Coastal Culture Trail
Story | Art
Sussex Modern Stories | 5 minutes read
Cuckmere Buses, a charitable organisation providing essential transportation in the Cuckmere Valley area, is on the lookout for new volunteer drivers to join its dedicated team. To find out more about the role, Sussex Modern spoke to driver Rachel Keaney, who has been offering her driving expertise to the charity for the last 12 years.
With over 20 weekly timetabled services and additional town routes, including Hailsham and Seaford, Cuckmere Buses plays a vital role in connecting communities and getting people with no modes of transport out and about. Last year, the bus network alone covered 123,000 miles and transported 75,000 passengers.
Cuckmere Buses also operate the Sussex Art Shuttle, connecting key cultural attractions and scenic locations including Towner Eastbourne, Charleston in Firle, Charleston in Lewes, Alfriston and Seven Sisters Country Park.
A volunteer driver is an engaging, fun and rewarding role. We hopped on the bus with driver Rachel Keaney to find out more.
Hi Rachel! When and why did you start driving for Cuckmere Buses?
I retired in late 2009, following the death of my husband, and in 2010 I was considering doing some volunteering work. Several friends suggested hospices, libraries, etc – none of which I really fancied. So time went by, and then in early January 2011 I found myself following behind one of the Cuckmere Buses, bearing the message: ‘Want to drive this bus? Ring this number’ . By April, I was driving the Cuckmere Valley Rambler!
What would you say to anybody considering becoming a volunteer driver for Cuckmere Buses?
Do it! It’s fun, involves driving in a lovely part of the world, with a group of like-minded and supportive people, all working towards providing bus transport to people who otherwise possibly wouldn’t get out as much as they do. We also provide services for visitors (and are able to suggest places of interest to visit or places to eat). We run pre-booked Private Hire services for various groups and we even, on occasion, deliver property left on the bus directly back to the passengers, as the time when two girls were camping in Alfriston with their Dad and all they could talk about was the sausages for tea. At the end of shift, I found the camping stove left under the back seat – and was able to return it to them before they even realised they’d left it.
What is the best thing about the role?
Apart from satisfying my life-long love of driving, it is knowing that we are doing something interesting and a bit different, in a lovely part of the country and to the benefit of both local people needing help to get out and about and of visitors, often taking them to places they might never discover by travelling on the ‘main’ buses. I also help the charity in other ways other than driving, so there are also opportunities for those like-minded to get involved in the ‘back of house’ activities, but no pressure to do so. Entirely a free choice.
What is your favourite route and why?
Very hard to say. I love all that I do, and the great thing about Cuckmere Buses is that no-one is forced to learn a route or drive a service they don’t care for. New drivers are always offered options regarding which routes they choose and gradually some of them expand those routes to others, some don’t. And no-one ever makes anyone do routes they don’t wish to. The glory of being a volunteer!
What is your favourite Sussex spot?
You mean apart from my own four walls, near the sea in Eastbourne? I would say it’s got to be the Downs, especially the coastal stretch between Seaford and Eastbourne, with magnificent views over both land and sea. It’s a challenge to walk ( and I’ve walked the Beachy Head Marathon five times), but a joy to drive. There is a memorial at Beachy Head to those lost whilst serving in Bomber Command during WW2, so my love of aircraft, my respect for those who sacrificed a great deal to achieve Britain’s freedom and the place itself, make it a very special place for me. And, on one 11th November, I was walking up there with a friend, (not another person in sight), when we heard an aircraft… seconds later, a Spitfire emerged over the cliff horizon, overflew the memorial and us, and zipped off to commemorate Remembrance Day at another location. A very special moment, and one I always remember when walking there, and often when I’m not.
Drivers will enjoy flexible scheduling, with shifts typically lasting half a day. Individuals can choose to drive as many or as few shifts as they wish each month, making it an ideal opportunity for those with other commitments and varying availability. All applicants must hold a D1 classification on their existing driver’s license. Comprehensive training will be provided.
To learn more about getting involved and joining the Cuckmere Buses team, call 07834 558376 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.