Living in splendidly rural Ogbourne St George has very many upsides. Yet it is not a global transport hub. Your options are foot, bicycle, car or bus. (Okay, there is a small airfield up the road at Draycot Foliat, but it ain’t Heathrow.)
On a beautiful June day I am tasked with collecting an automobile from an industrial estate on the fringe of Bournemouth Airport. As a slightly meandering crow you’d be covering 54 miles and – according to Google – it’d take 17h 39m on foot. In the absence of handy helicopters and eschewing shanks’s pony I consider my options. It’s a weekday, so cadging a lift is out. Hitchhike? Could do. Only I (unintentionally) look somewhat BNP/EDL with my shaved head from a distance, making me untouchable to most motorists whilst simultaneously worryingly attractive to a tiny minority (who I would choose to avoid getting a lift with).
Public transport it is then.
My nearest rail options are Swindump or Pewsey.
It’s £81.50 for an “anytime single” from the former and takes 3 hours leaving me 8 miles from where I need to be. (Note to railway people: it’s not “anytime” is it? It’s “any train time you choose”.) It’s also 10 miles to the railway station from home. The Pewsey trains are even less convenient/helpful despite being a bargain at £75.70.
The Salisbury Reds are actually a bus company, not a dormant faction of the red army. Their X5 service even goes past our village to Salisbury. Then it’s hop off, change bus stop, hop on the X3 to Bournemouth. The cost of whole journey? £8.50. Time taken? Inclusive of changing buses it’s 3 hours.
So you’re thinking 10% of the cost with no downside! Almost dear reader, almost.
The X5 passes Og’ it doesn’t stop. (Although I later note it stops every-bloody-where else in Wiltshire: every tuft of grass and molehill has a bus stop apart from Og’.) So I cadge a ride with Mrs B to Marlborough (leaving home at 08.55). Being a cheapskate I buy the day’s i – how can they make it work for 30p? – and settle in to do the crossword with a freebie myWaitrose cuppa. Sweeping aside the fact I clean ignore there’s a 09.16 bus at 10.16 I am aboard the top deck logging in to free wifi.
But who needs wifi when you have Wiltshire in summer? Folks, what a treat! As Granny Pat says: “I do like a bus ride.” We barrel along Salisbury bound past village, White Horse, farmland, army range and endless verdant downs. In Salisbury it’s a sunny market day and could be mistaken for a continental one. (No live dogs/geese in cages distinguishes it from France.) I opt for a local delicacy – a pulled pork burrito – and soak up some rays in the bustling square.
The X3 bus accepts the same ticket and we’re off to Bournemouth. The landscape flattens out now as we follow the River Avon toward the sea. Onboard expertise suggests I can get a connecting bus from the Royal Bournemouth Hospital. Disembarking – debussing? See “replatformed” – I have merely to walk across a road to the next bus stop.
Buses here are yellow. Lib Dems? Cowards? Highwaymen? We’ll opt for the latter as the fee for an 8 minute journey is £5. The driver is not to blame and does offer “it’s a return” to sweeten the deal. This fails to incentivise as i) the industrial park is perfectly inaccessible from the passenger terminal across the airfield and ii) I’m not returning. No buses go to where people actually work: thanks Maggie Thatcher for encouraging our non-transport-integrated-enterprise-park-light-industrial-mess. I thank him and head into the hospital reception to call a taxi.
Presently a grubby well worn Skoda arrives and I climb aboard. Drive’ is surly and complains bitterly about the traffic around the airport perimeter at this time of day. Like I give a rat’s arse. Within 10 minutes he’s relieved me unsmiling of £15. I find it difficult to a) empathise with the driver and b) write anything positive regarding the taxi experience. (The preceding points could’ve applied to a taxi anywhere on planet earth, no?)
I arrive at my destination 14.30. Minus the cafe blunder in Marlborough but including a sunny lunch in Salisbury that’s 4.5 hours with the last 3 miles costing £5 per mile and the previous 50 – with wifi and a view – costing 17 pence per mile
It takes 90 minutes to return by car. I try not to think about the cost.
Nice car though.