Monday 4th July 2021
It’s great to see the brilliant Moorsbus network of summer weekend bus routes across the North York Moors make a much welcome return after its enforced Covid absence last year.
Running every Saturday and Sunday throughout July, August and September the routes numbered M1 to M8 as well as M31 provide a unique opportunity to access parts of this fascinating National Park otherwise off limits to bus users.
Like DalesBus this only comes about through the hard work of dedicated volunteers who design and plan the routes and timetables, raise much needed funds and request donations to subsidise the routes and commission bus companies to operate them.
A not-for-profit Community Interest Company oversees the formal bits while a Friends of Moorsbus engenders public support.
Operators involved this year are Arriva North East, Reliance and York Pullman. Connections are also available with routes operated by East Yorkshire.
The Moorsbus network covers an area bounded by Guisborough in the north, Dalby Forest and Pickering in the east, Malton in the south and Thirsk and Northallerton in the west.
What are described as ‘long haul’ journeys connect major towns (eg Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and York) at the beginning and end of the day with buses providing frequent links during the day within the area to popular destinations (eg Helmsley, Stokesley, Hutton-le-Hole and Rosedale Abbey).
Buses also serve the main visitor centre at Danby as well as those at Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest.
Here’s a fantastic explanation of what it’s all about taken from the splendid colourful timetable booklet produced by Moorsbus.
This booklet has all the Moorsbus timetables as well as details of East Yorkshire’s route 128 which operates along the A170 between Pickering, Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley on the southern border and route ME1 linking the Moors with Hull.
The coloured line map diagram showing the routes, particularly the three main north-south routes across the Moors, as featured above (from the Moorsbus website) is also included in the booklet.
In previous years I’ve travelled on route M4 serving Rievaulx Abbey and Sutton Bank to the west as well as route M8 via Blakey and Hutton-le-Hole in the centre a couple of times but the most easterly route via Rosedale Abbey had always eluded me, so I decided to put that gap in my travel experience right on Saturday and headed up to York to welcome the 2021 Moorsbus network on its first day in 2021.
The 07:30 LNER train from Kings Cross was due into York at 09:32 giving a comfortable connection with route M8 departing from outside the station at 09:45. Except the usual unforeseen problems on the East Coast Main Line (signalling issues at Stevenage and a train in front hitting a deer requiring that driver to stop and check his train) meant an actual arrival at 09:42 but knowledge of which door of the train to alight from at York for a quick exit and using the less congested subway under the tracks in the station meant the connection worked fine and it was a relief to see the very smart Reliance bus waiting outside all screened up for route M8 as I jumped on board at 09:44.
The Saturday Moorsbus network is not as intensive as the Sunday timetables with only three buses needed. Reliance provide one vehicle as does Arriva and York Pullman. On Sundays there must be at least six or seven buses on the network with many additional journey possibilities as a result.
All buses on the network have a clear identifying green triangle in the front windscreen and around the vehicle as well as clear destination screens.
Moorsbus branded information about Covid precautions was also on display inside…
… and most impressive of all, a basket over brimming with pertinent tourist leaflets and supplies of the Moorsbus timetable booklet was in the luggage rack.
The Reliance bus also comes equipped with a cab door mounted leaflet rack so the Company’s own bus timetables can be displayed and obtained. How excellent is that?
I wish those short sighted lazy bus companies who fail to see the wisdom of producing printed material could see how much the provision of such information is welcomed by passengers. Everyone boarding picked up a Moorsbus timetable and had a look at the other information available.
Moorsbus have a website containing timetables and a map which is great for preplanning journeys but there’s nothing like having a timetable in your hand when travelling as well as a booklet like this one giving ideas of where to travel around the network.
We headed up to Pickering via Malton arriving on time at 10:55 and connecting with the York Pullman operated route M7 heading to Dalby Forest at 10:59. This bus had just arrived from its first journey back from Rosedale Abbey having left York much earlier than us at 08:30.
It was good to see passengers interchanging between the buses and we gained more than we lost leaving Pickering with about a dozen on board.
We then headed west to Kirkbymoorside where a connection is made at 11:15 with the Arriva operated route over to Helmsley and Sutton Bank before continuing via Rievaulx Abbey and Stokesley to Guisborough and the Danby Moors Centre.
Again it was great to see passengers switching between the two buses and taking advantage of the journey opportunities presented by clever timetabling.
I understand the bus being used by Reliance was a former Alexander Dennis Enviro200 demonstrator and it certainly impressed passengers on board with some commenting it’s a brand new bus.
It came equipped with all the latest gizmos and had very comfortable seats and was immaculately clean.
We then headed north through the central road across the moors via Hutton-le-Hole, where we dropped off two walkers (who were obviously loyal Moorsbus regulars), and then on towards Castleton and Danby.
However I left the bus at Blakey Lion Inn at 11:37 which must be one of the remotest bus stops in England.
On Saturdays two journeys on route M6 extend beyond Rosedale Abbey to turn round at Blakey Lion Inn at 12:15 and 14:35 and it just seemed to good an opportunity to miss – to wait for 38 minutes before catching a bus at such a quirky remote terminus high up on the moors.
To my surprise another passenger also alighted there and obviously being in such a remote spot – and the pub being closed, not opening until midday – we got chatting and I found I’d met John who knows the area like the back of his hand, living in Kirbymoorside and having taught in a local school and even better, had a passion for bus and train travel and quirky bus journeys.
As you can imagine we had a good chat about our experiences and the time soon passed before the York Pullman bus arrived to take us back down to Pickering via the eastern road and Rosedale Abbey and Cropton on route M6.
It’s a fantastic journey with scenery changing from the wild moors …
… through woodland and green pastures in the valleys as we descended before reaching the delightful village of Rosedale Abbey.
John was a great guide explaining much of the history of the area as we went along including long abandoned rail lines.
We had to take a few minutes rest in Rosedale Abbey as the bus brakes had over heated and there was quite a bit of smoke emanating from either side of the back axle but as there is no mobile signal in the area our driver diagnosed the problem and deemed it safe to continue cautiously down to Pickering.
John was telling me he recommends circular tours using Moorsbus as well as the Esk Valley railway line (Whitby-Danby-Middlesbrough) to the local Ryedale community and tries to encourage bus use. He’s just the person every local community needs to help raise the profile of buses.
It was only a fleeting visit to the North York Moors on Saturday but I’m pleased to have finally ticked off the M6 route which really is yet another superb scenic bus route to savour and I’ve made a note to return again and allow time to explore the delightful village of Rosedale Abbey.
I also came away inspired and impressed once again with the brilliant work of the Moorsbus volunteers. Like DalesBus, what they achiveve on a voluntary spare time basis puts some well resourced bus companies to shame.
Moors Rover tickets are valid for travel on sections of routes operated by Arriva, East Yorkshire and Reliance as well as the M numbered services offering excellent value for money.
As readers may have spotted from the window poster shown above Moorsbus also encourage donations – they can be paid to the driver in either £2, £5 or £10 for which a ticket receipt is issued – which is particularly pertinent for concessionary passholders as the reimbursement rate for such travel by North Yorkshire County Council is woefully inadequate – even a full bus wouldn’t provide sufficient funds.
I hope passholding passengers will give their support in this way and if so I have no doubt this year’s Moorsbus will be a success. Many congratulations to the team behind it.