All Line Rover trip Day 2: Tavistock, the Jurassic Coast and Weymouth

In September 2022, I travelled around Britain for a week and a half using an All Line Rover train ticket. This is the third of eleven special posts giving a day-by-day narration of my trip. I also wrote an introduction to the trip, discussing my plans and goals, before I left; and will follow up my day-by-day narration with standard posts about the nineteen individual map areas I visited on the trip which are new to the blog. [1]

Interactive map

Here’s an interactive map of my All Line Rover trip! By default, all 11 days of my trip are shown: press the icon in the top left to see the route for individual days of the trip only.

Key to colours: Purple = train, dark blue = metro/underground, pink = tram, green = bus, orange = walking, medium blue = ferry

Day 2: Tavistock, the Jurassic Coast and Weymouth

Following my early start off the sleeper the day before, I had an enforced late start to my second full day’s travel because, it being a Sunday, the first 118 bus from Tavistock to Okehampton wouldn’t leave until 10:20am. However, I really like getting started early in the morning: it allows one to fit so much more into one’s day while still ending things early in the afternoon for plenty of post-accomplishment lounging around if you’d like; for me I just generally find makes my day more satisfying. Now, this isn’t always possible on holiday, since often I’m away with others who have different prefernces, so I wanted to take advantage of my solitude-given freedom on this trip and start early every day. I therefore planned out a morning walk to take before my first bus – and I’m very glad I did, because it was great!

The route of my morning walk out from Tavistock. (Map from OS Maps online.)

From central Tavistock, I started by walking up onto Whitchurch Down, an open common overlooking the town, and which was just extraordinarily pretty in the early morning sunlight.

Whitchurch Down

The Down was lovely; it’s shot right up to near the top of the list of my favourite green spaces. Part of it was open grassland, cropped close by the wandering sheep, while other areas were covered in ferns and spiky bushes, with cows and Dartmoor ponies pottering about between them. The pointy-roofed structure you see in my photos was also very odd: it was a small triangular stone building, with benches running the length of each side, and no discernible means of accessing the inside. I suppose it was probably built just as an interesting bench-cum-folly, but there is space for a small room inside, so it’s puzzling that there’s no way in!

From the Down, I walked through the village of Whitchurch before joining a cycle path built in the route of an old railway route from Tavistock to Plymouth – not the route via Bere Alston I mentioned in my previous post, but a separate, older and more direct route to Plymouth, it seems.

Grenofen Tunnel

It was a fun section of rail trail, with a very nice tunnel and bridge in the short section that I walked. Grenofen Tunnel was fun for being extremely echoey – since there was no-one else around I started singing to myself, and the notes would linger long enough that I could sing out whole chords one note at a time and harmonise with myself! Soon after the tunnel came Gem Bridge, a very impressively long and high bridge built over the valley of the River Walkham specifically for the opening of this walking and cycle route, the even high rail viaduct on the site having disappeared decades before. Unfortunately I didn’t get any particularly great photos of the bridge, but there’s a nice one here!

Immediately after crossing the bridge – from which I could see Dartmoor once again – I descended to the river, and walked along a pretty forested path to the hamlet of Bedford Bridge, the endpoint of my walk. After ten minutes sitting in the driveway of a retirement home – since the bus stop I’d be departing from was right in the road so not very conducive to comfortable waiting – the #1 bus arrived from Plymouth to whisk me back to Tavistock. At this point, I made a bit of a miscalculation: I knew I’d be taking several more buses that day – first to Okehamption and then all the way from Axminster to Weymouth along the Jurassic coast – so I spent £9 on a Devon day ticket. (While this was train holiday, I was making use of buses occasionally to fill gaps in the network, avoid having to double back etc – this was the most bus-heavy and train-light day of the trip!) However, due either to most of the latter route being outside Devon, or it being different bus companies, this ticket was invalid for most of my day’s travel – so I rather dramatically overpaid there. Oh well!

Back in Tavistock, I nipped back to my accommodation to collect my things, and twenty minutes later was on the #118 bus to Okehampton as planned. The journey of just under an hour was pleasant, with Dartmoor again peeking into view now and again; we also passed the very imposing Lydford Castle, and finally travelled through Okehampton town itself before the bus terminated at the outlying railway station. The castle and town both made me regret the need to continue with my day’s travel rather than getting out and exploring – another time!

My bus from Tavistock to Okehampton

The rail route between Okehampton and Exeter was notably reopened as a proper part of the national passenger network in 2021, following four decades of being first a freight-only line, then a heritage railway plus a few Sunday-only ordinary passenger services. The station still feels very “heritage-y” even though I think the heritage services have entirely stopped: as well as heritage decor, signs etc., there’s a little second-hand bookshop and tiny railway museum in a couple of the station buildings. It was very nice!

My train soon arrived and took me to Exeter St Davids where, getting out to buy some lunch to eat later, I was faced with too many exciting choices: the WHSmith in the station stocked vegan pre-packaged sandwiches from “This Isn’t”, which I’d never seen before. Pre-packaged sandwiches are often an area where I have trouble as a vegetarian-and-no-egg – often the only available choice is a cheese and pickle, which I don’t particularly like, or a cheese ploughman’s, which is at least okay. Vegan packaged sandwiches, while there are some nice ones (e.g. M&S’s “VLT”), are often disappointing, particularly since I don’t really like falafel. So I excitedly bought a This Isn’t Chicken and Sweetcorn sandwich. Heading outside though, I found a corner-shop-style place called The Shop, which had even more tempting stuff – in their little bakery cabinet, they had not only a vegan sausage roll, but also a vegan steak bake and I think a couple of other things, giving Greggs some stiff competition. I got the sausage roll, and it was indeed very nice.

I’ve been to Exeter once before, but as described on this blog, did no activities other than spending 4 hours in a giant branch of Tesco. Despite this, I didn’t have a look around Exeter this time either, as I knew I’d be returning a month or two later for friend Cheremy’s wedding and could explore then. Instead I hopped on a South Western Railway train, which took me the forty minutes or so to Axminster, along the West of England line – the slower of Exeter’s two routes into London, heading via Salisbury.

A bus-window view of Lyme Regis

We were a little delayed, so I ran for my connecting bus at Axminster, but fortunately caught it: I got on the X53 “Jurassic Coaster” – this being the branding for an impressively nice, frequent, tourist-oriented network of long-ish-distance bus routes unsuprisingly covering the Jurassic Coast – a long area of the Devon and Dorset coastline known for its fossils and dramatic rock formations. It was a fairly quiet double-decker bus with giant windows so there were some nice views as we passed through coastal countryside and the towns of Lyme Regis and Bridport – the latter of which I visited last year. On the bus, I ate my “This Isn’t Chicken and Sweetcorn” sandwich was was great – I think this is now my favourite pre-packaged sandwich, even having since tried the “chicken and stuffing” and “coronation chicken” equivalents.

My destination for the day was the village of Yetminster inland in Dorset, and to get there I needed to travel through to Weymouth at the end of this bus route, then get the train. However, I wanted to make at least one stop on this long bus leg, and chose the village of Abbotsbury. Abbotsbury came after a section of the route where the bus had been high up, travelling along a ridge labelled Limekiln Hill on my map, and when we started descending towards the village, the most amazing view opened up – I could see the full length of Chesil Beach right out to the Isle of Portland, and nearer at hand could see the building that had drawn me to Abbotsbury: the medieval St Catherine’s Chapel, sitting atop a hill outside the village.

The Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach seen from the Jurassic Coaster bus. You can also just about make out St Catherine’s Chapel – the little finger of trees sticking out of the forest in the centre of the view is very helpfully pointing right at it!

As planned, I got out at Abbotsbury, and stashed my bag in a hedge while I did the short walk up the hill to St Catherine’s Chapel.

The chapel was built as a pilgrimage chapel, which makes sense as the top of the hill would be a bit of an odd location for an ordinary village church. It was indeed in a very nice spot, sitting on a cow-grazed hilltop with the same great view out to Chesil Beach and Portland that I’d seen from the bus. The village itself, once I headed down, was a stereotypically postcard-pretty English village, oozing with thatched yellow stone cottages and so on. Unfortunately I needed to get moving towards Weymouth to catch the infrequent train onward to Yetminster, so I didn’t get a chance to explore the ruined Abbey, but oh well!

I therefore got on another Jurassic Coaster, which turned out to be an open-topped bus! It wasn’t a particularly warm day but I decided to brave it, and it was enjoyable enough, though it would’ve been nicer on the first half of the hourney, I think, as that had better views. I had a little problem in that when I got on the first bus at Axminster, I’d asked for a ticket that would let me go through to Weymouth but get off and back on in-between, and was given what looked like an ordinary single for £7. (This whole holiday would’ve been a lot cheaper if I were doing it now – I’m writing as the government’s temporary £2 cap on single bus fares is in operation!) Getting on my second bus, the driver told me it was invalid for this purpose and I should’ve been given a return, which allows breaking the journey in this way – fortunately though, he let me off this once.

Weymouth had a reasonably nice seafront, with views out to the cliffs further along the Jurassic Coast. The rest of the town was pretty drab and unremarkable though. I needed to buy some dinner to have in my B&B that evening, but it being a Sunday evening, I only had a choice of several dingy corner shops – in the end, after rejecting some 12-year-olds who wanted me to buy beer for them, I ended up with the somewhat odd combination of some instant noodles, tinned chickpea curry and a tin of sweetcorn, which I’d try to heat up with my B&B room kettle as well as I could!

My last travel stint of the day would be a train up the Heart of Wessex Line, which runs from Weymouth to Bristol via Yeovil. It’s a rural route with trains only every two hours, and I’d be taking just the first forty minutes or so to the village of Yetminster – a request stop, so I made sure to let the guard know I wanted to get off there. I’ve got off a train at a request stop once before, at Kinbrace a few of years ago, but had never before flagged one down to get on it, so that delight awaited tomorrow!

A pleasing sunlit house in Yetminster!

Getting off the train, I walked through the village in the low afternoon sun to my B&B for the night, which was on an outlying farm. There, the owner welcomed me, and when I said I’d probably be leaving too early for breakfast, kindly offered that it’d be no problem to cook me breakfast at 6:30am – it being a farm, they’re up early anyway. I went up to my room, and had a relaxed evening, putting together my somewhat odd dinner and getting to bed early for my early start the next day!


[1] The individual map area posts will duplicate the contents of the special trip posts, but unlike the latter they won’t form a continuous narrative, since they’ll skip things I did in map areas I’ve already posted about. They will, though, newly contain narration of anything I did on previous visits there – since some of these are areas which are new to the blog, but which I visited before starting my blog in 2017.

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