If you’re like me, you probably haven’t taken the bus in a while. Driving is just easier, right? Cars are more reliable, and you don’t have to stand in the rain before catching a cold, dirty bus...
But with the government’s new £2 winter bus fare cap running until the end of March, and having suffered a bit of car trouble last week, I decided to give it a try and see if my assessment was fair. I was pleasantly surprised!
On a rainy Thursday morning last week, I decided to take a bus from my hometown of Alton to work in Farnham. I bought my ticket in advance using the Stagecoach app (tickets can also be bought on the bus). The process was dead easy and, thanks to the price cap, much cheaper than a train ticket or the equivalent cost of fuel.
The bus shelter was tidy and staved off the rain. And to my amazement, the bus arrived bang on time. The last time I caught a bus to work was when I first moved to Alton in 2014. It was 30 minutes late, so from that day on I either caught the train or drove. But not so this week. Maybe I just got lucky?
The bus was clean and had plenty of seats available. I chose to sit on the top deck and was able to take in the beautiful countryside views and all the little things I miss on my usual morning commute as we made our way to Farnham.
I spotted the huge mound of recycling in the Holybourne Veolia plant – only recently the subject of a fierce battle over the waste giant’s plans to build an incinerator.
Peeking over hedgerows I could see all the muddy fields ready for a new season of crops.
As we veered off the A31 into Bentley, I could admire the beautiful country manor houses that otherwise hide behind impenetrable red brick walls, and spotted a red kite searching for breakfast above the village duck pond.
Rejoining the A31, the picturesque Wey valley opens up to the right, and beyond it the densely forested chalk ridge that runs from Farnham to Alton and eventually leads into Alice Holt Forest.
Next we pass by the old Bull at Bentley pub, soon to reopen as a Classical Chandeliers showroom.
I’m also taken by the freshly dug channels along the verge of the A31, taking rainwater off into a deep gully on the northern side of the A31. How had I not noticed this before?
The seasonal 'lakes' at the bottom of Wrecclesham Hill reveal themselves next – Farnham’s flood meadows doing exactly what they are supposed to do, of course.
As we turn off the A31 into Farnham, I’m now able to see the fields to the rear of Coxbridge Farm set to take 320 new houses in coming years, and West Street, where the road will soon close for 14 weeks to build a new water pipe to accommodate them.
To the right is the West Street cemetery, where I witnessed the committal of the great champion of the local press, Sir Ray Tindle, last April; his grave site enjoying an unobstructed view of Bishop’s Meadow.
And before no time at all we’re in The Borough, at precisely the time my Stagecoach app told me we would be, where I depart.
There is heavy traffic in town at the end of the day, but I’m able to check my app before leaving the office and see my bus home is just a couple of minutes late. I buy another £2 ticket, head to the bus stop just before it pulls in and am glad to feel the warmth again as I step out of the rain.
I will definitely consider taking the bus again in the future, especially with the £2 fare cap. It’s a great way to save money and I’m glad to have taken one of the two million cars the government hopes the bus fare cap scheme will take off Britain’s roads.
So, if like me you haven’t taken the bus in a while, I would encourage you to give it a try and take advantage of the cheap tickets while you can. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!
Here are some places to travel by bus locally for just £2 until March 31:
* From Farnham: Guildford, Bentley, Froyle, Alton, Aldershot, Elstead, Godalming, Bordon.
* From Haslemere: Aldershot, Farnham, Churt, Alton, Guildford, Godalming, Milford, Witley, Fernhurst, Midhurst, Liphook, Basingstoke.
* From Alton: Bordon, Basingstoke, Liphook, Selborne, Liss, Petersfield, Alresford, Winchester, Bentley, Guildford, Medstead.
* From Bordon: Basingtoke, Alton, Farnham, Liphook, Grayshott.
* From Liphook: Basingstoke, Alton, Bordon, Haslemere, Liss, Petersfield.
* From Petersfield: Havant, Waterlooville, Clanfield, Liss, Greatham, Selborne, Alton, Chichester, Winchester, Alresford, Rogate, Midhurst, Bordon.