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Great Bus Journeys of Dorset – Motcombe to Portland Bill

Mike Stead travels from Motcombe to Portland Bill

This is the bus stop at Motcombe's Turnpike Cottage. There's no stop, shelter, information and, while waiting for the bus to arrive one has to keep getting out of the eyeline of motorists turning out from the road on the left

This is the bus stop at Motcombe’s Turnpike Cottage. There’s no stop, shelter, information and, while waiting for the bus to arrive one has to keep getting out of the eyeline of motorists turning out from the road on the left

The aim of this journey was to take a long bus journey from north to south within Dorset. It would have been possible to start from a village further north, but there were sections that would have taken me outside the county border which I was forbidden in no uncertain terms by the editor from doing.
The journey started therefore at the Motcombe Turnpike Cottage bus stop. I could have started the journey in the centre of the village but this would have added three stops and a one-hour, eight-minute wait at the roadside of the B3081 Gillingham to Shaftesbury Road. As it was, the five minute wait I did have was long enough. We’d chosen to take a timetable that meant we’d arrive in Portland before nightfall in early January. Any serious problems and we’d be in trouble. As it happened, owing to a recording equipment failure, we had to restart the exercise two days afterwards as, for the first time in my time in Dorset, a bus failed to turn up, at all. To continue on to Portland would have meant arriving after dark, which was not something I relished for the return journey. The first bus arrived with about a minute’s delay.

X9 (Damory): Turnpike Cottage, Motcombe to Market Square Blandford, via Shaftesbury, Cann, West Melbury, Compton Abbas, Fontmell Magna, Sutton Waldron, Iwerne Minster, Shroton, Stourpaine, Durweston and Blandford. 10.40-11.37*, 31 stops. £4.20. * Arrived in Blandford 7 mins late due to two lorries having difficulty passing each other on a narrow hill

Allen Armstrong

Allen, who is retired, was travelling from Gillingham to Blandford. He makes this journey around three times a week by bus. On this occasions he was off for a walk along the River Stour at Blandford hopefully to photograph otters (which should be more visible due to swollen river). He told me the water after the weir was virtually the same level as before it the last time he was in Blandford. Allen likes to travel on the top deck of the bus to enjoy the scenery. In his experience buses are punctual and drivers are polite and allow older people (especially those with heavy bags) to be seated before driving off… unlike in London, he said pointedly, where he’d been just before Christmas.

Robert Charlton
Robert was one of the younger riders I met on the whole journey. In his mid-20s, he was travelling from Shaftesbury to Blandford. It’s a journey he makes once a week as he’s got a part-time cleaner job. He also said the bus drivers were nice/polite and the service was punctual.

X12 (Damory): Market Place, Blandford to Kings Statue, Weymouth, via Blandford St Mary, Thornicombe, Winterborne Whitechurch, Milborne St Andrew, Puddletown, Sinsford, Dorchester, Winterborne Monkton, Radipole and Melcombe Regis. 1 hour, 38 stops. On time. £6.20

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The X12's display board system makes it possible for prospective passengers to see clearly where it is going (and via) even without any bus shelters or smart signs

The X12’s display board system makes it possible for prospective passengers to see clearly where it is going (and via) even without any bus shelters or smart signs

Ian Meaker
Ian, in his mid-30s, was travelling from Blandford to Winterbourne Steepleton: ‘My wife had a stroke and she’s paralysed down the left hand side of her body, so she’s staying in a nursing home. I go to see her as often as I can. The bus is always punctual and the drivers are polite.I tend to enjoy the fields and it’s a very scenic route.’
Ray Rippon
Ray, who is in his 60s was travelling from Winterbourne Whitechurch to Dorchester. ‘I’m just going to Dorchester to do a bit of shopping and meeting friends,’ he told me.

Janis Spreadbury
Travelling from Blandford to Weymouth, Janis travels: ‘approximately every six weeks for a day out. The buses are punctual and the drivers polite. We like watching the scenery as we go to Weymouth and we’ll take a walk around the harbour, up to the castle and back when we’re there.’

Chris and Mary Hickson
We’re going to Weymouth. We find the buses are very punctual. Some of the bus drivers go to what I would call the Bus Drivers’ Charm School; some of them could be a little more helpful to the older people (although I’m sure that they also have to put up with a lot of abuse). We find it very good using and exploiting our bus passes. We try to get out most days going to different places on different buses and try to enjoy the journey.

The X12 drops off at the Kings Statue 6 stop, shown here with the Sealife Tower behind it

The X12 drops off at the Kings Statue 6 stop, shown here with the Sealife Tower behind it

1 (Morebus): Kings Statue, Weymouth to Sweethill Lane, Portland via Wyke Regis, Victoria Square, Easton and Rip Croft. 37 minutes, 28 stops. Arrived bang on time. £2.50.

Ros Lund
‘I’m down for the weekend staying with my mother in Weymouth and we were going to go to West Bay and Bridport for the day but the bus was an hour later so we decided on a whim to come to Portland to see the views. We decided to buy a ticket and we were surprised at how frequent the service was – every 10 minutes is a fabulous service. We had a bit of time in Easton and did a little bit of shopping and altogether a pleasant experience, but it seemed a bit expensive. Clean bus, all very good.’

Norma at Rip Croft stop, showing the smart signs in action

Norma at Rip Croft stop, showing the smart signs in action

Norma Olcer
‘I live in Wyke Regis and I come into Weymouth on a different line of bus and the drivers are all very nice. Then I get on a bus from Weymouth into Portland about two or three times a week. You always feel safe and the buses are clean  and the journey’s very pleasant with lovely views – I go because I help my daughter – and some of the drivers on this line are very nice, but some will occasionally drive off without waiting. Even if they’re miserable, the drivers are safe and quick.

Dave Jarvis: ‘The drivers are nice and friendly and you definitely meet some characters on the bus, but that’s just Weymouth…’

Dave Jarvis: ‘The drivers are nice and friendly and you definitely meet some characters on the bus, but that’s just Weymouth…’

Dave Jarvis
‘I’m 26 and I’ve been travelling between Weymouth and Portland for the last 16 years. Generally, punctuality-wise they have definitely improved with the new signboard systems which are incredibly accurate. But knowing when they’re going to be turning up outside the board system can still be quite difficult to plan a journey ahead. The drivers are nice and friendly and you definitely meet some characters on the bus, but that’s just Weymouth – and Portland’s a whole different ballgame – I’m allowed to say that as I’ve lived there long enough now.’

ARRIVAL
After getting off at Sweethill lane, there was a 34 minute walk to the Lighthouse at Portland Bill, and then it was a swift kick to Shanks’s pony to get back to Sweethill to start the return journey home. During the whole day I’d met no-one who didn’t in some way enjoy the journey. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be the case if you’d asked a majority of drivers who had to complete this route.

The author getting on the No 1 service from Weymouth to Portland; it's an incredibly frequent service by Dorset standards. According to one driver: ‘During the day, there's always a bus on the stand.’

The author getting on the No 1 service from Weymouth to Portland; it’s an incredibly frequent service by Dorset standards. According to one driver: ‘During the day, there’s always a bus on the stand.’

 

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