We are delighted to announce that today we have joined forces with another local independent bus operator Seaford & District to create an international coach operator called Brighton Horizon Coaches. The new brand launched today at a special ceremony at the Peace Statue on Brighton & Hove’s seafront.
The Big Lemon first entered the coach industry by chance, when in early 2008 someone asked if they could hire a Big Lemon bus for a day trip to London. The trip went ahead, and the company was soon doing regular trips and later that year bought a coach to dedicate to private hire full time. Since then the coach fleet has grown to seven vehicles and services include school and college services, private coach hire, festival coaches, day trips, sports fixtures, airport transfers and rail replacement coaches.
In recent years The Big Lemon has invested heavily in the fleet, which has transformed from a rather aged fleet to one with modern luxury coaches, including two fully wheelchair-accessible coaches. The tie-up with Seaford & District will make the new company Brighton & Hove’s largest coach operator with a fleet of 11 coaches; with four fully wheelchair-accessible.
Founder and CEO Tom Druitt said
“The Big Lemon and Seaford & District have worked together for a number of years, helping each other out when needed and working together wherever possible to improve services to our passengers. We share many of the same values and at the end of the day both of us have always been 100% focused on our customers and providing them with the best possible experience. Seaford & District is run by real transport enthusiasts who care deeply about the quality of their work and I’m delighted that we have been able to work with them to create a new coach company that brings together the best of what we have to offer, with a combination of quality and innovation that’s truly unique in the local coach market.
“On a personal note, I’m incredibly proud of our Coach Manager Ryan Wrotny who joined us as a 13 year old boy having saved up his pocket money to buy a share in the company. He has worked hard ever since that day, first of all helping me wash buses and run the office, then training as a bus driver and driving our 52 bus for two years; and finally passing his Transport Managers’ Certificate of Professional Competence in International Passenger Transport and taking on the operation of our coach services. He has done a fantastic job, building new relationships, improving the fleet, and developing the team. Ryan will now lead the new company Brighton Horizon Coaches and has already shared with me some very exciting plans. I wish him the very best of luck and will always be here to support him.”
David Mulpeter, Managing Director of Seaford & District said
“I am delighted that the new Brighton Horizon Coaches will carry on and grow further what we have built up over the last 5 years with our coaching side of the business here at Seaford and District . This restructure will enable Seaford and District to focus further on our nucleus of school , sightseeing and heritage Vehicle works streams.
“This decision was not taken lightly and much thought was given to it but following personal circumstances of the sudden passing of my wife the time is right to pass the baton. I wish all the team at Brighton Horizon Coaches good luck for the future.”
Ryan Wrotny, the new Manager of Brighton Horizon Coaches said
“I’m very excited about this opportunity, bringing together the best of two well-known coach operators. My vision is to take the best of Brighton and expand to new horizons. I’m proud of my city and want to provide professional, reliable, luxury coach travel to its people, taking them to new places. I never want to stop growing, developing, and exploring, and I’m excited to have this opportunity to create something we can all be proud of.”
Following the Prime Minister’s address on Sunday evening we have been doing some work on envisioning where the bus industry (and transport more widely) is heading and how we can thrive in the post-lockdown economy. Specifically:
the possible long-term effects on travel habits and the bus industry as a whole
the implications for The Big Lemon going forward, and what we need to do to adapt to a new environment.
But first, what have we done so far?
At the beginning of this crisis we set ourselves three priorities:
to keep our staff and passengers safe
to maintain services for our passengers for as long as possible
to maintain the financial health of the organisation
The Big Lemon maintained normal services for as long as absolutely possible, and I’m proud to say that even though the option was there to reduce the service, our team chose to carry on with a full service all the way to the end of March, mainly to support hospital staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and a number of our older passengers who rely on the bus to get their shopping. During this time we invested in extra cleaning for the buses and issued masks and gloves for our drivers to keep them – and everyone else – safe.
By the end of March, however, our passenger numbers were reduced to about 10%, and it no longer seemed necessary to run a full service, so we agreed a reduced timetable with the City Council that would prioritise the services that keyworkers still needed to get to work, whilst protecting our team and reducing costs to the bare minimum. This reduced timetable has been in operation for six weeks now, and we are now turning our attention to what comes next. One thing is clear: it won’t be simply a return to how things were before.
What will be the long-term effects on the bus industry?
The obvious problem that we have as an industry, in common with most others, is how do we maintain social distancing on the bus? Currently social distancing on the bus is easy, because there are only three or four people maximum on the bus at any time; however as lockdown is gradually lifted we will need to restrict where people can sit.
Most of our buses have 30 seats and a total capacity of 58 people including standing passengers. Realistically, considering the layout of the bus, if social distancing is maintained it reduces our 58 capacity to seven people travelling individually or up to 14 if people from the same household are travelling together. Across the industry that is a huge reduction in capacity and will have many implications.
The first of these is that people will be looking for other ways to travel. There is a danger that this will lead to more car journeys, with implications for air quality, public health and congestion on the roads, and I think it absolutely must be a priority for all policymakers not to let this happen. Brighton & Hove City Council is fortunately aware of this issue and over the weekend a new cycle lane was installed on Old Shoreham Road, one of a number of measures planned to encourage cycling and walking. However, if these initiatives are not successful enough, we will see more congestion on the roads and this will increase costs on the buses, as more buses are needed to run the same level of service.
So as costs rise and passenger income falls to a fraction of what it once was, the whole business model for most bus companies gets blown out of the water. Sadly as a result of this we will almost certainly see many bus operators go out of business, and others reduce services. Rural communities could be particularly badly affected.
What are the implications for The Big Lemon?
The Big Lemon is in a better position than many others, because the majority of our services are operated under contract and financially supported by our partners. However, our public bus services are also reliant on passenger income, which has almost completely dried up and will take years to recover. This means that we will have to work out the level of subsidy required to run the services going forward, and the City Council will need to decide whether to increase the subsidy or reduce the level of service.
In addition to our public bus services we run a number of regular services for local colleges and other organisations for their students and staff. In order to enable social distancing on these services we are anticipating being asked to provide larger vehicles or extra services on these contracts; indeed one of our largest partners has already asked for this.
Thus for us it’s a mixed picture; certainly some challenges ahead but equally an opportunity to review our business model and make the changes that we need to make to accelerate our plans to realise our 2030 vision.
So what is The Big Lemon’s strategy for the rest of this year?
In a nutshell, our strategy is to envision what is required of public transport in the future, and make that our model, now. This means both what is required in terms of passenger safety and social distancing; and what is required in terms of reducing emissions.
Our mission then for 2020 is to
assess what our services will look like going forward, and what new opportunities may present themselves
work out how many vehicles we will need (and what sizes) from January 2021 onwards
re-work our business plan based on the new economic reality and the opportunities that we plan to pursue, assuming all vehicles used on our services are zero-emission vehicles powered by renewables
work out how much investment is required to increase our fleet of nine electric vehicles to the levels we need to run all services with zero-emission vehicles
put this to the public and see if we can raise the investment we need for a 100% zero-emissions fleet, powered by renewables, based on our post-lockdown business plan.
We’ll keep you posted, and as ever, if you have any contacts, know of any opportunities, or have anything you can offer that might help us accelerate our progress please get in touch!
Brighton & Hove City Council have extended their support scheme for those looking for work to include Portslade. The project area is now West Hove and Portslade (west of The Drive/Grand Avenue), and East Brighton from the Palace Pier to Falmer and the marina.
For those living in the project area and looking for work, the Council offers up to £300-worth of help towards a bike or trike as ¾ of the cost, and/or towards the first month of bus or train travel to a new job when moving on from unemployment (this includes The Big Lemon). There is also the option of free kit for walking: waterproof shoes and coat.
Other travel help from the council includes free membership of the bikeshare scheme for NHS workers (go to www.btnbikeshare.com, select annual membership and NHS staff option), and for home care workers whose firm has a contract with the council (staff to ask their manager).
Brighton & Hove City Council Transport Planner, Simon Hickmott says:
In Portslade this year, the Council can also pay for small improvements to walking or cycling facilities. Elsewhere in previous years in response to residents’ requests we have paid for improved path drainage, wooden steps for a short-cut, and lockable bike sheds.
Today is Earth Day. Ordinarily there would be events, lots of public statements, renewed focus on dealing with the world’s environmental challenges and (sadly) also a fair bit of greenwash. However this year is different.
With the Covid 19 crisis the world’s attention is focussed (quite rightly) on caring for the sick and stopping the spread of the virus. In this the world is united.
As a result there are a number of reasons why we at The Big Lemon are cautiously optimistic that we are better equipped to take on the world’s huge environmental challenges than we might think. Why?
We have learned that when there is political will almost anything is achieveable. From block-booking hotels to house rough sleepers to building a fully functioning hospital within 3 weeks, where there’s a will there’s a way.
We have shown that dramatic reductions in carbon emissions and associated improvements in air quality are possible to make, very quickly.
We have realised that it’s actually quite easy to work from home, and to do without a huge amount of what we previously thought were life’s essentials.
We have remembered what’s most important in life; our health and wellbeing, family time, clean air, walks in the woods, birdsong, home-baking, our neighbours, our local independent shops, and keyworkers – mostly low-paid staff who until recently were barely appreciated at all.
We in the bus industry have, as a result of the pandemic, recently been reclassified as key-workers. We always knew we were important (!) but it’s nice to be recognised for the vital role we play in getting people to work, to the hospital, and to the shops.
The bus industry has been hugely affected and nationally is running a fraction of normal services. We at The Big Lemon are running 42.5% of our normal services but many in the industry are running much less or not at all, and the big worry is how many communities will lose their bus service completely as a result.
However it’s clear that the world has changed, the way people travel has changed, the amount people need to travel has changed, and the way we as an industry operate needs to change too.
For a more in depth discussion on the challenges facing our communities this Earth Day please have a look at the video below where Tom Druitt, The Big Lemon’s Founder & CEO, joins Kayla Ente (Founder, BHESCO), Kat Fletcher (Director, Freegle), Ruth Anslow (Co-Founder, HISBE) and Damian Tow (Director, Brighton Energy Coop) in a special virtual discussion to mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day:
Until today The Big Lemon has maintained a full timetable in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis in order to enable staff working at Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital and local pharmacies, grocers and supermarkets to get to work, look after everyone, and make sure people have enough food.
We have also been conscious that many of our passengers are elderly and live on the outskirts of the city, and have no access to private vehicles. The waiting list for supermarket deliveries as been 2-3 weeks.
As the Coronavirus crisis has worsened, it has been harder and harder to maintain services. A number of our team are now self-isolating or working from home, our maintenance workshop has closed, our suppliers have almost all closed too, and sometimes the drivers are lucky to have one passenger all day.
In light of this, and in consultation with Brighton & Hove City Council, we have decided to focus our efforts on essential services only. Wewill continue to serve all areas, but at a much-reduced level of service. Changes will be brought in tomorrow, 1st April 2020 (and no, sadly this is not a joke…!)
Key changes are as follows:
There will no longer be a dedicated 16 service. Instead, journeys on service 47 towards Sainsbury’s will continue to Portslade Health Centre, Boundary Road and Portslade Station.
Services 47 and 52 will run most (but not all) journeys from the beginning of the day until about 11.45am. There will then be a break until about 3pm, when services will resume, at a slightly lower frequency, until the end of the day. We have prioritised the morning and evening peaks as that is when our remaining passengers need us most.
Sunday services on Route 57 will operate two hourly throughout the day.
These timetables are designed to be temporary measures only while we are in the grip of the Coronavirus. As soon as we see happier times and social distancing measures are relaxed it is envisaged that we will return to the previous schedules.
Founder and CEO, Tom Druitt, said
“It’s been a pretty crazy time and I’d like to thank our team for doing an amazing job keeping a full service going while the world is quite literally falling apart around us. I sincerely hope these measures that we have had to bring in will be temporary, and I look forward to resuming a full service as soon as we are through this period and social distancing measures are relaxed.
I would like to wish all our passengers and friends the best of health in these worrying times and look forward to seeing you again on the buses very soon.“
The Big Lemon has been working with stakeholders to plan our response to the Coronavirus and we would like to share the following information.
First and foremost, our priority is the safety, health and wellbeing of our staff and passengers. We have put measures in place to ensure none of our staff come to work if they have any concerns about their health at all, and are supported to adhere to this without fear of financial hardship. We have also put in place deep cleaning of the interior surfaces of the buses each day to reduce the risk of infection.
Plumpton College coach service: Service now suspended until after the Easter holidays.
In addition, we regret to announce that our programme of Sunday Walks will start later this year, for obvious reasons. We will update our Sunday Walks page with the programme as soon as things return to normal.
Our Walking Holiday is currently planned for the first weekend in May. We will be making a decision on this at the end of March and it is possible this may have to be moved to another weekend later in the year. We will keep everyone updated and work with those already booked to find a weekend that works for everyone if it has to be moved.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your understanding and to wish you the best of health throughout this difficult and worrying time.
The Big Lemon this week responded to Transport for the South East’s draft strategy for the next 30 years, welcoming its change of direction from past transport strategies, but urging it to go much further in how it tackles the climate emergency.
The draft Transport Strategy advocates the evolution of transport policy away from one based on ‘planning for vehicles’ to one based on ‘planning for people’ and ‘planning for places’
The Big Lemon believes the move away from ‘predict & provide’ is long overdue and very welcome – indeed most of our current transport problems are a direct result of the ‘predict & provide’ strategy of the last five decades. However this strategy is not radical and urgent enough; the science says we need to reach net zero carbon before 2030 but we’re only aiming for a date twenty years later – that makes no sense at all.
The Big Lemon would also question the rationale behind a ‘Sustainable Route to Growth’; this assumes that ‘growth’ is ‘good’. This is not the case at all: some growth is good, some is not; some growth is healthy, some is not. It is clear that growth in traffic has not been good, for our health, for our countryside, or indeed for our economy as everything now takes longer to travel than it used to and time is money.
What is important is people’s health, wellbeing, happiness and sense of fulfilment. An improving economy certainly provides that in many respects, but ‘growth’ achieves nothing in itself, it is only good where it somehow furthers the things that are important to people and we should be much more specific about what we’re actually aiming for rather than using this very blunt, general and very abstract notion of ‘growth’.
Chapter 2 of the draft Transport Strategy summarises the characteristics, challenges and opportunities in the South East.
The characteristics are very well laid out and TFSE has, we feel, correctly identified the main challenges. However the conclusion (p21), that “the South East’s future Transport Strategy must seek to balance economic and social needs with the environmental constraints and challenges” is totally the wrong conclusion. Economic needs and social needs do not need to be ‘balanced’ with the environmental constraints and challenges; this is the thinking that got us into a climate emergency, and a biodiversity crisis, in the first place – because when we ‘balance’ one against the other the environment always loses.
The environment is the foundation for our economy, our society, and life itself; the strategy needs to identify a vision of a healthy environment as the foundation of a happy society and a thriving economy, and then look at how to deliver that. For example what level of traffic is environmentally sustainable and socially healthy, and how can we reduce traffic to those levels by enabling, incentivising, and putting the infrastructure in place for suitable alternatives such as walking, cycling, and public transport as well as measures to reduce the need to travel (eg superfast broadband).
TFSE’s vision is that: ‘By 2050, the South East of England will be a leading global region for net-zero carbon, sustainable economic growth where integrated transport, digital and energy networks have delivered a step-change in connectivity and environmental quality.
‘A high-quality, reliable, safe and accessible transport network will offer seamless door-to-door journeys enabling our businesses to compete and trade more effectively in the global marketplace and give our residents and visitors the highest quality of life.’
While The Big Lemon supports the direction of travel, it is nowhere near radical and urgent enough. The zero carbon goal should be actual zero carbon rather than ‘net’, as ‘net’ allows things like off-setting and outsourcing which do not solve the problem but instead provide excuses for inaction.
The Big Lemon recognises that the proposed term of the strategy is 30 years – until 2050 – but the scientific reality is that the climate emergency requires faster action than can be delivered by a 30 year strategy. Therefore it requires a two-stage strategy, with an urgent front-loaded aspect which could be considered to be akin to ‘fixing the roof’ or ‘putting the fire out’, with a longer term vision of healthy and sustainable living.
By 2030, the South East of England will be a leading global region with a zero carbon, sustainable economy where integrated transport, digital and energy networks have delivered a stepchange in connectivity and environmental quality; and by 2050, a high-quality, reliable, safe, accessible and truly sustainable transport network will offer seamless door-to-door journeys enabling our businesses to thrive and giving our residents and visitors the highest quality of life.
The Big Lemon believes the priorities have been well-covered; however the priorities need to be more specific:
(i) “Better connectivity between our major economic hubs, international gateways and their markets” – this is of course highly desirable, but only if it’s better connectivity by way of public transport or sustainable modes of transport – the last thing we need is more (or bigger) roads
(ii) Likewise, “more reliable journeys between the South East’s major economic hubs and international gateways” is also highly desirable, but not if it means more roads (which in any case won’t make those journeys more reliable as has been shown time and time again, as traffic simply grows to fill the space and in very little time the journey becomes just as unreliable as it was before the ‘improvement’.
(iii) Finally “a reduction in carbon emissions to net zero by 2050” is nowhere near soon enough – the science is very clear that it needs to be 2030 at the latest and we need to rise to the challenge.
The draft Transport Strategy identifies six key journey types and identifies the key challenges and opportunities for each, as well as the types of schemes and policy responses that will be needed to address these challenges.
Much of the analysis in this section outlines the challenges correctly but the solutions too often are ‘improvements’ to the road network.
This is 20th Century thinking; we need to consider future transport solutions in terms of walking, cycling, e-scooters, buses and taxis for local journeys, and trains, trams, coaches and long-distance cycle tracks
The Integrated Sustainability Appraisal is incredibly thorough, however we would question some of its assumptions and conclusions. For example, the economic benefits of road schemes are considered to be “++” whereas the economic benefits of bus improvements are only considered to be “+”. As has been highlighted previously, economic gains through road schemes are very temporary, as the extra supply induces extra demand until the system is even more clogged than it was before, and parts of the system that were previously workable become overly congested due to spillover from a new scheme.
The result is that the road network starts impacting negatively on the economy because (especially in urban areas) once the network reaches breaking point it simply jams up and economic activity grinds to a halt. Bus services on the other hand, have the potential to be a virtual circle where improvements create greater demand which in turn contributes to further improvements, and at each stage the impact on the road network is reduced as more motorists shift to buses, which in turn benefits all road users and those who live near them.
However, altogether the Integrated Sustainability Appraisal is highly revealing and clearly demonstrates that the negative social and environmental impacts of road-building vastly outweigh any perceived economic benefits. As previously highlighted, economic benefits are only useful in terms of how they benefit people, and if they have such high social costs – on people – it is a nonsense to pursue them. And in the context of the climate emergency and the crisis in biodiversity the negative impacts simply cannot be justified.
The TFSE Draft Strategy has much to be welcomed and already articulates a clear break from past strategies that have done so much damage to our natural environment and to our health and wellbeing. However there is still much to improve.
First and foremost, the 2050 net-zero goal is simply too little too late. It needs to be actually zero and by 2030 at the latest. This isn’t just our opinion, it is the internationally-recognised scientific consensus. The Big Lemon is aware that the 2050 target is consistent with established government strategy, but the fact that UK Government strategy is nowhere near ambitious enough does not mean that this strategy should not be either.
Secondly, there is much too much emphasis on roads as part of the solution. Headline solutions are too often “road and rail” where they should actually be “active travel” and “public transport”. Where roads are part of the solution, the emphasis should be on re-purposing existing roads into a network of active travel corridors.
Finally, while it is appropriate that benefits are considered in terms of their environmental, social or economic benefit; we should not forget that these ‘benefits’ are only beneficial in terms of how they impact on people. If people suffer from congestion, air and noise pollution and have lost their favourite dog-walking space to a new road scheme they are not going to be comforted by the knowledge that the South East’s economy grew by 1.3% last year. We need to move away from abstract goals and ‘growth for the sake of it’ to what actually improves people’s lives.
The Big Lemon was honoured last week to receive a visit from George Freeman MP, the Minister for the Future of Transport as part of his visit to Brighton & Hove to launch the “Clean Start to 2020” Go Ultra Low initiative.
The Minister was very keen to have a ride on one of The Big Lemon’s electric buses and visit the depot to meet the team and see the electric charging systems and solar roof in action.
He met with Tom Druitt, Founder and CEO, and Ron Tanner, Chair, as well as operational staff including Mark Bennett, Bus Services Manager, Kendal Saunders, the duty supervisor, and a number of members of the driving and office team.
The Minister was very keen to learn about The Big Lemon’s innovative business model and how social enterprises and local communities can be supported to run similar low-carbon bus services in communities across the country.
The Big Lemon team were delighted that the Minister had chosen to visit the company, and were very pleased to see him show such a genuine interest in innovative low-carbon solutions to the transport and health challenges faced by communities in the UK today.
Minister for the Future of Transport, George Freeman, said,
“The Big Lemon’s innovative approach to the traditional bus market is inspiring. From a solar powered depot, funded on a shoestring by community activists in Brighton, to their electric fleet, sustainability and community is at the heart of everything they do.
“From Brighton to Blackpool and Blyth, the bus sector needs innovative new entrants like this. That’s why we are supporting innovation in the bus sector through a £220 million funding boost for bus services across the country to drive growth across this vital sector.”
Founder and CEO, Tom Druitt, said,
“It was a real pleasure to show the Minister around our buses and depot, and introduce him to our team. It was a great boost for the team to see a government minister visit us and show such an interest in what we’re doing.
“The highlight for me was discussing with the Minister how the Government can create the right environment for innovative, community-based and low-carbon transport projects to thrive.”
Happy New Year to all our passengers, friends and supporters – thank you so much for your support this last year and here’s to 2020!
Here are some of the highlights of the last 12 months:
So what does the future hold?
This year we plan to complete the transition to an all-electric bus fleet, powered by renewable energy, and share our experience with as many people as we can; to encourage other operators to transition to zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewables, and to empower those without adequate bus services to set up their own, using our systems.
We are currently working on an online investment tool which we are going to launch this year, which enables members of the community to easily invest in new electric buses, and keep track of their investments online. We are going to offer this to groups anywhere in the UK, to use to raise their own funds for new projects, and use our experience, systems and software to help them to do so.
Do you know anyone who might benefit from this? Please let us know!
The Big Lemon will be driving into uncharted territory next week with the launch of a new style flexible bus route designed to appeal to a wider audience and make council-supported bus services less reliant on public funds.
The service will be trialled in Hangleton from Monday 29 April on the number 16 bus route, operated by The Big Lemon on behalf of Brighton & Hove City Council.
Founder and Chief Executive of The Big Lemon, Tom Druitt, said, “Funding for bus services in England & Wales has almost halved since 2010 and over 300 bus services have been reduced or withdrawn altogether as a result. Buses are a lifeline for so many people and when services are lost many in our communities become isolated, lonely, and less independent. Moreover, as air quality in cities has become more and more dangerous to breathe and the effects of climate change are felt across the world, it becomes ever more important to invest in sustainable transport for our communities.
“We are lucky in Brighton & Hove that there is a broad consensus on the importance of bus services and funding has been largely maintained. However the pressures on services are growing, and it is becoming more and more urgent to reduce reliance on subsidies to give services a sustainable future.
“The Big Lemon is always on the lookout for innovative solutions to solving transport problems and we hope that by offering a flexible service we can appeal to people who don’t currently use the buses. If successful, this could offer a solution to many of the areas where funding reductions have resulted in the loss of services, and also to areas where services are in danger due to insufficient use and reductions in funding.
“The Big Lemon’s vision is that by 2030 every community in the country has access to affordable, sustainable transport, using zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community. This is an important step in realising that vision.”
The service will be available on demand from any bus stop in Hangleton and will run from 0830 to 1830 Monday to Saturday. Initially the service will be called by telephone to a dedicated phone line, but if the trial is successful there are plans to create an app that shows where the bus is currently on a map, and enables people to hail it through the app.
The service will run from Hangleton via the Knoll Estate to Portslade Station and Portslade Health Centre; and then return to Hangleton, dropping people off again at any bus stop the passenger chooses.The new-style service comes as part of a raft of improvements that are being made to The Big Lemon’s services, with extensions to the 47 and 52 services offering new connections from Hangleton, the Knoll estate, Patcham, Hollingbury and Fiveways to the Royal Sussex County Hospital and Brighton Marina.
Timetables have been simplified, in most cases offering services at the same time past every hour, and the changes coincide with the addition of The Big Lemon to the city’s real-time information displays and the imminent launch of brand new zero-emissions electric buses offering on-board WiFi and USB charging facilities.
The Big Lemon runs walks in the Sussex countryside between April and October. We generally take the bus out into the countryside, walk at a leisurely pace for about 3-4 hours taking in the scenery and finish for lunch at a nice old country pub.
Most walks are between 4-7 miles long and aim to provide good exercise in beautiful country surroundings without being too strenuous, though some walks are quite hilly.
They are suitable for all ages from about 6 onwards, though younger ones are also welcome if you don’t mind carrying them part of the way!
This Sunday: Celebrate Easter with a beautiful stroll in Ashdown Forest
We will start near the old Iron Age settlement at Kings Standing, home of the Aspidistra transmitter, and walk across the heather and gorse heathland with magnificent views across the Weald to the South Downs.
We will then descend into the valley towards the Airman’s Grave, a memorial to the six man crew of a Wellington bomber of 142 Squadron who were killed when it crashed in the forest on the morning of 31 July 1941 on its return from a raid on Cologne during World War II. We will finish at the Foresters Arms pub in Fairwarp.
There is a wide variety of wildlife on the forest, including wild ponies and a huge variety of birds.
The Big Lemon was today announced as one of the winners of the latest round of Ultra-Low Emission Bus funding which will provide £48m support for 263 ultra-low emission vehicles.
The announcement was made by Buses Minister, Nusrat Ghani, at today’s UK Bus Summit in Westminster, and follows the previous Low Emission Bus Scheme which saw The Big Lemon win funding for three brand new electric buses (the first of which by pure coincidence arrived in our depot just yesterday!)
Tom Druitt, founder and CEO of The Big Lemon said: “We are delighted that The Big Lemon’s plans for a zero-emission bus network for Brighton and Hove has been recognised for its potential to improve air quality in the city and we look forward to working with the Department for Transport to make it happen.
“Our vision is that by 2030 every community in the UK has zero-emissions bus services run on renewable energy, and with six routes in Brighton and Hove soon to be powered by solar energy generated on the roof of our bus depot this is an important step to realising that vision.”
In 2018, 4.2% of the UK bus sector was completely zero emission at the tailpipe (including 309 electric buses and 20 running on hydrogen fuel cells). Compared with the best ever monthly figure for the car sector of 1% pure battery electric vehicles.
Electric buses can save up to 72% of the CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions compared with a standard Euro V diesel buses (based on the 2018 UK average electricity grid mix). The Big Lemon’s electric buses are charged by solar panels on the roof of our bus depot, following a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017 supported by over 1500 people, with over 170 cash donations from residents and local businesses.
We’d like to wish all our passengers and friends a wonderful New Year! As we move into the New Year we cast our minds back over the year just gone, and oh, what a year it was…
More than most years, 2018 has been one of highs and lows – some great progress, but also some really difficult challenges. One thing became clear in 2018 in business as in politics – the old rules no longer apply. Some of our biggest costs have risen by eye-watering amounts, and some of our income streams of the past are no longer big earners, so we have had to adapt accordingly.
And after using biodiesel from recycled waste cooking oil to power our buses and coaches for over ten years, last year that became no longer possible due to all the Sussex suppliers no longer supplying, and our London supplier selling out to a Liverpool-based one who only delivers in 33,000 litre batches. As (i) we have nowhere to store such large quantities, (ii) there seem to be no suppliers left who can supply smaller quantities, and (iii) most vehicles are no longer able to run on it due to to modern fuel-injection methods; we’ve had to accept that the use of biodiesel is no longer an option for us.
However, 2018 was also a year of great progress towards our vision for sustainable transport run by zero-emission vehicles powered by renewables and owned by the community, and it was also a lot of fun…
2018 was the year we smashed our £0.5m fundraising target for new electric buses, and placed an order for four brand new zero-emissions buses from Optare which will enable us to run all our public bus services with zero-emissions vehicles. But due to a fire in the factory where the electric drive systems were being manufactured, they are three months late which means we couldn’t launch them in November as we’d hoped. Hey ho, worst things have happened, we’ll launch them in February instead. Watch this space!
2018 was also the year we did our first Walking Holiday – and what a lot of fun that was! Over the early May bank holiday we walked from Winchester to Amberley along the South Downs Way, completing the section we hadn’t already done on our Sunday Walks the previous year when we did Amberley to Eastbourne in bite-sized chunks. We have another holiday planned for this year – why not come with us?
Another highlight of 2018 include re-launching the Happy Bus scheme and taking a group of Aphasia sufferers to Heaven Farm for a day out, and also supporting someone fighting deportation by taking a coach full of his friends to his court hearing in London. The Happy Bus is our way of giving something back to the community; it provides a free bus for someone in need to help to spread joy and happiness all around 🙂
And the craziest moment in 2018 was when we found out one of our buses on rail replacement work had ended up on Reddit’s front page – the front page of the internet, with over 71,000 ‘upvotes’ – Reddit Karma – on the site! Following this the Argus newspaper did a feature of all our weird and wonderful drivers’ personalised bus destination screens…
So what’s in store for 2019? This year our main focus will be on making our 2030 Vision a reality in Brighton & Hove, and developing a business model fit for the future to enable us to take this out to communities outside the city so that by 2030 every community in the UK has access to affordable, sustainable transport, using zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community.
Would you like to be part of our story and help make this happen?
Thank you for you support and all the best for a very Happy New Year!