Sunday, 22 February 2009

Mind the gap

There are a couple of small flaws in my plan: I've got gaps. Two small ones to be precise, but ones that I shall have to overcome in some fashion. I'm sure someone would have pointed it out sooner or later, so a pre-emptive confession is always the best option.

Map of the Peak District

The map above shows the first problem: the Peak District National Park, shaded in green. To the west lies the Stagecoach Manchester company, and to the east is Barnsley, Sheffield and Chesterfield, with 555 square miles of sparsely populated countryside between the two. Manchester buses make it as far east as Glossop and Hayfield, whilst on the other side there are services as far west as Holmfirth, Peniston [sic], Stocksbridge and Matlock. When I was about 16, a friend and I cycled from Hadfield to Holmfirth, over the Woodhead Pass – or as I prefer to think of it, Royston Vasey to Last of the Summer Wine. It's pretty desolate moorland with nary a soul for miles.

Back in 2005 when I was idly musing on the internet, there was actually a way across. Stagecoach East Midlands, as the Chesterfield operations were then known, operated a Saturday only service 373 from Glossop over Snake Pass to Ladybower Reservoir, from where it was possible to change onto service 274 to Sheffield. Both services are today operated by TM Travel, under contract to Derbyshire County Council, so of no use to me now.

Map of the Lincolnshire Fens

This other map shows my second problem: getting from Grantham to Peterborough. Lincolnshire services run as far south as Grantham and Boston, but Cambridgeshire services only reach as far north as Spalding and Market Deeping. Lincolnshire RoadCar, the company that was bought by Stagecoach in 2005, has at times operated into Peterborough, and even had a depot in Grantham – but alas no more. Today, services in this part of Lincolnshire are in the hands of Centrebus, Brylaine, and the wonderfully idiosyncratic Delaine.

Thankfully, I've one solution that will solve both problems: for these small sections of route, I'm going to catch the train. Specifically, the Stagecoach franchise East Midlands Trains which operates both Stockport–Sheffield (44 minutes journey time) and Grantham–Peterborough (34 mins). It's not an ideal solution, but hopefully you'll agree that it's in the spirit of the challenge.

Maps courtesy of Google Maps

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