Our first Road-Run of 2013 was in our newly restored former Western Welsh, Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopard 177 (OUH177G). We set off from Barry Depot (now, our usual starting point) at 19:05 on Wednesday 16 May with Bob in the driving seat, his first trip as our driver though with many years of experience with two of our biggest local bus operators.
177 was in fine fettle and we were soon climbing out of Barry toward Wenvoe in order to pick up our route to Porthcawl a very well known South Wales seaside town. On reaching Culverhouse Cross on the western extremities of Cardiff we joined the A48, which in it’s day was the principle main road across South Wales. Following the old Western Welsh/National Welsh 231 service route to Porthcawl we climbed the Tumble hill to reach the “Downs” (strangely named for an area on top of a hill), then on through St. Nicholas and Bonvilston, crossing the small market town of Cowbridge on the elevated “Cowbridge by-pass”, another major feature of the old A48, “Crack Hill” came next on which we made a cautious decent to the “Golden Mile” once a long straight on which coaches, notably those of the former Neath & Cardiff Luxury Coaches would exceed 70mph, sad to say now the road is a shadow of it’s former self, littered with new roundabouts and a railway level crossing put in a few years ago to serve the then newly constructed Ford engine plant. The sun still shining brightly, we reached the outskirts of Bridgend, bearing left on our second by-pass we headed for Stormydown the name abbreviated by Western Welsh, Bridgend depot bus crews to “Stormy”, a wild area of the A48 between Laleston and Pyle. Turning left just before “Stormy” we were now on the last leg of our journey to Porthcawl and the seaside, as I remember a very fast piece of road, at least when traffic would allow, (summer excepted) of course as in any traditional seaside bus route timetable.
My personal memories of driving on the 230/231 and 244 along this stretch calling at the very popular “Happy Valley” campsite during the summer months, (Oh what fun) with fully laden Leyland Nationals being poked along at top speed on an undulating serpentine road with not much room for driver error ! Those Bridgend NDs used to fly, with drivers from Bridgend, Porth and the green labelled “Cynon Dare” 172s from Aberdare depot all in the mix but I digress. Nottage soon came by the window and Porthcawl sea front was now only minutes away, Bob and our trusty 177 had made it unscathed, our party of about 25 members and friends all alighted, most taking photographs and then scooting off to the pub. The fresh air and sea breezes proving to much, except for the very hardy who waited their time with the bus. After our 45 minute stop for refreshment and while still light we were on the road again in what seemed like a very swift return trip to Barry. All those roundabouts mentioned earlier slowed our approach to “Crack Hill” but judicial use of the split ratio axle by Bob ensured a fast climb for an old coach, 177 has great pulling power for a old timer, like all Leylands, once wound up.
Arriving at Culverhouse Cross once more, though now in failing light we had to wait our turn to get onto the roundabout, at this point a friendly exchange was heard between Bob and a car driver through the open cab window, it turned out the car driver recognised 177 as a Western Welsh coach he had worked on at Ely Works years before and was pleased to see it still active some 40 years later, well you never know who’s watching. We arrived back at Barry at around 10pm after an enjoyable trip in our flagship coach. (photos below by Mac Winfield and Tudor Thomas).

May 1st, 2013

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