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Confessions of a Bus Geek

24 Mar

The Urban Dictionary defines a bus geek as “someone who rides Public Transportation for purposes of entertainment”. Apart from the American term public transportation (we have public transport in the UK) this pretty much defines how I spent my Saturday.

There was no logical reason for my friend Chris and I spending just over five hours sitting on buses today, it just seemed like a fun idea. It was a coincidence that I was able to visit and photograph one of the places on my genealogy hit list along the way (more about that in a future post).

In fact the whole journey was a bit like a family history tour, passing through so many places in my family tree. Unfortunately we didn’t actually spend time off the bus anywhere other than Tunbridge Wells, but it was good to be travelling through the landscape of my relatives none the less.

The journey itself was a round trip (otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting at home writing this) of about 90 miles, mainly through East and West Sussex, but also crossing into Kent and Surrey.

For the fellow bus geeks reading this the bus routes were:

  1. Horsham to Brighton (17, Stagecoach)
  2. Brighton to Tunbridge Wells (29, Brighton and Hove)
  3. Tunbridge Wells to Crawley (291, Metrobus)
  4. Crawley to Horsham (23, Metrobus)

I have travelled on these routes before, but never the complete routes. I don’t think I have ever been to Tunbridge Wells before, by any mode of transport, but I will definitely be heading back there again. Not least because of the famous Hall’s Bookshop.

I was delighted to find a memorial below to Air Chief Marshall Dowding in Calverley Grounds (the park where we sat and enjoyed a sandwich in the sunshine). This was a perfect piece of genealogical synchronicity because he was born in Moffat, Scotland, the same town as my 3x great-grandfather Thomas Kinghorn.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: Feeling chuffed

12 Oct

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: Pendean Farmhouse from Midhurst, Sussex

14 Sep

Pendean Farmhouse from Midhurst, Sussex now at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, West Sussex.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: Carpenter’s shop

7 Sep

Carpenter’s shop at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, West Sussex.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Please don’t take away my buses

26 May

According to the West Sussex County Council (WSCC) website “Bus travel offers a real alternative to the car”, but from September 2011 this might not be the case.

The WSCC have announced a public consultation into their proposals to reduce the subsidies given to local bus companies by £2 million over the next three years. Essentially this means that the bus companies will not be paid to run services which are not profitable enough for them to run in the first place. These are usually (but not alway) evening and weekend services, and usually to small rural villages.

As someone who doesn’t drive a car, buses (and trains) are not an alternative, they are my only method of transport, whether it is to get to work, to go shopping, heading for an archive or heading off somewhere to go walking. Living in a small rural village has its advantages, but access to public transport is not usually one of them.

Looking down the list of proposed cuts the other day was like looking at a list of old friends. Of course the service that I use to get to and from work is on the list (proposed cuts to the evening and Saturday services) but so are many of the buses that I have used in the past when I am out exploring the Sussex countryside or visiting places of interest.

Of course this blog is not the place to lodge my objections, that can be done in a variety of ways described on the WSCC website. The deadline for consultation is the 10th June 2011, so if you are a user of any West Sussex bus services then make sure you check out the website and see if you might be affected and make your opinions known.

If these cuts go ahead the public transport network in West Sussex is going to be radically different this time next year (and I might need to get myself bike).

WDYTYA? Live 2011: just five weeks away

21 Jan

Five weeks today sees the start of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 at Olympia, London, and it is about time that I got myself organised. I have already ordered my tickets (although there are still plenty of discount codes about on the internet if you haven’t) and I don’t really need to worry about travel arrangements.

Really all I need to think about is making the most of my time whilst I am there, so which talks do I want to attend? What questions do I want to ask? Which products to I want to try/buy? And what am I going to have for lunch? (OK so maybe that last one is not actually that important)

Next week a copy of the show guide is being given away with the upcoming edition of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, but if you can’t wait until then the show website has copies of the floor plan (for use in conjunction with the list of exhibitors) and the timetables of talks and workshops (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). This weekend I will try to print off the timetables and decide who I want to see this year (I don’t think I will bother with the celebrities this year, they always over run and are always packed to bursting point).

This weekend I need to decide whether to create a couple of t-shirts (or three) to advertise my blog and some business cards for a bit of networking here and there. Also I need to scrape some of the mud off my walking boots, I don’t want to be trailing mud around Olympia as I wander from stand to stand.

An Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens

2 Oct

I was fortunate to have the chance to visit West Dean, West Sussex today. My wife, my mother and I went down to West Dean to visit the Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens. West Dean has strong ancestral connections and I am sure that the West Dean Estate has played a huge part in many of my ancestor’s lives.

West Dean House

The gardens are normally open to the public, but the house is not usually accessible (it is now a college), so this weekend was a rare opportunity to have a look around inside just a small part of the house.

Sadly photography is not permitted inside the house, which is a real shame because it contains pretty bizarre mix of furnishings and decorations. The walls are lined with paintings and tapestries, and adorned with stuffed animals and mounted heads (including that of a giraffe!), there were pieces of armour and weapons (more at home in a medieval castle) and many artworks and sculptures.

There were of course the normal features you would associate with a country house, like the old library (with floor to ceiling bookshelves) and the dining room with an incredible table decoration made of apples (presumably made specially for the occasion). Even amongst the more traditional elements there were still surreal touches, but it was still surprising to learn that Salvador Dali had once stayed there.

It is hard to reconcile the bizarre world inside the house with the beautiful surroundings outside. West Dean sits within the rolling slopes of the South Downs, and the views from the front of the house are quite superb, even under grey skies.

View from West Dean House

To be honest the gardens were probably past their best at this time of the year, but there was still plenty to see, especially in the glasshouses in the walled gardens. I was particularly taken by the glasshouses, with their elegant white paint wood and iron frameworks. I couldn’t help wondering if any of my relatives tended plants in those glasshouses and gardens.

Inside the greenhouse

The Apple Affair itself was pretty busy, lots of people trying different food and drink, not just apple based, although obviously there were apples almost everywhere. In the end however the weather beat us, the rain began as light drizzle but became progressively heavier and we ran out of places to shelter.

Of course every time I visit somewhere like this that has ancestral connections it makes me want to find out more, and try and prove some connections. I am not sure what records of the estate survive and where, but it ought to be worth having a look for them, to see if any lists of employees survive or rent books.

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