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Bus Fest 2023 was just the ticket for thousands of visitors to Whittlesey

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Those were the days, my friend, We thought they’d never end.

From the Mary Hopkins 60s hit and how we were reminded of that in, of all places, Whittlesey.

For it was in Whittlesey in the Cambridgeshire fens where enthusiasts heaped a whopping tonnage on the town in the shape and form of around 40 collectors’ buses.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

It provided, quite literally, a trip down memory lane and hundreds queued to not only watch nostalgically as these magnificent beasts of the highway made an appearance but to clamber aboard and enjoy a free ride.

Never were the villages of such places as Turves (population 1,200) and Thorney (2,500) more popular than they were on Sunday as visitors from across the country hopped on a free bus from the market square for a scenic tour.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Bus Fest 2023 was just the ticket for thousands of visitors to Whittlesey

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

We were off into the Cambridgeshire countryside, en masse, for no other reason than we could.

It was a joyous occasion.

The irony, of normal Sunday services from the town being lost last year, was not lost on this writer who, having grown up in an era of buses being the only form of transport out of his home village, now finds himself living here and, after more than five decades of driving has paused the hold the motor car had on his life and opted instead for bus and rail travel.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Of many favourite moments from Sunday was the conversation with the owner of a traditional ‘half cab’ to whom I mentioned his was identical to the bus that for five years from the age of 11 had taken me to school.

It wasn’t though simply a matter of hopping on the bus near our home; I needed first to cycle three miles to where the bus would then pick me up to take me the 10 miles to Swaffham.

“Well, it wasn’t this one,” the owner told me, enthralling me with the history of his ‘half cab’ which had been built in 1932, de commissioned in 1944, used as a caravan on the south coast until 1973, when he bought it and converted it back to its original use.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

He and his wife have owned it since, and it still has pride of place in his front garden except for when it is driven out to country shows and events to share the limelight with buses of other eras and other vintages.

Bus Fest, Whittlesey, is extraordinary in that it is a show attended by thousands yet where little else happens.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,Whittlesey, Peterborough Sunday 21 May 2023. Picture by Terry Harris.

Fenland Bus Fest 2023,
Whittlesey, Peterborough
Sunday 21 May 2023.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Stalls selling bus memorabilia, of course, and a sole ice cream vendor, but apart from that very little.

Just buses. Dozens of them.

Weaving in and out of the town with destinations that also included Yaxley and the Ramsey Rural Museum.

And an efficient queuing system to hop on and grab a seat.

Some of my family, who I brought together for the day, also loved the occasion.

And there was much talk, and love, for ‘granddad Don’ (my late father) who enjoyed a lifetime of driving buses, including being one of the first to drive the one-man operated double decker buses between Great Yarmouth, Norwich, and Peterborough.

With his neatly starched collar, he epitomised a time of great pride, contentment, and public service.

Sadly, he never lived to see his retirement.

A drunk driver ended his life as he was heading home from the bus depot at Kings Lynn to our Swaffham home.

He was driving his second great love, a Morris 1000. Colour green. Registration YVF 412.

But on Sunday it was buses, his first love, that was the focal point of our memories.

 

 

 

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