Bill Purdue’s favourite bus journeys

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In 2011 a book called “Bus Pass Britain” was published. Sponsored by “The Oldie” magazine, the book contains 50 of “the nation’s favourite bus journeys” all over Britain, from Cornwall to Thurso in the far north of Scotland, writes Bill Purdue.

Whilst there is one journey in the Peak District (Matlock to Sheffield via Chatsworth House) in the book, there are no others in or near the area served by the Chad. The book is obviously aimed at the over 60s who, armed with their bus passes can ‘surf’ the local bus services for free. However, bus travel, compared with the railways, is relatively cheap, particularly if you take advantage of special tickets giving you unlimited travel for a day or a week. So these journeys can be enjoyed by anyone who wants a cheap and relaxing day out without worrying about parking. True , the degree of comfort available on some buses can vary; some buses have leather seats and even air-conditioning, whilst others have more basic accommodation. That said, I think the real enjoyment of the journey is what you see through the window and what you can find on the way.

To show that our area can offer some interesting and often picturesque journeys by bus, I’ve embarked on a series of 5 journeys, all starting in Mansfield, or reachable with no more than one change of bus. We will travel north to Worksop, to the villages of rural east Notts, and even as far as the valley of the River Dove, easily reachable in a day out.

I’ve travelled on all these routes, some more than once, so I’m writing from experience, but I haven’t tried all the possible eating places or all the tourist attractions en route, so it’s up to you to do your research on the bus times as well as opening times and places to eat, though I do offer a few suggestions.

If you do travel on any of these routes, or if you have a favourite bus route not described in this series, then I would love to hear from you.

Relax on the bus No 5: Derby to Uttoxeter – trent barton’s “swift”

The fifth jaunt on the bus may seem a long way to go. True, it does take quite a while to get to the start of the route at Derby, but it gives you the opportunity to look around at the pleasant South Derbyshire and North Staffordshire countryside in air conditioned comfort on leather seats. You will have plenty of time for a leisurely lunch in Uttoxeter and, if you go early enough, you could have a day at the races. The “swift’ takes about 76 minutes to reach Uttoxeter and runs every hour, but if you want a shorter journey, you could just travel as far as Ashbourne, which is well worth a visit. You don’t need to catch the “swift” for the return journey if you are short of time: the X50 will get you back from Uttoxeter to Derby in under an hour, though it is less frequent.

GETTING TO THE START

From Mansfield or Sutton, just catch “the nines” (trent barton) – either 9.1, 9.2 or 9.3 – to Derby. “the nines” terminate just round the corner from the bus station, so getting to the “swift” is just a very short walk. If you time it right, you could change at Alfreton and catch the “red arrow” to Derby to save a little time, but check the timetables first. For a day at the Uttoxeter races, it might be better to drive to Derby and use the Meteor Centre Park and Ride to get an early departure. The last bus back to the Meteor Centre is at 6 pm (Mon – Sat only). By the way, locals call it ‘Utcheter’.

THE ROUTE

On leaving Derby bus station , the “swift” straightaway makes for the main road to Ashbourne, the A52. Once the bus leaves the outskirts of the city, it’s a delightful and brisk rural ride through the villages of Mackworth, Kirk Langley, Brailsford and Ednaston. There are views on both sides of pleasant countryside with scattered trees and copses.

At Mackworth, the road is crossed by the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk, a waymarked route from Ashbourne to Derby laid out to celebrate the 60th anniversary (in 1995) of the formation of the Ramblers’ Association.  This route follows the general direction of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s march from Ashbourne to Derby in 1745, two  hundred and fifty years ago.

The bus keeps to the main road until just before Ashbourne, where it takes a short detour around a housing estate before descending the long hill into the town. Here there are views to the right hand side across the valley. Ashbourne has an annual Shrovetide football match in the centre of the town (!) and extra buses are usually laid on for this.

After a short stop in Ashbourne, we leave for a short distance on the A52, before turning left at Hanging Bridge for Mayfield on the B5032, crossing the county boundary into Staffordshire. It was here in 1745 that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s retreating army terrorised the local population.

The River Dove forms the county boundary and the route follows the Dove for almost all the way to Uttoxeter. Whilst not as dramatic as Dovedale itself, the valley is nevertheless picturesque – sit on the left hand side of the bus to take advantage of the views across the wide valley. The bus passes through the villages of Mayfield, Ellastone, Denstone and Rocester. Ellastone is perhaps the most attractive village on the route and features as “Hayslope” in George Eliot’s novel “Adam Bede”. The road through these villages is quite narrow at times so the average speed slows, as lorries or other buses coming the other way mean extra caution for the driver. There are also sharp bends and some hump backed bridges to negotiate. In Denstone there is a very sharp left hand turn where the bus needs the whole width of the road so any other traffic has to stop. After Rocester (pronounced ‘Rowster’) the speed increases for the final leg of the journey to Uttoxeter passing ,on the right, the world HQ of the JCB company set in landscaped grounds. Then it’s just a short ride, crossing the busy A50, to Uttoxeter bus station. For shoppers the bus continues to the big Tesco store in a large retail park.

To reach the racecourse, walk along Bridge Street away from the town centre, over the railway bridge and bear left down Wood Lane.

MAP

OS Explorer map No 259 Derby, Uttoxeter, Ashbourne and Cheadle covers the whole route.

WHERE TO EAT in Uttoxeter

“Indulgence” (just off the north side of the Market Place) and “You in Mind” on Carter Street are just two of the places to eat in the town centre, which is only a few minutes’ walk from the bus station.

For farm shop enthusiasts, get off the bus early at Denstone and it’s just a short walk to the Denstone Hall Farm Shop and Cafe, which won the Best Tearoom in Staffordshire Award three years running.

GETTING BACK

You can either take the “swift” and take another look at the lower Dovedale, or catch the X50 (Wardle Transport), which takes less than an hour. The X50 takes a more direct, but less interesting route, though it does pass right in front of Sudbury Hall (National Trust) and there are good views of Tutbury Castle near Hatton. Sit on the top deck for the best view.