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30 September 2015

University of 3rd AgeGallivanting on Public Transport - a Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End

at Tod U3A

Gallivanting is a word that seems to be dropping out of usage, but tales of his Gallivanting on Public Transport – A Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End, is what David Whatmough regaled members of Todmorden U3A at their September general meeting.

David started by telling his audience a bit about himself and his life before taking to the buses. He took his grandchildren to the furthest reaches of the British mainland. Northernmost, Dunnet Head; southernmost, Lizard Point; westernmost, Ardnamurchan Point; easternmost, Lowestoft Ness. Also included in the trip was Dunsop Bridge, held to be the geographical centre of Great Britain.

David also undertook Wainwright's coast-to-coast walk from St. Bee's to Robin Hood's Bay and the plaque he received for this accomplishment was passed around the audience.

David was a champion swimmer and it seems that there can be few stretches of water in or around the UK that David has not swum, including the English Channel on the 100th anniversary of Captain Webb's initial swim.

Among the amusing stories he told concerned an ill-fated swim across Morecambe Bay which didn't go to plan and he ended in Heysham and so required a bus trip to Morecambe to collect his clothes. Emerging from the water, he was something of a sight in his swimming trunks, cap, goggles and covered in mud. He made the journey courtesy of a sympathetic bus driver. Alas, many of the stories which provoked much laughter from his audience are too involved to relate here.

Around the same time David and his brother-in-law, with whom he made the trip, were making their plans, there was newspaper coverage about two women in Newcastle who had conceived the same idea. David decided to make it a race. They were fortunate in that their respective local authorities were quick off the mark in issuing bus passes and duly received theirs in readiness to employ on the start date of 1 April 2008. The first part of their journey they took by train, that is to get to their starting point of Berwick, which has been part of both Scotland and England in it's time.

From there they went to Newcastle, then on to Stockton, arriving about nine o'clock at night with no visible accommodation in sight. They were taken by a taxi driver to a pub where the landlord was a bit reluctant to put them up, not being geared up to take guests at that time of night. He agreed to offer them beds but said they would not get breakfast but could have a beer in the morning. So, as David said, they still got B&B.

Richmond was next, followed by a number of journeys through Yorkshire to Sheffield then Chesterfield. From there they went to Derby, on to Burton, where they decided that they should circumvent Birmingham. They managed this, catching buses to Lichfield, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Quinton. No, I'd never heard of it, either. There are three Quintons in England and the one in question is on the western outskirts of the aforementioned city.

On a couple of occasions, the presence of two men with bus passes caused something of a rumpus. Fellow passengers whose local authorities were slow in issuing bus passes were outraged that there were two passengers could gallivant on buses without paying a fare.

David and brother-in-law continued west through Gloucestershire and into Somerset to Weston-Super-Mare. The pair got to the Devon county seat of Exeter and then into Cornwall. Newquay, Truro and Camborne being the route they took.

From there, a bus to Penzance got them within striking distance of their destination. They got late to Penzance and were confronted with a choice as to whether to get B&B and go to Land's End the following day or get the last bus that day. David thought they made the right choice in getting the last bus, finding Land's End a disappointment, being just a tacky theme park. On arrival they asked the driver when was the last bus back. "This is the last bus back," was the reply. "When does it leave?" "Two minutes, but I'll wait for you."

It took them 5 days to complete the journey and visited 38 places. They travelled on over 37 buses and spent a total of over 34 hours sat on them. The only claim on their pockets was for four nights accommodation. Although the two women got national publicity for making the same trip, David is proud of the fact that they arrived first.

The next general meeting of Todmorden U3A is at 1.30 pm on Thursday, 15 October at Central Methodists, Todmorden. The talk is on Anne Lister of Shibden Hall by Pat Osborne.

Details of group meetings are on u3atod.org.uk or phone 01422 844713 or 01706 839176

Many thanks to John Bouttell for this report


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