David Arnold’s Dripping Yarns – taking a trip to Bognor on Clive’s bus, Nellie

Nellie the bus
Nellie the bus

Several dozen Lewes fans will be travelling in unusual style to the Easter Monday Ryman Premier game at Bognor Regis when their transport will be a 60-year-old vintage London Transport Country Area bus nicknamed ‘Nellie’.

The Jolly Boys trip is the idea of Lewes FC Director Clive Burgess. He is one of a consortium of six people who own the vehicle. Most often the RF600 AEC Regal IV bus takes part in events such as the current Bluebell Railway Festival marking the extension of the line to East Grinstead; Clive’s bus will be at the station on Saturday and Sunday 6 -7 April.

However, vintage transport enthusiast Clive has been keen to show off his shiny green machine in his hometown of Lewes: “What better way than to drive it down to the bus station, load it up with Lewes fans and make the leisurely run to Bognor,” he said.

“The journey back will be even better if the team can pick up a point or three.”

Leisurely is the right word for the RF600 has a top speed of just 40mph, while its 9.6 litre diesel engine has a fuel consumption of 10mpg.

Clive says that the latter figure is actually better than that delivered by many modern buses simply because they are heavier and have thirsty features such as air conditioning.

For 20 years from new, Nellie was a working vehicle based at garages at Guildford, Garston, Hertford and St Albans. She clocked up around 50,000 miles per annum – that’s a million miles in total!

Upon retirement in 1973 the bus escaped the scrapheap and went into preservation.

Clive and his companions acquired it in 2011.

These days they reckon to travel 2,000 miles a year to rallies and other events.

I wondered where his interest in buses originated?

“I grew up in London where the bus is a transport icon.

“I went to school on the double decker Routemasters and became fascinated with buses even as a teenager.

“Owning a part of a bus is a dream come true for me, especially as I am qualified to drive it and in fact will be doing that for the Easter Monday outing.”

There just may still be a few seats to be filled. To check give Clive a call on 01273 475395. The bus departs from Lewes Bus Station at noon and makes pick-ups at Lewes Prison and the Black Lion in Patcham en route to Bognor. Clive says “We promise no Cliff Richard songs and will certainly not be paying a visit to Butlin’s.”

I had wanted to suggest a clever headline to this Yarns, something like Stop Press: Lewes Coach moves to Bognor. But Clive (pictured above) pointed out:“Nellie is a bus not a coach. Buses do local journeys. Coaches are private hire and undertake inter-city motorway work.”

As Nellie approaches her 60th birthday, she has certainly got something else to look forward to in retirement... a bus pass!