Meanwhile down to Devon for a funeral, of which there will be remarkably little said in this post.
The aim was to make the 0920 out of Waterloo for Exeter.
It didn’t work out like that.
Mayor Boris Johnson’s version of London Transport means there is a regular twenty minute gap, just after 8.00 a.m., on both of the bus services past the top of Malcolm’s street. Both those routes, let us recall, each advertise four or six minute service intervals.
The result is that, when buses do tardily appear, they sail past already over-full. So even the twenty minute delay can extend for the full three-quarters of an hour. As on Wednesday.
So, resort to a taxi to Kentish Town station, putting us almost back on time.
It would seem that some tormented soul (or, as such a person is designated by Londoners at rush hours, “selfish bastard”) had an “incident” with a train. Same process as with the buses. Similar delay.
Consequence: arrive at Waterloo six minutes after 0920 has departed. So it’s the 10.20, then. Time for a decent, if over-priced coffee and danish.
And so, an hour delayed, onto South West Trains and what is designated as the West of England Main Line. Actually, the “main line” to the south-west is Brunel’s billiard table to Bristol and onwards to Exeter St Davids, franchised to First Great Western. This secondary service is operated using twenty-year old Class 159 (actually rebuilt Class 158) diesel multiple units: a six-car operation to Salisbury, and the back three detached to leave a three-car operation onwards. And it is very much a journey of two parts.
That’s something like 75 miles in just under even time, with salient stops in the southern suburbs and out into the stockbroker belt. Not “express”, but fair enough for a regional service.
Slow and easy
From here on things become more rustic (some history here). It’s only around the same distance as the first half (say 75 miles); but it takes a lot longer to travel.
1047 Salisbury dep. 11.47.00
1107 Tisbury 12:06.55
1118 Gillingham 12.17.52
1125 Templecombe 12.25.55
1133 Sherborne 12.33.48
1138 Yeovil Junc arr. 12.38.50
1140 Yeovil Junc dep. 12.39.50
1149 Crewkerne 12.50.30
1204 Axminster 13.04.57
1216 Honiton 13.17.25
1228 Pinhoe no stop
1237 Exeter Central arr. 13.37 on time
Bearing in mind much of this is single-track operation, that’s not bad time-keeping at all.
It is a pleasant, leisurely rattle through Dorset and Somerset, into Devon. None of the intervening stops serve a town of more than 10,000 population: some mark villages of barely 1,500. Sherborne is best known for its public school (and recognised in its frequent appearances uncredited on film). Here was once the Benedictine Abbey (now the parish church): the Old Castle passed on the way into town is one of the ruins Cromwell knocked about a bit.
Besides a single lonely unexplained railside llama, around here sheep proliferate (hence those Axminster carpets) to remind us that, despite the centuries’ passage, what produced the wealth of the abbeys is still delivering for the present land-holders. Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries notwithstanding, there must still be some unfortunate sitting out the depths of the night to deal with the lambing (and there’s the odd few lambs out in the fields already).
Late lunch: the Ship
There are many fine pubs in Exeter, as the Beer in the Evening site will list for you. Don’t, however, believe the opinion and rating for the Ship Inn in Martin’s Lane: this is no dive (though some of the beams are a bit low) and is far better than any view expressed on the web-site.
It’s a Greene King house, so there’s draught Abbot along with (on this occasion the omnipresent) Doom Bar. The food is not bisto-pub; but a decent and worth pub-meal menu. Quite why the beardies of the pub world have taken such a dislike is anyone’s guess: in tourist season it can overfill with coach parties perhaps, and it lacks the back-street, undiscovered eccentricity that gets brownie points.
So lunch in the Ship; then a quick waltz across to one of the finest cathedrals anywhere.
Nourishment for body and soul.
Evening: The Imperial
Many years ago the Lady in his Life and Malcolm stayed at the Imperial Hotel, largely because it was convenient to the University campus.
So it also got a revisit.
It is now one of those vast Wetherspoons which provide a range of real ales and pub-grub. Obviously, from the clientele, cheap thrills and fills for the young set. A steak, a bottle of Australian Shiraz, a couple of pints to top and tail it, and thou beside me in the non-wilderness. Not a bad evening.
The main event
You know you are in deepest England when the “new additions” to the building are dated 1520.
It was, however a damp, gloomy day, so ignore the touristic blue sky.
Beyond that, Ottery is a harmless enough little place, hilly streets winding down to a picturesque riverside, where the number of “useful” shops properly outnumbers any chain-stores. Long may it be so.
This being deepest England, there seems to be one bus service in and out each hour. And, with the ever-to-be-mentioned “cuts”, with the fares all recently hiked. So, how ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm now they can afford to go anywhere?
Ottery seems to sport two pubs: the Volunteer and the London Inn. Neither is the most prepossessing; though both seem to be trying to make an effort. Only at one (the London Inn) are you likely to get fed. However, for consolation there is the output of the Otter Brewery in Honiton: something to be sniffed at and then swallowed down with delight.
The end of the day
All of this post is peripheral to what was an intimate occasion, a funeral in an English parish church.
Any death implies loss and sadness, even when it involves a lady of advanced years, who had not been in good health for some time.
Time … it somehow gains proportion when one sits between two canopied tombs.
On one side of the nave (and here to the left), Sir Otho de Grandisson, died 1359. Six and a half centuries on, still proudly sporting his magnificent moustache.
On the other side, Lady Beatrix de Grandisson, died 1374.