Out and about with Bakers Dolphin

It’s about time I posted something new so here’s Part One of a brief look at some of the outings I had last year with Bakers Dolphin.

I always look forward to the summer months because this is when most of the work is private hire jobs or Bakers Dolphin ‘Great Days Out’. Writing in February about summer outings reminds me how little I’ve posted about my current full time work with what is now Weston-super-Mare’s only remaining coach operator, so I apologise for that!

I try to take photos at most of the destinations to remind me where I’ve been and, of course, for your benefit dear reader. So, in roughly chronological order, here are some photos from some of my more memorable trips. I’ll aim to post some more later.

I’ve taken school groups to Cadbury World twice so far but have yet to go around the factory on the official tour. Maybe next time. Anyway, outside the complex in Bourneville looking rather forlorn, is Cadbury No.14 – a Hudswell-Clarke diesel locomotive which formerly hauled chocolatey goodness around the Cadbury factory at Moreton.

Back in June I had the pleasure of taking a coach load of primary school children from Cheddar to the West Somerset Railway. I’ve been there often with Bakers Dolphin – I’m sure that somebody in the Operations Department knows that I like heritage railways! Anyway, I delivered the children to Bishops Lydeard station where they caught the first steam-hauled train of the day to Minehead. While the train steamed 20 miles down the line to Minehead, I drove to meet them and donned a period bus conductor’s uniform in which to welcome them back on the coach. This, as you might guess, went down very well!

If you have ever been to The Making of Harry Potter you will know how popular the tour is, and with good reason too. Based around the film sets at Warner Bros’ Elstree Studios, the tour takes you on a magical journey through many scenes from the films featuring the actual sets and props created for the films. One of the more recent additions has been the Gringotts Bank set which is breathtakingly elaborate.

Standing outside is The Knight Bus, which appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This bizarre triple-deck vehicle was created by Warner Bros using the chassis of a Dennis Javelin bus and body parts from three AEC Regent III RT buses. I feel rather sad that these were sacrificed for the film but I have to admit that it looks convincing!

If I play my cards right, I might get the chance to drive a proper RT later in the year on a local private hire job for Crosville Vintage.

On the south coast of Devon there sits a poignant reminder of a tragic day in history and I had a chance to see it up close after bringing a school group from Bristol down to a residential field study centre at Slapton.

The journey down was a bit fraught due to the remoteness of the centre, which could only be reached by going down a narrow road from Kingsbridge. At one point I was held up for about 20 minutes while traffic from both directions inched through the village of Stokenham.

The American M4 Sherman tank pictured was salvaged from its watery grave in 1984 by Ken Small and stands as a tribute to more than 600 Allied servicemen who died when German E-boats torpedoed and shelled vessels taking part in Exercise Tiger. This was a (supposedly) secret dummy-run for the Normandy invasion.

The day’s drama was not over, as the coach I’d driven down refused to start after my break. However, that’s a story for another day…

A few days later I took a group of Primary School children from Backwell to the M-Shed in Bristol. While they toured the museum, which is devoted to the history of Bristol, I walked around the Floating Harbour and spotted the Matthew, a replica of the Tudor ship that John Cabot used to discover the Americas. The replica was completed in 1996 and can now be often seen giving trips around the harbour.

One of the many private hire jobs I had last year saw me taking a social club from Weston down to Sherborne Castle. In common with most day trips during term time, I had to do a school contract run first, in this case to Churchill Academy. Having arrived at the castle I parked the coach (see main pic above), one of several Mercedes-Benz Tourismos in the fleet, on the driveway and joined my passengers for a tour of the castle and a wander in the grounds. The castle was built in the 16th century by Sir Walter Raleigh and now showcases 400 years of interior design styles. The grounds were shaped by the legendary Capability Brown and I count myself very fortunate to be able to visit such places as part of my daily work.

2 comments on “Out and about with Bakers Dolphin

  1. Ray says:

    John,
    It’s always good to hear stories of your travels. Keep them coming please.
    Ray

  2. Alan Bond says:

    Hi John,
    Nice to see your reminiscences from your PH work – all very interesting as I know from past experience. I used to do the odd job for the notorious ‘Travellers’ coaches of Hounslow and these involved London sightseeing tours, often with very polite, but appreciative, Japanese visitors. I accompanied a party on a guided tour of St Pauls cathedral on one occasion as I hadn’t been there since I was at school. The guide gave the party all the spiel about the history of the building and stated that it was ‘built’ by Sir Christopher Wren. One of the visitors expressed surprise that one man could have achieved the construction of such a large and magnificent building. When it was explained the Wren was only the architect he was somewhat befuddled that one man should be credited with the work achieved by probably hundreds of artisans. I absolutely agree with his sentiments and more attention should given to the crafstmen who actually created these magnificent buildings for, without them, there would have been nothing to show. I am sure Sir Christopher Wren would have been the first to agree that his artisans should get the credit for the construction of St Pauls and likewise the architects of other historical buildings. There is a difference between the words ‘designed’ and ‘built’ which tour guides need to recognise. The Routemaster bus is largely credited as the work of the late Colin Curtis but, knowing Colin as I did, he would have been the first to acknowledge that without the team in the Chiswick workshops, the RM would never have got off the ground, so to speak. Keep ’em coming, all grist to the mill.

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