Clifton Downs scenic tour

I was delighted to arrive at the Crosville depot last Saturday to find that I was rostered with my friend Paul to drive a two-bus wedding day trip to Clifton Downs, Bristol. Not only that, but we had two buses that I may have seen in my youth. Regular readers will know all about the ex-Hants & Dorset Bristol FLF which I seem to have driven more than any other bus this year (not that I’m complaining, of course). H&D buses often ran into Salisbury bus station on the Southampton service and I saw these many times during family holidays to Salisbury.

The other vehicle was LD6G 696EHW from Bath Services, a subsidiary of Bristol Omnibus. I used to see this bus (and others from the Bath Services fleet) pass my grandparents’ house in Wilton Road, Salisbury on its way in to the city’s bus station. So you can imagine it was rather special to have these two buses out on a private hire job together. They are pictured below parked up in Albert Road, Bristol awaiting the call to pick up wedding guests nearby.

As you can see, both vehicles are equipped with the Cave-Browne-Cave cooling system, the filling of which requires two people so Paul and I helped each other top up each other’s bus before we left the depot.

Both buses are fitted with 5-speed gearboxes so our progress up the A370 was fairly swift. We arrived near the pickup point with time to spare so we waited for a call from one of the ushers. The pickup point was on the busy A4 and we had arranged, with military precision, a pickup with minimal disruption to the traffic. The only flaw was that there were roadworks right outside the Arnos Vale Cemetary, where we were to pick up our passengers. As it happened there was a gap in the coned off areas just big enough for a bus to pull in. Paul pulled in with the Bath Services Lodekka while I waited further back up the road at a bus stop. The road was helpfully straight so I could see the bus being loaded. When Paul climbed into his cab I pulled out of the bus stop and stopped in the gap which he had just vacated and continued to load the remaining guests.

Continue reading

Protests, Pride and Police

Saturday was a good day to be in the heart of Bristol. But only if you were a protestor, a police officer on overtime or gay. But not if you were going to a wedding.

I should have known things weren’t going to be easy when I arrived at the garage to collect my bus for the day. YDL318, a Southern Vectis Bristol FS6G, had been helpfully parked outside ready to go. Except that it wasn’t. As part of my walk-around checks, I dipped the fuel tank and found that it was almost empty. The folks at the garage usually make sure that the bus I’ve been allocated has been fuelled up because I don’t have a fuel card but on this occasion this hadn’t been done. Fortunately I was able to borrow a card and so, after completing my checks, I made my first visit to a petrol station in charge of a bus.

I’m glad I wasn’t paying – it cost £126 to fill the tank!

If you’ve read the previous post you’ll remember that this bus only does 30mph so it took me about an hour to drive up to Bristol. The flip side to that is that, being a low-geared bus, it climbs hills surprisingly well. To reach my pickup point I drove up Jacobs Wells Road which involves quite a long uphill haul. This bus managed to get all the way to the top in 3rd gear! OK, so being empty probably made a difference but the FLF that I sometimes drive probably would have struggled.

The Avon Gorge Hotel clings to the cliffside very close to the city end of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, part of which you can see in the photo above. I turned the bus by reversing into a nearby side street and waited for the guests to emerge into the familiar grey dampness that masquerades as summer 2012.

Continue reading