LAST month, the Advertiser reported how Buxton resident Ann Clark helped push the number 58 bus service into the limelight.
Ann wrote about the 58 service from Buxton to Macclesfield in a new book Bus-Pass Britain: 50 of the Nation’s Favourite Bus Journeys. The book documents many of Britain’s more celebrated rural rides with a few gritty urban explorations thrown in for good measure.
Buxton folk may bemoan their poor bus services as they wait in December rain and snow at local bus stops, but few probably realise that Britain has one of the finest networks of local bus services of any country in Europe.
And the Peak District stacks up pretty well against anywhere else in Britain when it comes to quality of service. The 58 is not the only local route to feature in the new book from Bradt Travel Guides. Leek resident Patricia Walter pressed the case for the Buxton Flyer which is also included in the guide.
“It’s a perfect transect from the Potteries up to some of the Peak District’s finest countryside,” says Patricia.
The Buxton Flyer is not the most frequent of routes. Just four times daily (and only thrice on Sundays), the Wardle Transport 118 leaves Hanley Bus Station for the hour-long run to Buxton via Leek.
In her account for Bus-Pass Britain, Patricia Wardle describes how the Buxton Flyer pulls together a number of strands of local history: Leek’s rich industrial heritage, bare-knuckle boxing and banknote counterfeiters at Flash and the highwaymen who once haunted the routes over Blackshaw Moor.
I had the job of editing Bus-Pass Britain, and given half a chance I could have filled the entire book with Peak District journeys. Would that we could have squeezed in the 442, which is to my mind one of the finest rural rides in Britain.
This is the ‘back lanes’ route from Buxton to Ashbourne. Bowers run the 42 down the main A515 road to Ashbourne.
And it is Bowers who also operate the 442, much the better of the two. The 442 dances through Dovedale (twice), plays cat-and-mouse with the Manifold Valley and takes in a few gems of villages, like Longnor and Hartington, that you’ll miss completely if you stick to the main road.
Yes, I’ve ridden local buses from Cornwall to Caithness, yet some of my favourite British bus moments have been around Buxton.
A few weeks ago, I rode the number 58 from Buxton to Castleton. Merely a glance at the timetable is an invitation to hop aboard. This once daily service (2.50pm from Buxton Market Place, Mon-Sat) serves a medley of villages with extraordinary names: Waterswallows, Wormhill and Miller’s Dale.
Hulleys of Baslow run the 58, a nice reminder that there is still space for community-minded local bus operators in the Peak District.
They have not yet been pushed aside by the big boys like Arriva, Stagecoach and First who nowadays dominate the local bus market in Britain.
Heading east, soft autumn sunshine behind us, dipping down to Miller’s Dale, the Hulley’s bus seemed like the most comfortable spot on earth. But, like many local bus routes, the future of the 58 is far from certain.
Buses are not just for bus-pass holders. They are community assets which we should all cherish.
Tickets like the Derbyshire Wayfarer Rover Ticket allow folk of any age to roam at will on local buses and trains across a huge area that extends well beyond the borders of the county to include Sheffield, Uttoxeter and Burton-on-Trent.
If we make good use of local buses now, then there is a good chance that our favourite routes will still be around when we reach bus-pass age. So why not hop on a Buxton bus today?
* Nicky Gardner lives in Berlin, but has ridden local buses across Europe. She is co-editor of Bus-Pass Britain: 50 of the Nation’s Favourite Bus Routes.