So, having been in Devon for exactly three days, I’m running the risk of starting a local war. By going to Cornwall.
I partly blame my acquaintance and staunch Kernowist (I’ll get this terminology sorted our soon) Rob. He was taught how to speak Nottingham by reciting the words “Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet” in an East Midlands accent. If you’re not familiar with said accent, don’t worry. But do stay with me.
Rob loves telling people that everything in Cornwall is better than in Devon. In an earlier blog I referred to the spectacular view from the train window at Dawlish, where the track becomes part of the coastline. It’s spectacular.
But I hadn’t banked on Cornwall’s trump card : the branch line to St Ives.
Kudos, indeed to Kernow. Of course, everything looks better in the sunshine. But this small stretch of rail line is testament to how public transport can survive if you really put your mind to it. Across the south west, no fewer than six of these relatively tiny routes connect the mainline with picture postcard locations like Falmouth, Looe, Newquay and St Ives itself.
What’s more, brilliant ticket deals mean you can hop on and off any train in either Devon or Cornwall all day for a tenner. The connections on a Sunday and my own time limits don’t really make for much exploring – but who needs to move far on a sunny day like this?
“How long does the round trip take?” I ask the young conductor.
“It’s about three hours. Sort of. I can’t give you an exact time with the traffic.”
“And is this just a Sunday thing?”
“Erm, I think it’s Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays for now. But again, it’s hard to say.”
He had the tone of an employee on a zero hours contract who might soon be doing zero hours because of pending cutbacks.
I felt sorry for him, because thanks to smart marketing and business foresight, the railway looks safe for now. The line picks up at a park and ride just a couple of miles down the road, which is just as well given how tricky it looks to drive through St Ives in the high season.