The route of X53 plunges into valleys, touches the coast, dives through woods, soars over open uplands. Here are some of the views to watch out for.
The country around Bridport on the north and west seems to be composed of pointy hills. Ahead as the bus comes out of Bridport westward is a remarkably conical grassy peak, with a stand of five pine trees on top. They were planted a century ago in honour of a local gentleman, and there is a plan to replace them if they die.
Chideock (pronouncedChiddock) is down in a valley walled by hills that are beautiful whichever direction you are travelling. If westward, as the road comes over a narrow pass from Bridport you see high ahead a long dark rectangle: that is Langdon Hill, with a wood fitted over it like a lid over a suitcase, and to its left is the back of the more famous Golden Cap. Down in the village the bus stops by the bridge, so you get a glimpse of the stream called Chideock Water.
The view that takes in as much as possible of the route in one glance is from a spot called Wears Hill. You will have come from Bridport and West Bay, through the large limestone village of Burton Bradstock and past signposts to Puncknowle on the left (pronouncedPunnel) and to West Bexington down by a gravelly beach; now you’re crossing high downland. A great vista opens. Below, mostly tucked out of sight, is Abbotsbury, with its swannery on the end of the Fleet, The largest lagoon in England. Separating the Fleet from the sea is the rampart of shingle called Chesil Bank; and Chesil Bank stretches away in a smooth ten-mile curve to touch the Isle of Portland.
Around the tight corner into Lyme Regis looms a double-decker bus, almost as tall as the old half-timbered buildings between which it squeezes. Along its side runs a wavy band of names: Poole, Wareham, Weymouth, Abbotsbury, Bridport, Lyme Regis, Seaton, Beer, Exeter and on the other side of the bus the same names in the reverse order.
This is the X53, also known as CoastLineX53, because its route threads the Jurassic Coast from end to end, as nearly as a bus can.
It runs every two hours through most of the day. For instance you could start from Exeter at 8:45 a.m., reach Poole at 1:20 p.m., start back from there at 1:50, and be again in Exeter at 6:22. And that way you would indeed enjoy a lot of scenery, especially if you climb the stairs and take one of the four seats at the front. You will be almost seeing in through those upper windows in Lyme; and crossing the high downlands east of Bridport and looking down the valleys to the shining sea, you may feel you are in a low-flying aircraft.
But more likely you will want to break the journey at one of its many points of interest, before picking up the next bus on or back. The stops at Weymouth, West Bay, Lyme, Seaton, and Beer are on or near their sea fronts and close to their beaches. The inland towns such as Wareham and Bridport are well worth exploring. From Chideock or Morecombelake you could take a walk to the top of Golden Cap. There are many other points where you can get onto the South West Coastal Path; for instance from Seaton you could walk the clifftop to Beer and on to Branscombe.
The route of theX53 is 85 miles long and takes 4 hours and 35 minutes, so at a given time there are two buses travelling in each direction, and they meet and greet each other between Chickerell and Portesham and between Chideock and Morecombelake. For one driver to go all the way and back would be tiring and in fact impossible (except for the one link-up we mentioned). There are six buses that take turns, and a roster of about forty drivers, who drive parts of the route and hand over to each other.
For details of the timetable (which is also posted at stops and available from drivers) and the fares (which include individual and family Explorer tickets for one-day unlimited travel) call 0871 200 2233 or visit www.firstgroup.com/dorset