Saturday, 2 July 2011

Sexing Up The Bus

This picture accompanies today's Daily Telegraph travel supplement:

I have probably broken all sorts of laws by copying it and reproducing it here, but as I am using it to draw your attention to the fact that the article it accompanies is superb and required reading, hopefully the Telegraph and the photographer (Christopher Jones) will decide, on balance, not to sue me!

Normally when one reads about people using buses in mainstream media travel articles, it is a story of the writer's heroism in surviving a 24 hour ride upside down on the roof of a minibus hurtling along unmade roads across some dark and distant land, squashed between a pile of threadbare suitcases tied together with string, some locals (who always babble incomprehensibly but willingly share their food) and a few live chickens.

It is rare to find an article that is actually all about the delights of riding on buses, as a way of exploring majestic scenery and experiencing part of the local lifestyle. Today's Telegraph article does that superbly well, describing a route from Sandbanks to Plymouth using eight or nine of the country's most scenic bus routes.

Starting with two of my personal favourite routes, Wilts & Dorset's Purbeck Breezers from Sandbanks to Swanage and Swanage to Wareham, the trip continues with First's Jurassic CoastlinX53 to Exeter, thence along the South Devon coast to Teignmouth, Torquay, Paignton and Kingswear, and finally the one route that I have never explored but really must - First's route 93 from Dartmouth to Plymouth.

As a side note, while extolling the virtues of these routes it is only fair to make the point that the accessibility of some of these routes owes as much to the efforts of local authority officers (notably those of Devon County Council) as to the operators themselves.

The article describes the author's delight in discovering stunning scenery and imposing views in a way that is just impossible by any other form of transport. It also subtly makes the point that while the pace of bus travel may be a deterrent to some it forces one to slow down and appreciate the surroundings, and that is exactly the right way to approach this glorious region.

It is also pleasing to note an obvious appreciation of the skills of the drivers who ply these routes daily, and even manages a passing jibe at idiotic drivers' hours rules that deem that it it less safe to drive forty miles on one direction than to drive twenty miles one way then twenty miles back, and apparently more stressful to drive thirty two miles across rolling Dorset countryside than twenty miles across London!

The writer is one Andrew Gilligan, much better known for his political journalism, not least because it was he that reported the allegation that the Blair government had "sexed up" a dossier about Iraq's weapons capability.

He is probably thoroughly bored of "sexing up" jokes by now, and in my view he deserves nothing but praise for this article so it seems churlish to dredge up this old chestnut for the title of this blog post. However it does seem remarkably apt, and in exactly the same way that I smile and try to look slightly surprised when someone remarks that I look a bit like "you know, that one from Men Behaving Badly - that's it - Doc Martin!", hopefully he would have the good grace to look the other way while I regurgitate this particular expression one more time.

Anyway, enough of me waffling about it, read the article here!


  1. Phil, I enjoyed that article too and I hope it encourages a few more people to discover the delights of using the bus for sightseeing. Having travelled on the 93 (Dartmouth-Plymouth) I can verify what Andrew Gilligan says about it. I'm currently on holiday in the Torbay area and we have just savoured the delights of an open-top double-decker (VR) from Paignton to Totnes as part of the Dart Valley 'Round Robin' road-river-rail (steam)trip. The No.12 route Brixham-Torbay-Newton Abbot is good value too although I preferred it when Devon General ran it with open toppers! The bus industry still needs to do more to encourage people to use buses for sightseeing - as the article says, buses have a unique advantage in that you see far more - and you leave the driving to a professional.

    You'll enjoy the 93 Phil - especially past Blackpool Sands and Torcross.

    Regards, Ian Smith

  2. Agreed also about the 93, although the bus trying to squeeze through Chillington in the summer, with 3 lorries backed up behind and half a dozen caravans oncoming, can be interesting (and time consuming)!

  3. Totally agree, great post, Thanks for sharing

  4. Why no posts since early July?

    Missing your blog!