Things no-one else is crazy enough to be doing right now: final prep for a trip to answer one of the great unanswered questions: just how far can you travel by bus from London in 24hrs? I *think* I know on paper, but in practice…? Follow along from 3am as I slowly go mad. #bus24 Image
So, it’s just gone 3am, and the odyssey begins. I’m at Charing Cross, the point from which all distances from London are measured, and the aim is to get as far a possible from here in 24 hours. And here’s my first bus, London’s fourth longest route. Start the clock! #bus24
One of the joys of Nightbus travel is the gentle rhythm of stops being announced as the bus swings non-stop past them. This bus is struggling though, announcing random stops wherever it likes, like ‘QPR Stadium’ while in Kensington or ‘Surbiton station’ in Hammersmith. #bus24
No sign of any goats. We nearly ran over a fox carrying some chicken drumsticks though. Image
The excitement of taking the N9 all the way to Terminal 5 is that you get to go through the Heathrow Tunnel on a double decker twice. The other excitement is that my first connection is already looking quite tight…
Nah, made it fine in the end. Now on a very purple number 7, all to myself. Quitting the stifling metropolitan mores of Greater London for the fresh, honest air of Slough. #bus24
Absolute voyage of discovery on the number 7. #bus24 Image
The old Slough bus station - concrete monstrosity par excellence - features for a split second in the opening sequence of The Office. The new one couldn’t be much more different, resembling a sort of shiny metallic worm. #bus24
If anyone thought our destination lay in the west …hah, fooled you. Now swinging north into the Chiltern foothills (via Slough Trading Estate, allegedly Europe’s largest) on the first X74 of the day to High Wycombe. #bus24
Time for the first Tender Cow of the day. #bus24 Image
High Wycombe bus station. At left, what is claimed to be ‘The UK’s first fashionable face mask vending machine’. A low bar to clear, I feel. #bus24 Image
The buses are getting smaller. #bus24
Starting to look a touch autumnal in the misty Chilterns, as the 300 rattles it’s way toward Aylesbury. #bus24
Paralympic swooshes on the roundabout at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, birthplace of the Paralympics. #bus24
Aylesbury bus station. The sort of place that really makes you feel like A Valued Public Transport User. Somewhere is going to have to try hard to beat this for accolade of worst bus station of the journey. #bus24
First independent operator of the day, Red Rose, who despite sounding like they should be based in Accrington, not Aylesbury, have cornered the lucrative rail-less (for now) Aylesbury-Milton Keynes express corridor. Slightly odd buses, with a single table in them. #bus24
Through the village of Wing, which in the early 1970s nearly fell terribly foul of nominative determinism by being proposed for demolition in order to build a four-runway third airport for London. #bus24
They’re not wrong when they say Milton Keynes is full of roundabouts, are they? Might have to do a Best Of compilation. Also, a bit confused to be greeted by this, which appears to be straight out of Tirana, when I got off the bus. #bus24
First double decker since leaving London. And it appears to be entirely for me. The X6 arrives at the rather nice substitute for a bus station in Milton Keynes (a tree-lined boulevard) to take me to Northampton. #bus24
A little secret to making good progress is finding a chain of towns/cities all about an hour apart - there will generally be a fastish bus between each of them. The E Midlands provide precisely that. Now on a stretch of the X6 route that has no scheduled stop for 16mins. #bus24
Just realised that by nine am, I’ve ticked off all three of the ‘big’ bus operators - First, Stagecoach and Arriva. First and Arriva are winning so far, because their buses have given me tasty, tasty electricity. #bus24
Northampton’s All Saints’ Church is rather impressive. The X6 terminates right outside it, as the new bus station is too small and the entire town centre is a bus interchange. But the old bus station was called ‘a portal to hell’ by the local press, so prob for the best. #bus24 Image
Features of the rather nice if diminutive Northampton bus station include a plaque to commemorate the former Jewish quarter once on the site, and the rather chipper lions of the town coat of arms. Oh, and some buses.
That excellent moment, with 20 minutes between buses, when you find that your endlessly patient wife packed you lychees. To go with the slow travel mascot crocheted Turtle. #bus24 Image
Nice consecutive switch from the X6 to the X7 in Northampton to continue north. Very swish bus, with padded leather seats, USB chargers and the rest, just slightly let down by the fact it is fully branded for a route in Coventry. #bus24
Northampton goes on for a *very* long way, doesn’t it? #bus24
It does end eventually. #bus24
Now held up in a small Northamptonshire village by a couple of young people attempting to pay too little. Tut. Would never happen in south east London… #bus24
Super views over the north Northamptonshire hills, looking across to Naesby, where 1,400 people died in perhaps England’s most consequential battle since Hastings. (And which led to the original Charing Cross, my starting point, being pulled down.) #bus24
Market Harborough, where we were supposed to maintain a polite fiction of stopping for a bit and pretending to become a different bus in order to game the drivers’ hours regulations. But we are 10 mins late, so we didn’t. Feels like a town that could do with less traffic… #bus24
The X7 has been delayed a bit more for the slightly surprising reason that the driver revealed he could indeed parla italiano to the couple who got on on the edge of Market Harborough and wanted due biglietti, solo andata, per Leicester. #bus24 Image
Kibworth Beauchamp is the sort of village name we make up to amuse visiting tourists. And they would be further amused if they knew the village is mainly owned by Merton College Oxford, because its founder bought it off a failed baron in the 12th century. #bus24
What with bilingual bus drivers, endless temp traffic lights and general snarl ups over medieval bridges, the 20 min connection between two bus stations in Leicester (why do you need two, Leicester?) is looking unlikely. Luckily, there’s a bit of slack in the schedule… #bus24
Leicester railway station is a very fine thing indeed. Be good if it was closer to the bus stations, mind. #bus24
18 minutes late into Haymarket bus station in Leicester, giving me 2 minutes to make the planned connection at St Margaret’s bus station, a few blocks away. Never mind. We just need the next bus to be reasonably punctual! #bus24
Turns out they have knocked down St Margaret’s bus station, but never fear, there are some grand alternative waiting facilities provided. #bus24
The next bus is clearly very grand, too grand to have a number. It’s just called Skylink (it serves East Midlands Airport along with loads of villages between Leicester and Derby), and is run by the excellently named Kinchbus. Very nice buses they are too. #bus24
Speeding along the A6 past Quorn, famed (I think) for the world’s only vegetarian fox hunt. #bus24
Nice bit of mid-journey touch point cleaning from Kinchbus while we are stopped at Loughborough. #bus24
Glimpses of the Leicestershire countryside (and the A42) as we storm along country lanes towards the airport. #bus24
Wandering around the hinterlands of East Midlands Airport, Britain’s second busiest freight airport (we visited the busiest at about 4am this morning). #bus24
Crossing the Trent and passing from Leicestershire into Derbyshire at Shardlow. Some people would say the crossing of the Trent marks my arrival in the North. Those people are horribly, painfully, disastrously wrong. #bus24
Slow Travel Turtle is enjoying all the facilities of this bus, after an early start. #bus24
Derby takes a surprise lead in the Rather Nice Spots at The Back of The Bus Station stakes. #bus24
Slightly more retro bus vibe as we set off from Derby to cross the watershed on the Transpeak. #bus24
Meandering up the Derwent valley through Milford. #bus24
I love that Belper’s bus station is still one of those drive-in, fully-undercover, half-bus station-half depot affairs. Thought they had all long since been demolished. #bus24
Also just noticed that Belper marks the 12-hour spot. As someone in the replies suggested it is the first place that ‘feels’ northern (and I might be tempted to agree), that seems appropriate. #bus24
Perhaps also worth noting at this point that I’m not planning to quite use all the full 24 hours. I can’t find a useful way to employ the last little bit! Don’t worry, still plenty of distance to go yet though. #bus24
Passing my favourite-named railway station in the country… #bus24
Arriving at Matlock’s cute little rail/bus interchange. Had expected to need to change buses here, but turns out it is another secret through service to Buxton. #bus24
Just passed a pub in Darley Dale that I remembered on the plus side does really good sweet potato chips, but on the negative, I had them on the way to a weekend away that I was dumped at the end of. Though that worked out for the best. She didn’t pack me lychees. #bus24
Drystone walls! Sheep! #bus24 🐑
Bakewell. The Transpeak bus really should have a tart break here. ‘Five minutes for tarts!’ #bus24
Deep in the heart of the gorgeous White Peak #bus24
Up on the high limestone plateau - and in the distance, some of the big holes for getting the limestone out of. #bus24
Changing buses at Buxton Market Place. As Buxton is the highest market town in England, it must perchance also be the highest market place in England. #bus24
Been charged with bringing home a present from somewhere I have been through. Do we think this will do the trick? #bus24 Image
Onwards! Another airport bus to continue our Transpeak journey. #bus24
A slightly bizarre trip into the High Peak depot at Dove Holes in order to change drivers, but if you like seeing jacked up buses, this is your place. #bus24
Past Combs Reservoir, near Chapel-en-le-Frith. #bus24
Firmly back in the conurbation, a land of double decker buses and grumpy peak hour drivers. Hopping onto a 191 at Stepping Hill (of massive south Manchester hospital fame) to trundle towards Piccadilly. #bus24
Compulsory shot of Britain’s largest brick-built viaduct when passing this way. And extra buses, so they don’t feel like I’m looking at railways instead of them. #bus24
Slow Travel Turtle isn’t sure about these wide roads and great speeds. #bus24
Trams! (Calm down, Jo, we’re not doing trams today.) #bus24
A nicely al fresco air to Piccadilly Gardens this evening. The passeggiata is in full flow. #bus24
A rapid dinner and over to the sparkly Shudehill Interchange on the other side of the city centre. Off towards Bolton on Diamond’s number 8. #bus24
The Irwell in the gloaming. (As predicted, I am starting to lose my grasp on things. But Salford’s endless dual carriageways are sorting me out.)
I clearly am losing it, as I keep seeing signs trying to convince me that I’m in a place called Irlams o’ th’ Height. It does seem to, again, consist largely of dual carriageways. (It’s not a northern thing. We Yorkshirefolk wouldn’t do that to a placename). #bus24
Docking at Bolton Interchange on a wet August evening. #bus24
Bolton is a bit too lively for me, of a Friday evening. {I included the tree in the corner of the shot so you didn’t think it was a still photograph.) #bus24
Absolutely cracking town hall, though. Pitch-perfect for the size of the town. #bus24
Bolton Council’s partially malfunctioning Covid message board verges a bit towards the sinister, frankly. ImageImageImageImage
Bolton Council’s partially malfunctioning COVID messaging board veers somewhat towards the sinister, frankly. #bus24 ImageImageImageImage
For all those who have been chanting in the replies that I should go to Preston bus station…I’m on the 125 to Preston bus station. #bus24
An increasingly sleepy Slow Travel Turtle isn’t really taking in the views of Lancashire as we climb the Chorley Old Road. #bus24
I am now prepared to accept I am definitely in the north. I can hear a man downstairs on the 125 regaling total strangers with clearly ludicrous claims as to his batting prowess in his younger days. #bus24
When I am prime minister (matter of time), I am legislating to require windscreen wipers on the upstairs front windows of double deckers. #bus24
Further voices from downstairs on the 125 as we fill up on the run into Preston -
Male voice: ‘I’ve lost my dignity.’
Female voice: ‘Yeah, well I’ve lost my phone.’ #bus24
So, Preston bus station. Bloody awful. They should knock it down. JOKE. If a municipal building can be as stunning as this on a damp Friday night, it is a miracle. Shame the top floors are a car park, and it isn’t simply a temple to public transport, but that’s picky. #bus24
For a journey that included the horror that is Aylesbury bus station, this is a very fitting place to catch the final bus from. Even if it is locked up at 10pm and the late night buses go from the open coach stands outside. #bus24
So, quite a few people had managed to work out what the last bus would be. Here it is, the number 40 from Preston bus station at 23:15. Those of you who didn’t work out we were heading to Morecambe will just have to be Wise after the event (oh, please yourselves). #bus24
In order to begin to acclimatise new followers to the usual fare on this feed, I will now point out that that joke works on two levels, as Audrey Wise was the MP for Preston 1987-2000.
Currently have this pictogram on the number edge of my line of vision and am convinced Stagecoach is trying to sell me homemade jam. #bus24 Image
00:29 - 6 minutes early after 21hrs and 24mins, I think I’ve reached the furthest point you can get to by bus from Charing Cross in a 24hr window. Morecambe Bus Station, 339.44km from Charing Cross as the crow flies. #bus24
Perhaps more appropriately: as the gannet flies, as the most distinctive feature of Morecambe Bus Station is a pair of metal gannets in the middle of a roundabout. Makes a change from the equestrian statue in a roundabout I started by. And gannets don’t start civil wars. #bus24
Thank you! #bus24
And now bed. #bus24 Image
Thread seems to have broken/diverged here due to an inadvertent double post! Continues here #bus24
Morecambe this morning. It is undeniably dreich, which I hope is of some recompense to those who thought I ought to be able to make Scotland yesterday. You can’t see the Cumbrian fells, or Heysham nuclear power station. One of this is a loss, the other… #bus24
Also, here is a video of me tunelessly whistling the Poirot theme tune while walking along the facade of the Midland Hotel. Amazingly, they don’t shoot people on the spot for doing that. #bus24
Lots of people keen to know how much this cost in fares. Done the maths and it’s a grand total of £56.95. For comparison, a walk-up train fare is £73.50. With advance booking a week ahead and some ticket splitting, the train home is costing me £40.90. #bus24 Image
(It’s possible that in the breakdown I got some of the ticket names wrong. They are all called things like MegaSuperFirstDayGoldriderSouthMidlandsAnytime and asking for them from bus drivers is an exciting game of mutual incomprehension.) #bus24 Image
At left, Morecambe’s old railway station. At right, the new one. #SicTransitGloriaMundi #bus24 ImageImage
Anyway, probably time to wrap up this thread for now before I thread my entire life into it. Thanks so much for all the engagement, fun and support! #bus24

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