Alongside my coach driving duties for Bakers Dolphin, I’ve been able to keep my crash box skills up to date with some of the ex-Crosville heritage fleet.
I had made it known that I’d be happy to do a few voluntary turns, if any came up. Towards the end of the summer term, Uphill Primary School in Weston-super-Mare had requested that a vintage bus attend the School and Village Fair in the school grounds. Crosville had provided a bus for static display for several years running and I was asked to take a bus – any bus – to the Fair. Mrs Busman John was keen to come along as well so we chose to take open top Crosville DFG81 (Bristol FSF6G 891VFM) as the weather seemed once again to be wall-to-wall sunshine.
The Lodekka hadn’t seen any action since the closure of Crosville in April so we went down to the depot early to make sure that she would start. Fortunately there were no problems so we drove the short distance to Uphill. After parking on the school field we left the bus open so that people could have a look around. Many did, most heading for the top deck! We had a look round the stalls and displays but, when we got back to the bus, found that I’d left the power on and some children were taking great delight in dinging the bell. Not only was it annoying for the nearby stall-holders but it might have depleted the batteries so I turned off the isolator when no-one was looking.
At the end of the afternoon we took the scenic route back to the depot – via the seafront of course – which pleased Mrs Busman John, who was naturally riding up top. Sensing the need for a cheeky photo opportunity, I drove into Locking Road Coach Park and briefly parked the Lodekka among the Bakers Dolphin coaches!
The next outing was to the West Somerset Railway’s Steam and Vintage Fayre at Norton Fitzwarren. This time we wanted to take a closed top Lodekka so selected Southern Vectis 573 (Bristol FS6G YDL318, see main pic above). I have always felt vulnerable when taking this bus on the motorway as it can only do 30mph so, with a precious cargo on board, I drove down the A38 instead. We had two grandchildren in tow that day and they were delighted when I told them that we had to take the bus into the display ring with all the vans and lorries. Many people waved at the bus as it paraded around the ring and lined up in traditional style in the middle. I wondered why it seemed so popular and afterwards I found the reason. My grandson had been on the top deck waving energetically!
Not long afterwards I took the same bus on a wedding duty. I had taken this booking months ago and it had been decided to provide the bus free of charge as Crosville was not trading as before. The groom and the Crosville boss are friends, I understand.
I already knew the details for the day, having spoken to the groom when he booked so it was an easy job, local too. The venue was near Sand Bay and the church was in nearby Kewstoke. There were about 100 guests to transport so it took 2 trips each way. Our route overlapped that of the open top service to Sand Bay, which is now operated by First and, while I did my best to dovetail in with their movements, we did have a tricky moment in the narrowest part of Kewstoke!
Once this duty was done the fleet lay idle in the vast, almost empty depot. I was involved in the next move for the fleet, which was to a new home. But more of that another time.