Sunday, 15 July 2018

York to Lincoln

28 June 2018
First  bus of the day: The rather small and
uncomfortable service 42.
Still accompanied by Hugh, I left York at 10.15 on Transdev's service 42. The 42 is the least frequent and least direct of the various buses one could catch between York and Selby, but regular blog readers won't be surprised at my choice!

This "back road" route takes in Naburn and Cawood, crossing the River Ouse at the latter and enters Selby via a diversion through a large housing estate that at one time would have justified its own regular service.

Selby is best known for its Abbey and its large Monday market, but we didn't visit the
River Ouse at Selby
former and although we did see the market place it was Thursday, so no market to be seen. Instead we had elevenses in (or rather, "outside") a rather grotty cafe and then had a walk down to the river to see the road and rail swing bridges and the view of the large mill with its wharf that until relatively recently received regular traffic by water.

The bus station rather surprised me. I remembered it from visits many years ago but as so many towns have lost their bus stations altogether and those that remain have been allowed to get very run down, I didn't expect that it would still have a cafe, toilets and an Inspectors and enquiry office (although that's now a "Control Hub"!)  

I hadn't expected to find a double-decker on Arriva's service 401 on to Goole, which took us
Arriva's 401 to Goole at Selby
through some pretty empty and uninspiring scenery to that town.  We had half-an-hour in Goole, most of which was spent looking for the stop for our onward bus as the main terminus is hidden up a side street from the town centre. I'd been looking forward to this one. On a number of visits to Goole in the 1970s and 80s I'd noticed, amidst all the frequent interurban buses from places like Doncaster and Selby, a timetable for a much less frequent route to Scunthorpe. Operated by Lincolnshire Road Car Co. (itself a piece of exotica in urban Goole) it promised visits to "Ousefleet" and "Swinefleet" en-route to deepest Lincolnshire.  The infrequent nature of the service meant I'd never had the chance to ride it and I was pleasantly surprised to see it still existed and even more so that it was now operated by the East Yorkshire Motor Services, which would be an equally exotic sight in Scunthorpe!

Service 361 left Goole via the docks and "Old Goole" and then followed the Humber estuary. I'd been looking forward to views of the river - and perhaps a glimpse of the shipping that still comes up to Goole, but the high flood walls made that difficult, even from the top of the double-decker. Swinefleet turned out to be a disappointment - all I can remember of the village is two closed-down pubs - and some time after Ousefleet we turned south to leave the Humber and follow the Trent, soon entering Lincolnshire at Addingfleet and, arguably, also crossing the line from the north of England to the midlands.


Lincolnshire Flag
LINCOLNSHIRE -  County Town:  Lincoln

Lincolnshire is second only to Yorkshire in area when it comes to English counties. Like its neighbour it was divided into three parts and, until 1974, had three "county councils": "Holland", "Lindsay" and "Kesteven". Nevertheless, the inhabitants of all three have always considered themselves residents of "Lincolnshire".

As a passenger, I couldn't get a photo of the 361 crossing
the Trent at Althorpe, but here is an image of a
Lincolnshire Road Car bus doing so at Easter 1979.

Our double-decker's capacity was certainly not needed on this run (although no doubt a load of schoolchildren would be picked up on the return run) and this was a very rural - and very flat - part of the journey; the only village of any size being Luddington, after which we crossed the Trent at Althorpe Bridge, near Keadby and were soon in Scunthorpe.

Fortunately, we had only 15 minutes here and we needed a few of those to find out whereabouts in the wide-open spaces of the bus station our last bus of the day would leave from - there being no overall information post anywhere. We had a choice of buses to Lincoln: service 103 was the most direct and the first to leave but had the disadvantage of being a rather crowded single-decker. So we took a chance on service 100, leaving ten minutes later and following a more roundabout route. We were rewarded by the arrival of a double-decker, painted in Lincolnshire county council's "Inter Connect" livery to show that it was operating on part of the county's trunk bus network.

Last bus of the day: Service 100 to Lincoln
The 100 was another lengthy run, through more flat land (this was Lincolnshire, after all) although unlike the buses earlier in the day we did pass through some large villages, such as Messingham and Scotter and picked up the obligatory load of schoolchildren on the outskirts of Gainsborough, where we came perilously close to a premature entry into Nottinghamshire! 

It must have been a posh school as the children were quiet and well-behaved on the way to Saxilby (which I visited on my boat Starcross in 2012 en-route to Boston) after which we followed the Fosdyke Navigation all the way past the Pyewipe and into Lincoln arriving at the city's brand-new bus station.

Evening sun on Lincoln cathedral.
Hugh left me here to return to Knaresborough by train and I stayed in the bus station to catch a bus "up the hill" to the area around the castle and cathedral, where my hotel for the night was located. Unfortunately, despite its newness Lincoln bus station is not any better than Scunthorpe when it comes to finding a bus for the first time and I had to resort to using the Bus Times app on my phone to find one, but they are frequent enough (at least before 6pm) and I was saved a trudge up Lincoln's aptly-named "Steep Hill"

                                                                 More images of Lincoln

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Durham to York

27th June 2018

The out-of-town motel that I'd been forced to accept for my overnight stay in Durham at least had the advantage of being well-served by bus and my first bus of the day stopped right outside.  County Durham extends southwards to the River Tees at Darlington and I could have taken a number 7 straight there, but with plenty of time to spare, due to the paucity of services farther south I could take in a bit more of County Durham on the way.

Finkle Street, Bishop Aukalnd.
My first bus was therefore an X21 to Bishop Aukland. Despite having come through from Newcastle at the tail end of the morning rush hour it arrived bang on time at 0938. The route was via the town of Spennymoor and then through open, upland countryside. The bus entered Bishop Aukland by a back route avoiding the town centre and I left it at a strangely deserted Market Place, that I'd expected to find the centre of the town.  I followed the route of the bus through to the bus station along a sort of inner by-pass road, still seeing nothing of the town centre.  The equally-deserted and over-large bus station was flanked by what appeared to be a deserted High Street and, nearby, an almost equally-empty shopping centre: where was everybody?

It was only when my next bus, service 5 to Darlington, left town that we ran along Newgate Street, the town's actual "High Street" that I saw the real town centre!  The number 5 was the least direct and longest of the various services on to Darlington. I chose it because it went via the "new town" of Newton Aycliffe.  Most of these post-war "new towns" are very similar in layout and design and I was reminded of Skelmersdale and Telford. I can't say I'm a fan, but having ridden through the post-industrial landscape of the north-east for a couple of days, with its run-down former pit villages and semi-derelict town centres I think I'd find Newton Aycliffe a reasonable alternative if I had to live in that part of the world.

Darlington Market Hall

Darlington has been in the news lately as its High Street is due to lose both its flagship shops. Marks & Spencers and Binns (part of House of Fraser) are both due to close as shopping moves both out-of-town and online.  I had come away without enough spare socks so I did my bit to keep M&S in town, although I don't think it will be enough!  Centrepiece of the town centre is the covered market. Like all such places, it too is struggling, but it did seems to still have a bit of life left in it compared to many markets these days.

Shortly after leaving Darlington on the 172 to Northallerton, I entered Yorkshire


YORKSHIRE -   County Town: York

Yorkshire is by far the largest of the English counties and I knew that I'd only be able to see a tiny portion of it on this trip. Indeed, "Around Yorkshire by Bus" would be the subject for a blog all by itself.  Like most counties its borders have been messed around with. Historically it was divided into three "ridings" (north, east and west) with the county town of York separate from all three. The disastrous 1972 Local Government Act abolished the Ridings and replaced them with two metropolitan counties of West and South Yorkshire and a shire county of North Yorkshire, which included York. The rest of the county was transferred to the newly-invented counties of Cleveland and Humberside and other parts were even given to Lancashire!  With the exception of North Yorkshire, all the 1972-Act "counties" have now disappeared, being replaced by a host of smaller local government entities.  It beacuse of this sort of thing that I think the 1972 re-organisation is best ignored and why I'm only visiting the One True Yorkshire on this trip.

There was a little confusion over the third bus of the day: Dales & District's number 72 to Northallerton.  It was ten minutes late arriving at the departure point outside Darlington Town Hall, during which time its stop became blocked by an Arriva bus that had broken down. The arrival of a second Arriva vehicle meant three buses vying for space on two bus stops so the 72 was at the back of the line and the driver made no effort to establish whether all his intending passengers knew it was there before setting off.  Perhaps because of this there weren't many passengers aboard to enjoy the ride through pretty, but unspectacular, countryside all the way to Northallerton.
Northallerton market

It was market day here - quite a large on-street affair with a good variety of stalls and plenty of shoppers taking an interest.  I had an hour between buses, long enough for a look round and then an early afternoon tea in a cafe, where the tea was the proper loose-leaf kind and came with a generous slice of home-made cake!  Best of all, the bill was rung through on one of those old "typewriter" style cash machines that had been adapted to cope with 21st Century prices.

Another Dales & District bus, this time a 153, took me on to my next destination - Thirsk. A fast run mainly on main roads but diverting to serve a few villages that didn't produce any custom until the outskirts of Thirsk itself, which we entered by passing the racecourse. My old mate Hugh met me off the bus and tried to drag me off for a pint, but I have a strict rule of no daytime drinking on trips like this so he had a settle for a walk around the town until it was time for the next bus.

This, the last bus of the day, was "Relaince's" service 30 to York. Living up to its name it involved more fast, main road running but with a sizeable diversion to the large village of Easingwold. The bus stop arrangement here is curious to say the least.  Our bus pulled in to a lay-by on the opposite side of the road and facing the oncoming traffic. Passengers have to board and alight from the roadway, rather than the footpath!  I wasn't able to get a photo of our bus in this position, but here is one from Google Street View that shows how it works:

In this case the bus hasn't been able to get into the lay-by due to inconsiderately parked cars (bus drivers are used to this). No doubt this arrangement was considered satisfactory in the 1920s, when bus services began in rural areas, and no one has seen the need to change it since, but as with so many things if you suggested it now you'd be met with disbelief and outright refusal!

The traffic in York was as bad as you'd expect, but it did make me wonder why anyone thinks it's such a good idea to allow cars right in the centre of such an historic and beautiful city. I wasn't spending much time in York as Hugh had offered me a bed for the night at his home in nearby Knaresborough, so after a quick walk round and a drink and a meal we went to the station for a train. It was, however cancelled!  Leaving us with an hour to wait and me with a second compensation claim to submit to Northern Rail to add to the one that has been outstanding since last March!
York Minster

Alnwick to Durham                                                                      York to Lincoln

Friday, 6 July 2018

Alnwick to Durham

26th June 2018

I left Alnwick's bus station at 10.04 on the Arriva X15 bus to Newcastle, the fastest and most direct of the various Arriva limited stop services that link the town to Newcastle. My bus headed due south through the village of Shillbottle and on to Morpeth through fine upland countryside with extensive views from the front seat upstairs (my favourite!). After calling at Morpeth the route is more-or-less direct along the modern A1 dual-carriageway to Gosforth and then retraces the route I'd followed yesterday on the X18 to the Haymarket Bus Station.

There was plenty of choice for the next stage of the journey on to Durham. Arriva and Go North East between them run about 15 buses an hour during the busiest part of the day. I was tempted by the 28 to Chester-le-Street via Beamish museum, but it was a single-decker and a rather cramped one at that and I wanted to be able to enjoy the views.
My chariot of choice was therefore Go NE's service 21, also branded as "The Angel" for reasons that soon became apparent.  We left Newcastle on the Great North Road and almost immediately crossed the Tyne by means of the High Level Bridge to enter County Durham.

COUNTY DURHAM: County Town - Durham

"County" Durham is the only English county to style itself this way, rather than adding "shire" to the county town name. The style is more widespread in Ireland.  The historic and geographical county stretches from the Tyne to the Tees, although the area administered by Durham County Council nowadays is rather smaller, the county having lost administrative territory to Tyne & Wear in the north and Cleveland in the south-east, although both these entities were later abolished and replaced with unitary councils for places such as Gateshead, South Shields, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Darlington.  Up until the fifteenth century the area was considered part of Northumberland, but from that time  administration and government were centered in Durham due to the presence of the cathedral and the powerful Prince Bishops and it became the county town. The largest settlement, however, is Darlington.

I'd entered County Durham by crossing the Tyne on the High Level Bridge that carries the old A1 and soon found myself passing Anthony Gormley's famous sculpture from which
The Angel of the North, as seen from the top deck of "The Angel" bus.
the bus service takes its name and which I was surprised to see has now been in place for 20 years!

The next stretch of the route is perhaps best described as "post-industrial", with a number of very large, but very unused factory sites. The only town of note was Chester-le-Street, with a long, straight High Street lined with the now-usual range of rather down-market shops and pubs although it didn't look too bad in the sunshine!

New graduates at Durham
I'd had difficulty finding a hotel in Durham due to the University graduation ceremonies that were taking place and had to accept a bed in a roadside motel about 3 km south of the city. I therefore spent the afternoon looking round the town despite this meaning I had to carry by bag around with me in the heat.  I had a late lunch in the market hall and then walked up to see if I could have a look at the cathedral. But as I half-expected it was closed to the public. The university and cathedral are closely-linked in Durham and the latter is used as the venue for graduation ceremonies, which were in full swing. The road leading to the area was closed and I suspect that I shouldn't really have been wandering around there at all, but I realised some time ago that the correct response to someone in a high-viz jacket who asks: "Can I help you, sir?"  is very definitely "No thank you, I'm alright" 

The Old Shire Hall
After a walk around the old town at the top of the hill I made my way back to the centre along the riverside. As part of this tour I've decided to try and visit at least one building in each county town that has a connection to its county. In Durham this was the Old Shire Hall (the present day one is a modern building on the outskirts) and, eventually and after a false start that saw me walking in the wrong direction for about a kilometre, I found it.

After all this it was back to the bus station to get a bus out to the motel at Sunderland Bridge. There were plenty of buses (I wouldn't have stayed there otherwise) and I got an Arriva service 7, although due to the layout of the bus station and the fact that it disappeared swiftly down the road after dropping me off, this was the first bus of the trip that I failed to get a photo of.

Carlisle to Alnwick                                                                                                   Durham to York

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Carlisle to Alnwick

25th June 2018

After a longer-than-expected interlude I resumed the tour on Monday, 25th June at Carlisle, travelling up from Lancaster by train that morning. I entered Northumberland on the 685 from Carlisle, crossing the county bondary at a fairly anonymous point on the A69 main road between Brampton and Haltwhistle. The bus was busy from Carlisle and amongst the passengers were a group of Americans travelling to Haltwhistle and who were quite concerned that they might somehow miss it. "Say, when we get to Haltwhilstle, will there be a sign saying "Haltwhislte"?"  When we reached the town they stayed on the bus until we were almost out the other side (it's not a big place) and then alighted on the eastern edge of town.

NORTHUMBERLAND  - County Town: Alnwick
Northumberland is a case where the county town, Alnwick, is neither the largest city (that's Newcastle-upon-Tyne) nor the administrative centre, which is Morpeth, although Newcastle and its surroundings are outside the jurisdiction of Northumberland County Council.
Alnwick is the county town probably because it is the traditional home of the Earls of Northumberland and would have been where the county's representatives in parliament were chosen in mediaeval times as well as being the centre of justice for the county. The town dates from the 7th Century, whereas Northumberland County Council was only established in 1889 and was located in Morpeth largely due to that town's more central location to centres of population.  Newcastle-upon-Tyne, whilst geographically in Northumberland has had its own, separate administration since the 15th Century.

I'd intended to travel all the way through to Newcastle on the 685, a journey of over two and a half hours. But as we arrived at the mid-way point of Hexham we overtook a bus on the "X85" "Newcatsle Express".  This seemed a better bet so as we were in front of it when we got to the bus station I abandonned the 685 and transferred to what I hoped would be the faster bus. We followed the 685 out of town, but lost sight of it after Corbridge when we remained on the main road and it turned off to serve the village of Throckley. We never saw it again but I noted that our actual arrival time at Newcastle was identical to the scheduled arrival of the 685.  Newcastle's bus stations are quite upmarket. We arrived at Eldon Square, where I was able to buy lunch at Waitrose, whilst my next bus left from Haymarket which was just across the road but could only offer Marks & Spencers!

Arriva offers a selection of limited-stop services northwards from Newcastle. On my previous visit to thye north-east when I went Around the Edge of England, I avoided Newcastle istelf by using the Tyne ferry and then used the X20 from near Ashington.  I planned to return from Alnwick on the direct X15, so that left the X18 via Amble as the obvious choice.

By now, it was obvous that I had chosen one of the hottest days (in fact weeks) of the year for my journey so I was glad that the X18, like most buses, has sechewed air-conditioning in favour of hopper windows that can be opened to let fresh air in. These are frequently a source of dispute between passengers with differing views as to fresh air and draughts but today everyone was in agreement!  Running about ten minutes late, we left Newcastle past the Town Moor where "The Hoppings" where one of Europe's largest gatherings of travelling showmen present the annual fair and where they were getting ready for the day's entertainment.  I'm a great fan of travelling fairs, although these days my main interest is in the classic British lorries (ERFs and Fodens are  favouites) that the showmen use for haulage and power supply.

We continued up the old A1  "The Great North Road" through congested Gosforth before joining the modern dual-carriageway version for a fast run north to Morpeth. At Widdrington Station (which has become a community in its own right, remote from the actual "Widdrington" village) we joined the route of the X20 that I remembered from my previous trip.  The village of Alnmouth looked very appealing across the estuary when viewed from the top deck and I was looking forward to seeing ore of it, but the X18 turns round at the very edge of the village due to the road layout so Alnmouth will have to wait until another day. Arrival at Alnwick was more-or-less on timr at 1503 and just 4h 48m from Carlisle.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick is famous for its castle, which I didn't visit as it was too late in the day, and for its Tenantry Monument, which I did.  The monument was supposedly erected by "grateful tenants" of the 2nd Earl of Northuberland after he had cut their rents at a time of famine. The tourist office says there is no truth in the story - but repeats it anyway - that when the momument was completed the Earl thought that if the tenants could afford to build it they could certainly afford to pay the higher rents - so he put them up again!

Highlight of the visit, however, was Barter Books, housed in the old railway station and one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Britain:

It even has its own model railway running through the shop. Fortunately, I was travelling light so I couldn't buy anything, which given the prices was a blessing in disguise.

Alnwick's not a big place, but there's a lot to see and I've put a few more photos on the Alnwick page of The Towns in Photos

Lancaster to Appleby and Carlisle                                                 Alnwick to Durham

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Lancaster to Appleby and Carlisle

Tuesday, 6th March 2018
My previous tour Around the Edge of England involved 257 bus journeys and covered 5,000 kilometres. Reliability (buses turning up and connections kept) was 97% and punctuality (no more than 5 minutes late) was 77% so I was fairly confident that today's journey, being the start of my new adventure (see the Introduction page)  would go to plan. Little did I know. . . . .!

Today was also unusual in that I visited no fewer than three counties and three county towns. I don't expect this to be the norm as I intend to try and spend a bit of time in the towns themselves, particularly those I don't know very well. But I live in Lancaster, Appleby-in-Westmorland is a small town difficult to reach and Carlisle was convenient for a train home at the end of day.

LANCASHIRE -  County Town: Lancaster.
Lancashire and its county town of Lancaster were easy enough and an obvious place to start given that I live here!  I didn't need to catch a bus as I can walk into the city centre in twenty minutes, which I do on most days for one reason or another.
For the purposes of this project however Lancaster was visited on 6th March 2018 as I started the journey around the other 38 towns and counties of England.  The 1972 Local Government Act was unkind to Lancashire. The industrial south of the county was hived off to create "Greater Manchester" and "Merseyside", whilst "Furness District" on the fringe of the Lake District in the north of the county was transferred to Cumbria. Cumbria was one of the few successful new counties in terms of developing an identity, but towns such as Bolton, Wigan, Southport and St. Helens still seem very much at home in "Lancashire".

For administrative purposes the county of Westmorland and that of Cumberland, which follows were combined along with parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire to form "Cumbria", one of the more successful entities created by the 1974 re-organisation of local government. But this project is concerned with the "historic" or "geographical" counties so it was "Westmorland" (and "Cumberland") that I visited, rather than "Cumbria".

I left Lancaster at the very early time of 07.15 on Tuesday, 6th March, the day and time being dictated by the infrequent nature of the area's bus services. Stagecoach service 555 runs frequently enough, but my onward connections from Kendal were sparse indeed and necessitated the early start.  07.15 is far earlier than I would normally begin a day's bus riding and of course I could not use my concessionary bus pass at such an early hour. Instead I paid £8 for a concessionary "Explorer" ticket that I would at least be able to use for the rest of the day, as all the buses I planned to use were Stagecoach ones.

The 555 at Kendal's bus station
The 555 was busier than I expected with a good load of students for the college at Kendal and some shop and office workers also travelling to the town. We entered Westmorland at the village of Burton-in-Lonsdale and arrived on time at Kendal's small bus station - just three stands with another three on the pavement opposite, but with access to toilets in the adjacent car park and, most importantly, a snack bar for a much-needed delayed breakfast.

Stagecoach service 106 on to Penrith runs only twice a day and thenonly on three days a week. Since Cumbria County Council stopped all spending on bus services a couple of years ago it has been supported by parish councils along the route. It left at 09.10 - still before the bus pass watershed. There had been heavy snow in the days before my trip and much was still lying in the fields north of Kendal and through Greyrigg, Tebay and Shap making for a  remote and desolate atmosphere for the journey north. After the village of Orton a road closure saw us diverted down a road that was little more than a track (white with dashed lines on the OS map), over some rickety bridges and through very narrow gateways and then
Aboard service 106 through snow-covered Westmorland
along a private road into the car park of a hotel, through their car park and out the other side on to an equally narrow track with a ridge of lying snow where the grass should be; possibly the most obscure route I've ever taken on a bus. Eventually we emerged onto the A6 to the south of Shap village, by now running 15 minutes late - a delay made worse by having to stop to pick up almost a full load of passengers and having to negotiate several sets of roadworks. At Eamont Bridge we crossed the border into Cumberland, although my stay there would be brief -  merely a change of bus (or so I thought) to head towards Westmorland's county town.

We were twenty minutes behind time at Penrith railway station where my onward connection - the 563 to Appleby - was just about to depart. A further delay whilst we waited for a gap in the traffic to turn into the station forecourt meant that as we pulled up behind it, it pulled away. I shouted and waved, but of course the driver was concentrating on his offside mirror as he pulled out into the traffic!

Appleby town centre.
Although nobody's fault, this was a disaster as the next bus to Appleby wasn't for another three hours and it would come straight back as the last bus of the day, giving me no time to see the town. I opted for a taxi, easily obtained from a nearby rank although if I had known (or had thought to ask) that it was going to cost me £35 I might have had second thoughts.

Appleby (the "-in-Westmorland" was added only in 1974) is a small place (pop. 3,000), more like a village than a town but I spent my time there pleasantly enough with a coffee, a walk up the main street to the castle (closed to visitors) and then lunch in the town's main (only?) hotel after which I had only half-an-hour to wait for the 563 back to Penrith, re-entering Cumberland at the bridge on the A66 over the River Eamond.

CUMBERLAND - County Town: Carlisle
Penrith is just within Cumberland, but Carlisle is the county town and the administrative centre for modern-day Cumbria as well as being the biggest town (or "city") for miles around. Stagecoach's 104 arrived at Penrith's rather bleak bus station in good time for its departure at 15.30, but there was a problem! The driver, with a colleague, disappeared round the back of the bus and came back shaking his head. Low oil pressure apparently (a warning buzzer would have been sounding in his cab) and, after a phone call to the garage he was told to bring the (empty) bus back so that someone could have a look.
The next scheduled departure to Carlisle wasn't for another hour and none of the dozen or so
The 104 about to leave Penrith 35 minutes late.
passengers looked pleased at the prospect of a long wait in the cold. Some contemplated getting on the 104 heading in the opposite direction and riding to the southern terminus on the basis that sitting in a warm bus was a better bet than standing in a cold bus station, even though the driver warned them that they would be sat at Centre Parcs for 15 minutes before beginning the journey back to Carlisle.

The Courts, Carlisle 

Our bus returned after half-an-hour and, after loading up, eventually left 35 minutes late for a fast run up the A6 to Carlisle. After 257 virtually trouble-free bus rides "around the edge of England" I had now suffered one missed connection and a breakdown on Day 1 of the follow-up! But we got to Carlisle in time for a quick look round the centre and I didn't really plan on spending much time here having visited it on my previous tour and also having lived here for a year in the 1970s. I'd had a big lunch in Appleby, so after a few pints I headed to the railway station and got a train back to Lancaster with the cheap advance fare meaning a big saving over the cost of an overnight stay (not that anybody bothered to check whether I had a ticket in the first place).

                                                                                                   Carlisle to Alnwick

Wednesday, 7 March 2018


In 2017 I completed a tour by bus "Around the Edge of England" in which I travelled 5,000 kilometres on 257 buses over 51 days of travel, spread over a two year period. This is the sequel.
It is based on the "historic" or "geographical" counties of England. Those which most people would recognise as "proper" counties, rather than the administrative or ceremonial counties, which serve a different purpose.

Counties have been part of England's history since mediaeval times and are the basis of many people's identities. In 1889 the system of local government in England was changed to establish "county councils" as the first tier of local governance. "Counties" and "County Councils" thus became syonymous. However, a series of re-organisations of local government followed, with a particularly damaging one in 1974 that broke the link whilst confusing things further by retaining some county names and creating new ones.
My own county of Lancashire is a good example. The south-east of the county, around Manchester, was transferred administratively to the new "county" of Greater Manchester, whilst the south-west around Liverpool became part of Merseyside. (Both these county councils were abolished in 1986,altough the areas they covered were not returned to "Lancashire").  In the north, the Furness District was transferred to the new county of Cumbria. Subsequently, both Blackburn and Blackpool have gained independence from the administrative control of Lancashire County Council, although local residents still consider themselves Lancastrians.
You will not be surprised to learn that my tour will not recognise any of this. As far as I am concerned the 1974 re-organisation never happened and I will not be travelling through Greater Manchester or Cumbria or, for that matter, "Avon", "Cleveland" or "Hereford & Worcester" nor any other abominations created by misguided legislation!
Instead I will be visiting all 39 of the historic counties of England and calling-in at all 39 of the "county towns".

County Towns
The concept of a town is ill-defined and unofficial. Following the establishment of county councils in 1889 many such bodies based themselves in the county towns, but the county towns themselves date back much further than that. They were often the places where the county members of parliament were elected (before the electoral reforms of the 19th Century) or where certain adminstrative or judicial functions were carried out. So, for example, my tour will begin in Lancaster - the county town of Lancashire - and not Preston, which is merely the administrative centre and the base of Lancashire County Council.

Travelling  by bus
I shall complete the journey by bus, although I reserve the right to incorporate trains, ferries or even taxis if no suitable bus service exists for any particular stage of the journey.  It will be made as a servies of short trips, spanning just a few days at a time, but it will be a continuous journey "geographically", with each stage commencing where the previous one finished.  I have no idea of the distance I will cover, the number of buses I will use or how long it will take.  Unlike my Around the Edge tour, where  I kept as close to the coast as was feasible, I am free to vary my route to take in interesting places or interesting routes  -"interesting" to me that is, it's my trip after all.  In many cases I hope to spend some time in the county towns themselves, particulatrly those I don't know very well and, of course, depending on the distance between them not every overnight stop will necessarily be in a county town, although where possible, that is the aim.
The journey started on 6th March 2018 at Lancaster - heading north.