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History & CommunityEnd of the line for the Bopper Bus?

End of the line for the Bopper Bus?

For the past 13 years a coach has set out, summer and winter on Friday evenings during term time to collect children from villages and settlements within the Marshwood Vale and along the A35. Escorted by volunteers, who are all Police Checked, trained in Child Protection and First Aid, the children are taken to Bridport Leisure Centre for two hours where they take part in a variety of sports led by BLC instructors, followed by supervised swimming. They then gather together for a snack and a chat before returning home on the coach. During those thirteen years, over 370 children between the ages of 8-16, have had the opportunity to develop skills in sports they have never tried before, to practice and improve their swimming and to meet new friends and consolidate friendships which many, who live in areas without public transport, can only enjoy at school.

The activities the children have been offered, indoor or out have included all ball games, trampoline, martial arts, badminton, table tennis, short-mat bowls, tag rugby, gymnastics  and  team games, a favourite being crash-mat racing.

Some of the children’s comments have been recorded and show just how much they have enjoyed their time on the Bopper Bus:

“I like the Bopper Bus because it is really fun and I like all the new games I get to try”.

“I like the Bopper Bus because it is very, very, very, VERY FUN”.

“I like going to the Bopper Bus because I meet new friends”.

“I think the Bopper Bus is GRATE because you get to do GRATE activities”.

The Bopper Bus began in 2003 as an idea which received the largest number of votes by Chideock children at a meeting in Chideock Village Hall connected to the Parish Plan scheme run by the Countryside Agency through Parish Councils.  A generous start-up grant from the Bournemouth Dorset and Poole Local Network Fund, kept it running for the first two years and since then the management committee have managed to raise sufficient funding to keep going from Parish and District Councils, Trusts, sponsorship, community grants and individuals, as well as their own fundraising events which have included sponsored walks and swims, stalls at fetes and fairs, a race night for parents, raffles and chocolate tombolas.

Seats on the bus are limited to the size of the bus which has to negotiate very narrow lanes in the Vale. Tickets are booked at the Post Offices of Charmouth and Chideock Central Stores on a ‘first come-first served’ basis.  As a result of generous donors, grants and successful fundraising events  and  Sovereign Coaches ‘holding ‘ their charging rate for many years, the Bopper Bus has only raised its ticket price once in 13 years from £1.00 per child to £2.00 with a sliding scale for other siblings.

Since 2003, nearly 50 local men and women have trained and served as escorts to take care of Bopper Bus members, some for many years. In all that time the bus has only ever had to be cancelled due to extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heavy fog, snow or road closures.

However, as the saying goes “All good things must come to an end” so very sadly the Management Committee has to announce that the Bopper Bus Organisation will close down in December. Two of the present committee, (Kate Geraghty and Lyn Crisp) both founded the Bopper Bus and served as escorts on the bus during those thirteen years, two others (Mandy and Melanie Harvey) for nine years each, also as escorts, and Charlotte Dixon for the past year. They  now all have other calls upon their time and, despite trying for the past year, have been unable to recruit a full, new team to replace the management committee, or enough escorts prepared to make a long-term commitment to fulfil what is required to continue running the bus in the future.

On behalf of the management committee of Kate Geraghty, Lyn Crisp, Mandy Harvey, Melanie Harvey and Charlotte Dixon, Kate Geraghty said: ‘We are very proud to have been part of the Bopper Bus Organisation and if we haven’t already said so to all our supporters, you know who you are, we cannot thank you enough on behalf of all the Bopper Bus children for helping it to run successfully during the past 13 years.’

There is sufficient funding for the bus to run as usual through November, and make its last journey to the Leisure Centre on December 2nd. The organisers always end the Christmas Term with a Party so this year they will be holding a Farewell to the Bopper Bus Party in Chideock Village Hall, on Friday 9th December  5.30-8.30pm for all members, escorts, helpers, sponsors, donors and supporters, past and present, to publicly thank everyone for their support for this project.

As associates of the Dorset Youth Association and in line with their Constitution, they will offer any surplus funding to DYA for other Dorset youth groups.

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