 August 2018

Derby to Chester

3rd August 2018

Today was probably the longest, but certainly the most scenic, day so far.  The scenery started as soon as we left Derby on Your Bus's service 114 to Ashbourne - an alternative to the main road route that I only discovered late in the planning stage. As I'd expected, it was a very lightly-loaded run with only myself to keep the driver company until we were within a few kilometres of Ashbourne where the so-called "bus station" now consists of just a single bus shelter with no trace of the former bus garage that once occupied the site.

Seen in Ashbourne
I had plenty of time here for a walk around the town and a to get a a cup of tea and a sandwich in one of the town's many cafes. The traffic in this small town bisected by main roads was as bad as ever and our onward bus - the 442 to Buxton - was badly delayed before it had even left the road leading from the bus station to the town centre. I'd chosen this route over the more obvious one on the Trans Peak service from Derby to Buxton via the A6 after reading an article about it in Buses Magazine and it proved every bit as scenic as promised. Soon after leaving Ashbourne we diverted to call at the gates of Tissington Hall and then passed through a series of  Peak District  villages such as Hartington and Lognor, which involved a somewhat premature but brief incursion into Staffordshire on our way to Buxton. The passengers were a healthy mix of locals and tourists although patronage must be quite a bit lower in the winter months.

Buxton Town Hall (Toilets not recommended)
I changed buses at Buxton Market Place where I had recourse to one of most unsavory public toilets I've ever had to use (the much better ones nearby are only open on market days!) and then continued on the next bus, which was the highlight of the whole trip so far:  High Peak's service 58 to Macclesfield via the "Cat & Fiddle" Pass, which rises to 520m. This bus service almost disappeared in the 1980s but was brought back from the dead with government funding after 1997 and now runs every hour. There loading "over the top" was a healthy 12 or 13 and not all of them were joy-riding pensioners!
Over the Cat & Fiddle on the 58

At a point just to the east of the top of the pass we crossed the county boundary and entered Cheshire.

CHESHIRE  -  County Town: Chester
Image result for cheshire flagCheshire suffered under the 1974 re-organisation of local government losing - in administrative terms - territory to the new metropolitan counties of Merseyside (to which it lost the Wirral peninsula) and Greater Manchester (Stockport, Altrincham, Hyde and Stalybridge). It also lost ground to Derbyshire in the north-east of the county.  In return it gained parts of south Lancashire: Widnes and Warrington, which weren't included in the new metropolitan counties  but were cut off by them from the rest of Lancashire. The fate of Warrington - until 1974 indisputably in Lancashire - illustrates the absurdity of the re-organisation. Transferred to Cheshire in 1974 it became independent of that county in 1998 as a unitary authority. It is no longer adminstered by Cheshire (or Lancashire) but still forms part of Cheshire for ceremonial purposes. Meanwhile, Greater Manchester and Merseyside County Councils were abolished themselves in 1986 so no longer cut the town off from its natural home in Lancashire!

Meanwhile, the connections at Macclesfield were almost too good and as I was ready for a break I wasn't unhappy that we had just missed the next bus on to Crewe. It gave me time for lunch which as it was Friday I used that as an excuse for some fish and chips.  I couldn't complain at the quality but there was some sharp practice on the price list!  £5.30 seemed reasonable for Haddock and I didn't quibble at an extra £1.10 for mushy peas  but to find that "chips" were listed as an "extra" at £2.50 (in a fish & chip shop!) came as a shock and made the meal rather more expensive than I'd bargained for.  It was just as well I didn't add bread & butter!

When I did set off for Crewe it was on a double-decker - an Arriva service 38. This is marketed as a "Sapphire" service supposedly of higher quality than the average Arriva service but the bus was rather tatty and other than an audio/visual "next stop" display there was little to distinguish it from other buses.

It did however arrive on time and I alighted near Crewe station, which is some distance from the town centre.  My next bus - another Arriva, this time service 84, although an important inter-urban route that would surely benefit from train connections, avoids the railway station at Crewe (which it could easily serve) and for that matter avoids Chester station as well.  To make the connection involves waiting at the side of the road in a somewhat less-than-salubrious part of the town with not even a bus shelter to hide in.

There was conflicting information as to the time of my bus depending on whether one looked at the bus stop timetable display, my "Bus Times" 'phone app or Arriva's website so I was glad of Arriva's on-line real-time display, which shows the position of your bus in real time on Google Maps. I could then watch it leave the bus station and make its way towards me, knowing I hadn't missed it.

I was familiar with much of the 84, having used it when I had my boat Starcross to travel to and from Nantwich, Barbridge Junction and Calverley on the Shropshire Union Canal, all of which were served by the route.  It was a pleasant enough run although without the grandeur of the earlier scenery through the Peak and despite the time of day not too badly affected by commuter traffic.

Chester marked the end of this stage of the trip and as I wasn't staying the night I alighted as near to the station as Arriva was prepared to take me and navigated the complex road juction by a series of pedestrian underpasses (how 1970s!) to get to the road leading to the station and a train home, which was late and therefore triggered another Delay Repay claim, this time with Arriva Trains Wales. 

Nottingham to Derby