Busman's holiday for Ermintrude

TONY Buckland is gearing up to celebrate a very special birthday in style.It was love at first sight when he laid eyes on classic coach Ermintrude 21 years ago as it sat on show at a nightclub in Stoke-on-Trent.

Lizzie Parry

TONY Buckland is gearing up to celebrate a very special birthday in style.

It was love at first sight when he laid eyes on classic coach Ermintrude 21 years ago as it sat on show at a nightclub in Stoke-on-Trent.

So he went to great lengths to rescue her, removing the roof of the building and hoisting her free.


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And now decades after she rolled off the manufacturing line at a factory in Guildford, his “labour of love” turns 80 years old today .

Built on April 6 1929, the red and blue Dennis ES type motor coach is one of only two of its age still licensed to take to the roads and carry passengers in the UK.

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With a top speed of 30mph, the vintage bus has been renovated, re-roofed and repainted in time for a series of celebratory trips through the Suffolk countryside this month - run by the Buckland Omnibus Company from Rendlesham.

Mr Buckland said he wanted to do something special to mark her 80th birthday.

“Over Easter we thought we would put on a series of tours giving people a chance to see and experience her in all her glory,” he said. “Her red and blue colouring is to commemorate the East Lancashire Regiment who wore the same colours when they were virtually wiped out in the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. Her first owners the Accrington Corporation, chose to commemorate the 'Accrington pals'.”

Jenny Timlett, Mr Buckland's partner of 15 years said the bus had proved to be a real hit with people over the years.

“For some older people she triggers past experiences and evokes fond memories of the old iconic route master buses,” she said. “It is a slow and leisurely ride and it sounds like those old buses.”

Employee and fellow restorer Steve King said Ermintrude transports passengers back to a time where people enjoyed a better pace of life.

“In those days people weren't in a hurry to get anywhere,” he said.

And for Mr King, as well as lovingly helping to bring her back to her former glory the 29-seater bus has a very special place in his heart.

“She conveyed me and my bride on our wedding day, driving us to our reception, so for me she is more than just a vintage bus, she holds a special place in mine and my wife's hearts.”

Constable's Country - Tuesday, April 14 and Monday, April 20 - Dedham, East Bergholt, Flatford. �20.00

Medieval Suffolk - Friday, April 17 - Lavenham, Long Melford, Clare. �28.00

The Heritage Coast part 1 - Monday, April 13 and Tuesday, April 21 - Southwold, Dunwich, Aldeburgh. �25.00

The Heritage Coast part 2 - Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 19 - Bawdsey, Orford, Aldeburgh. �20.00

WWII Airfields - Wednesday, April 15 - Flixton, Horham. �25.00

The Haunted Borley Rectory - Friday, April 10 - Our local connection. �20.00

Forgotten Railway explorer 2 - Thursday, April 16 - Framlingham, Mendlesham and Debenham, Eye. �20.00

Tours start at Rendlesham, Bentwaters Business Park. Tours passing through Ipswich also pick up there and in Woodbridge.

To book one of the picturesque tours contact Buckland Omnibus Company on 01728 747093, email bucklandcoaches@yahoo.co.uk or go to www.bucklandbuses.co.uk.

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