By kind of invitation of my alma mater Southern Vectis, we took Ophelia (L711 ALJ) to Bustival yesterday. Our driver Martin and his family collected the bus from Eastleigh and picked me up in Southampton (thus giving me an extra hour in bed, thanks Martin!) and we headed over on the 0800 ferry.
Bustival is an annual event organised by Vectis to showcase a range of buses, past and present, in the context of a family fun day, and in doing so cement their role as part of the island's community. The location at the headquarters of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway makes for an excellent setting, and around 25 vehicles were in evidence during the course of the day.
I had never been before, but I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Apart from the chance to catch up with former colleagues, which is always welcome, it was nice to see loads of families enjoying the buses.
For me, this is what bus gatherings should be all about. I'm afraid I can't get excited about more traditional bus rallies, with the buses lined up in sterile ranks and the indignant shout of "oi, you're in my shot" whenever one dares go near one of the exhibits.
What are buses about if not people, and the beauty of Bustival was that as well as the enthusiasts who are made to feel welcome, people who don't normally think too much about buses get the chance to get close to them and talk to the people at the sharp end. From my own experience of chatting to visitors aboard Ophelia (which, if I say so myself, looked stunning) and overhearing others, many were pleasantly surprised by the standard and presentation of the vehicles.
And more importantly, the next generation of bus users was able to enjoy themselves, exploring the vehicles and getting into the cab for a 'drive'. The fact that many of these kids were as enthusiastic about 'driving' the 25th vehicle as they were the first, was delightful to see.
So I take my hat off to Southern Vectis for organising a brilliant day, and I hope those involved in the organisation found it as rewarding and fulfilling as we did.
Here are a few shots...
Meanwhile, a mere 15 miles or so away as the seagull flies, Brijan Tours were doing a very similar thing at their depot in Botley. A line-up of ancient and modern buses, supplemented with family entertainment, provided what was reportedly another very enjoyable day out. Once again it's the kind of event where families are equally as at home as the enthusiasts.
We were represented by J841 TSC, taken along by Relief Controller Matt and his unofficial PA Big Kev along with various other special guests.
Their event raises funds for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, and as far as I'm aware they haven't yet announced how much they have raised, but let's hope it's a great total!