Long bus rides: Ride the Wave through Rye

Thursday 7th July 2022

I’d originally planned a ride all the way from Hastings to Dover on Stagecoach’s long coastal bus route branded “Wave” between East Sussex and Kent skimming along the edge of Romney Marsh. And then I remembered buses haven’t run right through for some time with the route split at Rye. Still, at least that gives time for a comfort stop.

A four minute connection between buses from Hastings on route 100 arriving in Rye and route 102 departing for Dover looked tight but doable (admittedly I could have gone for the more leisurely 28 minute option off the 101 arrival) so I turned up at Hastings’ Conquest Hospital on a recent Wednesday morning with fingers crossed, and if it didn’t work I’d be able to enjoy an hour’s break over lunch in Rye while waiting for the next departure on route 102.

Although the route (like another Stagecoach operates in north Devon) has long been branded “Wave” with bus stops throughout the route displaying “Wave” logos – including on sister route 99 which runs westwards along the coast from Hastings to Eastbourne – none of the buses I saw on routes 100 and 101 between Hastings and Rye on my journey carried the branding, so it looks like it might be on the way out as part of Stagecoach’s centralised corporate hold over such matters.

Just to confuse things further Wave branding appears on the online network map for routes 100 and 101 as well as route 102 (with the routes shown in a nice aquamarine blue colour – see below) between Hastings, Rye and Dover but doesn’t appear on route 99 between Hastings and Eastbourne which is shown in a pink colour, but most buses on the 99 are still “Wave-ised”.

Buses between Hastings and Rye take partly different routes but both start at Conquest Hospital to the north of the town before short route variations to Silverhill and then run together to the bus station conveniently sited right alongside the railway station before continuing via Old London Road to Ore where they diverge. Route 100 runs hourly inland via Guesling and Ickelsham while route 101 also runs hourly but via the coastal road through Fairlight, Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach.

Both routes meet just east of Wincheslea from where they run half hourly to Rye.

I caught the 10:53 route 100 from Conquest Hospital on the northern edge of the town.

The bus arrived just a minute or two down on its scheduled arrival from its previous journey but after a fairly swift turnaround we were soon on our way just one minute late at 10:54 with one other passenger on board.

We picked up a dozen passengers heading down to Hastings town centre where the majority alighted. Arriving into the bus station (offering convenient interchange with trains) was a queue of 17 passengers waiting to board which took a while to complete meaning we left 7 minutes late and my connection in Rye was looking decidedly dodgy.

We picked more passengers up in Hastings town centre before heading along the seafront continuing to be busy with ons and offs through Old Town and towards Ore.

It was a lovely sunny hot June day making for a very pleasant ride. Even a bus shelter was getting in the open top spirit as we passed through Ore.

The route then becomes rural in nature with some lovely views of the East Sussex countryside ….

…. though Guesling and Icklesham before reaching Winchelsea ….

…. and its spectacular hairpin bend.

From WInchelsea it’s a short stretch onwards to Rye but frustratingly we were six minutes behind schedule as we approached the town making that connection looking unlikely.

Our scheduled arrival was 11:58 and it was now 12:04 with anticipation reaching fever pitch as we approached Rye Station and the route’s terminus around the corner in Station Approach.

As we drew up to the stand to my relief I saw the 12:02 departure on the 102 for Dover still there, so I headed quickly down the stairs to do a quick change.

Except just as we pulled up behind it…..

…. it drove off.

Never mind. I decided to change plans as having enjoyed my journey on the inland route 100 to Rye so much, thought I’d return to Hastings on the same bus I’d come out on as it was heading back as a 101 taking the southern more coastal route via Winchelsea Beach and Fairlight.

That was due to leave at 12:08 but we headed off still slightly late with four on board at 12:10.

The journey back via the 101 is a great ride. It doesn’t do Winchelsea’s hairpin bend, turning off instead to follow the seafront road along Winchelsea Beach…

…. before continuing via Pett Level towards Fairlight.

There’s a short double run to serve Fairlight village but the bus is soon back on the road towards Hastings and passing through Mallydams Wood.

When you think of a bus route branded ‘Wave’ you think sea views, but this route is full of surprises and offers a great variety of scenery including some very narrow rural roads to navigate.

And it never ceases to amaze me just how many drivers are unable to reverse their cars in a straight line, this one going in all directions as it backed up to let us pass….

We approached Hastings through Ore and the Old Town as we’d left it on the 100 and were soon passing along the seafront to the town centre where I left the bus as it continued on its way to Conquest Hospital to the north of the town. It hadn’t been a particularly busy journey, unlike the outward one to Rye, but I reckon around a dozen had been on board.

Having had my appetite wetted for scenic seafront journeys I decided to continue Riding the Wave eastwards and take a journey on Stagecoach’s route 99 through Bexhill, Little Common and Pevensey to Eastbourne – the one in pink with no ‘Wave’ branding on the map.

Route 99 runs every 20 minutes and the journey I took carried a lot of local passengers making journeys between Hastings and Little Common as well as inter-urban movements between that area and Eastbourne despite a frequent train service operated by Southern.

The journey I made was on a bus picking up significant number of passengers in the town centre which was impressive to see.

And then I realised the bus behind was running 20 minutes late and came from the bus station and passed us as we loaded.

We then played cat and mouse the whole way along the route to Eastbourne with our bus maintaining its scheduled timings and the late runner still 20 minutes behind schedule. It’s a shame some intervention from ‘control’ wasn’t forthcoming.

New buses were introduced on to route 99 in 2017 and came branded as ‘Wave’ although some are now taking on the new Stagecoach generic branding.

It’s a lovely route taking in the seafront road leaving Hastings towards Bexhill ….

…. and arriving there is marked by the eye catching Marine Court – designed by Kenneth Dalgleish and Roger K Pullen with overt references to the Cunard White-Star Line Queen Mary which entered transatlantic service in 1936….

…. from Bexhill town centre there’s another short stretch along the seafront to enjoy ….

…. before coming across a rather delightful bus shelter at Little Common …..

…. and finally after crossing over Pevensey’s level crossing ….

…. the route offers a great scenic entry into Eastbourne.

It had been quite a busy journey to begin with but as we were sharing the load with the late running bus, it became less hectic. I’d estimate around 30 had been on board.

I headed home from Eastbourne on the train although was tempted to take a ride on Brighton & Hove’s wonderfully scenic coastal route 13X via Beachy Head and Birling Gap as well as then joining the popular Coaster branded route 12 via Seaford to Brighton. I gave it a miss this time even though a bus was just leaving.

And finally I managed to achieve my goal of completing the Ride the Wave project all the way to Dover on Monday by taking the train back to Rye and picking up the 11:02 departure on route 102.

As the map shows this “Wave’ branded route operates via Camber, Lydd, New Romney, Hythe, and Folkestone.

It runs hourly from Rye with two more journeys per hour from Littlestone near New Romney making for a 20 minute frequency east from there. End to end journey time is just a minute short of a two and half hour run.

It’s another route very popular in the summer with tourists and visitors as well as providing good travel links for local residents all along the way.

Passengers waiting at Camber Sands for a Rye bound bus

This time the bus on route 100 due in at 10:58 arrived on time maintaining the four minute connection for the couple of passengers who made the transfer.

We left on time with 15 on board, around half got off in Camber from where it was a quiet journey across to Lydd and New Romney justifying the hourly frequency, but north of New Romney along to Hythe was noticeably busier as was the journey through to Folkestone (also served by route 16).

We changed drivers in Folkestone where most passengers alighted – just two on the upper deck travelled through – and after a five minute break we were on our way on the final leg taking just over half an hour to Dover with a reasonable number of passengers on board. We arrived in Dover’s Pencester Road terminus a couple of minutes ahead of the 13:31 scheduled arrival.

It’s a lovely route full of contrasting scenery from the open fields between Rye and Camber…

…. along the coast by Camber Sands….

…. past the lovely village of Lydd with its 14th century All Saints church (with Saxon remains dating from the 8th century or earlier)….

… continuing to the extreme south east corner of Kent by The Pilot, close to Dungeness Power Station….

…. then back northwards along the seafront towards New Romney ….

…. and on towards Hythe and then along the lovely seafront through Sandgate to Folkestone ….

…. from where there’s a long climb up to get above the cliffs for the final run into Dover….

….. and the terminus at Pencester Road, now sadly devoid of its Travel Office but very busy with Stagecoach buses, drivers and plenty of passengers which was good to see.

Once again it was the minority of buses out on the 102 on Monday with Wave branding, so it looks as though Stagecoach are waving goodbye to that brand for the future.

So that’s Eastbourne to Dover completed, albeit in an odd order. At one time when Stagecoach also operated route 12 (jointly with Brighton & Hove) between Eastbourne and Brighton it linked some of those journeys to its through Eastbourne to Dover service making for a very long Brighton to Dover through journey taking six and a half hours. And then some journeys were further extended to Worthing using a slightly different route to the coastal A259 out of Brighton but making for one of the longest bus journeys in England – if not the longest. That was quite a ride.

Hastin (no g)

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

23 thoughts on “Long bus rides: Ride the Wave through Rye

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  1. There is a real dilemma, isn’t there . . . do you operate a through service on something like Hastings – Rye – Folkestone – Dover, where there are undoubtedly through passenger journeys, but timekeeping will be a problem, and a long journey might also create expensive scheduling complexities?

    Or do you chop the route into chunks that reduce the complexities (and therefore costs), and accept that passengers will need to change buses? And if you go for the “chunks” answer . . . how much connection time should you allow?
    And how long should drivers wait? Departing as the connecting bus arrives is not good, but a 2 minute late departure could easily have become a 5 minute late departure after waiting for passengers to change buses, and 5 minutes is outwith the Traffic Commissioners window of timeliness.

    As our intrepid blogger has found . . . connectional times need to be “robust”, but not excessive. I’d say that 4 minutes wasn’t ever sufficient, especially in the South East where unknown traffic delays are more likely. Ten minutes would seem to be about right . . . but in these “time-sensitive” days, might this put intending through passengers off?

    If the frequency is higher (Route 700), then reduce connectional times, or don’t show them at all !!

    One thing is for sure . . . only local knowledge and local management will provide the answers.

    {On the upside . . . it is encouraging to note that passenger numbers seem to be increasing . . . but then in summertime with good weather . . . so they should be!!}.

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  2. Minor typo, you went west to Bexhill from Hastings, not East.

    I remember the 711 doing Brighton to Dover as I lived in Eastbourne at the time. The 400 did Eastbourne to Ashford for a short while too

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    1. 400 ran Eastbourne to Canterbury at one stage – I used to see them when I was at university in Wye just north of Ashford!

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  3. Re your comment about motorists reversing, we had a week in Cornwall some years ago and one of the sources of entertainment was watching drivers struggle to cope with an oncoming bus in narrow lanes. Is reversing still part of the driving test?
    Also interesting was when our bus driver had to get out of the cab to move a wheelie bin that had been left badly positioned in a village street. All part of the joy of rural bus travel

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  4. Could you just confirm that the maps you show are from Stagecoach web pages I presume there are no paper versions these days!

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  5. One of the few areas where patronage remains pleasingly high, and very tempting to suggest that an express service, as was the original 711, be re-introduced. The original 711 of course opened up the Lydd-Camber link, which had hitherto been a very restricted summer only service, and thus revolutionised bus travel along the Kent and Sussex coasts to the manner we now enjoy. This was the glory days of Stagecoach under the Souter’s waking up the bus industry.

    However, and I am not really sure who is to blame, but some of the journeys I have made recently, particularly on the 99 have been torturously slow for no obvious reasons. A recent Sunday with a twenty minute late start in Eastbourne, had become a twenty-five minute late arrival in Hastings with no traffic and only average loadings. The Driver never going above 20mph. Hardly inspiring to regular passengers and if the “Wave” group ran as sharply and fast as Brighton’s 12/A/X, I am sure they would be more popular than ever. Perhaps the £2 flat fare would help speed things up, but I won’t hold my breath.

    The use of double-deckers throughout has much to do with such success, and I too well remember the 711 as was living in St. Mary’s Bay at it’s commencement. To take a trip to Brighton in a cramped and very busy Dennis Dart was not one of life’s enhancing experiences, and single-decks were very much the order of the day on many parallel services.

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  6. It is dreadful that the connection in Rye departed as you arrived. This happens all too often where routes have been split and does not encourage use of the service. At o e stage it did run through, and for a while the Guestling and Pett Level routes both went all the way to Dover, giving a half hourly service between Rye and Lydd.
    Stagecoach have had a habit recently of splitting ling routes. They did the same with the long route from Brighton to Southsea, which is still numbered 700 throughout but on which you have to change once or even twice, and the connections are not good.
    Longer routes are much better for folk travelling further. I travel from Somerset to the Yorkshire Dales often and my best route made use of the excellent Witchway service X43 which ran through from Manchester to Skipton every 30 mins. Last year the split it at Burnley, and reduced the Skipton end to an hourly service renamed the Pendle Wizz. But the connections in Burnley never work, so the through journey takes over an hour longer as a result.
    The company said that this prevented traffic delays in Manchester delaying services near Skipton but I think the change did more harm than good

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    1. Missed connections are a big blind spot in the eye of bus – and rail – management. They say, loud and clear, “do not bother to try and make journeys involving more than one bus (or train) – if you have problems, we are NOT going to help you.” And this message is seen by not just the poor passengers who missed the connection, but by everyone else on the two buses (or trains) and a lot of by-standers. And this at a time when every effort is needed to grow theuse of public transport by making it more attractive, and offering more travel possibilities.

      I know it can be inconvenient, and trouble for schedulers, but it is a nettle that needs grasping, because, if the drive to grow new custom is nailed to ‘one-seat’ journeys only, the bus and train industry will be missing out on a much bigger market. These days it should be possible to call a central advice no to say ‘my bus will arrive a bit late at Rye – can you hold the departing no 102 for me to board it?’ If for some real reason that is not possible, the advice office could then help find a different route, and arrange for any pre-booked ticket to be valid on it. But … of course, Stagecoach are just closing down their travel offices … So customer-friendly!

      Just as a reminder which we shouldn’t need, bus-users are often people who cannot easily afford an extra hour because a connection is missed due to carelessness, bureaucracy or bad management policies.

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  7. I once rode the 711 from Dover to Brighton as part of a round trip from London using National Express shuttles from London to Dover and Brighton to London. I think there was a timing stop in Rye. More recently I did the 99 from Eastbourne to Hastings and back and I too found it slow going with a lot of late running, but otherwise it was quite a nice ride. Pity I couldn’t say the same about the other passengers!

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  8. This reminds me of when I worked as a season hand on the East Kent in the summers of 1954-56. In those days the road was not open between the Coastguard Cottages at Broomhill and Lydd, and we ran two Saturday services to Broomhill on the 114 (or 116 in 1954-5). That was a CFN Dennis single decker, whereas we ran a TD4 double decker service from Rye to Camber in 1954-5 and from Winchelsea Beach through to Camber in 1956, after the road to the Beach had been improved. The single decker in 1954 was always AJG47, a Dennis Lancet 4 which was not allowed to go to Hastings, but did go to the New Inn via the arch on the last service of the day to the Beach. There was no road between Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach at that time.In Low Summer, single deckers ran through as service 114/116. The service to New Romney and beyond was provided by the Limited Stop 62 service, from Hastings to Margate. Hastings garage operated that route, but we in Rye had a 62 Relief duty, which began with Winchelsea Beach Schols in term time, then stod by for the 09:30 departure for Margate in Rye,. That arrived in Margate at 1pm, and the next return was at 16;30. We were never needed on that so came back behind the 18;15 service. That arrived in Rye at 21:45, after the last 113 had gone to Hastings and, if you still had passengers for Hastings on board, you had to carry on, arriving in Hastings at 22:30. The last 113 back to Rye was at was at 22:20, so it would be a light run back to Rye, clocking off about 23:30. That happened to me once on an August Bank holiday, Double pay plus a day in lieu, so I was not unhappy.

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  9. Many of the original buses that were branded for the Wave (100-102 version) have been transferred to Herne Bay garage for service initially on the Triangle after repaint. At one time evidence of their past life could be seen on the lower deck coving (may still be the case but I can’t remember last time I saw it).

    I can remember travelling on the 102 when the timetable showed a fairly generous connection time for the on-going route (not guaranteed) but, following a hold up in Camber – not unusual – it pulled up just behind the outgoing bus; on another occasion there were people (including me) calling out and pointing to a 102 pulling up behind as a Hastings bound vehicle departed. Now there appears to be no pretense of a connection. Going eastbound it is better to allow plenty of connection time.

    Although it is now a longer route, diverting the bus along the coast road between New Romney and Lydd then on to Camber does give an idea of how desolate the Marsh is.

    A couple of minor corrections – just above the Hastings to Rye map, I reckon you mean Fairlight, Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach; just below it Winchelsea. (It would have been a long day.)

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  10. These routes are very useful to anyone who is walking the England Coast Path.
    A commercial opportunity for coast hugging bus routes – but wil anyone take up the opromotion?
    The walks are even better than the bus rides!

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  11. Regarding long Stagecoach routes, there was until the last year or three a route 48 that ran every 10 minutes from Coventry to Nuneaton and then alternately to Leicester and Atherstone, both numbered 48.

    Roughly coinciding with the introduction of E200MMCs, the route was split, such that all journeys started or finished at Nuneaton, as 48C 48A or 48L.

    There is direct competition from Coventry to Nuneaton on NX Coventry route 20, recently extended from Bedworth, and from Nuneaton to Leicester by Arriva 158, which is very long-standing and, I think, uses the old Midland Red route number, and also every 20 mins.

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    1. Yes, the Nuneaton to Leicester route is long standing, but in Midland Red days it started at Coventry just like the former Leicester branch of the Stagecoach 48, and was numbered 658. The 158 on the other hand connected Coventry with Birmingham, and I don’t know that there was ever a cross-Coventry route with that number.

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      1. I believe the service you mention was the 158 Birmingham to Coventry via Hampton-in-Arden (?) – sort of paralleled the 159.
        I have looked at the (unofficial) Midland Red website. There are three photos of buses on service 158. One bus has destination Leicester via Hinckley, another Nuneaton via Hinckley, the third just Hinckley. Two buses are in Midland Fox livery, the other Arriva Fox Country.
        It could be that Midland Fox (alias East) decided to show its independence by renumbering its routes on the pretext that the public don’t like ‘big numbers’ (they don’t like renumbering even more but that is by-the-by).
        Incidentally, one bus, featured twice, fleet number 2158 (I guess no accident) is a rebuilt National, a ‘Greenway’, so that gives some idea of the vintage.

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  12. Yes, I was confusing the 158 and 159 between Birmingham and Coventry – apologies.

    Midland Fox inherited the 658 (Coventry to Leicester via Nuneaton and Hinckley) from Midland Red. By 1988 it had been renumbered as 158 and truncated at Nuneaton, and that continues with Arriva. However Midland Red South continued to operate the full route as 157, which was later renumbered as 48 by Stagecoach and is now 48A – which bustimes.org shows as continuing through to Coventry despite the apparent renumbering south of Nuneaton.

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    1. The 158 did (I believe) go between Birmingham and Coventry at one time. I think it was pretty irregular and infrequent – just really a pickup in the villages. I suspect it was cut back after West Mids took over Midland Red routes.

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