FROM THE CUMBERLAND NEWS, CARLISLE
A MAN who travelled the length of the country in a “birth to death” journey using only his old folk’s bus pass has said he felt “surprisingly” emotional when his feet touched Cumbrian soil for the first time in more than week.
Richard Harris took 41 buses to make the 865-mile zigzag trip from where he was born in Devon to the woodland burial ground at Wetheral where he already has a plot booked.
His book about what he calls his ‘daft adventure’ – ‘Bus Pass To Eternity’ – has just been published.
He says that though the route took in all the places that have been important to him in his life, he realised that it was only when he got to Cumbria that he felt at home.
“I did not fling myself to the ground as a visiting pope might have done, but I did feel just a bit emotional when, in Kirkby Lonsdale, my feet hit Cumbrian soil for the first time,” he says.
“It was a strange, confusing feeling because I was born in South Devon, grew up in Somerset, still support Bristol City and in many ways still consider myself a westcountry man. Yet despite getting quite emotional when I called in on those places on my travels, it was nothing to what I felt when I got back to Cumbria.”
Richard, a retired journalist and former editor of the Cumberland News and News & Star, began his trip in the very bedroom in which he was born, in the little village of Tipton St John, near Sidmouth.
“I’d written to the people who now live in what in the 1940s had been my grandparents’ house and, after explaining what I was planning, cheekily asked them to invite me in for a coffee,” he says.
“They were very excited about the whole thing – more excited than I was, even – which got the trip off to a brilliant start.”
Richard says the couple gave his trip such a good start he just knew the rest of it would be a success.
“I knew it was going to be fun, but I did not expect it to be one of the best things I’d ever done in my life,” he says.
"Every day was packed with fascinating places, interesting experiences and wonderfully friendly people. And the buses were all pretty comfortable, and almost always within a couple of minutes of being perfectly on time.
“And of course being able to do it using a free bus pass was something of a bonus!”
From South Devon Richard travelled to Bude, in Cornwall, where he and his family spent their holidays when he was a child; Burnham-on-Sea, in Somerset, where he met the girl who became his wife; Weston-super-Mare and Bristol, where he got his first jobs as a newspaper reporter; Leominster, in Herefordshire, where he was married; Birmingham, where he lived for the first four years of his life; and Nottingham, where he worked for 17 years.
From there he came home through Manchester and Skipton (where a B&B landlady was so impressed by what he was doing that she upgraded him to a bigger room), before spending his last day coming home through the Lake District.
“It felt so good to be back on Cumbrian soil,” he says, “even though one of my first stops was in Bowness-on-Windermere, which was so busy it was a nightmare.
“The route from there back to Penrith via Ullswater made up for that, though – the most scenic stretch of the whole trip. It was a lovely day, the lakes and mountains were looking fabulous to welcome me home.”